Your Weekend Plans: Hardware Freedom Day


Hardware Freedom Day is tomorrow: Saturday, March 15th 2014. This is the third year for the event, which seeks to raise awareness about what Open Hardware is, and to encourage hackers and makers to share their own work with the world.

This is a concept that we believe in strongly here at Hackaday. There are a multitude of reasons to support open hardware. We usually look at it from two angles: education and user freedom. If the design for your projects are available, others can learn from your successes and produce even cooler things that in turn should be made open. At the same time, if you have a device that’s nearly-awesome, a skilled hacker will have a much easier time getting it there if the original design can be used as a reference.

If you want to see what’s going on near you there are events on every continent (except Antarctica… lame!). If continental adjacency isn’t close enough consider pulling together an adhoc event, or just going through that project you finished last year and publishing the files for others to use.


Oculus Releases Open Source Hardware


Oculus VR, makers of the very cool Oculus Rift VR display, are making their first steps towards open hardware. Their first project is a latency tester, meant to precisely measure the latency of a VR setup or application. This is true open hardware with everything – the firmware, schematics, and mechanical parts all available on GitHub

Inside this neat bit of hardware is a STM32F102 microcontroller and a TCS3414 color sensor. The firmware is designed to measure changes in color and send that data back to a computer with a timestamp.

Not only are the schematics and board files available, there are also a few links to buy the PCBs at OSH Park: for about $24, you can get three copies of the main PCB and sensor board delivered to your door. If you have a 3D printer, Oculus has provided the .STL files to print out the enclosure for this device.

While this is a fairly niche product, we’re amazed at how well the Oculus folk have put together this open source hardware project. Everything you need to replicate this product, from board files, mechanical design, firmware, and instructions on how to build everything is just right there, sitting it a GitHub. Wonderful work.

Open Hardware Summit 2013 – Part 1: Demos

Open Hardware Summit 2013

The 2013 Open Hardware Summit took place on September 6th at MIT. There was a wide array of demos and talks covering Open Hardware methodologies and projects. After the break I’ll be covering the demo area of the conference, and sharing some of my favorite demos.

Continue reading “Open Hardware Summit 2013 – Part 1: Demos”

Free Hackaday stuff at next week’s Open Hardware Summit


If you’re headed off to the Open Hardware Summit next week we’ve got some free swag for you. Readers paying any attention know that Hackaday was acquired by Supply Frame over the summer. There had been some nervousness in the comments about what this all means. But I think you’ll agree it’s a good sign that Supply Frame is one of the major sponsors of the event at the ‘FANATIC’ level.

Several of the Supply Frame guys will be attending (which makes me jealous since I want one of those ePaper display badges so badly!). Details haven’t quite firmed up yet, but we believe there will be a Supply Frame booth were you can stop by, chat, and see if they’ve got any Hackaday T-shirts left to hand out.  I don’t think they’ll run out of stickers so you won’t go away empty handed.

Also ask them for a beta code for the hush-hush new online tool which they’ve been working on. I got a preview when I visited their headquarters in Pasadena last week. It’s something that EE and hobby electronics enthusiasts will appreciate as it simplifies the planning and part choosing process of a design. Actually, now that I think of it, it solves a problem I’ve heard [Dave Jones] rant about before on the Amp hour. Obviously I’m under a bit of an info embargo until they get the service fully online but I’m sure we’ll cover it once they do. Incidentally, one of the devs on this project — [Ben Delarre] — founded CircuitBee.

Our own [Eric Evenchick] will be on hand as well. He’s still networking for future employment so you might not find him just sitting at the SF booth. He will have Hackaday stickers to hand out as well since I felt bad about not sending swag along with him to Def Con. Look for his recollection of the event once it is all wrapped up.

Worry not if you can’t attend OHS. [Brian Benchoff] is planning a trip to World Maker Faire later in September and he’ll be packing a stash of freebies as well!

Free Software Foundation certifies hardware that Respects Your Freedom

The Free Sofware Foundation, the very same organization responsible for the GNU General Public License and open source advocacy on the part of the Free Software stalwart [Richard Stallman], has certified its first piece of hardware as Respecting Your Freedom.

