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November 17, 2009 AT 3:00 am

Open Source Hardware and The Web: Web 2.0 Expo New York 2009

Pt 2321
We’ll be speaking at the Web 2.0 Expo New York 2009 today at 10am, if you’re around pop by!

Open source hardware is a term slowly working its way into many new projects and efforts, but what is it? There are a few definitions, some of which come from “open source software,” which is usually considered software’s “source code under a license (or arrangement such as the public domain) that permits users to study, change, and improve the software, and to redistribute it in modified or unmodified form.” So how does this translate to hardware? This session will focus on electronic hardware, the layers they can be divided into, different document types, licensing concerns, and a show-and-tell of hardware. Because of the openness of the movement it is increasingly being tied to Web 2.0 services.

Here are our slides!

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10 Comments

  1. The project I am working on I think is open hardware all the software and hardware that makes it except my phisical laptop is open source.
    Ubuntu Linux
    Kicad a free and open source Electronic schematic capture and design automation that has a better flow than eagle cad.
    Open office for diagrams and drawings and spread sheets.
    gerbv for gerber viewing.
    All the design files can be modified because the file format is open. They can be extended on by scripting in bash.
    The micropendous microcontroler uses arduino code for hardware USB at higher speed than the standard arduino.
    PCI will be encorperated in the future with Xilinx FPGA that works with Linux and their is a free version of the schematic capture and verlog compiler. Sorry their is not a free and open source option for that I see yet.

    The design is in pre release I want to test all the hardware boards before the experamental hardware sensors etc are released. I have the pc board from batch pcb for the 24 bit analog to digital converter board with 8 simultaniously sampled channels.

  2. There’s some great information in there … thanks for posting it. The license issue is definately a big question mark for a lot of people (or at least it is for me!).

    Another important question is how ‘open’ do you have to be to be a card carrying member of the Open Hardware Party? For example, schematics are obvious … if you’re not sharing them you’re not offering anything useful. Software is pretty obvious to me as well … the HW isn’t that useful (or that ‘open’) if you’re not providing the software that makes the fun stuff happen. But board files? Unless someone has exactly the same reels and connectors as me (which is unlikely since most connectors I buy are 1000 parts minimum), what’s the point? I just don’t think the board files are useful to 99% of people (Arduino is maybe the only exception I’ve seen there)? And while I’m completely into sharing anything I do (for commercial or non-commercial use), it does kind of stink to imagine working really hard on something, and while making a profit isn’t a big part of the equation (at least for me), it is nice to get back some of the money you put into it selling pre-assembled boards. I spend (literally) thousands making some prototypes (to offer as ‘open’ hardware), but finding them on ebay for 10% above parts cost by someone who doesn’t give a damn about contributing the project … that does kind of suck. I want to help people get started building decent products, and I’m OK investing my time and money into that (maybe if I’m luck I’ll even someday break even doing it), but I’m not really into financing someone’s lazy business model where everyone else does the hard work, and they just spit it out and resell it with no return contributions. :-(

    Sorry … this is turning into a big polemic. :-)

  3. kevin, instead of imagining something bad happening, perhaps we should look at what really happens :)

    the fact is, not releasing board files will make absolutely no difference in whether someone ‘clones’ a design. many designs we’ve had cloned were rerouted from scratch since anyone with the skill to clone hardware (think about it) will probably just re-layout the board for their own preferences and tools. the remainder were cloned so poorly that they were crushed by support and chargeback costs. Arduino has had a similar experience: the most successful ‘clones’ are NOT hardware identical and have many improvements more modifications. So now there are two real examples vs imagination ;)

    saying Arduino is an exception is a “anthropomorphic bias” – a major reason why Arduino was successful was because they released all the files open source. they were successful way before any clones, and they are only MORE successful post-clones

    In addition, we have never seen a open source hardware project owner that was ‘put out of business’ by clones.

    if anyone doesnt want to release board files, fine. but as someone who has had their stuff cloned (you can see some adafruit knock offs) in many places, it doesn’t matter. lots of time when people say they want to release files they get scared & use the “oh noes a clones could happen” excuse but it doesnt match up with any of our experiences! :(

  4. Ladyada:

    Hey … I’m all for ‘open’ and my motivation is really just making things easier for people than it was for me … though I’m probably a bad frame-of-reference ;) ! You’ve convinced me to give it a shot putting the boards up anyway (the Eagle libraries are already there). That said … ARM development boards will never equal the popularity of something like Arduino. I can be idealistic, but delusionary isn’t my thing :). Arduino meets a very real need for ‘easy to use’, and while ARM is hardly rocket science the learning curve is a bit steeper, and there’s a higher financial cost of entry. If 1000 board ever get produced, I’ll be shocked, but that’s hardly my goal anyway.

