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Open Source Hardware Hacking Build Hardware

Open Source Hardware Definition Hits 0.3 93

Posted by timothy
from the but-it's-a-conservative-number dept.
ptorrone writes "A group of open source hardware makers have put together a draft of the open source hardware definition, now at version 0.3, which hopes to further define the making, sharing and selling of hardware within an 'Open Source Hardware license.' This fall, the day before Maker Faire New York City, the group hopes to have the license finalized for v1.0, and they are holding the first Open Source Hardware Summit. There are currently dozens of companies making open source hardware, altogether worth millions of dollars."
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Open Source Hardware Definition Hits 0.3

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  • I have to say (Score:2, Insightful)

    They are dreaming. Sure some hardware is relatively easy to develop on your own on a small budget. But most of it needs expensive equipment, fab facilities, testing systems etc. If you think a group of disperse individuals will each have the same equipment to collaborate you're dreaming. If you think a company is going to by the hardware and then let anyone manufacture it again you are dreaming.

    The reason why open source software works is that it is easy for people to contribute and it is essentially free

    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      What about things like the RepRap? The design is open but companies can still make profits (selling some pre-made parts, complete kits and even ready-to-run printers).

    • Re:I have to say (Score:5, Interesting)

      by NegativeK (547688) <{tekarien} {at} {hotmail.com}> on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @03:42PM (#32905342) Homepage
      What exactly are they dreaming about? I've only dealt with a few, but the open-source hardware companies I've purchased from are catering to individuals who don't need a PC motherboard or a 3GHz processor for their project. Think Arduino or GPS breakout board. In reality, cost barriers to open source hardware are progressing quite nicely. Access to fab resources in China and pick and place machines are dropping in price; doing it on your own is much more accessible. For examples, check out the aforementioned Arduino or the stuff Makerbot creates. 3d printers at a price-point of $1,000 were a pie in the sky dream 10 years ago. And lastly, open source isn't always about free as in bear. People still pay for Linux. I still pay for open source hobbyist hardware. I purchase it instead of other roughly equivalent devices because it's more easily modifiable, is easily hacked upon, is often quite well documented, and it's easy to find support. Adafruit has recently mentioned that "[t]here are 13 million-dollar open-source hardware companies". It seems to be working for some of us.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by hedwards (940851)
        Last time I freed a bear, I almost ended up in prison.
      • +1 informative. Plus they could design their hardware using VHDL or Verilog, as happened with the Commodore Amiga FPGA project. It allowed people to work with common code and each contribute a little piece.

        Which reminds me: Is there a site to join Open Source VHDL projects (as exists with OSS linux design)?

        • So are all the VHDL tools free and open source? How about the tools to program the parts?

          Are the FPGA chips themselves unencumbered with patents and trade-secret processes used to produce them?

          That's all important, too.

          • >>>That's all important, too.

            Not to me it isn't. As long as the tools are free is all I care about. Like VLC or Opera which are not open-source but don't cost me anything, so I use them. Anyway to answer your question: I'm not aware of any "open source" development tools but all the companies like Xilinx, Actel, and Altera provide the tools for free. It's the classic Remington Shaver model - You get the tool for free, but you have to pay for the parts.

            And yes the FPGAs are patented but it isn'

    • Re:I have to say (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vlm (69642) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @03:46PM (#32905402)

      The reason why open source software works is that it is easy for people to contribute and it is essentially free to give someone a copy. That is not the case with hardware.

      Are you ever going to be confused when you learn about FPGAs.

      http://www.opencores.org/ [opencores.org]

      • FPGAs are weird though. They are essentially programmable hardware. It is the programs not the hardware that people are giving away for free.

        I suppose people could develop test systems using FPGAs and then publish the design for what the dedicated hardware piece would look like though. Okay I retract my comment, there is some potential for open source hardware. Lots more difficulties though than downloading a copy of a package and starting hacking.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by vlm (69642)

          I suppose people could develop test systems using FPGAs and then publish the design for what the dedicated hardware piece would look like though.

