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The State of Open Source Hardware In 2008

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the time-to-pick-a-winter-project dept.

Hardware Hacking 88

ptorrone writes "MAKE Magazine has put together their 3rd annual 'State of Open Source Hardware 2008' — in just a few years, the number of projects has grown from a small handful to an amazing 60+ offerings. Similar to open source software, open source hardware is available with source code, schematics, firmware and bills of materials, and allows commercial use. The most popular project, Arduino, the open source prototyping platform for artists and engineers, has shipped over 60,000 units." The article is formatted such that the first link for a particular device will usually take you to the project home page. Some will bring you instead to where you can purchase the items, but most still have a "How To" tab which will direct you to guides and instructions on how to build your own gadgets. There are a bunch of interesting devices, from the Game of Life on the outside of a cube to a home-made MP3 player to OpenMoko.

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Frist post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25926437)

Frist post

Re:Frist post (1, Troll)

Reikk (534266) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926909)

Just like a virus, open source is spreading. "Open" is just codeword the pinkos use. It means communism. Open source has already ruined the software industry, now it's aiming for hardware. Say byebye to intel if they have their way. Then they'll find another place to spread their virus. Now that Barack Hussein Obama is elected they will have an easier time with their communist/socialist agenda. It's time to open your eyes, slashdot, to the dangerous and evil open source movement. If you don't believe me, just look at their leader, Hans Reiser.

Re:Frist post (0, Troll)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | more than 5 years ago | (#25927235)

Bullshit, open source hasn't ruined anything, and it isn't communist, i don't think you know what that word means. When the government forces the people to use Linux you can come back with your communist talk.

It is however a market force, giving users an option they wouldn't have otherwise had, and giving commercial developers yet another thing to compete with, which helps users in the long run.

Microsoft hasn't gone anywhere, they aren't even being threatened on the desktop much, they have more to worry about from Apple than Linux right now.

Intel won't go anywhere either, it takes a LOT of R&D to develop the things Intel does, open spec hardware isn't going to be pushing them aside any time soon.

Re:Frist post (1)

maugle (1369813) | more than 5 years ago | (#25927691)

Don't feed the (rather obvious) troll, steveman...

Re:Frist post (1)

gnupun (752725) | more than 5 years ago | (#25930923)

It is however a market force, giving users an option they wouldn't have otherwise had, and giving commercial developers yet another thing to compete with ...

Who the heck wants to compete with slaves producing $0 software? They are destroying the market.

...which helps users in the long run.

You mean, the short run. In the long run, there will be smaller market for paid software. So there will be much fewer software vendors resulting in fewer products, less competition, reduced innovation and fewer choices. Sure, software will be free, but since there is no market for innovation, nobody will waste years of their lives creating a $0 product. Therefore, users will have to make do with ancient, slowly innovating software.

Microsoft hasn't gone anywhere, they aren't even being threatened on the desktop much, they have more to worry about from Apple than Linux right now.

Big surprise, it's hard to kill big fish! However, many small fish, like small software vendors and shareware authors have been slaughtered.

Just in time (1, Offtopic)

kbrasee (1379057) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926443)

for the Year Of The Linux Desktop.

(sorry, I couldn't help myself...)

Sadly misread... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25926449)

the final sentence to read "The game of life outside the cube"....

Re:Sadly misread... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25926535)

According to policy, there is no life outside the cubes. Now sit down, we don't have the budget for soundproofing that tall.

Thank you for your attention to this manner.

- Management

Re:Sadly misread... (1)

TrebleMaker (628707) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926817)

So now you *don't* want me to think outside the box?

OpenSource hardware meets Open Source AI (1)

Mentifex (187202) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926521)

Open-source robotics [robots.net] hardware is all fine and dandy, but ultimately worthless without artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence [sourceforge.net] is Open-Source and needs Robot Bridgeware [google.com] to connect open-source hardware devices to open-source AI Minds [aimind-i.com] .

AI has been solved [google.com] for open-source hardware in need of open-source intelligence.

Testing the waters, won't last if we don't act (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25926579)

Companies, in a never-ending pursuit of getting our money, are only testing the water. If we don't BUY products for Linux these companies will drop us like a hot potato. There is no "open source = freedom" to make-a-buck companies, only bottom lines.

Dump some snow, damnit! (1)

grub (11606) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926581)


I ordered an Arduino, ethernet shield and some other goop from ladyada. It's to be my winter project plaything. Just my luck, the weather in Winnipeg is rather nice lately thus eliminating my excuse to hide at my workbench.

Re:Dump some snow, damnit! (1)

badkarmadayaccount (1346167) | more than 5 years ago | (#25950719)

Say you miss the old, "real" winters, and tell the nosy brats to get off your lawn. ;)

What's new? (3, Interesting)

svirre (39068) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926677)

So what's new with 'open source hardware'?
I work in a semiconductor company and we got lots of designs including schematics board layouts firmware and BOMs, other companies do the same thing.

