Monthly Archives: April 2011

User Innovation Rules!

via Open Source Hardware and Design Alliance blogs

While big companies like Nokia are obviously struggling with their R&D and product strategies, the field of user / hacker driven innovation is quite recently gaining massive momentum. As a current UK study underlines, in aggregate, consumers’ annual product development expenditures are 2.3 times larger than the annual consumer product R&D expenditures of all firms in the UK combined.

The traditional DIY movement may be associated more with housewares, but todays hobby engineers are designing rocket science – as literally can be found at the c-base open moon project . The “commoonity” is keen to launch a moon lander – the c-rove – as part of Google’s lunar-X-prize project . The global competition, the largest in history, was announced in September 2007, with a winner projected by 2015.

No wonder the digital ®evolution isdefinitely key to this latest development. Here is a good example: Very few years ago chip design was a million dollar consuming business with hangar filling production and testing equipment. But todays hackers only need to spend a few hundred euros to simply write their home-brew chip designs in cheap software programmable FPGAs. And as with other software, the code can be licensed with copy-left licenses and simply be shared over the Internet. You can find hundreds of open chip designs at OpenCores.org, whose main objective is to design and publish core designs under a license for hardware modeled on the Lesser General Public License (LGPL) for software. As stated on their website, they are committed to the ideal of freely available, freely usable and re-usable open source hardware.

But unfortunately copyleft licenses like the GPL or CC licenses can not be shifted to the physical world as such. As copyleft is legally based on copyrights, it cannot be applied to the materialized world of products in the end. Just recently a larger group of people including Ayah Bdeir from MIT Media Lab, David Mellis – Lead Programmer Arduino, Benjamin (Mako) Hill – Board member of FSF, Dale Dougherty – founder of MAKE Magazine, John Wibanks – VP Science at Creative Commons and many others, came up with a version 1.0 of their Open Source Hardware Definition. While the definition still not solves the copyleft principals of descent preserving the license itself, which would be so important, it is a very impressive step to clarify the term itself. Still another crucial aspect in the wider field of licensing hardware may be, that many of it’s underlaying principles and designs are held in the public domain if not in questionable patents.

“IF YOU DESIGN IT 4 FREEDOM, THEN LABEL IT WITH THE 4 FREEDOMS!” claims the Open Source Hardware and Design Alliance – OHANDA. The international group that initially formed at the GOSH! – Grounding Open Source Hardware Summit at the Canadian Banff Centre in July 2009, wants to establish a standard with a label for all kinds of open source hardware. Referring to the 4 freedoms of the FSF Free Software Definition, by applying the label to the product, the producer grants the 4 freedoms to the rest of the world, so that everyone shall legally improve, copy, manufacture, mass-produce and redistribute it. Since it’s launch earlier this year, and interesting variety of things can already be found registered on the projects website. Just recently Twibright Labs – a group around Karel Kulhavy an three other computer science graduates of the Faculty of Math and Physics from Charles University in Prague – joined the alliance. And in Q2/2011 the Canadian Avencall Group want to market their first commercial open hardware VoIP appliance XIVO PBX registered with OHANDA.

Meet Jürgen Neumann & Tuomo Tammenpää during Camp Pixelache on Saturday March 12  and discuss how user innovation can save Finland!
Category: Pixelache Festival Modified: March 11, 2011

Open for Change (Radiation Monitoring in Japan, 40 Fires, Bristol Braille Technology)

via OSHUG

A great deal of open source hardware is built by engineers for engineers, and comprises mostly electronics and/or computing technology. Which is not at all surprising given the origins of the movement and where we are on the adoption curve. However, a growing number of projects are seeking to tackle ever more challenging problems and working with an increasingly broader selection of technologies.

At the tenth OSHUG meeting we will be hearing about the efforts of hackers in Japan to build their own open source radiation monitoring infrastructure. We will learn about the work of 40 Fires, a foundation that is building an open source hydrogen fuel cell electric car. And we will hear from Bristol Braille Technology about the need for an affordable refreshable Braille display, and the potential open source hardware opportunity.

Open Source Radiation Monitoring in Japan

Hackers in Japan responded to recent nuclear plant radiation leaks by setting up their own monitoring infrastructure. In this talk we will take a look at some of the radiation monitoring devices they built, the technology they used to share and make sense of the data and the work that continues to be done.

Nick Weldin initiated the first public Arduino course in the UK in 2005, because he didn't want to program PIC chips on the accounts computer at work after everyone else had gone home any more, and he couldn't get his boss to send him to the Arduino course that was running in Spain. When Tinker London started up he joined them and ran courses teaching Arduino wherever anyone was interested. He continues to run a course on Arduino, and is co-author of the recently released Arduino Cookbook.

An open source approach to developing energy-efficient technology

Two years ago start-up company Riversimple unveiled a ground-breaking vehicle that has the potential to transform the auto industry. The Riversimple urban vehicle, due to be in production in 2014, is lightweight, powered by hydrogen and capable of 300 mpg (energy equivalent). As part of its strategy, Riversimple announced the establishment of an independent open source foundation, 40 Fires, that would make available the designs for the car on-line under an open source license. Two years on, the 40 Fires team report on the joys, trials and tribulations of working on a potentially game-changing project in one of the world's biggest industries.

Patrick Andrews is project leader of the 40 Fires Foundation and a board member of eco-car company Riversimple. A former corporate lawyer with Kingfisher and Pratt & Whitney, he now spends his time pursuing an interest in social innovation, with a particular focus on alternative business models and governance structures.

Developing a revolutionary, affordable Braille Cell Display

Braille usage has been shown to have a strong correlation with employment—and by extension independence—amongst the blind. However Braille usage is stagnating under a lack of technical innovation which has left it hugely expensive and uncommon.

