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Who owns Arduino? We don’t mean metaphorically — we’d say that’s the community of users and developers who’ve all contributed to this amazing hardware/software ecosystem. We mean literally. Whose chips are on the table? Whose money talks? It looks like it could be ARM!

The Arduino vs Arduino saga “ended” just under a year ago with an out-of-court settlement that created a private holding company part-owned by both parties in the prior dispute over the trademark. And then, [Banzi] and the original founders bought out [Musto]’s shares and took over. That much is known fact.

The murky thing about privately held companies and out-of-court settlements is that all of the details remain private, so we can only guess from outside. We can speculate, however, that buying out half of the Arduino AG wasn’t cheap, and that even pooling all of their resources together, the original founders just didn’t have the scratch to buy [Musto] out. Or as the Arduino website puts it, “In order to make [t]his a reality, we needed a partner that would provide us with the resources to regain full ownership of Arduino as a company… and Arm graciously agreed to support us to complete the operation.” That, and the rest of the Arduino blog post, sure looks like ARM provided some funds to buy back Arduino.

We reached out to [Massimo Banzi] for clarification and he replied:

“Hi arm did not buy nor invest in arduino. The founders + Fabio Violante still own the company. As I wrote in the blog post we are still independent, open source and cross platform.”

We frankly can’t make sense of these conflicting statements, at least regarding whether ARM did or didn’t contribute monetary resources to the deal. ARM has no press release on the deal as we write this.

Announcing a partnership without details isn’t a new activity for Arduino. Recently we wrote about open questions on the Arduino Foundation. [Banzi] was willing to speak with Hackaday at length about that topic, suggesting more details were just weeks away but we have yet to see follow-through on that.

What we can tell is that [Banzi] and Arduino want us to know that they’re still independent. The Arduino post mentions independence and autonomy eight times in a 428-word post. (The lady doth protest too much?) They’re very concerned that we don’t think that they’ve been snapped up by ARM.

And there’s also good reason to believe that Arduino will remain autonomous even if ARM owns a big stake. ARM sells its intellectual property to a number of silicon manufacturers, who then compete fiercely by offering different peripheral sets and power budgets, and they’re very serious about providing them all with a level playing field.

Anyway, the various ARM chips are nice to work with from a hacker perspective. If the AVR-based UNO was the last non-ARM Arduino board ever made, we’d only shed a tiny little tear. On the other hand, if you’re an MSP430 or PIC fanboy or fangirl, we wouldn’t be holding your breath for a light-blue board sporting your favorite silicon but that is just conjecture.

So we have seemingly conflicting information on the details of this deal, but also promises of openness and transparency. On one hand we’re pleased that ARM is the apparent silent partner, but on the other hand we’re left confused and wanting more. Who owns Arduino?


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, Business, Current Events, Featured, news

Federico Musto, who until two days ago owned the largest part of Arduino AG has been bought out, having today been replaced by a combination of Massimo Banzi and Fabio Violante.

This should bring to a close the saga that began with a fork where two companies called themselves “Arduino” and bizarrely continued for almost a year after the reconciliation of the two was announced. What remains today is one corporation called Arduino AG, now captained by Massimo Banzi as Chairman and CTO, and Fabio Violante as CEO.

Massimo Banzi was one of the original founders of Arduino and one side of the trademark litigation during the period in which there were two companies. With the buyout of Musto, Banzi moves back to the top spot. This change in leadership occurred as a company called BCMI bought all shares of Arduino AG. BCMI was started by four of the original Arduino co-founders; you could say the old gang rides again.

Arduino AG is in essence a hardware company, manufacturing and selling the officially branded Arduino boards. But right now they still maintain the official codebase which most people see as belonging to the community. Despite changes at the top, the proof will still be in the pudding. When will we see the Arduino Foundation come to life and take control of the Arduino IDE? Hackaday will continue to look into it and provide updates.

 


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, news

The Arduino Wars officially ended last October, and the new Arduino-manufacturing company was registered in January 2017.  At the time, we were promised an Arduino Foundation that would care for the open-source IDE and code infrastructure in an open and community-serving manner, but we don’t have one yet. Is it conspiracy? Or foul play? Our advice: don’t fret. These things take time.

But on the other hand, the Arduino community wants to know what’s going on, and there’s apparently some real confusion out there about the state of play in Arduino-land, so we interviewed the principals, Massimo Banzi and Federico Musto, and asked them for a progress report.

The short version is that there are still two “Arduinos”: Arduino AG, a for-profit corporation, and the soon-to-be Arduino Foundation, a non-profit in charge of guiding and funding software and IDE development. The former was incorporated in January 2017, and the latter is still in progress but looks likely to incorporate before the summer is over.

