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Open-source engineering (semi-commercial) start-up

  • 29-11-2013 11:14am
    #1
    Registered Users Posts: 117 ✭✭ DSLC


    Hi all,

    I'm a final-year electrical & electronic engineering undergraduate thinking about starting (or helping to start) a partnership when I complete my degree (hopefully next May/June). I'm posting this here because I/we would be developing open-source software/hardware, using open-source toolchains, and because I would love to meet people who are interested in this sort of thing.

    This is certainly not motivated solely (or even primarily) by money - hence the term 'semi-commercial'. I am in fact involved with a group called 'Sharing Ireland', and would prefer any one I work alongside to share the values it emphasises ( http://www.sharingireland.net/values ). On the other hand, I am not proposing that it be entirely non-commercial either - as I (and anyone I work with presumably) has financial obligations of some sort or other.

    Even if people don't necessarily share the non/semi-commercial ethos - but want to be involved in open-source engineering projects - I would still be interested in a short-term 'joint venture'.

    I posted a notice about this on the Reprap forums about a year ago. Much of what I wrote there is still relevant: http://forums.reprap.org/read.php?201,121971 .

    Lastly, there are specific projects I have in mind (some primarily software-based, others more hardware-based) and am happy to discuss those with interested parties.

    David

    http://indigo.uk.to/~david/


Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,931 ✭✭✭ PrzemoF


    Sounds good! Any details of the projects?


  • Registered Users Posts: 117 ✭✭ DSLC


    Hi Przemo. Here are some ideas:
    • light-weight PLC - based on http://code.google.com/p/open-plc/ . Maybe enhance this by, e.g. adding a structured text compiler for AVR microcontrollers, migrating this to a faster (ARM) processor; integrating a common industrial communication protocol such as CANOpen or something like that
    • 3d-printing - actually building the machines (not just selling or printing things with them). I have a number of ideas here, but some of them are speculative, and (admittedly) there's already a huge amount happening this area.
    • energy-monitoring - leveraging existing open-source energy monitoring systems, enhancing them. (Can provide you with me more details in due course.)
    • digital keyboard - I'm an amateur musician and lament the absence of an open-source digital piano/keyboard!

    These are just a few examples of the things I might be interested in (there are a lot more!). I would be open to suggestions.

    I might be interested in doing something in the area of IC design in the long-run, but that would be a long-term project and require much more investment than I could leverage (+ I would have an awful lot to learn).


  • Registered Users Posts: 539 but43r


    Your definitely right, 3d-printing is extremely overcrowded at the moment.

    Energy monitoring would definitely be a good idea. There are few devices available or being released at the moment that are pretty cool (MeterPlug, Stand alone energy meters from Efergy, Belkin, OWL and few other companies) but I think this can be improved.

    I might be interested, PM me with the detains on your plans.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,931 ✭✭✭ PrzemoF


    DSLC wrote: »
    Hi Przemo. Here are some ideas:
    • light-weight PLC - based on http://code.google.com/p/open-plc/ . Maybe enhance this by, e.g. adding a structured text compiler for AVR microcontrollers, migrating this to a faster (ARM) processor; integrating a common industrial communication protocol such as CANOpen or something like that
    • 3d-printing - actually building the machines (not just selling or printing things with them). I have a number of ideas here, but some of them are speculative, and (admittedly) there's already a huge amount happening this area.
    • energy-monitoring - leveraging existing open-source energy monitoring systems, enhancing them. (Can provide you with me more details in due course.)
    • digital keyboard - I'm an amateur musician and lament the absence of an open-source digital piano/keyboard!

    These are just a few examples of the things I might be interested in (there are a lot more!). I would be open to suggestions.

    I might be interested in doing something in the area of IC design in the long-run, but that would be a long-term project and require much more investment than I could leverage (+ I would have an awful lot to learn).

    1. PLC is out of my current interest, but I hope to change it ... someday.
    2. I did some tests and I'd love to do more, but it's still quite pricey unless you have your own printer. [1]
    3. Energy monitoring seems to be on the rise. That could be really interesting and with huge potential on the market. You're thinking about a complete solution (hardware + software) or just the software side?
    4. Sounds ;) interesting.


    [1] http://blog.firszt.eu/index.php?post/2013/06/23/Galaxy-S4-3D-printed-car-holder


  • Registered Users Posts: 117 ✭✭ DSLC


    Hi Przemo. I was thinking of a combined hardware-software solution for energy monitoring. (In the interest of a full disclosure, what I had in mind was starting with an existing open-source solution + enhancing / changing that if necessary).

    Anyway, I welcome ideas from others also.

    I might mention this on the ILUG (Ireland Linux Users Group) mailing-list. Some of them are probably heavily invested in open-source software - maybe some of them are interested in the hardware end of things too.

    Thanks for the feedback. While I'll try to post relevant updates, I welcome other people's ideas in the meantime.

