Multimeters Without A Country: Fluke’s Broad Trademark Bans Yellow Multimeter Imports

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Check out this SparkFun Digital Multimeter. Does it make your blood boil to see them ripping off Fluke by using the color yellow? From SparkFun’s side of the story that’s exactly what’s happened here. They have a shipment of 2000 of these things stuck in customs. The trademark being infringed upon can be found in their article. Fluke owns the trademark on multimeters with a dark face and yellow border. Great. This seems like a wonderful idea, right up there with Apple owning tablets that are shaped like a piece of paper.

Okay, so if you’re not crying big fat tears for Fluke being taken advantage of in this way let’s talk about more immediate issues than fixing trademark, patent, copyright, and all of the other screw-the-little-guy type of laws (not that SparkFun is necessarily the little guy but you know what we mean). The DMMs sitting in a warehouse are costing SparkFun $150 per day. We believe they have no option of choosing a warehouse with a lower cost as we must be talking a pallet or two, right? The only two options they do have are shipping them back to China where they were manufactured, or having them destroyed. The former will cost more in re-import tariffs than the cost of the product, and the latter comes with a $150/hour disposal fee and no metric on which to judge how long it would actually take. We hate seeing this kind of waste, but sure enough 2000 DMMs are headed for the shredder in a couple of days.

We know you already have your flaming sword in hand, but simmer down for just a second. Fluke makes great products, ask anyone. And companies the world over defend their trademarks. Hopefully there will soon be a positive response from Fluke on this one. If you would like to politely encourage them to do the right thing we found Fluke’s Facebook page URL in the SparkFun comments thread. Both are worth browsing.

[Thanks Chris via Reddit]

Hackaday in Shanghai: Electronica and a Gathering

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Whether you live in Shanghai, are at Electronics China representing your company, or by dumb luck just happen to be in town this week you can meet some of the Hackaday crew and score yourself some sweet swag.

Anyone in town on Thursday night will want to get a ticket to Hackaday: The Gathering. Right now it’s all sold out, but we hope anyone with a ticket who is unable to use it will cancel so that another may take your place. Free food, drink, t-shirts, stickers, and other swag await… no wonder the tickets are already gone!

The Electronica China conference started Tuesday at Shanghai New International Expo Centre, but it runs through Wednesday and Thursday as well. We’re attending, but we don’t actually have a dedicated booth. Hackaday is piggybacking with EEFocus, the Chinese contingent of our parent company. Both [Matt] and [Alek] will be hanging around the EEFocus booth (#W3.3686) shucking out hackaday T-shirts if you ask for one. Before he left, [Matt] mentioned that he’s excited to attend lectures on connected medical devices, the Automotive and EV boards, as well as the embedded systems forum.

 

Retrotechtacular: Breaking Atoms to Break the Ice

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This documentary from 1959 gives a satisfyingly thorough look inside a nuclear powered icebreaking ship called Lenin. This actually set a couple of world’s-firsts: it was the first nuclear powered surface vessel and the first civilian vessel to be powered thusly.

The ship was built to clear shipping paths to the northern ports of Russia. Testing of both ice and models of the ship design point to the ability to break ice layers that are two meters thick. This requires a lot of power as ice-breakers generally use their hull shape and gravity to break the ice by driving up onto it to bend the ice to the breaking point. The Lenin achieved this power using its nuclear reactor to heat steam which drove electric generators. The energy produced drove three screws to power the vessel.

Of course this was back in the day when control panels were substantial, which you can get a peek at starting half-way through the twenty-minute film. This includes a demonstration of the ship’s network of radiation sensors which alert the control room, and sound a local alarm when they are triggered. During it’s 30-year operational life the vessel had a couple of accidents stemming from refueling operations. You can find more on that over at the Wikipedia page, but stick with us after the jump to see the vintage reel.

[Read more...]

Hacking the Sci-Fi Contest Team Requirement

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We saw that some readers were not entirely happy with the team requirement for our Sci-Fi contest, which is running right now. We figured that those who do not work well with others might commit a bit of fraud to get around the requirement. But we’re delighted that someone found a much more creative solution. Why not enlist an AI to collaborate on your project?

[Colabot] is a hacker profile over on hackaday.io which is driven by ELIZA, a computer program that achieves limited interaction through natural language. Supposedly you add [Colabot] to your project and as it questions. We asked one on the profile page and are still awaiting the response. We think this itself could be a qualifying entry for the Sci-Fi contest if someone can find the right thematic spin to put on it.

