Why Open Source?

You will notice that a large number of our products are being released as open source hardware. We are releasing them under the CERN OHL License V 1.2 which means it is true open source. If you want to use it (with appropriate preservation of attribution and copyright notices) you are free to do so. If you want to make your own and think you can do it cheaper than just buying from us, more power to you. If you think of additional features you are free to modify the designs and hopefully contribute those back to the community.

You are free to make money from these designs. After watching a number of other “open source” hardware debacles, particularly in the Ham Radio community I saw all manner of ostensibly open source designs being proffered that were anything but and had numerous ridiculous strings and restrictions attached to them all in a vain attempt to prevent anyone from deriving income from them but the originator.

All that that of course lasted only until the first Chinese knockoffs appeared and the firmware was taken over by other parties and largely divorced from the original product. The hilarious part is when the people who have directly violated the original restricted license then become incensed when someone ignores their similar restrictive license and rips off their “open source” design.

Let me clear about a couple of things. I am a Capitalist. I am a conservative. I do not believe in wealth re-distribution or forced confiscation of the labor of another or the fruits of their labor at the point of a gun or threat of prison by governments local, state or federal. I do not believe that everything should be free whether on the Internet or not. I do not “give away” these designs in any sort of Progressive, altruistic, kumbaya kind of mentality. I am a Mercenary when it comes to making an honest buck and I am ready to duke it out in the free market with anyone who wants to try and compete with me.

I know, that the idea of open source is appealing to many in that they have free access to all the product design data. For developmental hardware like the bulk of our designs, that should be the norm. People like the thought that they could theoretically make it themselves, improve upon it and maybe even make some money on it. The hard cold reality is that most people, particularly in more recent generations are simply too lazy to do so and will simply buy the product if available at a reasonable cost.

This observation comes from direct experience. I have employed engineering interns and new graduates for over 35 years and have watched as the acquisition of knowledge can been traded for outright plagiarism in engineering schools and I fully expect any number of our designs to wind up as someones “original projects”. I have to laugh at sites like Freelancer where the majority of fee for hire technical projects seem to be for doing someone’s school report, homework or lab project.

Many interesting open source projects are limited by the creator only making a limited number of boards or assemblies and by the time most interested buyers find them they are no longer available. Any of the products I offer as open source will be available for sale at either the bare board or assembled level as long as anyone is interested. We don’t have to do a dedicated board run for one product. We are able to do multi-design panels and build boards as add-ons to our production boards even if just a few and at a reasonable price.

Do I use Chinese board fabs? Hell yes I do! If a US manufacturer were competitive I would use them but as long as the Chinese offer a Communist slave economy I will take advantage of it and use it to help bury them economically.

All boards are designed and assembled in Texas by Texans but I don’t delude myself that most of the components I use aren’t made in China or other third world countries. If a customer demands US made boards I do so and charge them the appropriate amount for doing so.

So… open source – yes – for some items. Some will remain proprietary for the time being. I don’t kid my self that anyone competent in the art couldn’t copy anything I design proprietary or not. We have had to reverse engineer many items from long gone vendors and it is not difficult for most items to re-create at least in fit form and function. Our global financial adversaries discovered this long ago.

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