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Weekend Watch: Everything from Rock Climbing to Camera Rigs with MAX Maker

If you’re tired of watching normal YouTube videos, why not take it to the Max with MAX Maker? Max’s projects are an eclectic mix of well-made builds, ranging from a motorized camera slider, to a steak knife handle, to a large ruler case. If you do watch his videos, you’ll […]

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The post Weekend Watch: Everything from Rock Climbing to Camera Rigs with MAX Maker appeared first on Make: DIY Projects and Ideas for Makers.

[Federico Musto] of Arduino SRL Discusses Arduino Legal Situation

Recently we had the opportunity to sit down and interview Arduino SRL’s CEO, [Federico Musto], over a nice dinner. His company is one half of the Arduino vs Arduino debacle which has pitted Arduino.cc against Arduino.org in a battle over the trademark on “Arduino”.

Given the tremendous amount of press coverage of [Massimo Banzi] and the Arduino LLC side of the story (Arduino.cc), we were very interested in hearing how the whole situation looks where [Frederico Musto] sit (Arduino.org). In the end, we came away with what we feel is a more balanced and complete picture of the situation, as well as interesting news about future products from the Arduino SRL camp. [Musto’s] take on the legal proceedings, both past and present, is nothing short of fascinating.

A Quick Refresher

Unless you’ve been sitting under a large chunk of fused silicon, you’ve probably read or heard something about the battle of the two Arduinos. Founder [Massimo Banzi] and the rest of the Arduino crew planned to make an affordable, accessible microcontroller/physical computing platform based on the software project (Wiring) of one of his students, [Hernando Barragán]. In 2004, [Gianluca Martino], one of the Arduino founders, and [Daniela Antonietti], later Arduino LLC CFO, founded Smart Projects SRL and started cranking out Arduino boards. That much of the history of the Arduino is non-controversial.

Money started flowing in, Arduino LLC was founded in the US in 2008, and tensions started building between the software-and-documentation side (Arduino LLC) and the board-building side (Smart Projects SRL). In 2014 Smart Projects (in Italy) changed its name to Arduino SRL, was bought by [Federico Musto], and all heck broke loose, not necessarily in that order.

The Past, According to [Musto]

The central issue of the Arduino schism is who owns the trademark to the “Arduino” brand. In the USA this is currently Arduino LLC, although Arduino SRL filed a petition to invalidate this trademark and this isn’t likely to be resolved until early 2016. (Naturally, Arduino LLC has mounted its own counter-suit in the States.)

In Italy, Switzerland, and probably the rest of the world, the trademark appears to belong to Smart Projects, now Arduino SRL. This is because Smart Projects filed for the trademark in Italy in December 2008, just months after the legal incorporation of Arduino LLC, which only got around to filing in the Spring of 2009. This is, naturally, also being contested in Italian courts by Arduino LLC.

That’s the mess. How did we get in it? Arduino LLC claims that [Gianluca Martino] didn’t inform them of the Italian trademark until it was granted in 2010. Why would one member of the Arduino core team go rogue and trademark the name without telling the others? [Federico Musto]’s telling of the tale makes [Gianluca]’s preemptive trademarking action seem a lot more plausible, if still not entirely above-board.

2008 was the year of the big Arduino breakout. Sales had crossed over 100 boards per day and Smart Projects was having a hard time keeping up with demand. At this point, it started to look like there was real money to be made in Arduino, both for companies with scruples offering Arduino add-on shields, and for companies without scruples selling Arduino-branded knockoffs of the “official” boards. How to handle the clones and make money off of the Arduino brand was on everyone’s mind within the Arduino group, but there was disagreement about just how to do it.

Meanwhile [Gianluca Martino] and [Daniela Antonietti] at Smart Projects had just built out their production line to keep up with demand for the boards. Funding these investments wasn’t easy. Among other sources of money, [Daniela Antonietti] had mortgaged her house to pay for a professional reflow oven. It probably seemed very important to [Martino] and [Antonietti] to safeguard their personal investments in the Arduino project from the waves of unauthorized clones. They took matters into their own hands, allegedly behind [Banzi]’s back, and trademarked “Arduino”.

Substantiating all the details of [Musto]’s version of [Gianluca]’s story is impossible and probably devolves fairly quickly into he-said, she-said and hearsay, so we’ll keep it short here. But anyone who’s worked in a team knows how a single individual can come to dominate a discussion, leaving other parties feeling marginalized and isolated, and we can also understand the temptation to act in defiance.

