Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Open Source Hardware Bank March Update

It's been ~4 weeks since the first blog post about the Open Source Hardware Bank, and things have been really really busy for Justin and me. I think the biggest news is that the Illuminato Round 1 "Fund" has gone from a complete start to finish, so I'm going back now to see what happened. In the spirit of transparency, I'm trying to list everything that I think someone would be interested in asking... and I kind of want to make a point that it's possible to be "open source" about finance too. In the meantime, I'm definitely becoming more of an economist than I ever thought I would be...

"OSHB Fund 1" by the numbers
  • The OSHB Fund 1 funded 100 Illuminatos.
  • It took 3.5 weeks for the entire experiment to start and end (that was fast).
  • 20 people bought Illuminato's from other people who funded them, which amounted to an even 20% "peer-to-peer" distributed capital percentage. Thanks Priya for that term...
  • 48 other people bought Illuminato's that were funded by the OSHB (there are 2 left, which means the bank successfully funded and returned on its investment (the momentum principle held for the Illuminato woo hoo!).
  • 8 people did the Buy-1-Build-2, got an Illuminato for cost, and $4.50 for shipping, which pretty much means free ground shipping anywhere in the U.S. Anyone who bought this will get a little box with an Illuminato in it, and a check for $64.48 give or take (depending on the shipping amount). The Buy-1-Build-2 option costs $94.47, so subtracting $64.48 equals $29.99, which is the cost of the Illuminato with no markup.
  • 11 people did the Buy-1-Build-1 (it's hard to see in the current graphic, but that's because they went over the middle queue amount). Anyone who bought this will get a box with an Illuminato, and a check for $34.49 give or take. The Buy-1-Build-1 option cost $64.48, so subtracting $34.49 equals $29.99, which is the cost with no markup.
  • 90 Illuminatos were sold with a 15% markup, which is WAAAAY less than the current average for electronics, which is something like 40-70%.
  • 6 Illuminatos were sold with a 30% markup, which is actualy still less than the current average for electronics.
  • 2 Illuminatos sold with a 45% markup, and that's only because they're the last ones at the end of the queue, but it's funny because actually, that's STILL less than the markup on most electronics.
  • For matching the other half of the inventory round, the bank made a return of about $234 dollars in margin off the initial $1,380 it invested, for a return of about 16.95%. It's higher than 15% because of the few 30% markups at the tail end of the queue.
  • The bank's return on investment of 16.95% for the Illuminato "OSHB Fund 1" happened within 3.5 weeks.
Ok, that's all nice, but what about the actual real things that are getting made? The Illuminatos' PCBs are almost done ... Mike and I are just proofing them to make sure all the connections really work and do what we want them to do :)

The Accountable Agency Ratio (AAR)

Of the 34 ButtonShields currently bought/funded, 13 were bought right out vs. 21 funded, which means an "accountable agency ratio" of 38%. The "accountable agency ratio" is a term that Justin and I thought up after reading some econ textbooks we borrowed from friends. It probably deserves it's own blog post, but the gist is that there's this thing called the "agency problem" which is what economists like to blame lots of problems on - like greed and bubbles and mismanagement and lack of CEO ethics and corruption. I think it basically comes down to this: the guy running the company is often not the guy who's money is at stake, so he's an agent, and he does all kinds of stuff for his own benefit, not for the benefit of the investor.

In the real world, the accountable agency ratio is something like 0.01% for employees (like me in my day job), 1-5% for overpaid executives (who get lots of options), 5-30% for each entrepreneur in a startup (based on friends of mine), and 10-40% for investors (like venture capital, but this is an estimate). So Justin and I don't want to this ratio to go below 33%.

Why? I don't know, it just feels right. That's like a 2:1 leverage ratio, instead of the 9:1 leverage ratio of the US central bank lending system, and 20:1 leverage ratio of mortgage lending all the failed banks used.

"OSHB Fund 2" by the numbers

  • 34 ButtonShields have been bought or funded.
  • 23 EqualizerShields have been bought or funded
  • Of the 23 EqualizerShields, 12 are bought outright, vs. 11 funded, for an "accountable agency ratio" (AAR) of 52%!
  • At the time that the Illuminato round 2 got funded, the AAR ratio was about 20/50, or 40%. So I suppose that technically means the EqualizerShield is getting less "speculation" and more "I just want one"-tion. :-)
  • 16 DoubleWide X's have been bought or built, with an AAR ratio of 50%.
  • 4 TripleWide's have been bought and 1 built. Hmmmm... The AAR ratio is 80%.

