Hackaday Links: June 3, 2018

All the Radio Shacks are dead. adioS, or something. But wait, what’s this? There are new Radio Shacks opening. Here’s one in Idaho, and here’s another in Claremore, Oklahoma. This isn’t like the ‘Blockbuster Video in Nome, Alaska’ that clings on by virtue of being so remote; Claremore isn’t that far from Tulsa, and the one in Idaho is in a town with a population of 50,000. Are these corporate stores, or are they the (cool) independent Radio Shacks? Are there component drawers? Anyone want to take a field trip and report?

A few years ago, [cnxsoft] bought a Sonoff WiFi switch to control a well pump. Despite this being a way to control the flow of massive amounts of water with an Internet of Things thing, we’re still rocking it antediluvian style, and for the most part this WiFi-connected relay worked well. Until it didn’t. For the past few days, the switch wouldn’t connect to the network, so [cnxsoft] cracked it open to figure out why. There was one burnt component, and more than one electrocuted insect. Apparently, an ant bridged two pins, was shortly electrocuted, and toasted a resistor. It’s a bug, a real bug, in an Internet of Things thing.

eInk is coming to license plates? Apparently. Since an eInk license plate already includes some electronics, it wouldn’t be much to add some tracking hardware for a surveillance state.

Hold up, it’s a press release about crypto hardware. No, not that crypto, the other crypto. Asus has announced a new motherboard that is capable of supporting twenty graphics cards. This isn’t a six-foot-wide motherboard; it’s designed especially for coin mining, and for that, the graphics cards really only need a PCIe x1 connection. The real trick here is not using PCIe headers, and instead piping everything over vertical-mount USB ports. Yes, this is a slight cabling nightmare. So, you still think the early 80s with fluorinert waterfalls and Blinkenlights that played Game of Life was the pinnacle of style in computer hardware? No, this is it right here.

Here’s a book you should readIgnition!: An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants by John Drury Clark is a fantastic book about how modern liquid rocket fuel came to be. Want to know why 60s cartoons and spy movies always referenced a ‘secret rocket fuel formula’ when kerosene and liquid oxygen work just fine? This is that. Back when we covered it, the book, used, on Amazon, cost $500. It’s now in print again and priced reasonably. It’s on the Inc. 9 Powerful Books Elon Musk Recommends list, so you know it’s good. Thanks, [Ben] for sending this one in on the tip line.

26 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: June 3, 2018

  1. Re: Radio Shack

    I think it’s a branded line of products that will be carried by various retail shops. In Connecticut there is a PC repair and services shop that Radio Shack lists as being an upcoming location.

    1. i think the biggest problem radio shack had was you go in there and its like you went back in in time to the 70s (at least if you ignored the cellphone counter). our hole in the wall radio shack (people still call it that but i think the inventory has been absorbed by its host shop) more or less still exists but they havent received new inventory in years. the component racks are all still there, picked clean of anything useful. though you can still get resistors and connectors and stuff like that.

  2. “It’s on the Inc. 9 Powerful Books Elon Musk Recommends list, so you know it’s good. ”

    Really ?????????

    I was really interested until I read that sentence.

    Sorry. I’ll pass.

    1. Wow, you must be way more virtuous than the rest of us. Good on ya!

      I don’t recommend the book because I didn’t like it – couldn’t get into it very far, it’s ‘kinda dull and without an obvious point or destination. It’s just paragraph after paragraph of historical “this person tried that, and it didn’t work”.

      …to the horizon, as far as I could see.

    2. Yeah.

      Actually it’s a good fun book (our university library has a copy of the original printing that I read a couple of decades ago), despite the fact that Elon now likes it. I will have to presume that his like for it does not arise from his politics.

    3. It’s a fun reading if one likes chemistry and/or rocketry.
      The sheer amount of dead ends and terrifying solutions is amusing.
      Nothing like stabilizing a mixture of White Fuming Nitric Acid (WFNA) and Red Fuming Sulfuric Acid (RFSA) with Hydrofluoric Acid (HF)!.

  3. There are zero corporate RadioShack locations at this point . Any RadioShack locations opening now are franchisee locations, they have much more control over the styling and focus of their individual stores. Most seem to be tailoring themselves toward the Maker movement.

  4. “This is that. Back when we covered it, the book, used, on Amazon, cost $500. It’s now in print again and priced reasonably. It’s on the Inc. 9 Powerful Books Elon Musk Recommends list, so you know it’s good. ”

    Amazon is just weird that way. The minute something goes out of stock the prices goes all crazy* even if another site can have it reasonable.

    *And I do mean crazy. One book was priced almost $3,000 even though it’s about $14 normally.

  5. I’ve been to the one in Pocatello, Idaho. It’s actually decently stocked, and yes, it has the parts drawers. For a RadioShack, it’s a pretty decent sized store. As far as I can tell, it’s definitely not a corporate store, but is a franchise location.

  6. Hello Hackaday authors,

    Could you please avoid linking to the stupid websites that blocked us European viewers from visiting due to GDPR?
    GDPR is a good thing, these companies should be the ones feeling the burn due to reduced traffic.

    Greetings,
    Someone in Europe

    1. As an EU citezen I deplore your attitude. There is nothing wrong in coming to the partya bit late – give the guys enough time and they will bolt on a ready made GDPR solution or they will ignore the wider world and contemplate their navel, sorry cater, only for locals.

    2. If you couldn’t get to the websites how do you know they’re stupid ?

      GDPR is a good start but has been easily outwitted by website owners. Proof ? Go to any prominent website that needs the advertising money. Click on the ‘preferences’ button (or whatever it is) and try to opt out. Lay in a good store of food and drink to keep your strength up over the long, long slog you have in front of you. Or just click ‘OK’.

      If you know of a better way to enforce your rights please publicise it.

      1. Outwitted? You realize the fine is 20 million or 4% or company turnaround, whichever is bigger.
        Why do you think they bother with complying in the first place? Because of stiff fines.

  7. Those e-ink plates seem very odd to me. They mention things like ‘you can order online, no long waits to get your plates. and ‘the police can change it to indicate it’s stolen if your car gets stolen (indicating remote contact with the things btw, so yes Brian, tracking ). And worse still: ‘while it is parked it can do the license number small and put ads on the free space’.

    But I’m thinking ‘how easy to evade the cops and fines and toll by simply changing your plates on the go’. Sure they can make it tamper proof, but you can just make a fake copy that isn’t, but I guess it comes with pesky RFID-like stuff to track track and track you and at the same time to see what number it should say so they can arrest you if it does not.
    Still, I can think of a few tricks even with those protections.

    Oh and the cost.. about $1000 per plate I hear.

      1. Mr Bond’s Aston Martin will have British plates which are required to have dark characters on reflective backings. White reflective backing on the front of the vehicle and yellow on the rear.

  8. I have been in the Claremore store. It is indeed a franchise location. It also has parts draws and many radio shack branded items. Thank God it isn’t trying to be a cell phone store.

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