Tag Archives: David

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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Raspberry Pi: Tiny, Cheap, Powerful

The Raspberry Pi is a $25 or $35 computer that is roughly the size of an Altoids tin. It may or may not end up being fully open hardware.

Here are some more details from David Braben.

A neat feature is that it is “stateless” which means, in a practical sense, even after you’ve used your Raspberry Pi for a while, the SD card is the only thing that distinguishes it from any other Raspberry Pi. So, if something goes wrong with it, you could just move the SD card and all the peripherals to another one and get right back to work.

Reaction from the community:

  • One of perhaps the most exciting things about Raspberry Pi is, as Jeremy Ruston had previously noted, how it nudges you towards hardware development.
  •  It was suggested that a standard for expansion boards was much needed…A concern was also raised that in the absence of a standard at present some may be wary of designing add-on boards should one subsequently be published.
  •  The potential for using Raspberry Pi as the embedded controller in a RepRap 3D printer was discussed next, noting how the powerful ARM processor would enable it to do things that would just not be possible with a small microcontroller.
  • …a discussion was centred around the idea of a Raspberry Pi emulator which would not only be capable of booting Linux, but that would emulate the board’s GPIO etc

Wanna see the schematics?

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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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The fireCrow Squib Firing System – An Interview With The Creators

Sometimes what you need just doesn’t exist. And when you’ve got stuff to blow up, well…

Whenever someone or something in a movie needs to blow up or get shot, a remote controlled firing system is used. Since the firing system can’t be seen on camera, it needs to be small so it can be easily hidden. Apparently the commercial systems you can buy may or may not be small enough. They might be, like, two or three times bigger than they need to be. That was the position Daniel Arvidsson and David Jensen found themselves in. Thanks to the Arduino, and a lot of experimentation, they produced a small open source squib firing system (but they also made it modular so it can do more than just fire squibs).

Size comparison between the firecrow v1 and the Holatron, a professional squib firing system.

What are your names and backgrounds?

  • Daniel: My name is Daniel Arvidsson and I’m a former glass worker. 2004-2005 I attended a year of film study at a folk high school, after the school I got into pyrotechnics  and SFX. That’s the main reason why the idea of an wireless firing system came up! Now a days I have an ordinary job and do some SFX in my spare time and of course I’m developing fireCrow v2.0 😉
  • David: And mine is David Jensen, I’m a software developer and sort of a nerd. Bearded nerd. Not the big guru beard though. I’ve got two small kids, a wife and a house, no dog.

Did you have any engineering experience before you started?

  • Daniel: Hardly no electronic experience at all to start with.
  • David: About a year before we started I heard about something called the “Arduino”, bought one and started playing with it a bit. Prior to that, no experience at all. I did know  how to program though. But not C/C++.

What made you decide to open source the project?

  • Daniel: It’s a congenial way to make stuff and I like the idea of a contributing to a lifestyle where you build up a community; where everyone can help or be help without  paying for support and updates.
  • David: I’m a big fan of free software and a long time Linux user. I wouldn’t have found my way into electronics if it wasn’t for open hardware, especially the Arduino, making it easily accessible and fun, so I felt it was natural that whatever we did should be open hardware and open source.

Did you choose one particular license over others? Why?

  • Daniel: TAPR – because it’s created by people who mainly makes wireless applications. I thought our system fitted that description well.
  • David: GPL3 for the software since it has copyleft clauses that protects against being engulfed into a proprietary project. Also, copyleft licenses spread more freedom into the world.

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

  • Daniel: I use Cadsoft Eagle to make the schematics and PCB design, and we’ve used the Arduino as a development platform for the remote control.
  • David: We use a port of the Arduino library in the firmware to ease development, without it it would take a lot more time. GCC, avrdude and gedit for development.

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

  • Daniel: Only to be patient and accept that it will take time if you don’t know what you’re doing to start with. Of course it helps a lot to have basic knowledge of electronics (and coding)!

Did you ever make a major shift in the direction of the project? Why?

  • Daniel: First the pyrofyro was only a 2 channel firing system, then it became a MCU board (the fireCrow). Our idea was to get it out to a broader range of users and to make it easily accessible for Arduino people. Mainly because there’s already a great community with a lot of coding examples and help to get. Pyrofyro became the name of plugin cards (2, 4, or 6 channels) dedicated to firing pyrotechnics. We also have plans to fork the MCU board into a “firing system” fork with intergrated transceiver and an “Arduino-ish” fork (same as now)
  • David: The change to a modular system also interested me since I don’t have a license to blow things up 🙂

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

  • David: If by individual we count the both of us you could say that most of the effort right now is individual. But it builds upon community efforts like the Arduino library. We wouldn’t be able to build it otherwise.
  • Daniel:  Also, in the beginning I got some help from electronic forums and googling the net about things that I didn’t understand, but otherwise no.

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

  • Daniel:   Yes, hopefully we’ll be able to sell kits or even a finished product. The most difficult part is to get a reasonable price, because there’s no economy to buy enough components to reduce the cost per piece. Maybe if we get founding somehow 😉

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

  • David: As stated above I love free software, I think that as a philosophy open hardware and free software gives us creativity and power as a community to change the world. As a business strategy for software I believe it’s the future, everyone should do it. Open hardware as a business strategy is a bit different though, but there are business doing well. It will be interesting to see what the future holds.
  • Daniel:  I agree with previous speaker! 😉

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

  • David: Totally open hardware and drivers for the next Nexus Android phone, with easily accessible connectors.

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