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The Need for Open Hardware

Cliff posted more than 12 years ago | from the stuff-to-think-and-talk-about dept.

Hardware 382

bwt asks: "With all the talk of DRM lately, it occurs to me that the entire concept depends on limiting the choice for computer hardware. OK, so the proper reaction to the copyright industry's attempts at PC market control is to be able to build a PC that they can't control. I know there have been some discussions on open hardware, but most if it was prior to the emergence of DRM as a real threat. In fact, Richard Stallman wrote an editorial in 1999 and said 'Because copying hardware is so hard, the question of whether we're allowed to do it is not vitally important.' DRM has perhaps changed that. Isn't the need for open hardware becoming critical? What is the status of the open hardware efforts?"

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firstie (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107173)

1st post!

fists post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107181)

I've got your hardware swinging

Way cool (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107184)


Open hardware? (2)

Quasar1999 (520073) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107187)

How is hardware not currently open? Do you mean open hardware specs once the hardware is created and sold? This will not fly, since competition would destroy any chance at the company making profits... (China not abiding by copyright laws 'n all)...

Better specs on how to write drivers for the hardware sounds like a great idea, but not full hardware specs in the public domain for new hardware, that just won't work...

Re:Open hardware? (1)

tiedyejeremy (559815) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107257)

" How is hardware not currently open?"
Trade secret protection?

I wonder if "open hardware" would tend to make existing technology better, because it is easy for an individual to conceive of improvements, but tend to limit true innovation. Why is it worth my effort to spend two years (or 2 days, or 2 decades) developing new ideas if the person who is able to design the most efficient manufacturing and marketing plans is the one to see all the profit?

Yes, I know that many innovations are the result of something other than greed, but it seems most are not....

Re:Open hardware? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107262)

This will not fly, since competition would destroy any chance at the company making profits.

Funny, you could say the same thing about software.

PS - I'm not bashing you, I agree 100%.

Re:Open hardware? (4, Informative)

petis (139263) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107295)

On the site [] there is a definition of "open hardware":
Sufficient documentation on the device must be available for a competent systems programmer to write a device driver. The documentation must cover all of the features of the device-driver interface that any user would be expected to employ. /.../

Which is, in my opinion, a good definition. Open specifications of hardware is needed for fair competition in the OS-market, as well as for higher quality software. Drivers based on reverse engineered specifications is obviously harder to write than if you had the specifications from the start.

Re:Open hardware? (1)

Red Rocket (473003) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107325)

How is hardware not currently open?

Open means open to any application we want to run on the hardware so that we aren't restricted to only applications that are signed by some controlling authority **coughmicrosoftcough**.
Did you miss all the Palladium/Trusted Computing announcements?

Re:Open hardware? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107389)

I disagree. We _should_ give the open hardware specs to China _because_ the IP aren't as important there. There will be much more competition to create the better product conforming to standards. The companies that do a good job of it would still make profits because they'd be popular.

Words are tricky. When a Westerner says that China is a place where one can't make a profit; he really means _he_ can't make a profit, because someone there will come along and make his product better and cheaper.

And THAT is what capitalism is all about. If you don't like it, then don't call yourself capitalist.

Re:Open hardware? (1)

mrobinso (456353) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107450)

This is news?
Make some stuff up FCOL.

ATI ships 9700Pro's for $99CDN.
Microsoft Releases MSLinux 1.0.
Nortel announces 5-1 stock split.
NY Yankees lost to contraction.

Anything. Jeez.

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107189)

or is this not a fp? I dunno. don't care.

Damn (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107190)

a story in Science stopped me from getting FP in a this front-page Ask Slashdot? Shit.

so far (5, Funny)

Jonny Ringo (444580) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107200)

What is the status of the open hardware efforts?
So far its closed, I'll let you know when I decide to void the warranty.

Status (4, Insightful)

JWW (79176) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107202)

If any of evil legislation being proposed passes, wouldn't the status of open hardware be....


Really that is what the fight will be all about. Hardware will be made to defeat DRM, the only way it will not be is if it is all illegal.

Even if anti-DRM hardware is deemed illegal expect a black market in it that will put the alcohol black market during prohibition to shame.


Subject Line Troll (581198) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107253)


Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107276)


Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107339)


Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107363)


Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107434)


Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107446)


HAHA! YOU SAID "&nbsp"! YOU LOOSER! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107481)


Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107452)


Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107454)

Cmdr Taco is a shithead (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107473)

how is your bleeding rectum Taco?????

Re:Status (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107451)

I highly doubt that a black market bigger than the alcohol efforts during prohibition would ever happen over computer technology. During the prohibition, Assume 50% of people who wanted to drink, still found ways to (probably very conservative) Also, assume that the percentage of people who did drink was about the same as it is today. That means a little under half of the population of the country was involved in the alcohol black market. Are you saying that you think half of the population would bother to spend 2-5x as much money on illegal hardware to copy music and movies, when for that increase in cost they could just buy the stuff legitimately? I doubt it.

first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107203)


Not. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107487)


This would be "A Good Thing"...but... (1)

fudgefactor7 (581449) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107205)

The difficulty is in overcoming the startup costs of manufacturing, so I really doubt that this would even be viable.

Re:This would be "A Good Thing"...but... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107263)

There are companies that do the manufacturing when you give them the blueprint. And if the big names in the US, Europe, Japan and maybe Taiwan don't want to, there will always be some fab in China to make the free chips.

Irrelavant. (4, Insightful)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107210)

General purpose components (processors, memory, storage) without DRM enforcement will be readily available until it is governmentally mandated otherwise, and at that point open hardware without DRM would be illegal. This discussion leads to a dead end.

Re:Irrelavant. (2, Insightful)

GCU Friendly Fire (563491) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107394)

General purpose components (processors, memory, storage) without DRM enforcement will be readily available until it is governmentally mandated otherwise, and at that point open hardware without DRM would be illegal. This discussion leads to a dead end.

The existence of general purpose components is the key, at least for now. It is easy enough to obtain transducers and whatnot to read digital signals from inert media like DVDs, and if you can channel the signal to a computer and decrypt the data stream (sorry, but making it illegal to write a certain kind of program will only make criminals of programmers, it will not stop anyone) then the data stream escapes and free copies will be available.

  • The more DRM is implemented to limit the use to which the legitimate copies can be put by their lawful owners, the more attractive it will be to obtain and disseminate the means to restore the use that DRM takes away.
  • The more that DRM is implemented in hardware, the more attractive will be illegal trade in copies ripped off by third parties who can afford the initial investment.
  • The more hardware and software technology advances, the lower the financial threshold will become.

