CERN Launches Open Source Hardware Project

Jul 8, 2011
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CERN Launches Open Source Hardware Project

The folks who brought you the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and the experiments therein are now working to bring you an OHR, aka an Open Hardware Repository for all the collaborative electronics design you could possibly handle. For those of you that don't know, CERN also has their very own Linux distribution based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux known as Scientific Linux CERN. It was the productivity of this project that inspired this newest effort, the group hoping now to bring this open source software development model to the hardware world.

This newest hardware project came about when the fine folks at CERN realized that there was no reason why the forward-thinking open-source software project based in LINUX should be the only one able to work in a community of leaders willing to collaborate for the greater good of the scientific world. CERN engineer and Open Hardware Repository founder Javier Serrano notes the following:

"For us, the drive towards open hardware was largely motivated by well-intentioned envy of our colleagues who develop Linux device drivers. 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."

While this wont be the first open source hardware project, or indeed the first open hardware project to get a license, it's certainly one of the more exciting ones, the CERN project being one of the better known scientific projects the world over in recent years - notoriety on such a level brings great minds, that much is true!

One example of an open hardware project that's already well on its way is White Rabbit, a project initiated to build a specialized network switch for timing synchronization in complex control systems -- like the kind used by the LHC. An overview of this project can be found at the OHR and here:

White Rabbit is a fully deterministic Ethernet-based network for general purpose data transfer and synchronization. The aim is to be able to synchronize ~1000 nodes with sub-ns accuracy over fiber and copper lengths of up to 10 km. The key technologies used are physical layer syntonization (clock recovery) and PTP (IEEE 1588).

Make a whole lot of sense to you, average citizen? This is why we need the greatest minds from around the engineering world working on such fabulous projects, and in an open way. Because all work done inside the greater project is done in a share-alike license agreement, it must be shared with the ability to study, modify, and redistribute.

Verzion 1.1 of the Open Hardware Repository was published this week, having originally been drafted back in March, now available for anyone to take a look at inside the OHR website.

You may further access CERN's Open Hardware Repository at http://www.ohwr.org/ - use it wisely! Same goes for the LINUX project they've got going which you can find out more about at http://linux.web.cern.ch/linux/scientific6/ Currently available: BETA SLC 6.1 version is available as of 09.06.2011 - wins all around!

[via Ars Technica]


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