    D


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  • Registered Users Posts: 758 ✭✭✭ coconutlulz


    Hi,

    I came here today to post something very similar, with an idea of establishing a co-operative for disillusioned people in the IT industry. Imagine my delight when I discovered that you had beat me there! :)

    I'm a computer science graduate with industry experience as a network engineer, systems administrator and software developer (my current role) and am passionate about free software, privacy and security. I'm tired of working under privately-owned dictatorships in a system which exploits workers, bystanders and resources for profit.

    My knowledge of electronics and hardware is lacking but that doesn't mean I'm not willing to learn. What might be helpful here is that I've always had a soft spot for low-level programming, close to the hardware and/or kernel, but never really got the chance to indulge due to a lack of appropriate jobs close to home.

    Do you think I might be a good fit? :pac:

    Edit: fellow musician! *fistbump*


  • Registered Users Posts: 117 ✭✭ DSLC


    Hi ya 'coconut' (if I can call you that?). Thanks for chipping in, and great to have your input. I like the sound of what you've described. (I'm not 100% sure about the term 'collective', but it's probably not worth getting hung up about right now.)
    Do you think I might be a good fit? :pac:

    I do indeed. Software development would definitely be an important part of it. I suspect your experience could be extremely valuable.

    What yourself or any one else interested might want to dwell on is your response to the 'shared values' I linked to. It's probably not something that engineers / scientists / programmers are comfortable discussing, and I don't want to hark on about the issue, but it would be foremost amongst my concerns.

    Acolytes of open-source are probably more sympathetic to these values than most, but I don't want to make assumptions and would prefer to discuss it openly.
    Edit: fellow musician! *fistbump*

    Ha. Cool :).

    To other readers, here's a recap of what I'm looking for:
    1. an aptitude - how you demonstrate this to me / us is up to you. You don't need a formal qualification; you don't need industry experience - but you definitely need a strong aptitude.
    2. agree with the values expounded here ; and
    3. have an earnest interest in open-source (i.e. you came to it not just to have something to 'add to your CV' - but because the FOSS / FOSH community itself and what it has accomplished inspires you)

    In the interest of a full-disclosure, I am trying to garner (or at least gauge) people's interest in this on a wider-scale also (i.e. outside Ireland) - which you can read about on the Open Manufacturing forum, for example. (I hope that doesn't scare any one off :( )

    If people don't agree with point 2 above, I might still be interested in working with them - but not necessarily in a permanent arrangement.


  • Registered Users Posts: 117 ✭✭ DSLC


    Two of us (possibly more) have tentatively arranged to meet in Dublin CC this Saturday afternoon to discuss this further. Others are very welcome. So, if you are interested and want to learn more do come along.

    We're not going to rush in to anything and showing up won't be construed as any sort of 'commitment'. On the other hand, please make sure you read the above (including links) carefully if possible before attending.

    Will post again to confirm but send me a PM if you're interested - as I don't want to post contact details in public.


  • Registered Users Posts: 117 ✭✭ DSLC


    Meeting at 3 PM in Temple Bar this afternoon. PM me for details of the venue.

    Here is a Google drive folder with more info: https://drive.google.com/?authuser=0#folders/0B3roVHMOAaQPVFA3WGlZaktGN1E .

    Please do your best to read that before resolving to attend - the documents 'Introduction' and 'Shared values' in particular.

    We'll probably be pressed for time and can't afford to spend long clearing up misunderstandings.


  • Registered Users Posts: 117 ✭✭ DSLC


    There might be another meeting over the next week or two - either next weekend or the weekend after. Not sure yet. It would be in Dublin again.

    Maybe we could try to have video conferencing for people who can't attend in person (e.g. people outside Dublin)? If not at this one then for future discussions?


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  • Registered Users Posts: 117 ✭✭ DSLC


    Re. date / time for next meeting ...
    There is a poll here: http://www.doodle.com/929evw7r8tevfgg9

    If you're interested add your vote there.


  • Registered Users Posts: 117 ✭✭ DSLC


    Hi. I'm conscious that bouncing an old thread might be frowned upon, but just wanted to post a very brief update.

    I am working as an embedded software engineer presently (writing C mainly), but still very interested in this idea of a small partnership which is heavily embedded in open-source culture and which has a markedly different ethos to a lot of engineering organisations. (Hopefully what I mean by the latter remark is evident from the above. Please take time to read it if you respond!)

    Naturally my thoughts on certain issues have evolved a little bit since the original post (approx. 18 months ago) - e.g. regarding what projects might hold most appeal from an engineer's perspective on the one hand and a commercial perspective on the other. Most of it is still at least partly relevant, however.

    One of the links above (for 'Sharing Ireland' ) is temporarily down, but the rest should be still be operational.

    If anyone's interested you are welcome to send me a PM.


  • Registered Users Posts: 57 ✭✭✭ manjosh


    I "think" kickstarter might be right for you. Not that sure how it works but it kind of sounds like KS stuff.
    Good luck and all the best.


  • Registered Users Posts: 117 ✭✭ DSLC


    Thanks for the feedback Josh. I would certainly consider kickstarter or some other crowd-funding platform as an option (although it's probably a bit premature for that now).
    Cheers


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