Tag Archives: John

The Definitive Makerbot Open vs Closed Source Discussion

I did my best to document all the different points of view that are relevant to the open source hardware world but are spread all over the interwebs.

The original Makerbot founders.

This post got big, fast. Really big. After the jump you can find key quotes from Bre Pettis, Zachary Smith (Hoeken), Adrian Bowyer, Josef Prusa, etc.

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Make Magazine Is Planning The “Ultimate 3D Printer Shootout” Issue

If any single publication can claim to represent the maker movement, I suppose Make Magazine is it.

John Abella says they are working on a massive guide to 15 hobby-level 3D printers, to be released in November. It looks like some of the designs they’ll be comparing are the Printrbot, 3D Touch, SeeMeCNC, Felix, Lulzbot, Up!, Solidoodle, Makerbot Replicator and Ultimaker.

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Arduino Leonardo

The new board from Arduino, the Leonardo, is pretty much an Uno except that it doesn’t have a dedicated chip for USB communication. The serial port runs in the same chip that runs your sketches (the ATmega32U4). This means that if you reset the board you also reset the USB connection. However, because the serial port is virtual it means that the board can run as a (HID) keyboard or mouse.

Arduino Leonardo

Freetronics LeoStick

The simpler physical wiring means that the Leonardo is cheaper ($20), but it also means that there’s less flash memory and some of the pins have changed, so Uno shields might not work with the Leonardo.

If the Uno footprint is just too big there’s the LeoStick from freetronics ($30).

Additional Links

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Facebook and the Open Compute Project

Well, Facebook can’t be entirely evil…right?

Their Open Compute Project, started in April 2011 and still going strong with the release of Open Rack, is pursuing maximum efficiency. They have chosen to open source the entire design so that the industry can start to benefit from working together to solve the most fundamental challenges inherent in data centers. Basically, this boils down to turning electricity into cyber services with the least possible energy and hardware. Check out their specs here.

“Sharing software has existed for many, many years, but it hasn’t taken foothold in the hardware space or in the data center world…yet.” – Jonathan Heiliger, Facebook VP Technical Operations

“On the other side of the equation, we’ve started to see a convergence of voices among the consumers of this technology around where we think the industry would benefit from standardization and where we think the opportunities for innovation are.” – Frank Frankovsky, Facebook Open Compute Project President.

Here are some industry responses, collected by DatacenterDynamics:

“I think, overall, I like the idea of sharing their design data. I think there’s some good learnings there…but I think who can use it varies.” – John Kuzman, Intel Senior Data Center Architect

“Having a bigger set of eyes looking at their designs is only going to make the project better.” – Ian McClarty, Phoenix NAP President

“I’d like to congratulate Facebook for being open about their compute platform…They’re helping the industry.” – Al Edwards, Nokia, Americas Data Center Manager

“There are two things: cyber-things and physical-things…The management schemes were not released and it would be nice to know something about how their data center is managed.”  – Sandeep Gupta, Arizona State University, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering

“If they open sourced that to the rest of the world, I think that would be a great benefit.” – Guy Tal, Limelight Networks, Director of Strategic Relations

The real core of open source hardware is, as Facebook puts it, hardware API‘s. The universal principle of an API is that it ensures compatibility across multiple vendors and a long periods of time. Interchangeable fasteners are a hardware API. The USB plug is a hardware API. Automobile wheel lugs are a hardware API. Since hardware is more expensive than software, it takes longer and costs more to establish standards, but those standards also produce more benefits when they are finally adopted.

Since Facebook’s Open Compute Project is redesigning all the hardware API’s in the data center from scratch, they can optimize the system of systems, ensuring on over-optimized sub-system doesn’t interfere with the overall performance of the data center. How much of their work gets adopted by the industry remains to be seen.

Additional Resources

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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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