We can imagine how this feeling must be multiplied if a disproportionate percentage of your investment is in play. [Musto]’s telling of the story is that the financial risk undertaken by the Smart Projects team was under-appreciated by [Banzi], and that [Martino] was acting in the financial equivalent of self-defense as the only production-side interest within the Arduino five and as the CEO of Smart Projects.

Arduino certainly wouldn’t be where it is today if [Martino] and [Antonietti] hadn’t taken the risk to pony up the money and build out the one assembly line that was turning out Arduinos in 2008. The key to Arduino’s success was the merger of firmware and documentation with a hardware-based physical computing platform. Both parts are necessary, but building the hardware required more capital and involved real financial risk.

So is Arduino SRL or Arduino LLC the “real” Arduino? We think both are. Unfortunately, nobody’s asking us; the question is playing out in Italian and US courts.

Laundry List of Lawsuits

Lawsuits have been the order of the day, and it turns out we only knew about the tip of the iceberg. Previously, we’d reported on Arduino SRL’s petition to cancel Arduino LLC’s trademark in the USA and on Arduino LLC’s tit-for-tat suit to cancel Arduino SRL’s trademark in Italy. But [Federico Musto] laid out for us a laundry-list of legal cases that we had no idea about.

When [Musto] bought out [Gianluca Martino]’s share in Arduino LLC as well as the Arduino SRL, he wanted to see the accounting of the companies that he had a 20% stake in. By this time, there was so much bad blood between [Martino] and [Banzi] that according to [Musto], they refused to show him the books. He took both the US Arduino LLC and the Swiss-registered Arduino SA to court and won, in separate cases in the US and Switzerland.

Remember that inclusion of a popup in the Arduino IDE that flagged all Arduino boards made by Arduino LLC as being “unofficial”? Until the various trademark cases get resolved in court, this is possibly libellous. [Musto] told us that Arduino LLC only backed down from this position after Arduino SRL took legal action. (And we gave Arduino LLC credit for backing down off of a bad idea on their own.)

Most recently, Arduino LLC filed an injunction in Italy to prevent Arduino SRL from selling its Arduino boards due to trademark infringement. This was recently denied, and we’ve read the ruling from the court in Turin, Italy. It makes mention of the impossibility of Arduino LLC having controlled the Arduino brand as early as 2005, when Smart Projects was producing the boards under the Arduino name.

We’re not (Italian) lawyers, but the denial of the summary injunction in Italy seems to cast further doubt on Arduino LLC’s ability to prevail in Italy and use the Arduino trademark outside of the US. Hence the pivot to the “Genuino” brand name for sales of Arduino boards outside of the USA.

Overall, [Musto] expressed a bit of dismay at having walked into a full-blown feud when he bought Smart Projects from [Martino], and stressed the defensive nature of many of the lawsuits — responding to being barred from seeing the firms’ books and the IDE popup in particular. On the other hand, Arduino SRL did initiate proceedings against Arduino LLC in the USPTO case, and [Musto] also mentioned that his lawyers don’t like the “Genuino” brand and logo, and may be forced to take action against it.

In short, there have been a number of legal victories for Arduino SRL, but the two biggest cases are still outstanding. Both [Massimo Banzi] and [Federico Musto] have expressed their weariness at the continuing lawsuits, but both sides seem willing to file new ones. Until there’s a final decision reached in both Italy and the USA, we guess they’ll both have to suffer through.

Community Splits and Code Forks

It was also interesting to hear [Musto]’s side of the story behind arduino.org and the IDE’s code fork.

Because of their previous tight cooperation, [Gianluca Martino] and Smart Projects had all used the arduino.cc domain for their e-mail addresses. Arduino LLC, which had control of the domain, cut their e-mail off as in Fall 2014, leaving the entire Smart Projects / Arduino SRL team without business e-mail communications. They had to re-establish a domain and set up e-mail and business presences quickly once it was clear that Arduino LLC was going to try to shut them down. Hence arduino.org.

[Federico Musto] says he regrets the code fork, and wishes that Arduino SRL had just waited it out until the courts had forced Arduino LLC to remove their incendiary popup from the codebase. On the other hand, once Arduino LLC had shown that they were willing to play dirty with the IDE code, it hardly seems like a good idea to couple your livelihood to a (now-)rival firm that seems to be willing to single you out. (None of the truly counterfeit Arduino boards triggered the popup, only those made by Arduino SRL.)

