Open Hardware Month Hack Chat

Hardware wants to be free, too

Wednesday, October 23, 2019 12:00 pm PDT Local time zone:
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Michael Weinberg from the Open Source Hardware Association joins us for the Hack Chat on Wednesday, October 23, 2019 at noon PDT.

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It seems like everything and everyone has a special day set aside on the calendar. You know the drill - a headline declaring it National Grilled Cheese Day (sorry, you missed it - April 12) or National Bundt Pan Day (not even kidding, November 15). Seems only fair with all these silly recognition days floating around that we in the hacking community should have a day of our own, too, or even a whole month. That's why the Open Source Hardware Association declared the entire month of October to be Open Hardware Month.

Open hardware is all about accessible, collaborative processes that let everyone see and understand the hardware they're using. The technological underpinnings of our lives are increasingly hidden from us, locked away as corporate secrets. Open hardware tries to turn that on its head and open up devices to everyone, giving them the freedom to not only use their devices but to truly understand what's happening in them, and perhaps repair, extend, and even modify them to do something new and useful. Celebrating that and getting the message out to the general public is certainly something worth doing.

Michael Weinberg is a board member at OSHWA, and he'll be joining the Hack Chat on October 23 (National Boston Cream Pie Day) to discuss Open Hardware Month and open-source hardware in general. We'll learn about some of the events planned for Open Hardware Month, how open hardware is perceived beyond the hacker community, and what's on tap for the 10th anniversary Open Hardware Summit in 2020.

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 3

    Dan Maloney10/23/2019 at 20:05 0 comments

    Drew Fustini12:53 PM

    Michael Weinberg12:54 PM
    @Frank Buss that is what we are aiming for with the certification. We have had times where we certified something and someone from the community came back and said that the documentation was not enough to reproduce it. Once we confirmed that we gave the original creator a choice: update the documentation or become decertified. We all worked together to improve the documentation so that it was better for users

    Jason Kridner12:54 PM
    @Frank Buss even then, you still need hardware capable of running the GPL software. I feel the reasonable demands are there. If there are further reasonable demands, please share the thought.

    Michael Weinberg12:55 PM
    @Leon Anavi One of the Bulgarian kings of open source hardware!

    Frank Buss12:55 PM
    @Michael Weinberg sounds good, but maybe it should be a requirement on the definition page

    Jason Kridner12:55 PM

    Leon Anavi12:55 PM
    @Michael Weinberg hehe :) Olimex are the local open source hardware kings here :)

    Alpenglow Industries12:55 PM
    @Michael Weinberg definitely! And I'm thinking more about products that are mostly a circuit board, which don't have a ton of secret sauce once all files and BOM are released, and which take zero effort to reproduce. Single digit effort is fine, I'm just thinking of something > 0.

    Brian12:56 PM
    @Frank Buss "would be nice if the license would require any information to reproduce it yourself, as GPL does for software" -> Please, no hand-holding for the masses. There are limits for what can be done for design documentation vs not allowing shroud around certain design aspects of supposedly 'open' stuff.

    de∫hipu12:56 PM
    @Frank Buss the question is how deep do you need to go? Do you need recipes for making your own transistors?

    Frank Buss12:56 PM
    digikey part number would be sufficient :-)

    de∫hipu12:57 PM
    @Frank Buss how about radioshack part number?

    Frank Buss12:57 PM
    ok, manufacturer part number might be the best solution, then you can find it with etc.

    de∫hipu12:57 PM
    digikey doesn't have most parts I use

    Michael Weinberg12:57 PM
    @Frank Buss the certification requires you to comply with the definition, and the definition requires documentation. But, again, it is hard to create detailed rules that can be easily applied to kite surfers, violins, and microcontroller boards

    Leon Anavi12:57 PM
    @Michael Weinberg @Drew Fustini btw it will be nice to have a ranking by countries at I guess Bulgaria at the moment is on the top of the list for Europe :)

    Michael Weinberg12:58 PM
    That is where the feedback from the community really helps. They are the best positioned to know hen things are "good eough"

    Michael Weinberg12:58 PM
    @Leon Anavi I can tell you with a high degree of confidence that Bulgaria has the highest per-capita certification of any country. We are working on a project that could result in an interactive map and leader board

    Brian1:00 PM
    @Frank Buss "digikey part number would be sufficient" -> No. Here is the schematic with general component IDs, here is the PCB layout, here is the source code, here is the gist of the mechanical interface, now be a cool dudette or dude and build it.

