Back in 2013 we looked at the Solid Concepts gun that was 3D printed using the SLS process. That is very cool, but also a very expensive bit of kit. While it is not SLS, there is a new option that looks to bring 3D metal printing to a more affordable price point. The Mini Metal Maker extrudes a metallic clay while printing. After the print, the object is heated to temperatures between 600° and 900° C, causing the binding agent of the clay to melt away as the metal particles are sintered together. And it is going to do all this for around $2K.
The fly in the ointment, if there is one, is the resolution. In plastics, even the $349 PrintBot Simple can print at 100 microns, and the more expensive units get even finer. The Mini Metal Maker is still at 250 microns. That’s a big difference. For now. One would guess that fine detail will only improve as the process matures. You can read more about the Mini Metal Maker at their indiegogo campaign.
We were talking about the future of 3D printing the other day and I was curious to know what the state of modeling tools for the novice is. I downloaded Sketchup and had a quick look around my desk. I found a processor cap and set about trying to recreate it in 3D. That’s the result of a rather quick run at it up above (click it to see the whole thing). It was surprisingly simple. A few peeks at the manual and a couple Google searches and I had a reasonable accurate representation.
Granted, not a lot of home users have a pressing need for processor caps, but it does illustrate that the software exists for the average user to make their own parts. Add in the continually expanding collections of downloadable models that are ready to be printed and you can see that this could be a very big deal. It will be exciting to watch what happens in the 3D space in the next few years as prices come down and the quality of the software continues to improve.
The internet of things does promise some great conveniences and technology in the future, but that doesn’t come without some worries. As mentioned in our earlier post, security is the thing. And here comes 60 Minutes and DARPA to illustrate that to great effect.
It seems that researchers at DARPA have demonstrated that by taking advantage of a weakness in the OnStar system, they can insert malicious code and gain control of a vehicle. The most frightening part of that is that they were able to take control of the accelerator and brakes. Think about that the next time you are driving.
That is the big highlight quote from this article in the Wall Street Journal about Cyanogen. CEO Kirt McMaster said just that. Knowing only that, the logical response is, ‘Good luck with that!’ But is there actually reason to think this is a real possibility? Could Cyanogen actually compete with Google as more than a niche/hobbyist offering?
In a word, yes. It is still a bit of a longshot. Google is, after all, still Google. They have all the resources, and plenty of incentive, to keep the status quo. But that Wallstreet Journal article also contains another interesting bit of news. In a recent round of funding, one of the investors in Cyanogen is Microsoft. That certainly alters the perspective, doesn’t it?
What Cyanogen really needs in order to compete is to be the shipping OS on more phones. The average user is just not going to go through the hassle of replacing their Google version of Android with Cyanogen. Being able to point you your pal Microsoft can only help when those deals are being negotiated. They already have a few such deals. If this latest round of funding means the skids are greased a bit as they work out more and bigger deals, then what we are saying is, they’ve got a shot.
There have been tons of incredible LEGO sets in the past, but this latest, the Shield Helicarrier, still inspires awe and wonder. The little image up there really doesn’t do it justice. Click it to see the big hi-res version and marvel at what they’ve created.
Of course, giant amazing sets don’t come cheap. According to Brickset, the Helicarrier will set you back a cool $349.99. What do you get for your $350? Here’s a breakdown from the LEGO press release.
Includes 5 minifigures: Nick Fury, Black Widow, Captain America, Hawkeye and Maria Hill, plus an iconic SHIELD eagle stand to display them on
Features 3 microscale Quinjets, 3 fighter jets, a gasoline truck, 2 forklift trucks, 2 runways, 4 road blockades, armored exterior with translucent elements, detailed interior, plus 12 microfigures (Nick Fury, Hawkeye, Captain America, Iron Man and 8 SHIELD agents)
Also includes a detailed runway
Weapons include Hawkeye’s bow, Black Widow’s gun and Captain America’s shield
SHIELD Agent Maria Hill minifigure is new for spring 2015!
Includes a plaque with facts about The SHIELD Helicarrier
Add lights and spinning rotors to the Helicarrier with the 88000, 8883 and 8870 LEGO® Power Functions sets (sold separately)
Rotors can also be turned manually
Includes a display stand
For even more detail, check out the video.
While the realization of the possibilities of the Internet Of Things is still years away, we are well on our way down the path. With every industry showcase or tech conference comes another batch of internet connected devices. As of this year, there are 25 billion connected devices. By 2020, it’s estimated that there will be 50 billion. Our technological future is, as ever, in a state of flux. From 30,000 feet, it’s exciting. Imagine all the wonderful things all of these devices are going to be able to do. The reality of it all is not all candy and nuts.
