Author Topic: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?  (Read 11245 times)

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Offline osmaneralp

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Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« on: September 18, 2013, 02:44:30 pm »
I have an open hardware project that I want to design and make available to the community. The problem is that I don't know how to use any of the open CAD tools, such as KiCad. I know Eagle and Altium Designer. Eagle is not open, but at least it has a free version. I would prefer to use Altium, but of course it is a closed system. Can I use Altium or Eagle for an open hardware project?

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Offline Bertho

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2013, 03:07:51 pm »
In principle, you can use whatever you like and of course it would be very much more preferential to use free software for all steps.

The primary freedom involves that you can study the design and alter it for your own purpose. That means you publish the schematics and the firmware source, including all documentation, under a free license. With these anyone could redo the project/hardware with the same functionality.

You can compare it to a scientific publication. Any person, with skills in the field, should be able to reproduce the results from a scientific publication. Having access to any materials, tools and procedures is an important part of being able to reproduce results and make it accessible to a greater audience. The more parts locked up, the fewer can benefit and the cost rises.

Using a Kicad or gplEDA improves the degree of freedom and makes it more accessible to other users. It enables wider collaboration and ease of use for more people. The same argument goes for compiler, assembler and other tools, like mechanical drawings, for creating the final design. I can only encourage you to learn free tools and tool-chains.
 

Offline krivx

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2013, 03:24:37 pm »
If you can use an open format then the software you use really doesn't matter. Can Altium export to something can be edited with free software? (apart from Gerbers obv)
 

Offline ResR

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2013, 06:55:39 pm »
ExpressPCB? The software is free to download, quite easy to use for my experience. Maybe this is what you look for?
 

Offline jancumps

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2013, 07:01:39 pm »
You should do as you please ;)
You are doing the work, so it's your call.
It would be a never ending story. Would you have to run the oped source CAD on Linux on an open hardware computer?
 

Offline Bored@Work

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2013, 07:53:00 pm »
Can I use Altium or Eagle for an open hardware project?

It is an ongoing debate if using commercial software for open hardware is OK. It doesn't feel right, but many open hardware developers do so. Very common seems the use of Eagle.
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Offline krivx

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2013, 08:32:16 pm »
You should do as you please ;)
You are doing the work, so it's your call.
It would be a never ending story. Would you have to run the oped source CAD on Linux on an open hardware computer?

This is not so much of a political problem as it is a practical one if you want others to contribute to or use your project. What is the point of releasing design files if they are locked into file formats that are priced well outside the reach of most individuals?
 

Offline jancumps

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2013, 09:00:39 pm »
You should do as you please ;)
You are doing the work, so it's your call.
It would be a never ending story. Would you have to run the oped source CAD on Linux on an open hardware computer?

This is not so much of a political problem as it is a practical one if you want others to contribute to or use your project. What is the point of releasing design files if they are locked into file formats that are priced well outside the reach of most individuals?
Yes.
The only practical way to work together is when you use compatible tools, regardless if it's open or closed hardware.
But if the schematics are published in a readable way (scanned print of a schema created with closed CAD?) and the license is open, it should be ok to call it open.
 

Offline 8086

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2013, 09:03:44 pm »
An open design is one that has it's content revealed to all.

You can simply publish PDFs or images of schematics and it can still be open.

The software package is irrelevant. You're still making the information available.
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2013, 09:04:29 pm »
Can I use Altium or Eagle for an open hardware project?

It is an ongoing debate if using commercial software for open hardware is OK. It doesn't feel right, but many open hardware developers do so. Very common seems the use of Eagle.
This is one of those "would be nice" things but it makes no sense to insist on it.
Having to use non-free tools to do PCB layout is no different to having to use a non-free soldering iron to assemble it.
If all the people who bleat on about this got stuck in and helped to make, say, kicad as good as, say, Altium then that would be real progress. Until then it's just hot air and doesn't achieve anything.
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Offline jancumps

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #10 on: September 18, 2013, 09:11:39 pm »
...
If all the people who bleat on about this got stuck in and helped to make, say, kicad as good as, say, Altium then that would be real progress. ...
That can happen. In the software area the open source IDEs for Java are competitive with the commercial IDEs - for capabilities and usability.
 

