Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Never feel like you are bothering me when you send me emails with the problems you are having with your eCraft. This site can only be truly useful if it provides helpful information to the crafting community. And, for the most part, that information is going to come from you.

For instance, I received this email today...
Thanks Tom you've put my mind at rest.
However I am now experiencing another problem that I have not read anyone else has had and that is: yesterday I thought I'd give the software another try but all that happened was that it kept telling me to insert my SD card which of course was in the machine but just to see if it would work I took the SD card out and then put it back in again to no avail.
Now, even though I have tried numerous times and in every way I can think of, the machine display tells me to insert the SD card.....I cannot do anything with this machine as the display will not go to the categories. I have made sure the machine is switched off before inserting the SD card but nothing works. Its incredibly frustrating....I had resigned myself to being patient about the software but now I cannot use the machine at all. Do you have any ideas as to what the problem could be?
Many thanks

Now, it turned out that Virginia discovered the fix as well as the problem. She found that removing the USB cable seemed to reset the console and restored it to function correctly. Nice find!

It sounds to me like there might be a bug in the firmware that Virginia stumbled across. And, bugs in firmware are not uncommon in new products, which is why the firmware is designed to be updated from time to time.

So, if you run into this particular bug, you can thank Virginia for helping you to quickly recover from it!

Thanks, Virginia!

Monday, October 11, 2010

One thing leads to another - Sliceform to the EXTREME!

As you know, I just posted an article about SusanBlueRobots.

Maybe I have a soft spot for her robots because they are blue or because they give me another opportunity to sneak in a little personal history.  In the 1980's Hasbro sold a toy robot that 'talked'.  Casey was it's name and here is a short video of the ad for Casey.

In the mid-1980's I was hired by a brilliant engineer, John Perkins, to create some video to be used to create one of the first demos for a new video game system based on video tape. (This was prior to the advent of DVDs.) We were working for Nolan Bushnell of Atari fame and he, in turn, was charged with creating such a product by Hasbro. Hasbro picked it up as the NEMO project.  (Look up NEMO on YouTube)

I used Casey, the Talking Blue Robot as the lead character in my demo video game. I still have the original videos and need to get around to posting them someday on YouTube simply for historical purposes.

It was one of the most fun projects I've ever been involved with but, unfortunately, Hasbro was forced to abandon it because they could not get the costs down low enough for Toys R Us to carry it. 

But, I should also note that NEMO made the 25 Dumbest Moments in Gaming list at #19! It's a little disappointing that we only made #19. Maybe that's because they got their numbers wrong. They claim Hasbro spent $20 million. Actually, Hasbro spent $35 million on it before scrapping the system. That's GOT to be worth at least one or two higher positions on the list! LOL!

At any rate, I'm certainly partial to blue robots. But, I'm also appreciate of the fact that one thing often leads to another. My opportunity to work for Nolan Bushnell and Hasbro came from a person that had once worked as a consultant for Astrocade, the video game company for which I was an employee.

The point of this story is that one thing... John working for us... often ends up leading to another... i.e. My working for John. That's how opportunities grow.

And, in the immediate case, we have another instance of one thing leading to another great opportunity. And, it came from a comment on the SusanBlueRobot article.

A person that goes by the name CPEEP commented on the article about SusanBlueRobot's work in sliceform creations and I was so intrigued by the comment that I decided to see if I could locate CPEEP's work. Fortunately, I was successful in doing so.

CPEEP'S Blog is called EXTREME CARDS AND PAPERCRAFTING And, it is a great place to visit with lots of tutorials.  Here is just one sample of what you will find there.

CPEEP'S work is quite broad in the methods used.In addition to sliceform, you'll find paper folding, pop up cards and paper animata (mechanical models) which are equally interesting.  I wandered around for quite a while and was not the least bit bored by what I found.

Apparently, CPEEPS is not yet and eCraft owner and is able to cut to a Robo Craft directly from Corel so not all of their creations are available in SVG.  Hopefully that situation will change in the near future!  In the meantime I am enjoying the creativity of another person that thinks in 3D, all the while being thankful that one thing does, indeed, lead to another!

Cutting Chipboard Video at Nicki's Cardstock Creations

A lot of people have asked me about cutting chipboard.  Chipboard is such a generic class of materials, I could not confidently say that the eCraft would or would not cut the kind of chipboard preferred by most crafters.  I have to reply on the label on the material and the only paper I had with the 'Chipboard' label would NOT cut.  In fact, it acted more like sandpaper and simply dulled the blade.

I do NOT think that is the material most crafters mean when they ask about 'chipboard' so I'm going to defer to the experts.  There is a new video on Nicki's Cardstock Creation blog that shows how well the eCraft actually DOES cut chipboard.

Chipboard Video

By the way, she reveals one other thing about the eCraft's console controls.  If you hold down the arrows when selecting the shape from an SD card, it will swiftly go through all the choices!  Now, why didn't I think of that???

Robots, Robots Everywhere! The eCraft and Robots!