It's a probably question of how the judges will interpret the laws. Would a judge ever convict on the evidence of possession of an unfettered general purpose computer?

In the long run, the rights holders may work out a tamper-proof closed distribution system (eg: distribute closed-box hardware free or at low end-user cost) and stop selling their product in the same way that books are sold. If the book model doesn't work for them, then they should invent a new model that doesn't give the user the opportunity to treat the product like a book. Then they will be able to go after those who break their closed distribution loops, legitimately. And we will go back to our legally sanctioned (at least in US law) videotape collections. :)

Re:Irrelavant. (2)

Bartab (233395) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107445)

In the long run, the rights holders may work out a tamper-proof closed distribution system (eg: distribute closed-box hardware free or at low end-user cost)

That hasn't worked so well for DirecTV. Eventually maybe, and certainly with periods of hack-free as they changed cards, but not currently and not for any real significant time yet. When people find the security problems with these "tamper proof" boxes, it would pretty much end the game.

Re:Irrelavant. (4, Insightful)

lynx_user_abroad (323975) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107466)

This discussion leads to a dead end.

Not quite. Think about this for a moment....

In a world where all hardware has DRM and all operating systems enforce DRM, would I still be able to run Linux in vmWare? It won't be allowed to access that "impervious copyright content area" on my hard drive, but it won't need to either.

If so, why can't I share pirated DVD's with my friends through P2P running on my (virtual) Linux box, and watch ripped DVD's on my (virtual) TiVo? And DRM has accomplished nothing.

Or if I can't, then all the MPAA and RIAA and Microsoft Palladium assurances that I can still run whatever programs I want on my computer are pure bunk, and a DRM-enabled computer will both prevent you from accessing data which is copyrighted, but also prevent you from running unapproved programs on non-copyrighted data.

(It won't just be vmWare. On a bored day long ago, I once implemented a binary-to-7-segment decoder as an Excel spreadsheet, and had a flip-flop-based timing circuit implemented as a configuration of cells in Life. If these feats are possible as a lark, then creating a program to perform an illegal function using whatever tools we are

Wouldnt it be cheaper.... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107212)

and more profitable to sell mod chips for existing hardware instead?

Capital? (1)

Scaebor (587064) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107213)

One of the reasons that open software works is that the amount of capital required to compile a piece of software is, in many cases, negligible. In making hardware, on the other hand, the capital investment is truly massive. Therefore, the only way I could see for this to work would be hacking around DRM stuff in drivers, certainly something that will not gain OSS any love from the politicians...

OpenCores (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107214)

The OpenCores project could be useful for this. Check out . It doesn't have much PC compatible hardware, but lots of embedded stuff.

Hot Asses! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107216)

This message is brought to you in part by the National Hot Asses Council.

For more information on Hot Asses, visit your local beach or swimming pool.

circumvent even if hw had drm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107218)

emulattion/vm babe.

Isn't This Already Availible? (2, Insightful)

zmalone (542264) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107220)

I was under the impression that both SPARC and MIPS were open standards. On top of that, neither one seems to have any sort of DRM in any of the implementations of them. Why reinvent the wheel?

Re:Isn't This Already Availible? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107362)

yes they are. But they're cpu only. Was the PPC CHRP "open"?

The Jungle (3, Interesting)

gerf (532474) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107221)

It reminds me of the consequences of the book "The Jungle," which led to the mandatory listing of all ingredients of a food on the label.

This would translate into basically letting you know what components of a product you have, but not necessarily how they work, with each other, or with you. And, you're allowed to test and research the product to make sure they aren't lying. With this, at least you'd know if there's DRM hardware in something you purchase. It could be more of a middle ground, and be some sort of comprimise. Sure, i'd rather have open-everything, and if you comprimise a little, they take a lot, but it's just a possibility.

Closed hardware... (1)

FuzzyMan45 (451645) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107230)

I duno, the closed and copy-protected hardware thing seems a bit stupid to me. The whole PC market will turn into an apple-look-alike. With only certain hardware able to be used in a machine. I think a better solution would be to not include digital rights management anywhere at all...

-1, DUH. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107246)

-2 DUH (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107410)

-3, DUH. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107467)

-4, DOH...err....DUH. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107486)

OpenPPC (5, Informative)

ickypoo (568859) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107231)

There's always OpenPPC [] .

To quote the site: "The immediate goal of the project is to enable interested parties to build inexpensive, PPC-based Linux boxes from IBM's reference plans. In the longer term, we hope to expand the open-source ideals expressed in the GPL to hardware projects, primarily motherboards."

Re:OpenPPC (3, Informative)

Ryan Amos (16972) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107372)

Unfortunately, their offerings are neither available nor inexpensive. Motherboard design is just one of those things that really can't be done in an open-source fashion. The cost is simply too high. Companies like VIA, SiS, AMD and Intel put tens of millions of dollars into their chip designs. Also, nevermind that the OpenPPC spec is horribly outdated (about 2 years to be exact.) Yeah, they may eventually get something shipping, but it'll be long after it really matters.

open hardware... (0, Funny)

tps12 (105590) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107233)

Does running my Athlon box with the cover off to keep it from bursting into flames count as "open hardware?"

This might be the wrong question (3, Interesting)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107234)

Perhaps we shouldn't be asking whether or not we should develop a new form of hardware to avoid DRM, but what is currently available that's so bloody weird that they'd not bother. NetBSD and Linux run on practicaly anything. If we all started using say, ARM CPUs, reusing old SPARCs, etc, it'd be alot easier and alot cheeper. Who is going to fund a company dedicated to making open, non-DRMed hardware? Next thing you know, as a VC, your being sued and/or prosecuted for facilitating piracy, terrorism, etc.
There is plent of non-Intel(and friends) stuff out there already. Microsoft doesn't controll it in the slightest, and itd be too much of an undertaking for them to do it. I don't think ARM has much to lose from "just saying no" to microsoft.

Re:This might be the wrong question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107411)

Yea ... but how do you go about making an ARM chip run an office suite without serious speed issues?

Re:This might be the wrong question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107417)

Who will fund you ask? What about people who have everything to gain and (almost) nothing to lose?

Outsource to contries who still have the balls to stand up to the greedy corporations.

My hope lies in a planet where no one has to be dominated by some bully, whether government or corporation.