The point is of course to sell our devices by having customers using our designs, but the point is that there are lots of free designs out there, and they have been made available for many years not just the last few as it has been stated in the article.

Re:What's new? (1)

ptorrone (638660) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926717)

the "new" part of this is the ability to use it for commercial use and the projects are things that many people can make at home. usually semiconductors are harder to make at home and there are commercial use restrictions on designs.

all that being said, there will be an addition guide to "open hardware" and these are things that have similar "openness" with specific licensing (usually non-commercial use only).

Re:What's new? (2, Insightful)

Alioth (221270) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926833)

That's not new either. You can't copyright a circuit (you can copyright artwork, like PCB layouts and schematics, and possibly patent novel designs) - so any published design that's not patent encumbered can be made and used commercially if so desired. If you publish a schematic, you can't go and put restrictions on the design like "non commercial only" because the circuit itself isn't copyrightable.

Re:What's new? (1)

svirre (39068) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926849)

I can assure you that our designs are absolutely available for commercial use. That is the entire purpose. We release freely and unencumbered reference designs using components we sell.
These designs (usually called appnotes) are specifically made to ease the design-in for a commercial user.

I can't imagine why a semiconductor vendor would release reference designs with limitations on commercial usage. Commercial usage is what we make a living of.

Re:What's new? (0, Flamebait)

davolfman (1245316) | more than 5 years ago | (#25927103)

Not to mention 60 some-odd products is absolutely pathetic for an industry.

Re:What's new? (1)

davolfman (1245316) | more than 5 years ago | (#25927123)

Forget I said anything. Once you RTFA you realize the summary is totally bogus. This is all just a bunch of Arduino micro dev boards.

Re:What's new? (3, Informative)

ptorrone (638660) | more than 5 years ago | (#25927197)

hey davo, i wrote this guide. while there are a lot of arduino projects there are more non-arduino projects. there is a lot going on in the arduino space but it's not fair to ignore all the others in the list: x0xb0x, tvbgone, fuzebox, minimig, openmoko, daisy mp3 player... etc etc.

these are all really cool projects too.

Re:What's new? (0)

davolfman (1245316) | more than 5 years ago | (#25927205)

I give up. Just mod me down.

Re:What's new? (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 5 years ago | (#25927259)

These aren't products. They're components. How many discrete kinds of lego blocks do you need before you've got your bases covered?

Re:What's new? (1)

davolfman (1245316) | more than 5 years ago | (#25928225)

A truckload given how large and complex these pieces are. For my purposes I need a simple lightweight micro module with clock, a little memory, a few pins for 2-wire IO and a few pins to control an RC aircraft servo or link to a sensor. Nothing in this list is even remotely that simple. In Lego terms they're getting to dangerously close to POOP (Pieces Out Of Pieces) territory.

Re:What's new? (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 5 years ago | (#25928755)

Whats wrong with a Ardunino?

Ok its probably too big for your use.
You can however take the chip the arduino uses (or a similar model), and use it standalone without the USB and power regulator stuff you dont need..

Re:What's new? (3, Informative)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 5 years ago | (#25928739)

You've never played with a Arduino obviously.
I've got three of them. Very nifty.

Actually its not the Arduino its self which is great.
Its the ATtiny and ATmega processors from Atmel which seriously kick ass.
Little chips which you can wire up in 5 mins, run at 20mhz and Atmel has very thoughtfully provided patches to GCC.

You program them with standard C/C++ on any OS you can name and its all open source.
The Arduino builds upon that.

Re:What's new? (1)

kieblerh (1414625) | more than 5 years ago | (#25967153)

Think of the Iphone how you have to use it on a certain network. With open source hardware you not only can use it with any software you want, but you can design your own software to work with it because everything about the hardware is open.

it may not be the year (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25926691)

of the linux desktop but it sure is the year of open source hardware yay!

OpenMoko? (2, Insightful)

socsoc (1116769) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926711)

Let me know when I can build an OpenMoko handset from parts that I purchase myself. That isn't open...

Re:OpenMoko? (4, Informative)

ptorrone (638660) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926733)

the schematics are here... it's a tough project to make "from scratch" but it's possible...
http://downloads.openmoko.org/schematics/ [openmoko.org]

Re:OpenMoko? (1)

rcallan (1256716) | more than 5 years ago | (#25927045)

Currently almost all "open hardware" is only open in the sense that the information you need to write software for it is available. You need more than the schematics to replicate it. You need files showing how the wires are routed on the pcb (assuming you're going to modify it somehow, why else would you go to all this trouble?). Oh and by the way you need > $1000 software to generate the files you'll send to manufacture the pcb. And after you do that you'll have to locate and buy each of those components on the board, assuming they'll even sell you > 10 of them at a time. And after that you'll have to solder fine pitch leads and bga parts (latter is impossible without some kind of oven and solder paste). You're also assuming there's no roms anywhere on the board. It's not that hard to do all this if there's 10 components on the board, but that is really not the case with a cellphone. A lot of people see schematics and say "oh I could make that thing." It's really not that simple.

