Yesterday, we noticed this article in EDN.
I have to say that this is a well-written and very accurate article, which uses the proper terminology unlike the bombastic article posted by Linux.com a few weeks ago, which was named “Top 10 Open Source Linux Boards Under $200” and 7 out of 10 boards quoted inside this article were not Open Source Hardware at all but closed source.
This often causes confusion – people assume that if a board runs Linux, it is open source but this is not the case. If this were true, I should call my laptop, which runs Ubuntu, Open Source Laptop which is obviously incorrect!
There is a very clear definition as to what Open Source Hardware is.
Open source hardware is hardware whose design is made publicly available so that anyone can study, modify, distribute, make, and sell the design or hardware based on that design.
The hardware’s source, the design from which it is made, is available in the preferred format for making modifications to it.
Ideally, open source hardware uses readily-available components and materials, standard processes, open infrastructure, unrestricted content, and open-source design tools to maximize the ability of individuals to make and use hardware.
Open source hardware gives people the freedom to control their technology while sharing knowledge and encouraging commerce through the open exchange of designs.
i.e. to name a board (hardware) Open Source Board (Hardware) this board should have non-conditionally (requiring registrations etc) publicly available CAD source files which allow these boards to be studied, changed, modified etc.
Having schematic in JPG or PDF format DOES NOT MAKE the design/board OPEN SOURCE HARDWARE.
Releasing PDFs and JPG schematics is like to releasing binary codes for the software, so you can’t use them to modify or change the hardware for your need.
And the Linux.com article is not alone with the confusions about Open Source Hardware.
If you search for Open Source Hardware in your top hits you will see this List.
Inside the list there are:
- Cubieboard – low cost closed source hardware which have just schematic in PDF
- GP32 – closed source board with no CAD files
- Odroid – closed source board no CAD files
- Simputer – closed source hardware
- Raspberry Pi – low cost closed source ARM board even the creator of Raspberry Pi Eben say in his Circuil Cellar interview last month: “we are not open source hardware”, but this doesn’t stop one to list it there 🙂
If you look at the history of this Wiki page, you will see that at one time somebody removed some of these boards because they were inappropriate, but then another one returned them with the remark: “reput some entries deleted by .., they are schematics available on these projects (google search guy !))”
This makes me think – just how trustworthy is the information in Wikipedia?
When somebody who has no knowledge for something is allowed to write whatever he/she wants on these pages and when one tries to correct him/her somebody else later again returns the incorrect information.