“DD-WRT – An affront to the good will of the F/OSS community”


Retrieved from Google Cache 2009-12-19. Originally posted by db90h at http://bitsum.com/about-ddwrt.htm

DD-WRT – An affront to the good will of the F/OSS community       
It is hard to persuade a man of something when his income
depends on him not being persuaded.  –todo: quote from?


DISCLAIMER: The statements here reflect my
own personal observations and opinions. I encourage the reader to verify these
assertions for himself or herself
. Everything written here can be easily
confirmed by the reader through an analysis of the DD-WRT web site, DD-WRT
source code, DD-WRT forums, and admissions of Brainslayer and other DD-WRT
affiliates.

For a long time now I’ve been working to add value to DD-WRT. I supported the
project in a number of ways, including developing the technology to flash v5
series ‘micro’ routers and the Firmware Modification Kit. Both these
technologies, particularly the former, have greatly increased DD-WRT’s user base.

In the last few months I started to notice some disturbing trends in the DD-WRT development. You can
see these trends yourself, you don’t have to look hard. This article has the
intention of introducing the reader to what DD-WRT is, how it came to be, and
why I think the direction of development is very wrong. You may think otherwise,
but it is important that the FACTS be heard, instead of suppressed.

How DD-WRT came to be

The DD-WRT firmware was originally a fork of Sveasoft’s firmware. It came about because
Sveasoft started placing restrictions on their supposed open-source firmware in
an attempt to generate revenue. Major complaints about Sveasoft are summarized
below:

  • Sveasoft started charging for their GPL firmwares (nothing
    inherently wrong with this, as unpopular as it may be).
  • Sveasoft started trying to prevent distribution of their source
    code, even to paying customers (illegal since their firmware is based on
    GPL code).
  • Sveasoft placed anti-piracy mechanisms in the firmware to prevent
    redistribution, something that would not have been illegal since their
    project is GPL.
  • Sveasoft started a campaign of banning from their forums anyone who
    spoke remotely critical of their firmware or merely mentioned
    alternatives, even in OTHER forums than their own.

Sveasoft got to this shameful state because the focus of the project shifted
from helping the community and having fun to pure revenue generation. Even if a
project has noble intentions, once profit is the motivating factor, natural
forces propel the project into a commercial direction, which is often directly in
contrast to the free open-source community-driven philosophy. Again,
nothing inherently wrong with this – as long as it is done right and without
violating GPL licenses.

So, in short DD-WRT was born because Sveasoft went ‘commercial’ and
started trying to restrict technology instead of advance it
.

What is DD-WRT? – Mostly the work of others

DD-WRT is an open-source project built upon the works of Linux, Broadcom,
Linksys, OpenWrt, Busybox, and countless other contributors.
Probably far less than 1% of the code has been authored by Brainslayer. In fact, I would estimate the actual authorship of code
somewhere between 0.01% and 0.10%
,
most all of which is modifications to the GPL code of others, not brand new
libraries and applications.

For instance, the most major development of DD-WRT is extensions to the HTTP
management console. These were all done on top of the existing code he forked
from Sveasoft, which was forked from Linksys, who forked it from someone else.
DD-WRT’s code is NOT separate and distinct, rather it is tightly integrated,
direct modifications to existing code. This hasn’t stopped DD-WRT from trying to
make their extensions to the web interface suddenly
non-GPL
!

Consider it for yourself. The linux kernel, drivers, and all the common
packages you see on most any linux distribution make up the vast majority of
DD-WRT, not Brainslayer’s few additions. Furthermore, it isn’t just him who has
extended the code. When DD-WRT was thought to have altruistic motives, many
developers joined the cause. If there is any reluctance to accept the fact that
almost all the code is written by others, it is simple arrogance — and, yes,
surprisingly there is a denial of this fact. If you aren’t a developer, don’t
take my word for it — ask someone you really trust how much they think
of DD-WRT is original code.

Consider it for yourself. The linux kernel, drivers, and all
the common packages you see on most any linux distribution make up
the vast majority of DD-WRT, not Brainslayer’s few additions.
Furthermore, it isn’t just him who has extended the code. When
DD-WRT was thought to have altruistic motives, many developers
joined the cause.