Why can't I love? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107240)

Frequently Asked Questions from alt.zen
What's in this FAQ?
What is Zen? (the simple question)
What is Zen? (the real question)
Why do people post such nonsense to this group?
Instructions for the practice of zazen (sitting meditation)
Glossary, some terms related to Zen Buddhism briefly defined
On the use of words
Introductory reading list
About this FAQ (editors note)
What is Zen? (the simple question)
Zen is short for Zen Buddhism. It is sometimes called a religion and sometimes called a philosophy. Choose whichever term you prefer; it simply doesn't matter.
Historically, Zen Buddhism originates in the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama. Around 500 B.C. he was a prince in what is now India. At the age of 29, deeply troubled by the suffering he saw around him, he renounced his privileged life to seek understanding. After 6 years of struggling as an ascetic he finally achieved Enlightenment at age 35. After this he was known as the Buddha (meaning roughly "one who is awake"). In a nutshell, he realized that everything is subject to change and that suffering and discontentment are the result of attachment to circumstances and things which, by their nature, are impermanent. By ridding oneself of these attachments, including attachment to the false notion of self or "I", one can be free of suffering.

The teachings of the Buddha have, to this day, been passed down from teacher to student. Around 475 A.D. one of these teachers, Bodhidharma, traveled from India to China and introduced the teachings of the Buddha there. In China Buddhism mingled with Taoism. The result of this mingling was the Ch'an School of Buddhism. Around 1200 A.D. Ch'an Buddhism spread from China to Japan where it is called (at least in translation) Zen Buddhism.

What is Zen? (the real question)
This question basically asks "What is the essence of Zen?". It appears in various guises throughout Zen literature, from "What is the meaning of Bodhidharma's coming from the West?" to "Have you eaten yet?". The question cuts right to the heart of the matter and can only be answered by you. Perhaps the best answer is "practice".
Why do people post such nonsense to this group?
One of the central points of Zen is intuitive understanding. As a result, words and sentences have no fixed meaning, and logic is often irrelevant. Words have meaning only in relation to who is using them, who they are talking to, and what situation they are used in. Some postings are indeed nonsense; other postings appear to be nonsense at first but this is because the meaning is all between the lines. Zen and poetry have gone hand in hand for centuries.
Instructions For The Practice Of Zazen (Sitting Meditation)
This zazen FAQ is based (with modification) on the publication Shikantaza: An Introduction to Zazen published by the Kyoto Soto-Zen Center. Some sectarian differences are noted under Difficulties and Expedients. The main text is minimalist in aiming to present what is most common in as many teaching lines as practicable.
Terms for zazen portion of FAQ (see also glossary)
Gassho (Korean: hapchang): See under Hand Positions.
Hokkaijoin (Cosmic Mudra): See under Hand Positions.
Hondo: A formal hall for rituals and ceremonies. The altar is against a wall in a hondo.
Isshu: See under Hand Positions.
Kinhin: Walking zazen.
Rinzai: A Japanese (Chinese: Linji) sect of Zen Buddhism.
Shashu: See under Hand Positions.
Sodo: A formal hall for meditation, meals, and sleeping. The altar is in the center of a sodo.
Soto: A Japanese (Chinese: Caodong) sect of Zen Buddhism.
Zafu: A small round cushion used as a seat in zazen.
Zabuton: See Zaniku.
Zaniku: A large reactangular flat cushion placed under the zafu which cushions the knees.
Zendo: An informal hall for zazen is practice, which may combine the function and layout of a sodo and hondo.
Zendo Manners
In a zendo the altar is placed in either the sodo or hondo position.
Enter the zendo on the left side of the entry, left foot first.
Gassho and bow to the altar.
Walk forward across the room past the altar and go to a seat turning corners squarely (cross in front of the altar only during kinhin).
Gassho and bow toward the seat, greeting the people to both sides.
The people on both sides respond to greeting.
Turn clockwise and face front.
Gassho and bow to those directly across room, greeting them.
They respond with a gassho-bow in greeting.
Sit down on the zafu.
Turn clockwise toward the wall. (If in a Soto style zendo, Rinzai style is to sit facing in from the wall.)
Always turn or move clockwise as viewed from above the zendo.
Hand Positions
Gassho is performed by placing the hands palm to palm slightly in front of the chest with the arms parallel to the floor.
Shashu is performed by placing the thumbtip of the left hand as close to the left palm as comfortable and making a fist around it. Place the fist in the center of the chest and cover it with the right hand. Keep the elbows away from the body with the forearms parallel to the floor.

Isshu is the same as shashu but with the left fist turned thumb side toward the chest. Left fist and thumb are parallel to the floor and not vertical as in shashu.

Hokkaijoin (Cosmic Mudra) is performed in the following manner. Place your right hand palm upward in your lap against the lower abdomen. Place the left hand palm upward on top of the right. The second joints of the middle fingers should be touching, and your fingers parallel. Raise the thumbs up opposite the fingers and touch the thumb tips lightly together; forming an oval between the thumbs and fingers. The thumb tips should join at the approximate level of the navel. In some Tibetan teaching lines the right hand is placed on top of the left.

Settling Into the Posture
Place a thick mat (zaniku or zabuton) in front of the wall and place a small round cushion (zafu) on it. Sit on it facing the wall. There are several positions for the legs. If not too cold sit with bare feet. Leave your wristwatch off.

The cross legged positions provide greatest stability. To sit in full lotus, place the right foot on the left thigh and then the left foot on the right thigh. To sit in half lotus place your left foot on your right thigh. Try to cross the legs firmly so that a stable tripod of support is provided by the knees and the base of the spine. The order of the crossing of the legs may be reversed. It is also possible to simply sit on the floor with one foreleg in front of the other or kneeling using a bench or a cushion. To sit in a chair, place the feet flat on the floor and use a cushion to elevate the seat so that the upper thighs fall away from the body and follow the rest of the applicable instructions.

Rest the knees firmly on the zaniku, straighten the lower back, push the buttocks outward and the hips forward, and straighten your spine. Pull in your chin and extend the neck as though to support the ceiling. The ears and shoulders should be in the same plane with the nose directly above the navel. Straighten the back and relax shoulders, back, and abdomen without changing posture.

Keep the mouth closed placing the tongue with the tip just behind the front teeth and the rest of the tongue as close to the roof of the mouth as comfortable. Keep the eyes at least slightly open cast downward at a 45 degree angle without focusing on anything. If closed you may slip into drowsiness or daydreaming.

Rest the hands palm up on the knees and take 2 or 3 deep abdominal breaths. Exhale smoothly and slowly with the mouth slightly open by pulling in on the abdominal wall until all air has been expelled and inhale by closing the mouth and breathing naturally. Hands still on the knees sway the upper half of the body left to right a few times without moving the hips. Sway forward and back. These swayings are at first larger and then smaller enabling you to find the point of balance of your posture.

Finally, place your hands in Hokkaijoin (Cosmic Mudra, the oval shape against your abdomen described above under Hand Positions).