In short, [Musto] explains a lot of the controversial actions on the part of Smart Projects / Arduino SRL as being a reaction to internal disagreements within the Arduino group, and subsequent aggressive actions by Arduino LLC. Contrary to the innocent picture of Arduino LLC painted by [Banzi], it’s clear that there’s been skulduggery on both sides of the aisle.

The Future

Until early 2016, when the USPTO ruling comes down, the two firms are in limbo. Ironically, this hasn’t really affected the end-hacker (read: us) at all. If anything, both firms have been doubling their efforts to sway us with not only their press propaganda, but also with their product and software offerings. How long will this last and what new stuff will the future bring? We asked [Musto] about Arduino SRL’s plans.

An Arduino Foundation?

Given that Arduino SRL and Arduino LLC may not ever settle their differences amicably, what is to become of the Arduino brand? [Musto] suggests a Solomonic solution: take control of “Arduino” out of the hands of any one person or company leave it up to a community-directed foundation.

[Musto] told us that he envisions an “Arduino Foundation” with clear and open balance sheets and a democratic governance structure. Think Mozilla Foundation mashed-up with Debian’s governance. The Foundation would be open to all stakeholders in the Arduino community. [Musto] said that he’s currently in the middle of paperwork, and that there will probably be announcements forthcoming. We discussed how such a foundation could also be used to funnel some money back to the Arduino community, because after all a lot of the success of Arduino is due to the code contributions of users.

New Products, New IDE

[Federico Musto] describes himself as a “software guy” with a penchant for radio frequency hardware. Given the former, he said he’s surprised at how much time they’re spending on new physical product development, but his RF roots certainly show through. His design for what became the Arduino Yún, a Linux WiFi SOC combined with an AVR microcontroller, was [Musto]’s entrée into the Arduino universe, after all.

In this context, we asked [Musto] our $64k question: given that the Yún and similar boards face pressure from products like the ESP8266 from below and the Rasberry Pi from above, what is Arduino SRL’s direction going to be in the future. Bigger or smaller? Or staying in the middle? He replied that they have projects going at each scale.

On the big end of things, we have the Yún and future Linux/microcontroller mashup devices, for which [Musto] and now Arduino SRL, is continuing development of its Linino distribution. Linino is an OpenWRT-based Linux distribution modified to play well with external microcontrollers. Linino’s killer feature, in our estimation, is the MCUIO subsystem, which gives low-level Linux driver access to the associated microcontroller(s) — pins on the micro appear as devices on the Linux filesystem. The marriage of a small embedded Linux with a microcontroller for I/O is clearly an interesting area right now, if only the communications between the two weren’t so difficult. MCUIO aims to change that.

On the smallest end of the spectrum, Arduino SRL is working on a new product line of tiny (think littleBits) interconnected devices, to be programmed using a visual, drag-and-drop interface. They’re also (all?) going to be wireless. This project is still in the beginning stages, but [Musto] suggested that he’d be interested in an early alpha release if folks were interested in developing code for the platform. We can’t wait to see it working.

Uno-plus

And then in the middle of things, [Federico Musto] mentioned that there would be a forthcoming “Uno-plus” board with a yet-to-be-disclosed ARM chip on board coming out in the fall. The goal is essentially a supercharged Arduino form-factor board at a reasonable price.

We talked a lot about WiFi versus sub-GHz radios for IoT projects. Our experience is that the current crop of WiFi devices (the Hackaday-darling ESP8266 included) are power hogs, and not something you can run off batteries. [Musto] mentioned some new WiFi devices he’d seen, that aren’t yet in production, that will significantly help the WiFi power budget when they become available. Arduino SRL is looking to incorporate them into an IoT-style device when possible. Stay tuned.

Hardware aside, both Arduino LLC and Arduino SRL are coming out with new IDEs, and they look a lot better than the previous incarnations. The Arduino SRL version is based on Javascript and Node.js, and uses Adobe’s Brackets editor. In short, it’s all caught up with today’s new hotnesses for web coders, which is probably a good thing. (Finally, code completion!) It’s still in alpha, but you’re welcome to check it out.

Conclusion

The Arduino vs Arduino courtroom drama makes for good popcorn time for us, and it’s undoubtedly nerve-wracking for the twin Arduini and all directly involved. But we’re also glad to see that both companies are continuing to innovate on the hardware and software fronts.

