Sunday, April 09, 2006


In 2005, I had the opportunity to visit D-Link India's development office in Bangalore. I found that they were using Linux on a few routers that they were developing. This surprised me since I had not found mention either of Linux, or for their obligations to their customers under the GPL, on the main D-Link website. My understanding of the GPL was that GPL-derived binaries need to be accompanied with a prominent offer of source code. Most companies that use Linux for embedded work just put their sources up on the web.

The matter got stranger. In response to a direct question, the VP of Development (at Bangalore) indicated that he didn't think that they needed to make the Linux source code that went into their products available to their customers. I didn't have the opportunity to ask why he thought that the GPL didn't apply to his product line. I do know that some D-Link routers are Linux based and that you can find GPL'ed source tarballs for these by assiduously googling for them. However, it is not clear to me whether source code is available for all of D-Link's Linux based routers and whether the provisions of the GPL are being correctly honored by this company.

And now, there is the news that D-Link's routers have been abusing NTP by directly connecting to Tier-1 NTP servers around the world, in violation of the way NTP is designed to work. The Slashdot thread on the topic revealed a few interesting tidbits:

  • D-Link's products had previously affected the free DynDNS service. This anonymously posted comment is particularly revealing: instead of taking time to fix the bugs in their code, D-Link apparently invested energy to work around the restrictions placed by (this should be easy to verify).
  • Another comment expressed frustration at the D-Link/India firewall :) used to protect management from customer feedback.

The impression I came away with after going through the material on the Internet is that D-Link, as a company, gives short shrift to the network of gentlemen's agreements that hold the internet (and modern society) up. They have demonstrated that they are not above abusing a free service if they can find one, and if the anonymous poster's information is correct, that they are willing to work-around technical protective blocks with impunity. They use GPL'ed code without honoring its copyright fully and completely.

Whether this attitude arises due to malice or due to plain incompetence is not clear yet. Either way, this is one company whose products I'm personally going to avoid in the future, following the principle of giving my business to the least sucky corporation that I can find.

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