[Discuss] Free Hardware

Mario Gómez mxgxw.alpha at gmail.com
Fri Mar 13 16:25:54 UTC 2015

Hi Antonie,

On Fri, Mar 13, 2015 at 2:59 AM, Antoine, as a contact of a free
smallwindturbine project <smallwindturbineproj.contactor at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hi,
> I'm afraid we may consider the following :
> Just go back to the article of Mr Stallman, and to the comment of Mario
> where it said that, compared with digital stuff (software, ...) :
> > "so commercially made hardware won’t be gratis" (Stallman Wired article)
> >  "There is no way to reproduce (and that's the key) hardware a zero
> cost." (Mario Gomez post above)
> As I've already explain, those assumptions are not fully fair, not fully
> correct, not fully exact.
> Why: because, to deliver the software, energy was needed, computer was
> needed, or pen was needed, host was needed, and so on, the supply chain to
> design and deliver the software is NOT at zero cost at all. It's an idea
> you have, but it is not true. If you are very lucky, a free software could
> be fully sponsored by its supplychain - ie, it will delivered to you gratis
> by a way gratis on a computer gratis with energy gratis and its running
> gratis requiring you nothing to do ... lol !!! A free software generated
> cost. Sometime, part of these costs are sponsored by its supply chain.

Everything that requires time has a cost. Yes is true that you need a
webhost, an internet connection, a media to store the software. But the
marginal cost of making a digital copy or transferring it to the other side
of the world is so absurdly low that for practical purposes you can say
that $0 its the best approximation of the reality.

I mean, when you calculate cost to ship something you consider the total
costs of the transport, you'll never consider how much is the cost to build
o maintain the ship, the plane or the road (unless you are required to
reach places where there is no existing infrastructure and you have to
build your own, or you are a transport company). If you have an example of
someone considering this in their costs of their products I would be glad
to see an example.

With digital "goods" (I never liked to call a good something that doesn't
exist in the real world) your "transport" (reproduction) costs are so low
that you simply don't account them. How much it cost to download 1000
copies of software? $0.0001 by copy? You don't account that, it doesn't
make any sense.

Other thing is the value that the market gives to your digital good. How
much do you think the people would want to pay for something that they can
reproduce just hitting Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V? It happens so fast that the people
consider it effortless.

This is the way that the market thinks:

If it happens instantaneously, then no effort was required, then the cost
must be ZERO.

We all know that this is not true, we all know that is a falacy, we all
know that physically is imposible to have things reproduced at a ZERO cost,
we all think that is unfair that you spent months and thousands of dollars
developing a piece of sofware and then someone thinks that its fair to give
you $0 for it because for him it costs almost zero time to get a copy. Well
I'm sorry to tell you but the market has never been fair. This is the main
reason why software piracy is never going to disappear is the force of the
market giving the digital goods their real value, is the materialization of
the formula that I wrote on my last email.

The people working (and making profits) from FLOSS figured this long time
ago. So they are really happy to give their work for free (or at least
accept that their software can also be obtained for free) and instead
selling associated services. When you look at the big picture, successful
companies like RedHat doesn't sell you their sofware, they sell you support
and integration services so you doesnt have to worry about how to make it

> A "Free Libre" non-software tangible thing, could be delivered at cost
> sponsored for the user, if the supply chain is sponsored (as for a free
> software): R&D, distribution, installation, etc ... It could exist, even if
> it sounds more complicated to reach. Sure, the supply chain of a
> *digitalised documentation* of an hardware, is similar to software supply
> chain. If the the supply chain of a *digitalised documentation* of an
> hardware, is sponsored, in the same manner as a free software, then, people
> will have the feeling "it is gratis", even if it is erroneous.
> Freely,
> Antoine

I think that in this whole thread we are confusing the
documentation/sources with the physical goods. For me Free/Libre Hardware
it's a contradiction on its own it simply cannot exists in the real world
because there is no way for a physical good to have a reproduction cost so
close to zero that you don't need to account it.

And I sincerely don't understand what are you discussing here in this
thread. OSHW is a definition of the Documentation of how-to-build the
hardware, and that can be perfectly Free/Libre, even if you use modular
closed-components, the important thing is that the components are available
and their interfaces are well documented.

Another different thing is how do you profit from OSHW, how the profits are
distributed in a peer-production network, how peer-production economies
could work, how do you incentive the work on certain "boring" areas. I
think that the people from Sensorica have been doing a lot of work in this
field. For me there is a lot of misconceptions and on this thread a lot of
terms have been used completely outside the scope for were they apply and
are valid.


