Hackaday Links: February 17, 2019

There is a population of retrocomputing enthusiasts out there, whose basements, garages, and attics have been taken over by machines of years past. Most of the time, these people concentrate on one make; you’re an Apple guy, or you’re a Commodore guy, or you’re a Ford guy, or you’re a Chevy guy. The weirdos drive around with an MSX in the trunk of an RX7. This is the auction for nobody. NASA’s JPL Lab is getting rid of several tons of computer equipment, all from various manufacturers, and not very ‘vintage’ at all. Check out the list. There are CRT monitors from 2003, which means they’re great monitors that weigh as much as a person. There’s a lot of Sun equipment. If you’ve ever felt like cleaning up a whole bunch of trash for JPL, this is your chance. Grab me one of those sweet CRTs, though.

Last week, we published something on the ‘impossible’ tech behind SpaceX’s new engine. It was reasonably popular — actually significantly popular — and got picked up on Hacker News and one of the Elon-worshiping subreddits. Open that link in one tab. Now, open this link in another. Read along as a computer voice reads Hackaday words, all while soaking up YouTube ad revenue. What is our recourse? Does this constitute copyright infringement? I dunno; we don’t monetize videos on YouTube. Thanks to [MSeifert] for finding this.

Wanna see something funny? Check out the people in the comments below who are angry at a random YouTuber stealing Hackaday content, while they have an ad blocker on.

Teenage Engineering’s OP-1 is back in production. What is it and why does it matter? The OP-1 is a new class of synthesizer and sampler that kinda, sorta looks like an 80s Casio keyboard, but packed to the gills with audio capability. At one point, you could pick one of these up for $800. Now, prices are at about $1300, simply because production stopped for a while (for retooling, we’re guessing) and the rumor mill started spinning. The OP-1 is now back in production with a price tag of $1300. Wait. What? Yes, it’s another case study in marketing: the best way to find where the supply and demand curves cross is to stop production for a while, wait for the used resellers to do their thing, and then start production again with a new price tag that people are willing to pay. This is Galaxy Brain-level business management, people.

What made nerds angry this week? Before we get to that, we’re gonna have to back track a bit. In 2016, Motherboard published a piece that said PC Gaming Is Still Way Too Hard, because you have to build a PC. Those of us in the know realize that building a PC is as simple as buying parts and snapping them together like an expensive Lego set. It’s no big deal. A tech blog, named Motherboard, said building a PC was too hard. It isn’t even a crack at the author of the piece at this point: this is editorial decay.

And here we are today. This week, the Internet reacted to a video from The Verge on how to build a PC. The original video has been taken down, but the reaction videos are still up: here’s a good one, and here’s another. Now, there’s a lot wrong with the Verge video. They suggest using a Swiss army knife for the assembly, hopefully one with a Philips head screwdriver. Philips head screwdrivers still exist, by the way. Dual channel RAM was completely ignored, and way too much thermal compound was applied to the CPU. The cable management was a complete joke. Basically, a dozen people at The Verge don’t know how to build a PC. Are the criticisms of incompetence fair? Is this like saying [Doug DeMuro]’s car reviews are invalid because he can’t build a transmission or engine, from scratch, starting from a block of steel? Ehhh… we’re pretty sure [Doug] can change his own oil, at least. And he knows to use a screwdriver, instead of a Swiss army knife with a Philips head. In any event, here’s how you build a PC.

Hackaday writers to be replaced with AI. Thank you [Tegwyn] for the headline. OpenAI, a Musk and Theil-backed startup, is pitching a machine learning application that is aimed at replacing journalists. There’s a lot to unpack here, but first off: this already exists. There are companies that sell articles to outlets, and these articles are produced by ‘AI’. These articles are mostly in the sports pages. Sports recaps are a great application for ML and natural language processing; the raw data (the sports scores) are already classified, and you’re not looking for Pulitzer material in the sports pages anyway. China has AI news anchors, but Japan has Miku and artificial pop stars. Is this the beginning of the end of journalism as a profession, with all the work being taken over by machine learning algorithms? By vocation, I’m obligated to say no, but I have a different take on it. Humans can write better than AI, and the good ones are nearly as fast. Whether or not the readers care if a story is accurate or well-written is another story entirely. It will be market forces that determine if AI journalists take over, and if you haven’t been paying attention, no one cares if a news story is accurate or well written, only if it caters to their preexisting biases and tickles their confirmation bias.

Of course, you, dear reader, are too smart to be duped by such a simplistic view of media engagement. You’re better than that. You’re better than most people, in fact. You’re smart enough to see that most media is just placating your own ego and capitalizing on confirmation bias. That’s why you, dear reader, are the best audience. Please like, share, and subscribe for more of the best journalism on the planet.

43 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: February 17, 2019

  1. Is there a distinction between reading HaD yourself with an adblocker on, and taking HaD content and selling it for your own profit? The world will never know the answer to this mystery.

      1. Are you allowed to type out what’s being said in a youtube video, get a few screengrabs from the video, and publish it as an article on your website?

        -gutuka.co.ke/2019/02/13/the-impossible-tech-behind-spacexs-new-engine/

  2. Have been noticing a drop off in the quality of copy that is being published here of late. Often low-effort articles with a paragraph or two of barely tangentially relevant crud, and apparently with little thought being given to clear expression and conveying meaning; just the sort of thing I’d expect from an AI.

    Hopefully the threat of being replaced by a robot will give these slacker authors cause to lift their games.

    1. This. Probably a third to a half of the articles are just retreads of Reddit’s DIY ( or other) subs. Some expand on those posts, which can be of interest, but sometimes not.

