WyoLum Innovation Grant 2012

We are pleased to announce the WyoLum Innovation Grant 2012 (#WIG2012) in which we hope to find 6 worthy open source projects to share $3000 in grants (two $1000 grants and 4 $250 Grants).  So dust off your camcorder and show us what you are working on.

Deadline for submission is December 14, 2012.  Good luck!

Our mission is to promote open hardware and we put our money where our mouth is.  Let’s accelerate the future in the best way possible!

Here are the official rules and judging guidelines.


AlaMode: Web Controlled Train Example

Update!: You can now buy AlaMode at Seeedstudios

Here’s an example of using the AlaMode with the Raspberry Pi.

We had a great time demoing the AlaMode at MakerFaire. We got invited to demo in the MakerShed, because …. Surprise! MakerShed is going to carry AlaMode!

For this demo,  I took an adafruit motorshield and used it to modulate the power to a 9V Lego train track.

Photo by Brian Kronz

The Arduino code is pretty simple, using Serial.read to interpret single characters as commands for controlling the motor shield. “f” means forward, “b” means back, “s” means stop. 1-9 sets the speed.  You’ll also need to install the AFMotor  library.

Program the aalegotrain.ino sketch from here: https://github.com/wyolum/alamode/tree/master/examples/train_demo

You can either do this with an FTDI cable on another computer, or directly with the Arduino IDE on the Raspberry Pi.

The ala-modey part of this is to use the AlaMode to do the controlling motor bit. The Raspberry Pi will control the train through a web interface.

Install  lighttpd on the Pi (sudo apt-get install lighttpd) and put the web files from the example into /var/www.

photo by Drew Fustini

It’s a little slow because it’s a simple CGI script (spins up a whole process with each request.) A python script interprets button presses on the web page, and uses pyserial to send the characters to AlaMode.

Drew Fustini of Element 14 did a great blog post on our demo.

Here’s a video he posted:

If you have any questions, join the conversation at the Wyolum forums.

The “unwritten rule” of open source hardware.

I beg to disagree.

One of the unspoken rules of open hardware clearly stated by Phillip Torrone states that “Cloning Ain’t Cool”  While on the surface he is correct, I think we must embrace cloning as a natural consequence of openness, and be flattered by the mimicry.   Now I am not talking about trademark violation which is also called counterfeiting in another post by Phil and is not protected by open licences and is clearly despicable.

I’m talking about legally manufacturing a design that was released under a permissible license.

Recently Makerbot Industries moved away from openness when they announced that their Replicator 2 design would not be released as open source.  Cloning was cited as a major contributor to this decision.  In an attempt to placate the open hardware community, CEO Bre Pettis, pointed out that the (now closed source) extruder modifications were only made to ease mass production.  I have two responses: 1. with 3D imaging growing as fast as 3D printing, the designs cannot be protected for long and 2. more importantly, this confuses open source with DIY.  If open source means DIY, then why does the CERN community release hardware designs?  Are we all expected to start tunneling a super conducting super collider from our basements?

The far more serious threat to open hardware is stealing.  That happens when a company modifies an open design but does not release the modifications when the original license requires it.