All posts in “Software”

The OverLord ProPlus is a 3D printer for making really tall objects


Most 3D printers have a fairly small build envelope. The Makerbot, which is one of the biggest for home use, offers 29.5 L X 19.5 W X 16.5 H CM and others hover around that range. The $499 OverLord ProPlus, on the other hand, has a cylindrical build volume of 17 by 26 cm which means you can print surprisingly long and surprisingly tall objects with this wacky delta arm printer.

A delta arm printer uses three belts that drive the print head on all axes. A central filament spool hangs out on top of the machine and you print onto a round heated bed. It prints gcode files which means you have to use a program like Cura – an open source modeller – to spit out the right code. Ordinarily this would be a deal breaker for me as I like to have a dedicated piece of software for each printer but, thanks to the work of the 3D printing community, tools like Cura have become increasingly easier to use.

The printer will cost $1,059 after Early Bird pricing.

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To print you simply download a model, set up Cura with the OverLord’s specific site and height, and then run the slicer. Simple shapes take about an hour to print and a massive Tower of Pi I downloaded took about 27 hours.

Crowdfunded printers like this one have often gotten a bad rap which is why I asked to see it before the end of the campaign. The model I tested worked perfectly out of the box with minimum setup and no calibration and I was able to print a few objects from the included 1GB SD card. At $499 this printer is definitely a bargain – similar ones can be had for about as much but none with the tall, wide build envelope of the OverLord. The units will ship in June if they hit their goal of $50,000 in 13 days.

I can’t attest to the support or reliability of this machine yet but the company has produced a delta arm model before with positive results. Again, buyer beware but I haven’t seen much here not to like.

Who should buy this? I could see this as a good printer for artists who are trying to make longer, taller things like candlesticks and vases or for folks who are trying to model buildings or other long spiky things. The next thing I’ll print on this is some kind of light saber handle and then maybe a copy of the Eiffel Tower. It is, after all, always a party in my attic workshop.

Dropbox really wants us to know its finances are healthy


We’re healthy enough to IPO but we’re not going to just yet — that was the subtext of an interview that Dropbox CEO Drew Houston had on Bloomberg earlier this afternoon. Houston asserted, for the first time, Dropbox is profitable on an EBITDA basis.

EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) is a financial metric typically used to compare businesses. It strips away financial variables like taxes to give a clearer picture of performance.

Dropbox has repeatedly dropped financial breadcrumbs to set the tone for conversations about the unicorn’s health in advance of an S-1 filing for IPO. Back in January, Houston claimed a $1 billion revenue run rate and even bragged that an analyst report showed Dropbox’s growth outpacing that of Salesforce.

A late-2017 Dropbox IPO has been rumored for some time now, though 2018 would not be out of the question. Bloomberg reported back in March that Dropbox had secured a $600 million credit line from JPMorgan, Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Macquarie and Royal Bank of Canada.

Taking on debt was yet another healthy financial sign for the cash flow positive company. Houston was able to get cash without giving up equity, a statement of financial confidence from all of the banks involved.

Adding profitability on an EBITDA basis is a good thing, but the company still has a pretty big mountain to summit. Dropbox was valued at $10 billion back in 2014, a figure that is universally contentious. Even at $1 billion in revenue, that valuation is difficult to justify.

Healthy financial milestones sugarcoat the conversation temporarily, but eventually Houston is going to have to step into the public markets. At that point nobody will care how fast Dropbox grew its revenue back in the day. The question will be whether Dropbox is a company that can eventually sustain $10 billion in yearly revenue.

Featured Image: Bloomberg / Contributor/Getty Images

Airbnb’s new open source library lets you design with React and render to Sketch


Today, Airbnb’s design team open sourced its internal library for writing React components that easily render directly to Sketch. Instead of trying to get Sketch to export to code, the Airbnb team spent its time on the opposite — putting the paintbrush in the hands of the engineer.

