Hackaday Links: April 8, 2018

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SiFive raised $50 Million in funding. SiFive is a semiconductor working on two fronts: they want to democratize silicon prototyping, and they’re the people making the HiFive series of microcontrollers and SoCs. The HiFives are built on the RISC-V instruction set, a Big-O Open instruction set for everything from tiny microcontrollers to server CPUs. With RISC-V, you’re not tied to licensing from ARM or their ilk. Recently SiFive introduced an SoC capable of running Linux, and the HiFive 1 is a very fast, very capable microcontroller that’s making inroads with Nvidia and Western Digital. The new round of funding is great news for anyone who wants Open Source hardware, and the silicon prototyping aspect of it is exceptionally interesting. Great news for SiFive.

Guess what’s in just a few weekends? The Vintage Computer Festival Southeast. The VCFSE is Hotlanta’s own vintage computer festival, with a whole host of speakers, exhibits, and consignment to tickle those vintage dopamine receptors. On deck for the speakers is [Michael Tomczyk], one of the people responsible for the VIC-20, and [Scott Adams], no the other [Scott Adams], creator of adventure-style games for personal computers but not that adventure-style game. The exhibits will include Japanese retro computers, simulating an ENIAC and a mechanical keyboard meetup. If you’re around Georgia, this is an event worth attending.

Conference season is just around the corner, and you know what that means. It’s time to start ramping up for #badgelife. What is badgelife? It’s a hardware demoscene of electronic conference badges. This year, the badgelife scene has stumbled upon something everyone can get in on. Add-ons! They’re electronic hats (or shields, or capes) for all the badges. Physically, it’s a 2×2 pin header. Electronically, it’s power, ground and I2C. Want to prototype your own add-on? Good news, there’s a development board.

The Titius-Bode law states the semi-major axes of planets follow a geometric progression. The (simplified, incorrect) demonstration of this law states Mercury orbits at 0.25 AU, Venus at 0.5 AU, Earth at 1 AU, Mars at 2 AU, and continues to the outer planets. The Titius-Bode law is heavily discredited in the planetary science community, and any paper, talk, or manuscript is rejected by scientific editors out of hand. The Titius-Bode law is the planetary science equivalent of flat Earth conspiracy theories and Nazi moon bases; giving any consideration to the idea confirms you’re a moron. This week, some consulting firm posted something that is the Titius-Bode law on their blog. Why? So it could be submitted to Hacker News for that sweet SEO. This submission was upvoted to the top position, and is a wonderful springboard to argue an interesting point on media literacy. I posit the rise of news aggregators (facebook, twitter, digg, reddit, and HN), is the driving force behind ‘fake news’ as lay people become the gatekeepers. Prove me wrong.

The Department of Homeland Security has confirmed there are cell-site simulators (Stingrays, IMSI-catchers, or otherwise known as your own private cell phone base station) around Washington DC. It’s unknown who is operating these simulators, or even where they are. There are two things to read between the lines with this information: Duh, there are rogue Stingrays in DC. Holy crap duh. I bet there are also some around midtown Manhattan. You can buy the stuff to do this on eBay. Personally, I’ve found half a dozen Stingrays or other rogue cell stations this year (guess where?). Second, why is this a news item now? Is this a signal that the DHS will start clamping down on stuff you can buy on eBay? Hop to it, people; cellular hardware is a great way to make a liquid nitrogen generator.

7 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: April 8, 2018

  1. “I posit the rise of news aggregators (facebook, twitter, digg, reddit, and HN), is the driving force behind ‘fake news’ as lay people become the gatekeepers. Prove me wrong.”

    RSS is still a thing.

    “Second, why is this a news item now?”

    Because the technology they use against US, can be used against THEM.

  2. The planetary orbits thing is an example of a power law, and these types of correlations are especially suspect in physics.

    Briefly stated, just about anything can seem to fit a power law progression, and so claims of these types of relationships have to be looked at with special care. Linear regression on the resulting curve will NOT give you a proper probability and gives a bad estimate of the parameters.

    Some of the plots given in the linked article seem roughly linear to the human eye, but the roughness is a dead giveaway that they are not an actual power law: deviations from linearity on a log scale are exponential! They don’t even bother to publish any numbers, they just say: “look, it’s linear!”

    To quote Akin’s law (#6): “Everything is linear if plotted log-log with a fat magic marker.”

    More information: http://bactra.org/weblog/491.html

  3. Nice to hear SiFive getting more funding. I’m personally quite interested in their Freedom U540 SoC and hope to build a board around it (or some later version of it) at some point in the future.

    Has anyone done #badgelife stuff for a hamfest?
    Chinese pcb fabs are so cheap that it might be worth it to make some unofficial badges for the SRAL summer camp (largest hamfest around here, 4days of hamming and booze) with a bunch of friends.
    Adding support for I2C extensions might be neat.
    A small VHF/UHF or 2.4GHz SDR transceiver badge might be possible for under 20eur BOM at quantities of ten.
    And a standalone transceiver for those bands might be usable on it’s own instead of being a gimmick like adding a smd pixie2 to the badge.

  4. Im willing to bet that there are cell site simulators in every major city in the world, especially anywhere there are diplomats. Therefore you are probably right that this is the sign of some three letter agency wanting to crack down on the sales of these things, which means that they will just be another item that moves to black markets. In the end, the real question is who are the people selling them on ebay as the manufacturers keep on insisting that they only sell to authorized agencies and not to private individuals.

    As for the fake news, it is nothing more than people wanting their 15 minutes of fame. They dont care that they are debunked in a day or two, as long as they get that initial traffic bump and exposure. Why else would you have a PhD making claims with out researching it throughly? because he already knew what he was doing and wanted more traffic on his page. Look at how he spins the revelation that the phenomenon is already named, its meant to show how humble he is about being wrong in a subject that is not his expertise (his is applied math and statistics).

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