[Discuss] Favorite OSHW Linux computers?

Mario Gómez mxgxw.alpha at gmail.com
Thu Feb 5 17:35:09 UTC 2015

Hi Pablo!

I didn't wanted to name specific manufactures because I don't want to give
the impression that I have something against any specific manufacturer. But
if you want examples just take a look at the descriptions of
Hardware-related projects in kickstarter or less-know manufacturers of
Arduino-compatible boards around the world and you'll find that OpenSource
(or similar phrases) is listed as one of their main features.

Getting back to this topic, practically all of the most popular SBC in the
market are using in a way or another "Open-Source" or "Open-Source
compatible" in their descriptions, some of them even give you full access
to their schematics, PCB Layouts and BOMs so you can easily think that they
are "Open-Hardware".

However when you try to replicate this kind of boards for educative or
commercial purposes you'll find:

1-They require a component/s that only can be bought after signing a NDA or
in really big bulk orders.
2-Part of (or all the firmware) is provided as a pre-compiled binary and
there are no datasheets available for critical components.
3-As a result of #2 an important part of the functionality cannot be
modified or used in a different way that the one specified for the

I can almost say that I have seen this pattern repeat over time and
different products: If it has a lots of functionality packed or highly
integrated on the device and it's really, really cheap. It's almost
guaranteed that is using some kind of propietary technology that you only
have access (and is economically feasible to manufacture) when you plan to
make them by thousands.

It's not always easy to clasiffy a project as Open-Source Hardware, but
it's really easy to detect if not. At least for me: If ANY of its
components requires some kind or NDA or commercial licensing OR if a
critical design consideration or specification it's not available I don't
consider it as Open-Source Hardware.


On Thu, Feb 5, 2015 at 11:03 AM, Pablo Kulbaba <pablokulbaba at gmail.com>

>  Mario: can you list some of the "many pseudo-"Open-Source" boards." ?
> On 05/02/2015 01:48 p.m., Mario Gómez wrote:
>   Hi Michael!
> Yes it can be called Open because you could easily reaplicate it in
> another CAD software or convert it to another CAD format to comply with the
> EAGLE License terms. Even it's possible to share the diagrams as
> non-editable formats (JPG, PDF, others) if a CAD design file it's not
> available. As I understand, the latter is accepted but not recommended for
> obvious reasons.
>  However if for example your PCB layout requires a really precise
> differential-signalling considerations and you dont provide the details or
> the specs for the only reason to difficult making copies. I wouldn't think
> that design could be considered OpenSource-Hardware beause you are hiding
> or making difficult to access critical details of the design needed for the
> proyect to work.
>  And that's the "trap" of many pseudo-"Open-Source" boards.
>  Regards,
> Mario.
> On Thu, Feb 5, 2015 at 10:35 AM, Michael McCormack <mike at themccormacks.com
> > wrote:
>> To Hal's list of requirements - if I release Eagle files, which can't be
>> used commercially without a commercial Eagle license can it be called
>> "open" ?
>>  Cheers
>>  Mike
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