Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

A Critical Look At Open Licensing For Hardware

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the repeat-with-caution dept.

Hardware 123

Glyn Moody writes "At a recent Open Hardware Camp in London, it became clear that one of the main obstacles to applying open source principles to hardware was licensing. For example, should competing big companies be allowed to use their economies of scale to make and sell cheaper products based on open hardware designs developed by small start-ups without payment? There's also the problem that hacking designs for physical objects like open source cars may have safety implications, which raises questions about liability. So what's the best way to address these issues?"

cancel ×

123 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Linux howto (-1, Offtopic)

Aan Cocks (1696952) | more than 4 years ago | (#30381562)

Introduction

This HOW-TO explains how to perform Buttsex in the Linux Operating System w/Enterprise Resources (LOSER). This HOW-TO assumes basic knowledge of general Linux operation.
Preparation

Most basically, all Linux Buttsex requires is a machine running the Linux Operating System, a penis (also referred to as a "cock" or "dick"), and a willing friend. However, you benefit greatly, especially when starting out, if you posess standard Buttsex tools.
Standard Buttsex Tools

Lubricant - Slippery stuff you smear on your johnson and your friend's manpussy, to ease the transition into Buttsex mode. Vaseline will do in a pinch, but water-based lubricants such as KY Jelly and Astroglide are preferable.

Contraception - Protective barrier between your schlong and the inside of your friend's love canal. Breeders use them to prevent pregnancy, but we queer nancies usually use them to protect ourselves from the deadly AIDS virus. While some enterprising faggots have made do with plastic wrap or masking tape, there is no substitute for a latex condom. Most all condoms will do, as long as they aren't the "extra-thin" type. Some condoms are labelled as beiong superior for Buttsex, but are not necessary.
Step One -- Prepare the Anus

This step is especially important if your friend has never taken a willie in the ass before. Prepare his anus for the width and girth of your manhood with the "finger" command. It is used like so:

% finger [insert your friend's name here]

Begin with your index or middle finger, and then both middle AND index fingers, at the same time. Ten to fifteen minutes should do. If you wish, you may felate him or suck his balls, while you're fingering him.
Step Two -- Entry

Here the fun starts. Have your friend lay prone on the bed, or even better, get down "on all fours". Optionally, place a couple pillows beneath him to make him more comfortable. Now position yourself behind him, and spread his asscheeks. Apply lubricant, generously, to both your sexrod, and his pit of pleasure. It is advisable to stick your fingers partially inside in his anus, to make sure that the entire edge of the entry is covered.

Your penis must be fully erect in order to make a sucessful entry. If you are not already "hard as a rock", you may rub your penis in his asscrack, while tweaking his nipples (or stroking his cock), and saying intimidating things, such as "I am going to make you squeal like a pig, boy. Squeal, like a pig!"

When your sexstick is sufficiently engorged with blood, it is time to being entry. Place the head of your cock firmly against his brown anal starfish. Begin applying firm pressure forwards, optionally using your hand to guide your dick on a true course into sodomy. Your friend is most likely moaning in agony or yelping, and you may either ignore this, or in a snide tone, say "You like that, bitch?"

When your penis is in, move on to the next step.
Step Three -- Hardcore Assramming

This is fairly simple. Move your dick around in his ass, towards and then back, at varying speeds. If for some reason your dick pops out, put in back in, undaunted. Continue pumping and thrusting until you feel you are ready to move on to Step Four.
Step Four -- Orgasm

When ready to blow your load, use this command:

% stdout > ass

This redirects your standard output stream into your friend's pink tunnel of XXXX. Enter the command, then with one final thrust, placing the entire length of your cock inside his body. Your penis will then eject about a quart of sticky white semen, accompanied by tremendous pleasure.
Step Five -- Cleanup

If you wore a condom, cleanup is simple. Remove the condom and toss it out your window. Then sop up any other jizz, anal juice, XXXX, or lubricant with Brawny(R) brand paper towels.

If you did not wear a condom, your friend will have a steady drip of cum out of his ass for the next few hours. Tell him to "buck up" and stuff some toilet paper in his underwear.
Afterward

Congratulations! You are now a l337 LUN1X 4$$r4mm3r, just like Linux Toreballs and his gay minions! Celebrate by masturbating to the sensual gay erotica found at http://www.goatse.cx/ [goatse.cx] .
Troubleshooting

My penis isn't long enough to get past the buttcheeks!
Only Jon Katz has this problem. Jon, I've told you to just get the damned surgery.

I have a really small penis, but it's still difficult to get in in the ass!
Only Jon Katz has this problem, because he fucks little boys. Jon, get the damned surgery, and find a lover over the age of 12.

Do you know where I can find kiddie pr0n?
Please go away, Katz.

Re:Linux howto (1)

Adolf Hitroll (562418) | more than 4 years ago | (#30381812)

Hi Tiber, how's life?

Re:Linux howto (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30382448)

I went to a LUG meeting a couple weeks ago (I'm a first timer). I walked in and there were a bunch of dudes butt fucking each other. I thought I had the wrong address or soemthing, but I guess they were just doing a linux demo, lol.

Security implications? (3, Insightful)

Improv (2467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30381564)

I don't understand why there would be security implications in having open designs for physical objects, unless those designs are pretty lousy and have faults that are only visible with the design.

Re:Security implications? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30381740)

I don't see how this is different from open source software. Run it at your own risk.
I wouldn't run open source software on a pacemaker.
Besides, isn't it illegal to drive a car that wasn't thoroughly tested by car safety experts?

Why not an open-source pacemaker? (2, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#30381892)

I wouldn't run open source software on a pacemaker.

From a quality perspective, open source isn't the issue. The issue is the quality of the hardware and software and the rigorous testing required for its use and the backing by a company that can and will stand behind it.

If you got a pacemaker and the next day the company open-sourced the code, would you ask to have it removed?

If your doctor recommended a pacemaker which used open-source code that the vendor had scrutinized, tweaked, hardened, debugged, etc. so well that this pacemaker was considered the best one on the market, would you reject it because it was open source?

Re:Why not an open-source pacemaker? (3, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#30383550)

If your doctor recommended a pacemaker which used open-source code that the vendor had scrutinized, tweaked, hardened, debugged, etc. so well that this pacemaker was considered the best one on the market, would you reject it because it was open source?

The design and manufacture of the pacemaker has to meet rigorous legal requirements.

It's a very expensive proposition.

If you are in this business, I don't know why you would want to trade a quarter century of experience in house for code that gives you nothing you don't already have.

Re:Security implications? (3, Interesting)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30381980)

If you wanted to build a car or whatever and sell it, whether or not it's based on an open source design it would still be required to meet the same standards.

If you want to mod your own car and make it illegal then you could do that but that would only last one year (assuming you don't get caught) until the inspection.

We do have open source hardware already, one big name being Sparc http://www.opensparc.net/ [opensparc.net] but I suspect the reason it won't ever take off in a big way has to come down to the fact it's probably harder to recoup your R&D costs if someone comes in with dirt cheap chinese labour to build an exact copy. At least with software everyone is more or less on the same terms with distribution costs on the net.

Re:Security implications? (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 4 years ago | (#30383742)

If you want to mod your own car and make it illegal then you could do that but that would only last one year (assuming you don't get caught) until the inspection.

Luckily, there's lots of states where there are no inspections, so you're allowed to do whatever you want with your car as long as it doesn't get you pulled over (e.g., non-working brake lights or headlights).

Re:Security implications? (2, Funny)

greenguy (162630) | more than 4 years ago | (#30385338)

I would love to mod my own car, but I haven't had mod points in ages.

Re:Security implications? (3, Informative)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#30383280)

    Actually, on the car analogy, no.

    In most countries (I won't claim to know all nations laws), you can buy and install aftermarket parts. Generally, aftermarket parts exclude very few pieces. I haven't seen too many aftermarket frames, but I know they exist. :) They simply are sold as the aftermarket company, and don't include the OEM marks (like, the company logo). If you really look into the parts on a car though, you'll find that a lot aren't made by the auto manufacturer.

    Depending on your location, you can do a ground-up build of your own vehicle. Have a look at "Sand Rails". Depending on who builds it, it could have a nice mix of factor and aftermarket parts. It would be registered as a homebuilt though. In my state, there is a list of essential things for it to be legal on the street, which includes lights, turn signals, brakes, windshield, and horn.