          Well, in practice my Spartan3 FPGA experimenters board from a couple years ago cost approximately as much as a "really good keyboard" or about half the cost of a "reasonable tower chassis". Or somewhere between 1 and 2 months cablemodem service. You can treat the FPGA as a distinct PLCC or BGA that needs to be soldered to something you make, or treat the FPGA as the standard PCB breakout/demo board that all manufacturers sell (cheaply) to promote their devices. Standard slashdot car analogy is you can bu

        • by BillX (307153)

          Where did you get the idea that 'open source' == 'free'? ;-) The deliverable is still just design files in most cases; it's not like open hardware folks put out buckets full of assembled PCBs in subway stations. (good thing, too, because in some cities you'd get arrested for that...)

      • One may consider FPGA codes to be also software. Yes, the instructions are a little different, but the concept is quite similar to standard machine code.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by serialband (447336)

      It has to start somewhere. Someone has to dream and try to make their dreams come true for things to even change. If no one ever bothers, then what's the point?

      • As well people gripe a lot about MS and crew with closed source but I think they are better than a lot of hardware. I seem to recall back in the day looking into P4 inards and the published standards just said "adder and logical register" or whatever and then that the actual part might be implemented differently but performs logically the same.

        So you were left guessing how to optimize code or the thing because you had no idea how things are implemented, where something might be shown as a single micro-op

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by selven (1556643)

      There is strong corporate backing behind open source software. For example, about 75% of Linux is written by corporations. The same arguments they use (basically, if we put stuff out there, we can benefit from others building on it and publishing their improvements) should also apply to hardware.

    • by vlm (69642)

      They are dreaming.

      The most obvious, incredibly stereotypical counter example is the electronics kit building industry.

      There's a whole subculture of people selling kits based on electronics magazine articles. Lots of radio kits based on QST articles. Phasing type SSB TX and RX, ATV TX and downconverters, various transverters...

      Technically the magazine is copyrighted. However, I've also purchased and built completely, literally open hardware devices like a SBC6120 single board PDP-8 computer. And other things.

      The folks run

      • Technically, you don't have the microcode listing for the Intersil 6120 processor, so it's not really open hardware.

        I have a few tubes of HM6100 processors still in my stock. Cool chip. All CMOS with no dynamic registers. You can clock it down to .05 hertz if you want. The 12 bit data bus is a little awkward to work with, because ROMs and memory and I/O stuff is usually 8 bits wide.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Stan Vassilev (939229)

      They are dreaming. Sure some hardware is relatively easy to develop on your own on a small budget. But most of it needs expensive equipment, fab facilities, testing systems etc. If you think a group of disperse individuals will each have the same equipment to collaborate you're dreaming. If you think a company is going to by the hardware and then let anyone manufacture it again you are dreaming.

      So, they have a dream, huh :P? Very dramatic, but you're confusing two orthogonal ideas: free/make-it-yourself hardware and open source hardware.

      Open source hardware means the spec is open, and any (suffiently rich) person or a company could manufacture clones of the hardware piece free of fees and obligations. The PC architecture is a fine example of mostly open source hardware, that has had wild success.

      Sure, PCs aren't free, but the fact anyone could enter the market and make PC clones have significantl

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Yungoe (415568)

      They are not dreaming. Look at the Arduino project (http://www.arduino.cc/). This is an open source hardware project. All OSHW means is that anyone can make it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Zerth (26112)

      If you think a group of disperse individuals will each have the same equipment to collaborate you're dreaming.

      CNC routers, extruders, and sintering machines are all within range of the hobbyist much like computers were
      30 years ago. Several people will loan you a prototyping machine if you promise to loan out the one you build with it.

      Just the availability of small $200 XYZ stages makes tons of industrial automation possible: pick&place, automated testing, cutting, and the already mentioned routing and

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      They are dreaming.

      You are measuring against a yardstick of success that doesn't really apply.

