metro app is metro

I thought I’d share a couple screenshots of a web app I worked on a couple of months ago. I was cleaning up my computer’s Desktop space today and it made me smile, remembering the work that I’d done then.

I doubt if I’ll continue the project since I’m now working on something new.

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The site was to be a code-learning area for kids. The requirements for not using/saving personal data was the reason for the interesting username behavior shown above. Usernames are combinations of adjective-noun and passwords then are combinations of color + icon.

quadcopters and me

[Apologies for my infrequent posts here lately but this should explain why.]

On the day I purchased my 3D printer, I also bought a print-it-yourself quadcopter kit. It was technically a mistake on my part because the designs in the kit aren’t compatible at all with the 3D printer which was literally kiosk’d together and a mere foot from each other, suggesting otherwise. So the kit’s been sitting here for a full year now.

Rawr…!

I design things. I should be able to design a quadcopter myself. Having been a former software development contractor for the actual company which sells and distributes these kits I can say with 100% transparency: they have no evidence of one of these quadcopters ever successfully taking to the sky. It never worked as designed.

So I’m designing a radically-new quadcopter. I knew a few things about flying since I was in the Air Force once upon a time. It took a few iterations for the propeller mounts but that part is now perfected and the four printed/assembled.

Next up, the enclosures for each propeller had to be created. I spent a fair amount of time on this stage and have the sixteen related parts all printed; they look great.

Sourcing Parts

I may need to source and replace the underlying controller board which would normally go into the copter itself. I note that the “new” part in my kit shows signs of having four strands of LEDs soldered, then summarily clipped off at the board. This is not a new part at all. Initial testing shows me that it doesn’t respond to the remote. I must assume that the vendor who sourced the parts to the aforementioned company just packaged in used/refurbished materials. They must have assumed that nobody would be the wiser.

I note that the “new” part in my kit shows signs of having four strands of LEDs soldered, then summarily clipped off at the board. This is not a new part at all.

Step by Step…

All in all, it’s coming along well. It’s a sexy beast and I’ve got things modular enough to be able to tweak it later when the need arises.

Sorry that there are no pictures but I’m in stealth mode on this one.

autodesk fusion 360

The new Robo C2 comes with a one-year trial of CAD software which appears to be none other than the probably-expensive Autodesk Fusion 360.  It looks like it allows you to design a part, engineer & simulate forces as well as to create tool paths (slice) a part for 3D printing, for example.  I’ve been attempting to use the open-sourced FreeCAD but the learning curve has been slow for me and I’ve run into some Mac-related bugs when attempting to create a screw thread, unfortunately.  So I hope to give this trial software some of my attention to see if I can design some parts.

AutodeskFusion360

First Thoughts

Wow.  It’s just a beautiful interface.  It starts things up with a clean working space set in a useful 3D perspective.

Because of the barren space they’re trying to create, Autodesk has pushed the typical  File -> Open commands off into a hidden panel.  It’s that tic-tac-toe menu icon in the upper left.  Opening this, I’m guessing that there is some kind of change control software running since they have indicators for “master” (branch), View Project History, Branch / Merge Options, Upload files from your desktop.  So perhaps they store all your files in a cloud-based repository, if I’m guessing correctly.  Additionally, there is built-in support for team members.

From what I’m seeing, there are no example files typical of a design program.  Still within the Data Panel, pressing what I thought was a “back” triangle, I’m now seeing a different collection of options:  My Recent Data, Demo Project, My First Project and then under Samples, Basic Training, CAM Samples, Design Samples, Simulation Samples and finally, Workshops & Events.  So I was wrong in suggesting that there are no samples, they’re just an Easter Egg within the interface.  Double-clicking Design Samples includes three very-sexy designs:  bike frame, lamp and utility knife.  I’m bringing in the lamp.

Viewing a Part

It takes a bit to learn Autodesk’s methods of changing viewpoint but I think I’ve got it.  By interacting with that cube in the upper-right corner, this is how you can quickly move around your part.  Note that clicking the little home symbol returns to the original perspective.  Click a labelled face of the cube, go to that perspective.  Grab and move the corner of the cube and you have the usual behavior in most 3D programs when you grab-and-move the part itself.  It feels like they only want you to click on the part when doing a selection process, so that’s probably a good idea to separate the two activities.

LampPerspective

Selecting Something (a Sketch) to Modify

Looks like their basic building block is a Sketch (a 2D drawing) so when I click on the top of the lamp’s base, this sketch is selected.  Now that it’s highlighted, I’m clicking the Modify icon in the Toolbar.

Modify

Attempting to do a Physical Material replace didn’t seem to work for me.  The method appears to be to click on the top of the base, then shift-click each of the other two parts, then right-click to bring up a contextual menu, choosing Appearance from there.  I then changed the material to a gray aluminum.

Aluminum

A mere ten minutes into it and without reverting to Google searches for answers, I’ve managed to do something in here.  That’s seriously better than my results from FreeCAD.

Price

Okay, so I just had to know how much this would cost me after the trial period.  It’s $40/month as a month-to-month subscription or $25/month if paid up-front annually ($300/year).  That’s probably worth it if you do this for a living.  Is it worth it for a standard hobbyist/maker?  That’s a tough call.  You usually end up spending your money on the hardware and consumables, to be honest.

I think Autodesk needs a notch in their software for the new world of amateurs who need to design parts.  Certainly, their three-year trial for students is awesome but that doesn’t help the rest of us who aren’t commercial.

Overall Thoughts

I guess I’ll need to go into crunch mode this year and to produce most of the 3D designs that I had in mind.  But I will circle back after one project and see if it exports nicely for other (free) softwares out there.  Otherwise, you’d be stuck in Autodesk’s business model and that sounds a bit expensive in the long haul.