    You can also build your own aircraft, since we're on the idea of hardware certification. I've been looking at homebuilt aircraft or retrofitted aircraft with Chevy LS1 engines. Some people use rotary engines, or even Volkswagon air cooled engines. Those, if I understand correctly, are registered as experimental, and have restrictions on where they can be used.

    On the medical use, most medical companies like to keep a tight hold on everything they do, so they wouldn't just open source their pacemaker software for other vendors to use. It costs them enough to get certified, they don't want to lose profits elsewhere. It's not like you want any Joe building your pacemaker in his garage. :)

Re:Security implications? (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 4 years ago | (#30383868)

You can also build your own aircraft, since we're on the idea of hardware certification. I've been looking at homebuilt aircraft or retrofitted aircraft with Chevy LS1 engines. Some people use rotary engines, or even Volkswagon air cooled engines. Those, if I understand correctly, are registered as experimental, and have restrictions on where they can be used.

I hope you're good at landing without engine power. Auto engines are not designed for aircraft use, and I wouldn't bet on their reliability there.

Re:Security implications? (1)

sbeckstead (555647) | more than 4 years ago | (#30384172)

Actually there are modifications to them that make them fit for aircraft use. They are as reliable in the air as any engine with moving parts.

Re:Security implications? (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#30384570)

    Most of the LS1 mods that were required were just emissions stuff. Like, the OEM computer wants to know a lot of things like ground speed, read O2 sensors after the cat (not required for an airplane), etc, etc. They simplified it significantly, and made provisions for redundant computers and alternators.

    Car engines are fine. I read up on people trying to use motorcycle engines, but they don't pull the same kind of load constantly. A LS1 runs fine in cars and trucks, and at speed, they run happily at 3k RPM all day long. While motorcycles can do it, the're really designed to put out a lot of power for a short time, and then cruise under a pretty light load. Aircraft know the only time they're under a low load is when they're idling on the ground waiting for takeoff. :)

    I wouldn't see prolonged inverted flight being a good thing though, but you're kinda not suppose to do that anyways. :) Car engines generally use gravity fed lubrication systems, and when there's no oil in the pan for a while, that'd be a bad thing.

    People do all kinds of wild things though. I saw an ultralight that looked a lot like a regular plane. It had two 15hp engines on it. People find the most creative ways to almost kill themselves. :)

Re:Security implications? (2, Interesting)

samuel.hurley (1220378) | more than 4 years ago | (#30383300)

FYI -- open source software runs on lots of medical devices. Many software products driving CT & MRI scanners, machines used to guide brain surgery, even anesthesia equipment all run on top of GNU/Linux or other forms of OSS.

Re:Security implications? (1)

Anonymous McCartneyf (1037584) | more than 4 years ago | (#30381998)

The designs don't have to be lousy to have faults visible only in the design. The truly lousy designs have flaws visible whenever you try to use the things.
That said, there are two ways security could be affected by open design:
First, they said open design, not copylefted design. Someone could take an open design, change it just a little, and not list their changes. It could then be really tricky to determine whether the demonstrated flaw is in the open design or the hidden changes.
Second, many of the people who are most vocal about security believe (for good or ill) in "security by obscurity." You can't get that from an open design unless you secretly change it, which loops back into point one.

open design (4, Insightful)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 4 years ago | (#30381624)

It's an "open design" for a reason. Perhaps switch "open design" for "easy licensing options". Further, unless a big company forks the project, the originator usually has some control over the progress of the project, which means their smaller product becomes a "reference platform" with some added value even if the bigger company has a somewhat cheaper version.

Re:open design (2, Insightful)

Anonymous McCartneyf (1037584) | more than 4 years ago | (#30381742)

Further, unless a big company forks the project

Remember the Microsoft mantra: "Embrace, extend, extinguish."

Re:open design (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30381754)

Oooh yeah. I'm ready to spend several thousand dollars extra for a "reference platform." Sure. Please go right on believing it. And would you be so good to do some of the work on my next project and release it under some open source license so I can just use it? Please?

Re:open design (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 4 years ago | (#30382430)

If it's *that* much more expensive, perhaps the "open company" ought to get into some other business. :-P

Re:open design (1)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 4 years ago | (#30383430)

Why?

If they can sell the widget for $100, then there isn't a problem for them paying $20 in tooling costs.

It's just a regrettable factor that opening the design may kill any profit.

Re:open design (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#30382100)

Doesn't work as well with hardware.

You make a widget, and it costs you 20 bucks in material. GE likes it and it costs them 1 dollar in material.
You wouldn't really make any money, and if it's so good people need a reference product, GE will get in house poeople to develop it.

On the plus side, another large corporation could come along and make it to compete with GE; which drives the consumer cost down. Now it's even harder for you to compete.

You are correct, that it's open and therefor it should be open to all.

Re:open design (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#30384768)

GM doesnt make parts (except the actual chassis, and generally engines, maybe some other bits). The rest is bought from vendors, who purchase it from tier 2 suppliers. If someone came up with standard engine mount points and transmission mounting points. GM and ford have some basic "Standard" mounts, but there's no garuntee that they'll keep that standard for more than one generation. If you could standardize that sort of thing then you could buy replacement engine/transmissions for cars at cut rate costs and it would really undercut the new car market considerably since you could buy engine/transmission parts forever. Most people whose engine dies just buy another used car for less than the cost of buying a used engine/transmission out of a wrecked car and having it installed in their current car.
 
Trucks and "classic" RWD cars have a much lower maintenance cost since many of them will accept a "chevy 350" with little or no modifications, and there's enough parts out there that it's cheap to do. Unfortunately nobody has designed a 2.0L engine (modern, standard sized, fuel efficient analog to the old 350) with the same loyal following for > 15 years or so. The engine used in the Neon/PT Cruiser/some minivans might come close to this, but it hasn't been embraced as a "drop in" engine for other vehicles.

Open Licensing vs. liability (4, Interesting)

ground.zero.612 (1563557) | more than 4 years ago | (#30381698)

In the case of cars, I fail to see why it would create any more of a liability issue than the DIY kit cars currently available. I suspect if it can pass inspection, it can be insured. For cars at least liability lies with the drivers (barring some catastrophic equipment failure, which obviously the manufacturers would be liable for).

So, I would assume that if there exists an appropriate ratings committee, standards, and inspectors to ensure safety (QA), liability would be a non-issue.

Re:Open Licensing vs. liability (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#30383766)

In the case of cars, I fail to see why it would create any more of a liability issue than the DIY kit cars currently available.

What is a "kit car?"

Ford was selling the engine, drive train and chassis of the Model T to custom body builders no later than 1910.

But the dairy's new milk truck was still a "T" at heart.

How easy is it to insure the "kit car?"

Particularly when you are looking at the fundamentals: a natural gas or electric conversion, for example.

Licensing (3, Insightful)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 4 years ago | (#30381756)

For example, should competing big companies be allowed to use their economies of scale to make and sell cheaper products based on open hardware designs developed by small start-ups without payment?

This is called a non-commercial license. Non-commercial licenses have had a notoriously poor market reception in the past for software (no kidding). Only successful project I remember which uses such a license is MAME. People usually hate it for that, since you cannot easily port work to/from MAME and other open-source projects easily. If you do not allow people to manufacture hardware in a commercial basis, it will be even worse, since most people do not have the resources to manufacture hardware. It is nearly as bad as having a closed design.

'Hacking' for unlawful purposes is a problem with any design.

Then NO Open Design (1)

SirAstral (1349985) | more than 4 years ago | (#30381772)

You just need to offer a free license instead. This will allow you to keep rights and to control how it is freely distributed. Only problem... don't expect people to trust the dictator. Otherwise the question is counter to open design to begin with.

Open cars are hardly problems, much less new ones (4, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30381776)

Cars have been "open" by default for the majority of their existence -- they may not hand you schematics, but all the workings of the car were out in the open for any mechanic to see and generally well understood. Mechanics could replace or rebuild just about any part of the car including replacing the engine with a from-scratch rebuild, and this behavior was not only generally tolerated but often encouraged by the auto makers. It's only in relatively recent times with the advent of computer control that the ability to hide the workings of the vehicle even became possible, and even more recently that these computers were used to try to create a "proprietary" environment where you couldn't have any random mechanic fix your car (and this attempt has largely failed).