Re:OpenMoko? (1)

Neoprofin (871029) | more than 5 years ago | (#25927239)

This all come back to the other article about the FSF's new definition of open. It's completely ridiculous to refuse to use proprietary software in any form to run proprietary hardware, and there's nothing that the average person can do to not have to trust in the work of a secret keeping commercial entity without a completely absurd amount of commitment and investment.

Re:OpenMoko? (1)

rcallan (1256716) | more than 5 years ago | (#25927595)

I'm not talking about free speech, I'm talking about free beer. The programs I'm talking about (I won't mention any names) just aren't available in _any_ form for > $1000. If someone handed me a copy of the software I'd be more than happy to use it, regardless of the source, it's just not available. But let's assume Cadence or someone else was offering these programs for free, or you just happen to have access to them. If I showed up at work on monday and my boss handed me those pdfs and wanted me to add a resistor somewhere or fix a short and wanted it done by the end of the day (it would take an hour or two with the correct files), that would truely be a laughable scenario. You'd have to re-enter those schematics all over again, then track down the footprints for all the components (and redraw some of them I'm sure), then layout the components again, and hope the program you're using can route it as well as it was done originally (that's assuming there's no signal integrity issues with the board!). Then you'd have to send for a debugging prototype or two because you're going to make a mistake somewhere. All told this is going to cost at least $25,000 including labor. My point is that there's at least a $25,000 gap between those pdf files and a set of gerber files and a list of component suppliers that you know will give you a functional board.

Don't take my word for it, send those pdfs to one of the companies that does this and get an estimate. All I'm saying is that some of these designs (such as openmoko) are really really far away from full disclosure. In my opinion those pdfs should be called open documentation, not open hardware.

Re:OpenMoko? (1)

Nazlfrag (1035012) | more than 5 years ago | (#25929435)

http://geda.seul.org/ [seul.org] looks interesting as a solution to the $1000+ software. I'm not sure if it's capable of doing what you ask with openmoko, but I'm sure it can work with many projects. The conversion and debugging would be a labour of love for a hobbyist which would negate many of the associated costs, and once one hobbyist shares it, the gap disappears. Can't you just be happy that the potential is there, even if it costs $25,000? Designing from scratch would entail a far greater cost.

Re:OpenMoko? (1)

rcallan (1256716) | more than 5 years ago | (#25930019)

Yep I'm happy with the potential. I didn't mean to be so negative on openmoko for releasing more than almost any other hardware manufacturer has. It'd be great though if they came out and said the reason they're not releasing the schematic and pcb files is that they don't want anyone else manufacturing the device. Really all my ranting could have been summarized as "it would take $25K of work to translate those pdfs into a device." (sorry about that)

It's great that there are free tools available. I have used them and they are great for most projects. When you're dealing with a major project such as open moko I have a feeling it'd be a lot like emptying a swimming pool with a spoon though.

Re:OpenMoko? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25927909)

A lot of people see schematics and say "oh I could make that thing."

I doubt many people looked at the schematics linked here and thought "I could make that thing." Take a look. It doesn't look remotely easy.

Re:OpenMoko? (2, Interesting)

mustafap (452510) | more than 5 years ago | (#25928541)

>You need files showing how the wires are routed on the pcb (assuming you're going to modify it somehow, why else would you go to all this trouble?). Oh and by the way you need > $1000 software to generate the files you'll send to manufacture the pcb

You clearly know nothing on the subject.
Go google "EagleCad"

>And after you do that you'll have to locate and buy each of those components on the board, assuming they'll even sell you > 10 of them at a time

Go google "Farnell" or "Digikey"

>And after that you'll have to solder fine pitch leads

Go google "soldering SMDs"

Then go get lost.

Re:OpenMoko? (1)

rcallan (1256716) | more than 5 years ago | (#25928787)

Dude, I do this for a living.

eaglecad: tools for signal integrity?
digikey: some parts only come in reels of 1000 or more
smds: what's your solutions for bgas?

Re:OpenMoko? (2, Interesting)

sketerpot (454020) | more than 5 years ago | (#25930821)

To solder BGAs, try a toaster oven [instructables.com] . I haven't tried it so I can't vouch for its effectiveness, but others have had some pretty impressive success with the method. Also, please note, ">" is generally read "greater than". What you wanted to use was "<", read "less than". (I have no other disagreement with you, so forgive me if this sounds a little confrontational.)

Re:OpenMoko? (1)

mustafap (452510) | more than 5 years ago | (#25931941)

I too do this for a living. Although I understand the difference between > and <, unlike you, which makes it sound like you're actually a school kid. So let me educate you some more:

>smds: what's your solutions for bgas?

I don't use them. I use my brain and my engineer's instinct to design something without them.