As far as contest entries go there are only seven so far. Since everyone who submits an entry gets a T-shirt, and there are 15 total prize packages, we encourage you to post your entry as soon as possible. We want to see teams from hackerspaces and we can cryptically tell you that good things come to teams who post their project with the “sci-fi-contest” tag early!

Hackaday Links: March 16, 2014

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Tape decks are fertile hacking ground. In this offering from [Erich] the speed of the motor has been turned into a MIDI instrument. Drive it faster and the pitch rises, slower and it falls. There are all kinds of other magnetic tape hacks around here, this tape delay is a classic.

[Dbever] needed a reason to use a big 7-segment display module. He opened up the drill press at his Hackerspace, Pumping Station One, and added a sensor which shows the RPM of the drill on the display. Hackaday was lucky enough to be invited for a tour of the space last fall.

There’s a lot of hype about 3D printing… and rightly so since it’s the radest; which is even better than being “the most rad”. But if you don’t have access to one that shouldn’t stop you. Here’s an example of making robot parts using polymorph instead of 3D printing (or laser cutting) them.

If you’re living in the east-coast metroplex and are unable to travel to Maker Faire Bay Area this Spring you can still get in on some live hacking. Check out MassHack which takes place the same May weekend but in Boston instead of San Fran.

Blimps; not as cool as quadcopters but orders of magnitude less likely to go down in flames (as it were). Draw some inspiration for your own build from silent_runner. The graceful travel of these lighter-than-air-craft make for an interesting camera platform. Here’s a POV video inside of a church, and some shots from the ground while in the woods. [Thanks Oliver]

We try not to pimp crowd-funding campaigns just for the sake of getting them to the goal. But we hope you’ll agree that the Gamebuino we saw a few months back makes a strong argument for backers. Their Indiegogo for the Arduino-compatible handheld gaming rig is over half-way there after just a couple of days.

Your Weekend Plans: Hardware Freedom Day

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Hardware Freedom Day is tomorrow: Saturday, March 15th 2014. This is the third year for the event, which seeks to raise awareness about what Open Hardware is, and to encourage hackers and makers to share their own work with the world.

This is a concept that we believe in strongly here at Hackaday. There are a multitude of reasons to support open hardware. We usually look at it from two angles: education and user freedom. If the design for your projects are available, others can learn from your successes and produce even cooler things that in turn should be made open. At the same time, if you have a device that’s nearly-awesome, a skilled hacker will have a much easier time getting it there if the original design can be used as a reference.

If you want to see what’s going on near you there are events on every continent (except Antarctica… lame!). If continental adjacency isn’t close enough consider pulling together an adhoc event, or just going through that project you finished last year and publishing the files for others to use.

 

Fail of the Week: Unconnected Nets in KiCad

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From the title and the image above you surely have already grasped this Fail of the Week. We’ve all been there. Design a board, send it to fab or etch it yourself, and come to find out you’ve missed a connection. Automatic checks in your software should prevent this, but when making small changes it’s easy to overlook running the checks again. This is exactly what [Clint] did with this board; leaving a net unconnected in the schematic, which made its way through to the board layout and into the OSHPark boards.

Okay, so fix it with jumper wire which is clearly what he did (white wire in the lower left image above). But since this is rev3 of his PCB it’s pretty upsetting that it happened. The meat and potatoes of the fail is the missing software feature that led to it. KiCad doesn’t have a pin swap tool in the board layout. Really? We use KiCad frequently and didn’t realize that the feature was missing. Needing to simplify his board layout, [Clint] went back to the schematic to swap some resistor network pins by hand. He pushed the change through the netlist and into the board layout, not realizing he had left an input gate unconnected.

A bit of searching proves that pin swapping may be coming to KiCad soon. It’s on the CERN roadmap of features they plan to add to the open source PCB layout software. We remember hearing about CERN’s plans quite a while ago, and thought we featured it but the only reference we could find is [Chris Gammell's] comment on a post from back in December. It’s worth looking at their plans, these are all features that would make KiCad a juggernaut.

EDITORIAL NOTE: We’ll soon be out of story leads for this series. If you have enjoyed reading weekly about fails please write up your own failure and send us the link. Of course any documented fails you find around the internet should also be sent our way. Thanks!


2013-09-05-Hackaday-Fail-tips-tileFail of the Week is a Hackaday column which runs every Wednesday. Help keep the fun rolling by writing about your past failures and sending us a link to the story – or sending in links to fail write ups you find in your Internet travels.