Hackaday Links: February 28, 2021

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In an announcement that came as a surprise to few, NASA now says that landing humans on the Moon by 2024 is no longer likely. Acting administrator Steve Jurczyk lays the blame at the feet of Congress, for failing to provide the funds needed for Human Landing Systems development, a critical step needed to meet the aggressive overall timeline. The announcement doesn’t mark the end of the Artemis program; in fact, NASA is continuing to work on a realistic timeline for getting boots back on the lunar surface, and a decision on which of the three submitted proposals for a lunar lander will be further developed should be coming in the next few months. As far as we can see, this is simply an adjustment to the original timeline for a landing, but given the stunning recent success of Perseverance showing just what robots can do, we’d expect pushback from some quarters on the need for human exploration.

The entry-level 3D design market was thrown into considerable turmoil last year when Autodesk changed the licensing terms for its flagship Fusion 360 package. Hobbyists who had been enjoying relatively unfettered access to the powerful suite chafed at the new restrictions, leaving many to threaten to jump ship, apparently without much thought given to the dearth of alternative products. That may be changing now that Dassault Systèmes has announced two new versions of SolidWorks aimed at the maker and student segments. The Makers offer is intended for hobbyists who want to design for benchtop manufacturing methods like 3D-printing. The Students offer is aimed at engineering and design students looking to gain experience with the tools they’ll be expected to have mastered by the time they enter the job market. It looks like the Makers offer will be at least partly contingent on the interest expressed by the community, so you might want to make your feeling know on the subject. If the Makers edition comes to pass in the second half of this year, it will likely target a $99/year price point.

We stumbled upon an interesting YouTube series the other day that stirred the creative juices. We all probably remember the first time we learned about the Mandelbrot set, the fractal number set that looks something like a lumpy kidney bean and continues to do so no matter how far you zoom into it. The image may be complex but the math behind it is simple enough to implement in software that it’s often done as an exercise for CS students and other unfortunates. But implementing a Mandelbrot set generator in logic is possible too, which WildEngineering did in this video series. Rather than implement this as discrete logic gates, he used a neat logic simulator called Digital, which looks like a handy tool to learn all by itself. The Mandelbrot generator concepts are really instructive too, and it sure seems like the next logical step would be to gather the needed 74xx-series chips and start breadboarding. We’d love to give it a whirl ourselves, but won’t be heartbroken if someone beats us to it.

If it sometimes appears that we at Hackaday get a little frustrated with the comments section of the articles we write, rest assured that we know that we have the best readers on the planet, hands down. Where the toxicity of other corners of the Internet is often unbearable, our readers truly do make this a fabulously collaborative environment, on the whole.

In fact, some commenters even go so far as to basically write their own articles in response to one of ours, and when that happens we like to point it out. The article that spawned the effort was Kristina Panos’ excellent “What If I Never Make Version Two?”, a recent piece that dips a toe into the psychology of hacking. Peter Walsh picks up on the theme with his Hackaday.io page entitled “The Psychology of Version Two”, which we really enjoyed. After a brief look at the neurochemistry of happiness, Peter dives into some “brain hacks” to assess the need for a version 2. There are some great tips, and we really enjoyed both the original article and Peter’s response.

22 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: February 28, 2021

  1. Heh, at this rate, Virgin Galactic will be selling tickets for a special space tourist jaunt to watch “NASA’s historic return to the moon” by getting 20 ppl there on commercial boosters and greeting the NASA lander when it touches down.

  2. This is Pete, author of the Blog post mentioned in the “links” article above.

    I’m considering a series of blog posts discussing the psychology of being a maker. I’ve got 3 entries so far.


    I’m interested in alternative viewpoints and general discussion (added to the linked articles).

  3. “If the Makers edition comes to pass in the second half of this year, it will likely target a $99/year price point.”
    Uhm… No. It’s nice to have such a powerful tool as Solidworks available for hobbyists at an affordable price, but the subscription brings an unpleasant deja-vu of Fusion360 and their change of terms leaving many makers either forced to spend a lot of money for a commercial license, or being cut off from the tool they relied on.
    I understand that the company has to protect their business, but I will rather use a less capable tool, without worrying that one day the company will decide to completely gut my subscription.

