[Discuss] CAD software: where does OSHWA stand?

Javier Serrano Javier.Serrano at cern.ch
Sun Mar 19 12:43:33 UTC 2017

Thanks Alicia!

On 03/18/2017 09:54 PM, alicia wrote:
> Yes, OSHWA stands by this clause.
> "Ideally, your open-source hardware project would be designed using a
> free and open-source software application, to maximize the ability of
> others to view and edit it. For better or worse however, hardware design
> files are often created in proprietary programs and stored in
> proprietary formats."

Yes, of course, I read this in the OSHWA website and I even quoted it in
my original message. The question I was asking is rather:

On 03/17/2017 10:52 AM, Javier Serrano wrote:
> Happily for software developers, those days are
> long gone. Is such a state of affairs acknowledged as desirable by
> OSHWA, and is OSHWA willing to be more than a spectator in this regard?

I take it the answer is that OSHWA currently has no plans to take an
active role in the promotion/endorsement/support of FOSS tools for OSHW
development. Is this correct? If it is, I'd like to advocate for a
change in that regard, but before I do so I would need to know what
exactly is the current position of OSHWA management on this. The
paragraph you quote seems a bit vague to me. Also, is this list the
appropriate place for such advocacy? If there is a better channel I will
be happy to use it.

On 03/19/2017 02:58 AM, Rick Altherr wrote:

> I know my employer pays huge licensing fees for CAD software. There is
> certainly an economic incentive to using FOSS. I'm working with others
> in the cloud/server industry to move toward using FOSS tools for open
> hardware designs. With my employer's CAD team, I'm hearing mostly
> resistance to change, concern the tools can't actually complete the
> design and that is an unacceptable risk.  I'm eager to work with anyone
> who has interest or ideas on how to convince big companies FOSS is a
> viable alternative.

Thanks Rick. From the sounds of it, you deal with quite complex designs.
To be fully clear, when I talked about big OSHW companies I was thinking
about Sparkfun, Adafruit, Arduino... Current FOSS tools can easily cope
with the complexity of their designs. The understandable inertia of
designers to keep using the same tools would be a more plausible
explanation, I think, in their case. Plus the investment in know-how and
libraries, which is far from negligible. I may be completely wrong
though. I'd be very interested in reading their take on this. As I see
it today, these companies have little incentive to migrate because,
among other things, "For better or worse however, hardware design files
are often created in proprietary programs and stored in proprietary
formats." But it would be great for FOSS projects if they did migrate,
because FOSS tools will become much better if more people use them and
provide feedback and other types of support.

Regarding your particular case, I have always thought that licensing
costs are not a very strong argument, especially for complex products
like yours. Even if high, they typically get dwarfed by engineering
costs, and good tools more than pay for themselves in time savings of
designers. Besides, that might reinforce the misled belief that FOSS
developers should not be paid for their work. As we have seen in the
software world, a sustainable ecosystem is most often fuelled by paid
developers. For both complex and simple designs, I think the stronger
reason to use FOSS tools is that they allow sharing and collaborating
without any artificial and unnecessary hurdles, which is one of the
tenets of OSHW. So the big decision should be whether to do OSHW or not,
and once one has decided to do OSHW, I think the goal of doing it with
FOSS tools, or at the very least with file formats which are openly and
completely documented, should be a natural one.



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