There are hundreds of gift guides this holiday season filled with junk you can buy, but a lot of times you actually don’t own it, you can’t improve upon it, you can’t share it or make it better, and you certainly can’t post the plans, schematics, and source code either. We want to change that. We’ve put together our picks of interesting open source hardware projects, open source software, services, and things that have the maker spirit of open source. Some are kits, some are open software projects that you’ll need to build hardware for before gifting, and some are just support for the projects/groups that do open source. Included in this guide are things you can get from the MAKE store too (we try and have as many open source goods as possible).
And we’re not done. Post in the comments on what you think should be in the Open Source Gift Guide and we’ll add it! Just stick to the same format we did, name, link, and a couple of sentences. We need your help, so send in other great OS gifts. If you’re spending money this season, support open source, and give a gift that gives back!
Open source Atmel AVR microcontroller kits…
Check out these Atmel AVR Microcontroller kits for Linux – USB and parallel port versions, the best part – they come with bootable CDs.
$65 and under
Qtopia Greenphone, a Linux mobile development device offered as part of the Greenphone SDK. The GSM/GPRS device platform for creation, testing and demonstration of new mobile technology services and ships loaded with Qtopia Phone Edition. Works with a GSM provider like Tmobile/Cingular.
The Open Prosthetics Project is producing useful innovations in the field of prosthetics and giving the designs away for free. By substituting public good for profits the project can generate far more societal benefit than if it commercialized and sold ideas. This project is an open source collaboration between users, designers and funders with the goal of making our creations freely available for anyone to use and build upon.
Ubuntu with Support
Don’t just give your family copies of Ubuntu for the holidays. They’ll end up on the same pile as your Slackware and RedHat CDs did. Instead, give them the install CDs and a year’s support from Canonical (the lead sponsors of Ubuntu). Not only will they be able to wean themselves off proprietary software with the best distro around, they’ll also have someone to call for help who isn’t you!
x0xb0x – open source ‘acid’ bassline synthesizer with sequencer
The x0xb0x is not just another MIDI-controlled TB-303 clone. x0xb0x is a full reproduction of the original Roland synthesizer, with fully functional sequencer. The sequencer can be programmed just like the original 303 (ok its actually a little easier, we think) and can be used to control other synthesizers via any of its various output formats. 128 banks of track memory and 64 banks of pattern memory are stored in onboard EEPROM, no battery-backup is needed!
Multimachine – Open Source machine tool
Need an almost free machine shop to fit in your closet or even one that fills your garage? Need a free hand drill to make 1″ holes in hardened steel? Need some simple castings with a tensile strength near that of cast iron? Need 75 cent bearings to replace $5000 roller bearings? Need an almost free portable electric welder? All of this and much more at Yahoo Group “MultiMachine”. For those of you who hate to join groups, The “links” and “files” sections are awesome! Best of all, a 70+ page “How to Build a MultiMachine” book is a totally free download.”
$ cost to build/parts (~$100)
Arduino is an open-source physical computing platform based on a simple i/o board and a development environment that implements the Processing/Wiring language. Arduino can be used to develop stand-alone interactive objects or can be connected to software on your computer (e.g. Flash, Processing, MaxMSP). The open-source IDE can be downloaded for free (currently for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux). It appears that Sparkfun is out of stock you can get an Arduino Mini/Stamp from PCB-Europe (the Arduino manufacturer/European distributor).
NEUROS OSD – Open Source Linux embedded media center
Records video from any analog video source and links your PC, Portables and entertainment center. The Neuros OSD was created to connect user’s computer and entertainment worlds. Among many other things, this would allow users to watch video downloads and digital photo slideshows on TVs and listen to MP3s through their stereos. Previously the choices for doing this have been restricted to two approaches: all-in-one PC-based media centers and limited, closed “embedded” devices in various forms: PVRs, digital media adapters and streaming devices.
MIDIsense A real-world MIDI interface platform
MIDIsense is a simple, yet extensible sensor interface system for artists, musicians and others interested in experimenting with sensors. The MIDIsense boards provide a simple way to integrate various common sensors with existing software such as Max/MSP, Ableton Live, etc. or directly to a synthesizer/sequencer with a MIDI in jack. Interface boards are available as kits and (possibly) assembled. Graphical configuration/calibration software is written in wx/Python and wx/C++ and is available for MacOS X or Windows as executable. Source and schematic included.
