Author Topic: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?  (Read 11260 times)

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Offline osmaneralp

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #25 on: September 20, 2013, 03:04:25 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...

This is a good point that I had not considered. My original thoughts were that I would complete the project mainly for my own benefit, and on the side I would make it open for anyone else to copy. I had not thought that other might actually help with the project. :-+ If I want others to contribute, I can see the importance of using an easily available free tool the tool that anyone can download and use. Unfortunately, the free EDA tools are not necessarily the easiest to use or the most widely used. If a free tool has very few users, the pool of contributors would be very small. A "closed" tool that has thousands of users might be a better choice than an open tool that has very few users.

If I am doing the project on my own and just publishing the results, it sounds like the prevailing opinion is that I can use whatever I want as long as someone else can duplicate the results with a different tool. This makes perfect sense to me, and this is the route I will probably take.

Many thanks for the advice. It is an interesting discussion.

--Osman
 

Online westfw

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #26 on: September 20, 2013, 05:48:46 am »
CAD packages aside, I get an uneasy feeling about "open source hardware" projects that can't actually be built on an individual basis.   BeagleBoard, for instance, may be fully "open source", but ... *I* can't build one for a reasonable cost.  I might get a certain amount of "warm an fuzzy feeling" from the sense that perhaps I could have it built FOR ME, if it were important to my business, and should the supply dry up, but it would be a significantly expensive proposition.

Consider the original BeagleBone, or the "Chumby Hacker Board."  Both were open source, but as far as I can tell, they might as well not have been...

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
It's interesting that many of the OSHW designed released using free CAD packages (EAGLE, gEDA, etc) do NOT also release gerbers/etc.  If you want them, you're expected to generate them yourself...
 

Offline free_electron

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #27 on: September 20, 2013, 11:55:43 am »
That is odd indeed.
Gerber is the lowest common denominator. What good is a design if i cant modify it. Lets say it is made in eagle , but not the free version.  I dont haveeagle and will not buy it. How do i get the gerber to make the board ?

If i have gerber i can at least have a board made. If i have gerber i can modify it or import it in whatever cad tool i use.

The more i look at all that 'open' stuff the more hurdles i see ..
Can't do this, can't do that. If it's got restrictions it can't truly be open....
« Last Edit: September 20, 2013, 12:02:53 pm by free_electron »
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Offline amyk

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #28 on: September 20, 2013, 12:08:03 pm »
Someone asked about converting PDF to gerber in one of the other boards here a short while ago, and got it done, so that's another avenue for "opening".
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #29 on: September 20, 2013, 02:49:34 pm »
Here's another aspect  - if you know a tool well, you'll want to use it. You may decide at the start, or somewhere along the way to open-source the design. Being in a non-free or non-mainstream format may be slightly less convenient to people, but at least the essential parts are there - PDF of schematic, PDF and/or gerbers of PCB. Most projects aren't so complex that someone who wants to improve it would have to spend a lot of time re-entering it.
But at least the design is out there.

Any prejudice against non-open tools may discourage anyone who isn't interested in learning new tools from making their design open, so the bottom line is that there will be fewer open designs out there, which is worse for everyone.
 
IMO the current OSH 'charter' is already a little too prescriptive.
My feeling is that it is entirely reasonable for someone to decide to to say "here's a design, feel free to modify it & improve it, but if all you want to do is a straight copy then I'm not going to help you do that by giving you produciton-ready files. You need to put some effort in yourself" 
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Online westfw

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #30 on: September 21, 2013, 12:32:30 am »
Quote
Lets say it is made in eagle , but not the free version.  I dont have eagle and will not buy it. How do i get the gerber to make the board ?
Well, if it were in EAGLE, you would download the free version and use it to generate gerbers.  EAGLE's freeware version seems to be relatively screw-free - you can view, print, or run the CAM processor on design files that exceed the restrictions of the license.  You can probably even edit them slightly; the main "real" restriction is that you can not move a component to a position that is outside the size limits.  For example, I had no trouble outputting gerbers for the Google ADK2012 board (an 'extended' Arduino Due; 80x127mm, 4 layers.)

Quote
If i have gerber i can modify it or import it in whatever cad tool i use.
Really?  I can't imagine that an imported gerber is very useful for anything beyond the most basic fixes.  Do the high-priced packages really manage to reconstruct packages, nets, and components, or a schematic, from what is essentially a group of shapes and line segments scattered across several layers of PCB?
 

Offline tom66

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #31 on: September 21, 2013, 01:24:01 am »
I release schematics for my projects, but I -rarely- release gerbers.
My reasoning is, schematics: great for repair, understanding or change to the product.
Gerbers: great to completely copy the product without putting any effort in. You can't edit a gerber. You may as well start from scratch with any more than basic changes to an already compact PCB, too. (Most of my designs use every square inch.)

I don't know though, perhaps this view is less of open source view and more of open design. I want my products to be easy to repair, maintain and learn from, but conversely I don't want someone to start making carbon copies without putting -any- effort into at least engineering it differently or improving it in some way.

