More tea please.

fetproxy: An open source replacement for msp430-gdbproxy

Just under 3 months ago, Tom and I reverse engineered the protocol to talk to the TI FET430UIF MSP430 debugger.

We weren’t confident that we could release the source without legal repercussions. We couldn’t really afford to pay a solicitor to find out what our legal position was (I got a quote from one of £600). We gave the problem some thought.

Letter to Texas Instruments After many discussions about what we could do, we decided to send a letter to TI to ask them whether they’d mind us releasing our code as open source. That letter is here on the right. Click on it to be able to read it. (You may notice that I’ve blacked out my address.)

Today I got a phone call from Thomas Mitnacht, who is Texas Instrument’s Development Tools Manager for MSP430 Microcontrollers and is based in Munich. After I’d explained to him why we’d reverse engineered the protocol, he said that he was happy for it to be released as open source. This is amazing. Thank you Thomas Mitnacht and TI!. I was quite surprised how quickly TI responded to this request.

He said he’d prefer for it to be under LGPL or GPL version 2 so that they could use the code, as apparently they’re not sure yet about how to deal with the patent requirements that GPLv3 has. Personally, I think the patent clauses in GPLv3 are useful and will help to make our software more free. However, given that TI could have given us a much harder time about this, I’m willing to release it under version 2.

Thomas also informed me about some important things to do with the MSP430 debugger. They’re not able to release the source code of their FET430 interface library at the moment. I think this is because of some licensing issues they have with that code. They’re working on a replacement library that will be open source and available at the end of this year. Sounds good. I’m looking forward to it.

I’m extremely happy to release the source code that Tom and I hacked together at 25C3. It’s a bit dirty at the moment, but now that we can have it out in the open we’ll definitely be putting more work into it.

Quit rambling, just give me the code!

I’ve put the code up in a git repository on gitorious. You can grab it like this:

git clone git://gitorious.org/fetproxy/mainline.git fetproxy

Several people have emailed me over the last couple of months asking me for the source. I’ve had to give them all a bit of a disappointing reply, which was “sorry, please wait”. If you’re one of those people, I hope that you understood.

P.S. Further good news: My msp430-gcc Fedora package passed its review a couple of days ago. It’ll hopefully be shipping within the next week.

Posted at 8:08 pm on Wednesday 25th March 2009

msp430-gdbproxy replacement implemented

Tom and I have been working on some code to replace msp430-gdbproxy, which is a piece of closed source software that we regularly use to program and debug MSP430 microcontrollers. The atmosphere at 25C3 encouraged the continuation of this effort, and we can now successfully reprogram MSP430s using it. We’ll be releasing it as FOSS as soon as possible once we’ve ascertained that there are no legal issues with us doing so. I’m sure that you can understand the reasons for such caution here.

In the future, we’d like to be able to prove that we had got to this point by this date. Therefore, we’re publishing the SHA1 (160-bit) hash of the source code right now, and will later publish the code that it goes with. That hash is:


And in order to remind myself which git commit this maps to in my repository, it’s commit: 894dde86e14b824e16540908e9138ee944abafcf.

Posted at 10:39 pm on Wednesday 31st December 2008

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