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Bug Labs Creates Open Source Lego for Software Engineers

Nov 14, 2008, 23:35 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Bruce Byfield)

"Today, Bug Labs interacts frequently with like-minded projects such as TuxPhone and companies such as Chumby and OpenMoko. But when Bug Labs began about two years ago, few of those efforts to develop open source hardware existed.

"Instead, the inspiration for Bug Labs was personal, Semmelhack says. As he sees the situation, free software has increased productivity by lowering the barriers to getting involved. "You can do a lot today with very little code," he says. "You can put up Web sites for very little money, and you can put up ads on Web sites and start making money very quickly. If you are someone coming out of university today with a great idea for a new application, you can build it without a lot of investment."

"By contrast, creating a new hardware product is far more costly and difficult. "If you want to do anything with hardware," Semmelhack says, "you have to spend a lot of money, because you have to buy materials. And what we've found is that you can't just go and order anything from anybody, because you have to order a minimum order in many instances. You have to buy 5,000; you can't just buy a couple. Or they won't sell to you because there's a waiting line, or you have to be on some approved list. In the world of bits, you just have to go to an FTP site, and you're done; in the world of atoms, you have supplies and inventories and investments that create a huge barrier for entry -- especially for a student who has an idea and just wants to go and build it. It isn't an engineering issue; it's an economics issue."

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