Signal integrity - yes, you need that if design very high frequency circuits, but that doesn't discount the whole bloody exercise. There are *many* more circuits that can be designed with high cost cad tools than circuits that need them.

Re:OpenMoko? (2, Insightful)

jonwil (467024) | more than 5 years ago | (#25928419)

You cant make it yourself, the schematics for the GSM radio portion are not there (because of the FCC etc, its illegal to operate a GSM radio that hasn't been approved by the FCC).

Re:OpenMoko? (1)

ptorrone (638660) | more than 5 years ago | (#25928901)

you "can" make it, you're just not legally allowed to use it in the USA - there are a few open source hardware projects, well, at least one that is like that... the open source cell jammer - the wave bubble.

Re:OpenMoko? (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926753)

Uh, can you build _any_ cell phone from parts you purchase yourself? It's as open as it can be...

Re:OpenMoko? (1)

socsoc (1116769) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926793)

Yes, and I have by using parts from SparkFun. Just because the schematics are avail doesn't mean anyone can build it.

Re:OpenMoko? (1)

Alioth (221270) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926803)

But that's the same with software, too - not everyone can build Linux. Doesn't mean it's not open.

Re:OpenMoko? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926799)

About that:
http://downloads.openmoko.org/schematics/ [openmoko.org]
http://downloads.openmoko.org/CAD/ [openmoko.org]

There isn't much point, in the case of a device loaded with fiddly SMD parts of dubious hobbyist availability, to assembling one yourself; but they don't seem to have any interest in stopping you. Beagleboard is in a similar position. If you want one, it'll be loads cheaper to just buy one from somebody who builds them in bulk; but they won't stop you from producing them, if you feel like it.

Re:OpenMoko? (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 5 years ago | (#25928825)

Its quite interesting from a educational standpoint anyway to see how a complex gadget like that works.

Great Read (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25926723)

I can't wait for the 4th annual 'State of Open Source Hardware 2008'!

Better Headline: (2, Informative)

basicio (1316109) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926739)

"The state of Arduino hardware in 2008"

Re:Better Headline: (1)

ptorrone (638660) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926777)

while there are a lot of arduino projects there are dozens of projects that have nothing to do with arduino... chumby, buglabs, spokepov, x0xb0x, openmoko, tvbgone, fusebox...

Re:Better Headline: (1)

basicio (1316109) | more than 5 years ago | (#25927295)

Sarcasm [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Better Headline: (1)

virgil_disgr4ce (909068) | more than 5 years ago | (#25927839)

Arduino forever! In any case, the arduino is popular for a reason. :D

Let's have the basics first (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926741)

I am waiting for the time we'll have a near perfect Open Source Printer...fully functional with drivers and everything.

If this ever materialize, I will be happy not to have to dole out money firms like HP, DELL and Lexmark that only cater for their bottom line and nothing else.

Am I reasonable to expect this?

Re:Let's have the basics first (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926851)

Do the schematics and firmware need to be open, or will just about any postscript printer ever do the trick?

Re:Let's have the basics first (1)

citizenr (871508) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926967)

I wonder if the yellow dots on laser printers are made by firmware or is it build into the thermal component. Getting rid of them is one good reason for open hardware printer.

Re:Let's have the basics first (2, Interesting)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926981)

Am I reasonable to expect this?

Not if you expect to buy a complex bit of hardware like a colour laser printer for a few hundred bucks.

These things are subsidized by the sale of cartridges (which is why a new, consumer, laser printer often costs less than a set of cartridges) - hard to do if your design is "open source" - and rely on the economies of scale of mass production and custom-made parts (very expensive to tool up, but low marginal costs). Even so, the store that sells it to you probably only makes a profit if you buy a $20 USB cable with it!

Problem is, open source software can be copied and distributed for near-as-damn-it-zero cost. If its hardware, some bugger has to buy the bits and make every single unit. Even if you don't expect it to be free-as-in-beer, its hard for small manufacturers to compete with a big factory in China, and hard for something made from generic components to be as slick as something with custom-made parts. C.f. software where there's nothing technically that Microsoft can make a computer do that open source could not, with purely human effort, match.

no USRP? is this a joke? (1)

citizenr (871508) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926827)

no USRP? no opencores? Lame lame lame

Re:no USRP? is this a joke? (2, Informative)

ptorrone (638660) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926913)

opencores is at the bottom in the pending/others section (it's being added, this is not a static list).

MiniMig (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926829)

It looked like a product catalog to me. This is nothing new. Seriously, where is the MiniMig on this list? The MiniMig is a full open source reimplementation of the Amiga 500.

Re:MiniMig (1)

ptorrone (638660) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926925)

minimig is towards the end.. pending/others section.

open source hardware (4, Interesting)

Eil (82413) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926897)

I read this exact same article the other day. Only at that time, it only listed the Arduino and it's progeny along with a couple of related projects.