What happened to the Fund-5 option?

Now that Justin and I have the AAR (accountable agency ratio) defined, I didn't think it made sense to just have someone come in and Fund-5 at any given time off the bat, because that would run the risk of inappropriately or arbitrarily elevating the perceived "demand" for something that's getting built. Since the initial demand is the thing that's being used to lower the risk for the OSHB because of the "momentum principle," screwing with it can lead to inappropriate "demand bubbles." ... just like credit default swaps (at least from what I can understand of them), that would mean the bank was making a bet on a momentum principle which was artificially inflated. Since bubbles are a bad thing, Justin and I are trying to avoid them.

The Fund-5 option addresses the AAR in 2 ways. First, it's a "Build-2" in the first half of the inventory queue, so this goes towards offsetting initial demand's AAR. Second, it's a "Bank-3", which means that it's funding 3 after the half-way fulcrum point. That means it's partly replacing the role of the bank. This makes sense because in exchange for optimizing the AAR down to 33% and an unattached 15% ROI, the Fund-5 option has to wait until all the other Build's in the first half of the queue are built before these last 3 get refunded (like the bank does). And, it's assuming and reducing part of the speculation over the bank's bet on the momentum principle.

Now that there's an established Buy/Build AAR ratio for the ButtonShield, EqualizerShield, and DoubleWide X, Justin put up on the store a couple of Fund-5 options for those...

So there are 3 Fund-5 options for the ButtonShield, because if all 3 of them sold, that would make the AAR equal to 33%. Anyone who buys these would get a 15% ROI in whatever time period they sold. Or at any time, the Fund-5 can be cashed out by getting some of the inventory it funded, at cost of course.

There are also now 6 Fund-5 options for the EqualizerShield, because if they all sold, that would make the AAR equal to 34%.

There are 4 Fund-5 options for the DoubleWide X, for a max AAR of 33%.

And there are 3 Fund-5 options for the TripleWide X, for a max AAR of 36%.

Questions for April

After the last (and first) OSEC meeting in NYC, Justin and I met Andrew, and decided to start the bank and funding in the first place, which led to all of the mess we're in now :) There's still a lot to figure out, so here are a couple of topics that I think we'll probably talk about at the next upcoming OSEC meeting (either April 10, 11, 17, or 18).

There's a "terminal run" problem that I think I want to figure out - thanks to Mike for thinking of this. Another way to say this is, what happens when another round gets funded, and built, but half-way through no one else wants one? What happens to the left over stock? When should the bank decide when to start another queue for the same product?

There's an "incremental innovation" issue that Justin is thinking about based on his emailing. That's a couple of big words for an otherwise simple question: how do I incorporate small tweaks into the hardware that someone submits or asks for? In between queuing rounds?

There's an "international logistics" problem that a bunch of people have mentioned. Because international shipping is expensive, it might make sense to either pool or parallel build, or something like that around the world at the same time in order to reduce the cost of shipping to Europe from the US or vice versa. (Thanks Eric and Joerg) This is another funny difference between Open Source Software and Hardware. Sending OSS to someone around the world is free, or fractions of a penny at most, but hardware can be between $40-120.

There's a list of other hardware projects I've gotten over email from people all over the world who want to be included in the next round for the bank. I think the OSEC meeting we'll have to figure out a formal process of voting on which ones move up into the queue.

There are lots of analyses I've started to build that I want to include on the website... I'd like to get some help on them, or some opinions.

There's a wiki that Justin is starting that will need lots of work from him and me over the next couple of weeks.

Ok... back to coding my next project...!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Uploading TouchShield Images with the Aardvark IDE

I just downloaded the most recent version of the Aardvark IDE and uploded my first slide show!!!

As a tribute to the finale of the greatest show of all time I uploaded some pictures from Battlestar Galactica. I cropped the images in paint and saved them as 24-bit Bitmaps.

Uploading a 128 x 128 pixel bitmap took about 1 minute...

I uploaded the gadget file I used on the app store if anyone is interested.

Thanks Omar & Chris... I'm having lots of fun with this little feature!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Open Source Hardware: Phantom Menace

Queue theme music from Star Wars... dun dun dun dun.... The SEC is like Jar Jar Binks. Annoying as heck, but if he wasn't there, the plot wouldn't have happened, so you put up with it until you fix it and figure out how to get along without him.

