Subject: Re: [ppc-mobo] Re: GPL-like hardware design license?
From: Ben_Tilly@trepp.com
Date: Tue, 5 Oct 1999 09:02:04 -0400


> > 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.
>
That depends on what you mean by "modify the code".  I believe that
while not a lot show up with major contributions, more than you might
think give feedback to more technical friends, the most important of
which is then filtered from those friends back into the movement.  So
while direct contribution might not be happening, feedback does get
back involving design decisions.

[...]
> >  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.
>
And that is the point.  The dynamic that allowed a gift economy among a
marginal fringe community to turn into the phenomena that free source is
today is that copying software created by someone else is essentially
free.  Is free software the only place where the necessary enthusiasm can
be found?  Not in a million years!  I personally know helpful people who
are more than willing to help you master their personal hobby, whether that
is embroidery, ballroom dancing, or calligraphy.  Yet all of these highly
motivated and talented individuals have not had the impact of one Richard
Stallman.  Why?  Well the stuff that they create cannot be copied easily,
so they can only have an impact on people that they work one-on-one with.

Likewise hardware cannot be copied for free.  Developing new hardware
takes serious money.  Producing it takes even more.    And what you get
cannot be copied.  Sorry, I don't see it happening any time soon.   I could
be wrong, but I doubt it.  (Although there are counter-examples.  I know of
an audio list that designed a really good sub-woofer, and got a contract
with someone who would build them and let them pre-order at a reduced
price..but that sort of thing is probably going to stay rare.)

> > If the economics
> > fail because the hardware world is more capitalistic, then libre
> > should search for a win-win compromise with capitalism.
>
How about this one?  By making source available and easy to recompile
we make it easier for competitors to come into the hardware market.  This
results in competition leading to better hardware for less.  Oh, and we
will be glad to point the way for their workers to replace the expensive
CAD software with something more reliable and cheaper - which will
reduce the costs of designing hardware as well.

But as long as a chip fabricating plant costs a billion dollars, sorry.  We
cannot make hardware free.

> Long live capitalism, death to socialism... sorry I'm in it for the money.
>
I'm not.  But I recognize that material resources are not going to be
available without money...

Ben