[Discuss] interview with Andrew "Bunnie" Huang

Pablo Kulbaba pablokulbaba at gmail.com
Wed Jan 15 15:33:37 UTC 2014

Thanks for sharing, Matt.

On 15/01/2014 11:51 a.m., Matt Maier wrote:
> http://www.eetimes.com/author.asp?section_id=69&doc_id=1320638
> "*CK:* Open-source hardware seems to be in its infancy in terms of 
> what business model people will implement. Are there any bright and 
> shining stars you think are doing it well?
> *BH:* This is a tricky question, because it carries so many 
> assumptions with it. The open hardware community itself still hasn't 
> come to terms with what it even means to be open-source -- there are 
> layers of openness in hardware. For example, because I don't disclose 
> to you the smelting process or mining location for the copper used in 
> my circuit boards, does that mean the PCB is closed-source? Because a 
> design uses a chip, but the mask patterns aren't open, is the design 
> closed-source? To "build something from source" has a very different 
> meaning in hardware than in software.
> It also assumes that the One True Model of IP is the American model. 
> That's a big assumption; China has a different model for IP. It's not 
> quite the bleak picture of rampant thievery that pundits so blithely 
> tout. But one thing is for sure: The ecosystem is much more "open" 
> than the American model. I can get the schematics design source for 
> lots of products in China, but with unclear or unknown licensing 
> conditions. I call this the "Gongkai" model of open-source. So to some 
> extent, the brightest shining stars in the open hardware world are the 
> Chinese Shanzhai; they've turned this Gongkai IP model into 
> billion-dollar hardware industries.
> *CK:* There has been some frustration with a single closed-source 
> component in your laptop. Do you think that will get resolved so that 
> it can be entirely open-source? Do you feel that is necessary to 
> achieve your goal?
> *BH:* Again, layers of openness. Actually, /all/ the /components/ are 
> closed. I don't have the formula for the dielectric of the capacitors; 
> nor do I have the design for the magnetics inside the Ethernet jack, 
> or mask works for any of the chips. I have only pushed one layer down 
> of openness, namely, into the circuit card assembly design. It's the 
> one and only piece that I personally have full control over and have 
> the full freedom to choose to make open. It's progress in the right 
> direction, and I'm happy to move the ball in the right direction, even 
> if it's still not totally in the end-zone.
> I believe the "closed-source component" you are referring to is the 
> GPU embedded within the ARM SoC. The GPU is annoyingly closed; but I 
> use the laptop every day just fine without it. There's not a lot that 
> I do that requires a GPU, and I don't particularly care for fancy 
> window manager effects and what not (in fact, I go out of my way to 
> turn them off when they are introduced into other OSes). However, 
> scrolling would be a little bit smoother if we could use the GPU, and 
> there are some projects to reverse-engineer the GPU that I'm excited 
> about.
> I'm perfectly happy to work with reverse-engineered components and 
> consider them "open" for my personal purposes -- if I can hack it, I 
> own it; even if hacking it means a little elbow grease to extract the 
> details. I'm not stymied by dogma; as long as the net result is 
> constant progress toward more openness, I believe we're better off 
> today than we were yesterday."
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