One of the best open source projects is undoubtedly VLC, that little app with the pylon icon that plays any video file you throw at it. VLC embodies the spirit of a free and open world of computing in which the user can do whatever they want and not have anybody spying on them (VLC doesn’t track when you open the app or what you play). The team behind VLC is an impressive group of people who stay true to their values and better the world through their efforts.
VideoLAN originally started as a project from the Via Centrale Réseaux student association, after the successful Network 2000 project.
But the true release of the project to the world was on 1st of February 2001, the École Centrale Paris director, Mr. Gourisse, allowed the open-sourcing of the whole VideoLAN project under the GNU GPL.
Today, VLC media player is used regularly by hundreds of millions of users, and has been downloaded more than 3.5 billion times over the years. VLC is today available on Windows, macOS, Linux, Android (including TV and Auto versions), iOS (and AppleTV), OS/2 and BSD.
Over the years, around 1000 volunteers worked to make VLC a reality.
The Italian health care system finds itself short on parts due to the influx of COVID-19 patients. Due to the nature of the virus people with it are more likely to need breathing support as lungs are in such a bad shape. Some geniuses at one Italian hospital decided to not wait for new parts and make their own instead. They 3D printed a key part of a respirator to help patients get through the worst aspects of COVID-19. Sadly, the company which manufactures the $11,000 part threatened the hospital with legal action so the ~$2 3D printed part won’t be available for other places.
While the article uses the term “reanimation device”, it’s clear we’re talking about respirators here, necessary to keep patients alive during respiratory distress. The valve in question is a plastic part, one which likely needs to be changed over when the device is used with each individual patient to provide a sterile flow of air. After the alarm was raised by Nunzia Vallini, a local journalist, a ring around of the 3D printing community led to a machine being sent down to the hospital and the parts being reproduced. Once proven to work, things were stepped up, with another company stepping in to produce the parts in quantity with a high-quality laser fusion printer.
Let’s be honest, people are bad at conveying their ideas on what streets can look like. Thankfully there’s an open source project designed to help people remix their local streets and share it with others. The web based design tool Streetmix provides a simple drag and drop interface to rethink your local roads, you don’t need an urban planning degree to figure out what should go where. Give it a try, generate some images, and go talk to your community about making your neighbourhood more people-friendly from the street up.
Why does Streetmix exist?
When city planners seek input from community meetings from the public on streetscape improvements, one common engagement activity is to create paper cut-outs depicting different street components (like bike lanes, sidewalks, trees, and so on) and allow attendees to reassemble them into their desired streetscape. Planners and city officials can then take this feedback to determine a course of action for future plans. By creating an web-based version of this activity, planners can reach a wider audience than they could at meetings alone, and allow community members to share and remix each other’s creations.
The goal is to promote two-way communication between planners and the public, as well. Streetmix intends to communicate not just feedback to planners but also information and consequences of actions to the users that are creating streets. Kind of like SimCity did with its in-game advisors!
A funding campaign on IndieGoGo is focused on making an open-sourced robotic prosthetic hand. This is wonderful because the end product will be shared with everyone and the hand can be made essentially anywhere.
The Open Hand Project is open-source, which means all of the plans to make a robotic hand will be published online with no patents, anyone has the right to make their own and even sell it themselves. You’re funding the full development of the hand with the Open Hand Project, after that companies will be able to use the designs and sell the hands all over the world. This really helps get these devices out to developing countries and places where import taxes might otherwise increase the cost of distribution.
Colorado has a new permaculture and open sourced initiative taking shape and it look promising. The team is adding open source technology from hardware and software to a sustainable agriculture setup. On top of all of that they are also developing an open source business model!
This is an exciting project with the ultimate goal of having their setup to be replicated locally elsewhere.
“Open Tech Forever (OTF) is dedicated to developing new and improved, open source versions of modern and cutting-edge technologies. In the open source spirit, we create free, online, high quality educational resources demonstrating how to understand, redesign, and replicate our products. We cover not only the skills, designs and the train of thought behind the development process but also the facilities, tools, and materials that it takes to really make a variety of technologies. We develop and document open hardware, manufacture products for sale, and host public workshops to provide a hands-on learning experience for improved skill development and retention.”