Safety and liability are no more an issue than it was with hot rods and such back in the day. It's simple: Your vehicle, modified or no, has to comply with state and federal laws regarding road worthiness, and pass any inspections your state might have. If your car fails because of the original manufacturer's design, then it's their fault. If it fails because of a 3rd party modification, that's their fault. If it fails because of your tinkering in your garage, that's your fault. Grey areas are hammered out in the courts, like they always have been.

Re:Open cars are hardly problems, much less new on (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30382012)

Now let's bring it into the real world.

Suppose you install a seatbelt based on an open hardware design, designed by some guys in Bulgaria. It's a solid design, and after installation you get it checked out, and it passes all of the safety regulations in your given area.

Now suppose you're driving one night, and you have to slam on your brakes to avoid hitting something. The seatbelt you installed breaks, and you fly groin-first into your steering wheel and severely damage your genitals.

Once in the hospital, it takes you months of surgery, medication and rehabilitation before you even have something that barely resembles a penis and scrotum and allows you to urinate, let alone participate in intercourse. They weren't able to save your testes, so now you have to take hormone injections for the rest of your life. Your wife dumps you because you can't pleasure her (not that you really could in the first place).

You've now lost your job, your genitals, your wife and your car. You have expensive medication to take daily for the next 40 years. Your insurance company, assuming you have health insurance, is throwing a fucking fit because of the hundreds of thousands of dollars of expenses you racked up.

What happens now? Who is the insurance company going to go after to recoup their costs? Who are you going to go after? Who gets sued? Would it be you, for choosing to install it? Would it be whoever manufactured it, based on the open design? Would it be whoever designed it (even though they're in a foreign land, and are basically untouchable)?

This simple scenario raises quite a few issues that need to be dealt with before we can really start looking into using open hardware.

Re:Open cars are hardly problems, much less new on (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30382168)

What happens now?

Indeed, what happens now, as in today, when scenarios like that one occur? And there's your answer.

I realize you missed the extremely subtle point my post was hinting at, so let me repeat it: 3rd-party and end-user modifications are today possible, legal, and fairly common.

This simple scenario raises quite a few issues that need to be dealt with before we can really start looking into using open hardware.

See, there we go. There can be no issue which needs to be dealt with before we can have open hardware, because the hardware is already open. These issues are already being dealt with successfully. So, no.

Re:Open cars are hardly problems, much less new on (1)

bencoder (1197139) | more than 4 years ago | (#30382178)

you get it checked out, and it passes all of the safety regulations in your given area.

that there is what the insurance companies would go after. Whoever checked out the seatbelt clearly did not do it right and they are responsible.

Re:Open cars are hardly problems, much less new on (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30384944)

No, they'd just go after all their clients by raising premiums.

Re:Open cars are hardly problems, much less new on (1)

popsicle67 (929681) | more than 4 years ago | (#30382284)

There are already real world examples of safety equipment in the aftermarket making it into driven vehicles and failing and they are taken care of by legal precedents. If you install it your self you're responsible, If you have a mechanic do it, that person is responsible so always have a mechanic who is bonded and insured. Anything sold as safety equipment has to pass requirements laid down by the NHSA. If you just install some joe shmuck designed seatbelts in your car yourself and they fail (inspected or not, though I doubt you would be allowed to use them if they are) you are solely responsible.

Ummm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30382346)

Who sold you that car with the seatbelt? Probably he's the one that has to pay. Simple, really.

But if it passed all regulations so it could be legally sold (I kind of hope there are some), and they do use crash testing too, those regulations suck if it still breaks easily. Maybe the regulator should pay some fines too and seller might need to get all cars back because of such a fault.

Then again, if it passes regulations clearly, and still breaks that easily, it's pretty likely that someone has broken it somehow between the checkup and the crash.

Who would pay in normal situation? Why wouldn't he pay in this situation too?

Like, if you buy a Linux based solution, of course seller pays if it explodes. Not enough testing and such... Open source doesn't mean no responsibility. I have a business, I sell open source, I'm responsible.

Re:Open cars are hardly problems, much less new on (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 4 years ago | (#30383354)

You force the use of certification. Then you force either the manufacturer or the seller to provide insurance. Done.

Re:Open cars are hardly problems, much less new on (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#30384122)

    Yup, no one would make a replacement seat belt [summitracing.com] that would be better than the OEM belt.

Re:Open cars are hardly problems, much less new on (1)

ben_kelley (234423) | more than 4 years ago | (#30382070)

Thanks for finding a way to get in a car analogy for this story. My faith in slashdot is renewed.

no, they havent. (3, Informative)

nimbius (983462) | more than 4 years ago | (#30382138)

So i want to replace the cylinders in my honda accord, what is the exact nickel content in each cylinder? what are the heat treat specifications for that cylinder? this is important, and this is proprietary knowledge given only to safety organizations like the DOT.

another example: my M5PVL drive gear, a component of my Acura transmission, has a certain chemical makeup. I know the makeup of the M5PVL for my honda pilot, but my Acura has turbochargers (its an RDX.) if you dont have the chemical makeup of the steel, you end up with a gear that explodes under stress.

Lastly, id like to exploit the extra space in my TL drivetrain to add motors and make a hybrid, but im worried the recall information on the cold weather start and idle fluid transfer system for the transmission is insufficient. I know the fluid doesnt transfer properly and i need to return the transmission for a different one, but I need more information about the failures so i can determine how best to plan my motor layout...this information is proprietary.

Re:no, they havent. (2, Interesting)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30382274)

You're right, I understated the degree to which aspects of the vehicle design are proprietary (and not just proprietary but unknown), and this isn't just from the computers.

However my main point is that "open" cars are not a new concept whatsoever, and the legal/safety/liability ramifications are already established. You might not be able to replace the cylinder in your recent Accord, but a buddy of mine is doing exactly what I talked about and rebuilding an Alpha Romeo engine from scratch.

So yes vehicles have been trending towards being less "open", but that doesn't mean reversing this trend is actually some brand new concept.

Re:no, they havent. (1)

QuasiEvil (74356) | more than 4 years ago | (#30383052)

The thing is, you don't need the specifications on what Honda did. You need to calculate the limits at which the part needs to perform plus safety margin and work from there. Honda engineers obviously have the advantage of exact numbers and thousands of man-years of research and testing on their specific platform, and thus can get away with a much lower safety margin (because they know *exactly* what it must do), but that doesn't stop your a decent ME from figuring out roughly the same thing.

Car modifications over the years have traditionally been done by backyard mechnics with no ME degree. It can be done. It just can't be done with such a high degree of certainty as would be required for any engineered solution. Being able to construct something that works vs. something that's compact, inexpensive to manufacture, and reliable over the long term is the difference many times between amateurs and professionals. Often times rather than working through the calculations, it's much easier for the amateur to just way overbuild something and learn through trial and error.

Typically my rule when re-engineering car bits is to figure out the worst case and add a large margin if the part is subject to significant stresses. Then again I'm primarily working in the electrical side of things, as I'm an EE and my ME friends have made me swear off ever touching mechnical bits.

Re:no, they havent. (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 4 years ago | (#30383918)

Being able to construct something that works vs. something that's compact, inexpensive to manufacture, and reliable over the long term is the difference many times between amateurs and professionals. Often times rather than working through the calculations, it's much easier for the amateur to just way overbuild something and learn through trial and error.

Unfortunately, overbuilding is exactly what makes things more reliable, and why "professional" stuff frequently isn't that great. Look at how rock-solid reliable HP laser printers used to be back in the days when they didn't apply so much engineering analysis to every component to shave its cost. Now that they've gotten much better at that, they've engineered components so they cost less and work fine until the warranty expires.

Re:no, they havent. (1)

IAR80 (598046) | more than 4 years ago | (#30386098)

A mass spectrometer will give you the exact alloy composition of your car's cylinder or gearbox. If someone does this and makes the information publicly available then you don't even have to do it yourself.

