I caught a deal on cricut.com where they were selling their original “Cricuit Personal Cutter” (refurbished) for $49.99 ($65 with shipping). This seemed like a very good deal to me, so I bought one. By itself, the Cricuit can cut specific shapes and letters from paper (it includes a free set of shapes/letters, and you can purchase cartridges to add more). I plan on using it to cut metal foil (one of the few things you can’t cut with a laser cutter, because it is reflective) and potentially make stencils. I may also be able to use it as a plotter using special attachments for pens. (Circuit board resist markers anyone?)
To make full use of it, I wanted to be able to cut arbitrary paths from my material, which means controlling the Cricut from my computer. Luckily it comes with a built in USB port that is recognized as a standard serial port. Also luckily, other people have already figured out the command and control protocol and built a library to control it.
I found the directions on this page very useful getting libcutter working. So far I have simply use the draw_svg utility program that is included with libcutter to cut out vectors created in Inkscape.