An Open Invitation To Hacking Hardware

It’s pretty hard to spend any time on the web without stumbling across people mentioning open source software. Somewhat less frequent are mentions of open source hardware, but it may be that the Neuros OSD is one of the first of many. Neuros are selling ‘beta’ versions of their Linux-based digital media units, and offering cash bounties to the first people to successfully hack new features and utilities into them. The advocates would have us believe that this is how all hardware development will be done some day, but will the average consumer ever trust code and devices that have been made by ‘hobbyists and hackers’?

2 thoughts on “An Open Invitation To Hacking Hardware”

  1. but will the average consumer ever trust code and devices that have been made by ‘hobbyists and hackers’?

    This is a disappointing question. It’s the kind of position that reinforces the dangerous illusion that corporate interests are aligned with consumer interests. The intentional obscurity and arbitrary secrecy in the soft/hard/firmware of many products is intentionally there to keep control over the customer and keep competition down.

    I think we’re all increasingly in trouble as long as ANY of the technology we use is closed. I welcome the day when we have machines running on entirely open hardware.

    Let’s take the Linux kernel/Windows kernel as an example:

    Regarding the Windows kernel, I have to not only wait for repairs and fixes from Microsoft, but also I have to trust Microsoft to even acknowledge problems. I have to hope that any very serious flaws that jeopardize my data, livelihood and even life, that Microsoft may know about, are going to be disclosed to the public and then repaired quickly. Now, we all know this is not what happens. They have an agenda at companies like this, and it’s not the agenda I would choose for myself. But who really knows what they’re deciding anyway? Much of it is secret. I’m not comfortable with that. I just plain don’t trust this system.

    Take a fully open source piece of critical OS software like the Linux kernel. It’s being looked at by hundreds, probably thousands, of people all the time. There’s a large opportunity there for review by parties not under the controlling politics of a corporate entity. People like you and me, perhaps geekier, but regular people nonetheless. And there is no secrecy involved. Period. It’s this type of code that I trust.

    The average consumer had better start thinking for themself.

  2. I’m with you on this issue, Dino – open software is, IMHO, the right way to go (which is why my personal blog is running on WordPress, for example).

    But the question is important – that you felt compelled to answer it demonstrates the fact. It’s a contentious issue, largely obscured by hyperbole from both sides being filtered through the media and losing the detail in the process. I know for a fact it can be very hard to convince corporations and home users alike of the advantages of open source systems, but we need to get a dialogue going with people who are convinced that something you don’t pay for is rubbish by default. And that’s probably as big a challenge as debugging a kernel!

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