Everyday engineers and designers have the luxury of operating without design systems, but large companies ignore them at their own peril. Airbnb, for one, has dumped a lot of resources into developing design components that can be applied across the company. But despite the requisite planning, Airbnb was still struggling to keep its iterative design system in sync with Sketch templates, holding up development.

If you’re not familiar with design systems, they’re the design DNA of any company that has multiple teams designing products. Imagine if the Airbnb team working on the listing page had no communication with the team working on the reviews feature. The result would be design amateur hour and it would be obvious that two teams didn’t communicate when building the app experience.

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For any product, whether it be Airbnb or Facebook, it’s easy to see how a single new design rule could change the appearance of more things than you’d be able to reasonably keep track of. If Sketch renderings could be updated instantly with only modifications to code, that bottleneck can be lessened. This is where the React-Sketchapp library comes in.

In the GIF above, Airbnb is implementing its React-Sketchapp library to render variations of text in different languages, with the same design, using the Google Translate API. The benefit of rooting all this work in React is that its a paradigm that most engineers are already familiar with.

The library is available over on GitHub. Though it was intentioned as a tool for reducing overall design and development time at Airbnb, a lot more is possible when engineers can interact with designs the same way they typically interact with code.

Featured Image: pressureUA/Getty Images

BrickerBot is a vigilante worm that destroys insecure IoT devices

A hacker called The Janitor has created multiple versions of a program called BrickerBot, a system that searches out and bricks insecure IoT devices. A researcher named Pascal Geenens has followed the worm for a few weeks and has seen it pop up and essentially destroy infected webcams and other IoT devices.

The devices all used a Linux package called BusyBox and had exposed telnet-based interfaces with default passwords. These devices were easily exploited by the Mirai botnet, which essentially turned them into denial-of-service weapons.

BrickerBot finds these devices and renders them unusable. The first version attacked about a thousand devices and alternate versions attacked thousands more. It disabled the devices by formatting the internal memory.

“Like so many others I was dismayed by the indiscriminate DDoS attacks by IoT botnets in 2016. I thought for sure that the large attacks would force the industry to finally get its act together, but after a few months of record-breaking attacks it became obvious that in spite of all the sincere efforts the problem couldn’t be solved quickly enough by conventional means,” wrote the Janitor. “I consider my project a form of ‘Internet Chemotherapy;’ I sometimes jokingly think of myself as The Doctor. Chemotherapy is a harsh treatment that nobody in their right mind would administer to a healthy patient, but the Internet was becoming seriously ill in Q3 and Q4/2016 and the moderate remedies were ineffective.”

This sort of vigilante justice is fun and clever. If a user can’t secure their own systems, perhaps a bit of discriminate destruction is just what these things need to stop leaving admin passwords wide open.

Revolar, the personal safety button, can get you out of tight spots


A new hardware/app device called Revolar aims to make it safe to walk the streets. This tiny button will notify your friends and family if you’re scared, the authorities if you’re in trouble, and will even simulate a phone call if you need to get out of a sticky situation.

It works with iOs and Android and ships in May.

The idea for Revolar came about when co-foudner Jacqueline Ros found out her sister had been assaulted for the second time. She then talked her co-founder about her grandmother’s experience in Columbia and realized she had to do something.

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“My co-founder and I are both Latina,” she said. “I started Revolar because people hurt my little sister. She started Revolar because her grandmother was kidnapped by guerrillas in Colombia for 8 months. It’s actually why she immigrated to the US.”

In short, they lived the pain.

The team is already manufacturing the units and has raised $115,000 on Indiegogo for pre-orders. It lasts for one year with the included battery and can also send GPS data when activated. Finally it acts as a beacon that can be used to help find your keys or purse. A single unit costs $59 and there is no subscription fee.

The device is quite simple and quite unobtrusive. The coolest feature is the fake call system that rings your phone if you’re stuck in a long, rambling conversation with a middle-aged tech reporter who wants to tell you all about their latest watch purchase, a Seiko Tuna diver that has a great deal of history and comes in a unique black and gold configuration and is surprisingly inexpensive if you… oh, do you need to get that?

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