I also release schematics as PDFs. GPL-EDA has some awkwardness with symbol footprints, and a lot of my library is custom. Without the toolchain and symbols being set up properly, there is no point in having the *.sch.
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #32 on: September 21, 2013, 09:52:32 am »
For the majority of designs, which are not especially complex, it isn't a huge effort to re-create a PCB in the package of your choice - the bulk of the work for a PCB is placement, and then secondly  figuring out the routing paths. The actual routing after that is pretty trivial, so to create a new version, maybe 95% of the work is already done.
It helps if your PCB SW can load a gerber, as you can use this as a template as a guide to place components over, but even without this it's not a huge  effort to re-create something from a drawing.
 
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Offline free_electron

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #33 on: September 21, 2013, 09:52:47 am »
Oh yes, you can decompile gerbers.... I have done it many times.
Load gerbers anddrill file in camtastic (part of altium). Check alignment. Verify layer order and naming. Hit the 'extract netlist' button. Camtastic takes a few seconds to analyse all copper shapes and assign nets to every element that is interconnected. It looks at the drill coordinates and pads to find the vias and part holes.
Once that is done you click export to pcb and voila. An altium pcbdoc opens with the board now consisting of regulare pads, vias and traces and including a netlist. So you can start pushing stuff around.
When done -> export back to gerber.

Now, of course the thing cant detect components as gerber does not contain information of what is grouped together across layers. But, this is where the human comes in.
You create a small local library by selecting pads and traces. This may take a few hours but is not hard to do. Lets say a board contains 085 1206 some tqfps some so and some connectors.
You really only need to extract one of each , toss em in a llnrary and then perform a sequential place. It goes very quickly. Once done you use the filters to select free smd pads and all crap on the silkscreen and delete it.
There you go. A full board with real parts and traces, decompiled from foreign gerbers.
Now you can draw the schematic from it and use the project compiler to verify that your reverse engineered schematic matches the board. You can use all the tools like the crossprobing to ease the work. It is still time intensive but it does work.

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Offline tnt

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #34 on: September 26, 2013, 01:03:51 pm »
To me the software package used doesn't matter. It's a tool.
As long as it is possible to buy it or get the format documentation (i.e. not some internal tool that's not distributed anywhere), then it would be fine.

Yes, if you don't have it, you won't be able to use the files ... well same thing if you don't have a computer. And to produce the board physically you'll also need to pay.

Including PDF & Gerber version would of course be nice, but shouldn't be a requirement. And for example in my case the PDF and gerber are often _not_ in the git repositor, they might just be on the website or something. This is simply because I really don't like to include autogenerated files (i.e. files derived entirely from others) in the git repo ...
 

Offline Alana

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #35 on: September 26, 2013, 08:28:07 pm »
In my opinion if you really want to use someone else open or public domain project all you really need is schematics in PDF and firmware. I had to re-do most of public domain projects i used into my fav CAD simply because its damn outdated [remembers win3.11] but i know it well and prefer over Eagle or Kicad or even Altium. So if i can, anyone can. Simple as pie.
 

Offline Tonkabot

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #36 on: October 10, 2013, 05:19:07 pm »
I started with Eagle, then went to PCAD and it was a huge improvement in productivity an quality.  After a couple years with PCAD I tried to go do a board in Eagle and it was like pulling teeth - I had learned all the nice ways to do stuff and Eagle was so much extra work to do simple drag and drop type of stuff in PCAD.

I gave up and went with what I knew then.   Now of course we have migrated to Altium, and I see that as a huge improvement over PCAD, at least once I got over the learning curve.   I only have so many brain cells and I am going to use the best tool I know how to use, it isn't feasible to keep expertise in multiple PCB tools - at least for me.

Distribute the schematic in PDF and Gerbers if you want people making their own boards.

Maybe someone could come up with a interchange format between different tools, such as the .STEP files in the 3d CAD world.   
But none of the proprietary vendors would need or want to do that.
 

Offline homebrew

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #37 on: October 10, 2013, 07:45:33 pm »
In my opinion yes of course!

But I restrict my projects to the free version of Eagle. Thus everyone can alter the design easily. I tried my luck with gEDA but in my opinion the degree of reliance of that suite is still quite low. Even the most simple PSU design with rectifier cap and regulator nearly went bust because I didn't realize that gPCB swaped the pinout of the diodes I used in gSchem.

And that's a 5 year old problem being still present: http://archives.seul.org/geda/user/Aug-2007/msg00299.html

What a horror show ...  bummer!

Therefore, just stick to what you are used to ... thats fine!

Cheers,
Peter
 

Offline johnnyfp

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #38 on: October 11, 2013, 08:35:16 pm »
I like to tweak open source projects be it software or hardware, and find that most projects have a different way to present there projects. Be it pdfs, gerber, eagle files or whatever, and I always end up coverting it to something that I know and love.
I think it the nature of this "open"ness. Not everyone will know how to use tool x y or z but they will know there own tool. So they will tend to lead to using that.

I think as long as there is a means for a viewer to read and interperate your project, then its considered open.
 

Offline resistor

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Re: Should open hardware be designed with closed software?
« Reply #39 on: October 11, 2013, 11:06:13 pm »
I don't think the tool used to create it is as important as the format used to distribute it.  An open source design available in a format that can only be opened by expensive software isn't useful to many people.  Publishing gerbers and PDFs helps some, but both of those are (mostly) read-only formats, so they're less useful than having the original in a truly editable format.
 


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