Open source firmware + wireless router… Buffalo WHR-HP-G54
The Buffalo WHR-HP-G54 come pre installed with DD-WRT v23 Special Edition, this router contains a embedded signal amplifier. The main contributor works really hard giving lots of excellent support in the forums for free, I’ve only heard good things. Or if you have a Linksys WRT54g, check out http://openwrt.org. Pick one up, zap the firmware and give as a gift, it’s great.
The MAKE “Daisy” MP3 Player Kit – Open source MP3 player
Easy to build, MAKE Open Source MP3 player kit. Audio quality is as good as an iPod, can access 65,000 tracks, play MP3s as well as 48khz WAV files, interface it with everything from simple button pushing to parallel ports to very powerful serial modes.
Open EEG – Analog & digital boards
Many people are interested in what is called neurofeedback or EEG biofeedback training, a generic mental training method which makes the trainee consciously aware of the general activity in the brain. This method shows great potential for improving many mental capabilities and exploring consciousness. Other pepole want to do experiments with brain-computer interfaces or just want to have a look at their brain at work.
The Leaf – Open source robot using artificial intelligence and vision
The Leaf is an artificial intelligence and vision robotic system. It is open source, software and construction details are available on the Leaf Project Web site. Make your own OSS Aibo!
$ Cost of computer parts, etc (~$2k)
Rockbox an new MP3 player
Rockbox is an open source replacement firmware for mp3 players. It runs on a number of different models: Archos: Jukebox 5000, 6000, Studio, Recorder, FM Recorder, Recorder V2 and Ondio
iriver: H100, H300 and H10 series. Apple: iPod 4th gen (grayscale and color), 5th gen (Video), 1st gen Nano and Mini 1st/2nd gen (Nano 2nd gen and Video 5.5th gen are not supported). iAudio: X5 (including X5V and X5L). Rockbox is a complete rewrite and uses no fragments of any original firmwares (photo by Andrew Mason).
$ Free, just buy an old player on eBay/find, load up the new firmware and give as a gift!
Open source IR for Xbox
Got a first gen Xbox? Here’s a DIY Open source IR-mod for Xboxes …XERC, it is a small device that basically allows you to turn on/off your Xbox with a remote. You can boot using a short power press, long power press, and can also boot with eject. Mod the Xbox, give it as a gift, oh – also throw Xbox media center on it!
$ parts, $20-ish
Game of Life Board
Give a wall of “Cellular automata” (A cellular automaton is merely a collection of cells on a grid whose color changes according to what’s going on in adjacent cells. The prime example of this is British math whiz John Conway’s “Game of Life”. In the Game of Life, a collection of cells lives, dies or multiplies based on a few mathematical rules.) Give this easy-to-solder kit that is cheap and scalable. Each Game of Life board contains 16 LEDs in a 4×4 grid, a microcontroller, and a communications and power distribution network. Boards can act alone, or can be plugged together, border to border, to create a larger display. Schematics included to make your own too.
Open source web based home automation
Here’s some great opensource DIY Home automation software, written in Perl with a Web interface. For windows or Linux/unix. It also works with the One Wire Weather station posted a few days ago.” MisterHouse is an open source home automation program. It’s fun, it’s free, and it’s entirely geeky. Written in Perl, it fires events based on time, web, socket, voice, and serial data. It currently runs on Windows 95/98/NT/2k/XP and on most Unix based platforms, including Linux and Mac OSX.
$ Just need to buy/eBay the home automation hardware, like x10 (easily found for cheap)
DIY Fuel Injection Conversion using open source engine management
Megasquirt is an affordable, open-source, DIY engine management computer that you assemble yourself. A large community of developer/users provides for constant development, and great free support.
$333, less if you build your own
Liberlab – Open source lab
The Open Source project Liberlab aims to help democratize educational scientific experimentation through the creation and use of a DIY digital lab at a very low price ($20). Liberlab can also be used to learn about robotics, automation, human-machine interface or interactive arts.
Butterfly open source mp3 Player
The main goal of this project is to create an open design for a portable MP3 player, in both hardware and software. The secondary goal of this project is to make it as simple to construct, and as cheap, as possible. The design is based around the AVR Butterfly from Atmel.
