Yes, open source software still has a license…

Someone recently posted to a popular electronics consultant forum:

Great thing about using opensource tools is that there is no problem with licenses, because there are none.

What they were trying to say (and acknowledged afterwards) was that open source software doesn’t require purchasing a license. Open source software still has a license – either a permissive license such as the BSD or MIT license, or a copyleft license such as the GNU GPL.

I’m not making the point to single anyone out or to intentionally be pedantic, it’s a common simplification but overlooks the importance of the license. Without the license it’s unlikely any significant open source software would exist, and clearly we appreciate the existence of open source software.

The open source license limits the liability of the developer (who would willingly be liable for damages if their code didn’t work correctly in a situation that was never anticipated or intended?), and copyleft licenses further prevent creation of closed-source variants, which is a philosophical must for many open source developers.

Open source software has been with us now for over 40 years, the BSD license was first used in 1980, the GNU GPL was first used in 1989 and the Linux kernel was released using the GNU GPL in 1992. At least for me, it’s hard to imagine where software development would be today if we hadn’t have been able to stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before us.

MyWind MariaDb / MySQL Database

I was both surprised and pleased to see a flury of recent interest in my MyWind database on GitHub, there have been 18 forks in the last month!

MyWind is a re-engineering of the Northwind database provided with Microsoft Access for use with MariaDb and MySQL. Northwind was a sample database and tutorial schema for managing small business customers, orders, inventory, purchasing, suppliers, shipping, and employees.

I provided MyWind using the BSD license, meaning you are free to use MyWind as you please, including commercially, so long as you keep my copyright notice and accept my disclaimer of liability. Enjoy!

Getting Started with RISC-V

RISC-V is an exciting new open source processor design which will be of particular interest to developers of custom IP. This short overview will help you understand RISC-V,  its eco system, and the opportunities it presents.

RISC-V Foundation

Technical Overview

  • Wikipedia has a good technical overview, including a list of open-source implementations which could be useful for bootstraping a project instead of starting from scratch with the low-level instruction set specification (the “ISA”).

Some RISC-V Users

  • Google’s OpenTitan project seeks to provide an open-source silicon root of trust (RoT) using a RISC-V-based RoT design with integration guidelines for use in data center servers, storage devices and peripherals.
  • Kneron is a California-based company known for its impressive line of AI SoCs. Kneron’s KL530 targets the autonomous vehicle edge computing market specifically. In addition to a RISC-V AI-coprocessor, the chip also includes a neural processing unit, a Cortex M4 core for system control, an image signal processor, and a dedicated security block.
  • Western Digital is moving its consumption of IP cores (1B per year!) to RISC-V, as well as offering commercial RISC-V IP.
  • SiFive provides three families of RISK-V IP, covering high-performance application processors, area-optimized, low-power embedded 64- and 32-bit microcontrollers, as well as vector processors.
  • Apple posted in September for a “RISC-V High Performance Programmer” to work in their Vector and Numerics Group (which is responsible for “designing, enhancing and improving various embedded subsystems running on iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS.”). Candidates should be experienced with RISC-V architectures, and ideally have a working knowledge of NEON micro architecture in ARM CPU cores.

Mentions in Popular Media

Examples of Development Boards

Software Development


Please let me know in the comments section if you have found this overview useful,