I like hacking systems, and the idea that information wants to be free. That's why I do OSHW, and why I think it needs Open Source Finance (OSF?). And it's nice when someone agrees enough to write an email for how to deal with the regulatory issues identified over here in the Wired blog article (thanks Nick, Paul, Steve, Mike, the other Matt). And thanks Priya for not pulling quotes out of context to make me look dumb... she basically said, it's not going to work, but did so objectively and honestly... I'm ok with that.

"These guys do not have a regulatory strategy and they need one," he says" - that's Mr. Pitts from Zopa. First of all, that's RIDICULOUS - he's a real guy that does this stuff for a living! I used to think Zopa and Prosper were really cool sites when I read about them years ago, but I still felt like they were too web 2.0y for my tastes (in general, I don't like "companies" where all they do is just run websites... I think companies ought to have a real, tangible thing they make like a motorcylce or a dishwasher or a RAID controller card, but I digress...).

Ok, so here are 4 ideas for official regulatory strategies that I got over email:

  1. Model after commodities exchange, rather than equity or debt
  2. Remove system return, and tie everything to hardware
  3. Only issue new I-Bills for the bank when it needs them
  4. Don't take any money from someone who isn't a hardware hacker

1) Model after commodities exchange, rather than equity or debt

Apparently there's a problem with debt that says "there's a guarantee of X% return on investment" because guess what? A guaranteed return doesn't exist! I'm not a finance whiz, but even I can understand that there's no such thing as free return. There's also a problem with equity, because it's just based on expectations. I've never held stocks, I don't buy and trade, blabla because I don't understand how it works - honestly: I don't get what my money is doing when it's supposedly owning a stock, but really it's owned by an investment bank who's just issuing things like butterfly spreads and such on it - sounds stupid to me. Anyway, the price only goes up when others think it will... hmmm... equity seems like a bad idea for funding open source hardware. Either it's going to sell or it's not. Equity in companies makes sense sometimes because it's like a bet on the expectation or idea that someone wants to buy what you just built, and now you're trying to sell it to someone. So it's a gamble...

But equity is like a solution to a problem that DIY Open Source Hardware doesn't have: if I built it, if I want it, if I designed it, guess what? I'm gonna buy it. So there's really no speculation when there's a group of people building it for themselves. There's no "speculation" when you're Doing-It-Yourself.

A while ago, I went to see George Soros speak about reflexivity at this "forum on risk" event and after he was done, I ran up to him, and asked him about what institutions should do if they don't want to be exposed to the kinds of bubbles that create risk and that led to the crash in the first place. He said, "then don't issue equities." Ok, fine I won't. George Soros said so :-)

2) Remove system return, and tie everything to hardware

Thanks to Paul (who was a lawyer in a previous life, and now just goes around helping Open Source projects when they get screwed by companies), he's helping to draft up a new set of documents that basically remove the SEC problem from the system. As I understand it, the SEC gets involved whenever anyone says, "I promise that there's a X% return on investment always" because if someone says that, they're lying, and the US government steps in to make sure that when you get called out for lying, the person that bought into it gets FDIC insured. That's because in the real economy you either get your 5% return on investment or nothing.

That's ridiculous. That's like saying the entire system is based on someone's promise to back up a paper promise... but only up to a point of $250,000. That doesn't sound scalable to me. One solution is that anyone who donates money is a personal friend to me or Justin or Andrew (for instance a friend on facebook) and who I've met in person over lunch or dinner or coffee or something else. Or, another way is that money that anyone contributes is tied directly to the underlying hardware that got funded. That means: if someone's spending money to help hardware get built, Mike and Justin and I are building that hardware, selling it for you, and when it sells, you get the money back. Kind of like a flee market - except for new hardware, not old 2nd hand stuff. Or as Steve wrote in, "just be an intermediary between buyers and developers." Sounds completely reasonable to me.

3) Only issue new I-Bills for the bank when it needs them

One of the benefits of starting out slowly and small and taking time is that Justin and I are discovering and learning nuances along the way. Like, when should I-Bills be issued for the bank? If the I-Bills are issued when there's no hardware to fund, then there's money just sitting around in the bank account not doing anything useful, and that's dumb. So the simple answer is that Justin and I aren't going to issue new I-Bills until right before they're needed to fund hardware. That makes sense for a lot of reasons, but it also makes it clear what the money is going towards.

If someone wants to be on the list of people who get emailed when hardware is about to get built, just email me at inthebitz at gmail.