One of the great things about being a part of a community of crafters is being able to enjoy the vast differences in direction which human creativity can take us.  Recently, I've been enjoying the work of Australian, SusanBlueRobot who publishes the SusanBlueRobot Blog.

I love the quirkiness of her creations.  The best way I can think of describing it is thinking OUTSIDE the box by thinking INSIDE the box!

Using tree found on the eCraft Fundamentals #1 SD that comes with the eCraft digital die cutter she created this card.  Of course, no tree is complete without a few robots enjoying it!

But, using this very same eCraft Shape, she has also created this sliceform 3D tree.  Imagine a party table adorned with various sizes of these wonderful trees!

SusanBlueRobot may be the first person to post an image of a sliceform.  And, in doing so, she has paved the way for an unlimited world of 3D art using a digital cutter with NO LIMITS TO LENGTH.  Because the eCraft uses ROLLS of materials, as well as sheets, sliceform art of larger dimensions is possible.

Here are some samples of sliceform works that might inspire users to consider designing larger sliceform installations.  They can be found at this link.

In the process of exploring sliceform, I ran across the blog of an amazingly prolific crafter that specializes in creating and selling sliceform designs.  Perhaps the most useful way to introduce you to her work is to link to her video page.  Here is the first video on that page.    JennieBeanCrafts Videos

I want to thank SusanBlueRobot for sending us off on a great adventure.  I can tell you that she got instant rave reviews on the eCraft_Crafters Yahoo group and deservedly so!  So, be sure to drop by her blog and see why everyone enjoyed her work so much!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Could the eCraft make the cut with Make The Cut?

There was an intriguing message in the Make The Cut forums that Andy, the developer, and Craftwell have opened lines of communication.  None of us know where this will lead; but, there are a number of reasons why I think Craftwell would benefit enormously by an arrangement with Make The Cut.

First, if Make the Cut or Sure Cuts A Lot can cut to the eCraft it takes a LOT of pressure off of Craftwell in an area in which they have the least experience.  There is no doubt at all that the Craftwell team KNOWS hardware design.  The eCraft, as I have said over and over, is BRILLIANTLY designed.  THAT is their area of expertise and it shows.

But, what is also abundantly clear, is that Craftwell is NOT as skilled and experienced in the area of software.  And, having a bit of a safety valve in place as they sort out and build that experience will not be a bad thing.

This would not preclude Craftwell from designing and delivering a world class software product down the road.  In fact, in my opinion, it would HELP them in that quest by taking pressure off of constant fixes to a poorly designed initial product and let them back up, regroup and build a team of consultants and in-house experts in the management of software development that would know how to deal with farming out the actual software programming effort.  Right now, the tail seems to be wagging the dog and the tail has the dog in a very bad place of dependence.

Craftwell needs something to break themselves away from that dependence.  And, that something could be Make the Cut or Sure Cuts A Lot.  Once that dependence is broken, Craftwell can step up and have more control over the development process in the future.  But, to do so means reorganizing their development strategies, which will take some time.

However, it would be well worth it.  As long as we can cut, using SOME software, I will be the first to urge every eCraft owner to give Craftwell the space to do what I know they want to do... provide a PRO product that more than lives up to the name.  I don't think that will be as likely to happen if Craftwell doggedly pursues their own path without the help of 3rd party products like Make the Cut.

So, I'm hoping the lines of communication produce some cooperative efforts to support the owners of the best hardware in the business.  That would be very exciting to a LOT of owners.  And, frankly, increase the odds that Craftwell could eventually deliver a killer application of their own... which is our ultimate hope.

Monday, October 4, 2010

"What we've got here is... failure to communicate."

As I scan the eCraft Facebook and Twitter pages I am reminded of that great line from Cool Hand Luke.

I find the silence much more incomprehensible than the problems with the software.  And, that was puzzling enough.  The last entry on Twitter was in August!  And, while a Craftwell employee will randomly offer some insight on the Facebook page, most of the help users get is from other users who, themselves, are just hanging on and waiting along with everyone else.

You know something?  That's just not good enough.  Not by a long shot.

Craftwell, you have a machine that I am ready to support and support in a big way.  I look at the hardware design and, as I've repeatedly said, I see a design that has the potential to dominate the digital cutter marketplace.  But,  a great machine design is NOT what makes for great success.  It is only part of the equation... and, a small part at that.

The Mindset Computer was a great design.  It's the ONLY computer on permanent display in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City!   But, I'll bet not a single reader knew it ever existed.  It came.  It went.  It is forgotten.

So, much for great design being a deciding factor for success.

While I think the eCraft also deserves to be considered for such an honored place in design history, I would MUCH rather see it on thousands of tables in homes and businesses then in a permanent display in a museum with no users.  But, that is where it is heading if the management of Craftwell doesn't set aside it's pride in building the first matless digital cutter and start realizing that communication, not engineering, is their ultimate ticket to success.

Cool Hand Luke ended badly.  Mindset's brilliant design didn't keep it from ending it's race badly.  Let's hope that Craftwell's "Failure to communicate" is corrected.  And soon.  Or, it too, might be just another footnote in history.  And, none of us want that.