Custom vehicles and nuclear cars (1)

Lemming Mark (849014) | more than 4 years ago | (#30382644)

I understand in the UK that there's a specific inspection routine that custom vehicles can go through. This guy made a supermarket ride for children into a road-legal car and had it approved via that process IIRC: http://www.egmcartech.com/2009/05/14/man-builds-worlds-smallest-street-legal-car-gets-70-mpg/ [egmcartech.com]

That's the normal way of getting road legality for an unusual vehicle. There might be a less conventional method: I once read that there is a nuclear-powered car somewhere in the UK which, for some bizarre reason, was granted a royal dispensation to allow it on the roads - thereby bypassing the normal regulations. That probably also makes it a bit awkward to revoke; I imagine if it's true we just rely on the person who's got it being a good sport and keeping it in the garage.

Re:Open cars are hardly problems, much less new on (1)

LinuxIsGarbage (1658307) | more than 4 years ago | (#30383136)

It's only in relatively recent times with the advent of computer control that the ability to hide the workings of the vehicle even became possible, and even more recently that these computers were used to try to create a "proprietary" environment where you couldn't have any random mechanic fix your car (and this attempt has largely failed).

With the likes of OBD / OBD-II [wikipedia.org] Any old back yard mechanic can see what ails the car (in the electronic control system). I mean, yes, usually you can only get the computer from the OEM, but you can still rebuild the engine, transmission, alternator, lower control arm, etc. And if it tells you an Oxygen sensor is faulting, you can test and replace the sensor on your own.

With some companies, like Chrysler, you don't even need to buy a scan tool to get the codes, you can just cycle the key ON-OFF-ON-OFF-ON really quickly and it will display the codes on the digital odometer, or flash the code on the check engine light for cars not equipped with a digital odometer.

wrong question (2, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#30381790)

For example, should competing big companies be allowed to use their economies of scale to make and sell cheaper products based on open hardware designs developed by small start-ups without payment?

Hardware isn't special in requiring money/time to develop so why is it that this question only really gets asked when an open philosophy is applied to physical objects?

There's also the problem that hacking designs for physical objects like open source cars may have safety implications

No not really, any liability would presumably be on the one that took the blueprints and actually build the device. After all, it is an open deisgn that can be modified by the manufacturer of choice.

Re:wrong question (1)

odin84gk (1162545) | more than 4 years ago | (#30382154)

Hardware isn't special in requiring money/time to develop so why is it that this question only really gets asked when an open philosophy is applied to physical objects?

It really is a different beast. If I'm a dirt-poor college student, I can create as much open-source software as I can produce. However, I CANNOT make open source hardware.

Let me put down some numbers. If I want to make a custom circuit board in the US on par with the Arduino, it will cost me around $100 for one board. ($60 if I use a Chinese vendor and a group purchase system such as BatchPCB). Now I have to add in the programmer for a specific chip so I can program it. That is another $50, if you are lucky.

More than likely, your first hardware spin will have a bug. Either because of the free schematic/layout program, or the cheap PCB manufacturer bridged some lines, or something else managed to fail. Now you need a Second hardware spin for Another $100. So I just spent $250 on a hobby project. That is just the start.

I just spent 80 hours of my weekends working on the research, schematics, layouts, purchases, soldering, debugging, soldering, test firmware, more debugging, schematic edits, layout edits, more purchasing, soldering, debugging, and finally, documenting. Now it is on to the firmware, which is where I can draw an equivalent to an open-source software project.

Come talk to me when you build a new PC for every software program that you write. Then, I might call the two equivalent.

Re:wrong question (2, Informative)

Rophuine (946411) | more than 4 years ago | (#30382754)

I designed a bit of control hardware which I sold to a national coin machine manufacturer a few years back. I spent months wiring prototypes up, and I even had a working model running across several breadboards. I re-used the breadboards and most of the components building other bits (half the components are now in a vero-board car alarm in my mazda.) The total cost for link wire, breadboards, a good stock of components (hint: $2 'random bags' from your local component store), a multimeter, and a DIY programmer kit from a Chinese drop-shipper cost me maybe $200 all up. Component manufacturers will often send you free samples of anything you can't afford if you say you're working on a new product. And when you're done and bored with the project, you can pull it all to pieces and go build something else.

Compared to the laptop I bought to play Red Alert on during boring engineering classes, the total investment in gear to work on hardware designs was very low.

Now you won't want to go building a bunch of the things on breadboards, or even vero, but we're talking about open-source design, right?

Finally, open-source software doesn't usually make the author money by selling the software. Most of the mates I have who do lots of open-source work do it either because they're interested in the project and want to improve it for their own use, or else they like having lines like "Commit privilege to the linux kernel source" on their resume.

I always envisaged open-source hardware to work by the design being published and expecting users to take the manufacturing effort away from the people doing the designing. It's an upside, not a downside, unless...

You're not really that into open-source principles, you're into money-source principles. You want a bunch of (almost-)free labor to improve your crappy hardware designs, but you still want to lock people into buying trashy over-priced hardware from you. Don't "Ask Slashdot", ask "MadeInChina.com". The labor is slightly more expensive but not much, and they'll really and truly promise not to nick your IP, and pretend to let you have world-wide exclusive rights to selling the widget they designed for you.

Re:wrong question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30384730)

That argument is outdated. Today, CAD and simulation software is available for just about any hardware project. This makes the R&D costs for hardware and software about equal.

Re:wrong question (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#30382158)

"Hardware isn't special in requiring money/time to develop so why is it that this question only really gets asked when an open philosophy is applied to physical objects?"

Because it takes money to produce copies of hardware, far more than the small utility costs (power etc.) needed to copy software.

Re:wrong question (1)

suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) | more than 4 years ago | (#30383180)

I can understand the GP's point, and yours too, but...

In software, the entire saleable asset is the "blueprint". It's perfectly awesome to say "I didn't work hard enough on this to make money off of it, so here you guys go, have fun with what I tossed off in my spare time."

In hardware, the saleable asset is the actual item. While it takes resources to produce it, the actual production is only a service. If your company turned an open source car design into a product and made off like a bandit on the profits, purely because you could undercut your competition in pricing, then essentially the product that everyone's buying is your ruthlessness in making a cheap car, not the design itself. In other words, this would potentially allow someone with nothing BUT ruthless business sense to become a magnate in, say, car design.

I'm not saying open source hardware isn't an awesome idea in PRINCIPLE, but it does have the potential to reward ENTIRELY the wrong people.

Re:wrong question (1)

fr!th (834381) | more than 4 years ago | (#30385686)

Trying not to appear ignorant, but isn't this issue what patents are meant to solve? I thought the whole issue surrounding software patents was that some people consider software to be a type of 'thing' while others an expression of an idea. But hardware is clearly a 'thing'.

Doesn't intel patent chip designs, etc?

Actually this is recalling the cruchpad/joojoo debacle. If the designs were open sourced (as was originally planned/claimed) then anyone could just build the damn thing, or tool up a factory and use the R&D that Techcruch/FusionGarage paid for. So in this situation why bother designing stuff when you can just make someone elses design and not have to pay R&D?

Perhaps I have an internal inconsistency in my reasoning, but I tend to consider open source software as promoting innovation, but open source hardware as killing it. I wonder why that is?

Re:wrong question (1)

Darfeld (1147131) | more than 4 years ago | (#30386388)

Trying not to appear ignorant, but isn't this issue what patents are meant to solve? I thought the whole issue surrounding software patents was that some people consider software to be a type of 'thing' while others an expression of an idea. But hardware is clearly a 'thing'.

Hardware is indeed a thing, but hardware design? How is that different from software?
I know : you can use the software, but you have to build the hardware before you can use it.

Well, hardware design sound more like an idea type of thing...

Anyway, hardware design is sell-able and maintainable, the same way a software is. So money isn't only in "building and shipping the product". ARM is very successful selling it's design without selling actual hardware. So I don't really see the difference with software here. So really, why not open source hardware design?

Re:wrong question (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 4 years ago | (#30382556)

For example, should competing big companies be allowed to use their economies of scale to make and sell cheaper products based on open hardware designs developed by small start-ups without payment?

Hardware isn't special in requiring money/time to develop so why is it that this question only really gets asked when an open philosophy is applied to physical objects?

There's also the problem that hacking designs for physical objects like open source cars may have safety implications

No not really, any liability would presumably be on the one that took the blueprints and actually build the device. After all, it is an open deisgn that can be modified by the manufacturer of choice.