Banzi, who is a shareholder of Arduino AG, is going to be the president of the Foundation, and Musto, AG’s CEO, is going to be on the executive board and both principals told us similar visions of incredible transparency and community-driven development. Banzi is, in fact, looking to get a draft version of the Foundation’s charter early, for comment by the community, before it gets chiseled in stone.

It’s far too early to tell just how independent the Foundation is going to be, or should be, of the company that sells the boards under the same name. Setting up the Foundation correctly is extremely important for the future of Arduino, and Banzi said to us in an interview that he wouldn’t take on the job of president unless it is done right. What the Arduino community doesn’t need right now is a Foundation fork.  Instead, they need our help, encouragement, and participation once the Foundation is established. Things look like they’re on track.

A Tale of Two Arduinos

Until late 2014, there were two “Arduinos”: Arduino LLC, which took on the task developing the IDE and guiding the community, and Smart Projects, which was the manufacturing arm of the project that incidentally owned the trademark on the name “Arduino”, at least in Europe. All legal heck broke loose in November 2014, when Smart Projects changed its name to Arduino SRL (an Italian form of limited-liability corporation) and stopped funneling profits back into Arduino LLC. Arduino LLC filed for a trademark in the US, and Arduino SRL countered the filing based on their EU trademark. Arduino LLC filed a lawsuit in the USA, which resulted in two years of uncertainty about which company was the “real” Arduino, confusion in retail channels, two websites, and two versions of the IDE. It wasn’t pretty.

In October 2016, the lawsuit was settled out of court. The settlement documents themselves are under a sort of non-disclosure agreement, and we were told that there are around 500 pages worth. But a very short version is that a new Arduino corporation (Arduino AG) would hold the trademark and rights to produce the boards, while the Arduino Foundation, a 501(c)(6) non-profit corporation would be established to develop the firmware and the IDE.

In a nearly Solomonic decision, Arduino AG is 51% owned by the previous owners of Arduino SRL, and 49% owned by the previous Arduino LLC principals. Federico Musto, the largest shareholder of SRL, is now Arduino AG’s CEO, and Massimo Banzi, the largest shareholder in LLC, is picked to be the Arduino Foundation’s president.

So there are still two “Arduinos”, but their incentives are now aligned instead of adversarial. Arduino AG owns the trademark, manufactures the boards, and makes the money. The Arduino Foundation will be funded by at least Arduino AG, but also by any other stake-holders in the Arduino ecosystem that wish to contribute. Arduino AG is now in a sense just a company that makes development boards, while the Arduino Foundation is in control of the rest of what makes Arduino “Arduino”: the non-tangible environment.

As a result, the community should care a lot about the Foundation. The choices made there will change your programming experience most directly, and if you’re interested in contributing code to the mainline distribution, the Foundation will be the gatekeeper — as much as there can be a gatekeeper in entirely open source software.

Progress, but Slow Progress

So why is setting up the Arduino Foundation taking so long? We’d claim it’s not, and that the signs from both parties indicate that it’s on the right track.

First of all, Musto and Banzi were in an existential fight over control of the ownership of “Arduino” for two of the last two-and-a-half years. As of January 2017, they became part owners of the Arduino AG holding company, but that doesn’t mean they instantly started getting along. It’s no surprise that there’s at least half a year’s worth of trust-building to do between the two.

Add to these personal issues that the Foundation was not the top (legal) priority. Banzi mentioned that, of the 500-page settlement, the Arduino Foundation was one of the last items on the list, and that the settlement wasn’t extremely detailed in that regard to begin with. So there was a lot of work to do, and it was put off until the prioritized stuff was out of the way. We were told that there’s no deadline in the settlement, and in reality, they haven’t been working on the Foundation for more than four months so far. Add in some time for lawyering, and IRS accreditation, and we would forgive them for taking until the end of 2017. Let’s hope it’s sooner.

Finally, both Banzi and Musto are very candid that this is the first Foundation that either of them have ever set up, and that it’s an important one. Nobody wants to get this wrong, and both are looking to other successful open-source Foundations for inspiration and guidance. Both mentioned the Linux and Mozilla foundations as models. This suggests that there’s going to be a mix of developer, user, and manufacturer interests all coming together. And it suggests that the founders are doing their due dilligence instead of just slapping something together.

The Signal, and the Noise

So what can we expect from the Arduino Foundation? Neither Banzi and Musto were able to guarantee anything specific, because they’re still under discussion. Still, there was a reassuring degree of overlap between what Banzi and Musto said. It sounds like they’re getting there.

