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Open Hardware Journal 103

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the i-think-you-mean-gnu-slash-hardware dept.
Bruce Perens writes "Open Hardware Journal is a new technical journal on designs for physical or electronic objects that are shared as if they were Open Source software. It's an open journal under a Creative Commons license. The first issue contains articles on 'Producing Lenses With 3D Printers,' 'Teaching with Open Hardware Submarines,' 'An Open Hardware Platform for USB Firmware Updates and General USB Development,' and more." Mr. Perens has promised to be around tonight to answer any questions readers might have.
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Open Hardware Journal

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  • I'm here (Score:4, Informative)

    by Bruce Perens (3872) * <> on Monday October 31, 2011 @07:13PM (#37901570) Homepage Journal
    I'm playing editor for Open Hardware Journal. I'll be in and out this evening, and will be able to answer questions from Slashdotters, maybe with some delay.
    • by siddesu (698447)
      Congratulations first. This looks like a piece of really good really nerdy news. As for input and questions, maybe you should wait a day or two until we've read the first issue and let it sink for meaningful comments and do a separate Ask Slashdot thing?
    • by pmontra (738736)
      Congratulations, an interesting journal. My question is about the format: why a PDF and not a blog? The advantages of a blog are: it lets you publish the papers as soon as they arrive and it attracts people to your server every day instead of a peak of hits once per month. You choose PDF so it must have some advantages that outweighs those of a blog (or less disadvantages) and I'd love to learn about them because I'm also in the process of making a similar decision. Thanks.
      • Re:I'm here (Score:4, Informative)

        by Bruce Perens (3872) * <> on Monday October 31, 2011 @07:52PM (#37901906) Homepage Journal
        eBooks and tablets are a relatively new phenomenon, but lots of folks have them. PDF works well offline, for these devices, and is well-supported by Free Software as well. I haven't learned the specialized eBook file formats yet.

        I tried this on a blog a while back, that is part of what was supposed to be for. What I found was that I was talking with the same 30 people all of the time. And there were maybe 3000 to 5000 regular readers at best.

        There's also differentiation - I don't want this to be "just another blog".

        And it seems that there is a history for technical journals being in print, and a more recent history of them being open publication. So, I am trying to do something that people who submit papers, and their bosses are used to. I have sometimes, working in academia, been asked to produce a list of my own publications. They seem to take the journal stuff more seriously than the blog stuff.

        • Re:I'm here (Score:4, Interesting)

          by jonbryce (703250) on Monday October 31, 2011 @08:04PM (#37901986) Homepage

          I find pdf doesn't work that well on a small screen. Either you design the pdf for A6 sized paper, which doesn't look so good printed on A4 or on my 24" desktop screen, or you end up with something on your portable device that is either too small to read or requires lots of sideways scrolling. Maybe you should do the journal in something like docbook format, and use that to generate pdfs and ebook files.

          • by evilviper (135110)

            "QuickPDF" on my Android has a very simple "Reading View" button, which works very well most of the time, and almost entirely solves the problem. There's still an occasion here and there when you need to shut it off to see what "see below" or whatever is supposed to mean, but otherwise a very good solution to the problem. Now if the XPDF guys just felt the desire to code something similar...

            Then again, I'm sympathetic to the hard-coded size woes, when someone else's size of choice doesn't quite work for y

        • Overall I like the idea of a PDF, since it provides a kind of permanence and also makes it easier to reference page numbers in the future. An associated discussion forum would be fine, but the PDF itself should be frozen, with any errata placed in future issues. Otherwise a library wanting to archive it would never know which is the "final" version, and future references might be confusing if page numbers etc. kept changing.

          The margins waste space in fit-width view on a small screen, and trial-and-err

        • by bhima (46039)

          I'm still disappointed Technocrat is no longer. It wasn't perfect and I completely understand your reasons for shutting it down. Still, it's disappointing.

          I'm glad you've started to do something more public, I'm looking forward to see more of this. Open Source Software has really proven the importance of the existence of things with an alternative to the most restrictive copyrights. In fact that success has enabled me to successfully argue that the firm I worked for should abandon those restrictive copyr

        • Homepage [] for the EPUB standard.

