Is The Arduino Yun Open Hardware?

According to [Squonk42], nope. And we think he’s probably right.

The Yun is an Arduino Leonardo with an Atheros AR9331 WiFi SoC built in. It’s a great idea, pairing the Arduino with a tiny WiFi router that’s capable of running OpenWRT.  But how is this no longer Open Source Hardware? Try getting an editable board layout. You can’t.

Or at least [Squonk42] couldn’t. In Sept. 2013, [Squonk42] posted up on the Arduino forums requesting the schematics and editable design files for the Arduino Yun, and he still hasn’t received them or even a response.

Now this dude’s no slouch. He’s responsible for the most complete reverse-engineering of the TP-Link TL-WR703N pocket router, which is, not coincidentally, an Atheros AR9331-based reference design. And this is where the Arduini ran into trouble, [Squonk42] contends.

[Squonk42]’s hypothesis is that Arduino must have done what any “sane” engineer would do in this case when presented with a super-complex piece of hardware and a potentially tricky radio layout: just use the reference design (Atheros AP-121). That’s what everyone else in the industry did. And that’s smart, only the rest of the consumer electronics industry isn’t claiming to be Open Source Hardware while the reference design is protected by an NDA.

So it looks like Arduino’s hands are tied. They, or their partner Dog Hunter, either signed the NDA or downloaded the PDF of the reference design that’s floating around on the Interwebs. Either way, it’s going to be tough to publish the design files under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license.

Is this a change of strategy for the Arduino folks or did they just make a mistake? We won’t know until they respond, and that answer’s a year and a half in coming. Let’s see what we can do about that. And who knows, maybe Arduino can lean on Atheros to open up their reference design? It’s already an open secret at best.

But before you go out lighting up your righteous Open Source Hardware pitchforks and sharpening up your torches, read through [Squonk42]’s case and then dig through the primary sources that he’s linked to make up your own mind. You’ll make your case more eloquently if you’re making it yourself.

Good luck, [Squonk42]! We hope you at least get your answer. Even if you already know it.

Laser-cut Album Released

In some alternate universe, where laser cutters and phonographs are more common than MP3 players, it makes a ton of sense to release laser-cutter files for your band’s new album (Translated). In this universe, it’s wacky and awesome.

The new EP from ASIC, alias [Patric] from Fablab Zürich, is out as PDF before it’s out in other forms of digital download, and the trailer video (embedded below the break) looks fantastic.

The release draws on this Instructable by Amanda Ghassaei to turn the music into PDFs suitable for feeding into a laser cutter, and we think it’s classy that she gets a shout-out on the label’s release page.  Everything else about the album will be released under a Creative Commons license to boot.

Continue reading “Laser-cut Album Released”

Tiny Chess Playing Computer

We have covered many chess computers in the past, but we think this might just be the smallest. Enter the PIC Blitz: A tiny low-cost low-power computer that can play lightning chess.

It’s based on a PIC16F628A microcontroller, which only has 3.5kbytes of flash and a mere 224 bytes of RAM. For comparison, Boris (one of the first consumer chess computers), utilized an 8-bit microprocessor with 2.5 kbytes of ROM and 256 bytes of RAM.

PIC Blitz has a full fledged chess library: it knows all the moves, all the basic openings and even changes its evaluation function weights as the game progresses to keep the game interesting. The creator [Mark Owen] quips about some of the additional techniques he utilized to make up for the limited processing power; including “pondering time”, a difficult and slow user interface, and of course, a barely-comprehensible LCD.

If you’re interested he has released the files under Creative Commons, and has a link to the PCB layout on the project page – we won’t link it directly though, since it goes straight to a download.

[Thanks Martin!]

iFixit licenses manuals under Creative Commons

Yesterday, announced that they are releasing all of their manuals under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license. The site has long been an abundant source of tear-down photos for hardware and has been gaining momentum as the go-to source for Apple hardware repair information. With the move to Creative Commons, the gates are open to distribute and improve upon the site’s content. There are even plans in the works to host user-submitted improvements (something akin to a wiki?) to the guides but there are not yet any details. The news also includes mention of forthcoming support for translated guides around the end of 2010.

The Hackaday crowd would rather fix things than throw them away. As iFixit moves past Apple products to a wider range of repair manuals and starts working collaboratively with users, we hope to see an explosion of detailed tips, tricks, and guides to keep our stuff working better, longer.

DIYLILCNC: do-it-yourself CNC mill


The DIY LIL CNC project is the newest member of the homebrew fabrication scene. This is a three-axis CNC mill that can be built by anyone with basic shop skills and about $700 in their pocket. Many of the materials can be acquired from the likes of Home Depot: the basic framework is assembled from Masonite, while other cost-cutting measures include the use of skate bearings and a common Dremel tool for powering the cutting bit. About half of the cost is for the HobbyCNC driver and stepper motor package that runs the show.

The instructions for the DIY LIL CNC are distributed under a Creative Commons license, allowing for modification and distribution with few restrictions. They’re well-written and quite thorough, including all patterns and a complete bill of materials with suppliers, part numbers and costs. As documented, the ’bot can produce parts up to 12 x 14 x 2 inches, but the project’s creators offer some suggestions on adapting the design for larger work. It’s not self-replicating like the RepRap aims for; you’ll need access to a laser cutter for some of the parts. If you can clear that hurdle, this looks like a great introduction to CNC production.

Read about trash-hackers… for free


[Cory Doctorow] has published a novel about the near future and a couple of hackers who can make anything from the stuff lying around. We like a good sci-fi novel, and have no shortage of recommendations (go read Snow Crash) for those who need them. We’re adding ‘Makers’ to our must read list.

Not only is this book about you, but its release most likely agrees with your life philosophy. You can download this book, right now, for free, legally. This is because it has been release under the creative commons license. Best of all, if you like the book and want to make a donation, you are directed to purchase a book on behalf of a school or other program that has requested a copy but doesn’t have the funds to acquire it themselves.

So, buy the book if you want a physical copy, download it if you prefer that method, but either way we think this is better than stealing the printed word.