The (open)HPSDR fiasco.
July 16, 2011
“The TAPR Open Hardware License and the TAPR Noncommercial Hardware Licenses are worthless” - Phil N8VB
From time to time people who are interested in releasing their designs under a open hardware license email me and ask my opinion of the TAPR OHL or TAPR NCL license given my experiences with TAPR described below. Here is my standard response:
“If you do not care what
happens to your hardware design after you release the design files
(if someone copies it, makes it a product, claims it as their own,
and never feeds back changes to you) then I suggest that you just
release the design as public domain and forgo any open hardware
license. In my opinion, the TAPR NCL is worthless. It has never been
tested in court and was written from the input of a bunch of guys,
many of whom never contributed to any open hardware project. What
TAPR and openHPSDR did to me was to
just redraw the schematic for my hardware (OZY) that was NCL and make a few minor changes. They renamed the project (MAGISTER) and now are selling it, side-stepping my TAPR NCL on OZY. Obviously TAPR does not abide by its own license.“
There are others who have expressed concerns over the TAPR licenses:
May 5, 2009
In 2005 I founded the HPSDR project. It was my personal goal and vision to design a high performance software defined radio. You can read more details at:
In 2006 I was approached my members of the XYLO SDR group with the proposal to merge the HSPDR project with the XYLO SDR group. The XYLO SDR group’s vision was to create a sound card replacement for the Flex Radio SDR-1000. I agreed to this merge in early 2006.
I own the hpsdr.org domain.
I am responding here because I am being prevented from responding on the HPSDR list by the website administrator.
The HPSDR project as I envisioned it has ended. This is for various reasons which have been argued on and off the HPSDR list in the past. My withdrawal of support for HPSDR and re-purposing of the hpsdr.org domain is a direct result of the following recent actions taken by certain members of the HPSDR “community":
My user ID for access to the HPSDR Wiki has been deleted by HPSDR website administrator despite never having had any problem with any edits that I have made to the Wiki in the past.
I was contacted by a "representative" of certain members of the HPSDR “community” and told that my access to the HPSDR Wiki may be restored if I would agree to transfer ownership of the hpsdr.org domain to TAPR or some other entity. I believe this action rises to the level of extortion whether they realized it or not.
The HPSDR website administrator has begun removing references to me from the HPSDR website. See the following link for an example of this: http://www.webcitation.org/5gglRyyyI
The HPSDR website administrator will not allow me to post messages to the mailing list. This despite not having posted anything that could be considered offensive to the mailing list. By not allowing me to offer an explanation to the list as to why this has happened, they are able to paint me as the "bad guy" in this.
The "defect" in the structure of HPSDR is this: There is
one person with 100% control over the HPSDR website, 100%
control over the HPSDR Wiki, and 100% control over the HPSDR mailing
list. This person and his friends/supporters have 100% control
of the "public face of HPSDR" with no opposition because
they have control over all aspects of the way that HPSDR
communication takes place. I should have recognized early on
(and it was my mistake) that letting one person control all three
aspects of "the public face of HPSDR" was a mistake. Had I
to do it over I would have broken up those three aspects into
separate responsibilities among individuals so that a dictatorship
could not form as it has.
Because of the recent actions by the HPSDR website administrator, and lack of any support from the HPSDR "community", I can no longer support HPSDR.
I have been informed that one of the HPSDR list administrators claims that I am not unsubscribed from the list. Contrary to what he is claiming, I am not being allowed to post messages to the HPSDR list. All posts come back now as being held for moderation and they are never approved for posting to the list. They may as well unsubscribe me since it has the same effect. It no longer matters at this point because I have written the HPSDR project off completely. The only thing that it does illustrate is that the HPSDR website administrators continue to distort the truth.
In response to inquiries on the HPSDR list as to why this page (why.html) exists and the claims made on it, Don, AE5K, has been responding privately to people saying that I have sent him "terrible" emails over the last year. This is not true. In fact, I will post the absolutely most "terrible" email that I sent him over the last year right here. Keep in mind that this email was sent to Don, AE5K privately after he had:
1. Deleted my user ID from the Wiki;
2. he began removing references to me from the HPSDR website;
3. he began blocking my messages to the HPSDR list;
4. he and his "friends" tried to get me agree to give up ownership of hpsdr.org in exchange for possibly reinstating my user ID for the Wiki;
5. and he blocked a message to the HPSDR list from me explaining why the hpsdr.org domain was not longer available to them.
Here is the email I sent Don, AE5K and I still believe what I said in it to be 100% true:
You may be able to squelch me on the mailing list, but I will
sure the explanation gets out to everyone.