    Leon Anavi1:00 PM
    @Michael Weinberg actually, all projects certified from Bulgaria are from my hometown - Plovdiv :)

    Leon Anavi1:00 PM
    I am trying to convince people from other places in Bulgaria to certify their products.

    OK folks, here we are the end of another information-packed hour. You never know which way a Hack Chat is going to go, and this one took off on its own trajectory from the start. Really useful info, though - so many dimensions to IP and licensing.

    I'm going to call official time, but the OSHWA people - think I saw @Drew Fustini on, hi Drew! - can keep fielding questions as long as they want to. I'll just say a big thanks to @Michael Weinberg and everyone else for coming in on short notice to celebrate Open...

    Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 2

    Dan Maloney10/23/2019 at 20:04 0 comments


    John Loefler12:29 PM
    @Michael Weinberg And isn't the new US law that it is the first "inverntor" to patent not "person". if you are the first to put it in the public domain isn't that prove you are the inventor

    Michael Weinberg12:30 PM
    @Anthony Kouttron that's right. When you think about open source hardware, thing about four parts: hardware, software, documentation, and TM

    Daren Schwenke12:30 PM
    What if *you* released something to public domain. Can *you* then still go and patent that same thing?

    David Troetschel12:30 PM
    but putting it in the public domain practically bans you from patenting it

    Michael Weinberg12:30 PM
    when you openly license the hardware, software, and documentation you are not also licensing the trademark

    John Loefler12:30 PM
    @Daren Schwenke I think you have one year

    David Troetschel12:31 PM
    @John Loefler I think I remember seeing that too

    John Loefler12:31 PM
    @David Troetschel I believe the rule is 1 year after public disclosure

    Michael Weinberg12:31 PM
    think of the trademark as being where you go to start answering the question "who is responsible for this board that just caught fire?"

    Michael Weinberg12:32 PM
    the first place it should point you to is the person/company that actually manufactured the thing, not the person/company that came up with the design

    de∫hipu12:32 PM
    which makes me wonder, do disclaimers work for hardware designs as well?

    de∫hipu12:32 PM
    if I release a design of something, can they come knocking on my door when it explodes in their hands?

    Michael Weinberg12:33 PM
    to step back, the reason that all of this matters is because when people say that they want to 'open source their hardware' we want to make sure that they have not inadvertently left barriers to future users because they did not license things properly

    David Troetschel12:33 PM
    you can state warnings and such if it makes you feel better but it can't really stop someone from trying

    Michael Weinberg12:33 PM
    disclaimers never hurt (that's why you see them everywhere) but there are some things you can't disclaim away.

    Marc Schömann12:33 PM
    but if all that can´t be enforced, does it even matter for hardware?

    de∫hipu12:34 PM
    that's what worries me

    Michael Weinberg12:34 PM
    they can be enforced, it just depends on the context

    Michael Weinberg12:34 PM
    there are questions about how responsible a designer is if they just release digital files (as opposed to create a board and ship it)

    Anthony Kouttron12:35 PM
    Thanks for all the information guys! this really helps. Going back to what @David Troetschel mentioned, can I have a piece of hardware registered open source hardware and cern hardware at the same time? Is that even possible?

    de∫hipu12:35 PM
    with 3d priting and such, that becomes a moot question

    Michael Weinberg12:35 PM
    also if you did something totally negligently like design the board to explode whenever someone turns it on a disclaimer probably won't save you

    Michael Weinberg12:35 PM
    @Anthony Kouttron totally!

    Michael Weinberg12:35 PM
    They are complimentary.