In particular, I'm happy to see the x0xb0x [ladyada.net] make it to the list. The x0x is one piece of open hardware that doesn't nearly get enough attention. It's a perfect clone of the Roland TB-303 analog synthesizer which spawned an entire musical genre and left its impression on electronica in general. The parts list, build instructions, schematics, and board layouts are all open and free and there's an active community [ladyada.net] supporting and hacking it.

I consider the x0xb0x to be the perfect example of how to successfully translate the ideals of open source software to hardware hacking.

RepRap (2, Interesting)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 5 years ago | (#25926995)

The RepRap [reprap.org] is interesting here - not just as an open source hardware project in itself, but in that the ability to easily reproduce arbitrary shaped plastic widgets could make other "open source" hardware a bit less clunky.

Re:RepRap (2, Interesting)

GenP (686381) | more than 5 years ago | (#25928115)

How does the quality on the RepRap compare to Fab@Home [fabathome.org] ?

Don't forget Opencores & FPGA (1)

jonastullus (530101) | more than 5 years ago | (#25927225)

Probably not as practicable, but isn't http://opencores.org/ [opencores.org] kinda missing from this list.

Also, a lot of fun to be had with FPGA-based boards (http://www.fpga4fun.com/ [fpga4fun.com] , http://hackaday.com/2008/05/22/fpga-projects-roundup/ [hackaday.com] )

Re:Don't forget Opencores & FPGA (1)

ptorrone (638660) | more than 5 years ago | (#25927263)

opencores are at the bottom of the list in the pending / other section. some folks claim they don't below on a list like the one we have, others think they should be - so they're there and it's open up to debate. the fpga stuff is a lot of fun and we're seeing more projects.

Open source hardware? By who's definition? (1)

ah13 (957364) | more than 5 years ago | (#25927247)

A good number of these projects are using non-free schematic capture and/or layout packages. What if I want to modify the schematics or layouts? Do I have to redraw them in one of the real free/open source tools?

Eagle is not free software (there is no source code and the "free" download is crippleware since the board size is limited).

PS. Yes I'm slightly bias as I am a developer on gEDA http://geda.seul.org/ [seul.org] and KiCad is nice too. :)

Re:Open source hardware? By who's definition? (1)

ptorrone (638660) | more than 5 years ago | (#25927425)

good question, i think many folks in the open source hardware communities seem to agree that what tools are used to make the schematics do not matter so much. you can use windows XP to draw a schematic, it's about the information and licensing more than anything else. there isn't a free/open format for PCB files that everyone agrees on yet but anything can be re-created if it needed to be as long as the maker puts the information out there.

as far as "who" defines open source hardware - that's a good question too. right now there isn't a single agreed upon person or entity. TAPR defines OSH, makers themselves define OSH, it seems like the biggest differences are non-commercial and commercial uses by some of the makers. creative commons is in all this too.

i don't think it matters to get to hung up on a who yet, it's still early - just a few years ago there were only a few projects and now their are over 65... arduino shipped over 60,000 units - it's impressive but just a start.

i've sent emails to the address on the gEDA site in the past asking about the project but didn't get a response, can you drop me a note - i really like the project and would like to cover it in MAKE (more). it's one of the best projects out there in this space and i'd like to get the word out more.

Re:Open source hardware? By who's definition? (1)

ah13 (957364) | more than 5 years ago | (#25930529)

Thank you for your comment/response.

i don't think it matters to get to hung up on a who yet, it's still early - just a few years ago there were only a few projects and now their are over 65... arduino shipped over 60,000 units - it's impressive but just a start.

Yes, that is pretty impressive, I had no idea arduino was shipping that many units.

i've sent emails to the address on the gEDA site in the past asking about the project but didn't get a response, can you drop me a note - i really like the project and would like to cover it in MAKE (more). it's one of the best projects out there in this space and i'd like to get the word out more.

It is very likely my spam filter gobbled up your emails (if so, sorry about that). I will get in touch with you. Thanks.

Re:Open source hardware? By who's definition? (1)

oskay (932940) | more than 5 years ago | (#25929527)

It never seems like a project is really "open source" if you need a $1000+ piece of software to open up the design files.

I can say that two of the kits in that list (which I designed) *were* designed with gEDA and have the pcb design files released. I don't know for certain if any of the others are.

I *really* wish that there were good open source CAD tools for mechanical applications as well-- it would make a lot of other projects easier to release as fully open source.

Re:Open source hardware? By who's definition? (1)

ah13 (957364) | more than 5 years ago | (#25930495)

It never seems like a project is really "open source" if you need a $1000+ piece of software to open up the design files.

I couldn't agree more!

I can say that two of the kits in that list (which I designed) *were* designed with gEDA and have the pcb design files released. I don't know for certain if any of the others are.

Awesome, which projects and I'll make sure they get some publicity/linkage on the gEDA site (if they aren't there already) :)

I *really* wish that there were good open source CAD tools for mechanical applications as well-- it would make a lot of other projects easier to release as fully open source.

