Open-Source Hardware Gadgets

The success of open-source software raises a tantalizing question: Could the same design philosophy work for tech gadgets?

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The Touch Book tablet netbook from Always Innovating Inc. runs on the low-power ARM processor, which enables the device to run for 10 hours on a single battery charge. Weighing 1.8 pounds, it features a touch screen, a removable keyboard and a customized Linux OS distribution.

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Frankencamera: Built by graduate students at Stanford University, this digital camera runs on Linux and can be programmed to control its exposure, flash, focus settings and more. Its touch screen can be customized with new user interfaces.

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The Neo FreeRunner is one of about a dozen mobile phones built on an open-source hardware design and Linux-based software. Although its initial corporate backer, Openmoko Inc., no longer supports the project, the FreeRunner phone and Openmoko platform are still under development by a volunteer community.

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Machines for rapid prototyping like the RepRap, an open-source 3D printer (shown at right, with its software at left), could play a significant part in open-source hardware development.

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The WikiReader is a pocket reader from Openmoko Inc. that comes preloaded with Wikipedia content. "Together with the Wikimedia foundation, we are sharing Wikipedia with the world in another form factor," says Product Manager William Lai.

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