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Open Source Hardware Hacking Build Hardware

Open Source Hardware Definition Hits 0.3 93

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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  • 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!


    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.

  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @03:56PM (#32905550)

    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 devices, nuclear. Probably building your own homemade ATC radar or your own automatic defibrillator is a bit beyond most amateurs, but hotwiring a web interface to a geiger counter is FAR more believable. So, if you're going to pick and choose words from MS license, may as well pick that. Also nuclear is the most stereotypical dual use technology I can think of, in that it seems "obvious" that you'd want to ban 3rd world nuclear bomb development by banning "all nuclear devices" yet it seems obvious to me that a completely harmless twitter interface to a geiger counter would be kind of cool. Well, kind of, anyway.

  • Re:I have to say (Score:3, Informative)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:10PM (#32905728)

    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 buy a V-8 engine and you figure out how to put it into a car, or you can buy a ready to be modded / tuned up Civic just like a normal person.

    You have to realize the absolute minimum design of a FPGA board is pretty minimal, actually simpler than an arduino board. And the development software is free. If you're very handy with SMD you can assemble it yourself. Or, you can convince yourself that if you don't personally etch the board yourself that "you" didn't do it.

  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:28PM (#32905930)

    The problem with "Open Source" hardware, and any other tangible thing, is simply that for most hardware of any significance, a person would need a factory and expensive resources handy to go about trying to make it.

    You are soooo obviously not a modern electronics entrepreneur. You rent all that stuff. Yes, over the internet. Just like I don't need my own personal silk screen offset printing press I just use cafepress and competitors.

    There's about a dozen board houses where you upload a PCB file, and in a couple days they mail you ready to solder PCBs. Multi layer, exotic substrates, plating, solder mask, these guys do it all. Generally PCB manufacture is completely automated, about as much slow human touch as buying a book from amazon. This is not vapor ware or a nebulous student business plan, but a pretty big business. Most PCB houses are glad to do one offs for a price, although theres obvious quantity discounts.

    If you will lower yourself to talking on the phone to a salesweasel, "most" board houses either have inhouse assemblers or a "special relationship" with a local assembler. You will need to talk extensively about assembly service, and FAX custom contract back and forth. Someone could probably make a killing in the business by "semi-automating" this process much like happened to ultra-small run PCB business over the last decade. The main problem with assemblers is their "JIT" sourcing of parts and their pre-soldering inspection of parts... um... has some stereotypical problems.

    There are at least half a dozen businesses where you upload a certain CAD file and in a couple days you get all manner of metal front panels, cases, and just plain ole random metalwork. Again all automated, about as difficult as uploading a picture to cafepress or uploading a "gerber" file to a PCB house. Not as popular as PCB houses, but up and coming.

    There would probably be a business opportunity for someone to set up an expediting service over the internet to coordinate all these guys. But trust me, at least for open source electronics devices, if you know how to use google its pretty much ask and ye shall receive (if ye have a thick enough wallet, of course).

  • Re:I have to say (Score:2, Informative)

    by Yungoe ( 415568 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:39PM (#32906068)

    They are not dreaming. Look at the Arduino project ( This is an open source hardware project. All OSHW means is that anyone can make it.

  • Re:I have to say (Score:3, Informative)

    by localman57 ( 1340533 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:43PM (#32906140)
    People used to make these same arguments about professionally fabbed, multi layer pcbs. Now they're affordable to the masses.
  • Re:I have to say (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @06:06PM (#32907274)

    Yes really. Check out BatchPCB, which is just one among hundreds of companies that do affordable 1-off custom boards: []

  • Re:I have to say (Score:3, Informative)

    by BillX ( 307153 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @11:06PM (#32909300) Homepage

    Extraordinary? For work prototyping I usually get mine here: []

    It's $100 for 100in^2 (that's a lot of space!) for 2-layer. In 6 years I've only once had a pressing need for more layers. Obviously, $100 is definitely not free (it's tangible goods and labor after all), but if you have a few friends who want boards, your price per design drops pretty quickly. BatchPCB does exactly this.

    There's plenty of design space left for people who are not making GHz PCs and cell phones. If you're prototyping and your needs are not that extravagent, your cost is ~ 99 cents [], and you can build a machine for it yourself from an open-source design and readily available parts :-) (mine was ~ $200 and the gas to get to home depot and back).

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. -- F. Brooks, "The Mythical Man-Month"