$ cost of parts ~$100
MediaPortal – Open source media center for Windows…
MediaPortal turns your PC in a very advanced Multi-Media Center / HTPC. It allows you to listen to your favorite music, radio, watch your video’s and DVD’s, view, schedule and record live TV and much more. You get Media Portal for free/nothing/nada/nopes and best of all it is opensource. This means anyone can help developing Media Portal or tweak it for their own needs.
$ PC to run it on (under ~$1000)
Flex-Radio SDR-1000 – Open source software radio
This is an amateur HF 100 watt transceiver that is completely software driven. The software and updates are all free. There are NO controls on the box itself except a power switch. Users are encouraged to write their own software to control the radio as it is open source and in fact many do. It requires a high-end sound card like the Presonus Firebox to make it work. On of the amazing things about the radio is that you can record up to 192khz (dependent on the soundcard) of radio spectrum and upon replaying it tune around in that 192khz swath!
Chumby – Open source squeezable, Wi-Fi bean-bag computer
Right now the device, in prototype, is small, designed for the “kids,” and sports a Wi-Fi adapter, an AC power plug, a small, color touchscreen, and an open architecture. The company wants people to hack the software, hardware, and even the device’s case with their own modifications. It’s not precisely open source, but it’s all open. They hope the device will ship in the second quarter of 2007 for about $150. They also expect that it could be licensed or replicated in many forms–they have released or shortly will release the parts list and schematics among other parameters–and they’re curious what results.
$ not for sale yet, but if you’re hardcore about hacking one, email them, they’ll send you one (just be awesome)
Open source embedded ethernet
Ethernut is an Open Source Hardware and Software Project for building tiny Embedded Ethernet Devices… Three Open Source Reference Designs are currently available… The software is an Open Source implementation of a Real Time Operating System called Nut/OS and a TCP/IP protocol suite named Nut/Net. Several application examples are provided, including an embedded Webserver, a simple RS232 to TCP/IP gateway and an Internet Radio playing MP3 streams.
Open source beer
FREE BEER is based on classic ale brewing traditions, but with addded GuaranÃ¡ for a natural energy boost. The recipe and branding elements of FREE BEER is published under a Creative Commons (Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5) license, which means that anyone can use the recipe to brew their own FREE BEER or create a derivative of the recipe. Anyone is free to earn money from FREE BEER, but they must publish the recipe under the same license and credit our work. All design and branding elements are available to beer brewers, and can be modified to suit, provided changes are published under the same license (“Attribution & Share Alike”).
$ cost of ingredient/gear, or buy some here.
openEyes – open-source open-hardware toolkit for low-cost real-time eye tracking
The purpose of openEyes is to provide a hardware design and a set of software tools useful for the analysis of eye movement data. The development of openEyes stems from the recognition in the eye tracking and human computer interaction communities that while the cost of hardware for eye tracking has precipitously dropped in the recent past that the there is lack of freely available software to implement even long-established eye-tracking methods. The tools available for this platform include algorithms to measure eye movements from digital videos, techniques to calibrate the eye tracking system, and example software to facilitate real-time eye-tracking application development.
$ – up to you, support the project here
Open-source grid controller – the monome
The monome 40h is a reconfigurable grid of backlit buttons– the firmware is open source, and we encourage hardware hacks. They’ve also posted extensive documentation on our prototyping and production process in an effort to inspire similar projects. They’re a bunch of post art-school/engineering makers, sharing our love for interface.
Open source planetarium
Stellarium is a free open source planetarium for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope.
It is being used in planetarium projectors. Just set your coordinates and go.
Free – cost to build rad planetarium (~$200) for a classroom or just a dome. Someone will love you forever.
PortableApps Suite – Computer without a computer
PortableApps Suite is a collection of portable apps including a web browser, email client, office suite, calendar/scheduler, instant messaging client, antivirus, sudoku game, backup utility and integrated menu, all preconfigured to work portably. Just drop it on your portable device and you’re ready to go.
$0, just get a USB drive some from conference or something, load it up, you’ll be a hero
LEGO Mindstorms NXT
If you have a kid age 7 or older, this is a fantastic way to get them into programming. Lego has open sourced the firmware and developer kits. Finally, a way to the Bionicles obsession into something educational as well as fun. Works on Mac, Linux, and Windows.