I agree on the 2nd point. There wont be liability for a *design*. Its the people that build it that are responsible.

Re:wrong question (1)

Rophuine (946411) | more than 4 years ago | (#30383554)

I agree on the 2nd point. There wont be liability for a *design*. Its the people that build it that are responsible.

And maybe not even then. Working in finance, I had it drummed into me to do two things with every decision:

  • Risk Analysis
  • MORE Risk Analysis

As it was explained to me, if I (representing my employer, not personally) chose to buy a linux 'widget' that we dropped into our product, off a company which specialized in selling linux widgets, and it failed, costing our customers millions, the liability would pretty much go like this:

Did the vendor specifically warrant the widget to be suitable for processing millions in financial transactions in our precise environment, and I checked it out with a quick rule-of-price ($50 bad, $50,000 good)? --> I made a good choice, the vendor screwed up. They're liable.

Was the widget just a widget, which we shelled out $X for and got our $X worth out of it, but it turned out to be unsuitable in some specific way for our use, though probably good enough for 99% of the people who do buy it? --> I screwed up, and should have realised that I really should have spent 100*$X on something much more enterprisey, which would still not be warranted for what we did with it, but at least I could point to how much we spent and have some argument that it should have been better.

While this doesn't excuse overt lack of safety or total unsuitability for the purpose it's being sold for, I can imagine examples like this:

Widgets Inc builds cheap crappy carputers from an open-source design. SomeDude Pty Ltd on-sells and installs them. Jim gets SomeDude to install it in his new Ferrari, and SomeDude tries to tell him it's not designed for that. Jim crashes because the carputer isn't designed for Ferraris. SomeDude still has copies of correspondence where he tried to talk Jim into buying a much more expensive alternative which is safe in Ferraris, but eventually agreed to do the install to avoid Jim just trying to do it himself anyway.

At the very least, the manufacturer is definitely not liable, and there's a good chance the installer isn't either. IANAL, but this is roughly the example I got in my training when I got into financial software.

Basically, the up-shot was 'you get what you pay for' - not quality-wise, but liability-wise. More money = vendor implicitly accepts more liability. This is why big government agencies and massive corporates pay silly amounts of money for simple stuff: when it fails, they want to say "We paid $3,000 each for these toilet seats! We had a good solid expectation that even though they appear to any scientific test to be identical to $300 ones, that they should be much safer, and the embarrassing injury caused to our esteemed VIP client is certainly not our fault. We spent every penny we could to ensure his behind was perfectly safe!"

Re:wrong question (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 4 years ago | (#30383812)

Hardware isn't special in requiring money/time to develop so why is it that this question only really gets asked when an open philosophy is applied to physical objects?

The cost to compile software is near zero. The cost to compile hardware can be billions. If the source code for the hardware is free, that won't change the much larger compile cost. And, if you can make the source code, but not afford to compile it, then you can *never* get any value back from the final product. With a near-zero cost of compiling it, you can charge some trivial fee and get a return.

That you pretend you can't see a difference between open source software and open source plans for an airplane and think that an unattended 30 minute compile on commodity hardware is the same as assembling an air worthy aircraft indicates you are the one that doesn't understand the issues involved, and that's why you are always confused when others bring it up.

Software liability as well (2, Interesting)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#30381794)

There's a reason they don't use homebrew Linux* with the cool-patch-of-the-day in medical and other high-risk-if-something-goes-wrong devices: liability.

*Nothing wrong with Linux or any other open OS in medical devices, as long as the entire system has gone through all the regulatory and industry-standard quality checks first. Notice how the Microsoft Windows license says "don't use this in your nuclear reactor, if you do don't sue us if it melts down" or words to that effect. At least with Linux you could in principle tweak it until it was robust enough to run your nuclear plant.

Re:Software liability as well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30382506)

Exactly. You don't use self hacked Gentoo with a nuclear plant controllers. You buy the solution, and if they mess up, they have the responsibility. If you are stupid enough to use Fedora or something without commercial support whatsoever in critical tasks, you are on your own and responsibility is yours, because YOU WERE SO STUPID to not pass the responsibility to someone who can handle it. Like RedHat.

Oh yeah, though they may be using those SAME NO LIABILITY CAUSES EVERY SINGLE SOFTWARE USES ANYWAY!

Poof, there goes that liabilityargument.

Re:Software liability as well (1)

sowth (748135) | more than 4 years ago | (#30382618)

Yet, in the dialysis center I go to, they use terminals running MS Windows (XP, I think), and from what I understand, the database server is MS SQL Server. I have heard plenty of conversations between techs and nurses which indicate those terminals (used for entering BP, weight, etc) constantly lose information.

Luckily the machines probably run something embedded. Otherwise, I and many other patients would probably be dead if they used any MS software on the actual machines. Crazy.

very likely embedded (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#30382850)

The FDA regulates medical devices out the wazoo.

I don't see any difference between software... (2, Interesting)

w4rl5ck (531459) | more than 4 years ago | (#30381818)

... and hardware, here.

1. liability - so, you say, software does not lead to "liability"? No coder is liable for the code he writes? I don't think so. Just have a look at all those "no liability" clauses. And: yes, software - even OSS - can kill people. I'm pretty sure a lot of OSS software is responsibly for deaths in many wars taking place right now. So there really is no difference between an open licensed car and some OSS software - maybe operating IN that car.

2. cost - so, just because it's hardware, it is assumed that developing the hardware - with a big company "prospering" on it afterwords - is somehow different from software. I don't get why that is. It was never meant as "free as in beer" - there seems to be some misconception in this, yes.

Just because you can't touch the software, the implications for the programmer writing and open-licensing an OSS program are absolutely the same for a hardware developer.

Of course, building/prototyping hardware CAN be more expensive, but thinking of software development as "cheap" just because you can get a PC for ~$200 - yeah, well, no... not really.

Re:I don't see any difference between software... (1)

Klivian (850755) | more than 4 years ago | (#30382276)

Of course, building/prototyping hardware CAN be more expensive, but thinking of software development as "cheap" just because you can get a PC for ~$200 - yeah, well, no... not really.

You got it, building and prototyping hardware is more expensive period. Software development will always be cheaper on matching complexity levels. Even disregarding the ~$200 PC, going for a ~$1000 and adding a ~$50000 for development tools, you will still always come out ahead with SW development. Decent tools for hardware development does not come cheap, and considering the free tools for sw development its easier to cut cost there.

And after the initial investment, you only burn man hours with sw development. The compile-debug-compile cycles only cost time, where in hardware development each successive round of prototypes add the cost of parts and production. Not to mention the delay after the prototype design is finished until you get the produced part. If you think a 20min compile time is bad, try waiting one to eight weeks for your prototype before you can start testing and debugging it.

Re:I don't see any difference between software... (1)

Rophuine (946411) | more than 4 years ago | (#30382964)

Cisco does prototype rounds. Backyard electronics uses breadboards. The applypower-debug-applypower cycle is pretty fast too, and debugging involves probing with a multimeter (try your local electronics store: crappy ones which are good enough for most projects are <$30) and moving some connections around.

Manufactured prototypes are the equivalent of doing a full installer-build, burning to CD, and installing on a fresh machine, not compile-debug-compile.

Working with prototypes is 'nicer', but there are plenty of quick and cheap options available to the hobbyist electronics designer. There are also plenty of free design tools for electronics, once you get to the point you need one. Cross-compilers are everywhere, and the free PCB layout stuff isn't terrible anymore. There are PCB manufacturers who don't even have Protel these days.

Re:I don't see any difference between software... (1)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 4 years ago | (#30383508)

This works for low speed and simple devices.
For high speed, low noise, or wide busses, breadboards don't cut it.

And high speed in this instance is something like >20MHz, and wide busses >8 bits or so.

You essentially can't - say - make a device that runs linux at a speed comparable to a newish mobile phone - without manufacturing a PCB, and soldering on surface mount components, often with several hundred terminals spaced at fractions of a milimeter.

That isn't to say that you can'd do useful stuff with breadboards, simply that they are very limited.

It's like mechanical modelling using lego.
Sure, you can do interesting stuff.
But while you can in theory make a 350BHP engine from it, it's not going to be sane.

