I'm on a few emailing lists. I'm not sure about your lists, but each of mine always has at least one person I like to call an open-source fundamentalist (OSF).
You know the sort of person I mean. Whenever anybody says, "I have found X, and it is really neat," the OSF's reply is "Bah! It doesn't work on Linux!" If it does work on Linux, the OSF's reply is "Bah! But they don't publish their API!" If the API is published, then we hear, "Bah! They don't publish their source code!" If they do publish the code, it's "Bah! It's not under an open license!" And if it is under an open license, it's "Bah! That license is no good." And on and on.
Take the Raspberry Pi, a cheap-as-chips ARM-based Linux system based on the Broadcom BCM2835 system-on-chip (SoC). It uses an unconventional boot process: A hidden processor within the SoC loads its firmware from the SD card. Once booted, the hidden processor loads the main ARM processor's boot image into memory and lets the ARM processor loose.
The true OSF will reject the Raspberry Pi because it has closed-source components. Here's a comment from Andrew in the Element14 forums: "Can we just set the record straight: it is not open source hardware -- the schematics and/or Gerber files etc. are not provided and made available under a suitably liberal licence."
Being a pragmatic person, I would have thought FPGAs would be the OSF's nirvana. You can have the full design for your entire system, including the CPU and peripherals -- all laid bare for you to use and improve. What more could one hope for? This isn't pie in the sky. It's all real right now. For example, the OpenRISC core exists and is included in the Linux 3.1 kernel.
Strangely enough, this still isn't good enough for the hard core (pun intended) OSF. The familiar cries are heard once again: The EDA tools don't run on Linux, the EDA tools are not open-source, no open-source synthesis tools exist, the FPGA configuration files are closed, some of the IP modules are closed-source, and so on.
I struggle to reconcile how the same people who laud the Arduino for its "openness" would deride FPGA projects such as the AVR8 processor core by saying the required EDA tools are not open.
My blood boils! Do OSFs have the Gerber files for their laptop PCBs? Do they have the source code to their laptop's BIOS? Do they have the RTL code for their CPU or graphics chips?
I think open-source fundamentalists should embrace projects like OpenCores.org, OpenRISC, Papilio, ZPU, and others. These projects are bringing true openness to the hardware arena, even though they rely on EDA toolchains that may be shrouded in mystery.
I see OSFs as being the sort of people who can discuss over a steak dinner how they could never kill animals for food. They just don't want to get their hands dirty. They should drink a big cup of cement, buy an FPGA board, and start building their open-source world one module at a time!