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Thread: Cheap China retro-computing knock-offs. Good or bad thing?

  1. #11

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    The XTIDE project has been a huge success IMO, Like any successful project, The trouble is the "Copy cats" who think they are onto a winner without doing the hard work, They churn out garbage PCB's and build them with inferior components, Amazes me that people buy them but they do Personally i wouldn't touch em with a barge pole.

  2. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malc View Post
    The XTIDE project has been a huge success IMO, Like any successful project, The trouble is the "Copy cats" who think they are onto a winner without doing the hard work, They churn out garbage PCB's and build them with inferior components, Amazes me that people buy them but they do Personally i wouldn't touch em with a barge pole.
    I think a lot of people have no clue they're getting a lesser item -- it's not like the sellers advertise them as "cheap knockoff made with relabeled/used parts we found on AliExpress!" I don't know how to get that information out to the community. I think a lot of new hobbyists are dismissive as, "oh, they're just mad someone else is making money." And now you've got some of the knockoff folks sending their boards to YouTubers to review, which adds legitimacy for whatever reason.

  3. #13

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    I mentioned this in IRC during the discussion there and will throw it out here as more food for thought.

    Part of the problem is the quality of the derivative products. If we want people to know what's good and what's bad, we need to mark it - almost like the way UL does.

    It sounds heavy handed, but think about a licensing type scheme for vintage computer projects. Something that indicates that the work is blessed by the original creators and generally passes a reasonable quality bar. Anybody can forge a graphic or mark on a board, but making people aware that there are "blessed" and "non-blessed" versions and giving them a central place to look up specific projects/vendors would give people a tool they can use to choose better. It's not about limiting access or even guaranteeing quality, but being able to point out which projects derive from other projects and whether they are attributing their work or not is useful.


    Mike

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    To that end, marking the foil (not just silk screen) of your PCBs might be a good way to indicate to folks that they're getting the Real Thing.

    Just a suggestion...

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    Quote Originally Posted by mbbrutman View Post
    I mentioned this in IRC during the discussion there and will throw it out here as more food for thought.

    Part of the problem is the quality of the derivative products. If we want people to know what's good and what's bad, we need to mark it - almost like the way UL does.

    It sounds heavy handed, but think about a licensing type scheme for vintage computer projects. Something that indicates that the work is blessed by the original creators and generally passes a reasonable quality bar. Anybody can forge a graphic or mark on a board, but making people aware that there are "blessed" and "non-blessed" versions and giving them a central place to look up specific projects/vendors would give people a tool they can use to choose better. It's not about limiting access or even guaranteeing quality, but being able to point out which projects derive from other projects and whether they are attributing their work or not is useful.


    Mike
    Is this something VCFed could do? I think that'd be a major service to the hobby!

    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck(G) View Post
    To that end, marking the foil (not just silk screen) of your PCBs might be a good way to indicate to folks that they're getting the Real Thing.

    Just a suggestion...
    I do on mine, but I also provide the KiCAD source files. It's no harder to manipulate than the silkscreen layers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck(G) View Post
    To that end, marking the foil (not just silk screen) of your PCBs might be a good way to indicate to folks that they're getting the Real Thing.
    I'm not sure that matters. If you're buying it from eBay (Which, honestly, is where you're buying something cheap), you're probably not thinking it's the creators product that you're buying cheaper but rather that it's a "knockoff" product that you're saving money on.

    I think there are a few things at play here. There are the folks who want the best quality and the support of the products creator. Then there are the DIY folks who just want the board and are willing to take all the risk to make it themselves. Then there is the third group who can't make something themselves but have limited funds so are willing to buy a possibly inferior product that is cheaper than the original. If it works when they bought it, that's all that really matters. The only group this masking or foil or whatever is going to help is group one who might accidently stumble across the "fake" product and think it's the same as the original product with the same support, but just at this surprisingly cheaper price.

