[Discuss] OSHW Best Practices / Layers of Openness

Tom Igoe tom.igoe at gmail.com
Thu Feb 28 12:16:45 UTC 2013

On Feb 27, 2013, at 12:41 PM, Michael Shiloh wrote:

> 1) The overall guideline might be "can someone reproduce this project to a reasonable degree (e.g. functionally the same, if perhaps the case is not identical) with the information provided?

So, let's pick a few specific examples, all of which think highly of, and use myself (admitted bias on the third). But I struggle with defining them as entirely open:


The major piece of hardware on this board is a proprietary module from Roving Networks.  Though SparkFun's support schematic is clearly open, the module that makes this functional is not, nor is it reprogrammable. The API for it is open, though. Is this OSHW?  What's the replacement part that could drop into this board and make it work, with minor modifications?


Similarly, the major piece of hardware (the GPS radio) is proprietary, even though Adafruit's support schematic is clearly open. What's the drop in part (note: Adafruit hasn't put the OSHWA logo on here, so it's possible they don't claim this is open)


The WiFi radio on this board is proprietary, even though the support processor and its firmware and board schematics are open. This is perhaps a more complex board than the other two, but I'm not sure that complexity changes things much. Or does it?

Contrast those three with this:


This is perhaps closer to the definition than the others, in that the firmware for the radio module *is* open. 

My question is: do we need to differentiate between these in terms of their openness,or not?  There are plenty of other examples I could pull. I know my work would suffer if I decided not to use these parts, they're all staples in my work. And I'm not an open source hardware absolutist, I use plenty of proprietary hardware.  But I'm genuinely not sure where the line is with some of the products we make and use every day.


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