    David Troetschel12:35 PM
    "Licensed under CERN OHL v.1.2 or later

    Creative Commons LicenseGeometer by David Troetschel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

    Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

    Open Source Hardware Association Certification"

    David Troetschel12:36 PM
    this is for Geometer

    David Troetschel12:36 PM



    Geometer is a new design tool and form language mediating between the physical and digital world. It is made to be understandable, communicable and dynamic. -No black box, encouraging active participation and goal oriented design. -Components open a channel for dialogue around relationships and patterns.

    Read this on Hackaday...

    Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

    Dan Maloney10/23/2019 at 20:03 0 comments

    Hi everyone, that's for joining us. Today on the Hack Chat we have @Michael Weinberg from OSHWA, and we're going to be celebrating Open Hardware Month, which is October BTW.

    @Michael Weinberg - can you tell us a little about yourself and your role at OSHWA?

    Michael Weinberg12:02 PM
    Sure! Hi everyone and thanks for having me. I am currently the president of the board of OSHWA. One of the major things I am responsible for is OSHWA's open source hardware certification program (

    Michael Weinberg12:02 PM
    I came to OSHWA because of an interest in open source 3D printers, especially some of the legal issues they raise

    Matthias Tarasiewicz joined  the room.12:02 PM

    Michael Weinberg12:03 PM
    A big part of the certification program was helping people understand some of the licensing issues around open source hardware, which can be complicated

    Michael Weinberg12:04 PM
    I'll also say that I know that there will be some other members of the OSHWA board joining for at least part of the chat, so don't be surprised when they chime in

    Michael Weinberg12:05 PM
    I am also part of the steering committee for this year's Open Hardware Summit, which will be in NYC on March 13 (

    Michael Weinberg12:05 PM
    I love the Summit because it is a chance for the open source hardware community to get together in person and see what everyone is up to

    So, you mentioned legal issues around open source 3D-printers. What kind of issues?

    Michael Weinberg12:07 PM
    They basically broke down into two categories - issues with the printers and issues with what came out of the printers

    Michael Weinberg12:08 PM
    for the printers themselves (and this is true of most open source hardware), many people come to the legal issues from an open source software background

    Michael Weinberg12:08 PM
    that means that they assume that the printers are protected by copyright and that the major thing to worry about is what license to pick

    Michael Weinberg12:09 PM
    but the big difference between software and hardware is that software is automatically protected by copyright when it is created. That means it is 'born closed' and you need to take active measures to let people copy and build off it (usually with a license).

    Michael Weinberg12:10 PM
    hardware is 'born open' so by default people can copy and build off it. The license is probably only relevant to a tiny portion of the hardware

    Michael Weinberg12:10 PM
    that portion can be important, but it isn't the whole thing like software

    de∫hipu12:10 PM
    [citation needed]

    Sounds like that open v. closed thing might be a relic of the patent system v the copyright system.

    Michael Weinberg12:11 PM
    (here's a longer post about it)

    David Troetschel12:11 PM

    Michael Weinberg12:11 PM
    @Dan Maloney yes. @de∫hipu let me expand on it a bit

    de∫hipu12:11 PM
    any non-trivial physical work is covered by copyright by default, as far as I know

    Alpenglow Industries12:12 PM

    Michael Weinberg12:12 PM
    One way to think of it is that intellectual property law divides the world into two categories: functional and 'creative'

    Michael Weinberg12:12 PM
    if something is in the creative category it is eligible for copyright protection. that includes software

    Michael Weinberg12:13 PM
    if it is in the functional category it is eligible for patent protection

    Michael Weinberg12:13 PM
    the twist is that copyright automatically protects anything that is categorically eligible for copyright protection

    de∫hipu12:13 PM
    what makes it "functional"?

    Michael Weinberg12:13 PM
    for patents you need to go out and get the patent

    See, I always knew my code was a work of art...

    Michael Weinberg12:14 PM
    basically if it is the kind of thing that a (non-software) engineer would design it is going to be functional

    Michael Weinberg12:14 PM
    so something like a 3D printer is functional

    ... Read more »

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Andrew Green wrote 11/21/2019 at 06:16 point

Are there notable open-source hardware projects today? How do you guys implement this technology in real life?

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