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EETE FEBRUARY 2013

source hardware allows people to quickly create products that solve problems or merely entertain. Standing on the shoulders of other contributors, people can take a short route to translating their ideas into a functioning reality. Arduino is just one example. Mouser also supplies the BeagleBone developed by BeagleBoard.org and manufactured by Circuit Co. The BeagleBone eliminates barriers with simple development based on the ARM® Cortex™-A8 processor that runs Android 4.0 and Ubuntu software. Open-source Linux developers can easily add peripheral functionality with plug-in boards called “capes” (camera, touch screen, motor control, battery power, and more), enabling rapid product development. Another solution Mouser carries is from Microchip Technology as the chipKIT™ UNO32 Arduino- Compatible 32-Bit MCU development platform. The environment is based on the original Arduino IDE, and modified to support PIC32 devices while still supporting the original Arduino line. This platform allows hobbyists and students to develop original embedded applications easily and quickly, including motor control, LCD display, wired/wireless communications, LED matrix control, and sensor networks. Other leading OSHW suppliers include Olimex, Pandaboard.org, and SolderCore, using ARM-based processors from Freescale and Texas Instruments. Open source software regularly complements open source hardware. One commonality between OS and OSHW is how change is governed. Google’s Android operating system is open source: anyone can take the source code and alter it or use it, with some common sense restrictions. For instance, if your new OS-based code forks away from the moderated base version, it takes a separate development path and your operating system is no longer built-upon by other open source contributors that maintain the main tree. Your code will eventually A Comparison of Open Source Hardware Development Platforms be orphaned from any new development that follows unless you work to keep your uncontributed modification up-to-date with every new addition to the main tree of code. Maintaining consistency is critical to Linux because as a mature OS there are thousands of lines of code to debug. Change occurs rather slowly. Anyone who needs XYZ interface immediately for product development is faced with creating, contributing, and probably maintaining the Linux driver for XYZ interface in perpetuity. Technology is rather picky in its choice of friends. New code or hardware is useless and gets ignored if it doesn’t play well with other established modules. OSHW is less shareable because it requires physical goods and money as the source, or “tree” to build upon. For these reasons, OSHW is more fragmented; many people buy the boards and build their own project as their only goal. With OSHW, it either works on the base platform or it doesn’t. The maintainers are also the ones who sell the platforms; if your idea isn’t accepted, it is not incorporated into the platform. Arduino has followed the Linux model by establishing proven hardware modules called “shields” that quickly provide technology options, such as Ethernet capability. OSHW and OS are both governed by technology standards. USB is a very well-defined technology that will not work well with other USB products if the standards are not followed, whether it is hardware or software. Meanwhile, OSHW is another way to go green. In “the old days” appliances were kept for years and repaired; most user manuals came with a schematic. Nowadays it is often cheaper to buy a new product than to repair it. OSHW changes the game in that a customer can have access to the schematics and help online. As resources become more constrained, repair may be the lower-cost approach again someday. A repaired product does not create waste in a landfill nor require new resources from a foundry. In the future, perhaps only a significant improvement in energy efficiency could trump repair and cause a new purchase. Whether the reason is to jump-start a new product design, investigate a new technology, or to create one of the many DIY embedded projects published online, Mouser.com has everything you need to embark on a voyage of discovery into open source hardware, Since the invention of electricity, DIY hardware projects have been advertised for purchase in the final pages of magazines. Print has evolved from paper to the Internet where DIY hardware projects are for sale on Mouser.com. Mouser stocks the widest selection of the newest products with same day shipping. What are you waiting for? For more information visit: www.mouser.com Many of the developments mentioned here and more will be on display at Mouser’s booth (Hall 4A- Stand 302) at the upcoming Embedded World show in Nuremburg, Germany, 26-28 February. Visitors to the booth will be able to discuss their requirements with our expert team and are guaranteed that we’ll have the latest available technology on display. www.electronics-eetimes.com Electronic Engineering Times Europe February 2013 9


EETE FEBRUARY 2013
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