      To be "successful" an open hardware manufacturer does not need to become the next Intel. They're not necessarily trying to build mass market widgets. They're protecting a group of users that the rest of the industry badly to ignore: the imaginative user of technology.

      There are people out here who really don't strive to own the latest iPhone, but rather have specific applications for which the mass marketeers don'

      • People who are "dreaming" threaten the status quo, and thus also threaten people who are frightened of change and progress. I don't know why there's so much scoffing about open source hardware (or open source anything) because it's not like it's going to take away your safe mass-marketed gear or anything.

        Those who scoff tend to lack the imagination to do anything along those lines, or lack the confidence to build their skills up to the point where they are capable of doing something interesting, new, and innovative. It's far easier to bust someone's chops for "dreaming" or "being unrealistic" to cover the fact that the naysayer has balls the size of peas (if applicable) than it is to get off of one's ass and do something.

    • by SlashV (1069110)

      The reason why open source software works is that it is easy for people to contribute and it is essentially free to give someone a copy. That is not the case with hardware.

      That may be true for hardware, but not for hardware designs. When you have open PCB design formats, those can be shared for free and be easily contributed to.

    • This is open source hardware, the patents are all gone, anyone can make them. A number
      of manufacturers make them to a single double edged standard.

      The point is a hardware definition not making the actual hardware itself. Its defining standards
      for making the hardware. Having open source definitions for hardware makes it easier for hardware manufacturers
      to be compliant with the standard at cost.

      Having a free open standard makes low cost vanilla hardware easy.

      • by Bassman59 (519820)

        This is open source hardware, the patents are all gone, anyone can make them. A number of manufacturers make them to a single double edged standard.

        The point is a hardware definition not making the actual hardware itself. Its defining standards for making the hardware. Having open source definitions for hardware makes it easier for hardware manufacturers to be compliant with the standard at cost.

        Having a free open standard makes low cost vanilla hardware easy.

        What if this "standard" is totally inapplicable to my application? This is the part that I don't understand.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by IrquiM (471313)

      I think you are confusing open source with free as in beer

    • ...But most of it needs expensive equipment, fab facilities, testing systems etc.

      You're forgetting that PC's were pretty expensive and had to be assembled and soldered together, just like the open source 3D printers today. Also, 3D printers becoming dramatically cheaper though some assembly is required for most of the open source designs.

      If you think a group of disperse individuals will each have the same equipment to collaborate you're dreaming.

      The RepRap community is a group of disperse individuals who have similar (3D printing) equipment and who are collaborating on making various designs, including the open source 3D printers themselves. You're right that it's not exactly common yet to do

  • Apple? (Score:4, Funny)

    by courteaudotbiz (1191083) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @03:32PM (#32905210) Homepage
    Isn't Apple part of this initiative? Their stuff has been jailbroken so many times and so easily, they can almost call their iPhone "Open Source Hardware"! ;-)
  • OSS definition, Section 6:

    6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor

    The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the program from being used in a business, or from being used for genetic research.

    OSHW definition, Section 7:

    7. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor

    The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the hardware in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the hardware

    • by hedwards (940851)
      Probably the fact that people are really doing their own hobbyist nuclear research as in real reactors, whereas I don't think that hobbyists have done their own clones, yet.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by vlm (69642)

      As a historical note from an old timer, in an earlier era, maybe a decade or so ago, there was extremely heavy pimping of using open source software to do biological genetic processing "bioinformatics". By 2010, we'd all be doing genetic processing in our basement as our primary hobby. It was successful enough in its field, but not widespread to the masses.

      The discrimination against nuclear is from the standard proprietary software licenses forbidding use of MS products for air traffic control, medical de

      • An automatic defibrillator is a pretty easy project, actually. Just an EKG monitoring circuit and a honking big capacitor. However, debug and testing is a real challenge. And who is going to use it when it's done?