Yes indeed. However, I'm quite curious, what sort of project did you have in mind that would be easier with an open source mechanical CAD package? I guess I'm trying to understand the scale and scope of such a project and what sort of CAD you would need (2D/3D/both)?

Re:Open source hardware? By who's definition? (1)

oskay (932940) | more than 5 years ago | (#25930767)

what sort of project did you have in mind that would be easier with an open source mechanical CAD package? I guess I'm trying to understand the scale and scope of such a project and what sort of CAD you would need (2D/3D/both)?

Both. My own project is CandyFab, but there are a lot of other cases out there where such a thing would be helpful. The Openmoko design files are released in Pro/E, for example-- not exactly free software.

ARM7 JTAG (2, Interesting)

epine (68316) | more than 5 years ago | (#25927293)

I've done ARM7 development in the past. I've just started a new ARM7 project after a four year hiatus. What seems to have changed the most is the availability of cheap hardware debug tools such as cheap FTDI FT2232 based JTAG pods.

I'm also interested to see what comes of Eclipse's DSDP initiative.

http://www.eclipse.org/dsdp/dsdp-charter.php [eclipse.org]

I've always thought the Balkanization of the debug hardware was one of the major barriers in the wider circulation of open hardware.

Concerning the Adweebo, I've programmed this chip before using the free download (for Windows) AVR Studio. What an amazing tool. Despite the AVR having a dedicated hardware call stack, this thing can't even display a call stack.

Nor can it display local variables for call frames up the stack. The upshot of this is that if you have a complicated protocol subroutine that calls get_byte() which blocks waiting for the next byte of input from USART or SPI/TWI (as slave), then whenever you break the program (yes, you must break the program for AVR Studio to display *anything*) you'll inevitably end up looking at the local variables of get_byte() which won't be interesting, while all the variables you wish to inspect in the calling routine are unwatchable.

In another nod to genius, whenever you break execution under AVR Studio, it changes focus to the source code tab where the execution happens to break. Even if you just had your cursor on the variable you wished to watch, or the line of code where you wished to add a break point, neither of which can be done while the program is running. Breaking the program changes your view, and then you have to find it again among twenty or so tabs you might have open.

I've never managed to develop much proficiency with GDB. I expect my new project will finally cure that. Generally I write my code so that I don't spend time debugging at that level.

It's nice to see prebuilt packages such as Yagarto where the GDB to random JTAG-of-the-month debug interface is pre-configured, and you're not forced to invest $700 in a "professional" level debug pod to get debug features that we really ought to take for granted in this day and age.

Also, I can't sign off without coughing up a hairball to describe the modalities of the Atmel debugWire interface. Bluuurp. There, that feels better.

Patent Encumberance (2, Interesting)

DrMrLordX (559371) | more than 5 years ago | (#25927423)

Is open-source hardware ever going to be a reality outside of circuit designs and/or designs for odd gizmos that are either in the public domain due to expired patents or have flown under the radar of patent trolls? Can you, for example, apply something like the GPL to "meatspace" hardware, such as an efficient solar heater? I had an idea for a solar heater that could heat water, or potentially other fluids, to temperatures in excess of 1500C, and I had wanted to create a development community for it by open-sourcing it using a license such as the GPL, but we (meaning myself and others interested in the design) instantly ran into problems on the legal front. For one thing, there was the spectre of hidden sandbag patents that we would probably want to/have to pay a high-priced IP lawyer thousands of dollars to find. If such patents did not exist, then there would be the question of whether or not the design would be covered by an existing, expired patent (thereby making it public domain and furthermore off-limits to licenses such as the GPL). And, beyond that, there was the question of whether or not a patent troll would attempt to file for their own sandbag patent regardless of whether or not the device was previously unpatented, patented, or in the public domain due to expired patents. To make a long story short, it sure looked like we would have to patent it ourselves (if possible) before we could open-source it just to prevent anyone else from patenting it. And if we did that, we'd be paying out the nose just for the patent, not to mention any of the lawsuits and other challenges that might arise in the course of defending the patent.

Naturally the design itself has not yet been taken as far as some of the other designs mentioned in TFA; specifically, a prototype has not been built, nor are there instructions (yet) or a bill of parts. A development community sufficiently interested in the project might be able to fill in the blanks, so to speak, and make the design into a more robust product, which would please me greatly.

The greatest fear I (and others prithee to the project) have had is that there appears to be nothing stopping some scrooge from patenting the device and preventing anyone from being able to build or use products based on the design should I simply release the design I have "for free" and let people tinker with it as they please. In fact, there's no way to even compel those who might be interested in the project to release their results to others in the development community should one ever form short of receiving a patent and then applying something like the GPL.