4) Don't take any money from someone who isn't a hardware hacker

Veni vidi hackici. The worst case scenario is the momentum principle doesn't work, and you're left with a ton of hardware PCB's, then that's not the right type of person to participate in the system. Speaking on a personal note, if I woke up tomorrow and had a ton of EqualizerShields sitting on the floor that I had bought at cost, I would be *in heaven*. I would build the craziest multi-perspective, synchronized, Fourier-transforming equalizer running off of all kinds of signals - weather data, the number of emails I had, let alone the music I was currently listening to. So I suppose that's an example of the kind of person who's good to get involved... I'm a hacker, I'm proud of it, and that's the point :)

Other rebellious ideas

Hmmm... I think I'll pass on a couple of these ideas that I got sent in over email:

-Don't incorporate - that way there's no central authority (well, I'm not giving up the non profit idea just yet, but I'm shopping around other countries to see if someone has a better and cheaper system than the USA).
-Set up base camp wherever Pirate Bay is set up (no thanks I'm not 11 years old any more, so I'm more legitimate than that).
-Run the whole thing over BitTorrent or FreeNet (ummmm that sounds like a LOT of coding)
-Run everything out of a truck and have yearly meetings at Burning Man festival (I am not a nomad, I like living in one place)
-Start your own currency... hmmmm OpenBucks? Maybe I could make work with Philip to issue a currency exchange rate from OpenBucks to Linden Dollars? Sounds like an interesting idea, but personally I think that Second Life needs a Central Bank too, in order to manage the virtual economy, so that's maybe just delaying the problem...

Ha - that was fun :-) Anyway, the point is to be legitimate, transparent, open, and public. If I was trying to be secretive, misleading, deceptive, or evil, I suppose I could just go to a normal bank - oh wait... now back to setting up the wiki...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Using the ButtonShield to make an Open Source BlackBerry

Last week Mike threw up a video of the ButtonShield prototype he made, I added it to the Open Source Hardware bank and Justin added it to the liquidware store. Incidentally, this project uses most of the exact same components as the Open Source GamePack (from my Open Source Gameboy project) Actually, it technically uses 2 new parts too, so it uses 60% of the old plus 40% new parts :-)

In the meantime, I figured I’d use one of the prototypes that Mike built to actually show off what it could do, and so I decided to see if I could hack together an Open Source version of the Blackberry – and I even made the 2.5 hour road trip to CT to meet Mike in person at Dunkin Donuts. The result? I guess you could call this the “OpenBerry” project. I also kept a stop watch next to me to measure how long it took to make everything (assembly and coding, that is), and start to finish it took a little under 3 hours. Anyway, here goes:

The OpenBerry "Open Source Blackberry" is a 26-key ASCII alphabetical keyboard ButtonShield module wired to an Arduino, which polls the buttons, and writes a small message that gets displayed simultaneously on the OLED TouchShield. When the message is written, it gets kicked out over the XBee Shield from Libelium (I picked it up at Sparkfun). In the meantime, it polls over the XBee serial connection to see if the XBee base station on the laptop has any new emails to send, and if so, it pipes it over the serial wireless connection to the OpenBerry. It's obviously still a work in progress, since the GUI isn't complete, but the hard part is done!

Here are some pictures I took of it:

And here’s a little step-by-step tutorial of how I put it together, including the base source code in case anyone else wanted to make one too. I’ve already done the hardest part by getting the modules and code integrated…

Step 0: Assemble Modules and Sketch Design

Here’s everything I used to build the Open Source BlackBerry… and just so I could be like MacGuyver, I made sure to find a use for Duct Tape and a paperclip, both of which (of course) are integral, life-saving elements of the finished design… :-)

Step 1: Pre-program the XBee Wireless Shields

I started with Mike’s tutorial over here which basically involved grabbing this program here.

The Libelium XBee shields I had were actually XBee 802.15.4 protocol, so I just had to select that properly in the pull-down menu, and otherwise I was ok. These are pretty neat little shields, and I definitely recommend them!

Step 2: Program the Arduino Transceiver Base Station

The next step is to place the XBee Shield on the Arduino that will serve as the base station module, and leave that sitting on the desk, connected via USB to the computer that will act as the email relay gateway.

Here’s the very simple source code I used in the early stages to get it up and running:

//code for the base station xbee transmitter


#define rxPin 2

#define txPin 3

SoftwareSerial mySerial = SoftwareSerial(rxPin, txPin);

void setup ( void) {

pinMode(rxPin, INPUT);

pinMode(txPin, OUTPUT);




char x;

void loop ( void) {

//x = mySerial.read();






Step 3: Assemble the OpenBerry Gadget

This wasn’t too bad, actually, since each of the shields are easily intercompatible.