The defect in the HPSDR project was allowing useless parasitic people
like you to be involved. You and your cronies have never contributed
anything useful to the designs of HPSDR, yet you want to control the
developers and the "face of HPSDR" which is the website. Hopefully
potential and existing developers will see you and your kind for what
you are, and decide to no longer support your "OpenHPSDR" group or
whatever you are calling it. The "Open" part is a JOKE.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, May 5, 2009 at 8:15 AM
Subject: Your message to Hpsdr awaits moderator approval
Your mail to 'Hpsdr' with the subject
Re: [hpsdr] The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated
Is being held until the list moderator can review it for approval.
The reason it is being held:
Post to moderated list
Either the message will get posted to the list, or you will receive
notification of the moderator's decision. If you would like to cancel
this posting, please visit the following URL:
As a result of peoples inquiries on the HPSDR mailing list, the website administrator has begun restoring the changes they made to the website where they were in the process of removing my name:
According to a post by the website administrator I will now be allowed to post messages to the HPSDR mailing list without being blocked or moderated. If this is true, then it is the result of pressure brought to bare on the website administrator by concerned members of the HPSDR community. Thank you for your support in getting this changed.
The HPSDR website administrator's friends have come out in force today on the mailing list. This includes Bill Tracey who was the author of the email where they attempted to extort the hpsdr.org domain from me (saying they would consider restoring my Wiki access if I would transfer ownership of the hpsdr.org domain to TAPR). Bill does not mention that he was one of the people behind this. Also, Bill's claim that the steps they took (see above) was necessary to protect the HPSDR website is completely bogus. I challenge any of them to produce one shred of evidence that I have ever attempted to maliciously destroy or modify the website. Bill reiterates the "party line" that I was not unsubscribed or banned from the mailing list. I said I was blocked from posting messages. I argue that a message that is held for moderation and that is never approved to be posted is equivalent to being blocked from posting messages. This is what happened here.
Bill's claim that I changed the hpsdr.org domain to point to a "dummy" website with no warning is also not true. I will post the emails that I sent to the website administrator where I gave them warning that the hpsdr.org domain would be changed and why this decision was made. The website administrator chose not to respond at all to these emails. Bill may have been misinformed by the website administrator on this point because he would have no first hand knowledge of the actual events.
I have been told that the website administrator and his supporters believe that the messages of support for my position, and/or inquiry into why they took the actions that they took, have been all done by people at my urging. I can tell you that I have not asked anyone publicly or privately to post any message of support for me to the HPSDR mailing list. I believe this why the website administrator's friends have been asked to post messages to the mailing list condemning me and justifying the actions that they took.
Meet the New Management
John N8UR (a TAPR board member) wrote this in the mailing list: "openhpsdr.org is currently being maintained by TAPR at the request of that core group."
Now that TAPR is the owner of the hpsdr domain, you can draw your own conclusion as to what this means. I think they should rename the project to something like TAPR's-HPSDR.
Here is some other information to mull over:
I was contacted earlier this year by TAPR stating that they were running out of OZY boards and requesting that I license them to produce another 100 boards. I declined. TAPR then argued that "With your not allowing TAPR to build 100 more Ozys, and allowing another party to build Ozys exclusively, it concerns the Board that the sales of Mercury then become dependent on another exclusive party". It appeared to me that TAPR was OK with the TAPR NCL license as long as it does not apply to them. The NCL restricts entities from making more than 10 units in a 12 month period. A developer can grant a separate license to an individual or commercial entity that does not have the restrictions of the NCL. This is how TAPR is able to exclusively produce HPSDR designs with no competition.
The "core group", that John N8UR referred to above, was behind the attempt to coerce me into transferring ownership of the hpsdr.org domain to TAPR. When this failed, a new domain was set up under the ownership and control of TAPR.
The HPSDR website administrators added a new page called "Project Outline" that described the process to propose a new HPSDR project. In this procedure they implied it was mandatory to have TAPR approve and produce the proposed HPSDR project. I objected to this statement in an email to the mailing list. The website administrator reluctantly changed the page so that the proposal to TAPR was optional with the warning that "If an project leader skips this step they will need to take on the cost of producing the alpha boards and testing."
It has been my concern for some time now, and I argued this on the mailing list when the "Project Outline" page was posted, that TAPR and HPSDR were becoming too "entangled". In my opinion TAPR owning the new HPSDR domain has gone beyond "entanglement". It would be not too hard to come to the conclusion that TAPR being a business, albeit a non-profit (but a business nonetheless), has acted to protect its business interests.
