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At this year’s Open Hardware Summit (9/27) in NYC, the MAKE video team asked some key participants (from MakerBot, SparkFun, Evil Mad Scientist, OpenROV and others) what they thought about MakerBot closing off some of its source files. Here’s some of what they had to say.

More:
Our coverage of the new MakerBot product release and changes

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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Comments

  1. The vendor ID problem is made far worse than it needs to be, by the common practice within the open hardware community of using the VID/PID pair.

    For example, if you use an Arduino Uno (on windows), you need to load Arduino INF file. Then you use a bus pirate, and load another INF file. It doesn’t need to be this way.

    If you have ever used my Teensy board, my INF matches against the protocol numbers, NOT the vendor ID. So if you then plug in any CDC-based Arduino, or any other CDC-ACM protocol device (which are so common among open hardware projects), that same INF file will load Microsoft’s driver.

    The USB-IF is probably not going to abandon their primary source of sustaining revenue. But the open hardware community can change its practices to dramatically lessen the problem. I’d suggest 2 important things were missing from your presentation:

    1: Advocacy for designing devices to standards, and writing INF files (and drivers, in the rare cases where projects actually create a driver) to ignore vendor/product ID numbers and match to the class/subclass/protocol numbers. If every open hardware project using CDC wrote then INF files as I did for Teensy, everybody would only suffer the unsigned driver install just once, rather than going through it over and over again.

    2: Recognition that much of USB’s value comes from the standardization process. Sadly, many people in this community will use offensive language like “greed bastards” (as seen in the comments on the dangerous prototypes site) and frame any issue in unconstructive “us vs them” terms. It’s all to easy to take good things for granted. Any responsible presentation on this issue should recognize the USB-IF’s important role in creating much of the value USB currently has.

    1. HW Guru says:

      Non-generic VID & PID are intellectual property, and people can easily ban clones.

      The emulated serial libraries were not part of the original USB standard stacks, but most modern OSs will transparently support even partially malformed generic device IDs.

      As a side note, the AVR chip boot-loader allowed many people to build neat things, and oddly became a brand itself. However, almost every product line now includes this functionally.

  2. HW Guru says:

    We understand your decisions, and respect your wish to defend your product business model. Trademark violations are problematic for brands, and verbatim clones from overseas undermine quality assurances.

    However, our code bases will now prohibit commercial resale bundling, hosting binaries on commercial sites, and have contaminating GPL licences that require the entire source be released if linked into your work. We accept your closed RepRap “fork”, but you had better make 100% sure your code doesn’t violate any community licensed software & firmware.

    End users are still welcome to use our software, firmware, and installers as they please for free. However, we will ask closed commercial entities like Makerbot to seek their own code base if they want to obfuscate for commercial reasons.

    “So long, and thanks for all the Fish”

    1. “…our code bases will now prohibit commercial resale bundling, hosting binaries on commercial sites, and have contaminating GPL licence”

      who/what group do you represent that is making this statement?