Removal of NWFPE in its entirety, and VFP emulation code

Russell King - ARM Linux linux at
Wed Apr 10 06:40:02 EDT 2013

I have just committed a patch to remove the arch/arm/nwfpe code from
the kernel, and the VFP code emulating the FP operations.

This I have done after it has been brought to my attention by the OSADL's
GPL-violations project that the license for the softfloat library is
incompatible with GPLv2.  This is because the FSF have ruled that
indemnification clauses consitute an "additional restriction" which is
incompatible with the GPLv2 section 6.  NWFPE contains the softfloat
library, and VFP's emulation code is a derivative of softfloat.

This will be very disruptive for ARMv4 and ARMv5 CPUs, which will no
longer be able to run userspace with NWFPE support removed.  A possible
solution there is to resurrect FASTFPE support and merge that into
mainline in place of NWFPE.  FASTFPE's hooks are all present in the
kernel, and it should just be a case of adding the FASTFPE code.
However, FASTFPE is probably lacking GDB and signal stack support.
(FastFPE's per-thread workspace is different from NWFPE.)

The situation with VFP is likely less disruptive - only instructions
which aren't implemented in hardware (or, for example, if you ask for
inexact exceptions to be enabled) which are bounced to the software
support code will be affected.  I think OMAP should get away unscathed,
but ARM's implementation will bounce if inexact exceptions are enabled
or in a few corner cases.  Qualcomm is likely to be the worst affected
by this.

Will Deacon has tested debian armhf on a Cortex-A15 with VFP emulation
support removed, which boots successfully.

There is some discussion that needs to happen to investigate possible
solutions to this, which are:

1. Whether we can persuade John to relicense his code.  From what I
   understand from the discussions which have already happened, John
   is against that because he requires the indemnification clause.

   It has been suggested that someone from the community could indemnify
   John, but that doesn't make any sense to me - and it would be hard to
   see how that in itself wouldn't require some kind of additional clause
   which could in itself be seen as an additional restriction.

2. Someone creates a clean-room GPLv2 compatible softfloat

3. Something else?

As I will be away for the next week, and unable to deal with this in any
way, I have taken the only option available to me at the present time and
removed the offending code, which is a change I will be pushing upstream
today.  This brings us back to a compliant situation, to the best of my

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