This involved snapping the TouchShield Slide and ButtonShield on the top of the DoubleWide ExtenderShield, and snapping the Arduino and Lithium Backpack to the underside. Phew, that was a lot of links to look up! I set the ButtonShield to Mode B, so it wouldn’t clobber the pins the TouchShield Slide needed to communicate with.

The tricky part was wiring up the other XBee Shield, since there wasn’t enough space for it on the top or front. That wasn’t too hard, though, I just took the sticky tape off the back of a black Mini Protoboard and snapped the Arduino XBee Shield into the protospace holes. Then, I used 4 wires to connect the shield to +5V, Ground (underneath the TouchShield Slide), and to serial Rx, and serial Tx on pins 4 and 5 on the ExtenderShield.

Step 4: Program the OpenBerry

This was pretty easy to figure out, I just plugged the device into the USB port of my computer, and used the Arduino IDE to program the following code:

//code for blackberry


#define rxPin 4

#define txPin 5

SoftwareSerial mySerial = SoftwareSerial(rxPin, txPin);

unsigned int val;

unsigned int valold;

void setup ( void) {

//set up xbeeshield

pinMode(rxPin, INPUT);

pinMode(txPin, OUTPUT);



//set up button shield

digitalWrite(8, LOW); pinMode(8, INPUT);//bit 0

digitalWrite(9, LOW); pinMode(9, INPUT);// bit 1

digitalWrite(10, LOW); pinMode(10, INPUT);// bit 2

digitalWrite(16, LOW); pinMode(16, INPUT);//bit 3

digitalWrite(17, LOW); pinMode(17, INPUT);//bit 4

pinMode(11,OUTPUT);//led in mode b

digitalWrite(11,LOW);//led in mode b


char x;

void loop ( void) {

//x = mySerial.read();


if (x == 'x') {








val = ((digitalRead(17)<<4)|>





if (val != valold) //test to see if val changed


Serial.println(val,BIN); // write the array reference at val to the serial port

valold = val; //document the previous vale





digitalWrite(11,LOW); //led blink


digitalWrite(11,HIGH); //led blink






This let me test all of the configuration settings, and then I was able to tack on a few lines to send information back and forth with the TouchShield Slide to display incoming messages, using the same code snippets from the InputShield forwarder (ironically, since the packet formats were just right) – thanks, Chris! http://antipastohw.blogspot.com/2009/02/gamepack-with-inputshieldellipses.html

Which led to the finished device!

And here's a video of me showing it in action ... I would probably have retaken the video to edit the corny comment about having a bigger screen... too bad I don't know how to use video editing software... oh well :)

Of course, all the code is GNU Open Source, and I’ve uploaded some pictures to Flickr, and Justin helped me put everything together as a kit on the liquidware shop for the ButtonShield and other modules…

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

5 ways to get involved with the Open Source Hardware bank

It’s been a couple weeks since Matt put up the Open Source Hardware Bank website, and there’s also been a lot of emails (thanks!), so I figured summarize those too in one spot on the blog. In addition to lots of schematics zip files, lots of guys were trying to figure out how to get involved. Unfortunately, I’m not Linus Torvalds, so I’m not a total expert at managing big distributed efforts, so I’m definitely going to be learning along the way.

There seems to be different personality modes I get into… sometimes I’m in “list-mode”, and other times I’m in “bucket-mode”. I’m in bucket mode tonight, so here’s a set of 5 buckets into which most of the emails could be summarized:

A. I'm working on this OSHW project, but I just want to get a couple to use whenever it's ready.
B. Here’s a link to someone else’s project – could the bank make some of these? I could help get it to production faster, or code it, or whatever.
C. I have a little extra pocket cash from the bailout (just kidding), and I could support open source hardware development too.
D. I’m learning and want to learn more about open source hardware.
E. I’m a nobel prize winning economist and I think sustainable community funding for open source projects is an interesting idea, and I want to help. Can you send me your bibliography and a list of citations?

I then looked through the reply emails I’d sent out, and realized that mostly what I was doing was sending out small personal essays about why I thought it was important, and asking for help, and sending links to other stuff. So naturally, here were the links:

A – The general idea is to pre-fund and pre-order hardware. The community would pay upfront and once enough money has been pooled from the community (50 units in the build queue) , the bank fills the remaining 50 units in the queue, and the project goes to production.

B - A few folks suggested that they could probably pitch in a little more to get additional units built, but they didn't really need those extra units. So I built it in as the "Buy 1, Build 1/2/3" option so each person can help fund up to 3 additional units for each one purchased. Here's the play-by-play for how it worked with the Illuminato. (But if you're more a fan of chemical reactions, this might be another way to look at it).

