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Open Letter to a Silicon Vendor



(a compilation of the putative grumbles of an engineer)


Dear Silicon Vendor,

We are excited at your new technology and we would love to employ it in our designs. However, you don't always make this easy. We recognise that your principle business is to ship silicon and we'd like to support you. With this in mind, below are a number of observations that we feel are of importance.

  • If the only viable route to developing for your platform is paid-for proprietary tools you will dissuade a great many of us from working with your technology.

  • Time and functionality limited tools are in no way a suitable solution to the previous problem. We will not invest our time and effort in tooling which is crippled or that may cease to function altogether.

  • We don't understand why you continue to develop or sell proprietary tools when there are open source frameworks that you could build upon. When in doing so you would garner additional respect and goodwill and could leverage existing communities, in addition to sharing the liability of maintaining software which, frankly, is not your core business.

  • Every time you introduce us to a new compiler, toolchain or IDE you create a barrier to the adoption of your technology, whilst providing an advantage to competitors using more familiar tools such as the GNU toolchain, SDCC, LLVM and Eclipse etc.

  • When an installation of fairly basic tools requires a download of many hundreds of megabytes or more you are discouraging those with a casual interest. You may well consider that this is not representative of a typical customer, however, marginal use cases have resulted in significant unforeseen markets — e.g. Arduino.

  • Whenever you provide reference board designs with unclear or restrictive licence terms you are failing to fully realise the return on the investment made in those designs. Your competitors will implement similar board designs anyway, and the cost to them will be much lower than to your customers. When your customers fail so do you.

  • Whenever you publish reference board designs and part libraries in a single EDA tool format, you are putting users of other tools at a disadvantage. Do not assume that we can all afford, the time or the money, to invest in a tool which may be your first choice but not ours.

If a competitor does a better job at addressing the above we may, sadly, be left with little option other than to use their technology. To tackle some of these issues may require time and effort, but this will pay dividends.

Yours Sincerely,

A.N. Engineer


Photo: 26 Miles of Hurdles by jpmartineau

Open source (hardware and software!) advocate, Treasurer and Director of the Free and Open Source Silicon Foundation, organiser of Wuthering Bytes technology festival and founder of the Open Source Hardware User Group.

13 Jun 2011, 21:24


April 16, 2013 21:36

Hello thabiso

[quote:1ftns9c3]Is it possible to download the entire package library instead of per component.
For example, is it possible to download the entire "Altium 2010 and newer" library instead of component type.[/quote:1ftns9c3]
No. The DesignSpark library is totally different from any other CAD library (as most CAD systems are).

The aim is for users to build up their own specificic libraries without the burden of a library expanding indefinately and impacting on performance. ModelSource represents the maintained route for components.

You can edit components downloaded from ModelSource to generate your own within the Library manager.
The Library Manager enable you to simply create parts using the wizard or new parts from scratch.

As a final option the old none-supported libraries from V3 are still available in V5 and can be enabled from the files tab in the Llibrary Manager, but ModelSource is the preferred and suggested route.

0 Votes

April 16, 2013 18:00

Is it possible to download the entire package library instead of per component.

For example, is it possible to download the entire "Altium 2010 and newer" library instead of component type.


0 Votes