0

Is something Open Source Hardware if it uses a propietary part.
Moderators: adafruit_support_bill, adafruit

Forum rules
Get help, and assist others in with open source kits and running a business! Do not ask for legal advice or for consulting services in this forum, only general biz questions!
Please be positive and constructive with your questions and comments.

Is something Open Source Hardware if it uses a propietary part.

by Boz on Thu Oct 06, 2011 4:26 pm

Or programming that isn't open source, but is made available as a module, such as a tcpip stack.

Would something be open source hardware, if the only place to get an expensive proprietary connector was the producer?
Boz
 
Posts: 27
Joined: Tue Sep 28, 2010 1:56 pm

Re: Is something Open Source Hardware if it uses a propietary part.

by adafruit on Thu Oct 06, 2011 4:43 pm

Boz wrote:Or programming that isn't open source, but is made available as a module, such as a tcpip stack. Would something be open source hardware, if the only place to get an expensive proprietary connector was the producer?


boz,

it really depends on who is judging the "purity" of the project. as an example, some have claimed that since the arduino uses an AVR chip isn't not "pure" but the chip could be replaced if let's say AVR went away. some could claim that if you use windows to write code, even if it's a text file, you're not oss enough.

if you're asking if someone purposely makes a product, claims it's oshw, then is the only source for a proprietary connector, we think that's not in the spirit of oshw.

but this is just our opinion, we're not hardcore purists on everything, but we also think we have a pretty good idea what's in the spirit of oshw...

can you provide a specific example? that's easier than hypothetical / edge cases which aren't common.

thanks,
adafruit

adafruit
 
Posts: 12145
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 4:21 pm
Location: nyc

Re: Is something Open Source Hardware if it uses a propietary part.

by Boz on Thu Oct 06, 2011 5:46 pm

adafruit wrote:
Boz wrote:Or programming that isn't open source, but is made available as a module, such as a tcpip stack. Would something be open source hardware, if the only place to get an expensive proprietary connector was the producer?


boz,

it really depends on who is judging the "purity" of the project. as an example, some have claimed that since the arduino uses an AVR chip isn't not "pure" but the chip could be replaced if let's say AVR went away. some could claim that if you use windows to write code, even if it's a text file, you're not oss enough.

if you're asking if someone purposely makes a product, claims it's oshw, then is the only source for a proprietary connector, we think that's not in the spirit of oshw.

but this is just our opinion, we're not hardcore purists on everything, but we also think we have a pretty good idea what's in the spirit of oshw...

can you provide a specific example? that's easier than hypothetical / edge cases which aren't common.

thanks,
adafruit


Im with you, Im not a hardcore purist and I consider a part like the avr, that is mass produced (for now) but it is also in mass distribution to not fit what I was thinking.

And that is why I asked, because I was thinking, because it was a thought puzzle, so to speak, about where would the line be drawn in Open Source Hardware.

I thought this was the only place I could find someone to discuss it with to get other perspectives.

I guess the examples that started me down the track were the Microchip stack debate a few weeks ago and I started to wonder if the Open Source Hardware movement had reached a tipping point, as previous open movements had.

Microchip stepped up with the open stack contest, but with the magnitude shift that open source hardware has taken in the last few weeks, in the form of MakerBot 10 million in funding, in the Arduino teams mainstreaming with Radioshack and their future road map with Atmel, all of which I think are awesome for the movement, I also know these kind of things also come with a common negative process in most movement cycles.

And that is with money (often) comes compromise of principal, it almost never happens to trailblazers like yourself, the Arduino team or the MakerBot folks, because you understand the importance of openness and are why the movement exists, but as more and more people are exposed to and enter the Open Source Hardware field, the temptation to the integrity of the principals begin to water down.

I think the Open Source Hardware Definition went a long way to stem that, but the one weakness in it, I personally think and what started me on this bent, is this sentence: "Ideally, open source hardware uses readily-available components and materials, standard processes, open infrastructure, unrestricted content, and open-source design tools to maximize the ability of individuals to make and use hardware."

As a new Open Source Hardware producer, I think "Ideally" is a slippery slope that got me to this thought process and discussion. I personally ascribe that my products do and will be "open source hardware (that) uses readily-available components and materials, standard processes, open infrastructure, unrestricted content, and open-source design tools to maximize the ability of individuals to make and use hardware.