Re:I don't see any difference between software... (2, Interesting)

Rophuine (946411) | more than 4 years ago | (#30383784)

Which is why open-source should work well. Test it slow-and-crappy, polish, and get to the point your risk is much lower in getting something printed. I'm not saying you can do anything on a breadboard, just that you can do lots of interesting stuff on them, and you can definitely do a lot of your preliminary debugging for all sorts of projects. This massively reduces the risk that you'll end up shelling out $100 bucks a few times over for buggy PCBs. Iteratively design and 'release'-early-and-often, iron out all the wrinkles, and then (hopefully) you'll have a community starting around your design and can get together to buy a whole panel of the things.

And >8 bits? I hate wiring up busses, and even I don't start complaining until we hit at least 16 bits, and a few devices hanging off them. Spring-loaded sockets and good single-core wire just makes it so easy. Admittedly, if you start hanging >~5 devices off them, even 8-bitters can start to suck.

Oh, on the off-chance anyone reading is still shelling out $$$ for packs of breadboard wire: go buy a couple of meters of single-core CAT5 from somewhere that sells it that way. Give your little sister a set of wire strippers and like $5, and you can have ten times what you get in those little packs that cost like $10 for pretty much the same price.

Re:I don't see any difference between software... (1)

Zerth (26112) | more than 4 years ago | (#30383914)

Have you never heard of FPGA? I just saw an ad on /., unfortunately the brand escapes me, for one that came with a license to a pentium class 86 compatible design and had enough gates left over for network, io and a LED controller for less than $300.

Do your revs on that, then print to copper when you're done.

Re:I don't see any difference between software... (1)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 4 years ago | (#30386350)

prototyping in FPGA is sort-of-like 'write your program in visual basic, and test it, and it will work just fine when you recode it in highly optimised assembler'

Yes, it can tell you that there are no fundamental logic bombs in your implementation concept, but it often doesn't really help.

FPGA design is basically a completely seperate field from 'normal' design - many of the issues with normal design don't actually apply to FPGA, and vice versa.

The FPGA chip designers and compiler writers have done much of the hard work, and you get a simple 'compiles and works/won't fit in this chip' binary output most of the time.

That, and you can't really model analog chips at all in it.
It's far from useless, but it's not a real solution to the general problem either.

Re:I don't see any difference between software... (1)

tonyreadsnews (1134939) | more than 4 years ago | (#30382362)

Regarding 1:
who gets sued when a design flaw is found, or a component referenced in the design doesn't hold up over the lifetime and a person dies. I don't have a feeling for how much OSS software is currently in that situation, but both would fall under this same issue, but it is something that hasn't really been explored. Is the project creator, the manufacturer, the guy who made a tweak that was accepted to the project the one at fault?

Regarding 2:
Cost - the issue is in production (not development). In the software world distribution is relatively cheap, especially at low volumes of sale. For hardware it is quite the opposite. A company with more money can support a large quantity order, driving down the suppliers price for everything from components to final assembly. A small team or individual is then going to be at a disadvantage because they will generally not have the resources (or connections) to make that happen.

Re:I don't see any difference between software... (1)

ihavnoid (749312) | more than 4 years ago | (#30385942)

I agree that liability isn't a problem (you use it, you are responsible), but cost certainly is a problem.

The bare minimum to develop open-source hardware (assuming you want something with flashing LEDs, not simulation) is 1) a cheap FPGA board, and 2) a FPGA development tool. To do anything decent, you need to spend a couple of hundred of dollars for the board, but fortunately the tool comes free ('web edition'). This may be enough for developing something moderately complex - say a digital audio player.

However, if you want to develop something much larger, say something like a decently-sized microprocessor with some hardware acceleration, that's about 10k for the FPGA board and another 3k for tools. Add in some more tools, and it goes beyond your average hobby.

Of course some people can shell 20k for some hobby, but that results in a lack of users, and thus, collaboration (e.g. feedbacks, bug reports, contributions). If you are going to try some new software, the hardware cost you are going to spend is normally zero. If it doesn't work for you, you just wasted a day or two.

If you are going to try some new open-source hardware, that requires 10 grand. If it doesn't work for you, you wasted a whole month trying to build it, and all you have is an expensive piece of crap.

Popular Mechanics (2, Interesting)

argent (18001) | more than 4 years ago | (#30381862)

I don't think "open source hardware" is really that much like "open source software" unless you've got matter duplicators (like in Ralph Williams' story "Business as Usual, During Alterations"). It's more like publishing plans in Popular Mechanics or Howto books.

Re:Popular Mechanics (1)

Sebastien_Bailard (1034810) | more than 4 years ago | (#30384524)

Gratuitous self link time! Oh boy!

Over at http://reprap.org/ [reprap.org] we're up to version 2 (Mendel) on our diy matter duplicator-like things, and we've had Mendel make plastic parts for daughter Mendels. Not stepper machines or microcontrollers, dontchayaknow, but 'matter duplicator' is what we're aiming for.

3D printers require a little less expertise to operate than lathes or mills, which what Popular Mechanics readers used to use to make the things in the plans, back in the day.

Uh... yah? (2, Insightful)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 4 years ago | (#30381934)

For example, should competing big companies be allowed to use their economies of scale to make and sell cheaper products based on open hardware designs developed by small start-ups without payment?

Unless you define "open" as "not open", then the answer to this is obviously yes.

If you want to work out some other kind of deal, then please don't call it "open-" anything, it'll just confuse matters.

Re:Uh... yah? (1)

fragnozzle (1696242) | more than 4 years ago | (#30381988)

Yup. I know that everyone around here believes that open is a perfect word that means something is perfect, but in this case it just means that the biggest and the richest can really take advantage of the littlest.

Re:Uh... yah? (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 4 years ago | (#30382174)

Exactly. If your start-up's only advantage is in the IP, don't open it up. If you open it up to help create an ecosystem for your product, then a large company getting involved should help.

A company using open hardware or software needs to do some sort of review of the IP anyways, since they are ultimately responsible to their end customers. For open software you can fudge this a bit and fix it up later if you miss something. If a large hardware company builds millions of something blindly based on open IP and it is flawed, then they are screwed. So even with open hardware IP, every company has to invest some engineering time to use it and the originator should have a head start.

Liability? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30381942)

Yeah, sure, as if, for instance, Ralph Nader had no trouble at all making Chevrolet admit that the Corvair was a real coffin on wheels... Wanna bet an open-source Corvair would have been better?

There is a tech industry in London/UK? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30381966)

Who knew?

Re:There is a tech industry in London/UK? (2, Funny)

Lemming Mark (849014) | more than 4 years ago | (#30382678)

I object to that, sir - in the UK we have the finest stream contrivances money can buy. We've been building "railways" for a number of years and in London they even have horseless carriages! Simply spiffing. I'm typing this on one of our latest teletype machines, which is almost entirely automated. It only requires an office of 50 clerks or so to handle the Slashdot Javascript rendering. Actually, the clerks have something of an attitude time, insisting on collating and compiling the reports I requested on a "Just In Time" basis. I'm off to have a word with them now, toodle pip!

Commercial Free != Open Source? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30381976)

I have a related question that still boggles my mind: Why does a hardware project from a university garner so much more attention than a completely open commercial solution?
For example, Atmel, Microchip, Cypress, and Parallax all have free compilers, cheap programers (sometimes embedded), free schematics and free layout files. However, they are not as popular as the Arduino. Why?

Re:Commercial Free != Open Source? (2, Informative)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 4 years ago | (#30383990)

The Arduino uses Atmel microcontrollers. The free compilers, schematics, etc. are probably what helped Arduino get made in the first place. Arduino is just basically a prettily-packaged Atmel with everything a beginner needs to get started making stuff. Never underestimate the power of pretty packaging and hype.

For an experienced engineer, the Arduino makes no sense at all; it's not optimized to your task (as it's a general-purpose solution) and costs too much per unit. An experienced engineer has no trouble getting the free tools from Atmel, Microchip, etc. and a programmer, selecting the right microcontroller from their extensive lines, reading lots of data sheets, and programming it.

The Arduino isn't made for that market; it's made for hobbyists who aren't engineers and want to do things with microcontrollers, which most likely will never see any serious production.

Re:Commercial Free != Open Source? (1)

ckaminski (82854) | more than 4 years ago | (#30384268)

No friggin' clue... considering Atmel is pretty friendly to the open source crowd...

