PCMCIA .cis files

Alexandre Oliva lxoliva at fsfla.org
Thu Dec 30 11:02:56 UTC 2010

Linux-libre has long removed all .cis files that are requested by the
various PCMCIA drivers.

Revising differences between Linux-libre and Debian's Freed kernel, this
was one of the differences that I came across, and I'm unsure about how
to proceed.

I'm not sure the .cis files are software.  They are binary descriptions
of the card name, function, compatibility and hardware configuration.

They are licensed under GPL, but there's no corresponding source in the
Linux tree.

The “sources” are available from the pcmcia-cs project, under
MPL1.1|GPLv2.  They look like this:

# Replacement CIS for various busted NE2000-compatible cards
vers_1 4.1, "PCMCIA", "Ethernet"
funcid network_adapter
config base 0x03f8 mask 0x03 last_index 0x20
cftable_entry 0x20 [default]
  Vcc Vnom 5V
  irq mask 0xffff [level]
  io 0x0000-0x001f [8bit] [16bit]

This is the entire file, and few are much larger than this; the largest
just has a bunch of cftable_entries, each with a different number and io
range, and that's about it.

pcmcia-cs also provides a progarm to convert from this source format to
the binary format that appears in Linux, and another program to decode
the binary format back to source form, except for the short comments in
the first few lines of each of these source files.

To me, it seems like these files are not software, but rather data that
describes how to interface with the card.  So, to satisfy the GNU FSDG,
it would suffice for the data to be redistributable.

So the question is, is it?

On the one hand, the GPL requires corresponding sources to be
distributed along with the binaries.  They aren't, but the preferred
form to make changes to the files (= source, per the GPL) can be
recovered perfectly (save for one-line comments) from the binaries, so
maybe they're enough to satisfy the GPL, even though this is not at all
obvious (or documented).

On the other hand, the files (in source and binary forms) are also
available under the MPL, straight from the pcmcia-cs project, and the
MPL requires the distributor to offer corresponding sources only for
modified versions.  So, distributing only the binaries would be fine
under that license.  While this appears to be defensible,
firmware/WHENCE in Linux says the files are under GPL.


Alexandre Oliva, freedom fighter    http://FSFLA.org/~lxoliva/
You must be the change you wish to see in the world. -- Gandhi
Be Free! -- http://FSFLA.org/   FSF Latin America board member
Free Software Evangelist      Red Hat Brazil Compiler Engineer

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