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Let's Talk About Open-Source Hardware

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Nemos
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Re: Hello to @all
Nemos   10/1/2014 4:33:55 AM
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Thank you Garcia I appreciate that, I have the same opinion as you, as the openness in hardware specifies the next developments.

Garcia-Lasheras
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Re: Hello to @all
Garcia-Lasheras   10/1/2014 4:22:53 AM
@Nemos: Hi Christos! I'm glad to see that you are going to cover Open-Source Hardware in this blog series. This is a very exciting topic and I'm sure you are going to do a great job -- as I remember from All Programmable Planet, you are a very commited and valuable guy ;-)

Sanjib.A
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Re: Open-source hardware is impossible
Sanjib.A   9/30/2014 11:12:29 PM
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@rm88888: "...the open _source_ are the schmatics, BOM, and possibly even PCB layout and fab files."

Thank you for explaining the concept of "open source" hardware. Ideally it is great if the designs are made open...helps in avoiding "re-inventing the wheel". Infact many of the component manufacturers started making their reference designs open source quite some times back. Now, I do not yet know how this would work in an competitive environment.  

 

Nemos
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Hello to @all
Nemos   9/30/2014 4:11:03 PM
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As a first move I would to thank you all for your valuable comments, and promise that will be a second article soon which will clarify more what is going on in the open source hardware.  

rm88888
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Re: Open source hardware
rm88888   9/30/2014 4:05:22 PM
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Beercandyman - True. I also think in the "professional engineering design" circles, the reality of "typical" development is already pretty much what is the "open source hardware" model. In fact a project I am currently working I am using this model. That is, I am basing my design on a CPU I have selected. Basically, this CPU has a dev kit from the manufacturer that has the "standard" functional capabilities I want (things like USB, WiFi, BT, Linux, etc.). So basically I get the "whole package" from the CPU vendor, add my custom tweaks for aour particular application. I don't have to reinvent the wheel from scratch as I already get a fully functional and working design from the vendor.

But the reality is that, given modern technological complexity - it _has_ to be that way. No one has the resources to cost effectively design an entire new paltform from the ground up around a particular CPU. Of course what's in it for the vendor is to make choosing (and thus _buying_) _their_ parts as easy and obvious a choice as possible. So any more, you don't just pick a component like a CPU, you pick a complete design and development support platform.

In fact - while this is not strictly speaking "open source hardware", many vendors are essentially buying into the "open source hardware" movement for their develoipment platform support. For instance, not only does the CPU vendor provide their in-house hardware design, they also support actual "open source hardware" boards that happen to also use this CPU. This is becomming more widespread in the industry. So when you think about it, as a devlopment model - "open source hardware" is already becomming "the way things are done" even in the "professional community".

Duane Benson
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Re: Open-source hardware is impossible
Duane Benson   9/30/2014 3:44:55 PM
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A big part of the value lies in the community that it creates. Opening the design makes it easier for more people to contribute and improve upon the design.

It's a great outlet for the "Hey, that's cool, but it would be so much more useful if..."



Beercandyman
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Open source hardware
Beercandyman   9/30/2014 2:28:14 PM
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Before I was working at Altera I wanted to change vendors to Altera because the hardened the PCIe interface. I asked them for the gerber files for their PCIe devkit and they just gave the whole data base to me. That's pretty much open source in the best way. They won because the board used an Altera part and we won because we didn't have to bring up a new design with a new (to me) vendor part. Win Win..

rm88888
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Hurdles to widespread open source hardware
rm88888   9/30/2014 1:57:12 PM
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I think open source hardware is a great idea and seems like a logical expansion. However, I also think there are some hurdles to expanding it's reach. For open source software, there is also the attendant open source tool chain to make it work well. The problem with open source hardware is there isn't much in the way of open source hardware tool chains, The top ubquitous HW tools (eg. Orcad, Viewlogic, Cadence, Pads, etc.) are very expnesive and essentaillty beyond the reach of most other than professionals. There are some "freeware" tools out there but what is really needed are "gnu" schematic capture and 'gnu' PCB layout. And getting boards fabbed and assembled (at least of anything reasonably complex) is also cost prohibitive except for volume objectives.

For PCB fab, there are some on-line services that are fairly "cost accessible" (eg. Sunstone and Sierra Circuits). But assembly is still an issue for anything of nominal complexity. Most "interesting" CPUs, memory, complex functions, etc. are in BGAs which is way beyond DIY assembly. And to have a shop do it - you're talking about $30 a part in onesies. But if you want to build. say 10 boards, you are talking NRE and setup charges that run hundreds of dollars - before you even get board one. Gone are the days of building your prototypes (of modern complex electronics) in your garage - you can't solder BGAs with a soldering iron. Although I have on occasion managed to solder leadless QFP with thermal pad with a heat gun and solder paste - not easy.

So I think the key areas of focus to make open source hardware more widespread are: 'gnu' schematic, 'gnu' layout, cost effective/accessible 'hobbyist'/low volume assembly.

rm88888
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Re: Open-source hardware is impossible
rm88888   9/30/2014 1:36:16 PM
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To clarify - it' NOT a _physical_ piece of hardware, just like open _source_ software is not necessarily the _compiled_ object code but rather the _source_ code. So to expand that concept to hrdware, the open _source_ are the schmatics, BOM, and possibly even PCB layout and fab files.

Just as with open source software - the point being you can grab the source code , make modifications, and compile your own project, so to with open hardware, you can grab schematics and such, add your own tweaks, and produce your own boards.

For example, the "classic" example is the Arduino platform. There are numerous individuals taking the Arduino design and specification and producing their own copies of the board or adding modifications and producing something new - but still basically and Arduino.

Roba66
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Value of open source
Roba66   9/30/2014 1:26:28 PM
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The value of open source is freedom to propagate and modify. Nobody can cancel the product or prevent porting it to another platform, and there is always a way to fix bugs or change something.

With proprietary software the value is ease of use to get acceptable quality of results. It is an expedient but you cannot take ownership and it is not so useful as a learning tool.

I would tend to use open source if I can afford to put the effort into it, it is like adopting a standard and you can help promote it to everyone's benefit.

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