Hackaday Links: July 27, 2014


Taking apart printers to salvage their motors and rods is a common occurrence in hacker circles, but how about salvaging the electronics? A lot of printers come with WiFi modules, and these can be repurposed as USB WiFi dongles. Tools required? And old printer, 3.3 V regulator, and a USB cable. Couldn’t be simpler.

The Raspberry Pi has a connector for a webcam, and it’s a very good solution if you need a programmable IP webcam with GPIOs. How about four cameras?. This Indiegogo is for a four-port camera connector for the Raspi. Someone has a use for this, we’re sure.

The one flexible funding campaign that isn’t a scam. [Kyle] maintains most of the software defined radio stack for Arch Linux, and he’s looking for some funds to improve his work. Yes, it’s basically a ‘fund my life’ crowdfunding campaign, but you’re funding someone to work full-time on open source software.

Calibration tools for Delta 3D printers. It’s just a few tools that speed up calibration, made for MATLAB and Octave.

[Oona] is doing her usual, ‘lets look at everything radio’ thing again, and has a plan to map microwave relay links. If you’ve ever seen a dish or other highly directional antenna on top of a cell phone tower, you’ve seen this sort of thing before. [Oona] is planning on mapping them by flying a quadcopter around, extracting the video and GPS data, and figuring out where all the other microwave links are.

PowerPoint presentations for the Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone Black. Yes, PowerPoint presentations are the tool of the devil and the leading cause of death for astronauts*, but someone should find this useful.

* Yes, PowerPoint presentations are the leading cause of death for astronauts. The root cause of the Columbia disaster was organizational factors that neglected engineer’s requests to use DOD space assets to inspect the wing, after which they could have been rescued. These are organizational factors were, at least in part, caused by PowerPoint.

Challenger was the same story, and although PowerPoint didn’t exist in 1986, “bulletized thinking” in engineering reports was cited as a major factor in the disaster. If “bulletized thinking” doesn’t perfectly describe PowerPoint, I don’t know what does.

As far as PowerPoint being the leading cause of death for astronauts, 14 died on two shuttles, while a total of 30 astronauts died either in training or in flight.

14 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: July 27, 2014

  1. PowerPoint presentations are the tool of the devil and the leading cause of death for astronauts

    A good turn of phrase can outlive the original article. Is this is the start of a new internet meme?

    I like it.

    1. In the event any internet meme other than “bulletized thinking” (which what was the devil here) is created by Brain’s post that would be reflective of the human foibles that help lead to man made disasters. A word much stronger than foible is in order here , but an appropriate word for general audiences isn’t coming to mind

  2. that pi camera thingie :
    “Raspberry Pi GPU is not open sourced therefore camera input will be supposed as only one camera is connected. It will be hard to implement more than one camera support into library. But it is worth the effort.”

    + no video of it working right now, W T F? It looks like a hardware switch, but camera modules need i2c setup before they start working (sometimes even firmware/dsp patches while initializing.

    1. No idea about the initialisation but it appears to consist of something like the Fairchild FSA642 (http://www.fairchildsemi.com/ds/FS/FSA642.pdf) MIPI switch which is basically a high speed analog switch chip since it doesn’t actually understand MIPI itself. I couldn’t find a 4 port version so it may be two chips connected together.

      MIPI itself supports multiplexing several virtual channels together into a single physical interface but I’ve no idea if the RPi can support it. You’d need the driver support for it also which will need the RPi Foundation. The actual task of multiplexing the streams doesn’t appear to be available in an off the shelf chip either so you’d probably need to come up with a custom FPGA solution.

      1. yeah, as it is now it looks like using knife switches (big lever ones from frankenstein) to switch between PCIE graphic cards.

        I could buy this if they showed a video of it working – its entirely possible that cameras can resync after being hot plugged, and raspee side is tolerant enough of dropped comms to not mind this switch, BUT they didnt show duck, they only throw it out there with vague disclaimers.

        It looks like its a piece of useless (at this point) hardware that wont work, but description makes it look like a plug and play product ready to roll.

  3. I have to disagree in regards to the columbia disaster. As per the report on the disaster, the chance of actually rescuing the astronauts if we had known the extent of the damage to the wing was next to nothing. The prep time to make a second shuttle space worthy would have stretched the food, air, and power reserves beyond what they were intended to support and that would assume nothing was delayed in the slightest on a highly accelerated prep schedule(engineers working 24/7 to complete prep). This would also have required a never-before-attempted docking of two shuttles where one of the crews would likely have been in very poor health. Best article I’ve seen on the subject: http://arstechnica.com/science/2014/02/the-audacious-rescue-plan-that-might-have-saved-space-shuttle-columbia/

    tl;dr: rescuing the astronauts on the columbia would have been near impossible even if we knew about the damage day 1 therefore powerpoint really has nothing to do with it.

    1. Wha? I linked to the arstechnica article in the OP. I’m not saying that’s exactly what would have happened, but if NASA rung up a few of the guys at USSATCOM, there would have at least been an *attempt* to save the crew. Even the Ars article says there would have been a chance of success. The fact that no one in charge approved using DOD assets to inspect the wing (which had been done all the way back during STS-1, btw) is evidence of a PowerPoint culture of bulletized thinking. Seriously, read the Tufte piece. Excellent example using information from the Columbia investigation, especially since PowerPoint was cited as a problem with the NASA culture in the official Columbia report.

      Don’t underestimate humans and bureaucracy in any disaster. They’re usually the root cause of it, and powerpoint doesn’t help especially when you’re talking about highly technical information.

    1. As far as I know, the basic rtl-sdr utilities do work on Android. I don’t have any devices with USB host, so I can’t confirm this. And I can’t improve what I can’t test, so I don’t feel comfortable adding Android stuff to the Featuritis task list.

      Bountysource has other issues, otherwise I would have used it.

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