If you’re interested in the future of the IDE, Banzi’s recent article on the near future is probably a good roadmap, and there’s a lot to like: separating the cross-platform code from the device-specific code (“Project Chainsaw”), and re-thinking the split between the high-level and low-level APIs sounds great to us. Adapting the Arduino pre-processor and toolchain to work with more modern workflows (clang on LLVM) is a huge win. Musto mentioned making the IDE more modular, so that any given part of it could be easily called by external code.

As for the organization itself, it’s likely that there will be an executive board, with half appointed by Musto and half by Banzi, that will run the show. In addition, Musto floated the idea of a few advisory boards, potentially split along lines of hardware manufacturers and firmware developers. He repeatedly said, as he was airing these possibilities, that it was up to Banzi as president to decide in the end. For his part, Banzi declined to speak on any specifics until they’d hammered the details out. In whatever form, we wouldn’t be surprised if representatives from Intel, ST, Nordic Semiconductor, and other chip manufacturers who make Arduino boards have a seat at the table. We’d also like to see the developer community pulled in and given a formal voice somehow.

Both Musto and Banzi seem committed to extreme transparency in the Foundation. Musto mentioned that the Foundation’s financials should be viewable online every month. Banzi is proposing to pre-release the Foundation’s charter. Musto is considering having Arduino AG donate to the Foundation in proportion to Arduino sales, and allowing the purchasers to earmark their portion of the donation toward a specific project as a form of radical democracy. Both Musto and Banzi said the word “open” more times than we could count in the interviews. Given Banzi’s history as an open source hardware pioneer, and Musto’s financial incentives to keep the Arduino train on the tracks, we have little reason to doubt their intentions.

Foundation Fork?

Meanwhile, Dale Dougherty, the founder of Make Magazine, wrote a piece in which he calls for a “Free Arduino” Foundation, where the Arduino community can jointly determine the future of the little blue boards and their programming environment. Half of the article consists of personal attacks on Federico Musto. Ironically, it was Musto himself who first proposed creating an Arduino Foundation as a neutral party in charge of the IDE, and as a means to funnel money back to the people contributing most to the ecosystem — the developers. Nowhere in the post does Dougherty mention Banzi’s role in the Foundation.

In addition to Dale Dougherty’s post on Make, Phil Torrone of Adafruit made a few posts last week that suggested, vaguely or otherwise, that the future of the IDE was being “steered off a cliff” or otherwise hijacked by the Foundation because of Musto’s participation. He interpreted Dougherty’s post as calling for a grassroots, developer-based Arduino Foundation.

We asked both Massimo Banzi and Federico Musto what they thought about the call for a Foundation fork. Neither of them had talked to Dougherty or Adafruit about the Foundation, and both felt blindsided by their accusations. Banzi was quite dismissive of the “Arduino is no longer open source” argument, stating that once code is out there with an open license, it can’t be taken back. If Arduino steers off a cliff, just roll back a few versions and fork. Banzi felt like the argument was insulting the last decade of his, along with the other early founders’, work. He would not comment on Dougherty’s article, saying instead that he’ll talk with him later.

The elephant in the room is Musto’s alleged fabrication of his previous academic credentials, which he has since retracted. It certainly does raise the question of whether he is trustworthy. But with Banzi still involved and slated to take the helm of the Foundation we see more reasons for hope in the future than not, or at least a reason to wait and see.

Is the Arduino Foundation run by insiders? Of course it is. Who other than Massimo Banzi would you appoint to run it? And you have to give the Arduino AG CEO a seat on the board, not the least because they own the trademark and the software needs to run on their hardware. Banzi and Musto display every sign of wanting to get it right: keeping it open, transparent, and responsive to both the community and industry.

Arduino’s code acceptance over the last twelve years hasn’t always been exactly transparent either, and many parts of the IDE could use a fresh coat of paint. It’s easy to idealize the past, but looking to the future, a Foundation which brings numerous and diverse stakeholders to the table can help refresh stale perspectives. Banzi’s roadmap for the IDE is solid. With some more good ideas, and money to back them up, the Foundation could be the best thing that’s ever happened to Arduino.


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, Current Events, Featured, news

The Arduino Wars officially ended last October, and the new Arduino-manufacturing company was registered in January 2017.  At the time, we were promised an Arduino Foundation that would care for the open-source IDE and code infrastructure in an open and community-serving manner, but we don’t have one yet. Is it conspiracy? Or foul play? Our advice: don’t fret. These things take time.

