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Open Source Hardware Technology

Why We Need Free Digital Hardware Designs 78

jrepin writes Free software is a matter of freedom, not price; broadly speaking, it means that users are free to use the software and to copy and redistribute the software, with or without changes. Applying the same concept directly to hardware, free hardware means hardware that you are free to use and to copy and redistribute with or without changes. But, since there are no copiers for hardware, is the concept of free hardware even possible? The concept we really need is that of a free hardware design. That's simple: it means a design that permits users to use the design (i.e., fabricate hardware from it) and to copy and redistribute it, with or without changes. The design must provide the same four freedoms that define free software. Then "free hardware" means hardware with an available free design.
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Why We Need Free Digital Hardware Designs

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  • Already have (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I copy all kinds of designs with ASICs. It's like the Wild Wild West of hardware.
    • Yeah, the person should google it instead of bloviating. If you don't know about Open Hardware, you're not the one to be telling us about it, eh?

      No speculation needed, just a basic web search.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The Ham Radio Group TAPR has this for their SDR projects which has been sucessful http://www.tapr.org/ohl.html
      snip
      "The TAPR Open Hardware License
      The TAPR Open Hardware License is TAPR's contribution to the community of Open Hardware developers. TAPR grants permission for anyone to use the OHL as the license for their hardware project, provided only that it is used in unaltered form."

    • by Anonymous Coward

      OSHW License Guide is at http://www.inmojo.com/licenses/
      Licenses
      MIT License
      Simplified BSD License
      Modified BSD License
      Creative Commons - Attribution 3.0
      Creative Commons - Attribution - ShareAlike 3.0
      TAPR Open Hardware License (OHL)

    • Precisely! With FPGAs, one can have all sorts of designs, copied, modified, whatever. Just that since separate expensive chips are needed, this is nothing like copying software from a CD to your computer.
  • by Pro923 ( 1447307 )
    Making something free turns it into shit quality. Look at music for a great example. I've never really thought that software should be free, because it cheapens what I do and makes my field pay less. It seems like it's easy to make it free because it's easy to copy. Hardware is not the same. no one is going to even give away the raw materials.
    • Hardware is not the same. no one is going to even give away the raw materials.

      Is it too much to ask that you read the summary?

      Don't worry, no need to read the whole thing. Here's the appropriate extract:

      The concept we really need is that of a free hardware design. That's simple: it means a design that permits users to use the design (i.e., fabricate hardware from it) and to copy and redistribute it, with or without changes.

      Or if that's still too much: free-as-in-freedom, not free-as-in-beer.

    • Free software isn't about cheapness, its about freedom. Nobody restricts me to improve the tools I have, and everybody is invited to. Also, nobody restricts me to pay for it, and fund development. If all those companies and offices around the world would pay the half of what they give to microsoft for {libre, open} office, it would be the best product you can get.
      What is your work worth when your company goes bankrupt, and your work doesn't get used anymore? When the company is bought by a larger competitor

      • It's not just about freedom, it's also about economics. Copying software (and music) is trivial. Writing software is hard (well, writing good software is, at least). With free software, you don't charge for copying, but you often do charge for writing the software in the first place. And, because of the relevant licenses, there's a large body of code that you can charge for fixing / extending / customising.
    • Thank goodness your proprietary religion keeps me from being subjected to the horrors of using your software.

      I will say this much, proprietary seems to give better results for absolute beginners, since with Free Software there is no emphasis on that, but instead of tools people already know they need.

      The best thing about Open Source was always escaping the crap software that you get when you pay.

    • I think many people are severely overpaid.
      There is no reason Software Engineers should be making for than 50k a year.
      All professions should be starting out at minimum wage**, and go from there to a sensible, and non-greedy maximum for your location.

      THere should be an overarching downward drive on employment-based income; and more functionally put towards lowering housing and food costs for everyone. That way, everyone will then be bale to hold a job that enjoy and want to do, rather than choose one based o

      • by itzly ( 3699663 )

        There is no reason Software Engineers should be making for than 50k a year.

        Yes there is. It's called demand and supply.

      • by lgw ( 121541 )

        Everything always ends up being priced by supply and demand, in the long run. If you distort the market too far, you get shortages and wastage, and a black market where things are priced according to supply and demand. Labor isn't an exception.

        Wage, as determined by supply and demand, is the signal for how valuable one more worker at some job is to the community. That is to say, it's a mix of how valuable the work is over all, but also how much the community actually needs one more person doing that wor

      • Yes there is a reason, it's called college education, a lot of hard work and long thankless hours. If you want a big paycheck it'll cost you. Be prepared to work long hard hours. If you want to be a drag on society and expect entitlements that will cost you too - you get nothing and who cares if you like it or not. You want to win you got to play hard. You just want everything for nothing. We could do far more to give folks on the lower rungs a better chance with fewer people like you shouting FREE FREE FRE
      • Who cares? If I code for free and release it, people can use it. If I make a boatload of money off my use of the code, and still release it, then people can use it exactly the same.

