Libre wifi for Ben Nanonote (was: Re: Libre GNU/Linux PDAs)

Daniel Clark dclark at
Sun Jan 17 09:51:01 EST 2010

On Sat, Jan 16, 2010 at 6:57 AM, Wolfgang Spraul <wolfgang at> wrote:
>> It looks like there is an Atheros AR6002 microSD wifi card [1,2,3,4];
>> anyone have contacts with Japanese companies / KDDI / Mitsumi
>> Electric?
> Openmoko used Atheros (6001) in the FreeRunner, and it was not a good
> experience, for a number of reasons. Everybody tried hard, including
> Atheros, but in the end we didn't make it. I think Atheros 5xxx and
> 9xxx have fairly good Linux drivers, and the 2425 as well (former ZyDAS).
> 6xxx is a troublemaker.

I'm vaguely aware of this, but since the driver is fully GPL most
likely people will eventually get it working quite well; this seems to
be what happened with ath9k, which sucked for a long time but in
2.6.32 seems to be very nice.

> For the KDDI card, can you order it? AFAIK it was a 'demo-only' product
> so far and no real production is planned.
> But that's several steps down the road, not sure how far we make it.
> If someone finds out news about the KDDI card, or gets in touch with them,
> please keep the list posted we are definitely interested...

It is not orderable now by consumers at the moment. I think I read it
was planned to be available sometime early this year, but who knows.
My idea is that if someone affiliated with an OEM (such as
contacted Mitsumi Electric (perhaps someone who spoke Japanese as well
would help), they would be able to do a bulk order or reseller
arrangement, and/or get more information about actual planned

If no one from wants to do this, I can try, perhaps in
concert with a friend who does speak Japanese.

> The only generally available and working microSD Wi-Fi card I am aware of
> is the Spectec SDW-823. It was out of stock for a few months at the end
> of last year, but now available again in Taiwan.
> Spectec's #1 distributor is Expansys, with fulfillment centers globally.
> At Expansys the SDW-823 is listed as "due Jan 28" right now (on the UK
> site), I guess if people put in orders at Expansys this should move
> forward. The cards definitely exist in stock in Taipei.

Spectec SDW-823 also seems to be available from ebay in the US.

> We are evaluating how well those cards actually work in our Ben NanoNote.
> Antenna sensitivity, power consumption, driver features.
> The Spectec SDW-823 has a Renesas (former KeyStream) KS-7010 Wi-Fi chip
> inside. GPL driver, binary firmware blob.

The binary blob makes the Spectec SDW-823 unusable and unpromotable by
organizations and people I care about (fsf, rms). Lack of free as in
freedom wifi on the ben nanonote would make the device much less

> We do have fairly good relations with the KeyStream department inside
> Renesas, if the evaluation of the SDW-823 on our NanoNotes comes out
> positive, we will probably go back to Renesas and talk about new features
> for the firmware (all the things Linux people like, such as thin firmware,
> monitor/AP mode, mesh, etc).

It would be good if you could get Renesas to GPL the SDW-823 firmware :-)

Note that while this may seem like a little thing, the nonfree
libertas firmware ended up being a big issue / time waster for a
similar project, the OLPC XO.

It was so bad that they ended up trying to reverse engineer the
firmware, but I don't think they ended up being very successful with

I can find references to specific problems / bug former XO devs to
talk about this if qi-hardware people are interested.

Happy hacking,
Daniel JB Clark |

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