But on the other hand, the Arduino community wants to know what’s going on, and there’s apparently some real confusion out there about the state of play in Arduino-land, so we interviewed the principals, Massimo Banzi and Federico Musto, and asked them for a progress report.

The short version is that there are still two “Arduinos”: Arduino AG, a for-profit corporation, and the soon-to-be Arduino Foundation, a non-profit in charge of guiding and funding software and IDE development. The former was incorporated in January 2017, and the latter is still in progress but looks likely to incorporate before the summer is over.

Banzi, who is a shareholder of Arduino AG, is going to be the president of the Foundation, and Musto, AG’s CEO, is going to be on the executive board and both principals told us similar visions of incredible transparency and community-driven development. Banzi is, in fact, looking to get a draft version of the Foundation’s charter early, for comment by the community, before it gets chiseled in stone.

It’s far too early to tell just how independent the Foundation is going to be, or should be, of the company that sells the boards under the same name. Setting up the Foundation correctly is extremely important for the future of Arduino, and Banzi said to us in an interview that he wouldn’t take on the job of president unless it is done right. What the Arduino community doesn’t need right now is a Foundation fork.  Instead, they need our help, encouragement, and participation once the Foundation is established. Things look like they’re on track.

A Tale of Two Arduinos

Until late 2014, there were two “Arduinos”: Arduino LLC, which took on the task developing the IDE and guiding the community, and Smart Projects, which was the manufacturing arm of the project that incidentally owned the trademark on the name “Arduino”, at least in Europe. All legal heck broke loose in November 2014, when Smart Projects changed its name to Arduino SRL (an Italian form of limited-liability corporation) and stopped funneling profits back into Arduino LLC. Arduino LLC filed for a trademark in the US, and Arduino SRL countered the filing based on their EU trademark. Arduino LLC filed a lawsuit in the USA, which resulted in two years of uncertainty about which company was the “real” Arduino, confusion in retail channels, two websites, and two versions of the IDE. It wasn’t pretty.

In October 2016, the lawsuit was settled out of court. The settlement documents themselves are under a sort of non-disclosure agreement, and we were told that there are around 500 pages worth. But a very short version is that a new Arduino corporation (Arduino AG) would hold the trademark and rights to produce the boards, while the Arduino Foundation, a 501(c)(6) non-profit corporation would be established to develop the firmware and the IDE.

In a nearly Solomonic decision, Arduino AG is 51% owned by the previous owners of Arduino SRL, and 49% owned by the previous Arduino LLC principals. Federico Musto, the largest shareholder of SRL, is now Arduino AG’s CEO, and Massimo Banzi, the largest shareholder in LLC, is picked to be the Arduino Foundation’s president.

So there are still two “Arduinos”, but their incentives are now aligned instead of adversarial. Arduino AG owns the trademark, manufactures the boards, and makes the money. The Arduino Foundation will be funded by at least Arduino AG, but also by any other stake-holders in the Arduino ecosystem that wish to contribute. Arduino AG is now in a sense just a company that makes development boards, while the Arduino Foundation is in control of the rest of what makes Arduino “Arduino”: the non-tangible environment.

As a result, the community should care a lot about the Foundation. The choices made there will change your programming experience most directly, and if you’re interested in contributing code to the mainline distribution, the Foundation will be the gatekeeper — as much as there can be a gatekeeper in entirely open source software.

Progress, but Slow Progress

So why is setting up the Arduino Foundation taking so long? We’d claim it’s not, and that the signs from both parties indicate that it’s on the right track.

First of all, Musto and Banzi were in an existential fight over control of the ownership of “Arduino” for two of the last two-and-a-half years. As of January 2017, they became part owners of the Arduino AG holding company, but that doesn’t mean they instantly started getting along. It’s no surprise that there’s at least half a year’s worth of trust-building to do between the two.

Add to these personal issues that the Foundation was not the top (legal) priority. Banzi mentioned that, of the 500-page settlement, the Arduino Foundation was one of the last items on the list, and that the settlement wasn’t extremely detailed in that regard to begin with. So there was a lot of work to do, and it was put off until the prioritized stuff was out of the way. We were told that there’s no deadline in the settlement, and in reality, they haven’t been working on the Foundation for more than four months so far. Add in some time for lawyering, and IRS accreditation, and we would forgive them for taking until the end of 2017. Let’s hope it’s sooner.

Finally, both Banzi and Musto are very candid that this is the first Foundation that either of them have ever set up, and that it’s an important one. Nobody wants to get this wrong, and both are looking to other successful open-source Foundations for inspiration and guidance. Both mentioned the Linux and Mozilla foundations as models. This suggests that there’s going to be a mix of developer, user, and manufacturer interests all coming together. And it suggests that the founders are doing their due dilligence instead of just slapping something together.