    I think the best option is the list like Mike suggested that is posted on the creators website that lists vendors or outlets that these "authentic" products can be purchased from. Anything on the actual card doesn't help because first, you don't really see the card until it shows up and second, that is easily reproducible (for instance, glitch's xt-ide cards can be made directly from pcbway, stencil and all).
    -- Brian

    Systems: Amstad PCW 8256, Apple IIe/II+/Mac+/Mac 512k, Atari 800/520STFM, Commodore 64/Amiga 3000/PET 4032/SX-64, IBM PS/1 2121-B82, Kaypro II, Osborne 1, Tandy 1000 SX, TI-99/4A, TRS-80 Model 4 GA

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    I've always been one to encourage others to redistribute or copy other people's designs, where the original product is crafted/manufactured/sold in a malicious manner. This can range from simple designs that result in firmware that only one person will distribute if you exclusively pay them for a complete product (Wifi232 or the Rhinoview SDI ECU adapter (beta release)) to products that are blatent copies of other products, parts or software which the seller has the dubious claim of saying it's legit. For the latter I got the boot from 68KMLA because the inner moderator circle didn't like me pointing out that a (later hidden, then reduced) $900 pricetag for replica Apple Lisa CPU and I/O boards (in PURPLE no less, so it had a big sticker price and cheap build quality) was nearly three times the cost of an Apple OEM board, but was clearly priced to profit from the insecurity and ineptitude of a lot of mac people, who will pay just about anything to get a machine working. Flooding the market with clones either forces them to reduce their own markup or pull out of the market entirely.

    But this is a double-edged sword. Glitch is a great example of what happens when you release a great product and everyone takes it and runs. Copyrights and licensing be damned, China is a place with a good reputation for cloning and fabbing anything you tell them to. You can really only restrict copying/counterfeiting if you are either a large company with a legal push, or the product is being made where legal rule can still be applied. I for example was asked to stop work reverse engineering the QuickBoot ROM for the Sun Remarketing SCSI card. I fully complied and went my own way.
    = Excellent space heater

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    So similar to what NeXT was saying, there's one that I'm curious on. What if the original product isn't made anymore, does that open the door for others to make the product even if it's not open source? What if you made some minor changes to it, do you then have the right to sell it? I think many people might say no, but what if i threw some context in there..

    In one example, someone replicates some original hardware with some modern improvements (or maybe no improvements, but he's created new Gerber files).. something like the mockingboard for example. Is there anything wrong with copying that? The new guy didn't necessarily create it either, he just made it available or did some improvements. The original creater wasn't selling it anymore.

    In another example, there is a guy on the atari forums who has made some modern improvements to the Atari ST TOS and is now charging for that new TOS. he doesn't own the original work, but at the same time, he maybe should get paid for the efforts he has put into it. But, then what if someone takes his custom TOS and redistributes that with or without some minor changes... You could complain that the new person is stealing or unethical, but technically so was that other guy who originally modded the TOS and is reselling it... as he didn't have rights to it either.

    I dunno, It's pretty easy to see everyone's side in this.
    -- Brian

    Systems: Amstad PCW 8256, Apple IIe/II+/Mac+/Mac 512k, Atari 800/520STFM, Commodore 64/Amiga 3000/PET 4032/SX-64, IBM PS/1 2121-B82, Kaypro II, Osborne 1, Tandy 1000 SX, TI-99/4A, TRS-80 Model 4 GA

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    Quote Originally Posted by ngtwolf View Post
    So similar to what NeXT was saying, there's one that I'm curious on. What if the original product isn't made anymore, does that open the door for others to make the product even if it's not open source? What if you made some minor changes to it, do you then have the right to sell it? I think many people might say no, but what if i threw some context in there..
    With the OSI preservation/reproduction project, we've taken the tact that there's no ethical problem in reproducing boards that no one sells, supports, or profits from. It's probably legally dubious at best since copyright is effectively perpetual in this country, but no one has asked us to stop, either.

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    Quote Originally Posted by glitch View Post
    With the OSI preservation/reproduction project, we've taken the tact that there's no ethical problem in reproducing boards that no one sells, supports, or profits from. It's probably legally dubious at best since copyright is effectively perpetual in this country, but no one has asked us to stop, either.
    Yeah, I think that was more my point. None of this is black and white really, it's just all shades of grey. If some Chinese company is reproducing your work, but you're reproducing someone elses work (even with some minor changes), i'm not sure if we can be angry at any one group is all. They may be more blatant about their 'ripping off', but no-one is totally innocent in this either. It's like the Bill Gates/Steve Jobs scene in 'pirates of silicon valley' over the Xerox stuff.
    -- Brian

    Systems: Amstad PCW 8256, Apple IIe/II+/Mac+/Mac 512k, Atari 800/520STFM, Commodore 64/Amiga 3000/PET 4032/SX-64, IBM PS/1 2121-B82, Kaypro II, Osborne 1, Tandy 1000 SX, TI-99/4A, TRS-80 Model 4 GA

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