Making the Case for Open Source

No one makes a better case for open source hardware and software than the manufacturer of a high-priced, high-end CNC mill like the Mori Seiki NV5000 A/40. Even if you own the machine outright, if you move it at all, a GPS and gyro sensor package in the machine will automatically shut it down and you will not be able to restart it until you receive a manufacturer’s unlock code.

Effectively, this means that machinists’ shops can’t rearrange their very expensive, very large tools to improve workflow from job to job without playing Mother-May-I with the manufacturer (which can take a month!), even if you own the gear.

According to posts on Practical Machinist, many manufacturers have introduced this lockdown feature because their goods have found their way into Iran, violating the embargo. The manufacturers have turned this into a business-opportunity by requiring permission for the privilege of deciding where to place your key capital assets.

Since the mills are designed to be opaque to their owners, and to actively prevent their owners from reverse-engineering them (lest they disable the gyro/GPS), an infection would be nearly impossible to detect. Criminals and saboteurs are a lot less worried about voiding the warranty on your $100K business-asset than you are, and that asymmetry presents a serious risk to machine shops.

Playing You Bet Your Business on proprietary technology is always hazardous. In this case, the perils are obvious. Customers long remember the arrogance of their suppliers and the Consumer Sovereignty Movement is just getting underway.

Consider the Source

 Consider the First Source!


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