I did this because I wanted to make sure that whatever gets built is at least in some way tied to demand, so there's no runaway speculation (not a good thing!) Matt mentions this as the "anti-bubble" effect that keeps everything well controlled and sustainable :)

C - I'd been talking to Barry, Andrew, Omar and Rob a little about the idea, and they each mentioned being interested in helping out ("This also seemed like a ‘fun’ investment and it can’t do any worse than the market!") Since the role of the bank is to help double the number of units produced to reduce unit cost (the bank funds an additional 50 units once the community has funded 50), the bank needs larger reserves, which come in the form $1000 I-bills. In the "anti-bubble" spirit, opportunities to fund the bank are also limited by demand: I-bills are only for sale when projects are coming close to requiring bank funding and moving to production. I-bill investors are offered 5-15% after 6 months based on how bank-funded units sell. As it's pretty probable that there will be more projects requiring funding than there will be "bank reserves" at any given time, the Open Source Economic Council, composed of I-bill and community investors, will meet monthly to discuss and vote on which projects will be funded.

D - The idea started when Mike and Matt wanted to build a few units of the illuminato, just because they thought it was a neat little thing. When it first went up, quite a few folks were asking about it, and this time around, it's up on Liquidware and OSHWBank, so anyone interested could help buy/build one, and get it one step closer to production.

Like Mike and Matt, Keith, Andrew, and Tim all had some ideas on projects they wanted to build, and figured someone else might like it too. So they submitted a couple ideas over here: http://www.oshwbank.org (scroll down to "Ideas"). Once these ideas are more fully developed, they will enter the queue for funding and production. And of course, projects that are in fact fully developed, like the EqualizerShield and ButtonShield, could enter the queue immediately.

E – Or "none of the above" :) Jim and Christophe were intrigued by the idea and wanted to help out with some of the complex backend programming, since they happened to be seasoned comp sci experts.


Paula Abdul says...

I think it was a few weeks ago, when Paula was giving advice to the American Idol contestants on T.V., and she said as her one and only piece of advice "don't google yourself". There are so many opportunities she had to say something smart, but that's all she said. So naturally, I googled "open source hardware bank" 5 minutes ago and found some stuff, and some commentary. The whole goal is to do this with lots of help, and to be open about everything, so naturally I figured I'd share what I found for anyone who cared to read (and save anyone else some time finding it too):

Michael has a nice summary of everything over here - sometimes it's nice when someone helps me take a few steps back and realize what everything sounds like to someone else - thanks! ps - I guess I am technically part of the "Arduino ecology," but I'd really like to expand :) pps he also has some really nice other articles about peer-to-peer issues of decentralized coordination, control, and ideas. I'd really like to see more about distributed, decentralized "labor" and "productivity" ideas...

Thanks, Make! (btw as soon as I finish moving to my new place, I'm buying a real print subscription instead of renewing PopSci... which is a big deal because I've gotten PopSci for over 12 years... oh well, like a guy rationalizing a Playboy subsription, I swear I'm switching just because of the articles...) Anyway, stunmonkey wrote in a comment that said:
"How about an incubator that cuts infrastructure (web, ability to accept credit cards, etc) and specialized knowledge/skills (legal, photographic, marketing, etc.) by simply supplying some of it? Sort of parts or all of an SBA/Credit union/makers gallery/Ebay/Trade assoc./Collective advertising/web host group rolled into one? Then simply take a percentage of sales through the websites - they'd be hosted by and payment funneled through the groups servers anyway."

Sure, why not? If you want me to list and sell your thingy on the liquidware store website, I'll do it for free provided that you made it yourself, and as long as you maybe help me learn what it does so Mike or I don't sound like an idiot when someone else asks for help ... oh yeah, and as long as you're willing to pay "child support" in the form of periodic emails - ha :)

Pramode wrote on his blog a nice little quip, which I completely, totally, agree with - p.s. I like that he used the term "hacker," that's a term of endearment to me, and I will really try to live up to that title, since it carries pretty heavy responsibilities (spiderman moment and dramatic music) I want to make cool stuff that is hard to build and pushes me to learn more electrical engineering, and I suppose that is also "hackerish"...
"We may be reasonably assured that banks like AJMIC won’t cause any recession; because they are being managed by people who may not dislike becoming millionaires but have many other more compelling passions/goals in life. The tragedy of our time is that we allowed money to be “managed” by charlatans whose only goal in life was to discover more and more ways to multiply money"

LWN.net had quite a few comments, actually, which tells me that Linux and OSHW apparently have a lot of overlap:
"It's not clear how the financials are going to work from the blog post, but one assumes that it'll simply be making a loan. If you can front the cash for X units, they'll loan you enough to increase that initial order to 2X units."
Yep, just please don't come knocking asking for too much money, because the bank isn't that big yet. The financials are going to go up as soon as I finish getting a feed from the sql db to Excel and into a chart.
"The idea seems sound (if tricky to administer) to me."