In retrospect, our question of market niche was off-base. Arduino SRL’s focus isn’t on a device scale as much as on the general merging of wireless technologies with microcontrollers, and developing the support software for Linux/microcontroller integration in a wireless context. As far as Arduino LLC’s new product directions seem to be wired and/or wearable, we wonder if there isn’t room in the hacker economy for both firms to flourish despite the trademark woes?


Filed under: Featured, Interviews, slider

Arduino SRL to Distributors: “We’re the REAL Arduino”

Arduino SRL (formerly known as Smart Projects SRL) sent out a letter to its distribution partners yesterday. If you’ve been following along with the Arduino vs Arduino story (we’ve previously published two installments), the content isn’t entirely surprising; it’s essentially a tactical move to reassure their distribution channels that Arduino SRL is the “One True Arduino”. That said, there’s still some new tidbits buried inside. You can skip down to read the full text below, but here’s our take.

The Business History of Arduino

A quick summary of the legal situation. Arduino LLC was formed in April 2008 by the original five founders to provide a corporate entity behind the Arduino project. Smart Projects SRL, controlled by one of the founders, was tasked with the actual production of the boards. It turns out that Smart Projects had trademarked the Arduino brand in Italy in December 2008, before Arduino LLC got around to filing in April 2009 in the USA. But everyone was friends, right? As long as the licensing fees keep flowing.

Fast-forward to September 2014, when Arduino LLC filed a lawsuit in Italy against Smart Projects claiming that they had infringed LLC’s trademark and that they had recently stopped paying licensing fees on their use of the Arduino name. In October, Smart Projects filed with the USPTO to revoke Arduino LLC’s trademark. In late 2014, Smart Projects changed its company name to Arduino SRL (a “Società a responsabilità limitata” is one form of Italian limited-liability company) and hired a new CEO, [Federico Musto].  Around the same time, Arduino SRL opened up the website arduino.org (different from long-existing arduino.cc) but with nearly identical style. In January 2015, Arduino LLC filed a lawsuit in the US, claiming their right on the Arduino name.

The Gist of it

In short, Arduino LLC has been working on developing the Arduino platform, software, and community while Smart Projects / Arduino SRL was the major official producer of the hardware for most boards. Both are claiming to “be” Arduino, and going after each other in court. So it’s not strange that Arduino SRL would like to try to keep its hold on the distribution channels. Which brings us to their letter to distributors.

March 27 Letter

A good portion of the letter reads to be a very carefully worded defense of why Arduino SRL is the true Arduino:

“Arduino Srl (aka Smart Projects Srl), as you know has been from the  beginning of the Arduino® project, the place where the ideas were turned into reality and into a business.”

This is of course strictly true — Smart Projects was certainly the largest manufacturer of Arduino boards. But it sidesteps the issue at hand in the trademark suits: whether they were simply a licensed producer of the boards or whether they’re “Arduino”.

Similarly, in the questions section of the letter, they ask if there are actually two “Arduino” product manufacturers, and answer “not really”. Of course, that’s true. Arduino LLC doesn’t manufacture boards, but exists to license their trademark out to fund development.

The only real news in the letter is that Arduino SRL is replacing its old distribution and logistics company, Magyc Now, with a new one named CC Logistics. Both Magyc and CC Logistics are named as defendants in the US lawsuit filed by Arduino LLC, so it’s unlikely that this change is due to legal fallout.

What this Means

In conclusion, Arduino SRL’s letter to its distributors seems to essentially follow the line of reasoning in their trademark lawsuit in the US against Arduino LLC: since Arduino SRL is doing the manufacturing and using the Arduino name, they’re the true Arduino. Whether or not this will stand up in court, or whether Arduino LLC can make its case that SRL was simply a licensed manufacturer, remains to be seen.

We’ve embedded the contents of the letter after the break. You can also download the original PDF.

Ivrea (TO) , March 27, 2015

Dear Partners,

At this time we feel it necessary to update our partners on the state of Arduino® products and the distribution business which you are a key part of.

Arduino Srl (aka Smart Projects Srl), as you know has been from the beginning of the Arduino® project, the place where the ideas were turned into reality and into a business. The first Arduino® models were made and initially distributed to schools of interactive design all over the world.