The Signal, and the Noise

So what can we expect from the Arduino Foundation? Neither Banzi and Musto were able to guarantee anything specific, because they’re still under discussion. Still, there was a reassuring degree of overlap between what Banzi and Musto said. It sounds like they’re getting there.

If you’re interested in the future of the IDE, Banzi’s recent article on the near future is probably a good roadmap, and there’s a lot to like: separating the cross-platform code from the device-specific code (“Project Chainsaw”), and re-thinking the split between the high-level and low-level APIs sounds great to us. Adapting the Arduino pre-processor and toolchain to work with more modern workflows (clang on LLVM) is a huge win. Musto mentioned making the IDE more modular, so that any given part of it could be easily called by external code.

As for the organization itself, it’s likely that there will be an executive board, with half appointed by Musto and half by Banzi, that will run the show. In addition, Musto floated the idea of a few advisory boards, potentially split along lines of hardware manufacturers and firmware developers. He repeatedly said, as he was airing these possibilities, that it was up to Banzi as president to decide in the end. For his part, Banzi declined to speak on any specifics until they’d hammered the details out. In whatever form, we wouldn’t be surprised if representatives from Intel, ST, Nordic Semiconductor, and other chip manufacturers who make Arduino boards have a seat at the table. We’d also like to see the developer community pulled in and given a formal voice somehow.

Both Musto and Banzi seem committed to extreme transparency in the Foundation. Musto mentioned that the Foundation’s financials should be viewable online every month. Banzi is proposing to pre-release the Foundation’s charter. Musto is considering having Arduino AG donate to the Foundation in proportion to Arduino sales, and allowing the purchasers to earmark their portion of the donation toward a specific project as a form of radical democracy. Both Musto and Banzi said the word “open” more times than we could count in the interviews. Given Banzi’s history as an open source hardware pioneer, and Musto’s financial incentives to keep the Arduino train on the tracks, we have little reason to doubt their intentions.

Foundation Fork?

Meanwhile, Dale Dougherty, the founder of Make Magazine, wrote a piece in which he calls for a “Free Arduino” Foundation, where the Arduino community can jointly determine the future of the little blue boards and their programming environment. Half of the article consists of personal attacks on Federico Musto. Ironically, it was Musto himself who first proposed creating an Arduino Foundation as a neutral party in charge of the IDE, and as a means to funnel money back to the people contributing most to the ecosystem — the developers. Nowhere in the post does Dougherty mention Banzi’s role in the Foundation.

In addition to Dale Dougherty’s post on Make, Phil Torrone of Adafruit made a few posts last week that suggested, vaguely or otherwise, that the future of the IDE was being “steered off a cliff” or otherwise hijacked by the Foundation because of Musto’s participation. He interpreted Dougherty’s post as calling for a grassroots, developer-based Arduino Foundation.

We asked both Massimo Banzi and Federico Musto what they thought about the call for a Foundation fork. Neither of them had talked to Dougherty or Adafruit about the Foundation, and both felt blindsided by their accusations. Banzi was quite dismissive of the “Arduino is no longer open source” argument, stating that once code is out there with an open license, it can’t be taken back. If Arduino steers off a cliff, just roll back a few versions and fork. Banzi felt like the argument was insulting the last decade of his, along with the other early founders’, work. He would not comment on Dougherty’s article, saying instead that he’ll talk with him later.

The elephant in the room is Musto’s alleged fabrication of his previous academic credentials, which he has since retracted. It certainly does raise the question of whether he is trustworthy. But with Banzi still involved and slated to take the helm of the Foundation we see more reasons for hope in the future than not, or at least a reason to wait and see.

Is the Arduino Foundation run by insiders? Of course it is. Who other than Massimo Banzi would you appoint to run it? And you have to give the Arduino AG CEO a seat on the board, not the least because they own the trademark and the software needs to run on their hardware. Banzi and Musto display every sign of wanting to get it right: keeping it open, transparent, and responsive to both the community and industry.

Arduino’s code acceptance over the last twelve years hasn’t always been exactly transparent either, and many parts of the IDE could use a fresh coat of paint. It’s easy to idealize the past, but looking to the future, a Foundation which brings numerous and diverse stakeholders to the table can help refresh stale perspectives. Banzi’s roadmap for the IDE is solid. With some more good ideas, and money to back them up, the Foundation could be the best thing that’s ever happened to Arduino.