    Anyway … off to update the LPC2148 Reference Design with the Eagle board files (should have a few more designs up by the end of December)! :-)

  5. kevin, ha! your biggest worry then is that its so unpopular that nobody would -want- to clone it ;)

  6. I’m aiming for strength in numbers: If I can get 5-6 mostly ignored M0/M3/ARM7/ARM9 reference designs on the site (and eventually for sale) I might actually bring in enough revenue to pay, say, my electrical bill! :)

    I just love this stuff and am happy to help people try to get started with ARM (nothing against Arduino … I just started with ARM and kind of got happily stuck there). If I can break even doing it, I’m a happy camper, but I’m pretty happy just to open things like ARM up to a few people that might do something useful with it as well.

    Anyway … the board files are there. I should get some PCBs in late next week (for a few different MCUs), and I’ll assemble about 10 of them which should see me through most of 2010. ;)

    Kevin.

  7. Brandon Alexander

    I’m an advocate of open source software and intrigued about the practicality of open source in the hardware world.

    Has open sourcing (hardware and software, say under CC Share Alike) an entire consumer product (like Pleo, not hardware components/devices like an Arduino) been successfully done without patents? I’m wondering what’s keeping a consumer product from being copied for cheaper without the aid of patents. Or are patents still used with these licenses?

  8. brandon, yes: Chumby, Beagleboard & Bug. you should check our presentation slides as we discuss 2 patent-addressing licenses TAPR and Chumby

    But im not quite getting what you’re trying to say with “I’m wondering what’s keeping a consumer product from being copied for cheaper without the aid of patents.” Are you trying to say you think that ‘copying’ is a problem or a benefit of OSH that can be aided/prevented by patents?

  9. Brandon Alexander

    Ladyada:

    Chumby is exactly the example I was after. I wasn’t familiar with Chumby the first time reading the slides, so just glanced over it (woops).

    My issue with Arduino, Beagleboard and BugLabs is that they’re geared towards the developer where as something like Chumby is more a consumer product (read, can be used as is with no manipulation/modifications).

    I can’t help but feel that copying or cloning would be a problem of OSH for consumer products without patents. However, I like Chumby’s license’s handling of patents outlined by Bunnie’s response in http://getsatisfaction.com/chumby/topics/how_open_open_source_is_chumby:

    “To see why the cross-licensing is important, consider the case that someone were able to hypothetically patent the idea of a chumby with a battery. Without the automatic cross-license, we might be unable to create our own version of a battery pack. Remember, users of our HDK are given an automatic license to Chumby’s IP, so the relationship is reciprocal. The license effectively bypasses potential patent disputes within the Chumby hardware ecosystem, while allowing patents to exist as a defense from another company attempting to assert their portfolio on the Chumby hardware ecosystem (as is currently happening to the Linux ecosystem).”

    That has a nice GPL approach to the hardware ecosystem for the product.

    Basically, I found your post on OSH eye-opening and am now curious about it’s use, particularly in consumer products.

  10. Brandon Alexander

    (This may be double post) Ladyada:

    Chumby is exactly the example I was after. I wasn’t familiar with Chumby the first time reading the slides, so just glanced over it (woops).

    My issue with Arduino, Beagleboard and sort of BugLabs is that they’re geared towards the developer where as something like Chumby is more a consumer product (read, can be used as is with no manipulation/modifications).

    I can’t help but feel that copying or cloning would be a problem of OSH for consumer products without patents. Chumby’s license’s handling of patents outlined by Bunnie’s response in http://getsatisfaction.com/chumby/topics/how_open_open_source_is_chumby has a GPL-esque approach, yet still prevents others from manufacturing the device:

    “To see why the cross-licensing is important, consider the case that someone were able to hypothetically patent the idea of a chumby with a battery. Without the automatic cross-license, we might be unable to create our own version of a battery pack. Remember, users of our HDK are given an automatic license to Chumby’s IP, so the relationship is reciprocal. The license effectively bypasses potential patent disputes within the Chumby hardware ecosystem, while allowing patents to exist as a defense from another company attempting to assert their portfolio on the Chumby hardware ecosystem (as is currently happening to the Linux ecosystem).”

    Basically, I found your post on OSH eye-opening and am now curious about it’s use, particularly in consumer products.

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