          Why do I recommend EPUB so highly? Besides the fact that it's an open standard, that is? ;) Well, Wikipedia has a good comparison chart [] of e-book formats versus the e-book readers that are covered. It shows that the only format with a broader range is straight text. (Yes, it even beats out PDF and HTML.)

          There is a plug-in available for OO.o and LO called Writer2ePub that will save directly to EPUB, btw. The main support channel is through a MobileRead forum [].

          May I s

          • P.S. How come you didn't have an article focussing on Arduino in your initial issue??

            Nobody offered to write one.

            I'm going to try the LibreOffice plugin.



    • by femto (459605) on Monday October 31, 2011 @07:36PM (#37901782) Homepage

      What are the current licensing options for open hardware? Has anyone found a "copyleft" equivalent?

      About a decade ago, this issue was discussed at length on the OpenCores mailing lists. At the time, the best we (engineers) could come up with was that the design documents/files could be copyrighted and so GPLd, but there was no way to oblige that a physical device be distributed with design data.

      It seemed to be okay for someone to take a design, make secret modifications, build it and distributed a physical product that could not be replicated. The obligation to share modifications only kicked in when the GPLd design data was distributed, not when the physical product was distributed. Is this the case, or has a real legal mind figured out that we were wrong?

      • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <> on Monday October 31, 2011 @08:06PM (#37901996) Homepage Journal
        I like The TAPR Open Hardware License []. But yes, there is a problem that Hardware Isn't Generally Copyrightable []. We can deal with the problem by using contract law, sometimes, and imperfectly, and by embedding copyrightable and trademarked content. I have a proposal for this that I've not finished yet, I'll try to get it up on the Open Hardware wiki soon.
        • by femto (459605)

          Thanks for the response. I'll keep an eye on the wiki.

        • by citizenr (871508)

          yes, there is a problem that Hardware Isn't Generally Copyrightable []

          W T F ??? you think its bad it isnt copyrightable?

          • The problem is that the only alternative to copyright is trade secret.
            • I would not agree that it always is the only alternative. Freedom of the designs may add significant value to the product or even make it possible. So "stealing" and "closing" the hardware device will take that value away even if it has the same other functionality. Of course that does not apply to every device, but it is possible to find areas where it is applicable. Getting well paid for developing Free Software may also sound like a complete nonsense ...
              • I understand.

                My main interest on this issue is to have something like reciprocal licensing in software that I can use to keep people from making their modifications to my design trade-secret. It is sometimes a fact that locking up a design is an economic disadvantage. If that were true all of the time, we would not need reciprocal licensing.

                • by citizenr (871508)

                  I understand.

                  My main interest on this issue is to have something like reciprocal licensing in software that I can use to keep people from making their modifications to my design trade-secret. It is sometimes a fact that locking up a design is an economic disadvantage. If that were true all of the time, we would not need reciprocal licensing.

                  You sound like a programmer (or music studio exec), not EE. We EEs love when our designs are reused. We ourselves reuse designs all the time.
                  Whats next? Putting copyright and patents on datasheet example designs?
                  Something tells me you would like to get paid royalties for your "designs".
                  It all stinks.

                  • Of course the entire purpose of this is Open designs without royalties, as is amply explained on the site, in the Journal, etc. It would be nice if you and I, rather than big companies, really could reuse designs with impunity. But they stop us with their patents. Just as GPL turns copyright on its head, we need to do the same for hardware. But in hardware designs, copyright is not the main enemy - it's patents, trade secret, DMCA.
      • by AndreyFilippov (550131) on Monday October 31, 2011 @08:15PM (#37902048) Homepage
        We at Elphel are now using the new CERN OHL ( [] ) and believe it is the closest to GNU GPL we are using fro the sofware
        • by femto (459605)

          In the OHL, I don't understand the legal basis for section 4, "Manufacture and distribution of Products". What gives this section any force beyond a "gentleman's agreement" or a legal bluff, which is easily ignored? I can see that copyright is the legal basis for section 3, dealing with documentation, but don't see the same for section 4. Don't get me wrong, I want the OHL to be binding, but currently I don't see how it can be.