> 2015-03-13 3:02 GMT+01:00 timofonic timofonic <timofonic at gmail.com>:
>> Hello, Nancy.
>> Wikibooks are great, but those documents aren't nearly as didactical and
>> easier to read than these copyrighted works. Despite they aren't perfect
>> and offer simplifications I don't get (I did read a free chapter from the
>> author on Usenet about getting LT3086 from Linear Technology to make an
>> adjustable power supply. Its okay, but those are expensive chips and I
>> would prefer to use discrete electronics), they are easy to read.
>> I understand writing proper books about electronics or any other
>> technical stuff without being boring, having good/excellent writing, proper
>> design and great explainings (so people without proper physics and/or maths
>> are able to understand it and learn that missing stuff) is a total
>> challenge and it would require a totally dedicated team of people. After
>> all Newnes, Cambridge Press and others have tons of money to invest in
>> writers, graphic artists (okay they are from India and cheap labor, but
>> still too much to pay) and scientific people fixing the texts. I'm still
>> not sure if the same QA could be done in a Wiki way, without a strong
>> project management.
>> Another idea I had is about didactical games for learning the core
>> concepts to practical exercises without getting boring. I would like some
>> kind of mix between "There are no electrons" from Kenn Amdahl, Cisco Binary
>> Game, the best humour from classic adventure games (Lucas Arts, Sierra and
>> such) with some kind of adult but not stupid twist, Forrest Mims way, from
>> basic to intermediate about electronics (like in Art of Electronics) and
>> interactive exercises from all topics. But that would require a big team of
>> very dedicated people, a
>> very-advanced-and-very-educational-classic-style-good-looking-good-playability-and-not-boring-at-all
>> game aimed to adults is a very difficult challenge, I think.
>> On Thu, Mar 12, 2015 at 4:35 PM, Nancy Ouyang <nancy.ouyang at gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>>> I strongly object to using the term "Free Hardware", as stated
>>> previously [1]. I hope other people agree with me, or care to explain
>>> otherwise.
>>> Timofonic:
>>> I like the idea of GSoC, but for hardware, or more accurately, for
>>> developing open-source computer-aided-hardware-design tools and standards /
>>> standard file formats.
>>> Wow, what a mouthful. Maybe it's time to poke google.
>>> Anyway, I'm pretty distressed by the millions of dollars being poured
>>> into closed-source 123D, Circuitmaker, OnShape and the continued lack of
>>> interoperability in circuit design land. (also in my opinion we should
>>> explicitly search for UI/design contributors... I think prioritizing
>>> usability could even give open-source tools a lead in EDA).
>>> Re: open books, http://en.wikibooks.org/
>>> =====
>>> [1]
>>>> I do not know the difference between free software and open source
>>>> software. I assume "OSS" is more business-friendly. I don't particularly
>>>> care and certainly hope that OSHW does not split in a similarly
>>>> confusing
>>>> manner (distinguishing "free hardware" vs "open-source hardware" would
>>>> *justbe exasperating*).
>>> http://lists.oshwa.org/pipermail/discuss/2015-March/001461.html
>>> ~~~
>>> narwhaledu.com, educational robots
>>> <http://gfycat.com/ExcitableLeanAkitainu> [[<(._.)>]] my personal blog
>>> <http://www.orangenarwhals.com>, orangenarwhals
>>> arvados.org (open source software for provenance, reproducing, and
>>> scaling your analyses)
>>> On Thu, Mar 12, 2015 at 11:06 AM, Timofonic <timofonic at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>> Hello.
>>>> I'm new at electronics, but I was thinking about it.
>>>> I have some questions about Free/Open Hardware, maybe even full of
>>>> radical thinking:
>>>> - Can IC based designs be considered as Free Hardware if the design and
>>>> manufacture process aren't free too? I have some simple examples:
>>>> lm237-based adjustable power supply vs one using only discrete components
>>>> (are those patents expired? Another issue), computer hardware such as
>>>> Raspberry Pi using free schematics but proprietary components (CPU and
>>>> others).
>>>> - Can computer systems with open source schematics and PCB not full
>>>> featured open source hardware drivers be considered as Open Hardware?
>>>> Raspberry Pi or an hypothetical Open Hardware AMD-based motherboard with
>>>> ported Coreboot, but opensource hardware drivers a lot behind the
>>>> proprietary ones, OpenPandora/Dragon using PowerVR GPU without proper Open
>>>> Source hardware drivers.
>>>> - Free Hardware designs but using proprietary software such as
>>>> DipTrace/Eagle/Altium/CircuitMaker/Other.
>>>> - Are there some kind of planning for priorities of projects to be done
>>>> and some effective way to incentivate it? For example, something similar to
>>>> GSoC but for hardware.
>>>> - What about Free/Open Hardware tes tools? High precision power
>>>> supplies and multimeters, soldering iron stations, oscilloscopes, logic
>>>> analyzers, CNC, UV PCB exposure boxes...
>>>> - What about Free/Open Hardware from the ground up? High quality open
>>>> learning material:
>>>> --Open Books: different levels from basic for children (no idea about
>>>> available material, sorry) and adults such as works from Forrest Mims to
>>>> complete (think of something like Art of Electronics and Practical
