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DCI4 almost publically released

By Chris Williams. Published: 21st Mar 2003, 04:38:51 | Permalink | Printable

Get a load of this broken and not so broken code!

Before you ask, yes this article is a techie one so hold tight and think happy thoughts. Firstly some background: version 4 of the Acorn Device Control Interface specification, or the DCI4 as it's commonly known, is a highly confidential and protected document owing to the fact that it details the low level insides of the RISC OS networking system and the way related modules and device drivers communicate. Ensuring the document's contents are kept a secret provides security through obscurity although it admittely hinders third party software writers looking to develop device drivers.

A discussion was recently started on comp.sys.acorn.programmer after one programmer expressed an interest in writing a PLIP driver and was looking for a copy of the DCI4 document for reference. It was confirmed that the document is confidential and not for public release; we checked this with RISCOS Ltd. and they're still issuing the DCI4 document to interested parties under a standard non-disclosure agreement. Fair is fair, we say, seeing as the document does cover the finer intricacies of the RISC OS networking system and is the kind of information you don't want falling into the wrong hands what with Pace employing RISC OS in their consumer products.

However in an attempt to aid future networking module developers, it turns out Alan Williams (we've just noticed that his website appears to have some crazy stuff on it like the TRMs) has written a DCI4 based driver module for the D-Link DE600 ethernet device and has released the source code under the GPL (version 2). As it "might serve as a useful base from which to write DCI4 drivers", Theo "SSH-Proxy" Markettos is kindly distributing Alan's source code here [drobe mirror]. However there's always a catch or two and here they are:

  • Alan admits his code doesn't quite work.
  • Plus his code is a horrific mess.

So typical open source quality then but quite possibly worth a peek anyway if you're nosey enough even if the code turns out to be of no use whatsoever.

On the other hand
Alternatively, there's always the EtherY sources [drobe mirror], released by Castle under the GPL and tidied up by Justin Fletcher. The EtherY module drives Castle's 100bT ethernet cards.


Theo Markettos' website EtherY device driver (which works, funnily enough)

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So who's going to do a driver for the infamous Realtek 8139 chipset? :-)

 is a RISC OS Userpiemmm on 21/3/03 4:25PM
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I've got one of them! Are they infamous for good reasons or bad?

/me gets worried :o

 is a RISC OS UserPhlamethrower on 21/3/03 6:12PM
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Both :-) The linux driver has issues (sometimes). It's dead cheap, and therefore widespread.

Someone port the Linux driver, so we can use them in Iyonix, kthanxbye.

-- Peter, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 21/3/03 7:34PM
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Out of interest, do drobe do `investigative journalism'?

If so, they might like to get Castle to answer if their GPL releases, e.g. EtherY, now conform to either 3a or 3b of the GPL.

Also, we should have the source for the binaries that have been shipped. This EtherY release has a help string of 0.02. Does the firmware on the cards match?

 is a RISC OS Userralph on 22/3/03 12:00AM
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Depends on what you mean by "investigative journalism". If you mean, "ask questions and find out things", then yes, I like to think drobe.co.uk does. We do try our best, you know. Alternatively, if you mean, "try to dig dirt and cause mischief to get extra hits", then no. Sorry.

Anyway, having read the GPL and consulted others (like we usually do), we're certain CTL are conforming to section 3, specifically part b. They produced an announcement stating that the source is available from them if you send them a disc and we're mirroring a copy online if you're worried about availability.

Of course, one would assume that a copy of the aforementioned announcement is included with shipped Iyonixes. We can find out after the weekend I guess.

Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 22/3/03 12:58AM
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I do hope that passwords arn't sent plaintext anymore, so whats the harm in releasing it?

 is a RISC OS UserNoMercy on 23/3/03 2:13PM
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ralph: Castle are including a notice about the HAL in their shipped Iyonixes, we're told.

Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 26/3/03 2:19PM
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diomus: Hi, thanks for seeking an answer from Castle. I didn't mean `dig dirt', just using your `weight' to get an answer. I sent a long, and hopefully helpful, email to Castle a little before the recent show pointing out their GPL obligations assuming just the Iyonix HAL was affected but never had a reply.

As to CTL conforming with 3b of the GPL, well their `announcement' doesn't cut it. It is the *code* as shipped, e.g. buried inside an Iyonix, that must be accompanied with the written offer for 3b. A one-off page on a website or Usenet post doesn't help the potential recipient of the code.

Your later post that Castle are including a notice is shipped Iyonix is good news. Can you get confirmation and the text?

PS. Is there some handy way of seeing when someone has posted onto a story where I've commented, i.e. a possible reply?

 is a RISC OS Userralph on 15/4/03 10:31PM
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