MAKE Controller Kit – Open source physical computing
Make a drawing robot, automotive projects, special F/X, irrigation, interactive exhibits, motor control, over the web, and stand alone, the MAKE controller can do it. All schematics freely available. Cross Platform–Windows, Mac, Linux. All source provided. Simplified API available to program the board in C–uses operating system (freeRTOS) so that most difficult aspects of microcontroller programming (interrupts, etc.) are taken care of for less experienced users. Otherwise, full access to the chip is available for experienced coders. This gift will keep your maker busy for months!
SpokePOV – Persistence of vision for your bike!
Spoke POV is an easy-to-make electronic kit toy that turns your bicycle wheel into a customized display! The project includes a free schematic design, open software for uploading and editing stored bitmap images, and a high-quality kit with all the parts necessary to build your own.
Open Source MIDI Keyboard
This project details the steps to build your own Open Source (musical) keyboard which connects to a computer via USB and sends MIDI signals. This is achieved using an AN2131 development board. The AN2131 is now discontinued, so development boards can be bought cheaply on eBay. Alternatively you could use another USB microcontroller, if you are able to port the firmware. You could also hack any EZ-USB based device, of which there are many.
$ The AN2131 ($100-ish) & toy keyboard
Electronic game kit
Build Your Own Electronic Game Kit is a custom-created kit intended to introduce you to the world of electronics and soldering. When successfully assembled, the kit becomes a version of the popular memory game, Simon, with a few optional twists. View the schematic.
With this kit you can build a simple, low-cost “persistence-of-vision” toy; a simple microcontroller blinks 8 LEDs on and off so that when waved through the air, an image or message appears to float in front of the viewer. This version comes preprogrammed to say “makezine!” but requires a PC w/parallel port to reprogram. Hardware and software are all open source. Sew one into a jacket and have it say taxi, the sky is the limit.
Minty Boost kit – charge USB devices
Make a small but powerful USB charger for your iPod or other gadgets. Hardware is open source, build your own or get the kit.
High Speed Photography Kit
Kit includes a high-speed flash and a flash trigger that synchronizes the high-speed event and the flash. Take the pictures with your own digital camera and see instant photographic results of your high-speed experiments. Trigger the flash using sound with the included microphone, or trigger with light using the built-in photosensor. Don’t want to buy one? Fine, be that way – you can build your own, it’s in MAKE 04.
A fun introduction to programming using virtual worlds and 3D characters: drag and drop actions (methods) into a script (program) and you can make a cartoon kangaroo fart or a beautiful dancer twirl and skate. The graphics are clunky but good enough, and will get better as EA have announced they will contribute The Sims graphics. Nat’s 7 year old finds Lego Mindstorms more fun, but a friend’s having great Alice successes with his middle school son. Kids these days–when I was in middle school, he had memorized half the 6502 instruction set …
MAKE Leatherman warranty voiders!
Everyone knows Leatherman is the best when it comes to tool, and we have a special limited edition laser etched MAKE: warranty voider leatherman “squirt” keychain tool for “open sourcing” everything.
Needlenose Pliers (spring loaded), Straight Knife, Wire Cutters, Extra Small Screwdriver, Medium Screwdriver, Small Flat Phillips Screwdriver, Single-Cut File, Cross-Cut File, Opener, Lanyard, Attachment, Awl, Length: 2.25 in. / 5.5 cm closed, Weight: 1.9 ounces / 55 grams.
Electrical Wire Cutters (spring loaded), 20, 18, 16, 14, and 12 gauge wire strippers, Straight Knife, Tweezers, Extra-Small Screwdriver, Small Screwdriver, Phillips Screwdriver, Wood/Metal File, Bottle Opener, Lanyard Attachment, Length: 2.25 in. / 5.5 cm closed, Weight: 1.8 ounces / 52 grams.
$39 (these will be in our store shortly)
eMusic gift certificate & Magnatune
It’s not exactly open source, but it’s worth being in the guide – don’t be a sucker and give gift certificates to music services that lock up your music, get one to eMusic – all their music is in good ole’ MP3 format. That means your gift of music will work on any player, any system and likely forever! Hey I’d like it if they OGG, but straight up MP3 is better than the alternative.
$ however much you wanna spend
Magnatune always shares half of their proceeds with the artists they distribute, they provide you with multiple download options, including OGG, FLAC, and even uncompressed digital audio (as well as a variety of MP3 options), they license music freely to non-profit and open projects (including a generous, free podcast license; the notion of ‘non-profit’ is not limited to the strict legal definition. Get music and/or make a donation.
