Tag Archives: google

iFixit Literally Opens Hardware

Part of the point of open hardware is, you know, the open part. If you can’t open it, then it’s not open. iFixit tears apart popular consumer products, then rates them 1-10 based on how easy they are to work with. Apple seems to get pretty low scores (go figure) while Google seems to get pretty high scores (clips are better than glue). They also have a huge user community uploading instructions for repairing all sorts of things.

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Help OSE Refine The Design Of Their Backhoe

Open Source Ecology is gradually evolving their process for open source engineering. This latest installment is a Google Doc that anyone can jump in and view/edit. They’ve posted several questions so all you have to do is comment. You can also download the CAD files and a viewer if you don’t have anything to open them with at the blog post. The wiki page for the backhoe is here.

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The Featherweight Book Scanner – Open Hardware by Dany Qumsiyeh

This is an open source book scanner, which is cool. But you wanna know what the coolest part is?

Okay, I’ll tell you. The coolest part is that this is an open hardware project that actually makes it easy to access not only the design of the machine but also the rationale behind the design. It’s all written up in a very approachable manner in this *.pdf. Click here for the page Google hosted the file on.

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All The Uses For An Old Android Phone

Modern smart phones are incredibly capable devices. The guidance computer that got Apollo 11 to the moon and back could be simultaneously emulated 10,000 times on the smart phones that we are replacing every couple of years.

There’s got to be something better than just chucking them in a drawer.

After an exhaustive survey of the interwebs, I’ve turned up roughly 15 things that it makes sense to do with your old phone. The most obvious, and least satisfying, is to just keep it charged so you can use it as an emergency phone. Meh. An improvement would be to install a VOIP service and use it to make free calls over your home Wi-Fi network. If you don’t want to use your old phone as a phone, you can take advantage of all that memory; load it up with content and it can be an MP3 player, an e-reader, a game system, or even a full-fledged media server (yes a server). Whatever you do…please don’t just use it as an alarm clock.

All that and more after the jump. Continue reading

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Google’s Android Accessory Development Kit

Android’s Accessory Development Kit is a tool for people to build things that interact with Android. For example, “audio docking stations, exercise machines, personal medical testing devices, weather stations, or any other external hardware device that adds to the functionality of Android.

Related links

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All The Plans for PENSA!’s DIWire Aluminum Wire Printer

A little while ago PENSA! wowed (a specific section of) the open source maker community with a few teasers for a brand new desktop rapid prototyping machine.

Their DIWire (DIY’er…get it?) takes aluminum wire and bends it into any shape specified in a wide variety of file formats. It’s a compelling idea and now that they’ve released all of the design files on Google Code and Thingiverse the community can start using and improving it.

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Open-EVSE, an OSH Charging System for Electric Vehicles

Everyone should start keeping track of what Google is doing (if they weren’t already).

Just a few days ago Openalia posted about Google’s open source simulation software for planning heliostat arrays. Today it’s about the hardware and software for an Arduino shield that charges any electric vehicle (EV) off of household current.

The Open-EVSE (electric vehicle supply equipment) is for charging J1772 compliant EVs. SAE J1772 is a specific type of connector.

So, basically, EVs get parked in the garage and plugged into a special computer to recharge their batteries. It’s important that the wall power be carefully metered out to maximize the life of the expensive battery pack. This thing does that, but it costs way less than its commercial equivalents and it’s open source.

Today we will be interviewing Chris Howell, the driving force behind OpenEVSE.

Okay, Chris, what is your background?

  • I am a Network Engineer and have way too many hobbies… Pilot, Electronics, Ham Radio, RC planes/UAVs…

Did you have any engineering experience before you started?

  • I build networks for a living. I did not have any experience in building complex electronic circuits or programing before I started.

When did you start and when did you decide to go open source?

What made you decide to open source the project?

  • The decision to Open Source “OpenEVSE” was made because the Electric Vehicle industry desperately needed an inexpensive Charging station/ Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE). The existing hardware is far to expensive ($750+) and the manufactures are taking advantage of consumers with outrageous labor costs to install the charging station.
  • My quote to install the charging station form Nissan’s partner AV was over $1200. I already had a breaker in the panel and the charging station was to be located 18 inches away.

Did you choose one particular license over others? Why?

  • Not really… The licences are pretty confusing, we just picked a common license.

Were there any tools/resources that were vital to your success?

  • The Arduino paved the way for OpenEVSE. I bought an Arduino and out of frustration with my ridiculously high Charging Station quote I decided to see if I could use it to generate a J1772 pilot signal. J1772 is the standard in use by the EV industry. It is a 1khz square wave generated by the Charging Station. The voltage drop determined the EV state and duty cycle tells the EV how much current it can draw.
  • After a couple hours with the Arduino I was able to implement the pilot.
  • Other resources that were very helpful were the tutorials from Adafruit and Sparkfun. I had to learn a lot about SMD stenciling, microprocessors and opamps.
  • DorkBotPDX is great for the many prototype boards and OHARARP for the SMD stencils.

Any tools that were just really cool that everyone should know about?

  • I really like the DSO Quad scope. It has been really useful for this project.
  • The electric skillet for solder reflow is awesome.

Could you suggest one really important skill people should learn first?

  • Learn how to program an Arduino.
  • Once you know what a microprocessor can do lots of ideas start flowing.