    1. Your money, your choice. I respect that.

      I suspect that you’ll be stuck in the mud on your high horse though, watching as everyone else just gets on with it and races ahead.

      I get it, I really do. I used the free version of Eagle for years, hitting the limits frequently. I looked at alternatives, but just couldn’t get on with them. I looked at the cheaper Eagle license, but saw limitations there too. Then I started looking at 3D CAD too; Solidworks, Fusion 360 and the like. Not wanting to spend big money, I got to know FreeCAD quite well.

      Then after a couple of years helping with a school robotics team, I had an epiphany. Solidworks and Autodesk already have student versions, thus a crib to office pipeline. If you’re on a First Robotics team, or studying engineering at any decent college, you already have access built into your fees. There is no compelling reason for anyone in those fields to look anywhere else for a free first hit. The community knowledge surrounding those tools is absolutely massive, and that translates into support. If the help manuals and the video trainings fail to answer your question, chances are that someone on youtube already succeeded.

      Those tools are complex and powerful. The development is expensive, and the maker/free versions are a loss-leader in that regard. I just don’t see Open Source competing any time soon.

      The question is, what value do I place upon such a tool? Or for that matter, any tool? I could spend $400 a month renting a lawnmower that can only cut grass, if I were so inclined. I came to the conclusion that the 3 year Fusion/Eagle bundle when on sale, wasn’t such a bad deal.

      1. Horses run faster if they have no cart attached to them. And this will happen with your projects, once you loose acces to the software which created them.
        As I said, the commercial software is very powerful. And that’s great. But as a hobbyist I don’t see any justification to spend $$$ each month just to have access to them. This is the biggest disadvantahe of cloud-based licensing, and this was my point. You buy a lawnmover – you own it forever. You rent software on monthly basis – you are at the mercy of the publisher.

      2. That’s not the point they’re making.

        The issue is what happens when you have a significant number of projects using the product and (inevitably) the company decides it no longer wants to provide it, or decides to change the terms of the agreement to remove features you critically depend upon? You could very easily find your data held ransom for a significant sum of money, or be forced to lose access to it altogether. If you’re not paying full price, you’re risking everything you make using it.

        If instead you are able to use a free CAD tool to do all that work, even if it’s nowhere near as capable as the professional tool, then that risk evaporates.

    2. Several years ago I was soured on Solidworks when we had an academic subscription to it at my hackerspace. Everything was pretty cool and all, people enjoyed the fact we had it and used it for our projects until one day Dassault sent us a threatening legal letter and email demanding damages totaling up more that we even pulled in through member dues in an entire year.

      They had stated basically that our IP was logged as having an unauthorized copy of Solidworks in use at our location and they were seeking reconciliation and reimbursement for the ‘damages’ we caused them. Very confused we made sure our subscriptions had not expired and that everything was current on the lab computers. Wanting to deal with this the right way we contacted their lawyers and that’s when what I can only describe as a multi month shit show was started. We were thinking at first we were incorrectly flagged. After much mucking about, asking our members, and looking through our firewall logs we were able to trace it back to someone who had joined our public Wi-Fi who must have had a pirated copy of a Solidworks program, which then phoned home to them, and then they tagged us as not being in compliance and stuck their lawyers on our case.

      The law firm didn’t seem to understand technology or the fact we were not going to police our own public Wi-Fi, scan everyone’s personal computer before allowing them to join, or give them the name of ‘the responsible party’.

      We decided as good as the program was and the fact we felt the academic price we paid was worth it to have a program that people were familiar with, that the whole experience with their lawyers and their terrible attitude towards us was more than enough for us to uninstall the software from all our official machines and cancel our subscriptions.

      From then on we’ve requested people not to even run Solidworks on their personal computers if they are connecting to our network, updated our terms of use for the wifi, tightened up our firewall to block several of their domains, and we’d probably not even run it if it were given to us for free. It’s just not worth the hassle.

      We understand the need to protect your own intellectual property, but we are also not your personal software pirate police force and we expect a software company to understand that like Starbucks, we have little control over the software loadout or lifestyle of someone who joins our public Wi-Fi network has.

      Their intention was to protect their software, but what they did instead was turn an avid advocate of their software into one which to this day encourages that one speak Voldemort’s name rather than using or mentioning the cursed software. Not sure if anyone else was hit by this, but it was extremely frustrating.