Observe breathing during zazen, but do not try to manipulate the rhythm or depth of the breath. Breathe gently and silently through the nose without attempting to control or manipulate the breathing. Let the breath come and go naturally so that you forget all about it. Simply let long breaths be long and short ones short. On inhalation the abdomen expands naturally like a ballon inflating, while on exhalation simply let it deflate. There are some additional remarks about breathing under Difficulties And Expedients.
In some Rinzai and Tibetan teaching lines it is recommended that one feel a sense of strength in the abdomen in breathing, that the exhala- tion be done in a very slow smooth and gradual way or a very slight contraction of the anus on exhalation (this should be so slight it may be more felt as an intention than as a physical contraction) be per- formed. While these recommendations have their origin in energy yogas (Kundalini and Qigong) some Tibetan and Rinzai teachers recommend their use. Theravada and Soto teachers in general do not recommend this approach. Soto especially emphasizes just observing the breath as it is without trying to improve it in any way. Specifically, Dogen states that counting the breath and following it are not quite zazen and recommends avoiding their use. Some lineages (mostly Rinzai) recommend a long period of breath counting before simply practicing zazen, others (mostly Soto) do not. Similarly, some recommend that if you are without a teacher, only practice breath counting not zazen, others encourage practice with or without a teacher.

Do not concentrate on any particular object or attempt to control thoughts, emotions, or any modification of consciousness. By simply maintaining proper posture and breathing the mind settles by itself without fabrication. When thoughts, feelings, etc. arise, do not get caught up by them or fight them. Simply permit any object of mind to come and go freely. The essential point is to always strive to wake up from distraction (thoughts, emotions, images, etc.) or dullness and drowsiness. Letting go of any thought is itself thinking non thinking.
Arising From Zazen
Bow in gassho. Place hands on the knees and sway the body slightly and then more so. Take a few deep breaths and unfold the legs. Arise slowly especially if the legs are asleep and do not stand abruptly. Return your sitting place to its original condition. (Plump up the zafu and brush it off with your hand.)
Kinhin - Walking Zazen
Place the hands in shashu (or isshu). Walk clockwise around the room so that your right shoulder is toward the altar in the center of the zendo. The posture from waist up is the same as in zazen. Walk taking a half step for each full breath, slowly, smoothly, and noiselessly, without dragging the feet. Always walk straight ahead and turn to the right. Rinzai kinhin is often much faster and the pace may vary. Match your pace to that of the group.
Difficulties and Expedients
The art of right awareness may seem difficult and the description given above is idealized. If you are finding difficulties invent your own way. In zazen we each must find our own way. If you find you are struggling and need a suggestion as to what to do, it is possible to follow or count the breath among other things.
Counting the breath may be done on inhalations, exhalations or both depending on what you find useful. Count from one to ten and then simply start over again at one. Be aware of the count and the breath and try to maintain continuous awareness of both. If you find that you are constantly losing the count, try counting to five.

Following the breath is done by watching the rise with inhalation and fall with exhalation of the abdomen with each breath. The abdominal wall is viewed as a leaf slowly waving in response to the in and out breaths. Maintain awareness of the entire posture as much as possible and watch the breath reach and leave the lower abdomen.

Please note that opposite breathing (abdomen in on exhalation, out on inhalation) is a Taoist Qigong (energy yoga) method and is not appropriate to do with zazen since it has a specific, health related purpose.

Keizan Zenji recommends settling awareness in the abdomen if bothered by distracting thoughts and above the eyebrows or at the hairline if bothered by drowsiness. Others recommend watching contact of the air with the nostrils or upper lip if drowsy. Dogen Zenji mentions only the palm of the left hand as a point of concentration in difficulties. Hakuin Zenji also mentions slowly scanning the attention from the top of the head downward throughout the body, like following a slowly melting substance as a specific remedy against excess nervousness in zazen. These are mentioned here only as examples of the expedient devices that have been adopted by others. Remember these are only for use in difficulty, the norm of awareness for zazen is to be awake without preference to everything in the universe regardless of whether it is inside or outside the body. Be awake to everything over and over again, that is the essential art of zazen.

Glossary, some terms related to Zen Buddhism briefly defined
Unless otherwise noted or obvious the Japanese form is given first.
The Pinyin romanization of Chinese will be used.
Ch = Chinese, J = Japanese, K = Korean, P = Pali, Skt = Sanskrit
Ango (J): A period of practice and training typically 1-3 months long.
Arhat (Skt): One free from the ten fetters to freedom. Used both to criticise an individual who practices only for self benefit and to praise an accomplished adept. In the latter sense, one of the Ten Names of a Buddha.
Avidya (Skt, P: Avijja): Ignorance although unawareness and unconsciousness are also good translations. Most simply it is manifested as attachment to greed, anger, and delusion.
Bodhisattva (Skt): A Buddha to be who may be delaying his/her own enlightenment to continue a practice benefiting all beings. As praise, it is for selfless practice, as criticism for insufficient attention for one's own practice.
Buddha (Skt): an enlightened one.
Gassho (K: hapchang): A hand position in which palms are placed together vertically in front of the body. (See Hand Positions in zazen FAQ.)
Hokkaijoin: Cosmic Mudra the oval hand position used in zazen.
Hondo: A formal hall for rituals and ceremonies. The altar is against a wall in a hondo.
Isshu: Similar to shashu but with a horizontal fist. (See Hand Positions in zazen FAQ.)
Karma (Skt; Kamma P): Literally deed or phenomenon. Also short for the law of karma, or cause and effect. Actions have foreseeable and unforeseeable consequences.
Kensho: An experience of seeing into one's own nature.
Kinhin: Walking zazen usually practiced between sittings but may also be practiced on its own.
Koan (Ch: kungan): Literally, a 'public record' pointing to realization in a Zen teaching context, usually involving interaction. Short Example:
A monk asked Joshu, 'Does a dog have Buddha nature?'
Joshu replied, 'Mu.' (literally: without or lacking)