But I am starting to see people closing some of those doors as ways of skirting around and still being referred to as open source. I have seen people "release" "open sources" in mac only specific program formats ( not just because they used it to design ) or with the files that have read only file locks that need administrative permissions to unlock that can not be provided and even people who "release" a picture of a schematic as open source without boards.

So I guess I just wanted to hear other opinions and talk to others about their thoughts on where the line is drawn.

Sorry if this is a bit wide field of the topics here, but I knew no better place that had the center of the Open Hardware movement than here to have this discussion.

BOZ
Boz
 
Posts: 27
Joined: Tue Sep 28, 2010 1:56 pm

Re: Is something Open Source Hardware if it uses a propietary part.

by adafruit on Thu Oct 06, 2011 6:09 pm

Boz wrote:And that is why I asked, because I was thinking, because it was a thought puzzle, so to speak, about where would the line be drawn in Open Source Hardware. I thought this was the only place I could find someone to discuss it with to get other perspectives…So I guess I just wanted to hear other opinions and talk to others about their thoughts on where the line is drawn. Sorry if this is a bit wide field of the topics here, but I knew no better place that had the center of the Open Hardware movement than here to have this discussion.


totally, keep posting - we'll get out of the way here and hopefully others will chime in :)

Boz wrote:I guess the examples that started me down the track were the Microchip stack debate a few weeks ago and I started to wonder if the Open Source Hardware movement had reached a tipping point, as previous open movements had.


they're getting a lot of heat for that too. since they actually own it, it's somewhat odd to not open source it. we understand they may not be contractually able to, so they are doing the stack contest. it might work out, it might not. the pinguino project does have an open tool chain, so it's certainly possible.

dangerous prototypes has an article on this…

http://dangerousprototypes.com/2011/08/ ... en-source/

if you check our archives here, we think it's really cool that microchip is jumping in, however they're not the best "neighbor" to quote dangerous prototypes.

Boz wrote:I think the Open Source Hardware Definition went a long way to stem that, but the one weakness in it, I personally think and what started me on this bent, is this sentence: "Ideally, open source hardware uses readily-available components and materials, standard processes, open infrastructure, unrestricted content, and open-source design tools to maximize the ability of individuals to make and use hardware."


we say ideally for the definition, however - whatever license you choose will make specific requirements.


Boz wrote:But I am starting to see people closing some of those doors as ways of skirting around and still being referred to as open source. I have seen people "release" "open sources" in mac only specific program formats ( not just because they used it to design ) or with the files that have read only file locks that need administrative permissions to unlock that can not be provided and even people who "release" a picture of a schematic as open source without boards.


can you post some links/examples?

adafruit
 
Posts: 12145
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 4:21 pm
Location: nyc

Re: Is something Open Source Hardware if it uses a propietary part.

by Boz on Thu Oct 06, 2011 7:31 pm

I could, but as I am just entering the distribution stage of my project, Id be pretty pressed to make enemies by posting links :D

But there is an easy example of a not easily accessible part in the littleBits project on the blog today.

I think their project is very cool, and like you said I think it is very easy to see where they are in the Open Source Hardware spirit, but what if a company like them (not them) came along with a connector like theirs, which is kind of the heart of the functionality and decided to protect the connector in the same way as the Arduino team protects(rightfully) their name, but in this concept you can have everything but this connector and we only sell this connector in retail cost and quantities or worse for a ridiculous price.

Would that still be Open Source Hardware?