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, Current Events, Featured, news

For the last two years, Arduino LLC (the arduino.cc, Massimo one) and Arduino SRL (the arduino.org, Musto one) have been locked in battle over the ownership of the Arduino trademark. That fight is finally over. Announced at the New York Maker Faire today, “Arduino” will now go to Arduino Holding, the single point of distribution for new products, and a non-profit Arduino Foundation, responsible for the community and Arduino IDE.

Since early 2015, Arduino — not the Arduino community, but the organization known as Arduino — has been split in half. Arduino LLC sued Arduino SRL for trademark infringement. The case began when Arduino SRL, formerly Smart Projects SRL and manufacturers of the Arduino boards with a tiny map of Italy on the silk screen, began selling under the Arduino name. Arduino LLC, on the other hand, wanted to internationalize the brand and license production to other manufacturers.

While Arduino and Arduino have been tied up in court for the last few years, from the outside this has look like nothing else but petty bickering. Arduino SRL forked the Arduino IDE and bumped up the version number. Later, an update from SRL was pushed out to Amazon buyers telling them Arduino.org was the real Arduino. Resellers were in a tizzy, and for a time Maker Faires had two gigantic Arduino booths. No one knew what was going on.

All of this is now behind us. The open source hardware community’s greatest source of drama is now over.

I spoke with Massimo after the announcement, and although the groundwork is laid out, the specifics aren’t ready to be disclosed yet. There’s still a lot to work out, like what to do with the Arduino.org Github repo, which TLD will be used (we’re rooting for .org), support for the multitude of slightly different products released from both camps over the years, and finer points that aren’t publicly visible. In a few months, probably before the end of the year, we’ll get all the answers to this. Now, though, the Arduino wars are over. Arduino is dead, long live Arduino.


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, news

One of the big stories of last year was the fracture of the official Arduino supply into two competing organisations at daggers drawn, each headed by a different faction with its origins in the team that gave us the popular single board computers. Since then we’ve had Arduinos from Arduino LLC (the [Massimo] Arduino.cc, arguably the ‘original’, and Arduino trademark holder in the United States) and Arduino SRL (the [Musto] Arduino.org, and owner of the Arduino trademark everywhere except the US) , two websites, two forks of the IDE, and “real” Arduino boards available under a couple of names depending on where in the world you live due to a flurry of legal manoeuvres. Yes. it’s confusing.

Today came news of a supplier throwing its hands up in despair  at the demands imposed on them as part of this debacle. Pimoroni, famous as supplier of Raspberry Pi goodies, has put up a blog post explaining why they will henceforth no longer be selling Arduinos. They took the side of Arduino LLC, and the blog post details their extensive trials and delays in making contact with the company before eventually being told they would have to agree to purchase substantial stocks both Arduino and Genuino branded versions of identical products and agree to sell them through separate supply channels for both Europe and the rest of the world before they could proceed. This is not a practical proposition for a small company, and the Pimoroni people deliver a very pithy explanation of exactly why towards the bottom of their post.

We’ve covered the Arduino versus Arduino debacle extensively in the past, this is simply the latest in a long line of stories. Pimoroni have hit the nail on the head when they make the point that the customers and suppliers really don’t care about spats between the various inheritors of the Arduino legacy, they just want an Arduino. And with so many other Arduino-compatible boards available they don’t have to look very hard to find one if the right shade of blue solder-resist or the shape of the map of Italy on the back isn’t a special concern. Can we be the only ones wishing something like this might knock a bit of sense into the various parties?


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, news

Hernando Barragán is the grandfather of Arduino of whom you’ve never heard. And after years now of being basically silent on the issue of attribution, he’s decided to get some of his grudges off his chest and clear the air around Wiring and Arduino. It’s a long read, and at times a little bitter, but if you’ve been following the development of the Arduino vs Arduino debacle, it’s an important piece in the puzzle.

Wiring, in case you don’t know, is where digitalWrite() and company come from. Maybe even more importantly, Wiring basically incubated the idea of building a microcontroller-based hardware controller platform that was simple enough to program that it could be used by artists. Indeed, it was intended to be the physical counterpart to Processing, a visual programming language for art. We’ve always wondered about the relationship between Wiring and Arduino, and it’s good to hear the Wiring side of the story. (We actually interviewed Barragán earlier this year, and he asked that we hold off until he published his side of things on the web.)

The short version is that Arduino was basically a fork of the Wiring software, re-branded and running on a physical platform that borrowed a lot from the Wiring boards. Whether or not this is legal or even moral is not an issue — Wiring was developed fully open-source, both software and hardware, so it was Massimo Banzi’s to copy as much as anyone else’s. But given that Arduino started off as essentially a re-branded Wiring (with code ported to a trivially different microcontroller), you’d be forgiven for thinking that somewhat more acknowledgement than “derives from Wiring” was appropriate.

screenshots_comparo
See what we mean?