        Open knowledge separates the issues of pay and employment from having access to the shared set of knowledge.

        Knowing that, if you're worried about pay, utilize information theory and tie your profit centers to information about specific customers with specific or un-shared needs.

        Software is like plow design; it can't be expected t

    • There is no reason why people should be making $30 a copy for compression software that does the same thing today that it did 20 years ago. There is a point where boxed licensing ceases to be about paying programmers and instead becomes rents taking. For software that is not widely used but is otherwise essential to a particular businesses competitive advantage I might agree. For software that is very mature, widely relied upon, and a fundamental building block of infrastructure, I think free software ha
  • by Anonymous Coward

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-source_hardware [wikipedia.org]

    Open-source hardware (OSH) consists of physical artifacts of technology designed and offered by the open design movement. Both free and open-source software (FOSS) as well as open-source hardware is created by this open-source culture movement and applies a like concept to a variety of components. It is sometimes, thus, referred to as FOSH (free and open source hardware). The term usually means that information about the hardware is easily discerned so that

    • It seems jrepin should have read your link before posting. Or maybe the article was really meant for a different audience. Or maybe slashdot is no longer the audience I thought it was.
      • Hey new guy, don't click links, it isn't safe. Don't read the summaries either, because Snow Crash + goase = all your base

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There is no real need for open source hardware. Which has been long been discussed in the long standing and thriving Open Source Hardware community. Hardware has no copyright protection or trademark assertions if you do not copy any 'art' included with the board. Copying does not take too long as reverse engineering for even complex boards can take only a week at most. Firmware and software have copyrights, so any derivative work of hardware no matter how close is not protected. Not there are plenty o

    • Just because there are idiots that do no research at Wired, does not mean it is news.

      Or that they know what they are talking about.....

      You want to copy a Pi? Knock yourself out. http://www.arduino.cc/ [arduino.cc] even provides you with their hardware designs directly if you want to take their stuff, modify it and even sell it to somebody else.

      Then there are the multiple Software Defined Radio projects that have "Open Source" hardware out there. Check out GNU Radio, it connects to a number of "free" hardware designs.

  • opencores.org (Score:5, Informative)

    by pem ( 1013437 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2015 @02:07PM (#49235439)
    There are a lot of free designs and sites supporting them out there. Open source hardware is a thing. Even "free" (according to RMS) hardware is a thing.

    Is there some new point to this?

    • Re:opencores.org (Score:5, Informative)

      by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2015 @02:19PM (#49235537)

      There are a lot of free designs and sites supporting them out there.

      My favorite is opencores.org [slashdot.org]. They have a lot of free hardware IP, many using the standard Wishbone bus [wikipedia.org]. The cores can be used in an FPGA, or incorporated into an ASIC. It is a fantastic resource.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This Wired article introduces "free hardware design" as something radical and new. Which is patently ridiculous. Opencores.org is just one of many many EE design resources.

      Get this ill-researched article of my slashdot!

    • 90% of what's on Opencores is half-baked student projects. The other 10% I cringe at whenever browsing through the code and see horrible management of basics like clocks and resets.

  • Imagine being able to print an open source clone of a current gen processor or memory. I am sure that 3d printing will make it there one day. The other 3d printer I want to see is the one that lays down a weld bead instead of plastic. Printing out of metal would be awesome. Add a computer milling machine and there is little you couldn't produce. The benchmark is the 3d printer that prints 3d printers chips, motors, and all.
    • by itzly ( 3699663 )

      Imagine being able to print an open source clone of a current gen processor or memory.

      Extremely unlikely to happen. Current gen chip technology is so advanced that it requires extremely expensive equipment. Think billions of dollars.

    • The other 3d printer I want to see is the one that lays down a weld bead instead of plastic.

      tada [3dprint.com]

      Add a computer milling machine and there is little you couldn't produce.

      If you could print something on a fixture which would then be automatically relocated to a mill, you'd really have something. Namely, your part spit out without user intervention, as long as it only required one setup. With a 3.5D mill, even that limitation goes away, but I'm always thinking on the cheap...

  • You can't be serious. Of COURSE there will be a "free hardware" movement. It's already beginning to happen...

    Hm... well, I got myself all het-up to rant, but seem to have blown it in the first line of text. That pretty much covers it.

    G'night...

