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Open Source Hardware

The Unspoken Rules of Open Source Hardware 64

ptorrone writes "MAKE Magazine's article talks about some of the {unspoken} rules most/all the open-source hardware community seems to follow. Why? Because the core group of people who've been doing what is collectively called 'open source hardware' know each other — they're friends, they overlap and compete in some ways, but they all work towards a common goal: sharing their works to make the world a better place and to stand on each others shoulders and not each others toes : ) There will be some folks who agree strongly with what they've outlined as 'unspoken rules,' others, will completely disagree with many points too. That's great, it's time we start this conversation!"
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The Unspoken Rules of Open Source Hardware

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  • by MindPrison ( 864299 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @04:58PM (#39050385) Journal

    Guess there is some truth to it, it's like us old farts that started messing with our computers back in the ZX80 Commodore vic 20 / 64 days...when we tweaked and tuned and got rid of borders & made the impossible - possible.

    I still do that these days, my workshop is a gazillion components (nos from eBay etc...) from factories worldwide gone bust, old electronics...albeit new and unused - finds new life in makers everywhere.

    The maker generation - is our new generation, it's like the electronics hobby is rising from the dust again. Love it, embrace it - and above all - have a LOT of fun with it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @05:16PM (#39050741)

    For all the opposition that "don't ask, don't tell" had in the homosexual military usage, I think it is perfectly valid for most hobbies.
    It's usually fine to mention a hobby (fictional example: "I play MMOs in my spare time"), and if that is followed up with specific questions, go at it. However, starting your conversation with "I have a level 90 Ubermancer and everyone on my WoW server begs for my help" and then continuing on with stories about how you acquired each and every piece of gear, not ok at all.

    More on topic:
    Good: "My friends and I design easy to build low-cost customizable electronics."
    Bad: "Arduino is mine MINE! All those others using similar names are rip-offs. I have the original schematics secured in my briefs, stay here a second and I'll show you!" *zip*

  • Don't be a jerk (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @05:20PM (#39050805)

    ptorrone am I accurately summarizing the article as "Don't be a jerk"?

    I would advise that people who don't get it wrt social interaction in open hardware ecosystem are probably going to continue to "not get" that social interaction thing therefore respond unfavorably to having it pointed out to them. Its funny to read for those who already get it, but I donno how to get people who don't get it, to get it.

    I've got another good unrelated question, what is the prevailing theory on why the Venn diagram of ham radio experimenters and "makers" is approximately zero people despite having pretty much the same tools, ethic, motivations, attitudes, etc? I've never seen a good explanation of that. Maybe I should write an article for Make magazine about that.

  • Re:"No clones?" (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ghostworks ( 991012 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @08:06PM (#39053453)

    I think what's being proposed is actually a weak form of patent protection.

    "So I see you're selling something called 'noTV'. Is that a clone of TV-B-Gone?"
    "Did you improve upon it somehow?" (see "Cloning ain't cool")
    "Great, then you're doing something useful! How did you improve it?"
    "Okay, so that was a lie. It's a direct clone."
    "That's not good. You shouldn't do that. At the very least you should pay royalties you work out with the TV-B-Gone team." (see "We pay each other royalties...", "we credit each other, a lot")
    "No, thanks."
    "Well! Expect a stern look the next time we see you!" (As I said, weak protection.)

    If you like the idea of patents, but ultimately want them to be toothless and enforced only by social mechanisms, then these ideas are for you. Which is about the right level of enforcement, given that most of these things can't be protected under patent (not novel) or copyright.

    Open source software actually has stronger protection mechanism under copyright (and in some instances such as a Linux kernel, software patents) to make up for the lower barrier of entry for imitators (copiers). At the very least there are licenses that let you stipulate what applications you don't want your software being used for, how you can brand it, whether improvements MUST be fed back into the original project, and what kinds of other software it can interface with, if the author is so inclined to place those restrictions on a work. And ultimately, those agreements have legal teeth.

    For hardware of this sort, the barrier to entry is only cost to build and market such hardware, and the protection is very weak. There are some trade secret laws that electronics manufacturers can usually invoke for direct rip-offs before a product hits market, but after it reaches the market tear-downs are legal, and products are easy enough to copy. Most designs boil down to "reading the IC manufacturer's intended application circuit from the datasheet," and that's about it. Very difficult to protect. That's why most cases today (such as Apple vs... well, everyone) involve using software patents to disrupt a competitor.

    I expect that the open-source hardware movement will have an increasingly difficult time enforcing these unspoken rules as it gains traction. And none of this touches on problems arising from applying the open source model to hardware, such as whether or not updating an old designs based on EOL'd parts to use newer parts is a new design, a major improvement, or a trivial change.

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