Thanks... Tricky, yes, which is why I'm getting a lot of help now from all kinds of guys who have offered to help (thanks)
"No, but he obviously knows how to build hardware, and probably has some sort of feel as to what is a viable idea and what isn't. In a way it would be like having your own investment advisor in the small-scale electronics market, and it's all open hardware to boot."

Thanks! that's also pretty generous, I suppose you could look at it that way. Although I am NOT an investment advisor, and never want to be one, and would probably really suck at it if I were one... but thanks :) p.s. one things for sure, if I were an investment advisor, I would not give myself millions of dollars of other peoples' hard earned money just because someone bailed me out. That makes me furious.
"Sorry, I don't get it. What's in it for such a bank?"
A cause? giving back to other DIY'ers like we got help from my professor, friends that helped me learn ee concepts, people that lent me money, and guys that make it happen (pun intended)
"And if people in such a bank do work, somebody is going to have to pay for it. Which means that an equilibrium is just not good enough."
Well, I'm volunteering my time, and I guess you could call that work, and I'm ok not to make money for my volunteering, and if it gets too hard, I'll just ask for help. I thought jurassic park was mandatory viewing, especially where that guy says about the asexual frogs that were all female, "life finds a way". I think that means I just called myself and everyone who invested in the Open Source Hardware Bank an asexual vegan dinosaur... hmmmm... not very good "communications" I suppose...
"'So Andrew, Justin, and I will see to it that the Open Source Hardware. Bank does not default, and each of us will guarantee every investment.' It sounded remotely plausible until they wrote this."
Well, the whole point is to engineer the bank so this isn't needed in the future. and in the meantime, as long as the numbers we're talking about aren't that big, it's manageable.

Harkopen.com also had a couple of comments, which I really liked:
"I don't get it? I visited the website they put up for this open source bank but there is not much informaiton yet. Who is Chris, David, Mark, Mike, Omar, and Justin? Why not just setup a non-profit organization and hold fund raising events like all other non-profit ogranizations. Store the money in a federally insured bank and create a Board of Directors. Then establish a low cost membership that would allow Members to also have a vote in how the money is used. The more popular projects would end up getting more money which is a good thing. At least then you could hold swap meets, social gatherings, and other types of fund raisers."
Oh come on :-) I have a day job too over here, and html and php doesn't grow off trees :) Ha. Anyway, that's me, and some guys I've met over time mostly in ct, ny, ma and nj. And, I think that idea sounds nice actually, except that a nonprofit costs like $18,000 / year just to have and to run, and report, and file in the U.S. That's like 3 or 4 projects worth of money right there, which is ironic, because the only one who makes money off of this being a nonprofit is the government (which is technically not the open source community) PS I grew up in Maryland, so cheers!

djiezes apparently made some clipmarks too over here - which is funny, because there's no better way to know what people actually care about or take away from something you say unless you peek into their notes... i suppose it's kind of like the peanuts/snoopy cartoons they show on t.v. late at night when the 'adults' speak: "blablablablablablablaopen source hardware bankblablablablablathrowaway costs and quantity monopolyblablablablablablablaopen source hardware costs moneyblablablablablablaneeds a bankblabla" well, that's clifnotes for you :-)

Then there's lots of stuff on twitter (I think I've seen it called "tweets" but I feel like ordering a skinny vanilla mochachino frappe latte triple duoventi whenever I hear that term), but i don't know how to use twitter. Maybe I'll make a gadget that sends twitter tweets one of these days so I can keep up with everyone....

Monday, March 16, 2009

Circles that Slide

So I was riding on the train the other day, and felt the need to mess with my touchshield. I started by drawing lots of different squares that were really fun, but my imagination quickly took me to these 2 circles that entranced me... after making them more dynamic, I made a few more and with some tweaks brought them to motion with the touch screen.

