Subject: Re: [ppc-mobo] Re: GPL-like hardware design license?
From: "John Metzger" <>
Date: Tue, 05 Oct 1999 02:33:25 -0700

> If putting Design and Implementation under the users' control is a
> good thing for software,

That's nice in theory, but few Linux users actually do anything with the
code. Most just take it, install it and use it. A few people do modify the
code but that hardly means the average, typical user is in control of the
code. Most "users" can't program at all. So the design and implementation
isn't under the users control, but under the hacker community's control.

> then it's a good thing for hardware, too.

In theory, but in practice changing hardware is expensive (not hard, just
expensive. Though the higher the clock rate the harder the hardware is to
change and still make it work. :)

> Libre software lives a free life in a non-free world when it talks to
> a proprietary kernel API; free hardware designs incorporating
> proprietary chips are no different.

All chips are proprietary to a degree. Do you expect IBM and Mot to open
source the design for the PowerPC itself? If they did, would "we" be able to
change it and improve it? Possibly, but unlikely. How about the RAM chips.
Think we can improve on those? How far do we take this? Do we have to design
the resistors and capacitors too? Wouldn't want a secret GPS transmitter
giving away our location buried in those capacitors would we? ...

>  If volunteerism and charity are
> viable economic means to motivate the creation of software designs,
> then they should motivate hardware designs, too.

But with software I simply donate my time, not money. No they are not the
same, they are not interchangeable. I may be able to sell 100% of my time, I
may not. I can do with my time as I please, sell it, or donate it to the
cause. Unless you are Bill Gates money is something most of us have in very
limited quantities. It takes real money to create real hardware. And with
community hardware, we all have to agree, otherwise it's very, very
expensive. With software I can create a special, totally unique version of
Linux with just the investment of my time and little else. Nobody need agree
with me that my changes are useful. Not so with community hardware. We
already have disagreements over whether there should be serial IO on the
board or not, USB or not, etc. If we end up with a bunch of different
designs we lose economy of scale. With software we don't need any economy of
scale. My unique software system doesn't really cost the community anything.
My unique hardware design (and yours) does cost the community.

> If the economics
> fail because the hardware world is more capitalistic, then libre
> should search for a win-win compromise with capitalism.

Long live capitalism, death to socialism... sorry I'm in it for the money.

The hardware world requires more capital investment, i.e. real money, not
just our time. I'm willing to part with my spare time, since I haven't sold
it, it's not convertible to real money, I haven't really lost anything.
Money ... well that's harder to come by than spare time.

> I'd like to see free hardware/firmware businesses that remove Big
> Brother's snitches from consumer electronics.  These projects probably
> require libre or reverse-engineered hardware to succeed:
> Modern cars:
>  Removing or protecting the flight data recorders, driving
>  profile collectors, and maintenance record logs.  Protecting
>  the cellphone interface so it only talks to people you
>  authorize.  Removing some or all of the remote-access power.
>  Removing tracking serial numbers.  Anonymizing property
>  transfer.  Building replacement front ends to talk to the
>  cellphone interface, the engine computer interface, and the
>  electronics busses.

Hmmm... this gets serious. We'll have to out law messing with your car's
computer. I don't want your bugs to cause a 50 car pile up on the interstate
because you divided by zero when the engine hit 5000 RPM. Actually I think
messing with the car's computer is already illegal since it's part of the
pollution control equipment on the engine.

> Cellphones:
>  Putting the GPS mandated to be put into new phone models "so
>  911 can be dispatched accurately" under the user's option to
>  enable.  Voice encryption.  Directory encryption.  Email.

Yeah, we all need the ability to spoof the government into thinking we're
miles away from where we really are when we make those plans for the