Offline ve7xen

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #11 on: September 18, 2013, 10:01:30 pm »
Of course it is still open regardless of the tools that you use, but I do think it's important for open hardware to use open development tools, otherwise I see little value in their "openness," it's really no different then than publishing copyrighted PDFs of the details. It's up to you of course, but I'd urge you to (especially since you're just starting out) use open tools as much as possible. You will make your work potentially much more useful to others.

Quote
Having to use non-free tools to do PCB layout is no different to having to use a non-free soldering iron to assemble it.
I disagree. Requiring liquid solder for assembly is quite different than requiring a very specific software package from a specific company (and likely a specific version). Use a Hakko, Metcal, Weller - or hell a homemade reflow oven made by Black and Decker. It's the difference between having a simple, general purpose tool that can easily be improvised, for which many options exist, versus a single purpose, very specific tool from a single company with no potential whatsoever for alternatives. Even in the case of things like device programmers, the programming protocols are (generally) available and it's at least conceivable that open or alternative options could exist (or be made by) for an enterprising user. In the case of EDA suites that's not remotely possible.
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Offline firewalker

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #12 on: September 18, 2013, 10:07:55 pm »
Can I use Altium or Eagle for an open hardware project?

It is an ongoing debate if using commercial software for open hardware is OK. It doesn't feel right, but many open hardware developers do so. Very common seems the use of Eagle.
This is one of those "would be nice" things but it makes no sense to insist on it.
Having to use non-free tools to do PCB layout is no different to having to use a non-free soldering iron to assemble it.
If all the people who bleat on about this got stuck in and helped to make, say, kicad as good as, say, Altium then that would be real progress. Until then it's just hot air and doesn't achieve anything.

The analogy would be with a "non open hardware soldering iron". It is a loop tbh.

As RMS would say "Free as freedom, not as free beer".  ;D ;D ;D

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Online free_electron

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #13 on: September 18, 2013, 10:55:42 pm »
let me do a thought experiment...

if i can't use tool xyz because it is proprietary and cost money.

Then why would i be allowed to use an AVR processor. That core is also proprietary... only atmel has it so you are forcet to use the atmel cpu. you could whine the design s not 'open' as you are forced to 'buy' the atmel cpu while you have a few pic's laying around that were cheaper or free..

if i made it using a specific pic you could complain : but that pic has a special function that no other cpu in the wolrd has. your design is not 'open enough' ....

so we'd end up with designs consisting only of 1k resistors and 2n2222 transistors. as those are the only parts you can get anywhere. any part that has a single vendor with no alternative would automatically be barred.

so goodbye any kind of design using a chip that has no alternate.... goodbye arduino , goodbye raspberry pi , (both contain sole source parts)

just a though experiment...
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Offline c4757p

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #14 on: September 18, 2013, 11:07:32 pm »
I say drop the buzzword and just say what you can and cannot do with your stuff. Who cares if you can validly call it "open"? Publish your files and say "here's what you can do with them", and if people want to bitch that it's not "open" if you need expensive software to work on it, let 'em.
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Offline David_AVD

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #15 on: September 18, 2013, 11:17:30 pm »
It seems that "open hardware" is often more like "public domain hardware" in a practical sense.
 

Offline ve7xen

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #16 on: September 18, 2013, 11:21:00 pm »
let me do a thought experiment...
I would simply say that the requirement to use AVR is part of the final product and not part of the production process. Obviously at some point you're going to need to put down some money for actual hardware, but to the extent possible, I think the reliance on proprietary meta-things like C compilers and EDA suites should be minimized to maximize utility to those attempting to make use or contribute to your project. In most cases it doesn't affect the final product whether you use open or proprietary tools, so open tools should be used if the hardware is to also be 'open'.

I'd go even further and say that to the extent possible, open designs should use openly documented parts.

Of course this is my personal opinion and has nothing to do with whether the design itself is "open" or not, which is a much simpler question to answer.
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Offline Bertho

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #17 on: September 18, 2013, 11:31:03 pm »
just a though experiment...
Although an interesting argument, it is quite a problematic one. Basically all components are proprietary; even a 1k resistor and a 2N2222 transistor. All hardware components that make up a design are hard to manufacture at home. There may be second sources for some, but many components only have a single source.

Even the opencores initiative suffers from the problem that the target CPLD/FPGA chips are proprietary. An ASIC, although feasible with some serious funding, is not free either. The internal architecture, gates, layout and interconnects are all proprietary. You can then, of course, make your own machines and so, but then only to find that the chemicals you need to make the darn chips are not even available for hobbyists; and when you start making your own, then I seriously doubt that the black helicopters will stay away for too long.