The claim has also been repeated by the "core group"
that they had to take the actions that they did to protect the
website and Wiki from "vandalism" by me (despite me never
having vandalized the website or Wiki before). This claim is
Richard Ames has shown by his messages to the mailing list that it is not possible to do permanent damage to the Wiki because changes made to a Wiki page are immediately reversible. Anyone who has delt with the editing of a Wiki understands this. It would not be possible for me to damage the Wiki had I wanted to (and I have never wanted or attempted to). The website administrator deleted my user ID for the Wiki. I was not informed of this - it was done without warning and with no explanation.
The website is owned by Don AE5K. I have no ability to edit or damage the website because I have never had any administration privileges to it or any physical access to the server on which it resides. This claim is also nonsense.
The website administrator blocked my messages to the mailing list by moderating them and never approving them. They argue that somehow I could damage the mailing list by posting to it??? That is also nonsense. There is an archive of the mailing list that anyone can review to see my posting history.
I believe that all of the above claims made by the "core group" are an attempt at justifying their actions after the fact. They took these actions without first informing me or the HPSDR community and giving no explanation as to why they were taking these actions against me before the fact.
The Character Assassination Begins
I am surprised that it took members of the HPSDR "core group" this long to bring up the issue of my commercial involvement in SDR. Let me present some history on this subject:
In early 2007 I decided to make a prototype of the Mercury receiver. I chose the name Mercury because it was associated with "being fast" - like QuickSilver. There was much discussion on the list about using various DDC chips such as the Analog Devices 6620 or the Graychip (now TI) DDCs for Mercury. Many of the more advanced DDC chips were only available in BGA packages which was a concern for home builders. I needed a "development board" where I could test various ideas on they way to Mercury. Because this was going to be a test bed for experimental ideas I invested my personal money in these boards. I knew that these prototypes would not be the final form of Mercury, but they were needed to get there. If you review my SDR Blog and SDR webpage, you can see some of the variations of prototype boards that I made (with my own money).
The end result of this was the Revision "B" of the QuickSilver board (there are a total of three of these in existence). Shortly after the AMSAT 2007 Symposium (I carried a Rev B board with me to the Symposium) it was proposed to the HPSDR "core group" that TAPR produce QuickSilver (QS1R). The Mercury design was not ready at this point in 2007. There was considerable opposition among the group to this. One reason given was that it might be more difficult to make QS1R work with Penny (the HPSDR transmitter board). Another reason was that QS1R had its own USB interface which would not require OZY. A third reason is that other "core" members had invested time in a Mercury prototype and they were not that far from having it finished, although at the time no one was working on the PCB layout for Mercury. The proposal for TAPR to produce QS1R was dropped because it did not appear that a consensus could be reached.
In January 2008 I decided to go ahead and fund the production and development of QuickSilver myself. I had invested considerable personal money into the prototypes and was happy if I could just break even. Before that I had absolutely no ambitions to commercially manufacture anything, let alone a SDR receiver board. There appeared to be enough interest in the QuickSilver to offer boards to experimenters. Unlike some other SDR manufacturers I did not ask for, nor did I accept, prepayment for the QS1R. I learned my lesson from past experience with vSound. I funded the whole thing from my personal savings and did not accept payment until I actually had product to ship. This was very difficult but worked out in the end.
If anything, people who have Mercury now, have me to thank for lighting a fire under the Mercury project. Once it was proposed that TAPR produce QS1R, the development pace of Mercury suddenly picked up. During the time I began selling QS1R in February 2008, I was also contributing to the Mercury project. Scott Cowling of TAPR took up the effort of finalizing the Mercury schematic and I had given him a copy of the QS1R schematic as a reference. There were various questions that I answered in that process. If I had proprietary "commercial interests" or felt threatened by HPSDR as they are claiming on the HPSDR list now, do you think I would have continued to cooperate in bringing Mercury to market? If anyone thinks that it is possible to get rich in the hobbyist/ham radio SDR market then they are smoking something they shouldn't be smoking. I am happy to be able to offer the QS1R to people who would otherwise have a difficult time assembling a SMT board and break even in the end.
In appreciation for letting the new HPSDR Mercury project "leaders" pick over the schematic and design for QS1R (which I had invested considerable personal time and money in), I was totally excluded from the Mercury "alpha" build group. Of course this caused some hard feelings.
Honestly, I have been annoyed by the actions of certain people in the HPSDR "community" that has affected the QuickSilver project. This includes a HPSDR "core member" trying to recruit away a software developer who was working on QS1R software, and another HPSDR enthusiast that decided to clone the QS1R design and distribute boards to his friends as well as place the cloned design files on his website. I actually got emails from two enthusiasts who built their own QS1R clone from those files- they were severely annoyed at me that their boards did not work and I would not spend hours answering emails to help them troubleshoot their cloned boards! Had things turned out differently, QS1R could have been Mercury or at least under the HPSDR project and the cool SDRMAX software and QS1RServer would have worked for HPSDR projects.