• Transparent Hardware

last modified May 23, 2018 by strypey

What is Transparent Hardware 

This research project collects a catalogue of products made by companies which are using and supporting libre software and hardware, and/or working towards making computer technology more sustainable. It links to the community sites of open development projects which people can contribute to, and to the homepages of companies, so that people can order products directly from the manufacturer, or their retailers.

Ideally it will also combine:

  • some articles about the criteria for including products in the Transparent catalogue,
    • hardware made entirely from renewable or recycled (and recyclable) materials, and 100% powered by renewable energy, like solar, hand crank
    • designed for maximum durability, repairability, and upgradability
    • software must be free code, preferably 'free software' as defined by the Free Software Foundation
    • fireware must also be free code such as: Open FirmwareCoreBoot or RedBoot
    • physical devices, where possible, must be free hardware designs, also known as open hardware , built on patent-free, publicly documented designs developed through collaboration communities supported by not-for-profit consortia like the Open Hardware Repository, or companies like XMOS.
  • a forum/ review facility where those who have bought hardware recommended by Transparent could share their experiences, and perhaps offer feedback to the manufacturer. 
  • some information about pan-industry 'sustainable electronics' organisations like EICC (Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition) and whether they are legitimate or greenwash

The Transparent Hardware Catalogue

Devices endorsed by the Free Software Foundation under their Hardware Endorsement Criteria (currently in draft)  

Routers and Home Servers

The Freedom Box Foundation is developing a plug-in home server with built-in encryption and other privacy protection.  

The catalogue could include a range of high-quality, durable routers, running an embedded version of Linux like DD-WRT. Priority would be give to any routers which are built open hardware, and which use GPL3 rather than 2. Also those which can cope in hot temperatures without freezing up, and those which use minimal electric power, especially if they integrate renewable power sources.

Gaming Platforms

The OUYA gaming console which pulled in nearly US$8.6 million during its KickStarter crowdfunding campaign.

Pandora - The smallest portable Linux PC for gaming, browsing, coding, business work, remote administration, music playing, emulating, ... 

Media Players

Ogg Vorbis compatible music players

HTPC (Home Theatre Personal Computers) running free code OS like GeexBox or OpenElec, or those based on MythTV

Media Making


Apertus ("open source cinema") - "The apertus° association proudly serves the common good and does not seek profit in any way. It has been created to support and nurture the creation and distribution of knowledge. We release all of our software under the GNU General Public License V3, all our documentation under the Creative Commons License, and all hardware under the Cern Open Hardware License."

Elphel cameras - "This [GPL] freedom extends from the convenience of the out-of-the-box usage of the cameras with the intuitive GUI to the possibility to modify any parts of them. It protects user right to create and distribute derivative products based on our designs, products that may be suitable for the applications we had never thought about ourselves."

Musical Gear

Music Thing Random Squencer -  "Tom is using the open hardware module not just to free the source behind the design, but with the assumption that fans of the hardware will go off and make the thing themselves. He’s crowd-sourcing production, in other words – suggesting some places to find parts and fab boards, and then letting people get into the manufacturing business."

Linux Tablets and Handhelds ("Smartphones")

ZaReason Limited offer tablets running variants of Android/ Linux (as well as laptops and desktops running GN/ Linux)

OpenMoko community have created the Neo Freerunner, a handheld which can run a number of free code OS, and the WikiReader tablet

Mozilla have launched a Firefox-branded OS running the Linux kernel for handhelds, and a number of vendors have announced support.. 

GNU/ Linux PCs

The GNU Project maintains a list of manufacturers who sell PC hardware pre-loaded with a 100% free code version of GNU/ Linux (no binary blobs of non-free packages)

GNU/ Linux laptop

There are a number of companies shipping laptops with GNU/ Linux pre-loaded, which is theoretically going to provide a more reliable operating system than installing a Linux kernal-based OS on hardware designed with Windows in mind. A few examples:

 LinPC.us offer a couple of MSI notebooks pre-loaded with PCLinuxOS

Mark Shuttleworth of Ubuntu fame has lanched a wikipage describing the criteria for a free software laptop, and an email list for people wanting to follow progress towards making one available.

The Always Innovating Smart Book could be a candidate. An innovative design makes it netbook, tablet, mobile phone, and VoIP phone in one, the swiss army knife of PCs. Pre-loaded with Ubuntu, Chrome, Android, and their own AIOS. Which OS you use depends on which function you are using.

The Gdium Liberty could be a candidate. It is designed to keep the OS and user data separate from the terminal hardware, by putting in on a separate USB device called the G-Key. It would need to open up its hardware and firmware though according to this blog post on Walking with Zen.

The XO laptop designed by the One Laptop Per Child project when combined with a GNU/ Linux OS could also be a candidate. User demand for this could be one way to help rescue the XO from Windows. Having one per school all around Aotearoa could be a goal, but I'm thinking that dumping a novel machine in each school could result in most of them gathering dust in a cupboard. A technology roadshow which travelled around primary schools introducing teachers and students to a truckfull of XOs and getting them excited about the new opportunities its novelty offers could be more effective. The comments thread on this XConomy story about OLPC makes the future of the XO sound pretty grim, but it's amazing that a nonprofit org effectively invented the mini-laptop (notebook/ netbook), and it would be a shame if all the volunteer effort put into this project over the years couldn't be salvaged by the free code software community.

Other Hardware

Dangerous Prototypes make a number of circuit boards and geek tools, collaboratively developed using the open source model, and with all design information freely available for people to reproduce at home, or manufacture for sale.

Rasberry Pi, Allwinner A10CuBox, and Hackberry all offer low-cost hardware running GNU/ Linux out of the box.

Jaco's list of hardware posted on the OpenChat list