The story of Arduino, from Barragán’s perspective, is actually a classic tragedy: student comes up with a really big idea, and one of his professors takes credit for it and runs with it.

This story begins in 2003 as Barragán was a Masters student at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea (IDII) in Italy. He was advised and heavily influenced by Casey Reas, one of the two authors of Processing.

Programma2003At the same time, Massimo Banzi is teaching a class in essentially microcontrollers-for-designers at Ivrea using a PIC-based board called the Programma2003 and a curious language that you’ve never heard of, “JAL: Just Another Language“. At the time, there was no GCC support for the PIC, so the choices for open-source development were few. Worse, most of the design students are using Macs, and JAL only compiles on Windows. It wasn’t user friendly.

Barragán’s thesis is a must-read if you want to know where Arduino comes from. The summary is everything you know now: it’d be revolutionary if one could make a hardware / software platform that were easy enough that artists and non-microcontroller-nerds could get into. This is exactly the revolution that was underway in the computer graphics front, powered by Processing. Make it open source and freely available, and you’ll take over the world. So he turned to the Atmel AVR chips, which had the GCC open-source toolchain behind it.

From Wiring to Arduino

WiringBoard-AssembledSo by 2004, Barragán had a few prototypes of Wiring boards out, and he and his fellow students were using them informally for projects. The GUI will look ridiculously familiar if you’ve used Processing or Arduino. Since the students were already familiar with Processing, it made a lot of sense to just clone it — with Casey Reas’ blessing of course. Barragán wrote a little program that maybe you’ve heard of: Blink.

Now Barragán needed a faculty advisor at Ivrea, and his interests clearly aligned best with Massimo Banzi. So with his thesis work well underway and Reas’ backing, Barragán took on Banzi as his advisor. With Banzi and three other faculty members, the Wiring platform got its first real test-run, the “Strangely Familiar” workshop and show (PDF). It was a stunning success — in the space of only four weeks students actually made stuff.

Massimo Banzi teaching class with Wiring
Massimo Banzi teaching class with Wiring

Barragán graduated in 2004 and moved back to Colombia. The success of “Strangely Familiar” lead Massimo Banzi to drop Programma2003 like a hot potato and teach his physical design classes using Wiring.

ArduinoPrototype1Work began on the Arduino project, according to Banzi, because he wanted a board that was cheaper to make than the Wiring board. So he replaced the ATmega128 microcontroller for a cheaper, smaller version, and chopped off everything that wasn’t “essential” from the Wiring board, like the power LED. This became the “Wiring Lite” board — and eventually the first Arduino prototype.

Giving Arduino its Due

It is not the case that Arduino doesn’t acknowledge Wiring at all. They do. There are a few sentences in the first paragraph of the Credits section of the website, as mentioned above. That and $4.50 will buy you a Grande, Quad, Nonfat, One-Pump, No-Whip, Mocha, but how much more can one ask for?

The Arduino project has been marketed with extreme savvy, something that cannot be said of Wiring. Banzi hooked up with influential people in the US, eventually friend-of-a-friending himself into contact with Dale Dougherty, who invented not just “Web 2.0” but also the “Maker Movement” and Make Magazine. Arduino and Make was a match made in heaven, and the rest is history.

But as mentioned at the top of the article, this is a classic tale of woe. Banzi had better connections and more marketing drive and skill. He pushed the exact same project — rebranded — a lot harder, better, and further than Barragán did, or probably could. Arduino is a household name simply for that reason. If Massimo Banzi hadn’t been behind the wheel, it’s unlikely that you’d be complaining about how many Wiring-based projects we feature.

And, being open-source software and hardware, Barragán gave away the shop. He probably (naïvely) expected to get more credit from his former advisor, or even get invited along on the ride. He asks why Arduino forked Wiring instead of continuing to work with him, and the answer is absolutely clear — Arduino was taking it for their own. And they could. It’s not nice, but that’s business.

Still, we feel Barragán’s pain. So we’re glad, after a decade of silence, that Barragán is speaking out on behalf of himself and Wiring, because it sets the record straight and because his project really was “Arduino” before there was an Arduino.


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, Featured, news

I caught up with [Massimo Banzi] at the Shenzhen Maker Faire to talk about manufacturing in China, the current and future of Arduino, and how recent events may shape the Open Hardware landscape.