Koans may be used discursively or as objects of meditation.
Nirvana (Skt, P: Nibbana, J: Nehan): An aspect of the world expressed as oneness, stillness, and exhaustion of desires.
Rinzai: A Japanese (Ch: Linji) sect of Zen Buddhism.
Samsara (Skt & P): An aspect of world expressed as differentiation, change, becoming, impermanence and desires.
Satori: An experience of enlightenment
Sesshin: Literally to inspect the heart-mind, a period of intense practice, typically approximately a week.
Shashu: A hand position with the left fist vertically against the chest and covered with the right. (See Hand Positions in zazen FAQ .)
Sodo: A formal hall for meditation, meals, and sleeping. The altar is in the center of a sodo.
Soto: A Japanese (Ch: Caodong) sect of Zen Buddhism.
Sutra (Skt; P: Sutta): The teaching discourses of the Buddhist canon, most are presented as the words of the historic Buddha.
Tathata (Skt): Thusness, the as-it-is-ness of the world.
Tathagatha (Skt): The thus-come-thus-gone one, an epithet of the Buddha.
Ten Fetters (Skt: Samyojanas): Illusion of an ego, skepticism, belief in magic as solving the problem of life, sensory delusion, ill-will, desire for formed existence, desire for formless existence, arrogance, restlessness, and ignorance of the true nature of reality.
Wato (K: Hwadu, Ch: Huatou): The head word of a koan, as in the example under Koan 'Mu'.
Yongmaeng Chongjin (K): Intensive retreat (more literally, "fearless practice").
Zafu: A small round cushion used as a seat in zazen.
Zabuton: See Zaniku.
Zaniku: A large rectangular flat cushion placed under the zafu which cushions the knees.
Zazen (Ch: Zuochan): Sitting meditation.
Zen (K: Son; Ch: Chan; Skt: Dhyana; P: Jhana): Meditation.
Zendo (K: Sonbang): An informal hall for zazen is practice, which may combine the function and layout of a sodo and hondo.

On The Use Of Words

"Bodhisattavas never engage in conversations whose resolutions depend on words and logic."
These words, attributed to Shakyamuni Buddha 2,500 years ago, embody the attitude Zen has towards the use of words. Truth and Meaning have existence beyond and independent of words. Words may or may not contain truth. Ultimately the awakening to our fundamental enlightened mind, is beyond descriptions possible in words. Words are convienient tools or sounds limited by the both the nature of sound itself, and the minds of both speaker and listener.

Ever try explaining how a certain food tastes to someone who's never tasted that particular food before? When you were finished did you think they really knew the taste? Could they honestly, just from your description, say they've tasted it?

No they couldn't. But you could, through the use of language, build motivation in the person to taste the food for themselves (at which point they they'd probably be more than happy to tell you how your description was lacking!)

In that exact same way, Zen Masters use words only to coax, prod, push, or drag a person to enlightenment, both as an experience and a way of life. Zen has little use for words which don't precipitate or point to, Awakening. Even logic must take a far, far, second place to the all important task of a personal realization of the unborn, undying, pure wisdom source which is the birthright of every human.

For more specific and philosophical discussion on the use of words refer to the Surangama and Lankavatara Sutras. You can find both these sutras in "A Buddhist Bible" (the first book on the reading list).

Introductory Reading List
The following short list of books is meant to help the beginner gain, not only a philosophical understanding of Zen, but also, at least, an intellectual understanding of why the practice of Zazen is the primary practice of Zen. There are many other good books available, so many that space on this FAQ does not permit anything close to a comprehensive list. Instead we give this short list which covers most fundamental aspects of Zen, Zen practice, and Zen Buddhism. Most of the writers in this list have written more than one book, so if you like your first taste of a particular author, you are encouraged to pick up other titles by the same author. There are also many other wonderful writers and books on this subject, this list is introductory only. You are encouraged to use your intuition when selecting material to read (or not).

May these books be the starting point of your own path to Awakening.

Two Books On Buddhism
A Buddhist Bible Edited by Dwight Goddard:

This is the classic work which began many of the beatnik Zen practioners of the sixties (including Jack Kerouac) on the path. There are certain books which are considered gateway books, that is to say, books that introduce whole generations of people to Zen and this is one of them. Even if you would like to practice Zen without being a Buddhist, it is important to understand the practical and philosohical ties between the two. This book serves this purpose well, while keeping a Zen slant. In addition to the two sutras mentioned earlier, this book also has translations of the Diamond Sutra, Dao De King (more popularly known as Tao Te Ching), the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Zen Patriarch (See NOTE) the Awakening of Faith Shastra, solid fundemantal discusions of the historical Buddha and his teachings. The latest reprint has a foreward by Aitken Roshi.
NOTE: This particualar translation of the Sixth Patriarch's Platform Sutra is worded in a way which might be easier understood by reading other translations.

Buddhism; A Way of Thought and Life By Nancy Ross Wilson.

A simple, clear, accurate overview of the Buddha's teachings, with chapters specifically on Tibetan Buddhism, and Zen Buddhism.

Nine Books On Zen
The Three Pillars of Zen By Roshi Phillip Kapleau:

Another gateway book. This book covers Zazen practice, common questions and problems, and the enlightnment experience. Written by an American who studied in Japan for 15 years, this is classic work by a modern western master.
Zen Mind, Beginners Mind By Shunryu Suzuki:

This book covers Zen practice with especially good comments on bringing practice from the sitting experience into each minute of our lives. It is written in simple style which still manages to convey the deeper meanings of Zen and its practice.
Questions to a Zen Master By Taisen Deshimaru:

Except for the excellent chapter on Zazen (Soto style) this book shows many basic religious and philosphical implications of Zen. With a heavy taste of the "just sitting" Soto Zen style, Master Deshimaru covers frontiers of the mind in an easy reading style that maintains the integrity of Truth.
Every Day Zen By Charlotte Joko Beck:

Another American Master, Beck, speaks in a way easily understandble to the western mind, with especially good advice on sitting practice and relations between people, along with some insightful comments on how Zen history means.
Dropping Ashes on the Buddha By Sueng Sahn:

This book by the Korean Master is written in a question and answer style. It covers main points on practice, finding a teacher (and why you should bother), and basic koan practice. Also shows excellent exchanges between master and student.
Taking the Path By Robert Aitken.

Written in a no nonsense western style, this book is another gateway book. Aitken Roshi has knack for making esoteric or difficult concepts, easier for those unfamiliar with Zen or those whose practice is just starting. Aitken Roshi is an American master who heads the Diamond Sangha in Hawaii.
The Miracle of Mindfulness By Thich Nhat Hahn.

This Vietnamese Zen Master has had intimate contact with the west since the 60's when he campaigned for peace during the war (in spite of opposition from both U.S. and North Vietnamese, Governments). His life has been exemplary and his skill as an essayist is only rivaled by his ability to bring Zen intimately into our daily lives.