Arduino® products were then offered to the first DIY enthusiasts, contributing concretely, as one of the first open source electronic boards, to found and promote the Makers Movement: your strong efforts and contribution have made this great new movement a success and has grown in many new exciting areas like IoT and m2m. A realization that will change the world of electronics and communications in the physical world.

The family of Arduino® boards has helped professional and non-professional developers to prototype electrical projects and learn in a way that is accessible and possible for everyone.

Currently, Arduino Srl continues to be the only designer and manufacturer of original Arduino® products.

Open Source is the environment we want for millions of designers, engineers, makers and Arduino® lovers around the world. We hope to continue to help children and newbies learn about electrical engineering and computer programming, in order to develop and grow their ideas for today and tomorrow.

This fantastic story and these ideals will continue on the new website Arduino.org, which has been developed to ensure we stay true to the vision of the beginning of Arduino® and Arduino Srl and our distribution of these cool products.

Beginning in 2015 new changes have been put into place to ensure that our companies can continue to grow with the popularity of the Arduino® product line. The production of these high quality products continue to be done in Europe and specifically Italy which has been very successful.

Our distribution and logistics are going through a change for a couple of reasons, to help with faster deliveries and lower transport costs, we have a new company structure cc logistics that have offices and warehouses in three continents, EMEA Cham Switzerland, North American Boston Massachusetts and APAC Honk Kong and Taipei.

Additionally lots of work are being completed to get inventories in line with demand. New personnel are being added to in many areas for response to your buying needs but also in the sales and support areas to ensure we are creating demand for Arduino products and for our distribution channel. These new sales people from time to time will be in contact to forge closer working relationships.

To help inform our partners of some questions recently raised in the press and other areas:

Q: Are there two “Arduino® ” branded products manufacturers?

A: Not really, the only company that ever designed and manufactured the “Arduino® ” branded product is Arduino Srl (formerly Smart Projects Srl). Others, for a number of reasons, have created in USA and Switzerland “Arduino” named companies. Some have been involved in completing contracts for web site development and PR (namely Arduino SA – Switzerland take cares of the web site arduino.cc has been one of those). Clearly this has been the place to go for open source info in the past, but we will make arduino.org your new comprehensive location for this info and other valuable resources and services.

Q: I have heard in the press that there is a disagreement going on amongst initial founders of the open source project which inspired the Arduino® business.

A: Yes, there is a disagreement between the initial founders of the open source project (which have never been shareholders of Arduino Srl) and the actual management of Arduino Srl. We are confident that these issues will come to a conclusion shortly. Frankly some of these issues are complex because related to the validity of the registration of the trademark “Arduino® ” in some areas of the world and cannot be summarized in few words. In this respect just bear in mind that Arduino Srl (aka Smart Projects Srl) has been the sole manufacturer of the original “Arduino® ” branded products, selling and distributing them world wide for 10 years.

Q: Will cc logistics replace Magyc as distribution points ?

A: That is the big plan but exceptions may happen due to the nature of doing a worldwide distribution. cc logistics will help our makers to produce and distribute their projects in a world wide arena.

Q: Will Arduino make new products and new software?

A: Yes, new software and new products are the life blood of Arduino® . Recently new products, Arduino® Zero Pro, Arduino® , 9 Axes shield partnership with Bosch and many more are coming.

Q: Will Arduino forge technology partnership?

A: Arduino is in the forefront of new exciting fields like IoT and m2m which is an exciting direction of the type of prototyping done with present day Arduino® products. We are in constant contact with major companies exploring these exciting fields. The Arduino YUN with its wifi capabilities and open source processing has ignited lots of new opportunities.

Q: Arduino EMEA, APAC and NA Distributors Sales Meeting

A: We are planning and will notify you of the details of the first global annual meeting

Q: Is there a New Management structure in Arduino ?

A: As it happens in every company that grows as fast as the Arduino environment, additional expertises and capabilities are needed to help steer the company in the correct direction. Federico Musto is the new CEO of Arduino group and he has a strong background in the open source business.

You are Arduino and we are honored and privileged to work with you – Arduino isn’t the company, nor the board, nor the software nor the founders – the Arduino is YOU – You made Arduino® what it is today and you’ll continue to make it what it will be in the future.

Thank you in advance for your help and support

Arduino team

Arduino Srl
legal adress: Via Romano, 12 – 10010 Scarmagno (TO) Italy
shipping address: Via Kennedy, 36 – 10019 Strambino (TO) Italy


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, Featured, news, slider

Arduino v Arduino: Part II

Since our last article covering the Arduino v. Arduino case, we’ve received a couple of tips, done some more digging, and learned a lot more about what’s going on. We thought it was time to share the story with you as it develops.

