[Discuss] is intel edison open-source hardware?

Matt Maier blueback09 at gmail.com
Mon Mar 9 15:33:53 UTC 2015

On Mon, Mar 9, 2015 at 7:44 AM, Michael McCormack <mike at themccormacks.com>

> A better question than is any particular design open source hardware is
> perhaps which self righteous idiot get to be the sole arbitrator of who can
> call something open source hardware?

The definition was arrived at by consensus. http://www.oshwa.org/definition/
The afterward says, "*The signatories of this Open Source Hardware
definition recognize that the open source movement represents only one way
of sharing information. We encourage and support all forms of openness and
collaboration, whether or not they fit this definition."*

> Big companies can't provide open, every subcomponent must be open, I could
> go on but what a total litany of crap.

I think an important point that often gets overlooked is that the OSHW
definition has a bias towards individual people. The statement of
principles reads as so, "...*to maximize the ability of individuals to make
and use hardware. Open source hardware gives people the freedom*..."
Another important point is that it prioritizes depth before breadth. The
scope reads as so, "*The documentation for the hardware must clearly
specify what portion of the design, if not all, is being released under the
license*." So, "big companies" are kind of an afterthought. Regardless,
it's okay to include closed-source "blobs" in an open source design.

While the definition does specify that "*Intermediate forms analogous to
compiled computer code — such as printer-ready copper artwork from a CAD
program — are not allowed as substitutes*" it implicitly acknowledges that
the devil is always in the details and provides an ideal of openness to
reach for even if only a few parties can get there in practice.

Also, OSHW has a complication in that the whole point is the hardware and
none of the licenses can actually apply to the hardware itself. The
licenses only apply to the information describing the hardware. So OSHW
will always have to lean on the community's interpretation of what to label
as open source hardware. Since the definition specifically calls for
granting others the right to sell the designs, and avoiding restrictions
like a viral clause, it's clear that the point is to encourage commerce.
Well, actual commerce in practice gets complicated in all kinds of
different ways, like with contracts and customer data and proprietary
tools, so of course there will be perfectly reasonable situations in which
a party can't release their work under terms that are 100% compliant with
the OSHW definition.

Anywhere there is a perfectly reasonable explanation there will be a dozen
questionable explanations and a hundred disingenuous explanations. So the
definition creates a clear ideal and hopefully the community will always
apply pressure on everyone to stretch to realize that ideal. It's better to
fall short and be a little annoyed at having to explain why every now and
then rather than let everyone forget the ideal and feel comfortable with
the status quo.

A couple decades ago none of the "big companies" in the software world
would have imagined they'd be sharing their code and making long-term
capital investments in open source infrastructure. The constant pressure
gradually moved the needle. Perhaps we'll see the same perspective change
in hardware companies over the next couple decades.

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