The website, shop and email traffic have been idle for about seven months, as the crisis touches too many aspects of my life. I apologize for being offline for such a long time, and am now recovering slowly. As of October 2020, new (great!) content has been uploaded and development will carry on. Free designs become even more important these times, as we see that societies rely on solidarité rather than on commercial market in cases of emergency. The right way to go is to request free designs not only for software, hardware and seeds, but for immunology vaccine as well. — K. Mertens
Free-Design Hardware is our Mission
Do you like proprietary hardware? We don’t. That’s why we would like to use free-design hardware only, but in general there is none available. Companies keep essential internals apart from the public, mechanical construction data is not published, access to system boards is restricted and processor internals are subject to Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs).
That is what we want to change! Under the umbrella of the Zerocat Label, we are going to publish true free-design hardware projects , that is hardware of a free design even down to chip level.
Omnipresence of Closed Design
Setting up free-design hardware is not that easy! In general, you won’t find solutions that are clean, every system is somehow infiltrated by proprietary business models, non-disclosure agreements and undocumented features. When it comes to electronics, you will depend on closed-source microchips and discretes very easily. As today’s chips are getting at the same time smaller and more powerful, the public should get concerned. Which data will be sent to whom by the tiny heating sensor in your bedroom?
Precious exceptions are the Propeller microchip from Parallax and the Freedom E310 from SiFive, which is a RISC-V controller. The design files of both chips have been released under a free license.
With these devices we have a real chance to set up a new class of electronics: One that stays free, trustworthy and adaptable to indvidual or local necessities. We are able to build true free-design electronics, and the Zerocat Team agrees to not give up this exceptional condition easily. We want to achieve more than just free-design board layouts, instead we aim to avoid non-free microchips wherever possible.
But increased integrity and individual privacy are not the only benefits of Free-Design hardware. Its capacity to save earth’s resources and that of people is probably the most important one. If we share knowledge, we are working towards global solutions, instead of individual profits. And as we all know, atmosphere’s global heating urgently requires appropriate action.
We believe in open societies and we are convinced that privacy empowers civil courage, which is necessary to keep societies vivid. Private rooms encourage development of experimental ideas apart from mainstream opinions! Therefore, we promote:
- free software and free-design hardware communication tools
- free knowledge transfer and free documentation
- Do-it-yourself (DIY) and Do-it-together (DIT) approaches
- encrypted mail, chat, and voice phone
...and last but not least: A fair and libre business practice.
Note that we are using a multi-repository structure for our projects, thus the label’s documentation comes in its own git repository. It contains general infos about the label’s structure, common tools and contributors on the one hand, shop information, key products and box accompanying papers on the other. Public projects are promoted on this website with their own subpage.
- Zerocat Label Documentation
- Git Repository:
- README.md text file
Each repository ships with its own set of licenses. In general, we use a free license according to these rules:
- GNU GPLv3 (or any later version) for code
- GNU FDL 1.3 (or any later version) for documentation source files
- CC BY-SA 4.0 international license for graphics, photos and artwork
- Zerocat Logo License for logo files and modified versions
If you need other free licenses, please get in touch.