It's not a question of open or closed. (1)

Eosha (242724) | more than 4 years ago | (#30382120)

The critical moment is when something is offered for sale. If I build an open design car for my own use, and it fails miserably, it's my own dumb fault. However, as soon as I sell that car to someone else, I am warranting it to be a saleable product, which carries a number of legal implications. To a greater or lesser degree, I am liable for its performance.

The underlying problem isn't "open" or "closed" design, it's that when you sell something you're liable for it. To be willing to sell something, companies need to do a lot of work to ensure that the product is safe, in many cases far more work than creating the product in the first place. That being the case, there is little financial motive for openness and a large financial motive for keeping it proprietary.

Re:It's not a question of open or closed. (1)

Palpatine_li (1547707) | more than 4 years ago | (#30382454)

I would imagine the most benefit would come from the ability to modify sold hardware. For example, it is a known issue that some Nissan cars accelerate when you press the brake. Nissan claims it's a design problem of the mat, but many suspect it's auto transmission problem. If the code is open, someone would definitely release a fix and I can put that into my auto transmission computer. If I cannot do that, I can have that done at some mechanic's. Then I will be liable for the modification.

Re:It's not a question of open or closed. (2, Insightful)

gujo-odori (473191) | more than 4 years ago | (#30383218)

Not necessarily. Let's say I write a program that lets you modify parameters of your car's engine computer and go racing and release it as-is and under the GPL. Or, for even greater "as-as"-ness, give it the sort of disclaimers that would accompany proprietary software sold for the same purpose.

So, you use my software to re-tune your engine and because of a bug it causes your mixture to go really lean at high RPMS and you burn your pistons the first time you go racing. Good luck suing me. You might try, but it had a big notice that said "WARNING: THIS SOFTWARE MAY DESTROY YOUR ENGINE, BURN YOUR HOUSE, STEAL YOUR CAR, DRINK YOUR LIQUOR FROM YOUR OLD FRUIT JAR, AND EVEN STEP ON YOUR BLUE SUEDE SHOES. USE AT YOUR OWN RISK."

We get into court. At the earliest opportunity, my lawyer says, "So, this software comes with a warning that it may destroy your engine, yet you used it anyway?" "Uh, yes."

Move it to the realm of hardware. I design a car. I release the design under the GPL, or a comparable documentation license, with the usual disclaimers as above, that it might not even work, use at your own risk, intended for use only by professional mechanics or automobile designers, if you build this you may crash and be killed or permanently injured, blahblahblah. You download my design, actually build the car, take it to a test track, and drive it. On your first lap, the wheels come off, you crash, and are crippled for life. You decide to sue me. Problem one is you ignored all disclaimers and safety warnings and built and drove it anyway. If you get past all that, you're going to have to prove that the fault was with my design, and not your workmanship, materials, or any mods you made to my design. You may need to prove that you didn't mod my design. The burden of proof is on you, after all. Especially if I've actually build and drive one based on my plan and didn't crash or have the wheels come off.

Case three: I start a company that builds cars based on my design and get them certified as road-legal in the US and start selling them. After they've been in service for a while, people start crashing because the front wheels are falling off. They sue me. Now I'm in trouble, because I actually built the thing and provide it to people.

Case four: you start a company that uses my design, and have an experience like the above and get sued. People sue you for selling them a car with wheels that fall off. You decide you want to sue me because I designed it and put the plans on the Internet. Likely a non-starter, for the same reasons as above: I put it out there with all the warnings that it might not even work, hasn't been tested, blahblahblah, and you chooe to design and build a car around it anyway.

=

The solution is easy enough. (1)

VanGarrett (1269030) | more than 4 years ago | (#30382160)

The first "open source" hardware designs must be for the technology required to remove the necessity for money from our economy. Automated farming equipment & food processing equipment, automated machine maintenance systems, automated construction devices & construction supply manufacture, or, simply enough, replicator technology. Without concerns over the monetary aspects, licensing becomes irrelevant.

Re:The solution is easy enough. (2, Insightful)

gujo-odori (473191) | more than 4 years ago | (#30383030)

I don't think it's quite that simple. Let's assume, for instance, that all farming can be done completely by machine, better than humans can do it and with no human intervention except when the machine breaks (oops, there's a labor cost; machines are not very good at fixing other machines). There is still a company that makes those machines, and that company employs people. There's some more cost.

Let's cut all the way to the replicator level and say we have a machine that can scan an IH combine and spit out as many more as it needs. That replicator still needs a lot of raw materials that need to be mined or recycled, and and made available to it for use in replication. Unless of course it can turn some common material such as dirt into anything it needs. The first type remains firmly in the world of science fiction. The second type is more like the world of fantasy.

There's only one thing harder than any of your scenarios: eliminating the desire in people to have money, or something that takes the role of money: providing a conduit for people to have more of something than other people. That desire may sound like a bad thing on its surface, but it's actually not. Work, and the desire to obtain its fruits, is in our nature. Without it, we'd be like the people in Wall-E. OK, some people are already like that. We don't want to make it worse.

Re:The solution is easy enough. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30384774)

Most technological manufacturing is done by robots these days. People are used for making toys, clothes, shoes, tools, and other non-technical things. You really think a human being can make a microchip so advanced that they need an electron microscope to see where to put each nanotransister and nanocapacitor?

You still need people to work in retail as robots make poor salespeople and poor customer relations. You need people for management and fixing the robots when they break down. Even open source hardware will have maintenance costs and create new jobs. People will one again write for those new legacy systems and it will create a niche market that the original IP holder had ignored for decades.

For example why should there only be three automakers in the USA, when open sourcing old car designs can create a few more smaller car companies, and thus create new jobs and improve the US economy by selling those cars to foreign nations who want replicas of the old classics with new technology added to them to make them fuel efficient.

Re:The solution is easy enough. (1)

VanGarrett (1269030) | more than 4 years ago | (#30386086)

Really, what I suggest is only the beginning. Once we can remove the necessity for human involvement in food production, we'll have accomplished a huge step in progressing toward an economy that doesn't require money. Completely automate every step between the field and the dinner plate, and the most basic cost of living will be dramatically reduced, thus reducing the need for a large income. The next step is to remove the necessity for humans in the production & delivery of medical supplies, allowing medical costs to be reduced to labor compensation (In the final extreme of this all, doctors must be motivated to ply their trade solely for the sake of doctoring). Almost concurrent with the change in the medical industry, the production of raw materials must be automated. Lumber, concrete, alloys, plastics, etc.

The general idea is to automate all of the absolutely necessary tasks that no one would do for free. I haven't quite worked out how real estate becomes distributed, yet. It seems like a problem to me, as the most obvious conclusion requires that people yield their property to the government, which I just cannot abide.

Yes, that's what "open source" means. (1)

mellon (7048) | more than 4 years ago | (#30382388)

You know, generally speaking, if a big company wants to take a piece of "open source" hardware and make it cheaper, that would be a big win. If you are making open source hardware to make money making hardware, this will be bad for you. If you are making open source hardware to scratch an itch, this will be good for you. Just make sure you get the license right--you don't want them to start making the hardware, and then close it up and use their revenue stream to pay lawyers to shut you out.

Re:Yes, that's what "open source" means. (1)

sowth (748135) | more than 4 years ago | (#30382490)

More accurately, if you are designing open source hardware because you need or want the hardware, a big company making it cheaper is a big win for you.

Re:Yes, that's what "open source" means. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30383376)

Exactly. Most companies investing money in Open Source Software don't make any money from it.

It's not about the money you make, but the money you(and everyone else using the software and contributing if they want to get things done) save.

In the ideal world of Open Source everything R&D costs would be close to 0 as they would be shared equally by everyone.

And you would only be paying for the real value of the product as defined by demand/supply.

Capitalism is nothing but an advanced form of Socialism.

The so called "Capitalists" controlling the world are Corporate Feudalists where the power of the Law and the Military is used to keep the pockets of corrupt bastards like the RIAA full.

You have to take it as it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30382544)

You have to take it as it is. GPL code can be used to build the Great Firewall of China. Or for making a cheap nuclear bomb simulation. Likewise if the open hardware can be used by big companies under economies of scale without breaking the open nature of the hardware, then that has to be allowed.

As it is, if you're a small time operator you haven't a chance with closed hardware either. So you've lost nothing you had in only theoretical amounts.

