Open Source = Less Global Warming

May 29, 2009 by Rico Mossesgeld  
Filed under Trends

Steven Chu, the current US Energy Secretary, argues that open source software will cut down on global warming. Long story short, widespread adoption of open source software would cut down on IP- and standards-related conflicts, allowing both the so-called first and third world to quickly reap the benefits of technology, particularly in doing more with less power. Yes, there’s a us-against-them aspect to the idea:

Yes, I am <em>the</em> Steven Chu

Yes, I am the Steven Chu

But he is adamant that great efficiency, particularly in buildings, will significantly reduce the number of power plants built. To really take effect, he says, global co-operation on technology to improve efficiency is vital. And that co-operation, he says, could be best facilitated by open source software to avoid the wrangling over intellectual property that is sometimes a source of tension between developed and developing countries in climate change talks.

That line of reasoning requires quite a leap. A leap based on the assumption that well-designed software will keep future buildings running smoothly and efficiently, and the hope that open source software will eventually gain widespread acceptance. Assuming that entrenched players would want to perpetuate the proprietary-software-for-profit scheme, all I can say is good luck.

Google Android Bug Shows Benefit of Open Source and Free Flow of Info

Imagine typing out a text message, tapping in “reboot”, and wondering why your phone actually rebooted. That’s a quirk caused by a hilarious—but serious—bug affecting G1’s running on the RC29 firmware revision. I totally understand why Ed Burnette called this the “Worst. Bug. Ever.” over at A bug that ultimately gives a casual user complete access to your smartphone if you happen to leave it unattended is a very bad thing indeed.

At the same time however, Ed’s discussion of the issue also shows the advantages of open source, and why being able to share info quickly over the internet is a great thing:

Because Android is open source, the problem was quickly tracked down by users to a couple lines in the system file init.rc. My guess is that this was accidentally left in during device debugging. Thankfully the fix is trivial; you can probably even make it yourself if you’re so inclined (just comment out the offending lines described in the reports above and reboot).

Here’s a workaround I just discovered: Open the keyboard and type these 5 keystrokes: -c-a-t-. That will cause the phantom shell to not listen to commands any more, at least until the next reboot. [italics mine]

Let’s go over that again, shall we? First, Ed highlights the open-source nature of Google’s Android OS, facilitating the discovery of the problem’s source by users. At the same time, through his own blog, Ed quickly shares his own solution to the problem. Now, what more could you ask for?

By the way, a fix for this is part of RC30. So any (legit) G1 users out there, feel free to update as soon as possible.

Wired Magazine Features an Open-Source Hardware Company Full of Stubles

October 21, 2008 by Rico Mossesgeld  
Filed under Geekery


It’s easy to argue that the open-source movement’s progress to the hardware world was inevitable. This aspect of sharing is the chief activity of a company recently featured by Wired Magazine. Arduino seeks to exist by developing and testing specific hardware components—and releasing the results for the entire world to download and copy.

Of course, like any sensible business, profit is still a part of the Italian company’s objectives. Apparently, despite releasing the specs of their creations, Arduino can stand out on the strength of its “Italian manufacturing quality”, compared to copycats that “were poor quality, rife with soldering errors and flimsy pin connections.” After all, these guys are leading, and other are just following. In most cases this leads to a market advantage that leads to increased sales.

This reality has proven beneficial for Arduino, but is it too much to assume that the copycats will eventually perfect their craft, add their own modifications, and leave the originators in the dust? What if some “Asian” company manages to perfect a marketing approach that brainwashes western customers into forgetting a product’s eastern origins (e.g. Apple)?

And, Arduino’s founders could do with a shave or two. (Photo by James Day)

Going Open Source Works to Nokia’s Advantage

June 28, 2008 by Rico Mossesgeld  
Filed under Cellphones reports on Nokia’s bid to buy out all of Symbian (spending $410 Million in the process) and offer “a new, royalty-free mobile software platform.”
This obviously works to Nokia’s advantage. As the top dog in the smartphone world, Nokia would like to make it harder for new players to profitably compete in the market. At least, that’s what the article implies. Read more

VIA OpenBook Design Is Share Alike

May 28, 2008 by Sean R.  
Filed under Laptops, Misc. Gadgets

Open hardware specs seem to be catching on. After the OpenMoko released CAD design files for all of its handsets, Via’s gone and done the same thing with their new OpenBook. It’s only the outside that’s being released as an open design, but that’s not a bad start.

The OpenBook site spells it out like this:

The external panel CAD files for the VIA OpenBook Reference Design are being released under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 license giving customers the flexibility to bring their own innovative style and brand value propositions to the Mini-Note market segment. This also helps customers reduce product development costs and speed time-to-market.

This is really cool, however I suspect that once you give people a taste of what’s possible, they’re going to demand the whole enchilada, not just the external design, but the internal boards, the BIOS, everything.

I’m convinced that we’re now seeing changes in the way hardware is created and marketed that emulate the way open source software has been produced, not just in the sense of making things available for other people to re-use, but in the sense of how that changes where the real innovation will be taking place.

There’s always going to be room for people like Apple, whose designs are patented (i.e., closed) but typically groundbreaking but there also ought to be a place for folks like Asus, where the design is just a place to start.

OGD1: The Open Source Graphics Card

May 23, 2008 by Sean R.  
Filed under Misc. Gadgets

Open source software was just the beginning, as we’re now seeing the slow but steady growth of open source hardware as well.

The newest development in this field is now accepting pre-orders — the Open Graphics Project’s OGD-1, a totally open source FPGA (Field-Programmable Gate Array) development platform.

It’s actually not a graphics card yet, but that’s one of the many possible things it could be morphed into, and that’s all part of the plan.

The OGP itself has as their stated mission the creation of a graphics card that has entirely open hardware specs, and can be run with drivers that are equally open and unencumbered by patent restrictions.

The idea came into being after the open source community experienced continued frustration with ATI and NVidia’s lack of open source driver support, although ATI’s come about as of late and started working more closely with the community.

The details of the OGD-1 make it clear that this isn’t intended to be a consumer product out of the box. Not even close: it’s a fundraiser of sorts, created to get potential designers and programmers immediately curious about the product.

With a price tag of $1,500 USD for the first iteration of the kit, few people on the consumer level are likely to drop cash for something that needs to be programmed from scratch.

The card also isn’t aimed at becoming the heart of a monster gaming machine, either. The OGP’s FAQ is very clear on this point:

A graphics card is only one possible application for this device, and not even the most potentially interesting one.

Like the OpenMoko, the idea is to make something that can be bent and shaped — not just by end users, but by other engineers and manufacturers. Someone else’s endpoint can become your starting point.

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