[Discuss] Free Hardware

Mario Gómez mxgxw.alpha at gmail.com
Thu Mar 12 23:12:25 UTC 2015

Just one thing:

As I understand Stallman didn't believe that Free (Libre) hardware could
exist because until we have a machine that builds objects out of thin air
and uses free (as in beer) energy to operate. There is no way to reproduce
(and that's the key) hardware a zero cost.

Free/Libre Open Source Sofware economy it's based on the premise that no
matter how hard, costly or time consuming a piece of software is to
develop, when you include the cost of reproduction to your total cost
calculation you'll have ($development cost+SUM($reproduction cost))/n where
n is the number of copies.

If you consider that the reproduction cost is near $0 that means that for a
really high number of copies (n->infinite) the real cost of each copy is
going always to tend to $0. So essentially there is no sense to put a price
on software because given enough users and time the cost of any piece of
software is going to be essentially $0.

In the FLOSS community the profits are driven by supporting, adapting or
innovating over existing solutions. So instead charging for each copy you
charge for your expertice to implement a sucessful solution. And if you
look at the more successful FLOSS companies their main bussiness is
offering support/custom solutions or developing totally new things.

Developers of propietary software know this and that's the reason why they
impose restrictions to the reproductions of their sofware to generate
artificial scarcity and recover the $development cost + a $profit for each
copy. That the reason why we have EULAs and DRM.

What Stallman really believed is that is really possible to have Free/Libre
Open Source Hardware *Documentation*, and I think that the OSHW Definition
is the most close definition to an equivalent of FLOSS for the Free
Hardware Documentation that Stallman talks. But looking at the big picture
they aren't in the same field. I know that this list is mostly US centric
but in many countries you cannot have copyrights over the design files for
a machine if you want to protect something about it you must have a patent
over it.

I really think that OSHW promoters can easily adopt the FLOSS bussiness
model, but it's going to include also the reproduction costs that we hope
are going to be reduced in the way that digital/P2P manufacturing starts to
become mainstream. Sparkfun is a good example of this (taking the
hyper-innovation path).

Having said this.. I don't really understand what are you are trying to
discuss on this thread.


On Thu, Mar 12, 2015 at 4:36 PM, Javier Serrano <Javier.Serrano at cern.ch>

> On 03/12/2015 10:38 PM, Matt Maier wrote:
> > Back to your question of people making their living off of
> > free/libre/open work; it's possible that many of the electronics
> > engineers you mentioned want a certain salary mostly because they have
> > to put up with a lot of BS. If the way they spent their day was just
> > inherently more enjoyable maybe they wouldn't need as much money to do
> > it. What if the free/libre/open community could make itself an
> > inherently pleasant place to be? Maybe the community could approach
> > disagreements as opportunities to compete and explore rather than
> > battles to decide winners and idiots.
> Money *is* one more way to show your appreciation for somebody. Let me
> illustrate this with the case of Werner Koch [1]. Werner writes software
> which is important for many of us. He decided to be a free software
> developer but lack of funds made this experience far less pleasurable
> than it should have been. You can thank Werner for his work with words
> and with a donation. He will be pleased with both, I guess, and
> something tells me he will especially appreciate the latter. A donation
> involves getting rid of a scarce good (money) and can therefore be a
> powerful way of saying "I really mean it," not to speak about how useful
> it will be for Werner. Money is just a tool which has got a bad name in
> some circles because many people misuse it.
> > That's not to say that people can pay their mortgage with love ;) just
> > that if free/libre/open hardware is always going to inherently cost
> > money we can at least reduce the other barriers to entry.
> I have always thought that the fact that one has to pay for hardware is
> actually good for OSHW. I am not a fan of unpaid labor. In order to vote
> with your wallet, you have to pull it out of your pocket first. In free
> software, the temptation is big to not pay at all. In hardware that's
> just not possible. Once you are in a paying mindset, it is natural to
> wonder what the best way of spending your money is.
> > Thanks, this is a really interesting conversation :)
> Thank you, I also enjoy reading your opinions, and I agree with Nancy
> about the benefit of constructive controversy. I should apologize for
> having diverged from the original subject of the thread, but I feel
> strongly about the incentives issue. I think I made my point and I
> understood yours, so thank you for that.
> Cheers,
> Javier
> [1]
> http://www.propublica.org/article/the-worlds-email-encryption-software-relies-on-one-guy-who-is-going-broke
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