How open are we?


This is a good topic and deserves it's own thread.

First off NW Digital Radio is a for profit corporation. We design and manufacture HW and sell it with adequate margins to keep us doing it in the future to the benefit of Amateur Radio (at least in theory). We will provide schematics and assembly drawings to enable repair/modification.

Our products rely on Open Source SW and appropriately, ALL of our software will be open source, which raises a couple of questions.


At DCC last September Bruce Perens talked about how only a chump would use a completely open license and he has chosen GNU Affero GPL 3.0 for his company.  Bruce knows a lot more about Open Source Licensing than I do and I'm inclined to do the same. This hasn't been cast in stone so let us know if there's a legitimate amateur radio need that isn't served by this.


All software that has been written or modified by NW Digital Radio will be in an open source repository most likely GitHub. The software is currently on a private svn repository. Moving it now is not a priority.

Web Interface vs Command Line:

We use Debian Linux 3.x and you can SSH into the UDR and do whatever you want, that's how we develop and test it. Everything you can do thru the web interface has a command line equivalent.

For example, to set the frequency you have to send rather cryptic commands using  2 different and non-standard SPI ports to both the DDS and the LO synthesizer. We have a user level command

freq 440800000

which figures the values out and calls the underlying routines. Commands are documented in the UNIX convention. Typing freq lists the syntax and options. All commands will be listed in a man page. The low level commands are documented in the data-sheets of the chips themselves (and they are ugly).

The web interface uses web sockets to transfer user commands to the UDR where the commands are executed.

The Slippery Slope:

How many companies can you think of that started out as open source then found that they had made something potentially valuable that they didn't want to share? This is why we formed the ARETF to move the software and the discussion away from NW Digital Radio and into the amateur community where it belongs.

Bryan - K7UDR


The nice thing about licences is that there are so many to choose from - the downside of licences is that there are so many to choose from!

IMINWLO (In My In No Way Legal Opinion!), you should get a real lawyer (i.e., not one of us non-lawyers on the list or elsewhere) to translate the available licences for you to digest. They have various uses and pitfalls, with features that prevent or enable other commerical entities to use your code (which you may/may not want to happen) and permit or restrict other noncommercial uses. In addition to GPL, another popular type of licence is Apache. FSF (the Free Software Foundation) is also a good place to look for pointers.

You may also have the choice of applying more than one licence at a time, letting the user choose which is applicable to them. You may even be able to add more licences over time, but I don't think you can recind licences for already distributed code (but may be able to change them for new versions).

Some licences (like most of the GPL variety) have a requirement that any modifications to source code be made available. There are usually (notice that I'm using 'weasel-words' to prevent being tagged with giving legal advice that I'm not legally competent or licenced to give :-) ways for you to permit open use by the community while still reserving commercial use to more restrictive licencing - if you so choose.

The bottom line is - get a lawyer who is working for your best interests to help determine how you want to licence your property, it will cost you less in lawyer fees (the only ones who really make money from most licences!) in the long run. Some licences have more 'overhead' to maintain than others, which might be a burden to your company (something that I really don't want to see!).

- Richard

Dean Gibson AE7Q <yahu.stuff@...>

On 2015-03-03 20:41, myyahoo@... [UniversalDigitalRadio] wrote:

Some licences (like most of the GPL variety) have a requirement that any modifications to source code be made available.

Not true (I contacted the Free Software Foundation about this some time ago).  You only have to make the source modifications available, if you make the software available.  You can take GPL-licensed software and make all the changes you want, and you don't have to tell anyone or make the changes available.  However, if you DO make the changes available (whether for free or for a price), then you have to make the source changes available as well.

Further, you don't have to make the changes available for free.  You can take GPL-licensed software, make some changes, and (with the source code), sell it for any amount you can get for it.  Usually, just once (ie, in a consulting contract), because you can't lay ANY restrictions on what the purchaser does with it.  The purchaser can sell it, or just give it away, and you have no recourse.

The idea (loosely stated) is that you get paid for your changes at most once (eg, consulting/development fees).

As an aside:  There is one portion of the GPL most people blindly apply, and that is the "version 2 or (at your option) any later version of the license" clause.  It's an insane provision, because it means that if the FSF decides (for money or as a legal mistake) to change the license that results in an unintended loophole that allows some entity to thwart the intent of an earlier version of the GPL, you are bound by it.  Most savvy developers restrict the GPL that they use to just version 2 or (the current) version 3.  The whole intent of the GPL is that no one can change the license without the contributors' permission.


OK, but in this case I believe that we're talking about making software available. :-)

My main point was that anyone (especially a commercial venture) who is getting themselves into a licencing situation should seek legal guidance to reduce the possibility of unintended future side effects. (With legal mumbo-jumbo, I'm convinced that it's impossible to completely eliminate *all* side effects - that's what keeps lawyers in Lamborghinis!)

My $WORK has a whole legal department to handle these issues - and even then they've had to clean up the company's act on occasion, especially after major acquisitions. I know that we avoid certain kinds of licences because the requirements don't meet our business objectives.

- Richard, VE7CVS