Instead of giving credit where credit is due, Brainslayer has
changed strings in the software to in an attempt to hide the
true authors of programs simply because he, or someone, changed a handful of
lines of code amongst tens of thousands. Consider
Busybox, which is the single component
responsible for implementing almost all core system utilities and the system
shell. Its shell startup message was changed in DD-WRT to downplay the
contributions of the numerous developers of Busybox from all over the world:

BusyBox v1.01
(2006.05.16-18:12+0000) Built-in
shell (ash)

AND NOW IT READS:

Now DD-WRT VeryBusyBox v1.01 (2006.05.16-18:12+0000)
Built-in shell (ash)

Furthermore, DD-WRT at one point did give sparse credit to a handful of
contributors. This was later removed as Brainslayer decided more and more of the
code was ‘his’. Although this lack of attribution may be offensive to some, it is not
illegal. The fact that DD-WRT is so much the work of others is a critical part
of the argument that follows below.

DD-WRT: Profit in sight

Brainslayer received many donations from users around the world in support of
‘his’ free open-source project. Many developers came to give contributions –
advancing the project farther than Brainslayer could have ever done himself. The
community loved DD-WRT.

After a while, Brainslayer realized that he could make money with DD-WRT. The
potential of making big money overshadowed the original purpose of the project,
and he started to formulate a plan. Now, we all want to make money, there is nothing
inherently wrong with
that. Although he would be turning his back on his ‘base’ to go commercial, we
can not fault him for wanting to make money. We can, however, fault him for how
he is going about it. Violating GPL licenses, removing credits, and soliciting
donations under the pretense of being a free open-source project is NOT
acceptable.

Although he (Brainslayer) would be turning his back on his
‘base’ to go commercial, we can not fault him for wanting to make
money. We can, however, fault him for how he is going about it.
Violating GPL licenses, removing credits, and soliciting donations
under the pretense of being a free open-source project is NOT
acceptable.

At first, he didn’t want to admit even to himself his commercial aspirations.
Little things were done, which were clearly the start of a slide down a very
slippery slope.
A few of these early actions are below, in order of LEAST
egregious to MOST egregious.

  • DD-WRT Web UI protected against modification
    After development of the Firmware Modification Kit by third-party
    developers (namely me), Brainslayer was afraid someone might take the
    free/open-source code and re-brand it, much like he did. He
    therefore encrypted the web UI, making it very difficult to change with
    the firmware modification kit, and further at first ‘forgot’ to distribute with
    the source code the component that encrypts the web UI. Whether or not
    DD-WRT can fully be rebuilt from its publicly available source code is
    unknown at this point. The build root is intentionally kept hard to use.
    Remember, DD-WRT is mostly NOT his code and is all GPL, this is a direct
    offense to those whose code he uses freely. It’s ok for HIM to sell
    other people’s code, but not for others to sell HIS.
  • DD-WRT Free for home use only
    Adding this ILLEGAL statement to DD-WRT clearly showed the
    intentions of the author. Brainslayer has no right to restrict where his
    GPL derivative works are allowed to be used.
    Again, DD-WRT’s code is not stand-alone,  dynamically linked
    extensions. Instead, all major components are built upon the code that
    was originally there (i.e. the original Linksys http management
    console). Update: He removed this text from the license in v23 SP1,
    probably because he discovered it to be illegal.
    See Appendix A for a snippet of the license text in DD-WRT v23
    .
  • DD-WRT ‘Special Edition’ for sale: approx.
    $17-$22 USD

    This special edition of DD-WRT offers more features than the ‘free’
    version of DD-WRT. Call it what you want, but this is the full
    edition
    of DD-WRT and the free edition is a crippled
    counterpart. Where do you think new features will go first in the
    future? The free version or the ‘special edition’ version? In order to
    protect revenue, Brainslayer will feel increasingly compelled to add
    exclusive features to the special edition, add anti-copying mechanisms,
    and illegally protect GPL code.
    That is what happens when paying your bills is dependent on how
    many sales you make. He admits to this very fact on the DD-WRT store
    page that sells the ‘special edition’: “we will additional features
    in this version in future too
    .” (reference)  You’ll find this ‘special edition’ of DD-WRT for
    sale in the
    DD-WRT store right now.
  • DD-WRT x86 Edition license required
    If you want a license to use the x86 edition at home you must
    request one nicely from Brainslayer and hope he responds, otherwise you
    must purchase a license. No unlicensed copies will exist! This version
    DOES HAVE copy protections. You can go see for yourself, or just ask
    Brainslayer and he’ll admit it.