          • Femto, ANAL, of course so I can not really help on the legal issues, I only can reply as an engineer who happened to run an open hardware company for more than 10 years. From the very beginning of our business we never licensed any products by anything other GNU GPL and GNU FDL, just recently added CERN OHL as it became available. Legal stuff is important, but I do not see a big problem in "gentleman's agreement" in the areas that do not yet solid legal basis yet. Our use of GNU FDL for the hardware docu
            • by femto (459605)
              Thanks. It's heartening to hear that experience shows that legal paranoia is not necessary.
        • I am not recommending the CERN license for U.S. use at this point. The problem I have with it is that the only thing about it that's different from other licenses is that 1. It's written by Europeans, and 2. It's from CERN. We used to accept license for the Open Source Initiative because they were from various large and interesting companies and agencies, and that's how we got 80 incompatible licenses and the license combinatorial problem which was and remains a significant damage to the community. There is
          • Bruce, being an American open hardware company we seem to have now more customers in Europe than in the United States, so I do not see a problem combining American-originated GNU GPL and GNU FDL with European-crafted CERN OHL. Additionally I believe the OH is not yet as established area as the FOSS, different people on organizations have different understanding of the Open Hardware, it goals and specifics. We find our itch to have much in common with that of CERN, and at least at this stage I do not see a
    • by teidou (651247)
      Will purely physical objects be of potential interest?
    • Love it! Great to see this movement toward user designed hardware and also a pioneer of open source to be carrying the torch here. Please make a paid version alternative for iPad/Android so I can purchase it (I reed all my books and magazines on the iPad now). I think Adobe has some easy publishing software for iPad, so it should be painless to convert those PDFs and publish them via AppStore. Also the website needs some work, the open hardware logo looks very decent and to the point!
      • I don't have a clue about how to publish in the AppStore for the iPad and would appreciate if someone out there could give me a primer. I want to make sure, though, that everybody knows this is "Barbarians at the Gates" (pun intended) and that we're not selling out to the appstore paradigm.

        Yes, anyone who wants to help with web design, we could use some.

    • I'm curious about the logo - is that essentially just the "Open Hardware Journal" logo or, as the footer states a logo for "Open Hardware", to be used as such in open hardware materials?

      And then who/what is Open Hardware in relationship to Open Source Hardware?

      The current edition's call for papers points out that all Open Hardware submitted should be compliant with the Open Source Hardware definition.

      But then, supposedly the adopted logo for that is the 'gear' version of the Open Source (software) logo.
      http []

    • by JanneM (7445)

      This looks really fun; reading the first issue now, with my morning coffee.

      One thing: you have no RSS feed for the journal. Not the actual contents, I hasten to add; just a low-volume feed for announcing new issues would be really helpful. There is no way I will remember to check for new issues, and RSS feeds are a great way to be reminded when there's new stuff on a site I follow.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      Good job. I love this stuff. I plan to read every word of every issue.

      I have high hopes for the open hardware movement.

    • Bruce isn't the only person from OHJ here :) I'm Christopher Olah, the author of the "Producing Lenses with 3D Printers" article.

      I'd be happy to answer any questions about my article, surfcad [], ImplicitCAD [], Malthus [], 3D printed vacuum cleaners [], and any questions about my other projects or 3D printing in general.

    • by timothy (36799) * Works for Slashdot

      Bruce --

      Would you be willing to take part in a Slashdot interview sometime soon? :)


  • by oldhack (1037484)
    Hey! When did Bruce become Mr. Perens in these parts?
    • That made me smile too. In academic circles I keep getting called Dr. Perens, sorry no Ph.D. I'm also called "K6BP" a lot.
      • by iiiears (987462)

        "Open Hardware Submarines.." Inspired by submarine patents?

        • No, as somebody who works in that field, we would call 'em "tethered ROVs (remotely operated underwater vehicles)."

          By the way, this [] is what a real one looks like. Notice the big cord sticking out of the top.