The best way... (1)

Jay L (74152) | more than 4 years ago | (#30382582)

economies of scale... safety... liability... So what's the best way to address these issues?

A Slashdot comment thread, I should think.

Little Knowledge, Big Danger (2, Informative)

labnet (457441) | more than 4 years ago | (#30383356)

This is a good example of where a little bit of knowledge can be dangerous.
Developing electronics used to be easy. It still can be except for one big area. Compliance.
For us to release a product (ie distribute outside the lab), there are a raft of conformance tests a device must pass to be legally sold/used.

EMC is one of the hardest and there are a myriad of traps for the inexperienced. eg
  - Innerlayer pre peg spacing changes on your PCB
  - Subtle changes in track layout
  - Dielectric of capacitors
  - Die shrink (ie your unit passes, but then a functionally equivilent die shunk part will make you fail because of faster switching)
  - Chassis interaction with PCB
  - Changes in cable harness layout
  - Change in brand of resonators
  - etc etc

Depending on the product you may need to comply for
  - Emissions (all cases)
  - Susceptibility (EU, all cases)
  - Intended Emissions (for radio devices)
  - Safety (for non SELV device)
  - Mains tests (surge, dips, spikes etc)
  - ESD testing (high voltage discharges)
Those are the main ones, but there are many more depending on end use.

So you may have a schematic, but the implementation of that schematic into hardware requires lots of expensive testing before it can be used in the real world.

On electronics, and why prototyping is hard. (2, Interesting)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 4 years ago | (#30383758)

Let's take for example the OpenMoko Freerunner.
It's a mobile phone, with open schematics.

How much would it cost to make one?

It sells for $500 or so, so you might guess $250.

But - that's somewhat different to the question of what it would take to make one.

http://www.pcbcart.com/ [pcbcart.com] - as a reasonable priced chinese PCB service I've looked at - though not used - in the past.
For one 50*100mm 8 layer PCB (what you need if you're going to put dense chips on both sides) - they charge $40 for 1-5 PCBs.
But - with a $200 setup cost.

So - $250 for the first PCB.
Parts cost for ten thousand phones may be $150 or so.
But - buying ones of everything, all the parts will cost you $400 very optimistically.

Assembling and soldering this together - there are well over a hundred parts - say $100.

So, that's $750 to get your first prototype.

It doesn't boot.
After a couple of weeks and several dead-ends, you find you forgot to connect a pin with a slightly ambiguous name on the datasheet that turns out not to be as unimportant as you thought.

So, if you can't work round it - and it turns out that it's a buried high-speed node under several layers of PCB that is completely inacessible, you need a new PCB made.

Another $750 for the whole lot again. Oh - you may try to reuse some of the parts - but all of these parts do not warranty more than one use, and with a 1% failure rate on removed parts, and the fact that a failed part may stall you for weeks - do you want to do that?

So, you get your new PCB, populate it, and it boots and prints 'loading the lin' and crashes.

After another weeks work, you work out that your routing of the RAM tracks has been slightly out of spec, and that unless you clock the system at under 12MHz, it doesn't work at all.

So, you test all you can at 12MHz, and get another board done.

After a week of wondering why this board doesn't work, you find that one component was installed backwards. Fixing that reveals...

For example, the freerunner release candidate boards had over 7 revisions - and there are still issues with it, and this was a professionally made board made by an actual factory that does these sorts of things all the time.

This hasn't even touched on the sourcing of parts.
For many parts this isn't an issue.
You can get most chips just fine from many sources online.

Some parts and modules however - in the mass produced and phone sector - are simply unavailable unless you are willing to order 100000. You can't even get docs unless the companies think you will order. And any docs you do get will be under NDA.

Some of these have no easy alternative. You simply can't buy a mobile phone radio chipset for example. You can buy modules - which may have a 200% price, 200% volume penalty.

Re:On electronics, and why prototyping is hard. (1)

virtualXTC (609488) | more than 4 years ago | (#30384390)

Actually the free-runner is currently selling for $250 [openmoko.com] . So my guess would be it costs even less to make.

Re:On electronics, and why prototyping is hard. (1)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 4 years ago | (#30386370)

Regrettably, the software is only now getting into a sane state, and the hardware is somewhat old.
It would not surprise me if they are dumping below production price even.

Companies should just open source old technology (2, Interesting)

Orion Blastar (457579) | more than 4 years ago | (#30384300)

to let the small start ups and big companies use the old technology and see who can make a better system with it.

The old MOS 6502 and 65816 series CPUs should be open sourced hardware so that companies can make cheap 8 bit computers based on them, or even design new computers using them in a creative way. Commodore should open source the VIC-20, Commodore 64/128, Commodore 16/Plus4. Atari should open source the 400/800/800XL.1200XL, Apple should open source the Apple // and //gs line of computers.

The old Motorola 6800/6809 and 68K series should be open sourced so we can have old Motorola based systems recreated for a low cost. Apple should open source the 68K Macs, Atari open source the Atari ST, Radio Shack open source the COCO (Color Computer) line, Amiga open source the 68K Amiga line and let the best company reproduce the old systems.

Intel should open source the 8088/8086, 80286, 80386, 80486, and Pentium chips and IBM and Compaq open source their old systems that used the 486 and under processors. Then we can use MS-DOS on them or FreeDOS and see who can build the better DOS based computer. OpenGEM is already open sourced DRI GEM, and I'd like to see 386MOS, Taskview, Desqview, IBM PC-DOS, DR-DOS, etc open sourced as well. I know OS/2 cannot be open sourced due to 300+ third party code IP, but OSFree is an open source project to create an open source alternative to OS/2 and IBM needs to contribute to it to develop it further.

The AM/FM Cassette players, 8 Track Tape players, VHS Video Recorders, etc should be open sourced so that cheaper versions can be made. I know it is old tech but media for them still exists and people have a need to play and listen to their old media.

The old cars that aren't made anymore need to be open sourced as well. The 1890 to 1950's cars should be released to open source so that people can put modern engines in them and make parts to replace those on existing cars that need repairs and upgrades. The auto companies cannot afford to upgrade them and replace parts for them anymore, so let the others deal with it.

Someone needs to create an open source hardware plugin hybrid engine for cars, and then adapt them to any vehicle to swap out the gas powered engine for the plugin hybrid one. We need this to convert old gas guzzler cars to hybrids as cheaply as possible. If not most people won't be able to afford new Hybrids. We need to be able to take the $500 car that gets 10 MPG and convert it for under $500 to a Hybrid engine.

Re:Companies should just open source old technolog (1)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 4 years ago | (#30386238)

[~10x "$Company should open source $thing"]

Cool, awesome. If I work for that company and it does open source $thing, does the money spent on paying the new people to do that work come out of my paycheck?

Or does the community fund the necessary work? Or, failing that, what's the economic incentive for $company to do it? To increase demand for the newer products in the trillion-dollar sector of nostalgic nerds?

It's all fine and good to say "but I want that pony!". It's even better to say "but it's good for society!". The companies are going to do what's good for them, and by law they owe that to their shareholders. Explain to me again why(/how) open-sourcing old technology is good for the company and the shareholders (I must have missed it the first n-1 times; sorry for not paying attention).

mod doOwn (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30384864)

they lear8 from 0ur

What we really need are openly documented hardware (4, Insightful)

BhaKi (1316335) | more than 4 years ago | (#30384932)

Who asked open-source hardware? I just want hardware whose programming interfaces are completely documented.

whte_rbt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30386286)

I really don't understand this issue at all: there is absolutely no difference to the situation given with open software. The only one: when dealing with 'real' things, people obviously seem to suddenly see the problems that arise by the concept of open intellectual property.

Companies do make money with software others developed for free and the same it would be with hardware. Who do licences enable to participate in that? The open project, not the folks that developed it. The question of safety issues does arise also with open software and also is answered already: open products are much safer than proprietary, because they do not follow the interest of a single person/organisation but the crowd, which has many different interests.

Last thing is technology (a previous comment was concerned about that...): open products generally have no real technology inside, mostly they're copies of proprietary products. Seems like technology can't be developed in an open way, only products. And this will also be the same with hardware: real knowledge (which is all Metadata) will be somewhere else but not in the CAD/VHDL files.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>