Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Update on the TripleWide Extender X and Open Source Pricing

One of the most fundamental rules of business I've ever heard is that products need to be priced independent of cost. This is also cited as the most common rookie mistake, the idea of costing out a product and slapping a fixed margin on top.

"You've gotta charge what the market will pay, otherwise, you're leaving money on the table!"
"If you just put a margin on top of cost, then the price wars will begin, and you're just going to keep discounting and discounting until there's no margin left"

The Open Source Hardware Bank has gone against that rule entirely. The price was deliberately assigned as a roughly 15% margin over cost, which was estimated and made apparent upfront. But then again, the goal wasn't to "maximize profits (and take over the world)". It was simply to make a piece of hardware accessible and feasible to build, and to offer a modest reward for everyone who helped make it possible. So it may violate the rules of conventional business, but this paradigm of "Open Source Pricing" works for the sake of turning an idea into reality.

Then what happens when the cost estimates were a little too high to start off? Business rules would say you keep the excess margin, but following the 15% over cost model, the price would be reduced accordingly. So as it turns out, building the TripleWide Extender X was much cheaper than expected (in part because of similarities in production to the DoubleWide, and taking the final assembly in-house to get them out faster). With an original anticipated cost of 31.53, the price was 36.26. And so the "Buy 1, Build 1" cost was 67.79, and folks who helped fund it would have received one TripleWide and a check for 36.26 in return.

As it turned out, the TripleWide X, Illuminato compatible (double rows of headers) cost 24.87 to build, keeping a constant 15% margin would result in a price of 29.26. The real question is then, what happens to the people who have funded one at 31.53, expecting their 15% return after it sold? Well, the difference in cost still goes back to them.

To recap, Buy 1, Build 1 was originally:

36.26 to buy 1
+ 31.53 to build 1

for a total of 67.79.

As it turned out, the cost was lower. So now:

29.26 to buy 1
+ 24.87 to build 1

for a total of 54.13.

Hence, everyone who bought 1, built 1 will get:

1 TripleWide X + 7 (the difference in final price that they overpaid)
+ 29.26 (the final price of the board sold) + 6.65 (the amount they overpaid in cost)

All told, they'll get a check for 42.91 rather than just 36.26, since the savings are passed along. The product was made possible for cheaper than expected, and everyone saves money. It's the business of Open Source Pricing :-)

Friday, July 24, 2009

ButtonShield... HOW TO?

A lot of people who just got their ButtonShields were asking about how they could get up and running, so I decided to put together a short summary sheet for the ButtonShield.

It goes over all the different parts of the ButtonShield, from the arduino communication libraries to how each of the buttons are mapped.
I've put it up on the Liquidware site over here. Let me know if there's anything else I should add, or cool things to do with it!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

CC Processing and More

A sneak peak at the new liquidware.com cart system shows how it's much easier to checkout using just your credit card. This is a huge improvement over the paypal account system.

Google has been pushing this faster web thing lately:
http://code.google.com/speed/. Matt B used some cool techniques like
multiple domains for parallel downloads, aggressive HTTP caching, and
better image compression to make Liquidware.com over 2x as fast for some users. Look at these neat graphs of the http traffic:

Liquidware.com is way bigger than a year ago, it's nice to get it back
to being speedy!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hacking the TouchShield Slide: Undocumented Easter Egg

Why is open source cool? I got an email from Raj, who’s been using the TouchShield for a while, saying “I noticed there’s an extra RGB LED that I don’t think is supposed to be there.”

To which I replied, “PSYCH! Actually, it’s supposed to be there, and you’re the first person to discover that easter egg!” There are other easter eggs on the TouchShield Slide, but this is the first one that anyone’s found.

