Improving open source hardware: Visual diffs

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Improving open source hardware: Visual diffs @ Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories.

As the open source hardware movement matures, it’s worth taking a moment to consider the issue of version control.

Collaborative software projects make heavy use of version control– tools like Subversion and Git, and project hosting sites like SourceForge, GitHub, and Google Code –to organize and manage the contributions of many developers to a project. But as we begin to consider open source hardware, can we use these same tools and sites for effective collaboration on hardware projects?

The short answer is, “yes”– after all, people are already doing it. But the reality is that we could do much, much better. Some people think that we do need a separate “SourceForge for hardware.” That’s hard to say. But it is the case– perhaps against conventional wisdom –that existing tools can be used, today, for meaningful hardware version control.

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2 Comments

  1. Werner Almesberger

    Over at Qi-Hardware, we have a visual revision history for schematics, for KiCad and git. (Doing the same for layouts is still in the queue.)

    This is what a simple project looks like:
    http://projects.qi-hardware.com/schhist/atusb/

    Click on a thumbnail to enlarge. Click again for a PDF with both versions.

    The project from which the design comes is here:
    http://projects.qi-hardware.com/index.php/p/ben-wpan/source/tree/master/atben/

    The scripts that go through the project’s git history, find the differences, and do the highlighting, are here:
    http://projects.qi-hardware.com/index.php/p/eda-tools/source/tree/master/schhist

    The scrips also follow addition, deletion, and renaming of files. The whole process is kicked off when something new is committed to the repository. Here are a few more projects:
    http://projects.qi-hardware.com/schhist/

    – Werner

  2. Maybe even more important: merges.

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