    • by nschubach (922175)

      I like to think of it in these terms:
      of or relating to or constituting the core (nucleus) of a tiny piece of said item (atom)

      In other words... everything you can think of and in gruesome detail.

    • Maybe it's a dig at the iTunes EULA, which explicitly prohibits using it to control nuclear power stations.
  • Full text (Score:3, Informative)

    by selven (1556643) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @03:48PM (#32905434)

    Looks like it's getting a slashdotting, so here you go:

    Version 1.1 of the definition has been released. Please help updating it, contribute translations, and help us with the design of logos and buttons to identify free cultural works and licenses!

    Introduction

    Open Source Hardware (OSHW) is a term for tangible artifacts -- machines, devices, or other physical things -- whose design has been released to the public in such a way that anyone can make, modify, distribute, and use those things. This definition is intended to help provide guidelines for the development and evaluation of licenses for Open Source Hardware.

    It is important to note that hardware is different from software in that physical resources must always be committed for the creation of physical goods. Accordingly, persons or companies producing items ("products") under an OSHW license have an obligation not to imply that such products are manufactured, sold, warrantied, or otherwise sanctioned by the original designer and also not to make use of any trademarks owned by the original designer.

    The distribution terms of Open Source Hardware must comply with the following criteria:

    1. Documentation

    The hardware must be released with documentation including design files, and must allow modification and distribution of the design files. Where documentation is not furnished with the physical product, there must be a well-publicized means of obtaining this documentation for no more than a reasonable reproduction cost preferably, downloading via the Internet without charge. The documentation must include design files in the preferred form for which a hardware developer would modify the design. Deliberately obfuscated design files are not allowed. Intermediate forms analogous to compiled computer code -- such as printer-ready copper artwork from a CAD program -- are not allowed as substitutes.

    2. Necessary Software

    If the hardware requires software, embedded or otherwise, to operate properly and fulfill its essential functions, then the documentation requirement must also include at least one of the following: The necessary software, released under an OSI-approved open source license, or other sufficient documentation such that it could reasonably be considered straightforward to write open source software that allows the device to operate properly and fulfill its essential functions.

    3. Derived Works

    The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original hardware. The license must allow for the manufacture, sale, distribution, and use of products created from the design files or derivatives of the design files.

    4. Free redistribution

    The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the project documentation as a component of an aggregate distribution containing designs from several different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale. The license shall not require any royalty or fee related to the sale of derived works.

    5. Attribution

    The license may require derived works to provide attribution to the original designer when distributing design files, manufactured products, and/or derivatives thereof. The license may also require derived works to carry a different name or version number from the original design.

    6. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups

    The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons.

    7. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor

    The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the hardware in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the hardware from being used in a business, or from being used in nuclear research.

    8. Distribution of License

    The rights attached to the hardware must apply to all to whom the product or documentation is redistributed without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties.

  • And if you're interested in following up on this perhaps with a community of open source hardware advocates and engineers, you might want to try something like the open manufacturing [google.com] mailing list. "We bring free and open source software development methodology to the physical world."

    Some of the more interesting threads have been documented here [openmanufacturing.org].

    - Bryan
  • so, really, exactly what does this "Open source hardware definition" define?

    Does it simply allow someone to post schematics, firmware sources, Gerber files and BOMs with the implied, "Please don't make a bunch of these and sell them as your own design," or is there more to it?

    TFA doesn't talk about any sort of interoperability standards or anything else. it certainly doesn't talk about the notion of "contributing changes back to the community."

    I understand all of the arguments about, "Why aren't commercial

  • I'm hoping that someday I'll be able to reify a bitgrid. This looks like one possible path forward.

    A bitgrid is just an FPGA without routing logic. It's a grid of 4bits in 4 bits out Look up tables each connected to their nearest neighbors in a 2d grid. There's no routing to worry about because any cell can be used as either logic or routing, and both at the same time in most cases.

    Configuration is done by storing data in the look up tables. The whole thing looks like a chunk of static RAM to the host.

    I'm w

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