About this FAQ (editors note)
This FAQ is a compilation of efforts by some denizens of alt.zen. It is intended to provide what a FAQ might be expected to provide, some answers to frequently asked questions. To my knowledge none of the contributors to this FAQ (especially not its editor) are Zen masters or even particular authorities on Zen. Perhaps the best way to view this FAQ is by seeing it as "what Zen has done to some other folks."
The present incarnation of this FAQ has no credits (although some of the contributors have taken to making sly references to each others work). This gives me the freedom to make editorial changes (usually minor) without going through the tedium of approvals. It also saves us all the effect of an imagined alt.zen hierarchy of some sort. I can only hope and beg that no one attaches any sense of authority to me because of it. (I may be forced to start making puerile jokes if this happens!)

Finally, the items in this FAQ are here because I decided they should be. I wouldn't have posted it otherwise. By even choosing what to include I am biasing this FAQ. It is my hope that this bias will not be great. The problem of life and death is already great enough.


Wait a minute... (5, Interesting)

No Such Agency (136681) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107241)

Isn't capitalism supposed to solve problems like this? Shouldn't companies who offer non-DRM hardware find favour with the consumer, and thus prosper over crippled-ware sellers? Oh wait, I forgot, the governments of the "Western" world are rapidly abdicating their role of legislating against the most abusive excesses of capitalism, in favour of legislation aiding and abetting them... Whoops.

Re:Wait a minute... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107290)

capitalism doesn't work for "intellectual property". How many dot-com bubbles, freedom-killing legislations and such will it take for people to understand that ?.

Re:Wait a minute... (5, Insightful)

wisemat (561791) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107392)

Capitalism works perfectly well for IP as long as it is allowed to work in a (relatively) level playing field

That means that the government should work to keep the playing field level as it was intended to be. Patents should be offered for true innovation in the hardware world where no prior art existed and enforced properly when offered properly. Copyright while in existence should gauruntee the author the ability to make a profit and avoid having their works horribly abused, but the copyright protections should be limited while they exist and of limited duration, not extended perpetually.

As a side not, the dot com bubble was not capitalism failing, it was capitalism working beautifully coupled with idiot investors who overvalued entirely too much. The solid internet commpanies such as ebay thrive to this day, the ones with good prospects such as and are still around with time to prove themselves, and the weak one(who really wants to buy cheese graters or petfood online at a specialty website????) died as they should have. The only little glitch in the bubble was caused by mass stupidity and rampant overvaluing, which are not problems in the system itself.

Re:Wait a minute... (1)

aronc (258501) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107398)

*Ding Ding Ding*

Give the man a cookie! "Intellectual Property" by definition is a government granted monopoly on an idea. Monopolies are the antithesis of capitalism.

Re:Wait a minute... (1)

shaka999 (335100) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107420)

Without IP capitalism wouldn't work in a modern economy. Many items which cost 100's of millions to develop can easily be copied. Modern drugs are a great example. If you don't allow a company to recoup R&D costs nothing will be developed.

Re:Wait a minute... (2, Insightful)

TheKubrix (585297) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107351)

I think its a bit more simple than that....your average Joe Sixpack isn't going to give a damn if any part of his computer is "DRM" qualified, the overwhelming majority of PC owners probably dont even know this problem exists, much less no, I dont think capitalism (seen in a basic, non government intrusive, model) would work, the demand simply does not exist to justify the supply....

Re:Wait a minute... (2, Insightful)

spectral (158121) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107492)

And yet region-free dvd players are advertised and sold still. Are you saying there's a larger percentage of people who want to play imports than there are people who want to rip the RIAA/MPAA off by copying their stuff, and not paying for it? :)

Re:Wait a minute... (1, Flamebait)

danheskett (178529) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107360)

Except maybe that a majority of people don't care one way or another about DRM, and therefore, your little theory falls apart.

Re:Wait a minute... (1)

T-Kir (597145) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107382)

Shouldn't companies who offer non-DRM hardware find favour with the consumer

It depends who spoonfeeds the masses whatever crap they want, just look at Hollywood... but the masses are willing take it, and have to like it.

Re:Wait a minute... (2, Insightful)

CharlesDarwin (163099) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107449)

Absolutely! This is exactly what happened to Apex. By circumventing the MPAA's region encoding system, Apex gained a larger market share than they would have otherwise.

PowerPC (1)

dadragon (177695) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107244)

Something along the lines of OpenPPC [] sounds like the ticket to me. Now all it needs is people supporting it, and some might argue a better design :).

Re:PowerPC (1)

Alexander (8916) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107373)

Boy, I was going to make some smart-alek comment about CHRP but looks like you beat me to it.

You're missing the point (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107245)

New software will require DRM-enabled hardware. If you have knockoff anti-DRM hardware, you won't be able to use the new software. It's cyclical. If you're content to use today's software 5 years from now, have at it. Otherwise, you will be shut out in the cold.

Re:You're missing the point (0)

Deus777 (535407) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107426)

New *proprietary* software will require DRM-enabled hardware. New open source software most likely will not care. If DRM becomes a government mandate and you want to use Windoze to do anything, then yes, you will need DRM hardware.

Re:You're missing the point (2)

UncleFluffy (164860) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107490)

New software will require DRM-enabled hardware.

DRM-enabled hardware, or a DRM-enabled VM... (which, of course, needs to have a debug mode for development purposes...)

Lots of open hardware (5, Informative)

kevin42 (161303) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107247)

There are a lot of open hardware designs at [] .

CPU cores, Ethernet MACs, complete SOC designs, etc. It's a great site, especially if you are into fpga development.

What is DRM? (Answered) (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107252) [] :

What is DRM?

Tue, Jan 1, 2002; by Dave Winer.

DRM stands for Digital Rights Management.


Thought others might want to know, too. I was clueless before this post.

(ACing to avoid Karma Whore accusations.)

Re:What is DRM? (Answered) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107298)

I was clueless before this post.

I'm pretty sure you're still clueless, but that's beside the point.


Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107300)

Public Domain Hardware (1)

intertwingled (574374) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107254)

The book, _Life_With_Unix_, by Libes and Ressler, mentions a "Public-Domain Hardware" computer, a 32 bit system called the PD32. Does anyone know what happened to this project? I can't find any info about it on the net. Are/were there other projects like it? The PD32 was a 32 bit computer designed around the NSC32016 processor. But, why not an Public Domain or GPL processor itself?

this isn't the same as creating open-software (2)

GoatPigSheep (525460) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107266)

Software can be written by anyone with even a very lowly computer. Hardware, however, is very expensive to develop. Corporations like Intel and AMD spend millions or billions on fabs to make their cpu's. It's not as if any joe shmoe can say " I'm going to make a 64-bit cpu and release it under the gnu hardware license ".

Personally from what I have seen open-source SOFTWARE developers seriously lack resources. Just look at linux companies such as loki or VA software (which even dropped the linux part from it's name because of its reputaion), they have almost all failed. How would they expect to create hardware?