Open hardware has a limit, simply financial, to be done with the four freedoms as RMS defined. Software has no tangible substance, hardware has. Even a lesser take on free is not available with hardware. There is, in the current global climate of hardware, no feasible free model that persists through all layers.

I'd really would like to make a completely free processor on par with AVR/PIC/ARM/MIPS/etc. That can be done if the open hardware community can come up with some serious funding in the order of $10^10 and a darn good plan. And then cross your fingers that you will not die in a patent war. If you though mobiles were bad going with patents, hardware is just as bad or even worse because it becomes a global problem, whereas software patents are primarily limited to the US.

So, as much as I like the though experiment, it is more like a fantasy (for now) in my view.

[edit] in the light of the NSA scandal, I'd like to see really open hardware at all levels. A nice thought. Maybe a crowd-sourced project?  ;)
« Last Edit: September 18, 2013, 11:35:47 pm by Bertho »
 

Offline AlfBaz

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #18 on: September 19, 2013, 12:08:53 am »
This problem seems to have two issues.

If you use "open" tools to create an "open" design then the open hardware community may languish due to limitations imposed by the open/free tools available. It becomes increasingly difficult to publish multi-layer high speed designs and only very few dedicated people would choose to take on such a task that could be easily accomplished with more efficient yet proprietary tools.

On the other hand, not using the open tools see's development of them languish due to the lack of their use or having them being pushed to their limits, allowing developers to see opportunities to enhance the tools

The other problem to contend with is competition from proprietors of closed tools. The open hardware/software movement has seen steady growth and take up which companies are trying to capitalise on in an effort to promote their closed tools.

In my humble opinion the open community should take every opportunity to advance the open designs available and not limit itself by mandating hobbled and limited tool sets

 

Online EEVblog

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #19 on: September 19, 2013, 01:24:00 am »
Can I use Altium or Eagle for an open hardware project?

Yes. The majority of open hardware would have been done in the "defacto standard" Eagle. There are quite a few that use Altium as well, such as myself.
Depends entirely on how much of a purest you want to be.
 

Offline marshallh

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #20 on: September 19, 2013, 01:27:06 am »
In my humble opinion the open community should take every opportunity to advance the open designs available and not limit itself by mandating hobbled and limited tool sets

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Online EEVblog

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #21 on: September 19, 2013, 01:32:42 am »
This is not so much of a political problem as it is a practical one if you want others to contribute to or use your project. What is the point of releasing design files if they are locked into file formats that are priced well outside the reach of most individuals?

That's right, it's up to the individual designer to decide that. If you as the designer really want people to contribute to and expand the design, then you would chose the best tool that facilitates that, be it Eagle, KiCAD, Altium, or whatever. i.e. if you know that all your friends who might want to contribute to the project have access to Altium, then there would be absolutely nothing wrong with choosing Altium, in fact it would be the best choice.
Those who don't have Altium, tough luck, deal with it.
It's the the old problem of not being able to please everyone.
You use KiCAD or some other open CAD software, then you'll still get people who use Eagle (the majority is seems) complain that you didn't use Eagle. You can't win, so just use to tool you want.
 

Online free_electron

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #22 on: September 19, 2013, 01:46:13 am »
Although an interesting argument, it is quite a problematic one. Basically all components are proprietary; even a 1k resistor and a 2N2222 transistor.

you don't get what i'm saying : there is 100 manufacturers making 1k resistors. if you only have 2k resistors in house you can make 1k by paralleling two 1k's. or putting 10 100 ohms in series.
if you don't have a 2n2222 you can stick in a bc107 or bc547.
if you don't have the atmega328 and only a pic .. you are stuck...
if atmel goes tits-up the entire design is dead. chances of 1k resistors disappearing or 2n2222 transistors disappearing are nil. it can be replaced. there are alternates.
not so for a one of a kind chip... you could port it to a different cpu but what if i use a special feature that no other chip has. that is what i'm getting at.
let;s say i make an open source oscilloscope using a massive altera fpga , analog devices dsp and a maxim ultrafast a/d convertor. i release everything : 8 layer board floorplan , verilog code, dsp code . the whole shebang.