As with all things internet, the rubber meets the road with security. With the number of devices connected to the global network set to explode, those problems only get that much more complicated. The FTC has released a report, Privacy And Security In A Connected World, that is well worth a read for anyone interested in where our digital lives are headed.
The internet, and how we use it, are both fascinating things. It is in a constant state of flux. Things come and go. What was the standard yesterday, may be forgotten tomorrow. And you never really know what that next big thing will be. The information superhighway is littered with the bones of once great services and applications (Posterous, twitpic, Google Reader). Of course, not everything just shuts down. Some services continue on, a shadow of what they once were (Livejournal, Myspace).
The current leaders in the social space are easily twitter and facebook. But you have to assume that it is at least possible that they could suffer this same fate. What could be next? Have a look at ello. facebook has been having a bit of a revolt over their recent announcement that they are going to start shutting down accounts that are not using real names. This is particularly problematic for performers, who have an account under a stage name. It seems to have been a bit of a perfect storm for ello, as many people are now heading there to at least give the service a try as a facebook alternative.
As you can see in the screenshot of my account up top, it is very minimalist. There is no advertising. And they are clearly marketing themselves as the anti-facebook. Here is the pitch you’ll find on their website before you sign up:
| Your social network is owned by advertisers.
Every post you share, every friend you make and every link you follow is tracked, recorded and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.
We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.
We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce and manipulate — but a place to connect, create and celebrate life.
You are not a product.
It is a noble idea. And it is easy to see how people that are growing ever-more annoyed with the antics of facebook would embrace it. The fly in the ointment, as always, is whether or not it will be adopted en masse. Google + is great, but I rarely use it because it just doesn’t have the user base that facebook does. The people and organizations I want to interact with are not there. Now, we wait to see if ello can crack that particular nut, or if they are just another interesting idea that comes and goes.
Chances are you have seen a lot of ice bucket challenge videos recently. After all of that, we can now declare a winner, and it’s an adorable English munchkin.
If you would like the backstory on how this all came to be, check out this story on Mirror.
I like to think that I’m plugged in to the goings on of the internet and our digital world, but occasionally something comes along and you have just missed the boat. Such is the case with Nextdoor. In case you also didn’t know, nextdoor is a social network, with a particular restriction. When you join, you verify your address, and you are placed in your neighborhood. So you are only interacting with your neighbors.
Today was the first time I had even heard about it, but it seems there are already nearly 40,000 neighborhoods using it. And a quick trip through the signup process shows me that there are already 111 members in my neighborhood. I’m sure the content varies wildly depending on the neighborhood. In my sleepy little burg, you’ll find things like printers for sale, babysitters wanted, questions about whether the internet is down for everyone else, and someone looking for a good mechanic.
You can also look just at specific posts in a number of categories: Classifieds, Crime & Safety, Documents, Free Items, Lost & Found, Recommendations. I’m happy to report that my neighborhood is looking pretty safe according to nextdoor. And just a bit surprised to learn that I have access to free horse manure. It’s a really interesting idea. The wonder of the internet and the modern social networks is how it allows us to be connected with people across vast geographical ranges. The fly in that ointment though, is that it occasionally comes at the cost of the connections in our near vacinity. This is a very clever way to approach that.
If you grew up watching sports in the 90s or the 00s, chances are you know the name Tom Emanski. The commercials for his baseball fundamentals videos were ubiquitous. The most famous of those was the one you see above, featuring the Crime Dog, Fred McGriff (who should totally be in the Hall Of Fame. It’s not a difficult leap, given how long those commercials ran, to think that the video series was very successful. Possibly more successful than you would even imagine. Fox Sports has a great article on the history of Emanski, that covers how the video series came to be.
There are some very interesting numbers included in there. The first video was released in 1986, and the commercials ran until 2007. What’s more, even though the commercials stopped, you can still order those same videos today. Amusingly, while they were eventually upgraded to DVD, you can also still get them in the OG VHS. Perhaps the most surprising number is how much Emanski paid ESPN for all of those commercial spots (estimated at over 50,000 airings). Up front, nothing. When the videos started, ESPN was not the sports juggernaut it is today. Because of that, Emanski was able to make a deal where ESPN would get a percentage of each video sold through the commercial.
The aftermath to the whole story is different as well. After becoming a household name in baseball, Emanski effectively disappeared from public view, leading to some wild internet rumors about where he may have ended up. The truth is less exciting, but his story is still completely fascinating.