BOZ
Boz
 
Posts: 27
Joined: Tue Sep 28, 2010 1:56 pm

Re: Is something Open Source Hardware if it uses a propietary part.

by adafruit on Thu Oct 06, 2011 7:43 pm

Boz wrote:...but what if a company like them (not them) came along with a connector like theirs, which is kind of the heart of the functionality and decided to protect the connector in the same way as the Arduino team protects(rightfully) their name, but in this concept you can have everything but this connector and we only sell this connector in retail cost and quantities or worse for a ridiculous price.
Would that still be Open Source Hardware?


a trademark is different than what you're comparing this too. "protecting" it doesn't work like that...

this is a "what if" with a lot of unknowns, hasn't happened, it's not likely it will happen - but if it does, we'll surely have an opinion about it then :)

if you can't point to the specific examples of something that is real, we're not sure what to say :(

don't get hung up on the what-ifs, we see this a lot. the best thing is to make and ship open-source hardware :)

thanks,
adafruit

adafruit
 
Posts: 12145
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 4:21 pm
Location: nyc

Re: Is something Open Source Hardware if it uses a propietary part.

by Boz on Thu Oct 06, 2011 8:04 pm

adafruit wrote:
Boz wrote:...but what if a company like them (not them) came along with a connector like theirs, which is kind of the heart of the functionality and decided to protect the connector in the same way as the Arduino team protects(rightfully) their name, but in this concept you can have everything but this connector and we only sell this connector in retail cost and quantities or worse for a ridiculous price.
Would that still be Open Source Hardware?


don't get hung up on the what-ifs, we see this a lot. the best thing is to make and ship open-source hardware.

thanks,
adafruit


Thanks, got ya, was just exploring my brain too much. GRIN

Boz
Boz
 
Posts: 27
Joined: Tue Sep 28, 2010 1:56 pm

Re: Is something Open Source Hardware if it uses a propietary part.

by brucef on Thu Oct 06, 2011 8:18 pm

Boz wrote:but in this concept you can have everything but this connector and we only sell this connector in retail cost and quantities or worse for a ridiculous price.

Three possible outcomes:

  • People decide the connector hassle isn't worth bothering with, causing the whole project to wither on the vine.
  • People work around the connector, creating a fully open version with no proprietary connector to worry about.
  • People accept the connector as a necessary evil and just live with it.

... in descending order of probability.

Any tech product has an I = V/R equation to deal with, where V is the excitement generated by the project, R is the difficulty of getting into it, and I is the number of sales that result. (No idea where those letters came from, they just popped into my head.) Someone is full welcome to produce something with high-R proprietary connectors, but either I will be small or else the vendor will be dealing with a lot of heat generated by the corresponding P=IIR equation.
- Bruce

brucef
 
Posts: 215
Joined: Tue May 03, 2011 4:51 pm

Re: Is something Open Source Hardware if it uses a propietary part.

by westfw on Fri Oct 07, 2011 12:34 am

I have seen people "release" "open sources" in mac only specific program formats

Rather dwarfed by the things released in Windows-only program formats, isn't it?

( not just because they used it to design )

You'll have to show me that one. How do you even know?

I'm far from hardcore, but I have a few principles:

1) Any openness is better than none.
2) The minimal "open sourceness" for hardware is printed schematics, and program listings of any required software/firmware. That's a pretty low bar.
3) Actually, the key thing is the RIGHTS of the end user to reproduce the design. Print the schematics/code and say 'have at it' is more open source than machine readable design files and source code with onerous license restrictions.
4) Open source isn't the be-all and end-all of "goodness." The microchip stacks (USB and TCP) are fine examples of not-open-source with pretty reasonable licensing. I'm glad they're available.
5) I do not expect the originator of "open source" anything to cater to MY requirements for recreating it. Needs a PC running expensiveCad for the schematics and I have a Mac and can't afford expensiveCad? That's MY problem. More often: needs professional-level assembly (chumby, beagleboard, arduino Mega, etc, etc)? Still my problem.
6) The community is free to complain about perceived abuse of the "open source" label.
7) There isn't really much advantage to tacking an "open source" label on something you've made unless you mean it. so issue (6) ought to be pretty rare, since the penalty for changing the open source label to something else is minimal.
8) Clarifying the meaning of "open source" as applies to a particular project is a good thing. I've always wondered about all those projects published in hobbyist magazines since forever; you don't publish a schematics, parts list, PCB pattern, and instructions if you don't expect people to make their own. OTOH, this has included a lot of semi-commercial efforts (MITS ALTAIR 8080 system!) that are not usually thought of as "open source."
User avatar
westfw
 
Posts: 1411
Joined: Fri Apr 27, 2007 1:01 pm
Location: SF Bay area

Please be positive and constructive with your questions and comments.