          Here's come constructive criticism of the journal itself. Bruce, you listenin'? In the 3d printer section, details are given on how to write the parabola. The other articles seem to be glorified links to sites. Is the journal meant to be instructional, or just a showcase, or both? I for one would
          • An Open Hardware bong. Well, when I was in Tunis, they had a hashish bar in the middle of the shopping mall. And you can use it for tobacco, and there do seem to be legitimate pipe joints around here (San Francisco Bay Area) with tobacco in bongs. So, yes, but it would have to be a good paper. Not just "here's my design and I dare you". You'd have to find something interesting to say.

            I intend to get a paper selection committee together. Hopefully by issue 4. Right now, I'm it, but that doesn't generally ge

      • by stox (131684)

        Following on in the grand tradition of open hardware in the Amateur Radio community, I see.

        Best wishes in the road ahead!



  • Hey Bruce (do you mind if I just stick to Bruce :-) ), well done and congrats
    I have been a wee bit involved in the fab lab network (born in MIT by Neil Gershenfeld), it's a really cool network of 'labs' which are basically small buildings with some 3d manufacturing equipment, printers and enough 'stuff' to allow people to make anything they can dream of. One of the goals is to spread the designs to other labs around the world.
    1: To me it would seem this effort you are now involved in could act as a ca
    • Re:Fab lab network (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Bruce Perens (3872) * <> on Monday October 31, 2011 @08:18PM (#37902072) Homepage Journal

      1: To me it would seem this effort you are now involved in could act as a catalyst to bring this and the (seemingly) many other open hardware initiatives together, do you agree?

      Well, not just bring projects together, but avoid some of the mistakes we made with Open Source. Like have "recommended" licenses, with the recommended set really small, so we don't have the problem of 80 licenses accepted by the Open Source Initiative and no "recommended" list because we can't dis-recommend a license without offending someone. And not start out by building a schism between Free Software and Open Source. I could rant about all of the things that went wrong for a while...

      We could use good videos for smart people. The coverage we have so far panders to a lowest common denominator of viewers. I'd be delighted if someone was able to make better videos. If I tried to do it, though, it would eat all of my time.

      Yes, we definitely want to stimulate a new movement, and put both thought and experience into it.

      • by dirvine (1008915)
        Delighted with your answer and also delighted with your OSS views, I support OSS but hate the legal mess and vicious debates. I really wish you the best Bruce and please add me to any list of possible help/support, I am limited in time just now, but definitely am interested and as I said I do have some contacts that may prove useful (as well as the foundation I mentioned). My goal is to help others innovate and do so without the current corporate nonsense and stress, so happy to join in in any way I can wh
      • by femto (459605)

        >Yes, we definitely want to stimulate a new movement, and put both thought and experience into it.

        I'm keen. Is the current action concentrated in any one spot, or distributed around the net?

        My gut feeling is that given the activity of the last couple of years the "new movement" already exists. If what already exists was focused, documented and disseminated, there would be a substantial body of work. (IMO) What is needed is a distribution mechanism/platform: an opencollector [] on sterioids; a Debian [] fo

        • Write up what you'd like to do at . Can't do much without a proposal. I am hoping that the smart parts of the movement will congregate there.

          My short term goals are 1. To make sure we don't have a license mess, like we got with Open Source software. 2. To promote that people share essentially the same rights as in the Open Source Definition. 3. To promote the movement toward Open Hardware in general.

          The CERN folks, and others, have been working on archive sites for designs, so that d

          • by femto (459605)
            An alternative to a centralised repository is a mark up / semantic language that allows designs to be published on the 'net and automatically discovered and catalogued. Anyway, I'll keep an eye on and jump in when I feel I can contribute. Thanks for kicking this off.
  • Being almost entirely a softie, I've often been tempted to take some of my embarassingly parallel mass evaluations (e.g. board evaluations in games, or number-theoretic applications) onto a large array of tiny slaves on an FPGA. However, I've get to find a comfortable route into that field. Will the OHJ be heading into that middle ground? And with the skin-flint newb in mind?
    • Get a book on Verilog and VHDL, and a Papilio One []. $50 for 250K gates. There's a 500K gate model for $75.