The Players

In short, there are two companies calling themselves “Arduino” at the moment. One, Arduino LLC was founded by [Massimo Banzi], [David Cuartielles], [David Mellis], [Tom Igoe] and [Gianluca Martino] in 2009, runs the website arduino.cc, and has been directing and releasing the code that makes it all work. Most of these folks had been working together on what would become the Arduino project since as early as 2005.

The other “Arduino” used to be called Smart Projects and was the manufacturing arm of the project founded and run by [Gianluca Martino]. Smart Projects changed their name to Arduino SRL in November 2014. (A “Società a responsabilità limitata” is one form of Italian limited-liability company.) They have been a major producer of Arduino boards from the very beginning and recently registered the domain arduino.org.

Around the time of the name change [Martino] sold his shares to a Swiss firm Gheo SA and [Federico Musto] was appointed CEO. Gheo SA is owned and directed by [Musto], who also runs a design consultancy based in the US and Taiwan called dog hunter, LLC.

dog hunter and [Musto] helped develop the Arduino Yun, a mashup of an Arduino with an OpenWRT-compatible WiFi router. dog hunter also runs the Linino.org website to support the Linux distribution that’s running on the router part of the Yun.

In short, on one side is Arduino LLC, run by the original Arduino Five and hosting arduino.cc. On the other is now called Arduino SRL, run by a former co-developer [Federico Musto] who bought out the largest producer of Arduino boards and opened up arduino.org.

The Legal Situation

When we previously reported that Arduino LLC brought a lawsuit against Arduino SRL, we only had half of the story. This suit, filed in January 2015 and still pending, is predated by an earlier trademark action filed by Arduino SRL against Arduino LLC.

The trademark case is a petition to cancel Arduino LLC’s trademark on Arduino, filed by Smart Projects SRL on October 3, 2014. This case is also still pending, and because it’s in front of the USPTO, it’s entirely visible. Here’s what we know.

The claims to invalidate Arduino LLC’s trademark on “Arduino” (PDF) can basically be summarized as follows: “We filed for trademark in September of 2014 and have been producing boards labelled Arduino since 2005. Arduino LLC only came into being in 2009 and wasn’t in control of the name at the time it applied for the trademark.”

To which Arduino LLC’s response (PDF) essentially reads “We’ve had the trademark on the word Arduino longer than you have, and we deny all the rest.”

The timeline for the case is laid out here (PDF). Basically, the discovery phase lasts until June 2015, and there’s not going to be a decision until after Christmas unless they settle early.

We’re not lawyers, but it looks like the case is going to revolve around whether or not Arduino LLC actually controlled the “Arduino” name at the time it trademarked it, and whether the extensive production of boards labelled “Arduino” by Smart Projects invalidates that trademark. The relevant trademark law can be found here and if you know your stuff on this, please feel free to illuminate us in the comments or with a direct e-mail to us directly or through the tip line.

So to recap the story so far, two websites, two “Arduinos”, and two lawsuits.

A Tale of Two Internets of Things

Not surprisingly, both groups have differing versions of where to go from here, but both sides are betting on the Internet of Things. Arduino LLC has partnered with Intel on the Galileo and more recently is working with BeagleBoard.org on the forthcoming Arduino TRE. Arduino SRL is sticking with the WiFi router MIPS solution that powers the Yun and keeping it in-house.

As previously mentioned, the Yun was at least co-designed with [Musto] and dog hunter. And now on arduino.org, there’s a placeholder product photo for the “Arduino Yun Mini” with the date April 30, 2015 attached. The Yun Mini looks exactly like the Linino One in a different color scheme, and it doesn’t take much of a hardware detective to put two and two together, given that [Musto] is now CEO of both dog hunter (which runs Linino.org) and Arduino SRL. The Yun Mini is, naturally, conspicuously lacking from the arduino.cc product lineup.

 

The next step up from the Yun on the arduino.cc site is the Arduino TRE, which is also a Linux-based solution coupled with an ATmega32u4. In this case, however, the Linux computer comes in the form of a 1-GHz Sitara AM335x processor, essentially a Beaglebone/Arduino mashup. And one can’t help but notice the tagline on the TRE page: “Arduino TRE, the first Arduino board manufactured in the U.S.” which is a dramatic shift away from the proudly “Made in Italy” silkscreens that adorn the Smart Projects / Arduino SRL boards.