XGameStation Pico Edition 2.0 – DIY game console
Nitty-gritty, low-level world of hardcore game development for gamer you codes! The Pico Edition may be simple, but it packs a punch with a Ubicom SX28 microcontroller running at a blazing 80.000MHz. It comes with a 7-Segment readout, 15-pin interface, A/V jacks, and a built in directional game pad for a completely portable mini-game console. Share your games and source code with other developers.
Universal Software Radio Peripheral
As seen at Foo Camp, you can decode any part of the spectrum. Pull out HDTV! Monitor cellphones! Split two overlapping signals! Software defined radio is the future.
EFF Pioneer membership
Because you can’t be in the Supreme Court every day to fight the battles that matter: liberty-trammeling governments, granny-suing industry associations, and outcome-rigging voting machine manufacturers. Give your friend a membership and they’ll get a t-shirt, hat, or 12 months of anonymous web surfing. There are lower levels of membership possible, but nothing says “Happy Holidays” like 12 months of not being hassled about your downloads ….
O’Reilly Open source books & Safari
O’Reilly (publisher of MAKE) has some of the best open source books out there – here are a few of our faves… Linux Pocket Guide, Ubuntu Hacks: Tips & Tools for Exploring, Using, and Tuning Linux, Ruby on Rails: Up and Running, Learning Perl, Fourth Edition, Programming Python, Third Edition… Don’t like paper? Read’em on Safari.
$ – most are under $20
OpenMoko phones & Gumstix
Phil Lindsay, who was the first to break Google Maps API before they had a public API, suggests OpenMoko phones. Also gumstix–particularly this, as he wants to make a Nokia 770 bluetooth-controlled model car.
$350 & $254
Open Gameboy – Flashcar and DevKit
Gameboy Advance (or Nintendo DS) with a flash cart and DevKit Advance. You’ll give the gift that won’t get boring after a week, when you can make your own games and download hundreds of homebrew you’re set for months! Stop by GBADev.org & DevKit Advance to load up before you wrap it up.
~$50, just pick up a cheap Gameboy online, they’re almost giving them away.
Playstation 3 – PS3 + the OtherOS laoder with Linux
If you’re absolutely going to buy a gaming console this season for that special gamer (who happens to like open source) – the PS3 was designed to run other operating systems, including Linux out of the gate. If you can manage to score one, pre-load it with Fedora and wrap it up, your Linux giftee will love you forever.
~$1000, the PS3 is hard to find
GP2x – Open source gaming
Portable and open – Dual core ‘ARM920T, ARM940T’. Linux based, open SDK and SDL, plays MPEG4 XviD, DivX, make your own games, use emulators for retro action, plays mp3 and OGG, view pictures, ebooks – it even uses AA batteries.
AVRSynth – Open source synthesizer
The AVRSYN is a monophonic “virtual analog” synth based, originally, on the Atmel AT90S8535 microcontroller and was designed by Jarek Ziembicki. His aim was to check to see if a simple micro could be used for sound synthesis purposes. And the result? The AT90S8535 managed to do all the tasks: front panel switches and pots services, receiving and processing MIDI messages, and sound generation! PCB/kits here.
A PSP – Hacked up, freed and open
PSP with LuaPlayer and lots of other tools pre-loaded with an old firmware can make the PSP something pretty good. Load up a memory stick with hundreds of homebrew, retro and free / open apps. Get the PSP off eBay/online for cheap, mod it, give it as the gift Sony should have…
MIDIBox – Open MIDI
Someo of the best, open, free MIDI modules – it brings down every design to one standardized environment with reusable and exchangeable modules. Get the kit(s) and build one for that musician who’s bent on openness, but we can’t think of a better gift.
MAKE Magazine – By makers for makers
The first magazine devoted to digital projects, hardware hacks, and DIY inspiration. It’s the best gift that gives all year, join in with other makers and help open source, open projects and everything we celebrate in MAKE! Want to give the whole set? We have a box set too! We’re trying to open up technology for everyone and we’re looking for a few good makers!
$29 for a year *if* you use this code (CMAKE) – this also gives you the digital edition *free*
Tim has a suggestion for the for the friend who already has everything: make a donation in their name to one of the many great organizations that work tirelessly to support the ideals of open source and free culture – complete list here.
Ok, makers what did I miss? Post up in the comments!