If I wanted to release the design plus notes that might lead to a working prototype, bill of parts, etc. without having to worry about a patent holding firm locking up the design to quash all discussion of the product, much less production of units for personal/internal use or sale, what could I do? I'm not 100% sure that the granting of a sandbag patent would enable the IP troll to stop people from discussing the design or using devices based on the design personally or internally (should a corporation or government agency build units for their own use), but it sure seems likely that said patent troll would be able to halt sales of devices based on the design, which would be pretty disappointing.

Re:Patent Encumberance (2, Informative)

ibbie (647332) | more than 5 years ago | (#25928353)

That is a good question. Have you checked with EFF [eff.org] ? They have a lot of IP talent that might be of use for you, and this sort of thing at least sounds right up their alley.

It seems to me that at least in this type of situation, patent law as it stands prevents any number of good (and bad) ideas from being tested, tried, and released... which is to the detriment of society as a whole. We can learn from the bad ideas just as well - sometimes better - as we can from the good. Often an inventor misses something important, but if it's publicized well, others might not make the same mistake. We call this "learning."

Re:Patent Encumberance (1)

DrMrLordX (559371) | more than 5 years ago | (#25940065)

You know, the idea to check with the EFF never quite entered my mind. It should have, though. Thanks for pointing that out. I am in agreement that it is extraordinarily difficult to share technological ideas (yes, even bad ones) thanks to the existing system of patents. It is even more difficult to figure out what you can do without violating someone's IP rights, which seems odd when you're trying to share something that is one's own invention (or would-be invention, or concept at the very least).

Fuzebox - uhh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25927441)

Looks great from the product page; classic retro gaming nerds will be excited.

But the limitations are absurd.

240x224 res? Surely they could've made this a standard 256x256.

64KB of ROM/RAM space? Give me a break; it didn't take the original Atari nor the NES long to break that, requiring memory-mapped registers which you could twiddle allowing for swapping pages of memory (simply moves address lines around). Why not remove the addressing space limit entirely? How about 512KB or 1MB of RAM/ROM space? It's not that expensive -- really!

Requires an AVR programmer? Well, not exactly... unless you want to lose 2KBytes of ROM/RAM space due to the bootloader -- which also requires the purchase of a serial-to-USB cable (I love how the site doesn't tell you ANYWHERE that it uses serial as the transmission method). USB on the host (PC) side, by the way.

Transfer method is serial (via USB)? In this day and age: why?! This requires custom software and drivers for Windows, and what guarantee do you have that your host PC's USB controller is decent? FTDI makes excellent USB-serial adapters, no argument there, but why this pain How about using SD cards? Even the RetroUSB NES-games-on-a-cart product uses SD cards. 2GB SD card = US$7.

Next, I read this:

"Now, press the RESET button on the Fuzebox and as fast as you can, hit return so that the command is sent less than 3 seconds after the Fuzebox resets"

Are you kidding me?! What the fuck! This isn't a WRT54GL router with a 3 second window for TFTP firmware transfer! This is an OPEN-SOURCE DEVELOPMENT CONSOLE! Again: what the fuck!

And finally, the most idiotic pixel storage format on earth: RGB encoded into 8 bits, per pixel. Um, that doesn't work out quite right, so how did they deal with it? They gave blue 2 bits of colour. Yes, that's right, 2 shades of blue are all you have.

This is an absurd limitation. How about 8 bits per R/G/B, just like classic PC VGA mode? Or how about 16 bits for each pixel, 4 bits per R/G/B, and use the remaining 4 for things like transparency or pixel effects? Once again, another limit imposed by limited addressing space due to small amounts of memory used in the product.

For how much hype this product gets, it's hardly retro -- because the retro consoles offered significantly more features, and that was 20-30 years ago!

Open Laptop? (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 5 years ago | (#25927587)

Any such critter out there? Very easy to mix and match and recycle and make an upgradeable and customized desktop, but for laptops it doesn't seem to exist much. The chokepoint seems to be smallish screens, they seem to cost what a brand new cheap laptop cost. The next one seems to be no standard motherboard config. Granted, I haven't googled much at all on this, but seems there should be some projects already running. I checked the article and didn't see anything, open moko looks to be the closest, and that isn't even netbook sized. Is there even a raw laptop chassis with a screen that takes normal video connectors that you could slip an existing mini itx mobo in?

The only big problem with Arduino (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25928885)

Is Java. You can't use the standard Arduino development software without installing Java. I find pretty awkward for a platform that aims at being small and fast requiring a virtual machine to run its development software.
Any information on development software for the Arduino that does not depend on Java would be hugely welcomed of course.