If by now you don’t see that DD-WRT is a commercial project, not a
F/OSS project, then you need to re-read the above.

When profit becomes a primary motivator, there are almost irresistible
pressures to let the pursuit of profit guide all decisions in the project.
Things like restricting distribution of GPL source code, intentional
obfuscation of source code, anti-copy mechanisms, and suppression of competing
technological advances have real advantages when the
goal is to make money. If DD-WRT weren’t a GPL’d project, these issues
wouldn’t exist..  but it is.

When profit becomes a primary motivator, there are almost
irresistible pressures to let the pursuit of profit guide all
decisions in the project.

Things like restricting distribution of GPL source code,
intentional obfuscation of source code, anti-copy mechanisms, and
suppression of competing technological advances have real benefits when the goal is to make money. If DD-WRT weren’t a GPL’d project, these issues wouldn’t exist.. 
but it is.

DD-WRT: Suppressing criticism (or protecting revenue)

When I voiced my concern about profit becoming a primary motivator and the
irresistible pressure to commercialize that comes with it, I was treated as if I
ran over Brainslayer’s dog. So, I just went elsewhere and
started work on a community-driven multi-developer project with built-in
protections against having the project itself go commercial since I knew market
forces are hard to resist.

Later, I heard Brainslayer said I was ‘exiled’ from the DD-WRT community, as
if because I had a different opinion I was run off and ridiculed. It was clear
his ego was getting out of control at this point. No big deal, I let it slide.

A few weeks later during a discussion in the DD-WRT forums about the Tomato
firmware, I posted a message that mentioned reasonable rationale for using
competing products. It was CENSORED despite clearly inflammatory posts
being left in place
, further demonstrating that Brainslayer is about
protection of revenue and suppression of competing technologies.

After it was clear to Brainslayer that I might spread the truth about his
plans to commercialize the project, he sought to find a way to ban me from the
forums. Since I did not actually post in the forums after this, it
was not easy for him. Finally, I made a single topic change on the
#dd-wrt channel on irc which gave him a ‘reason’ to ban me. After that, I
changed it a couple more times the next day for fun, but always clearly showing
who changed it.

Here is Brainslayer’s post explaining what I supposedly did to get banned
from the forums. He made this post publicly for whatever reason.

<Brainslayer>

he was doing the following

18:38 -!- db90h [n=kgb@*] has joined
#dd-wrt
18:39 -!- db90h is now known as ddwrtusr
18:39 -!- ddwrtusr changed the topic of #DD-WRT to: DD-WRT goes commercial on
12/01/06

then today again

16:42 >>> #dd-wrt, db90h [n=kgb@*]
16:43 — #dd-wrt topic by db90h: DD-WRT full edition – only $19.95

he is doing vandalism within the irc etc. he is also posting such topics under
my name or better he changes it to a style that i looks like i wrote it.
this is why i disables his forum account. he still can read here under his name
but not post. maybe he will create another account with another same to flood
this forum with other bogus stuff. who knows

Facts:

  1. Yea, I did change the IRC channel topic ONCE prior to being
    banned from the forums, and made it clear I was the one who changed the
    topic (see log he gives above). I was really
    just joking, though DD-WRT is quite obviously a commercial operation since
    they are out to make money. Besides, what happens on the apparently
    unofficial and unmoderated #dd-wrt irc channel has nothing to
    do with the forum. After he banned me, I went ahead and changed the topic
    again to ‘DD-WRT full edition – only $19.95’. The truth is that the
    special edition is about 20 euros in Europe, or about $22 in the US.
  2. I DID NOT set the topic so that it appeared to be written by
    BrainSlayer, someone else did that.
  3. I have NEVER posted bogus information in the forums and haven’t
    even posted anything in over a month (at least). Yet he is afraid I ‘might’
    so preemptively bans me. Perhaps he is afraid I will do something else? Like
    spread the truth?
  4. There have been completely baseless accusations that I am trying
    to advertise for my own project. First, it’s not my project, and, second, I
    do not have any financial interests in its success (unlike Brainslayer and
    DD-WRT). Lastly, I never mentioned the X-Wrt project and it was Brainslayer
    who made the public announcement about me being banned for simply setting a
    topic saying DD-WRT was commercial (which it is).


