Tag Archives: software

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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White Rabbit Solution – Open Source Distributed Timing Standard

Open source hardware isn’t just a cute little idea that some scruffy hobbyists and smarmy entrepreneurs are pushing for their own reasons. Real live scientist-types are using it to solve important problems.

For example…

Imagine you have a something happening in one place and you want to measure how long the effects take to get to another place 10km away (light, sound, the Higgs boson, whatever). Well, it turns out you are going to have a pretty tough time figuring out exactly how long it took for the effect to travel from one place to another. Timing is kind of a really really important issue and getting it right requires specifically designed systems.

White Rabbit is what CERN came up with to measure things at exactly the same time even when they’re really far apart. It is being used mainly for physics projects, but they carefully designed the system to be generic and open so that it could be used for pretty much anything.

The WR project “provides deterministic data and timing (sub-ns accuracy and ps jitter) to around 1,000 stations [and] automatically compensates for fiber lengths in the order of 10km.” It is also, “completely open.”

Additional Links

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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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Crowd Funding Dump

Kickstarter has subdivided their “technology” category into “open software” and “open hardware” which makes my job a little faster. There aren’t very many things in it…but I suppose that also makes my job a little faster.

Summary:

Details after the jump.

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DIY Totally Open Source Arduino GSM Cell Phone by Zach Wick

Cell phones (like this and this) are turning out to be a reasonably popular open source project. It makes sense when someone points it out. They are pretty much the Swiss Army knife of the digital world. More importantly, they are useful and versatile but they don’t require any real hardware hacking. That’s important since most of the people doing open source work are comfortable with code and soldering irons…not wrenches.

Here’s an outline of the open source hardware necessary to physically assemble your own touchscreen phone. Zach Wick grabbed all of this stuff off-the-shelf (his or someone else’s).

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Pandora Handheld – A Tiny Open Source Portable Computing System

The Pandora is a community-designed portable computer. It’s a marvelous combination of open source hardware and software.

It’s a combination of a computer and a portable gaming console (that’s why it has the D-pad, gaming buttons, and a full qwerty keyboard). It can play games, run a full desktop (multitasking!) and access the internet. Most importantly, nothing is locked down. The entire thing is open source. Thousands of units have shipped to happy customers and production has finally caught up to all the pre-orders. You can get one for about $550.

More after the jump.

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Apertus, Open Source Cinema

The goal of the Apertus project is to create a powerful, free (in terms of liberty) and open cinema camera that we as filmmakers love to use.

That’s the vision of  Apertus, which has a significant number of contributors and seems well on the way to a “modular camera system” based on the open source cameras Elphel is producing.

Prototype Apterus camera with a tablet-PC mounted on top. By Oscar Spierenburg.

Why an open source cinema camera? Well, as Sebastian Pichelhofer explains

If you look at recent press releases from big companies you might notice the lack of real information or technical details. Marketing departments are often able to spin slightly re-worked features as something entirely brand new by making up new words, backed up with doctored images and charts which focus only on the most positive changes that seem to create the impression of great leaps in development.

For industry professionals this is a very frustrating development as they need to invest a lot of time to find out what the camera actually does by reviewing the device from each manufacturer in person or relying on trusted reviewers. Some of these reviewers are approached by the big manufacturers to create demo footage or entire films to promote their gear for them…

This is exactly why I fight for open hardware and free software: honesty. We are not afraid to explain what exactly happens inside our camera, after all Apertus is also about open knowledge and open education.

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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.

Continue reading

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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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