>>>> Electronics for Inventors) and advanced, organize translations , didactical
>>>> games even for adults but not dummy ones, practices, volunteering tutors
>>>> for learning aid to people interested on Free/Open hardware but having
>>>> issues with the learning process and collaboration with learning centers
>>>> (schools, colleges, vocational training schools, universities...).
>>>> -- Software: EDA (KiCad and FreeEDA looks promising) and a solid
>>>> interoperability file format initiative similar to IDF and OpenDocument,
>>>> favouring development of new tools and good project management.
>>>> Kind regards.
>>>> El 12 de marzo de 2015 12:15:20 CET, "Antoine, as a contact of a free
>>>> smallwindturbine project" <smallwindturbineproj.contactor at gmail.com>
>>>> escribió:
>>>>> Excuse me all, but I just would like to write this: the question of
>>>>> "free" for everything-but-software, is a right question, with or without
>>>>> philosophical inputs, with or without pro or cons arguments.
>>>>> For instance, the level of requirements of GNU-GPL terms and
>>>>> conditions, is not yet completely replicated and reach into the
>>>>> non-software univers. That is a fact.
>>>>> The question is: is it possible to reach such a level of GNU-GPL for
>>>>> everything-but-software, and how could it be reach ?
>>>>> The question should not be: reaching such a level, is it good or bad ?
>>>>> Works, publications, of FSF or their representatives or members, on
>>>>> this question of "free notion for everything-but-software", will be very
>>>>> useful for all of us, don't you think ?
>>>>> Freely,
>>>>> Antoine
>>>>> 2015 -03-11 21:28 GMT+01:00 Emilio Velis <contacto at emiliovelis.com>:
>>>>>> If you don't have a strong philosophical argument against the "sweat
>>>>>> of the brow" provisos, then there is no real case against property.
>>>>>> Regarding these arguments, although it's not specifically 'libre', a
>>>>>> good case for hardware as part of the commons and peer production is laid
>>>>>> out by Michel Bauwens in his FLOK research paper about transitioning to a
>>>>>> commons-based society:
>>>>>> https://floksociety.co-ment.com/text/xMHsm6YpVgI/view/. I think
>>>>>> there are more on the subject on that project, but there are so many papers
>>>>>> that I lost track of all of them. I think it was George Dafermos who w as
>>>>>> in charge of developing the model for commons-based production.
>>>>>> On 11 March 2015 at 14:18, Matt Maier <blueback09 at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>>>>> It's also confusing that in an argument based on pure morality, the
>>>>>>> conclusion is somehow that because something is too hard it is not a moral
>>>>>>> imperative. I never understood that part of Stallman's argument.
>>>>>>> He always said that hardware wasn't relevant to Free Software. It
>>>>>>> looks like he's changing his mind because proprietary hardware might make
>>>>>>> it impossible to run Free Software.
>>>>>>> I've never heard a good argument for why a thing MUST be libre.
>>>>>>> Taking it to that extreme seems like it just discourages creation. It means
>>>>>>> that the creator has to give up control of their creation or they're
>>>>>>> inescapably immoral merely because they didn't give up control. I don't
>>>>>>> think there's much of a precedent in philosophy for the idea that it's
>>>>>>> inherently wrong to control the thing you created. If you add something to
>>>>>>> the world the only reason anybody can have a discussion about whether or
>>>>>>> not you should give it away is because you made it in the first place.
>>>>>>> Seems like creation is a prerequisite to sharing.
>>>>>>> Of course, I strongly encourage sharing :)
>>>>>>> On Mar 11, 2015 1:01 PM, "Emilio Velis" <contacto at emiliovelis.com>
>>>>>>> wrote:
>>>>>>>> Not to mention the lack of viability in most cases of jumping right
>>>>>>>> into that definition without any context. I think that any 'free' endeavor
>>>>>>>> of the sort should not be derived from a philosophical standpoint on
>>>>>>>> intangibles, but rather on the study of philosophy behind private property
>>>>>>>> (perhaps an anti-Lockean view). Drawing a software-hardware parallel is
>>>>>>>> confusing to say the least.
>>>>>>>> On 11 March 2015 at 13:57, Drew Fustini <pdp7pdp7 at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>>>>>>> hmm, just saw this on Slashdot:
>>>>>>>>> "Why We Need Free Digital Hardware Designs"
>>>>>>>>> http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/15/03/11/1648243/why-we-need-free-digital-hardware-designs
>>>>>>>>> Links to Wired:
>>>>>>>>> http://www.wired.com/2015/03/need-free-digital-hardware-designs/
>>>>>>>>> It appears to me that Richard Stallman wrote this article.
>>>>>>>>> Here is a quote:
>>>>>>>>> "the concept we really need is that of a free hardware design.
>>>>>>>>> That’s
>>>>>>>>> simple: it means a design that permits users to use the design
>>>>>>>>> (i.e.,
>>>>>>>>> fabricate hardware from it) and to copy and redistribute it, with
>>>>>>>>> or
>>>>>>>>> without changes. The design must provide the same four freedoms
>>>>>>>>> that
>>>>>>>>> define free software."
>>>>>>>>> I do like the philosophy behind it, but I am afraid the
>>>>>>>>> introduction
>>>>>>>>> of the term "Free Hardware" will increase confusion about hardware
>>>>>>>>> licensing.
>>>>>>>>> cheers,
>>>>>>>>> drew
>>>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
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