Hackaday Links: October 6, 2019

“If you or someone you love has been exposed to questionable quality electrolytic capacitors, you could be entitled to financial compensation.” Perhaps that’s not exactly the pitch behind this class action lawsuit against capacitor manufacturers, but it might as well be. The suit claims that the defendants, a group of capacitor manufacturers that includes Nichicon, Matsuo, ELNA, and Panasonic, “engaged in an unlawful conspiracy to fix, raise, maintain, or stabilize the prices of Capacitors.” Translation: if you bought capacitors between 2002 and 2014 from a distributor, you paid too much for them. The suit aims to recover a bunch of money from the defendants and divide it up between all the class members, so make sure you go back through all your receipts from Mouser and DigiKey over the last 17 years so you can file a claim that could be worth several dozen cents.

When are people going to learn that posting pictures of their illegal activities online is an Official Bad Idea? One SpaceX fan earned a night in jail after posting selfies he took with Starhopper, the SpaceX test article currently residing at Elon Musk’s would-be spaceport at Boca Chica, Texas. JB Wagoner, a SpaceX super-fan, made the pilgrimage from California to Texas — in his Tesla of course — to see the recent Starship Mark 1 unveiling, and decided to take a side trip to see the Starhopper. He parked at a beach, climbed a dune, and was able to walk right up to Starhopper and go selfie-crazy. After posting the pictures on Facebook, he was arrested, interviewed by Homeland Security, charged with criminal trespass, and thrown in a cell overnight. Wagoner has since been bonded out, but the charges might not stick, since Texas trespassing law requires clear signage or verbal notification of trespass, neither of which Wagoner encountered. SpaceX had even let the fence between the beach and the Starhopper collapse, so Wagoner seems to have had no way of knowing he was trespassing. Still, posting the pictures online was probably asking for trouble.

As satire and dark comedy, the 1987 cyberpunk classic RoboCop can’t be beat. But it also managed to accurately foreshadow a lot of what was to come in the world in terms of technology. No, we don’t have cyborg law enforcement — yet — but we do have something predicted by one throwaway scene: robotic realtors. In the movie, kiosks were set up around Murphy’s old house to extol the various virtues of living there, which ended up triggering the cyborg and starting the film’s climactic rampage. The real-life robotic realtor is a little more flexible, more like a telepresence robot — described aptly as “a Segway with an iPad on top.” The robotic realtor is not autonomous; it only lets a remote realtor interact with potential homebuyers without having to travel to multiple homes. It seems a little gimmicky to us, but the robots are reported to have made 25 sales in their first year on the job.

We’ve been seeing a lot of cheap resin printers these days, enough to make us want to jump into the market and start playing with them. But the cheap ones are all cheap for the same reason — they’re so dang small! They all use LCD screens from phones to mask off the UV light used to cure the resin, and the resulting print volume is tiny. Clem Mayer from MayerMakes has bigger ideas, though: he wants to make a giant resin printer using an LCD monitor as the mask. It’s not as simple as using a bigger screen, though; the film used between the screen and the resin, a fluoropolymer film called FEP, gets deformed when used on larger screens. So Clem is looking at a new built-plate interface that floats the resin on a layer of denser, immiscible liquid. It’s an interesting idea that is still clearly in the proof-of-concept phase, but we look forward to seeing what progress Clem makes.

15 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: October 6, 2019

  1. Larger resin printers also have another issue: heat. If you look into the Uniz Slash printer, you’ll see that it has two liquid cooling loops: one for the LCD screen, and one for the LEDs.

    Another general issue with LCD resin printers: aside from the FEP film, the LCD itself also seems to be a consumable item. Although I’m not sure whether they mostly break from handling issues or from UV exposure.

    1. The liquid crystals in an LCD display are organic which means they break down under exposure to UV light. The light breaks chemical bonds over time causing them to lose some of their properties. (The LCD turns dark and quits switching off.)

  2. I happen to have some experience with trespassing in Texas, albeit nothing severe enough to the DHS to be involved as they wouldn’t have had jurisdiction if they existed at the time…but unless there are serval layers of very obvious warning signs, you haven’t been verbally warned and you are carrying a weapon, law enforcement can only give you the official warning and you’ll be charged the next time you get caught.

    1. Idaho law is similarly specific about signage and warnings, although we don’t have the “purple paint” clause that Texas does. So yeah, not sure why law enforcement felt like they could pinch the guy, unless they just took SpaceX’s word for it that the dude trespassed and didn’t bother investigating. Or there was enough ambiguity in the situation to just let the courts figure it out.

  3. “The robotic realtor is not autonomous; it only lets a remote realtor interact with potential homebuyers without having to travel to multiple homes. It seems a little gimmicky to us, but the robots are reported to have made 25 sales in their first year on the job.”

    When the robot apocalypse happens, humans with pointless jobs in outdated if heavily-“lobbied” industries are the first to go. My guess is that the inordinate fees charged by realtors for performing a useless task won’t decrease a whit, though.

    Next up, car dealerships.

    1. The robot’s a gimmick. Robot’s aren’t replacing saleshumans, websites and apps are, or did already, depending on the industry. We won’t know when the robots have taken over, we’ll be too busy obeying them on our phones. That’s a more realistic dystopia in my opinion.

    2. Although I agree that the Realty cartel in general isn’t providing value, I’ll push back a little and say that a good realtor offers a lot of value. For corporate relocations where a buyer has limited time to make a difficult decision, realtors are worth their weight in gold. Also, for someone buying investment properties, having a realtor with knowledge of the local market is crucial. I think the way realtors get paid is atrocious – working on percentage is theft straight up. And there need to be far, FAR fewer realtors than there are, and they need to be better trained and better supported by their agencies, or even be allowed to freelance.

  4. Was there a special reason for the guy to be interviewed by home land security? I mean: perhaps because he went to visit a rocket site it has special national security? But that would be strange because spaceX is a private company. Why wasn’t he interrogated by the police? I thought home land security lived somewhere in the hierarchy above the popo?

    1. My understanding is that DHS got involved because the Boca Chica site is somehow officially a “spaceport”. It would be the same as someone jumping the fence at an airport to hang out at the end of the runway – probably going to attract some unwanted attention.

      As an aside, remember when hanging out at the end of a runway – outside the fence – to watch planes land wasn’t a crime? That was a pretty cool time:

      https://youtu.be/4m2WutlqBk0?t=33

  5. I think Robocop did a pretty good job of prediciting the downfall of Detroit.
    But then that would be like shooting fish in a barrel.

    Anyone thinking of starting a robotics company really needs to call it OCP and headquarter in Detroit just for the lulz.

  6. If a realtor can’t be bothered to be there in person, why would I pay them? That robot would be (Gently, don’t want to get dinged for damaging it) laid face down the second I entered, so that I could investigate a house in peace.

  7. Honestly, realtors could be replaced by a wet turd. They’re a valueless leech on the system. They can make a paycheck just by walking around a house. The way they make more than each other is by pushing people to buy/sell faster than their competitors. Realtor’s are just an up-sell from companies handling the paperwork. Should be outlawed. The buyer’s realtor is allowed to “not volunteer” facts like a murder happened in the house or the county is re-zoning …. and they do 10x more than they don’t. Disgusting.

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