Were there any significant changes between revisions or forks?

  • No significant changes just a slow progression of improvements and added features.

How much of the project was individual effort and how much was social?

  • The hardware was mostly individual with a few suggestions from really smart people. I brought the project to the stage that I was able to successfully charge my Nissan LEAF. Shortly after I recieved an email from “lincomatic” another LEAF owner who offered to make improvements to the software.
  • Now I still do most of the hardware, but both lincomatic and I add to the software. OpenEVSE is starting to see some small contributions from the community. Hopefully more people will contribute to the project over time.

Are you anywhere close to feeling “done” with the project?

  • The project is not done but it is mature. Open EVSE fully supports J1772 and all the same safety features as the “big boys”… GFCI, ground monitoring, stuck relay detection.
  • There are a lot that can still be added touch screen LCD, Internet connectivity, energy metering, etc.

Do you plan on selling anything when you’re finished?

Has it been successfully used in a real job? By anyone else?

  • Yes, OpenEVSE is in use by owners of the Nissan LEAF, Chevy VOLT, Toyoda PiP and Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Tesla and BMW Active-E owners are currently building Charging Stations. To date over 50 OpenEVSE boards have shipped.

Where do you want to take the project from here?

  • I would like to interface OpenEVSE with a Raspberry Pi to provide a rich web interface and also a graphical interface.

What do you think about open source as a philosophy? As a strategy?

  • Open Source is a great way to get people interested in a project and to spark innovation.

Do you follow any other open source projects?

  • Arduino and Raspberry pi.

In your wildest dreams, what would be open sourced next?

  • Everything…
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Crowd Funding Dump

So, apparently the JOBS Act officially sanctioned “crowdfunding” (yes it’s a real word now).

The catch is that “investors” can only work with “issuers” through the services of a “portal” which has to be registered with the SEC. What this means is that Indiegogo and Kickstarter will have some competition and we’re about to see a lot more innovative ideas pitched (more or less) directly to the public.

Anywho…that’s fascinating and all…but what will it do for open source hardware? I dunno; lets find out. Assuming there’s enough activity (seems like a safe assumption) the Crowd Funding Dump (CFD) will become a regular feature on Openalia.

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HOpS: the Heliostat Optical Simulation Tool from Google

Google does some off-the-wall stuff, amiright?

One of the many weird-but-useful-in-a-really-specific-way things Google has done is develop software to simulate heliostat arrays around CSP’s…oh it’s also open source.

“The solar power tower is an exciting technology that works by using a field of mirrors, called heliostats, to concentrate the sun’s rays onto a solar receiver on top of a tower. This generates electricity from the sun’s concentrated heat. It’s been successfully demonstrated in the US and abroad at a small scale.” This project is part of Google’s Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal (RE<C) initiative.

The project overview is here. It looks like these were the people involved in it: Tim Allen, Alec Brooks, Jean-Luc Brouillet, Kevin Chen, Max Davis, Mikhail Dikovsky, John Fitch, David Fork, Zvi Gershony, Dan Larner, Ross Koningstein, Ken Krieger, Ken Leung, Alec Proudfoot, Jon Switkes, Jim Schmalzried, Tamsyn Waterhouse, Bill Weihl, Will Whitted, and Pete Young.

The open source code is here.

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Open Source Hardware on Google Trends

It occurred to me that perhaps (just perhaps) other people weren’t as interested in open hardware as myself. Well, what do the numbers show?

According to Google Trends, “open source hardware” has more or less increased (slightly) every year since the beginning of 2007. Large spikes in popularity, which are the main reason for the average increase, began in 2010. The largest spike in interest seems to be this article on CNET, Open Source Hardware Standards Formally Issued.

Google Trends: "open source hardware"

Something I totally didn’t expect is that, by far, the country responsible for the most interest in “open source hardware” is Malaysia (the USA does make it into the top 5, but only barely). Marang, Malaysia is apparently the city that is driving the world’s interest in open hardware.

Google Trends: "open source hardware"

However, that must be due to some weirdness in Google’s numbers. Or maybe Malaysia simply got really interested in OSH a while back? I dunno. But if you restrict the range to the last few years the USA becomes the only country searching for “open source hardware.”

Google Trends: "open source"

The more generic term “open source” is much more popular and is more popular in a wider variety of places. Not too surprisingly the top search term is “open source software.”

Comparing “open source hardware” to “open source” is revealing. I know that open source in general isn’t well known, and that OSH isn’t well known even among people who know about open source, but the difference in search volume is striking.

Google Trends: "open source hardware" vs "open source"

I wonder if this is proof that OSH is just a niche interest. At any rate, it’s proof that this topic isn’t going to make anyone famous. At least…the generic subject isn’t popular. A more specific topic, one that people are more likely to be personally interested in, something that is tangible and exciting, can help draw interest to open source hardware.

Google Trends: "open source hardware" vs "3d printer" vs "Arduino"

I am referring, of course, to 3D printers and Arduinos. These are probably the two most popular subject areas to emerge from the larger philosophy of OSH. As you can see, the interest in those subjects dwarfs interest in the subject that inspired them. Or…maybe they inspired the subject of OSH?

Bottom line: if you’re going to try to explain open source hardware to someone, start with Arduino and maybe 3D printers.

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