Tag Archives: internet

Using Github To Track Hardware Projects By Gary Hodgson

Unlike software, hardware projects cannot be entirely defined, or contained within, the computer. That’s a shame because there are some really great tools for managing software projects.

Gary Hodgson has prototyped his proposal for using github to manage hardware projects. He called it githubiverse and, appropriately enough, hosted it on github. Here is an example of it functioning to track Mechanical Movement #27. All the files are on github and this custom webpage displays whatever is up to date.

If the name Gary Hodgson sounds familiar, that’s because he built a DLP resin printer, which Openalia covered previously. I don’t think I’m outing him as a true geek when I point to this…

An interesting advanced use case is the ability to use the same core template across many projects.  You could fork the githubiverse-template project and edit the html/css as you wish. Then, in each project’s gh-page branch create a submodule referring to this fork.  All that’s left would be to create a _config.yml file with the details in the root project gh-pages branch and an additional entry defining the source of the jekyll site as being the submodule folder.

…as reminding me of this Dilbert cartoon.

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Legoification of Open Hardware on Genomicon

Over at Genomicon there’s a good post examining why it is vitally necessary for open hardware to “Lego-ify” if it wants to get any kind of wide acceptance.

Home computers started to really take off after the text-only interface of DOS was replaced with the graphical interface of Windows. Individual contributions to the web started to really take off after raw html code was replaced with higher level languages and tools. Tinkering with electronics is a lot more attractive when it doesn’t require soldering.

At the moment, possibly one of the largest barriers to entry for open hardware are CAD/CAM tools. Just like microcode, they have to be complicated because there are so many variables that have to be accounted for. However, they can slip into the background behind more user-friendly interfaces. But, any time you reduce complexity you have to decide which variables the user is allowed to manipulate.

Lego keeps coming up as a metaphor because it’s perfect. Lego handles all the nitty-gritty details of tolerances and compatibility, then simplifies the nearly unlimited design space into neat little packages. That kind of thing has to happen, and has to happen well, before a technology can achieve any kind of scale. The expert hobbyists can always figure out what’s going on, but the people who just want the technology to do something for them aren’t going to put up with much troubleshooting. Best Buy currently makes a lot of money hooking up audio/video gear, which is nothing more than plugging cables into boxes, because even that high-level packaging is too much for some people.

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WikiWeapons – To Print A Gun Or Not

3D printing, when it works, is a remarkably easy way to turn a very complicated design file into a physical object.

Open source, when it works, is a great way to innovate on and distribute an idea quickly.

What if that idea was a design for a gun?

The Defense Distributed project seems to be coming to open source 3D printing from a philosophical perspective. They assert that designing a 3D printable personal defensive weapon system is a challenge to numerous entities that they either disagree with or believe don’t go far enough in their beliefs.

More after the jump.

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Flexibity Open Source Wireless Internet-Connected Sensors

Flexibity is the brain-child of Maxim Osipov. It’s a standard for open source sensors, each of which connects to a standard wireless router and has its own IPv6 address. With the combined hardware and software standards anyone can create an application or a sensor. Since the system connects to the internet you can use the information anywhere.

The idea was good enough to win the Oxford Entrepreneurs – TATA Idea Idol 2011 competition.

If you want to check out the source files, here ya go.

Additional Links

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FreedomBox is Vaporware. Maybe. Maybe Not.

Wired’s Threat Level reported on the threat that Eben Moglen’s FreedomBox will never actually exist in any meaningful way.

They got $85K in funding from a Kickstarter campaign and set up an organization to develop the concept, but it’s been like a year since then and, you know, it’s not like they haven’t done anything…but there’s nothing they can really show to the community as a milestone.

From the Wired post, “In an e-mail, Daly told Threat Level that setting the end of the year as the goal for the initial beta-release is intentionally ambitious. He hopes that “people will see the fact that we probably won’t make it without additional developers as an excuse to join the project.”…“FreedomBox is not going to be saved by the enthusiasm of those who care about freedom,” he said, while pacing in his office at the Software Freedom Law Center in Manhattan. “It’s going to be saved from that fate because that software stack is going to be useful to all kinds of people for all kinds of purposes.”

That seems like a reasonably solid argument. Open source projects are particularly successful when they are flexible tools. The sort of person who can develop a technology is the same sort of person who wants more and better tools for developing technology. The best people tend to focus on projects that are useful in a general sense. However, I suspect that the FreedomBox idea might be fundamentally flawed.

More… Continue reading

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MaKey MaKey, Apparently Exactly What People Want

Crowdfunding is a reasonably popular way to launch, or maintain, an open hardware project. The best site for this approach is Kickstarter. Some projects get their funding, some don’t. What’s the difference between them?

That’s a hard question to answer. I haven’t studied the issue, but the most popular (IE: funded) projects seem to combine technology(s) in such a way as to create an “experience.” I’ve yet to see a better example of this phenomenon than the MaKey MaKey.

The creators asked for a mere $25K. What they got was $400K.

Printrbot asked for the same $25K and received over $800K, but that makes a lot of sense. It’s a 3D printer, so it can make things for you, and it’s remarkably small/cheap, so it’s superior to many other designs. However, for some reason, it’s a lot easier to find examples of people throwing money at things that aren’t nearly as practical. Printrbot got over 3,000% of its funding goal. Other projects that broke the 1,000% barrier are Remee (lucid dream mask), Twine (make your “things” send tweets), QuNeo (a colorful MIDI pad controller for musicians), TJ* (a robotic face puppet), Estylo (an eco-friendly iPad stylus), and ClockTHREE Jr (an amusing clock). There’s a lesson in here somewhere. I’m not entirely sure what it is, but at the moment it seems to be that people get excited about hardware projects (open or not) that create an exciting/novel/interesting experience.

So we’re back to the MaKey MaKey. It really doesn’t do much. What it does do is allow you to turn pretty much any arbitrary action and materials into a few simple inputs the computer can understand. You’re not going to get anything done with it, and the novelty will probably wear off in the 30 seconds it takes to lose playing Tetris on bananas, but that doesn’t matter. People want it.

Hardware projects (open or otherwise) depend on funding. You can’t build something physical with just pizza and a long weekend; eventually you’re going to need cash (or an incredibly well stocked junk yard). It helps if you don’t have to supply all the cash yourself. Apparently, if you want people to help out by purchasing/donating to your project, it’s a good idea to show them how the finished project will make them feel. The sort of people who build useful tools in their spare time also tend to be the sort of people who don’t market. That’s fine, but only a few other hard-core geeks are going to spontaneously understand why your project is awesome. Everyone else has to be shown. Some projects are made for the camera. They are pure experience. Other projects have to work at it.

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3G GPS Shield for Arduino Microcontroller

You know how the Arduino has those expansion ports on it? Well, now Cooking Hacks (the same group that created the XBee shield) has created a 3G + GPS shield for attaching to those expansion ports. That’s right, you can make the Arduino accessible anywhere. As much as I hate talking about the cloud, this little beauty allows you to add your Arduino (and/or entire project) to it.

Details after the jump.

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The 3D Printable Heliostat and Interview With Creator

A little while ago Openalia posted about Google’s open source heliostat array code.

Well, now you can build your own DIY solar thermal farm. Adam (aplavins) has designed a 3D printable 2-axis sun tracking device.

Interview after the jump.

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