The torrent site, Pirate Bay has introduced a new category of downloads -- for physical designs of 3D-printable objects. This is an interesting step forward for Open Hardware as this will make designs available to a broader audience. There is already a proprietary distribution channel via Shapeways, but making the designs publicly downloadable means they can be printed by local suppliers or on your own 3D printer.
As I mentioned in my previous column, my son and I want to explore robotics as a hobby and a learning experience. We don't have an unlimited budget, so I wanted to do some estimating of what it would cost to do it using different technology standards. In the first part, I explored Lego Mindstorms, but the open-hardware (and free software) Arduino system has been getting better and better. So I want to consider that possibility in this column and make a comparison to see which is a better option for us.
This magazine has voiced several concerns over the almost de-facto state of vendor lock-in in the mobile market and with good reason. What is the point of free software if the hardware locks your access to it? This premise was one of the driving forces behind v3 of the GPL and as far as I can tell the OpenPC project and other open hardware projects. But most of these hardware projects relate to the desktop PC model. Where is the equivalent commodity hardware for the mobile market, the tablet "market" or even the laptop one?
Manufacturing has been getting smaller, cheaper, and more flexible for years. It's now possible to make products as sophisticated as smart cel-phones, PDAs, toys, clothing, books, and even houses in almost any shape or form you want down to very small numbers. The mass production barrier has fallen, so that today, it's possible for a home inventor, hobbyist, or crafter to create almost anything by assembling one-off manufactured components, either from a service or from affordable home-fabrication equipment (or a combination of these).
What exactly does it mean when Richard Stallman says that the Creative Commons' Attribution-ShareAlike license has a "Weak Copyleft"? Why exactly is it that "Freeware" and "Non-Free Software" mean the same thing, while "Free Software" is something else entirely? And what is this business with "Free Beer", and where can I get some? If you've asked yourself these questions, this column is for you.
At the Gran Canaria Open Desktop Summit in July 2009, the Open-PC project was announced. The statement said the project aimed to "cooperatively design a Free Software based computer by and for the community". Further this PC would use only hardware for which there are free software drivers available. This would be a PC with the minimal compromise required for running a free desktop. In January 2010 the project announced the launch of its first product.
RepRap (replicating Rapid-prototyper) is a 3D printer and it is impeccably free and open source under both the GPL and the Creative Commons Licence. It's early days but the implications and the promise are potentially enormous in their own right -- but the fact that it is resolutely not proprietary is what caught my attention.
By rights, copyright really shouldn't apply to binary executables, because they are purely "functional" (not "expressive") works. The decision to extend copyright to binaries was an economically-motivated anomaly, and that choice has some counter-intuitive and detrimental side-effects. What would things in the free software world look like if the courts had decided otherwise? For one thing, the implementation of copyleft would have to be completely different.
Hypothetical? Academic? Not if you're a hardware developer! Because this is exactly what the law does look like for designs for physical hardware (where the product is not protected by copyright).
The tools and techniques for creating hardware designs are very different from those used for software; and because of this, developing open hardware is a significantly different and greater challenge than creating free software. In the second part of my interview with the developers of the Open Graphics project, I wanted to explore these factors and the solutions this one open hardware project has found.
So far, I've identified examples of free, commons-based production of just about every category of pure information product which exists. And that leads to the next question: what about the material marketplace? Can community methods be used to design, prototype, and manufacture physical products? The answer, according to a growing group of open hardware developers is a resounding "Yes!" From computer hardware to automobiles, the open hardware revolution is on.
Free software has many benefits: you can get more secure software, faster updates, lots of tutorials and, definitely, a new way of making software and software that builds communities. From this, the next logical step was Open Hardware.
Excitement in the Open Graphics community is quite high as it approaches its first production run of the FPGA-based "Open Graphics Development" board, known as "OGD1". It will be available for pre-sale this month with the first units expected to ship soon thereafter. The board is targeted at hardware developers, with the specific goal of supporting development and testing of designs for a fully-documented consumer Open Hardware Graphics Card to be implemented using an ASIC (thus resolving one of the biggest obstacles to free software on the desktop).
Zonbu GNU/Linux is a new, environmentally-friendly, compact PC available from Zonbu. It includes some features that really make it stand out from other PCs. Last, but not least, it comes with GNU/Linux. In this article, I will give you some of the highlights and thoughts of my experience with Zonbu.
What is the OpenOEM and what does it stand for?The idea of the OpenOEM is to help create the Free Computer, a computer where there are no secrets, all of the specifications are available and there is no restriction upon its use. This means that a person can buy a Free Computer and use it and change it to suit any need they might have.
One project that I’ve been following quite closely lately is a project started by chip-designer Timothy Miller, called the Open Graphics Project. His goal, along with the rest of the project, known as the “Open Graphics Foundation” is to make a 3D accelerated video card which is fully documented, free-licensed, and open source.