Some years ago I backed the Skydog router on Kickstarter. It’s a wifi router that promised to be easier to administer. Now, three years later, they’re shutting off the cloud service. They’re not opening the firmware, so my router is turning into a brick.
I’m sharing this here because I know it’s a fear people have about the Glowforge cloud ecosystem. It’s the reason that we made our open firmware announcement - so even in the very worst case, where Glowforge servers cease to exist, your investment will be protected.
Thank you Dan.
Any, ok- most of the anxiety I harbored melted away as I got deeper into your book.
Much clearer perspective on who you are and what you are capable of.
Your character wouldn’t allow you to leave your backers hanging, and still be comfortable with who you see in the mirror.
Yes this is Earth, and frequently the universe manifests a reality that collides with your best laid plans. You have seen it from The Hot Seat.
Your experience, and lessons you have taken like “The benefits of an early bankruptcy” reinforce my confidence in your abilities and character.
It is clear to many of us that you are doing your level best, and with that in mind, if the worst case scenario were to occur, I personally wouldn’t hold any animosity toward you.
The fact that you will provide a back door for us is comforting!
I take this to mean that if GF goes belly up, someone else has to step in and write up a GUI and sell it to the userbase. Keeping in mind that GF is a REALLY dumbed down CNC system and what I meant by that is that it is designed so someone with absolutely zero technical savvy can operate the unit. I’ll bet 99% of the GF owners would not have a clue what direction to head if GF went south. I also assume that is how GF has pierced into this tier of laser user (the 99% no tech savvy group), which until the GF approach (simple interface), did not even exist.
So to say, “hey, no problem, Glowforge firmware is user-flashable” may well be a boldly misleading statement as it has nothing to do with a user interface, it’s the code that allows the hardware to communicate with the user interface or a standalone GUI detached from the cloud. It’s like the TPP advocate motherhood statement that goes along the lines of. . . “we can’t afford not to be part of the TPP” and then just hope you don’t ask how that actually is the case.
Another good reason to develop relationships with the laser/software wizards here in the forum. In the event that Glowforge goes away, we are all 10,000 of us is going to need a support group!
Here’s what I predict. Immediately upon release of the first Glowforges, (and firmware), the maker community will get busy building a 3rd party controller and S/W. It might take a year. A 3rd party controller would provide basic (non cloud) functionality (probably without camera integration). So there would be a very dumbed down type of functionality to fall back on (think Chinese laser). Much of the fancy Glowforge capabilities would be lost because that is not in the firmware and has not been promised, but at least the laser cutter could function. Sorry if I just opened up a can of worms. I doubt the company will fail, more likely just get bought out. Hopefully we will never find out whether the future Glowforge will honor the current commitment.
And this is, of course, to protect us in the worst case scenario.
Translation: your laser will not become a brick. YAY!
Best case scenario… well, that’s also something to discuss, right?
I am in the target market of people that can’t program firmware or do user-flashable interfaces. I don’t understand TPP or any of that. But somebody does, and with 10,000 users and a solvent, viable GlowForge company, plus open firmaware, there is some security and goodness ahead. Right?
If memory serves, there was some talk about the GPL-ed GF maybe being able to run GRBL code. I’m aware of some CNC projects like Chilipeppr ( http://chilipeppr.com/ ) that provides a web-based GUI to mills, which typically runs on something like a Raspberry Pi and sending GRBL code to it. Even then, it isn’t a design tool, it’s more of a control panel.
Actually the fact that Glowforge listened to the concerns of the customers is why I decided to order. I don’t think I would have without the wonderful attentiveness that @dan and the @staff show the community.
Maybe I’ll think about playing with the firmware when I have my bigger and better Glowforge 2.
I assumed he meant that a Raspberry Pi, Arduino or custom board would need to be added as the controller. But yes an added motion controller is necessary. A local PC would need to provide user interface and higher level processing to convert the design to G-Code or something similar that the controller board would understand.
The glowforge does not have a motion controller onboard
How does it move then? It may not have motion planning, but it must have stepper control of some kind inside. I can’t imagine it solely has an h-bridge being controlled over the internet. Stepper control etc must be local, otherwise network latency would cause total havoc…
And there you have it in a nutshell, 99% of the GF owner’s eyes have just glazed over and they are thinking, “but, all I wanted to do was make some cool drink coaster with a picture of my cat on them. . .”
Reality is, if GF cloud service disappears, best case scenario is that 10,000 users have a very large brick sitting on the kitchen counter for a very long period of time. Whaaattttt?!!!
Some entrepreneurial coder and hardware types would have to either: a) band together and do a traditional CNC g-code solution requiring at a minimum a new controller board which would give them a shot at the 1% of the GF owners that are tech savvy enough to get into some full on CAD/CAM software OR, b) to get that shot at the 99%, they would have to do what the GF team is doing now for an interface except that it would be local not cloud based as who in there right mind would buy into a cloud solution if the one they just had vaporized into thin air.
This is a good discussion to get into, not because of any lack of confidence in the GF team, but rather a better “eye opener” understanding of what happens if the cloud solution fails to materialize for the long term.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again. . . Personally, I have 100% confidence in this team and this project.
Traditional motion controllers (GRBL, TinyG, Smoothie, Marlin, LinuxCNC (or MachineKit) & Mach3 all have the ability to output stepgen pulses required to move the steppers (specifically to tell the stepper drivers which direction and how long). The glowforge does not have this. The Glowforge ‘cloud’ create these and outputs a waveform in which the glowforge ‘plays’ locally. So think of a 10 channel MP3 (each channel is some form of I/O - i.e. one channel for X Axis Step, another channel for X Axis direction, another channel for PWM for the Laser, another channel for the exhaust fan etc…)
What you described is the stepper driver. Not the thing that tells the stepper drive what to do.
Yeah, not an easy task to create a cloud replacement. For people with out eyes glazed over, I seem to recall the cloud computes, not only a motion plan for moving the laser around to wave forms but also a cooling plan which I suspect are waveforms for fan speeds,in the pro the power supplied to the peltier, and possibly pump speed if that is not fixed.
I was at a Mini-Maker Faire on Sunday. It’s always interesting to notice that 80% of the booths are not developers of new products or tools but technical folks that were demonstrating their personal design for controlling a homemade robot, automating an antique teletype, building an insanely complex device for moving a marble from Point-A to Point-B. Why? Why not? They tinker because it’s fun. They build because it hasn’t been done before. Even if Glowforge continues to operate forever, I would bet someone in the maker community will attempt to provide that local control. Heck, I would try it myself if I had more time and a little less sense. Might never make it to a finished product but the design and geek level code will show up somewhere.