This new certification goes far beyond the goals of Open Source Hardware. In addition to providing documentation, schematics, and design files, hardware certified as Respecting Your Freedom must meet much more stringent requirements.

Of course, all software used with RYF hardware must be Free Software, but the certification also carries with it a few more requirements. The source and CAD files must be provided, it must use formats unencumbered by closed licenses, and the hardware must not spy on the user.

The honor of the first RYF-certified piece of hardware goes to, of course, a 3D printer. It’s the AO-100 printer developed and sold by Aleph Objects, Inc., a.k.a. Lulzbot out of Colorado.

With so many Open Source Hardware projects coming down the pipe, it’s great to see a somewhat more militant organization (that’s a good thing!) such as the Free Software Foundation provide a certification process for hardware projects. Keep in mind this isn’t a ‘certified once and forget about it’ proposition; the FSF is willing to provide a bounty to encourage the public to report violations of RYF certification. Anything to keep them honest, right?

Makerbot, Occupy Thingiverse, and the reality of selling Open Hardware

Yesterday, Makerbot Industries introduced the Replicator 2, a very good-looking 3D printer that will is probably the closest thing we’ll see to a proper ‘consumer’ 3D printer for a year or so. There’s only one problem. The new Replicator 2 is rumored to be closed source. If that’s not enough, [Bre Pettis], co-founder and CEO of Makerbot Industries will be speaking at the Open Source Hardware Association conference next week with the suitably titled talk, “Challenges of Open Source Consumer Products.”

Of course, the Replicator 2 being closed source is hearesay, and we can’t blame them for closing up parts their product; they have investors to worry about and people are blatantly copying their work. There was another change in Makerbot’s operation at the press conference yesterday: Makerbot now owns everything you’ve put up on Thingiverse.

This news comes from [Josef Prusa], creator of what is probably the most widely used 3D printer in the world.

[Prusa] begins his rant with the history of the RepRap. The project began with a team of core developers headed by [Adrian Bowyer], and supported by [Zach Smith], [Adam Mayer], and [Bre Pettis]. [Boyer] gave the guys a bit of money to start Makerbot, and it’s something the guys at Makerbot have never been ashamed of. Makerbot went on to create Thingiverse, became the darlings of the Open Hardware movement, and acquired $10 million from investors.

All things change, of course, and Makerbot is no exception. Along with the (again, rumored) closed-source Replicator 2, [Prusa] pointed out the Terms of Use for Thingiverse say that Thingiverse – and thus Makerbot Industries – owns everything submitted by Thingiverse users. [Prusa] started an Occupy Thingiverse movement in response to this discovery.

Honestly, we hope [Josef Prusa] is wrong on this one. We hope the specific clauses in Thingiverse’s Terms of Use granting itself a license to do whatever it wants with uploaded Things is just a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo added in by lawyers to protect Thingiverse from being sued by crazy people. Still, if rumors are true, it may be a portent of things to come.

In any event, [Prusa] will be taking his Thingiverse things down. He plans on posting his stuff on GitHub, probably the most Open Source-friendly community in existence. You can do the same with this GitHub template for 3D printed objects.

So, learned reader of Hackaday, what do you make of this? Is Makerbot right to close up their projects? Are we finally becoming disillusioned with Open Hardware? What say you?

osPID: the Open Source PID Controller

Need PID control in your next project? Perhaps this little beauty can help. It’s an Open Source PID controller that also follows the Open Hardware guidelines. [Brett Beauregard] based the project on the newly minted Arduino PID library which he wrote. In the video after the break [Brett] takes apart the device, walking through some of the ways this might be hacked. If you want an overview of every part of this project to-date the best resource is probably his personal blog post.
The front circuit board is the meat and potatoes of the device. It hosts the user interface in the form of buttons, LEDs, and a graphic LCD screen. You can also see the USB mini-b connector which gives you access to the Arduino compatible ATmega328 microcontroller on the back. There is also a piezo buzzer for your alarm needs.
The prototype that [Brett] shows off uses pin connectors to join the main board to the two daughter boards. Unfortunately, the production model moved to dual-sided edge connectors. That’s fine if you you’re using it in its stock condition, but it makes it a bit harder to replace those boards with your own hardware. None-the-less, we love to see great Open Hardware projects brought to market! Continue reading “osPID: the Open Source PID Controller”