      Alas, the software is mostly proprietary but at least low-or-zero cost. We will eventually get Open Hardware gate-arrays, but we're not there yet.

    • by femto (459605)

      VHDL Cookbook [] is a good, though dated, intro.

      Use ghdl [] to learn vhdl, without the need to have hardware, as it compiles VHDL to an executable. Icarus [] is similar, but for Verilog. gEDA [] has good tools, including the gtkwave [] waveform viewer. Combined, ghdl, Icarus and gtkwave are a pretty useful simulation suite. You can go a long way with simulation, since the normal design flow is to get the system 100% using simulation, then as a last step program the FPGA with maximal probability of it just working.

      • The Papilio has another way to get the design working - at least from the gate-array pins outward. It hosts an AVR8 implemented in the gate-array, and that can be programmed as if it's an Arduino. Make your design work with that - at least slowly - before you make the gate-array program.
    • by femto (459605)

      VHDL Cookbook [] is a good, though dated, intro.

      Use ghdl [] to learn vhdl, without the need to have hardware, as it compiles VHDL to an executable. Icarus [] is similar, but for Verilog. gEDA [] has good tools, including the gtkwave [] waveform viewer. Combined, ghdl, Icarus and gtkwave are a pretty useful simulation suite. You can go a long way with simulation, since the normal design flow is to get the system 100% using simulation, then as a last step program the FPGA with maximal probability of it just working.

    • by olof_k (2093198)
      One way is to get into the OpenRISC project. You can implement your algorithms in software, and when you have identified the parts that could benefit from being run in hardware, write an IP core that takes care of it, hook it up to the wishbone system bus and write a driver.
  • Apparently it as produced with LibreOffice (metadata, if you can't spot it). Is the source odt file for the journal available? It's fairly clear that designing the journal was not a priority, and I think that's fine, but in terms of sane defaults, Latex would have produced a much better looking document. E.g. the odd positioning of "Software:" on page 19 just wouldn't happen, left aligned instead of justified is very strange, no hyphenation.

    If you're worried about the increased work load (without cause, in

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Hey, I'm the author to the article "Producing Lenses With 3D Printers". It was originally in LaTeX and I think it looked a lot better that way. You can get the original PDF of it here [] .

      I'd be happy to answer any questions about it, surfcad [], ImplicitCAD [], Malthus [], 3D printed vacuum cleaners [], or any questions about my projects or 3D printing in general.

      (Essentially resubmitting my previous anonymous comment since I reset the login for this account and no one sees Anonymous Coward posts.)

    • I did struggle with the LibreOffice layout, especially image wrap. Not sure I want to go back to my nroff days, though :-) Given the choice, I'd like to try to drive some improvement in LibreOffice. We might help more people that way.
    • I have the .odt file, the only reason it's not up is that I'm worried about cloners putting the journal in the iphone appstore under their own name and charging $$$. I would pass it to anyone with a good reason to work on it.
    • As the Journal is evolving, you'll find that simple applications like Libre Office simply are not flexible enough. Please consider (the sooner the better) migrating the workflow towards Scribus ( - it's Desktop Publishing - oriented, open source and the best FOSS tool for the job.

      Also, as a former DTP pro, I'd recommend producing two versions of the journal - one that's meant to be read on paper, and (at least) one meant to be read on-screen. The present form of the Journal is a hybri

  • this is potentially a huge space. do you have any ideas about the segment you're addressing? I can
    image projects that are

    - too dangerous: there are some plans floating around for making a tig welder out of a microwave transformer, which seems
    cool but it might be too dodgy

    - too

    • I have not yet seen an embarrassment of riches, as far as the count of submitted papers is concerned. If one actually happens, perhaps the best way to handle it would be spin-off of more journals. YouTube seems to want Open Hardware for datacenters, and I have a guy who wants to make people more comfortable on their motorcycles. They are both valid markets for journals. And then there is an entire wearable segment. There are already good magazines for radio hams, and they are going Open Hardware in what the
  • Page 24:

    I believe that this violates my implicit right to repair objects I own. But the real problem is that this photo was taken with a Motorola battery installed – in fact, this is the original battery that shipped with my phone. There is a trend in devices to protect the interests of the manufacturer rather then the interests of the owner/end user. Unfortunately, as we saw with the market failure of Windows Vista and see here, these attempts often make the device inconvenient or unusable by the owner/end user.