Also, if all hardware designs were free, there would be no competition or real business associated with it. How would video card makers compete with each other if they knew all their competitor's tricks? Prices would rise due to lack of competition.

Personally, I think in a perfect world open source hardware would be a good option, but realistically it can't be done. The open-source community lacks the resources, is too fragmented, and has no way of marketing the products competitively.

Re:this isn't the same as creating open-software (5, Informative)

kevin42 (161303) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107294)

With a $99 FPGA development board [] and the free design tools from Xilinx, you too can make your own CPU without even breaking out a soldering iron. :)

Irrelevent [Was: [not] the same] (2, Informative)

Higher Authority (245970) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107460)

Open specs do not need to give away hardware tricks manufacturers used to make the hardware better, faster, or what not. Specs are meant as a reference of what the hardware can do, how to get it to do it, and maybe some basic implementation notes and examples. Enough information so software developers can *use* the hardware, and users can figure out if they need or want it.

If someone wants to know how the hardware is made in intricate detail, take it apart yourself. Information is needed to verify that it should do what it's meant to do, and enough to allow developers to develop software that can use the hardware (after all, selling something one can't use is useless, go figure.).

Re:this isn't the same as creating open-software (2)

Tom7 (102298) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107479)

> Also, if all hardware designs were free, there would be no competition or real business
> associated with it. How would video card makers compete with each other if they knew all
> their competitor's tricks? Prices would rise due to lack of competition.

Most of what you say makes sense, but this doesn't. If video card companies each knew each other's secrets, prices would plummet because all of the cards would be essentially equal and it would merely come down to the price they can be produced at. Of course, an economist would claim that this would then lead to decreased research-and-development and a slowing of technological innovation, which may be true. But it wouldn't lead to higher prices.

Re:this isn't the same as creating open-software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107485)

How would video card makers compete with each other if they knew all their competitor's tricks?

The already do know each other's tricks. They compete by gambling on different design strategies and trying to find new things to patent to limit their competitors' options.

When this will happen. (2)

Neck_of_the_Woods (305788) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107269)

Until there is a wide spread need for a "Non DRM" hardware solution this will not happen. Right now the masses are ignorant, and sheepish. If ever we will all wake up and realize we don't want this, then demand may one day fill the void.

supply and demand, and right now no one is asking for this product. When they do it will surface, I just don't think that will ever happen in big enough numbers. You will end up shelling out very large amounts of money for a niche product.

Start stocking up on your pre-drm hard-drives you may have a market down the road.

LGPL version of SPARC CPU (5, Informative)

phsolide (584661) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107278)

The European Space Agency has made available [] VHDL for a CPU that implements the SPARC V8 instruction set. The VHDL is available under the GNU LGPL license. Granted, implementations of LEON are slow (25 MHz?) but it's totally freely available. You may need to buy a $99 license from SPARC International to actually sell any CPUs you make, but that's pretty cheap.

The SPARC instruction set is pretty simple. I don't imagine that a similar effort for x86 CPUs would be as simple or as quick.

Simputer keeps ticking (5, Informative)

jukal (523582) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107280)

I recently exchanged a word with Rahul Matthan, who has been involved with the simputer project. Simputer has progressed well, and it will soon hit the stores, it seems. If you have not checked the site [] lately, it might be worth a visit now.

A brief introduction to the simputer to those who don't already know:

"The Simputer is a low cost portable alternative to PCs, by which the benefits of IT can reach the common man. "

The system software is available under GPL, and the hardware specs under SGPL, the full licensing info is here [] .

money (3, Insightful)

Kallahar (227430) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107304)

The biggest problem with hardware is that in order to produce it you need expensive equipment. For example, most circuit boards for computer equipment have multi-layer PCB's (wires sandwiched between insulators) which are impossible to build without a PCB fab. Sure, you can get them made, but it gets expensive for low-volume runs. No, what we need is to support companies that fight DRM and boycott the companies that support it. Vote with your dollars.


Closing of Hardware (1)

pyrrho (167252) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107308)

It's clear that MS is trying to close the hardware until there is a Wintel specification for hardware which will run only windows. The Xbox is in fact that machine, but the plan also includes getting PC OEMs to help make these platforms. I don't know how likely it is to win, but they are trying it... they would like to close the PC down and make it an MS offering, like Apple closing down PowerPC clones. With the key difference being that MS didn't own the PC platform in the first place.

It would be good if the linux makers could just come up with a spec for a Linux machine design. This is the time to do it because they could just describe current machines. But it would get them into the area of categorizing machines and sorting out hardware issues. And if a palladium comes allong, it doesn't have to integrate that hardware into the Linux Hardware Platform Specification.

Re:Closing of Hardware (2)

Mad Marlin (96929) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107461)

It would be good if the linux makers could just come up with a spec for a Linux machine design. This is the time to do it because they could just describe current machines.

Why don't you just drop Wintel next time around? You can get a Sun Blade 100 for around $1,000 right now. If you are using Linux now, migrating to Solaris wouldn't be too much of a challenge, assuming you let Sun install it for you. And, if you are really that attached to your Linux, I am pretty sure it will run there too, as well as on about a half-dozen other architectures.

OpenCores (1)

annodomini (544503) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107315)

The OpenCores [] project could be useful for this. It doesn't have much PC compatible hardware, but lots of embedded stuff. It's not currently at a state where it would be a viable replacement for proprietary hardware, but if you want a place to focus your effort, I'd suggest you check it out.

Close Hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107317)

Closed hardware ripped my flesh!

Oh please mod me down, I need the attention!

GPL for hardware specs (2)

CrazyBrett (233858) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107321)

Seems like a pretty simple and useful concept, actually... something like a GPL for hardware specs. Suppose someone designs a piece of hardware, and they release it under the "GHPL". The license specifies that anyone can take the design and fabricate actual hardware from it, sell the hardware, etc. They can also take the spec and create derived hardware from it, but if they decide to fabricate and distribute hardware from modified specs, they must also distribute their modifications to the public.

This might be be embraced even more quickly than the GPL... hardware manufacturers will be happy because, as mentioned, fab costs are still fairly high, so they can still make a profit from production and sales. Plus, they get to "leech" free hardware designs from the community, so their research costs go down. Finally, open specs means that competing manufacturers can fab and sell the same hardware, so prices go down on the consumer side. Sounds like a win all around!

You answered your own question (2)

gosand (234100) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107359)

In fact, Richard Stallman wrote an editorial in 1999 and said 'Because copying hardware is so hard, the question of whether we're allowed to do it is not vitally important.' DRM has perhaps changed that. Isn't the need for open hardware becoming critical? What is the status of the open hardware efforts?

