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Stars of Open-Source in China, Says Hacker 'Bunnie' Huang

"If you can't hack it, you don't own it"
1/14/2014 08:45 AM EST
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betajet
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Great Interview
betajet   1/14/2014 2:01:46 PM
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IMO, the GPU is one of two annoyingly-closed components.  The second is the FPGA, which can only be programmed using proprietary tools.  Maybe there's an open book about the Spartan 6 in Shenzhen :-)

Caleb Kraft
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Re: Great Interview
Caleb Kraft   1/14/2014 2:09:22 PM
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What do you think about Bunnie's assertion that not every single component has to be completely open? Or rather that the definition of open hardware is hard to tack down.

selinz
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Interesting quote
selinz   1/14/2014 2:36:36 PM
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"If I can hack it, I own it!?" Really? To me that's crazy. Trust me, I'm not judging Mr. Bunnie, but where do you draw the line? Take a car engine. Easy to take apart and copy. AKA Hack. Does that make the design mine? So that's different, you say. Is it?

I can make arguments on both side of the paper. But if there is in fact such a thing as intellectual property, how then do you define it?

betajet
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Re: Great Interview
betajet   1/14/2014 2:41:31 PM
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One of the fun parts of OSHW is that since it's pretty new there are many opinions of what words should mean.  Dr. Huang does a great job of pointing out how the definition of "open source" can go to extremes.

Now, when you look at something like a capacitor, it has a simple, non-programmable function and you don't expect to be able to change that function.  That's pretty much the case for every non-programmable component: they have fixed functions.  However, you do expect all those components to have complete data sheets that define exactly how to use those components.  OSHW proponents are careful to select components that are well documented.

In contrast, the CPU, GPU, and FPGA are all programmable components.  As the person who bought those components, you should be able to program them however you wish: "if you can't hack it, you don't own it".  Unfortunately, only one of those three components is hackable.  The other two are "on loan" -- you are paying to use them in vendor-defined ways using closed, vendor-supplied software.  Since you don't have the documentation needed to program them yourself, you don't own them.

OTOH, in my opinion the closed nature of a few chips does not mean one should throw away the excellent progress people like Dr. Huang are making in OSHW: we are making steady progress in the right direction.  It does mean there's still plenty of advocacy work to be done to get the rest of the way.

betajet
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Re: Interesting quote
betajet   1/14/2014 2:55:14 PM
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According to the links in the article, the OSHW Laptop is copyrighted and licenced under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license.  This means it's still owned by Dr. Huang (and perhaps others), but you are free to use that design and make products from it as allowed by the license.  If you distribute those products you must also publish the design -- including any changes you've made -- under the same license and acknowledge the owners of the original design.  This is similar to the General Public License used by GNU/Linux.  The effect is that bug fixes and other improvements come back to the community so that the design keeps getting better.

When you buy a car, its design is not licensed to you, so you have no right to redistribute engines based on that design.

JMO/IANAL

Paul A. Clayton
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Bootstrapping open systems
Paul A. Clayton   1/15/2014 12:46:45 PM
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Even Richard Stallman used closed systems to develop GNU, so even an idealist can recognize the practical benefit of bootstrapping with less open components.

(The more layers removed from the component, the smaller the practical difference between a commodity component with thorough behavioral documentation and a fully open component. Even single, non-discriminatory vendor [merchant] products with behavioral documentation can have much of the benefits of open products. Of course, if one has an unexpected use or if one wants to know how practical certain low-layer improvements would be [or invest in making such improvements], then piercing the abstraction layers may be important.)

Caleb Kraft
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Re: Interesting quote
Caleb Kraft   1/16/2014 9:57:36 AM
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I think maybe you're misunderstanding the common saying. It is usually worded "you don't own it unless you can hack it".


So, for your car example, you CAN hack the engine because it is your property. If someone made it illegal for you to bore out your cylinders on an engine you own, then it could be argued that you don't really own it.

 

an overly simplified description would be "this is my property, you can't tell my not to modify it".

lister1
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better book title...
lister1   1/18/2014 1:22:44 PM
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Wording 'Hacking the Xbox' in bold before the subscript 'An Introduction to Reverse Engineering' actually limits your audience, IMO.  People who could understand the information presented normally have engineering backgrounds, so they wouldn't be afraid of a book the 'engineering' word in the title.

Moreover, not everyone interested in Reverse Engineering have an Xbox, or even care for one.  So your book title with the Xbox word up front might immedately turn away some potential readers.

Just my two cents... :)

Susan Rambo
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Re: better book title...
Susan Rambo   1/18/2014 2:51:26 PM
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@lister1, I agree. Plus a Xbox in the title doesn't make for much longevity. Xbox is hot this year but all the hype will fade soon. A book about "reverse engineering" would have more lasting power for engineering. The book would seem relevant for longer -- maybe.

Jack.L
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Re: Great Interview
Jack.L   1/18/2014 9:48:33 PM
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Is it just me or do people like "Bunnie" redefine terms like intellectual property , "downloading", etc. as they see fit for their own purposes. The reality is there is not much of an intellectual property model at all in China so to make a comparison with anyone else's model is rather false. Knowing many Chinese business people and engineers who have had their work stolen locally I know many of them would also prefer more protection for IP. They have no comfort investing in anything long term due to this. IP is about respective the value of others ... Their idea and their time. When you dont have IP protection then you start to lose innovation. Listened to the radio lately? Only way to make money now is to tour ... Which few can justify. Yes there are some interesting new avenues being developed but overall no. No IP for product development and everything becomes derivative .... Progress stops.

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