This program basically has 6 circles that can be dragged around by touching them on the touch screen. I thought it was a fun little app... so enjoy!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Introducing 5.9 new Open Source Hardware Arduino shields

The past week has been pretty crazy for Mike, Matt, Chris, Omar, Mark, Tim, and me (Justin). Matt got something like 6 hours of sleep all week, Chris ate like 4 times, and Mike didn't use the bathroom - just kidding. And in the meantime, everyone's still got day jobs, so yeah... hmmmmm... please don't tell my "boss"… I’m pretty sure (I hope) he doesn’t read this blog…

Anyway, here are the new shields, ready for build, and almost halfway funded for up on the Open Source Hardware Bank – thanks:


100% done and ready to fund and build

This idea was all Mark's fault... He said the only thing preventing the Arduino+ExtenderShield+TouchShield from giving the big hardware companies a run for their money was a keyboard or button shield, so it could be a real device. Then, the Arduino would not only be a great physical computing and DIY platform, it'd make a fairly good rapid-prototyping platform too. So here it is... it's a shield built for the Arduino profile that has 26 buttons on it. It has a mode A or B selector, so you can wire up two of these directly to an Arduino, a lot like the InputShield, and still have pins for the TouchShield.



100% done, ready to fund and build

Chuck Norris would be proud. Actually, he wouldn't, because he already built this on his own, and he does benchpresses off of it, and he doesn't need the Open Source Hardware Bank's help. For me, on the other hand (and Chris and Dave), I've built a digital/analog Equalizer on a Shield.

The EqualizerShield has two modes: Justice... and Equality. In the Justice mode, the shield acts as a 10x10 blue LED matrix, addressable over serial from pins 0 and 1 on the Arduino. In the Equality mode, the shield acts as an analog pin visualizer. On the backside of the board, there is an 8-wide female header port where you can wire in any analog signal, and the board will display the status on the LEDs on the front, like an equalizer.

DoubleWide ExtenderShield X Edition

100% done, ready to fund and build

The other DoubleWide ExtenderShield let anyone connect two shields to an Arduino. That was fine when dealing with just one row of digital I/O. But now that there are more and more people using the Illuminato, why not pin out all the extra rows of I/O in a replicating shield as well?

Enter the ExtenderShield X Edition. The "X" stands for "eXtended", and it means there's now twice the pins pinned out. The left side is a pass-through replication of the right side, so there's plenty of wire-up space on either side.

TripleWide ExtenderShield X Edition

100% done, ready to fund and build

For more advanced projects, sometimes connecting 2 shields together isn't enough. Quite a few people have written in over the past few months asking for a TripleWide, so here it is. The catch is that it's also a "X" edition, which means it works with the Arduino or the Illuminato. It pins out and replicates each of the Illuminato pins 3 times over, so three shields can be wired up side by side.


75% done, just needs some whacky layout ideas

This shield is for Al Gore. When he was building the Internet by hand, I'm sure he had a lot of help from the folks at DARPA. Actually, I'm sure he had a lot of help from everyone but Al Gore. Anyway, now he's fighting global warming, and so this is a shield for him. This shield will have 11 environmental senses built in, and each individually accessible. All joking aside, when I was just starting to learn the Arduino, the first thing I did was run out and buy 1 of each sensor from Radio Shack, and that added up pretty quickly (especially buying 1 at a time). On the other hand, throwing all of them together on one shield will be far cheaper, and more convenient...


75% done, just needs integration into the Arduino IDE

This one comes from Keith (thanks!). He sent in a schematic for an Arm-based Arduino. Actually, it's sort of like a basic Arm chip circuit, but he tested it, and knows it worked. The only catch is, no one's ported the compilers to the Arduino IDE, so what's the point? Over the next few months, I'm going to try with Chris to port the Arm compilers into the Arduino IDE branch that Omar has been maintaining - and hopefully this will open a lot of benefits to the OSHW community.


Not really a shield, but about 60% done and cool as heck

This one is from Tim... it's definitely still a work in progress, but here's an idea of what it might look like when it's done. This definitely will need some more work and help, but I think it'd be quite interesting to have a full DIY Open Source 2 or 5 megapixel camera, in the form factor smaller than a deck of cards.


40% done, working on driver code

From Matt: "A board only a group of vikings would love. Actually, I've always wanted to build something like this. I would have loved to connect this to my old TI-82 calculator when I was in high school, and even TI-89 nowadays."

The Pillage() function cleans up the microSD cards by syncing them to each other. What's the worst thing that pillaging SD cards? RAIDandPillage() which completely resets and clears out the microSD cards.

Anyway, feel free to check out the OSHW page and let me know what you think! You can reach me at jhuynh at gmail. Have a great Monday!