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Re: [libreplanet-discuss] Free software and open hardware


From: Niels Serup
Subject: Re: [libreplanet-discuss] Free software and open hardware
Date: Thu, 31 May 2012 18:03:19 +0200

On Sun, 27 May 2012 17:17:59 +0200
"Niels G. W. Serup" <address@hidden> wrote:

> [...]
> Free software is important to me because
> 
>   + I can study it
>   + I can share it
>   + I can change it
>   + I can share my changes
>
> [...]
> case nowadays). So, open hardware is important to me because
> 
>   + I can study it
>   + Others can base new designs on it
> 
> By reading a little here and there on the web, I've found that most
> people, if not all, in the free software community like open hardware
> (or whatever they might want to call it), but that a lot find it less
> important than free software. This seems to be because of one or both
> of the following reasons:
> 
>   + hardware cannot be changed or shared by a typical user
>   + hardware is too hard to create

I read a bit more on the web. It seems the real differences in opion are
not whether open hardware is important, but how important it is.

Free software gives you more practical freedoms than free hardware
design (you can use it, copy it, and change it easily).

Depending on who reads this, one of these two conclusions might be
reached:

1. Free software is more important than free hardware design, because it
   is more useful. Free hardware design is still important.
2. Free software cannot be compared with free hardware design, because
   software is very different from hardware. Both are simply
   important. There is no ordering.

In both cases, free hardware design is important.

It seems the Free Software Foundation has reached conclusion 1, although
I'm not sure of
this. http://www.linuxtoday.com/infrastructure/1999062200505NWLF seems
to reflect that opinion, I think.

On the other hand, several open hardware groups seem to have reached
conclusion 2. This seems to be the case for both
http://openhardware.org/ and http://opencollector.org/

I agree with conclusion 2. Hardware shouldn't be "punished" for being
difficult to copy; just because it does not give me as many practical
advantages as software, it is still just as important.

I do, however, understand the pragmatism behind choosing conclusion 1.

In the end, believing that something is x important or x + y important
(where x is the level of importance and y is positive) probably matters
little in the case of non-open hardware, as we have to rely on
manufacturers if we want to use electronics. We can write free
replacements, but those will have to be produced.

-----
Niels G. W. Serup

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