    Except.. Vista isn't a hardware system, and it doesn't prevent users doing anything they want to with their hardware. In fact, it doesn't prevent users doing anything they want with their software either. Also, UAC doesn't restrict the user, it's simply an interface annoyance (which was excessive in Vista, but far better in Win7). This is so completely out of place in the story.

    A sad attempt to insert an irrelevant Microsoft bash simply for the sake of it, lets the entire journal down.

    • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <> on Monday October 31, 2011 @11:34PM (#37903622) Homepage Journal
      What the Motorola embedded software was doing about its preferred brand of battery was sufficiently similar to what media copy-protection does. These things are always software, with only as much hardware as it takes to implement to them. Now that Windows 8 will insist on UEFI, we're seeing something very similar to the Motorola hardware platform and its manufacturer-interest-enforcing embedded software.

      When we say Open platform, it really means a vendor willing to sell hardware without locking down the software in it.

      • by black3d (1648913)

        I'd completely agree with you in regards to Windows 8. But I still don't see Vista fitting in contexually to the statements made at all.

        "There is a trend in devices to protect the interests of the manufacturer " .. "as we saw with the market failure of Windows Vista and see here"

        The market failure of Windows Vista had nothing at all to do with vendor hardware locking whatsoever. That Windows Vista was a market failure is beyond dispute. That any lockouts may or may not have occurred in embedded systems with

        • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <> on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @12:51AM (#37904032) Homepage Journal
          Vista's media protection was intrusive. Going back farther, you might remember copy protection dongles. I sincerely would put both of those things in the same bag with the Motorola battery lock and its failure in this case, the stupid way my HP printer is programmed to behave once I reload ink in its reservoirs, and the need to jailbreak an iPhone. They are all instances of the software placing someone else's agenda above that of the customer.
  • Hi Bruce!

    Obviously I'm biased, since I work on the project -- but have you seen Public Knowledge Project's "Open Journal Systems"? It's FOSS and its goal is to automate the management and workflow for publishing an academic-style journal. It wouldn't do your layout etc. for you, but it would help with submission management, peer review, and a lot of the associated stuff that needs doing. See for the details.

    Alec Smecher
    Public Knowledge Project Team

  • It's like reading a dumbed down version of "Make" magazine. "How to Make Really Crappy Lenses with a 3D Printer". "How to Make a Submarine Out of Plastic Irrigation Pipe". A simple USB to something interface board. Plus a whiney "Open Hardware Needs Your Help" section, and a long rant on the right to modify stuff.

    Compare "Home Shop Machinist", "Fine Woodworking", "Nuts and Volts", or "Servo". There are far better DIY magazines.

    • Unfortunately it is a very common misconception that Open Hardware should be if not "free as in beer", then at least as cheap as possible. But even beer exists in "free as in speech" variant ( and I do not think it is extremely cheap.

      I believe that writing about "How to Make Really Crappy Lenses with a 3D Printer" is similar to advising readers to forget the normal GNU/Linux they run on their computers and make some DIY OS and run it on the 8-bit microprocessor. Of course, such DIY
  • Bruce,

    One of my pet peeves is open hardware projects that use closed source or free-beer-crippleware design automation tools. It seems very hard to get people to see how important it is to provide open hardware design files in formats that can be edited with open source DA tools. I even had Lady Ada tell me once in a forum: "Tools don't matter." I found that attitude shocking. I understand that a fully open source tool chain is neither practical nor appropriate for every open hardware project. But I am

    • 1) What is your personal take on necessity for open source DA tools where possible?

      I think we are in the equivalent to the period when RMS was writing GNU C on a Sun Microsystems workstation. We need fully Open Source toolchains. Currently, we don't have them for gate-arrays. And we have a large number of people who prefer Eagle over the various Open Source alternatives, which probably means the Open Source ones aren't good enough yet. And those folks haven't really understood the draconian Eagle license.


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