Is this the reason for the schism? Massimo Banzi has said that he’s interested in working with many other producers to get newer and better Arduino products out there and would even like to be able to sell in China, land of the clones. (translate)  [Martino] and now [Musto] clearly have a vested interest in keeping production in Italy, while Arduino LLC’s interests are better served by going global. Perhaps it’s only natural that the two part ways.

The Code

Finally, the story takes a slightly cheeky turn in the most recent version of the Arduino IDE, released on March 10. As of version 1.6.1, there’s been a patch to the Arduino codebase that pops up a warning dialog when an “Arduino” with the USB Vendor ID (VID) 0x2A03 is flashed. The pop-up message reads “This board comes from an uncertified manufacturer. We won’t be able to provide any support if it doesn’t work as expected.”

You may not be surprised that USB VID 0x2A03 belongs to “dog hunter AG”.  The Arduino IDE pops up the “uncertified manufacturer” warning any time that this VID is used, on any board type. Conspicuously missing in all of this are any of the VIDs in use by the various other counterfeit “Arduino” boards running around out there. Either there are too many of them to address directly, or this is a targeted, tactical strike against the Arduino SRL camp.

If you don’t have a board with VID 0x2A03, you can see the changes to the IDE on GitHub for the commit “Added warning for uncertified boards“.  Scroll on down to the changes to the file “hardware/arduino/avr/boards.txt” and you’ll see what’s going on. (And smile if you don’t have to code in Java for a living: nearly 600 lines of code added just to implement a simple pop-up dialog!)

Apparently, at least a couple of people with an UNO and a Mega256 have seen the warning and claim to have bought their devices through reputable retailers, including Mouser.

Now this isn’t an FTDI-style bricking; it’s just a pop-up dialog. What’s even nicer is that it comes with a “Don’t show me again” button so that you’re not constantly nagged. And it does recognize the boards so that they function normally, but it’s definitely a scare for users when they first stumble upon it.

The Future

So what does all of this mean for the future of Arduino as we know it? There’s certainly been a code fork and there are at least two divergent hardware design approaches to the IoT and strategic visions for the two firms. The trademark issues may not be resolved until 2016, though, so in the mean time there’s going to be significant market confusion. Not to mention the two similar websites.

You can certainly bet that both companies will be pushing themselves to get good product to market and trying to keep hold on the community. Maybe that will all be good for us in the end? Post your wild guesses and conspiracy theories in the comments.

We’ll keep you posted when we learn even more.  If you’ve got leads that you’d like us to chase down, hit us up on the tip line.

And thanks very much to [Concerned User] for the tipoff to the trademark filing and to [Another Anonymous Tipster] for the tip to the IDE version 1.6.1 changes.


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, news, slider
Hack a Day 12 Mar 12:00

Arduino v. Arduino

Arduino LLC is suing Arduino Srl (the Italian version of an LLC). Sounds confusing? It gets juicier. What follows is a summary of the situation as we learned it from this article at Heise.de (google translatrix)

Arduino LLC is the company founded by [Massimo Banzi], [David Cuartielles], [David Mellis], [Tom Igoe] and [Gianluca Martino] in 2009 and is the owner of the Arduino trademark and gave us the designs, software, and community support that’s gotten the Arduino where it is. The boards were manufactured by a spinoff company, Smart Projects Srl, founded by the same [Gianluca Martino]. So far, so good.

Things got ugly in November when [Martino] and new CEO [Federico Musto] renamed Smart Projects to Arduino Srl and registered arduino.org (which is arguably a better domain name than the old arduino.cc). Whether or not this is a trademark infringement is currently being heard in the Massachussetts District Court.

According to this Italian Wired article, the cause of the split is that [Banzi] and the other three wanted to internationalize the brand and license production to other firms freely, while [Martino] and [Musto] at the company formerly known as Smart Projects want to list on the stock market and keep all production strictly in the Italian factory.

Naturally, a lot of the original Arduino’s Open Source Hardware credentials and ethos are hanging in the balance, not to mention its supply chain and dealer relationships. However the trademark suit comes out, we’re guessing it’s only going to be the first in a series of struggles. Get ready for the Arduino wars.

