I’ll be on board with this. I did install DD-WRT in a Linksys router once upon a time. It was one of my first ventures into Linux. This type of open source software model for existing hardware would be a similar project. It will require some new skills, but we have a great user base that will make it happen, should need arise. Fascinating about the Skydog. Kudos to Dan for naming the elephant in the room here.
@karaelena I wasn’t aware they were taking ALL driver control out of the equation… but by doing that they’ve only radically simplified the stepper motion control, they haven’t eliminated it completely. A better quote from Dan would have been:
Chilipeppr relies on two processors: a TinyG (or Atmel 328 running Grbl) for the G-Code interpretation, motion planning and stepper control… and a RPi for the user-friendly web-based front-end.
Skipping to using a (insert real-time OS embedded PC here, because timing is critical) doesn’t have to be responsive to end-users except through a BBB (blinking blue button) for the most part. There’s no reason such a setup couldn’t, say, translate G-code into motion control and then process the output as well once it’s done… IF GF were to flop. But I’m optimistic that’s a big ‘if’.
As we have no glowforge in our basement/garage/workshop/bedroom, we need to speculate about something. And speculating about this is a fun mental exercise. However, as they sold a s-ton of glowforges,and assuming they deliver what was promised, there is virtually nothing to actually worry about. Even if Glowforge management makes an extra concerted effort to screw up the business end of things, the user base is already plenty large enough that someone would buy the company’s assets.
Now, ten, twenty years down the road, when we have nanobot based fabricators, this could be an issue. But that’s the problem with old stuff.
That’s actually the only thing that gives me any concern. If Glowforge is too successful then some larger totally profit driven company will buy them out, or more importantly the technology/patents. What is the incentive or legal requirement for a new owner to continue support for the early sales? PowerCloud Systems didn’t shut down Skydog. Comcast bought them out for the technology and then shut down support for Skydog. Now I fully expect to totally fry my several year old Glowforge and move on to an improved product before any of that will happen but it’s still something to think about.
Being really successful and selling your company would not exactly run contrary to the start-up philosophy. But the question is what are the motives of the buyer? Would a buyer start selling annual subscription services to the cloud interface? I would not be surprised, but my response was to DIY’ing software and board controllers to keep tens of thousands of abandoned glowforges functional because the company couldn’t make a go of it. Discussing the unrealized fears of Glowforge being too successful - there is a topic ripe to drive Dan nuts.
Companies certainly get shut down all the time by buyers. I just don’t see that as likely in this space: to small and fragmented. But who knows, companies do crazy things. What I do suspect is that after pre-selling $28 million in 30 days, Universal, Trotec, etc… are trying to figure out what way is up and someone at at least one power tool manufacturer and maybe a company like Danaher is running numbers.
Of course the motivation for the acquisition would be profit, but care would be needed to develop a model that would not alienate the existing customers.
I have no idea of the resources required to develop the cloud based control, but a small dedicated crew (with money) managed to accomplish it.
I think a disenchanted customer base of 10,000 could be motivated to replicate and support it.
We nave the backbone of that organization right here, populated with compassionate craftspeople who count engineers and legal talent among their numbers.
A salute to @jdodds for throwing this issue on the table and bringing it into clear focus, but like him, I have faith in the founders vision.
I doubt any one of the them would be content to see greed sink its teeth into their baby and rag-doll it to death.
My perspective may be naive and overly optimistic, but I prefer that to worry and pessimism.
pessimistic - being prematurely disappointed in the future.
This thread is sobering. I’m like @rpegg’s philosophy: laser like there is no tomorrow and hope for the best!
Good to know that this backup plan is in place. People who prepare for the worst with backup plans tend to succeed, and so the fact that you have considered this possibility speaks well of you.
Long live GF!
In order to run a glowforge without the glowforge site itself, it would be possible to make a simple premade kit for people to use that included a raspberry pi interceptor that would act as a wireless access point which would redirect the glowforge to whatever site we put together to provide the necessary waveforms. Encoding movement into waveforms is something that is pretty commonly done, so it wont be the major hurdle here.
How they are encoding/decoding the waveforms would be the first concern I have. The encryption of the waveforms could be a stumbling block if they are using a key we dont have access to. This could cause us to have to modify the firmware. If its a standard encryption/compression scheme we can just implement that and move on to the next phase which is determining how homing, power levels, focusing, and any other small nuances of the glowforge work. Once that is figured out we have the base for using software that exists on the market currently to provide standard laser cutter functionality.
Implementing support for the cameras would be a whole separate ballpark. We dont even know what spectrums their cameras are working with yet, much less how they are interpreting that, so reverse engineering that would be quite a large piece to bite off. I think getting the standard functionality out the door first would be enough to at least keep people from rioting in the streets.
I would hope they are using https or TLS and rejecting any site with an invalid/inappropriate/self signed certificate. Could make an intercept very tricky.
Had to stop myself from responding with a long technical back and forth. Keeping it at a high level… I’m hoping that some simpler subset of the cloud control could be reverse engineered from understanding the firmware and ported by the community to run on a standard PC. Otherwise we would still be dependent on external site control. Of course the promised firmware would need to be source code with at least inline documentation and not just a digital file to have a starting point.
I’m just going to throw this out there for discussion sake… I look forward to reading the criticisms.
That would be the great thing about an intercept board. it would prevent (hopefully) the need to modify the firmware, and would allow forwarding to any place you like, or even allow you to have a switch to choose from different functionality portals. e.g. a community run site that has certain features, or point it to something on your local network like a pc or another device designated to generate waveforms.
This would be what I would prefer if I was doing work on it, as I could switch back and forth between the two.
Here is the way im seeing it working, if we can do it without re-writing the firmware.
I dont know this for sure, but I feel like there is quite a bit of specialized hardware onboard for dealing with the PSU which might not be easily replaceable. So throwing out the logic board that is in there right now might not be an option. We might just have to trick in into thinking its doing exactly what its supposed to be doing by faking the source of its information, as long as they dont have some special ignition key built into it. if youre reading this glowforge team… please dont make an ignition key =P. haha.
Well if the RPi diamond in your diagram acted as both an unaltered pass-thru for the GF Google cloud and as it’s own G-code motion encoder, that’s another possibility too.
i know that the raspberry pi can currently be used as a DNS controller and as a gCode sender or motion controller, so hopefully it could supply everything the glowforge needs when the rest is compiled on a local machine or community server. Assuming there isnt anything holding the glowforge hardware into proprietary space besides the firmware pointing to their servers, I think this could be a marketable solution to those that are not hacker savvy if the glowforge servers were to ever go offline.
Yeah, leaving the GF hardware and most if not all of the firmware unchanged with control through the existing WiFi seems to be the best approach. Haven’t really thought too much about how we spoof the GF into thinking our control is legit. There are too many unknowns but none of it seems be technologically difficult. I would be surprised if a H/W security feature/key is implemented so reflashing of firmware to circumvent any such handshaking, if it exists, might be possible.
Inspiring when a group of capable intellects are brought to bear on an idea!
I would hope they are not. This will just make us hacking it more difficult. Someone targeting glowforges as a malicious hack seems pretty useless, especially since you have to push the button to start it.
I take my last post back to a degree, you could do some funny stuff with that… I might be shooting us in the collective foot here, but if somehow I was able to live stream from the lid camera and hack my glowforge to draw a dickbutt when my girlfriend thought something else was going to come out when she hit the button, it would be pretty funny. especially if it would keep streaming as they openend the lid so you could see their expression as they picked up the freshly cut dickbutt! hahahaha