Re:The only big problem with Arduino (1)

Random Destruction (866027) | more than 5 years ago | (#25929127)

what about gcc and vi?

anonymous bitch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25929195)

i missing open source diving computer there http://www.heinrichsweikamp.net/ostc/en/index.htm?project.htm&mainFrame

LG tvs use open source (1)

deviated_prevert (1146403) | more than 5 years ago | (#25929287)

I just bought the best priced by feature 42 inch lcd 1080p tv. In my opinion the hardware manufactures that use open source are in a very good position to keep prices on hardware reasonable. This LG tv uses kernel 2.6.12 in an embedded situation and can be reflashed and tweeked by either a usb or rs232c null modem. The source of the firmware is also available to the consumer and the access software is also available. So because it is open source I can do all the technical service of my own TV if it ever becomes necessary. I can clearly see the advantages to the tech savy consumer in open source firmware!

Re:LG tvs use open source (1)

ptorrone (638660) | more than 5 years ago | (#25929509)

this is pretty cool, can you send me an email about this / might be a nice little article for MAKE if you're up for it.

Re:LG tvs use open source (1)

deviated_prevert (1146403) | more than 5 years ago | (#25938267)

this is pretty cool, can you send me an email about this / might be a nice little article for MAKE if you're up for it.

Here is the scoop on the LG use of open source.Directly from the Appendix to the user manual

Open Source Software Notice

The following GPL executables and LGPL/MPL libraries used in this product are subject to the GPL/LGPL/MPL License Agreements:

GPL EXECUTABLES:

  • Linux kernel 2.6.12 busybox

LGPL LIBRARIES:

  • uclibc

MPL LIBRARIES:

  • Nanox

LG Electronics offers to provide source code to you on a CD-ROM for a charge covering the cost of performing such distribution, such as the cost of media, shipping and handling upon e-mail request to LG Electronics at: Opensource@lge.com This offer is valid for a period of three(3) years from the date of the distribution of this product by LG Electronics. You can obtain a copy of the GPL, LGPL and MPL licenses on the CD-ROM provided with this product.

This software is based in part on the work of the Independant JPEG Group.

This software includes the Zlib compression library, developed by Jean-loup Gailly and Mark Adler. Copyright (C) 1995-2005 Jean-loup Gailly and Mark Adler

I don't need open source hardware (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 5 years ago | (#25929447)

My interest is in merely open hardware. That is, I want hardware I can use with my open source software. If the hardware is sealed, that's probably fine by me. But all OS components need to be open source (that means drivers and loadable blobs). This would apply to both attachable devices as well as whole systems (such as a phone).

That said, open source hardware is a plus, since that means there can be competition in the manufacturing processes.

Open Graphics Card (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25932033)

I didn't see the open graphics card listed. They're solving the missing driver/card specs problem by creating the card by themselves. And they seem to have something to pre-order too (a bit expensive debug board).

http://wiki.opengraphics.org/tiki-index.php

Practicality first (1)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 4 years ago | (#25934027)

The problem with free hardware designs ( I'm at loathe to use the term OS HW because it makes no sense and frankly, it reaks of abusing buzzwords) is that there's no point other than hobbyist interest.

Stuff like the Open Moko... It's expensive, not well designed and horribly lacking in features. I can't even build it myself. When Windows mobile and Android have a lot of leeway with software development, there's little reason for the handset.

Likewise stuff like MP3 players. I can buy a 1gig player from Tescos for £7 if I want a low quality player. It does have the building element but frankly, I'd get as much fun out of modifying an existing player. Would be less likely to fry components or even cause a battery to blow up due to my poor electronic skills.

What we need are people to find gaps in the market. How about designs for an ARM based media centre that can cope with HD output. Currently the only HD Media player around under £100 is the Western Digital one. Rather than looking for markets where there are endless solutions for hardware enthusiasts to tweak, give them a chance to get a product they otherwise wouldn't be able to get for that money.

Hardware design and verification languages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25934313)

The problem is not open source hardware, it is open source hardware design and verification languages.

I don't know of anyone using icarus verilog for a large ASIC, large chips need commercial proprietary verilog compilers and simulators such as Synopsys VCS or Cadence's equivalent.

QA in hardware is also a major problem, unlike software which can simply release a patch, hardware must be near perfection by the time it is released (you can't patch or "upgrade" hardware in the field). Again, finding a commercial grade compiler and simulator for hardware verification is, well, I haven't found anything yet (eg free compiler/simulator for Specman E and Vera anyone?).

openECGproject (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25982511)

I wanted to inform you about the new Internet project named openECGproject.
The openECGproject is essentially an online community conceived around a simple, but challenging and worthy goal - to develop an open source hardware and software solution for electrocardiography. More precisely, to develop an open source, free, low cost, and clinically functional 12-lead PC-based ECG with interpretive software.

The idea was conceived to help those hospitals and doctors, mainly from the Third World, who cannot afford similar currently available and expensive commercial products. Development of a free alternative could, I believe, have a profound impact on health care not just in poor countries, but in others too.

The whole project is philanthropic and depends on the efforts of volunteers who want to make a difference. Anyone can help, so be sure to visit the site, http://www.open-ecg-project.org, your expertise would be very helpful.

Thank you.

Kind regards,

Ivor Kovic, M.D.

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