We’re not sure if this schism is at all related to the not-quite-open-source hardware design of the Yun, but it’s surely the case that the company is / the companies are going through some growing pains right now.

Thanks [Philip Steffan] for the pointer to the Heise.de link. (And for writing it.)


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, news, slider
Hack a Day 25 Feb 12:00

Keystroke Sniffer Hides as a Wall Wart, is Scary

For those of us who worry about the security of our wireless devices, every now and then something comes along that scares even the already-paranoid. The latest is a device from [Samy] that is able to log the keystrokes from Microsoft keyboards by sniffing and decrypting the RF signals used in the keyboard’s wireless protocol. Oh, and the entire device is camouflaged as a USB wall wart-style power adapter.

The device is made possible by an Arduino or Teensy hooked up to an NRF24L01+ 2.4GHz RF chip that does the sniffing. Once the firmware for the Arduino is loaded, the two chips plus a USB charging circuit (for charging USB devices and maintaining the camouflage) are stuffed with a lithium battery into a plastic shell from a larger USB charger. The options for retrieving the sniffed data are either an SPI Serial Flash chip or a GSM module for sending the data automatically via SMS.

The scary thing here isn’t so much that this device exists, but that encryption for Microsoft keyboards was less than stellar and provides little more than a false sense of security. This also serves as a wake-up call that the things we don’t even give a passing glance at might be exactly where a less-honorable person might look to exploit whatever information they can get their hands on. Continue past the break for a video of this device in action, and be sure to check out the project in more detail, including source code and schematics, on [Samy]’s webpage.

Thanks to [Juddy] for the tip!


Filed under: security hacks, slider

Reverse-Engineering a Superior Chinese Product

It makes an Arduino look like a 555.  A 364 Mhz, 32 bit processor. 8 MB RAM. GSM. Bluetooth. LCD controller. PWM. USB and dozens more. Smaller than a Zippo and thinner than corrugated cardboard. And here is the kicker: $3. So why isn’t everyone using it? They can’t.

Adoption would mandate tier after tier of hacks just to figure out what exact hardware is there. Try to buy one and find that suppliers close their doors to foreigners. Try to use one, and only hints of incomplete documentation will be found. Is the problem patents? No, not really.

[Bunnie] has dubbed the phenomenon “Gongkai”, a type of institutionalized, collaborative, infringementesque knowledge-exchange that occupies an IP equivalent of bartering. Not quite open source, not quite proprietary. Legally, this sharing is only grey-market on paper, but widespread and quasi-accepted in practice – even among the rights holders. [Bunnie] figures it is just the way business is done in the East and it is a way that is encouraging innovation by knocking down barriers to entry. Chinese startups can churn out gimmicky trash almost on whim, using hardware most of us could only dream about for a serious project.

He contrasts this with the West where only the big players like Apple and Google can step up to the plate. Everyone else is forced to use the embarrassingly obsolete hardware we are all familiar with. But [Bunnie] wants to get his foot in the door. “Can we find a way to still get ahead, yet still play nice?” he asks.

Part of his solution is reverse engineering so that hardware can simply be used – something the EFF has helped legally ensure under fair use. The other half is to make it Open Source. His philosophy is rooted in making a stand on things that matter. It is far from a solid legal foundation, but [Bunnie] and his lawyers are gambling that if it heads to a court, the courts will favor his side.

The particular board targeted is the one described above – the MT6260. Even spurred by the shreds of documentation he could gather, his company is a 2-man team and cannot hope to reverse engineer the whole board. Their goal is to approach the low-hanging fruit so that after a year, the MT6260 at least enters the conversation with ATMega. Give up trying to use it as a phone; just try to use like the Spark Core for now.

He is already much of the way there. After telling you what is on board and why we would all want to use it, [Bunnie] shows how far he has gone to reverse engineering and describes his plans for the rest. From establishing an electronic “beachhead” base of operations to further probe the device, to X-rays, photos, diagrams and the beginnings of an OS. If this type of thing interests you at all, the meticulous approach and easy-reading of this tech teardown will surely impress and inspire you. Every step of progress requires a new hack, a new solution, a new ingenious way to pry information out.

We’ve featured some awe-inspiring reverse engineering attempts in the past, but this is something that is still new and relevant. Rather than only exploit his discoveries for himself, [Bunnie] has documented and published everything he has learned. Everyone wins.

Thanks [David] for the tip.


Filed under: Cellphone Hacks, hardware, slider, teardown