      It may be easy money for the stringers, but it doesn’t contribute much to the blog and is the on-ramp to a downward spiral (to lob a metaphor out there).

      It smells of the absence of rigor in editorship.

    2. In my opinion it’s simply a matter of quantity over quality. Publish or die, mostly brought on by supply frame. Think about it monetarily isn’t it better to simply have more page views?

      That being said I only turn adblock off when an article is well done, satisfies my cognitive bias, strokes my ego or is benchoff going full meta.

    3. People have been making your exact comment since HaD was young. Years from now people will claim this was HaD’s golden age.

      Nothing has *actually* changed, you’ve just forgotten.

      1. Maybe, but at least there’s enough of a back-catalog to pore through in order to say if there’s been a change, instead of declaring the present is like the past, and there’s nothing new under the sun (ala NO progress, or regression).

        1. With all due respect to Caleb, let’s be real. An average Caleb post was 2 paragraphs and a YouTube embed, far lower effort than even the “filler” posts HaD runs now. Let’s not let nostalgia keep us from recognizing that the buyout at least brought in higher effort writers.

          https://hackaday.com/2013/06/12/the-birth-of-a-tool-damascus-steel-knife-making/
          https://hackaday.com/2013/06/10/incredible-bow-lathe-work-in-morocco/
          https://hackaday.com/2013/06/09/1200-hours-of-work-results-in-the-smallest-v12-engine/

  3. Good thing I live a long way from Ontario, California.

    In my view, here’s the (future retrocomputing?) gem in that 672 piece lot: item 549, GLASSES MULTIFUNCTIONAL, GOOGLE INC., EXPLORER EDITION.

      1. Auction went for $5343, or under $8 a piece for the 672 items. There’s probably a buyer’s premium on top of that, I didn’t bother digging to find out how much. There’s definitely money to be made selling it on ebay, after a fair amount of work transporting, testing, photographing, listing, packing, and shipping.

  4. ” It will be market forces that determine if AI journalists take over, and if you haven’t been paying attention, no one cares if a news story is accurate or well written, only if it caters to their preexisting biases and tickles their confirmation bias.”

    “How Your Brain Decides Without You
    By Tom Vanderbilt
    November 6, 2014
    In a world full of ambiguity, we see what we want to see.”

    https://getpocket.com/explore/item/how-your-brain-decides-without-you

    BTW source site should be bookmarked as well.

  5. >”Wanna see something funny? Check out the people in the comments below who are angry at a random YouTuber stealing Hackaday content, while they have an ad blocker on.”

    It’s not funny, considering every penny of ad money they manage to extract by people who -don’t- have adblock on is going to come out of their pockets anyhow. The cost of the advertisements are socialized through the companies whose products you buy, and other people watching ad-sponsored videos makes you pay more.

    Think about it. A commercial TV channel showing ads between shows means you pay more for bread. The more people watch it, the more you pay, because the higher the viewership the more they can charge for the slot (and the more the rights owners of the shows can demand in royalties).

    1. With most consoles its easy. You go into the store and grab an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 or Switch off the shelf and that’s it. Maybe there might be a choice of which bundle you buy (based on the included games or accessories) or what color/special paint/whatever is the right one but generally anything you buy will run any game.

      With a PC its much harder since you need to match the CPU listed on the game box to the CPU listed for the machine specs. And the GPU and the ram and the storage and everything else.

      Maybe something similar to the Windows Experience Index only more granular could help. Run a tool on your system and it gives you a score for all your components (systems being sold would have those scores available in-store or online). Then games would simply say “you need a GPU with at least a score of x to run this game” and consumers would know if the hardware they have (or want to buy) will run the games they want to run without needing to know a lot about hardware.

      1. That doesn’t really address the issue.

        What if your PC isn’t good enough? Then don’t play the game? Risk buying it anyhow and discovering it runs like a dog and looks like an ass? Does the store have a return policy? Do you even want to bother yourself with all this?

        With consoles you’re guaranteed that the game will run, and you don’t have to buy upgrades to keep up with the games. People who say PC gaming is better because it’s cheaper and you get better graphics usually neglect the bit where you’re actually buying a new video card every two years, and it costs you the same as a console, or you’re playing on “medium” graphics anyhow because your old GPU can’t cough up the gigaflops.

        1. Had to get a refund on Farcry 5 because it wouldn’t run on current hardware.* Bet if I had an Xbox One it would have. And for the record Steam refunded that day. Probably because I don’t abuse the system, and this was my first in years.

          *Mind you this particular problem wasn’t the GPU, it’s SSE 4.1 (CPU) and the DRM being used.

  6. >>”Of course, you, dear reader, are too smart to be duped by such a simplistic view of media engagement. You’re better than that. You’re better than most people, in fact. You’re smart enough to see that most media is just placating your own ego and capitalizing on confirmation bias. That’s why you, dear reader, are the best audience. Please like, share, and subscribe for more of the best journalism on the planet.”

    But, no. I revel in my stupidity and ignorance. I worship the idiocracy – it is my ultimate society. I am much worse than most people, and very shallow, and pursue the trite. And I have an insatiable need to bask in media manipulation, as it feeds my ego, inflates my self-worth, and provides my (much needed) confirmation bias. And I read all Benchoff posts.

  7. The implication that HaD ‘writers’ are journalists was a nice touch, Brian. Thought I’d see more triggered people though. I guess that’s due to the modern dilution of the definition, people are numb to its misuse. Like “sanitation engineer”.

  8. Next up, we take a look at the high level of butthurt by those who complain that ‘building a passenger airliner is still too hard’. Those of us in the know realize that building an airplane is as simple as buying supplies and putting them together like an expensive Lego Technic set. It’s no big deal.

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