if you are going to whine it was made with altium you can also whine 'why 8 layers,  i can't etch that at home... why altera i want xilinx .. why bga i can't solder that .. why surface mount and not thru hole ? why verilog and not vhdl ? why an analog devices dsp and not a pic ? why this super expensice ceramic chip with heatslug. couldn;t you do this by multiplexing 4 cheapo ones ?

there is  just no pleasing everybody.

an open hardware design should release the following:

- the source files , irrespective of what cad tools they were made with. lots of cad tools can read each other formats.
- a pdf version of the schematic and pcb layers scaled 1:1
- the gerber and nc drill files
- all sourcecode

with that information you can have the board made and build it -as-is-
or you can pull in the gerber , decompile it (not my fault if your cad tool does not have that capability. get a better one) , or even better import my cad files and run with em ( again not my fault if your cad tool cannot read my cad tools files. My cad tool eats almost any cad format out there, mentor, pads, allegro, zuken, eagle , orcad... it eats everything. if kicad can't read my files: go hound the kicad makers to build importers. not my fault your tool is limited. if every tool was identical we would only be using 1 tool.

by releasing the above i have given you all you need. you have the full sources in machine readable format. what more do you want ?

Quote
I'd really would like to make a completely free processor on par with AVR/PIC/ARM/MIPS/etc.

There is already one in the list you give : MIPS is a free core. anyone is allowed to make a MIPS processor without paying royalties. you can only call it a MIPS if it passes the MIPS compliance test suite though. the testing costs money. but there is no licencing  fee to use.

There are plenty of cores that have been made open. 8051 for example is open. intel specifically released it years ago ( that's why  years ago there was a sudden boom in companies making processors based on the 8051. there were no more royalties to be paid to the instruction set )


Now, the sword also cuts the other way.

Mandating a project is done in kicad or geda in order to release it as 'open' will turn a lot of eagle users away. It will also turn a lot of other tool users away.
Telling someone he can't use state of the art when doing a design and blocking him to use pen and paper will have a very simply reaction : f-you.

It could be even worse : instigate a rule like "you can only make open sauce stuff if you are using open sauce software on open sauce os's": boom you just killed of 90% of the open hardware makers. your whole ecosystem will come crashing down.

i am willing to give you my design for free. asking me to learn a different os, toolchain and imposing all kinds of other restrictions that are a burden to me is simply counterproductive for me. I won't bother, so you won't get my designs.

« Last Edit: September 19, 2013, 01:51:42 am by free_electron »
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Offline Bertho

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #23 on: September 19, 2013, 09:56:33 am »
you don't get what i'm saying
Oh but I do get what you are saying. The premise of the thought experiment can be interpreted to be "there needs to be a second source for any component" or "hardware needs to be free too".

I just took the more extreme approach in the thought experiment. Please remember, hardware will never be free as in beer because you need to cover the expense of the physical world.

Quote
an open hardware design should release the following:
- the source files , irrespective of what cad tools they were made with. lots of cad tools can read each other formats.; - a pdf version of the schematic and pcb layers scaled 1:1; - the gerber and nc drill files; - all sourcecode
And that was exactly my point in the first reply in this thread...

My answer to your thought experiment is not representative of what I think is possible or necessary in the real world. You invited borderline (extreme) thoughts with your thought experiment.

Quote
There is already one in the list you give : MIPS is a free core. anyone is allowed to make a MIPS processor without paying royalties. you can only call it a MIPS if it passes the MIPS compliance test suite though. the testing costs money. but there is no licencing  fee to use.
We can agree that there are lots of free designs for cores and whatnotelse already available. However, your thought experiment invites, or maybe even mandates, to think the path all the way through. The fact that I cannot make a chip at home does not mean that the actual physical execution of the design should be proprietary. That is why I said, lets build a fab that produces open hardware in an open way. Wishful thinking, maybe, but would be really nice.
 

Offline amyk

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #24 on: September 19, 2013, 11:24:55 am »
There is already one in the list you give : MIPS is a free core. anyone is allowed to make a MIPS processor without paying royalties. you can only call it a MIPS if it passes the MIPS compliance test suite though. the testing costs money. but there is no licencing  fee to use.
MIPS isn't completely free - some instructions are patented.

SPARC on the other hand is, but it's a "big" architecture that no one has really used in anything outside of huge mainframes and the like.
 


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