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mmesantos1
 Posted: Jul 10 2011, 12:56 AM
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For the good of all of us: CERN launches open source hardware effort

Open source software is used extensively by CERN, the particle physics lab behind the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiments. In fact, the organization even maintains its very own Linux distribution—based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux—called Scientific Linux CERN. Inspired by the productivity of Linux development, a group of CERN engineers have decided to bring the advantages of the open source software development model to the world of hardware.

CERN has launched a new community-centric effort called the Open Hardware Repository (OHR) with the aim of encouraging collaborative electronics design. CERN has also developed a new license, called the Open Hardware License (OHL), to govern the distribution of open hardware designs.

"For us, the drive towards open hardware was largely motivated by well-intentioned envy of our colleagues who develop Linux device drivers," said CERN engineer and Open Hardware Repository founder Javier Serrano in a statement. "They are part of a very large community of designers who share their knowledge and time in order to come up with the best possible operating system. We felt that there was no intrinsic reason why hardware development should be any different."

CERN's project isn't the first open hardware license—the Tucson Amateur Packet Radio group created one in 2007. The two licenses aren't related, but they do share similar underlying goals. There have also been a number of open hardware projects launched under more conventional open source licenses, such as Sun's move to release UltraSPARC design details under the GPL.

The OHR has been ramping up for quite some time and already hosts a number of projects, including some that have emerged from the technical requirements of the LHC.

One example is White Rabbit, a project to build a specialized network switch for timing synchronization in complex control systems like the kind used by the LHC. CERN is codeveloping the hardware with FAIR, the Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research. A number of other research organizations are interested in potentially using White Rabbit for their own experiments.

Technical specifications, research documents, and HDL code relating to White Rabbit's design are available for download from the OHR version control system. A separate sub-project also hosts the development of the Linux-based software environment that will power the White Rabbit switch.

The OHL is a share-alike license which grants users the freedom to study, modify, redistribute, and manufacture design documentation but stipulates that derivatives of the documentation must be released under the same terms. This means that anyone who modifies or improves the design will have to share their work with the broader community.

The license was modeled partly after the underlying principles of GNU's General Public License and was drafted by the legal advisor to CERN's Knowledge and Technology Transfer Group. The initial version of the OHL was released in March, but was subsequently refined based on community feedback. Version 1.1 of the license was published this week. The license, which is available from the OHR website, is general enough for broader use outside the realm of laboratory hardware.

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joutlan
 Posted: Jul 10 2011, 02:02 AM
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Nice...thanks for the post, mmesantos1!

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mmesantos1
 Posted: Jul 10 2011, 06:29 AM
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Your welcome joutlan,
I posted this article on all the forums I frequent. You guys and gals rock. biggrin.gif

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redman
 Posted: Jul 10 2011, 06:33 AM
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This initiative is a good one from CERN.
Hopefully others will pick it up and join it wink.gif

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mmesantos1
 Posted: Jul 10 2011, 07:00 AM
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Well that is the idea Redman and the hope of open source. You and team have started the snow ball and we will see how far it travels. Best of luck to you and thank you for getting it started. smile.gif

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redman
 Posted: Jul 10 2011, 07:56 AM
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QUOTE (mmesantos1 @ Jul 10 2011, 09:00 AM)
Well that is the idea Redman and the hope of open source. You and team have started the snow ball and we will see how far it travels. Best of luck to you and thank you for getting it started.  smile.gif


Perhaps I need to clearify one small thingy here. This forum isn't part of Fermilab or CERN. John started it from personal interest and gathered people around him who have the same liking of Scientific Linux wink.gif

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mmesantos1
 Posted: Jul 10 2011, 07:59 AM
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Sorry I did not know this.

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joutlan
 Posted: Jul 10 2011, 06:22 PM
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QUOTE (mmesantos1 @ Jul 10 2011, 03:59 AM)
Sorry I did not know this.


Yes, we are unofficial. The lead SL Developer does have moderator rights here, but that's just to post official announcements. That would be Troy Dawson; maybe he would chime in here and let us know if Fermilab has any future involvement in this wink.gif

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