Bristol Braille Technology was founded on the 6th of January, 2011, when the first meeting of interested professionals met to discuss the need for more affordable refreshable Braille. We are currently designing our first prototype cell display. Our aim is to make a Braille cell display7mdash;that is a tactile 'screen' which connects to a computing device—which, unlike the current models, is affordable to the majority of blind individuals in the UK and, eventually, anywhere around the world.

Ed Rogers is a Bristolian and recent graduate from the University of the West of England where he studied Animation and Interactive Design. During this course he first began to consider the issue of digital Braille. After leaving university he continued to pursue the goal of an affordable Braille cell display, eventually founding the not-for-profit Community Interest Company, Bristol Braille Technology.

Note: Please aim to arrive for 18:00 - 18:20 as the event will start at 18:30 prompt.

Open for Change (Radiation Monitoring in Japan, 40 Fires, Bristol Braille Technology)

via OSHUG

A great deal of open source hardware is built by engineers for engineers, and comprises mostly electronics and/or computing technology. Which is not at all surprising given the origins of the movement and where we are on the adoption curve. However, a growing number of projects are seeking to tackle ever more challenging problems and working with an increasingly broader selection of technologies.

At the tenth OSHUG meeting we will be hearing about the efforts of hackers in Japan to build their own open source radiation monitoring infrastructure. We will learn about the work of 40 Fires, a foundation that is building an open source hydrogen fuel cell electric car. And we will hear from Bristol Braille Technology about the need for an affordable refreshable Braille display, and the potential open source hardware opportunity.

Open Source Radiation Monitoring in Japan

Hackers in Japan responded to recent nuclear plant radiation leaks by setting up their own monitoring infrastructure. In this talk we will take a look at some of the radiation monitoring devices they built, the technology they used to share and make sense of the data and the work that continues to be done.

Nick Weldin initiated the first public Arduino course in the UK in 2005, because he didn't want to program PIC chips on the accounts computer at work after everyone else had gone home any more, and he couldn't get his boss to send him to the Arduino course that was running in Spain. When Tinker London started up he joined them and ran courses teaching Arduino wherever anyone was interested. He continues to run a course on Arduino, and is co-author of the recently released Arduino Cookbook.

An open source approach to developing energy-efficient technology

Two years ago start-up company Riversimple unveiled a ground-breaking vehicle that has the potential to transform the auto industry. The Riversimple urban vehicle, due to be in production in 2014, is lightweight, powered by hydrogen and capable of 300 mpg (energy equivalent). As part of its strategy, Riversimple announced the establishment of an independent open source foundation, 40 Fires, that would make available the designs for the car on-line under an open source license. Two years on, the 40 Fires team report on the joys, trials and tribulations of working on a potentially game-changing project in one of the world's biggest industries.

Patrick Andrews is project leader of the 40 Fires Foundation and a board member of eco-car company Riversimple. A former corporate lawyer with Kingfisher and Pratt & Whitney, he now spends his time pursuing an interest in social innovation, with a particular focus on alternative business models and governance structures.

Developing a revolutionary, affordable Braille Cell Display

Braille usage has been shown to have a strong correlation with employment—and by extension independence—amongst the blind. However Braille usage is stagnating under a lack of technical innovation which has left it hugely expensive and uncommon.

Bristol Braille Technology was founded on the 6th of January, 2011, when the first meeting of interested professionals met to discuss the need for more affordable refreshable Braille. We are currently designing our first prototype cell display. Our aim is to make a Braille cell display7mdash;that is a tactile 'screen' which connects to a computing device—which, unlike the current models, is affordable to the majority of blind individuals in the UK and, eventually, anywhere around the world.

Ed Rogers is a Bristolian and recent graduate from the University of the West of England where he studied Animation and Interactive Design. During this course he first began to consider the issue of digital Braille. After leaving university he continued to pursue the goal of an affordable Braille cell display, eventually founding the not-for-profit Community Interest Company, Bristol Braille Technology.

Note: Please aim to arrive for 18:00 - 18:20 as the event will start at 18:30 prompt.

TTL Bluetooth Transceiver with Linux

via Brewbot Mk2

I recently got one of these cheap chinese TTL to Bluetooth transceivers.

http://gb.suntekstore.com/wireless-bluetooth-transceiver-module-rs232-||-ttl.html

I got mine off ebay delivered for under US$7. The seller unfortunately didn't have a pinout diagram or any real info about the module (or maybe couldn't understand enough English to work out what I was asking).

I figured that all of them on the market are probably the same design so it shouldn't be a big deal.

Luckily I was right. The best resource I found was this:

http://www.egochina.net.cn/e-shop/ebay/datasheet/Bluetooth_Module_L6.rar

A number of diagrams, manuals and pieces of software in that archive.

The only problem is they are all windows specific.

The Ubuntu Bluetooth applet let me see and pair with the device, but no clue on how to use it.

Time to learn a little more about the Linux bluetooth stack.

hcitool scan
Scanning ...
00:19:5D:24:B7:63 OBDII

Ok so we can see it from the command line and see it's address, it's the only thing found.

Most of the other diag tools didn't return any useful info.

Eventually I found the following to work.

sudo rfcomm bind /dev/rfcomm0 00:19:5D:24:B7:63

picocom -b 38400 /dev/rfcomm0

At that point I could talk to my MCU over bluetooth!

Brewbot in the final 10

via Brewbot Mk2

The big news is that the Brewbot made the final 10 in the Renesas design competition.

http://www.renesasrulz.com/message/12324#12324

With the main work out of the way I've been playing with some other fun hacks for it.

Namely getting a python interpreter running in the RX62N with FreeRTOS:

http://www.renesasrulz.com/message/12347#12347