Ok, well then I guess it’s time to post some code…here's how to hack it:

void setup()

/* Setup pin direction */
SETBIT(DDRD, PD4);//set the red led data direction to output
SETBIT(DDRD, PD5);//set the green led data direction to output
SETBIT(DDRD, PD6);//set the blue led data direction to output

/* Turn on all LEDs */
CLRBIT(PORTD, PD4);//turn on the red led
CLRBIT(PORTD, PD5);//turn on the green led
CLRBIT(PORTD, PD6);//turn on the blue led


void loop()

/* Turn on all LEDs */
CLRBIT(PORTD, PD4);//turn on the red led
CLRBIT(PORTD, PD5);//turn on the green led
CLRBIT(PORTD, PD6);//turn on the blue led
delay(1000);//wait for 1 second

/* Turn off LEDs */
SETBIT(PORTD, PD4);//turn off the red led
SETBIT(PORTD, PD5);//turn off the green led
SETBIT(PORTD, PD6);//turn off the blue led
delay(1000);//wait for 1 second

/* Blink the RED LED */
CLRBIT(PORTD, PD4);//turn on the red led
delay(1000);//wait for 1 second
SETBIT(PORTD, PD4);//turn off the red led
delay(1000);//wait for 1 second

/* Blink the GREEN LED */
CLRBIT(PORTD, PD5);//turn on the green led
delay(1000);//wait for 1 second
SETBIT(PORTD, PD5);//turn off the green led
delay(1000);//wait for 1 second

/* Blink the BLUE LED */
CLRBIT(PORTD, PD6);//turn on the blue led
delay(1000);//wait for 1 second
SETBIT(PORTD, PD6);//turn off the blue led
delay(1000);//wait for 1 second

Unbeknownst to everyone who’s ever bought a TouchShield slide, there’s actually a multi-color RGB LED backlight on the reverse side of the board. This lets someone set “mood lighting” for a gadget – eat that, iPod…

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

This Book Sounds Like Me!

Ever wake up one day, and realize that your entire life has been predicted, if not played out, in entirety, in a book? I think that just happened to me...

I just read this little post on Boing Boing today, and my jaw literally dropped. Actually, Justin's jaw dropped too because this is not only creepy, it's kind of cool at the same time. Cory Doctorow talks about Makers, his next novel, which began as an online serial a few years ago, called Themepunks:

"Makers tells the story of a group of hardware hackers who fall in with microfinancing venture capitalists and reinvent the American economy after a total economic collapse, and who find themselves swimming with sharks, fighting with gangsters, and leading a band of global techno-revolutionaries."

Going down the list...

  • Hardware Hacker - check, check, check
  • Microfinance - check
  • Economic Collapse - check
  • Fighting with Gangsters - sort of :-)
  • Global Techno Revolutionaries - check, check, and check
  • PowerPoint - check
  • Blue Blazer - check (I almost always wear one, just because)

I read the first 2 chapters from the Themepunk story web site, and a few things stuck out that totally rang a bell:

  • The fact that IBM doesn't even make their own computers anymore. Yeah, what the hell?
  • "Capitalism is eating itself." What a great phrase! According to some economists and job surveys, the best and brightest want to become bankers, not engineers - booooo....

There are a couple of things in the writing that don't completely work, but that's ok:

  • There's no CEO, because that's too corporate sounding, and plus everyone knows that centralized hierarchical organization models are so 1980's paradigm (sorry, Henry Mintzberg)
  • No khaki's - they get solder flux stains too easily ... everyone knows jeans are way better :-)

So I guess I don't really have any other choice than to say, ... I will buy this book, and definitely look forward to reading every page. I just hope it ends up well!

And if you're reading this, Cory Doctorow, I would absolutely LOVE to sell your book on the Liquidware shop website....

Viva la hardware hacking microfinance economic rebuilding techno revolutionaries!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Arduino IDE Meets Ruby

Scripting languages have evolved a lot in the recent years. Ruby in particular, has had such a significant impact, that there are entire teams dedicated to maintaining it's visual identity across the web.

Designed by Tom Schaub is a widely used logo for the ruby programming language.

Sporting some flashy ruby icons, is the Scripting tab in the Arduino IDE. Upon startup, a listing of your ruby script files is generated from your Sketchbook directory.

Don't look, yet!

Of course there's no scripts in there, you need to crack open your ruby reference and create some. Once you do, you'll see how easy it is to automate repetitive tasks.

Hello_Arduino_World.rb code listing:
puts("Hello Arduino World")
Click RUN and you will get the standard output right to the console:

File I/O
How about writing to a file from a ruby script? Well that's easy:
myFile  = File.new("test.txt","w")

myFile.puts("Writing a line to a text file.")
myFile.puts("And Another.")


Ruby scripting support is built into the Antipasto Arduino IDE in versions 0.8.11 or greater.