You answered your own question in Stallman's quote. Do you think the ability to copy hardware, or produce it, has gotten easier since 1999? As other commenters have pointed out, open hardware would be illegal if DRM is mandated as the big companies hope. If it is only selectively implemented, then there will be producers of non-DRM hardware out there. And they will do quite well. As long as it is legal to have non-DRM hardware, we will have it. If it is illegal, then it won't matter. Open standards for something illegal don't really help anyone.

Hacked by Chinese (2)

MsGeek (162936) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107377)

I suspect that companies like VIA will be more than happy to continue to ship non-DRM hardware to a world that probably would prefer their computers without Microsoft DRM in them. The Chi-Coms in particular are not too thrilled by MS software restrictions, and will probably not cotton to MS hardware restrictions either. If Pd becomes reality, expect a competing "Raise The Sail" platform without DRM and probably with a VIA CIII as a CPU.

If you want a preview, google for VIA EPIA. It won't be a barn-burner speed wise and it probably won't play games well, but it will be quiet and will be more than enough to run Open Office.

How would it help? (2, Insightful)

Frobnicator (565869) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107379)

Many standards have already been published. Things like PCI, AGP, and various processor socket pin layouts are well known. Also, instruction sets are common knowledge, and converting code bytes to/from assembly is is not difficult.

If you are asking for companies to release their schematics and actual instructions for the fabrication of the chips, that wouldn't be likely (just like OSS and Free Software isn't likely) from big corporations without a *LOT* of pushing. Those represent thousands or millions of work hours, and a huge investment. Unlike releasing under GPL and OSS licenses, companies cannot reasonably expect hackers to improve on their work because of the cost of fabrication and development, and therefore wouldn't see any potential benefit. Consider the multi-billion transistor chipsets -- that's a lot of work to be putting out.

Of course, if there is a large group of EE talent that is willing to volunteer the hours building and re-engineering chips, it might work.


Missing the point (5, Insightful)

isomeme (177414) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107388)

The real problem isn't availability of open hardware; anyone will (presumably) remain able to cobble together chips and wires and create a piece of computing equipment.

The problem will arise when you try to use your homebrew machine on the internet. There are two scenarios here.

The more likely scenario is that the big content suppliers and middlemen will pressure PC manufacturers into supplying only "DRM enabled" hardware to consumers; support for such hardware will be built into the Windows kernel and DMCA-protected against interference. What's more, a Palladium (or succeeding) web security system will interact with the trusted end-user hardware to enable net content access. In this scenario, users of noncompliant hardware will still be able to use their machines locally, and to access non-Palladium net content, but will be excluded from using the most popular OS and apps.

The less likely but still frighteningly probable scenario would involve the government (whichever government you happen to live under) passing a "net homeland security act" which would make it illegal to attach non-certified hardware to the internet. Needless to say, the certification process would be onerous and expensive for hobbyists, and would mandate compliance with DRM standards.

The latter may sound far-fetched, but consider that we already require cars to be certified as safe (and relatively non-polluting, in some states) before they're allowed to use public roads. The analogy is fairly direct.

Who needs it? (2)

RevAaron (125240) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107391)

I'm generally for open anything, as long as everyone plays fair, but I can't say that I'm too interested in open hardware, and I certainly don't see some pressing need for it.

Well doc'd hardware is needed though, for sure. That is practical, to get new OSes on new hardware. However, outside of that, open hardware is a lot less pragmatically useful than open source. Most users and coders don't know how to make a change someone else's ugly C code that runs their computer, let alone have the knowledge to make any worthwhile chance. Having to deal with changes like this in BIOS or physical ones is even more far out.

I'm a coder, but I avoid using applications written in languages with a culture of insane layout and poor IDEs, like C, C++ and assembly. Opera is about the only app I use along these lines. Even if it were open source, I couldn't do much to it without spending way to much time for little result.

I know I'm in the minority here, but I prefer logical software development systems and environments, like Emacs and Squeak. If there's a small change I want to make in either of these environments, I can do so quite quickly. I do a lot of Smalltalk programming, granted which helps in this- but I was using Squeak as a customizable environment before I was very experienced in Smalltalk. Likewise, I'm no elisp guru, very far from it, but I can navigate around and find where to make my chance.

For a person who is interested in a sensible computer system that works with me (rather than me working for it), these sort of things are the real power of open source. Not do I not have to worry about company abandoning me by cancelling the product (as in closed-source s/w), I don't have to worry about whether or not some group of coders will change what I want. I may have the source to every app on a Linux system, but the time and energy spent to find out what to do and where to do it is prohibitive, such that I still would have to rely on someone who has invested all of that time+energy.

Hardware is a lot like this to me. I just want hardware that works- if open hardware makes better and cheaper hardware, so be it. But unless I see some practical application to my own usage environments, I can't say I'll get to excited about it.

Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107425) that it might be even get disallowed (DRM might become compulsory!)

Ignorance is king (1)

DonFinch (584056) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107430)

It is sad that most people do not care in the slightest about weather or not they can pick the hardware in their computers. Most people consider their big white box to be an appliance akin to the toaster. Imagine GM trying to make cars which would not allow you to look under the hood or do your own work. People would go berserk. Rather than trying to get large corps. to go open standards it may be eiser to educate John Q as to why Gov't regulation of his PC and what and where and when he can look at copyrighted material is a Bad Thing(TM).

Maybe a kit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4107435)

Where it comes with the parts and the intructions and you build it yourself

Plenty of open hardware projects out there (2, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107437) is a good starting place..

Problem will be when DRM is mandated in all digital hardware. In that case even 'DIY' hardware will have to include it, or be illegal.

Precedent (2)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107459)

Something like has happened before, just on a much smaller market/scale: Radio Scanners, at the behest of the Cell Phone Industry in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 [] were required to NOT BE ABLE TO SCAN the 800Mhz analog cell phone band. Previously, under 1930's communication laws, someone with a radio could listen to anything, altho it was illegal to use or act on such information. Anyway, here we are, cell band scanners are outlawed and only outlaws own cell enabled scanners. Again, scanner enthusiasts are a very small crowd - forcing such draconian measures on the PC market may be much more difficult. (4, Informative)

jukal (523582) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107464)

Was this site [] already mentioned:

" Open Hardware is engineers sharing their designs with each other through the disclosure of their schematics and software systems used on their designs. Do you remember the time when you purchased a circuit board, or computer, and the schematics came with it? I do..."

Open Hardware? (1)

Psx29 (538840) | more than 12 years ago | (#4107484)

Would that eliminate the mac?
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