  • by Change ( 101897 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2015 @02:27PM (#49235615)

    OSHW has a bit of a difficulty associated with it, and that's the tools used to view/edit the designs. Many proprietary PCB CAD packages are offered in free-as-in-beer versions for boards up to a certain size or pin count, but then you're locked into that package. If you want to take that design and expand it beyond those constraints then you're stuck buying into the next step up of the software, or you have to fully re-design (schematic capture and layout) in another tool. Fortunately KiCAD (http://www.kicad-pcb.org/) seems to be picking up a bit of steam, but for those already using other tools, unless they're deep believers in the full open toolchain philosophy, what incentive do they have to switch packages (and re-implement their existing designs in that new package)?

    • by dbc ( 135354 ) on Wednesday March 11, 2015 @03:38PM (#49236169)

      Sorry to tell you, but you and I are about the only two people in the world to believe this. I use gEDA, BTW, which is another free-as-in-speech alternative to KiCAD, and much older. So far, I have been very frustrated trying to make the case that open hardware designs need to be "elephants all the way down" -- FOSS from the hardware design, to the DA tools (and file formats and libraries), to the OS. In fact, I once had a several-post-long exchange with Limor Fried over at AdaFruit's forums where she finally closed off the thread with: "Tools don't matter." I think her opinion is outrageously misguided and short-sighted, but that is an example of what the leaders of the Open Hardware community are thinking. SparkFun must feel the same way, because all of their designs are released on cripple-ware tools, too.

      I think we need an open hardware license that includes a clause about openly documented file formats at the very least, and I would push for a license that calls for design files released on open source DA tools. Imagine where the Linux ecosystem would be today without gcc. Gcc isn't a great compiler, but it is open source, and it got us where we are today.

      • Tools only matter to the tool builders. Oh wait, that means us. LOL

        You're not the only ones, btw.

        I've been suffering with substandard open CAD since the 90s. I just wish it had the quality of GIMP.

        Things are improving. Slowly, on the software side. But I expect some leaps and bounds soon, now that access to manufacturing is opening up.

        The companies making money off the movement don't care about these details, they care about what can they tell people to do that they will understand, what will be easier "for

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      There's also gEDA [geda-project.org] which is an open (GPL'd) EDA suite including a schematic editor, PCB layout tool, and a bunch of other EDA tools.

      The big thing with open hardware is simply getting the hardware - RPi and Arduinos are popular because it's easy to get the hardware for minimal cost, and many people make it on behalf of others (well, not the Pi, but that's because of Broadcom).

      Open hardware requires the ability to make money (i.e, commercialize) the design. This is not the evil "we will sell your design to mak

    • but for those already using other tools, unless they're deep believers in the full open toolchain philosophy, what incentive do they have to switch packages (and re-implement their existing designs in that new package)?

      Well, my board house recommended I switch from Eagle CAD to KiCAD, recently. It's picked up a lot of useful features like push routing and more importantly, plated slots. Why TF does EAGLE not have those? How do I mount a blasted USB connector!!!

      Of course I didn't switch because my design a

      • by itzly ( 3699663 )

        I make plated slots in Eagle by drawing a regular pad, and then drawing the slot in the milling layer.

        • Yeah, but that doesn't specify if it's plated. I have to tell the board house specifically to make it plated.

          I so slots by taking a bunch of THM pads and putting them very close. My board house has a procedure in place where they replace chain drilling with slots. Since it's specified as plated holes, the result is plated.

          Both of these are ad-hoc procedures though and will require care going to another board house.

  • upverter.com (Score:1, Interesting)

    by zakhomuth ( 4036751 )
    Check out upverter.com, its a bit like github for hardware - they've got 32,000 open source hardware designs that you can fork, edit, download, or order all accessible online and all for free.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      They don't support the major FOSS design tools like KiCAD and gEDA, and they invented their own closed source PCB tool which is web-only and could disappear at any time. Putting your open design at the mercy of a proprietary website would be extremely foolish.

      Upverter's claim to be like Github but for hardware is false. They would be like Github if Github were not based around the open source Git SCM but had invented their own proprietary SCM instead. In those circumstances Github would have died. There

  • Of course the free hardware movement isn't about actual physical devices. Free software isn't about being able to share the compiled code. It's about enabling the sharing of the designs in a specific enough way as to produce the final product; it's sharing the software in source code form. The hardware version would be about the same thing: specs, plans, and designs being open and unencumbered.
  • I suppose it is well-nigh impossible to ever 3D print semi-conductors, but I hope someone is at least researching the concept.

    I think printing your own guaranteed backdoor-free hardware would be a far more important blow for freedom than 3D printing yet another killing machine.

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