DD-WRT:
Sliding down the slippery slope…

So, today the slide towards commercializing continues unabated. That is
DD-WRT’s right, but let us FORCE them to do it ethically and within the
guidelines of the GPL code they have based their project on. They are NOT
ALLOWED by the GPL license to take someone else’s code and claim it as their
own, put new restrictions on its use, or not distribute the modified sources.

Granted, what DD-WRT does or doesn’t do isn’t that important in the grand
scheme of things, but I feel users should be
AWARE of what is going on, specifically those users who donate to DD-WRT
under the false pretense of it being a free open-source project
.

Here are my recommendations:

  1. DO NOT DONATE TO DD-WRT. It now sells firmwares, donating to them
    would be like donating to any commercial software company.
  2. DEMAND BUILD-ABLE SOURCE CODE. The entire source code should and
    MUST be build-able without having to ask the author to kindly include
    missing pieces.
  3. DEMAND SUPPORT. Now that DD-WRT is in the business of making
    money, they are also RESPONSIBLE to provide support they currently DO NOT
    provide. Also, they are more liable for all the routers they brick.
  4. SPREAD THE TRUTH. One merely has to point to the
    DD-WRT Store. Don’t listen
    to their spin, look at what they are doing.
  5. ALTERNATIVES SHOULD BE USED. Instead of encouraging users to find
    the firmware best for them, Brainslayer has started a campaign of
    suppressing information about firmwares that might hurt his revenue. There
    are plenty of alternatives, but to remain neutral I will leave it up to
    google.

 

You decide. Don’t listen to me, look for yourself. It
doesn’t take much effort to verify assertions made here.

 – db90h

P.S. An addendum

This article was written a very long time ago, back when I was invovled in embedded
F/OSS. Since its publication, DD-WRT has grown completely commercial – as I predicted.
I have no problem with this, and I certainly understand the need to generate some revenue from
F/OSS. Whether or not they are currently violating any GPL licensing,
I do not know.. nor do I care anymore. This page WILL be removed in time..
I recommend checking out the Tomato, OpenWrt, and X-Wrt firmwares.

Appendix A

LICENSE TEXT
FROM v23 (sp0):

the use of the “NON GPL Parts” of this
firmware and the distributed source
is permitted without any charge for PRIVATE USE ONLY unless
other rights are
granted by the firmware author only.

26.8.2005 Sebastian Gottschall / Blueline AG

the following features are tagged as NON-GPL

Webinterface   <– ***
ILLEGAL, THIS IS A GPL DERIVATIVE WORK!! ***

macupd (mac update daemon for rflow collector)
the configuration scripts and definitions within /etc/config

 

2 Comments

  1. Comment by NotmyUsualid on 2011-10-02 10:09 pm

    Hi,

    Well, you confirmed what I had thought for quite some time now.

    It was just nice to see the history & facts posted in one place.

    I shall certainly be looking elsewhere for my firmware requirments.

    Thanks,

    Eric

  2. Comment by Sephiroth on 2013-12-24 9:19 am

    Well, I started browsing the web today after some trouble on the DD-WRT forum. Nothing major, but the lack of support is astounding. I found this post while browsing and it reinforces what I have felt inside for a while now, that DD-WRT is only catering to those with cash. The thing is, when I drop cash on a router, I do not drop $20. I go buy a $400+ router like a Watchguard. DD-WRT is great, but I am not going to pay for a Linux distro.

    I also feel like there are no more free releases. I have not seen an update to the free stuff in a year or more, which is a real shame. I have DD-WRT on all of my routers, except the new ones. The new ones run Tomato or TomatoUSB due to lack of support from DD-WRT. I grew to like DD-WRT before Tomato, but without it workign on modern hardware, it is hard to use it.

    On top of that, there is almost no documentation to be found for many features and options in DD-WRT. Tomato has decent documentation, allowing me to understand the options and use them to best suite my needs. If DD-WRT had any kind of documentation, beyond outdated or incomplete wiki articles, it would probably see a surge in use.

    Anyway, I feel that this is a real shame and hope that another project comes along that will go back down the path of FOSS for routers. I am a Debian user myself and would love to see a Debian-based router firmware, but I’d be happy for anything that has regular updates and broad hardware support.

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