The big news from Arduino at SZMF is a new partnership with Seeed Studio to manufacture theGenuino. This is an official Arduino board manufactured in China for the Chinese market. Knowing that the board is official and connected to the founders is key point to get makers to adopt this hardware. [Massimo] makes a good point about the ideal of “Proudly Made in China” which I could see as a selling point for the burgeoning maker market there. This may be a growing principle in China, but in an ocean of clone boards it sounds like a tough path forward. On the other hand, their booth was mobbed with people putting in new orders.

[Massimo] belives the current Arduino strife has actually served to move the project forward. He cites the schism between arduino.cc and arduino.org for catalyzing manufacturing partnerships with both Adafruit Industries and Seeed Studios. This has resulted in official Arduino hardware that is not made only in Italy, but made in the region the hardware will be used; NYC for US orders, Shenzhen for China orders.

Our discussion wraps up with a plea from [Massimo] for the Hackaday community to be a little less fickle about projects using Arduino. That one makes me chuckle a bit!


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, Interviews
Mag
22

Arduino vs Arduino: These Are Not The Droids…

arduino hacks, Arduino vs arduino, News Commenti disabilitati su Arduino vs Arduino: These Are Not The Droids… 

We’ve been trying to not pick favorites in the Arduino controversy, or at least remain open-minded to both sides of the story. Some businesses, on the other hand, are clearly aligning themselves.  (Full text of e-mail below.)

Reader [Francisco Zabala], from cool robot-supplies store Acrobotic, got this e-mail from an Amazon distributor where he purchased some Arduinos “ages ago” and was angered enough at the brazen tone to drop us a line.


Thank you for our Arduino purchase from our Amazon.com store. We truly appreciate your business.

We are writing to let you know about an important change in Arduino products. The new website for Arduino is now officially Arduino.org. The old website (arduino.cc) should no longer be used.

All new Arduino hardware will be transitioned from the old Arduino.cc badging to the new Arduino.org badging. Please be aware that during this transition, you may receive Arduino hardware with either Arduino.cc or Arduino.org. Both are authentic Arduino-brand hardware.

If you use Arduino.org branded hardware on the old site, you may be presented with an error. Please use the new Arduino.org site.


We know for sure that Arduino SRL sent out a letter to distributors claiming that they were the real Arduino because they’ve been manufacturing the boards. Seeing a distributor recommend against the software at arduino.cc in such stark terms makes us wonder if there have been similar letters sent out concerning the IDE fork. Anyone have anything? Send us a tip if you do.

We find it a little ironic that when arduino.cc added the now-retracted popup that specifically targeted boards made by Smart Projects / Arduino SRL,  that they opened themselves up to this sort of counter-attack: if you see an error popup, just switch over to the “new official” IDE. Oops. Good that it’s gone now.

Finally, we’ve got to say that “the old website should no longer be used” is pretty rich: we’re hackers, we use whatever software / IDE we like, thank you very much! No matter how the legal battles end up, and no matter who tells you to use what codebase, the beauty of open source is that it’s up to you, and not them. Hack on, y’all!

Thanks, [Francisco] for the tip.


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, news
Apr
20

Your Arduino Packaging Could Sway a Court Case

arduino hacks, Arduino SRL, Arduino vs arduino, license, trademark Commenti disabilitati su Your Arduino Packaging Could Sway a Court Case 

Our friends over at Adafruit just made an interesting suggestion regarding the Arduino vs. Arduino saga. They noticed that the packaging for the Arduino UNO includes a pamphlet that states:

Manufactured under license
from Arduino by
SMART PROJECTS S.r.l.

Wow. That’s pretty interesting. Smart Projects is the former name of Arduino SRL. If you missed it, go back and read some of our previous coverage. Specifically, Arduino SRL is claiming to be the real trademark holder and has gone as far as forking the Arduino IDE and upping the version number in what appears to be an attempt to direct users toward their newly founded Arduino.org website/ecosystem/quagmire. If they feel they own the trademark why would they include this statement in their packaging?

Finding this in the a unit from a September 2014 is interesting. But Adafruit’s post is a call to action. We share their curiosity of discovering how far back official Arduino hardware has included such license notices. So, head on down to your work bench… start peeling back years worth of discarded hacks, clipped leads, fried servos, and other detritus. Find the packaging and take a picture. Bonus points if you have an invoice that associates a date with it. Either way, post the pictures on your social media hub of choice with #TeamArduinoCC. You can also embed it in the comments using HTML IMG tags if you wish.

Standard “I am not a lawyer” disclaimer applies here. We know you aren’t either so let’s all share what we think this means to pending lawsuits in the comments. Does this matter and why?


Filed under: Arduino Hacks


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