FT-817 Buddy: Why Open Source?

…and why a DIY project?

I get quite a few questions about commercialisation of the FT-817 Buddy project.  My view is that it’s just a smart-looking project I’ve done and I am sharing the information on how to replicate it.  The difference with previous projects is that by using a PCB it is much easier to replicate and it looks like a much more professional result… but this is still amateur work.

This project touches a great range of “maker skills” and I hope that it serves to inspire and point others in the direction of using these skills in their own projects.

As far as this project goes, there’s nothing novel here (it’s just a microcontroller, a few buttons and a display) so couldn’t be protected by patents and it uses undocumented and unsupported commands, risks bricking the radio, only applies to the FT-817, etc.  If someone wanted to commercialise it and sell it for a reasonable price then great, I’ve done some good for the community and nudged someone into making a thing we want… If someone wants to commercialise it and sell it for an unreasonable price then they must share the design information or risk breaking the Creative Commons license (whatever that’s worth) and people can still build this design for buttons. 

Personally, I won’t be kitting and/or selling this project for the following reasons:

  • Time.  I’m pretty flat out these days with young family and demanding jobs (mine and my wife’s to support).  Taking on a project where people will demand my time/effort for something after the fun design stage is over doesn’t sound good.
  • Warranty.  Linked to Time, some of the bits in the build (Arduino clones, displays) can come from fairly cheap sources and have unknown reliability… and I’m not going to be testing hundreds of these things.
  • Liability.  There are some open questions about current supply from the FT-817 and the risks of EEPROM write error wiping the radio.  There are ways to mitigate but this is a “proceed at your own risk” situation.
  • Support.  There will no doubt be an onslaught of “can you make it do this?” or “this isn’t working”… See “Time” above.  Much better to hand it over to the community and we can support each other in working on the software.
  • Performance.  When you pay money for a product you expect a certain level of performance.  At this time, the Buddy software is just about good enough to do the job but it’s pretty rough around the edges.  That’s why I want people to roll up their sleeves and pass on improvements to the code on GitHub… and this blends into the next point…
  • Ethics.  This project is really just me mashing together the work of others (VE3BUX, CO7WT, KA7OEI and his contributors…) which they have offered to the Internet community for free in the true amateur spirit of sharing knowledge and helping others.

With all the above in mind I have selected a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license for this project which does not prevent people taking the design, modifying it and selling it if they wish as long as they give appropriate credit and keep the derived designs Open Source.  So that would allow a kit supplier to take it on if they’re happy to handle the points above (warranty, liability, support…) and I believe that preserves the spirit of the ethical point above.  Really I’d like to see small groups of people building it for themselves and their friends.

Complicated isn’t it?  And I need to keep things simple!  At its heart, this project is really just an Arduino, a display and a few buttons (and now K1EL’s keyer chip).  I want people to see that simplicity and get stuck in.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.