      1. Meet the new boss.
        Same as the old boss.

        How many times do we have to learn this lesson? If you give someone else power over your creativity, they WILL bite you.

      2. While it sounds like it was a long and uncomfortable journey, I respect that you followed through and dumped their software. Too many people seem to shrug their shoulders and simply accept mistreatment from software vendors.

        I’ve heard great things about solidworks and at my old job the engineers said it was great. But no way am I going to give them a penny, or contribute to their market share by even trying to pirate it.

        I haven’t outgrown Freecad yet, and it is unlikely I ever will, given how it keeps getting better and better! So far I haven’t run into anything that Freecad _can’t_ do. Sure, sometimes it requires a different workflow, but so does any other cad package.

  4. “As far as we can see, this is simply an adjustment to the original timeline for a landing, but given the stunning recent success of Perseverance showing just what robots can do, we’d expect pushback from some quarters on the need for human exploration.”

    3D printers on the moon. Now there would be a step.

    “If it sometimes appears that we at Hackaday get a little frustrated with the comments section of the articles we write, rest assured that we know that we have the best readers on the planet, hands down. ”

    And a superpower to do delete like no other. Never underestimate that.

    1. “we’d expect pushback from some quarters on the need for human exploration.”

      Maybe that’s why everyone is so excited about Ingenuity – an RC toy (although an expensive one) on Mars.

      I mean, come on – it’s a small helicopter that was dropped there by a SPACE SHIP that has evolved over the last 75 years or so. And we’re getting excited over the helicopter? Well, I know _I_ am, but really, it’s a PR disaster if they can’t make the effing SPACE SHIP the main attraction.

      Robots doing exploration is little more than simulation. Sure, we push the boundaries, and even if we never go there, hey, we have a plan for bringing some of those rocks back to us. AAAAAACK! It’s model planes, compared with FLYING. Yeah, that model airplane costs a lot less than an airplane and the training it takes to operate it safely, but does that POV display really compare with … … FLYING?????

      Hey, the Mars missions have been getting better and better, but they are nothing if not preparation for ACTUALLY GOING THERE. Elon Musk may be wrong about many things, but he’s not wrong about THAT.

      Do you want AI to do the rest of the exploration in our future? Because that’s a dead end. If it’s AI, it’s not OUR future.

  5. First sentences: “3D CAD software provider Dassault Systèmes has announced the launch of two new software packages on its 3DEXPERIENCE platform.

    SOLIDWORKS for Makers (available H2 2021) and SOLIDWORKS for Students…”

    3Dexperience ≠ Solidworks. 3Dexperience has been available for companies for about €400 per license per year for a good while now, yet most continue to buy the full fat SW license at anywhere from 4k to 15k plus service costs. Student versions of SW have been near free for at least 15 years.

    I’ve used SW for about 12 years, near daily for most of those 12. when i started my own business in summer last year, I tried many other CAD packages, including Inventor (about 600/year, can’t get used to it), Solidface ($89/year, protection rackets are more back for the buck and easier to get rid of), Fusion360 (way to limited for my use), CATIA (fancy AF, arrogant as a program can be, unaffordable unless your a defense contractor), NX (Siemens, AKA limited, outdated, arrogant, overpriced) and indeed 3DEx. in the end I ended up biting the bullet and wrung the dealers arm to only pay 3k7 for SW. I accept this is largely because I’ve lived and been moulded by SW’s foibles for many years, and get headaches when i see models in perspective.

    I advise anyone looking into 3Dex to look into Inventor, it’s damn near the same price and much more capable for most things. If you just want some program to make STL’s stick with Fusion. Autodesk is not that ebil compared to others, yes subscriptions are a PITA, but you get a standalone program that does 90% of what 99% of users want to do. If you need (some) surfacing, real parametric design, dynamic assemblies, CFD and FEM that are good enough for development, get SW. If you need rock solid trees, nice curvature control and such, and you have unicorn that poops gold, get CATIA.

    1. Sorry, Autodesk ruined Eagle, and seem hell bent on turning Instructables into “community written support for Autodesk products and no mention of other software is allowed.”

      It’s your money and your choice, and I respect that. My choice is not to give those jerks any of my money, ever.

      Thanks for pointing out the difference between 3dexoerience annd solidworks though :-)

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