Hackaday Links: February 9, 2020

In case you thought that we learned everything we need to know to land on the Moon fifty years ago, think again. NASA still has a lot of questions, and has scheduled the first of many commercial missions designed to fill in the blanks. As part of the Artemis program, which aims to land the first women and the next men on the Moon by 2024, NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Service (CLPS) will send 16 science payloads to the Moon via two separate commercial flights. The two companies, Astrobotics and Intuitive Machines, will send landers to the Moon in 2021 using a ULA Vulcan Centaur and a SpaceX Falcon 9, respectively. Fourteen companies were selected for CLPS, and with much to learn (or relearn) about landing and working on the Moon, watch for many more flights in the years to come. We’re all for the commercialization of space, but we have to admit that things were easier to keep track of when space exploration was a little more monolithic.

It looks like millions of BlackBerry phone users will have to find something else to do with their thumbs now that TCL is getting out of the BlackBerry business. The Chinese company announced this week that they would no longer have the rights to manufacture BlackBerry-branded phones like the Key2 as of August 31, 2020. Crackberry addicts were understandably upset, but all may not be lost for those who can’t stand the virtual keyboards on most other smartphones, as there’s still a chance another manufacturer will step in to fill the void.

Hypothetical situation: You’re in need of a car, so you go to a used car dealer. You see a nice car, take it for a test drive, and decide to buy it. Money is exchanged, paperwork done, and the salesman hands you the keys. You go out to the lot to drive your new ride home only to find out that the mechanic has removed the tires. When you ask what the deal is, the salesman says, “Sorry, you didn’t buy a license for the tires.” Hypothetical perhaps, but not far off from what happened to one Tesla Model S buyer when an over-the-air update disabled the Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features he paid for. Tesla didn’t see it that way, though, claiming that he’d need to pony up to use the new features, which originally sold for $8,000. It raises interesting questions about how the secondary automotive market will respond to the increasingly complicated relationship between hardware and software, and what you’re actually paying for when you buy a car.

Back in the early days of Bitcoin, skeptics used to dismiss the cryptocurrency by saying, “When you can pay your taxes with it, then it’s real money.” Well, that day is apparently here for the municipality of Zermatt in Switzerland, where it was announced that Bitcoin will be accepted as payment for local taxes and other official fees. The Zermatt city hall has installed a Bitcoin point-of-sale terminal, or payments can be made directly from a Bitcoin wallet after filling out the proper paperwork. Bitcoin as legal tender for public debts is not exactly new; Ohio was doing it back as far as 2018. But we find the economic implications of this interesting — as our resident econometrician [Elliot Williams] pointed out, paying taxes in anything but the national currency was considered preposterous not that long ago.

21 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: February 9, 2020

  1. It could be worse. Here in the US, one individual walked into a Midwest town tax assayer or something like that, and paid what he owed in a big heap of pennies. That’s right, he paid the entire bill in pennies. Now all I see in those things are attempts from idiots who want them for releasing a website I own and was unaffected by their silly efforts. And the computer writing this.

      1. Interesting that you can still pay for anything in pennies in Canada, given they have not been minted and were officially phased out 8 years ago. I have not seen one in circulation since then, except for those that escape from the regime to the south and somehow think they’re worth something.

        Even back then they were worth more as base metal than as currency (Canadian dollar jokes notwithstanding), so we hoarded them, our share of penny stock sorted by year (for their different alloy compositions) in big jugs, and make bronze with them to cast into swords. Ploughing shares into swords :-). Try that with that virtual coins.

      2. However, a lot of banks let you pay in the cheque by picture on a cellphone so they might just take a snap of the door and leave you holding it. If they don’t though and you’ve got some strong friends, bear in mind that there are many pianos offered for free because it costs like $800 to move one otherwise….

      3. It’s more nuanced than that. Some, but not all, combinations of cash are considered “legal tender”, which means a creditor is *required* to accept it if it’s offered to pay a debt. Valid cheques (regardless of what they’re written on, if a bank accepts it) are also legal tender.

        Anything outside of that isn’t *forbidden*, but simply negotiable.

        Therefore, you can’t be forced to pay a debt in pennies, hard labour, bananas or small children, and neither can a creditor be forced to accept such a payment. But if both parties agree, it’s fine. (Well, maybe not that last one.)

    1. My impression is that here in the US coins are only legal tender in amount less than a dollar. To use my debit card at our county treasurer’s off I have to agree to a added fee. I probly have enough unused checks to last me a for life. The only other time I use a check is to pay for a storahe rental unit, so I have record of payment. Other than Kansas’ unequal property tx taxation, and “mail order” sales tax on items I can’t purchase locally, I don’t sweat taxes

        1. Because then you’d need to plug the USB port with an awkward cable, and disable charging.

          Unless you’re proposing to add yet another hole and a connector to the phone, making it more likely to develop faults.

          1. I have had three bluetooth keyboards (for tablets). They’re all horrible. They have indeterminate latency. They often don’t sense the first one or two keypresses while they are waking up. They frequently need a power cycle to re-sync. They require charging too. They’re just a headache.

            My OTG cabled keyboard interface, on the other hand, adds just 1 mm to the butt end of the tablet or phone USB connector, then folds around back. It never fails, never goes silent, never missed a keystroke, and doesn’t need charging. It draws power from the device, but I can also charge the tablet through the keyboard via passthrough, even while in use. I also can plug in a USB stick and microSD card too. That little box that does the power in, USB & microSD is relatively bulky (1x2x4 cm), but could easily be eliminated in a more svelte design.

    1. ” the dealer enabled Autopilot and FSD as a demo car. Something they are allowed to do in order to demo these features to customers. It’s on the dealer for not turning those unpaid features back off at the time of sale.”

  2. It’s a shame blackberry branded phones are going away. I’ve spent the last year using an all-screen phone instead of a blackberry keyone and find the all-screen phone a better compromise since media consumption is far better and writing is… acceptable.

    The time I think is right though as foldable phones hold a lot of promise. Imagine a folding phone that when unfolded is a 10″ tablet, that’s far better for media consumption than the 4.5″ blackberry keyone off the bat but what about typing? If you fold the foldable into a clamshell shape and use the top half as a display while the bottom half displays a keyboard you’ve got small laptop functionality for writing long messages. If that’s not good enough 10 dollars buys you a physical rubber keyboard overlay for the bottom half of the device.

    The best bit is this isn’t far-fetched. Manufacturers demoed foldable laptops in this style at CES 2020, shrink those down to phone/tablet size and we’re there.

  3. I don’t understand the appeal of crypto currency. As much as a hassle than a prepaid debit card is, the PIA of transferring funds from one account to another. Purchase physical precious metals if yo want a hedge on inflation. Appears that phones with switch keyboards never went away. Due to hemiparesis, On phone I’m a one thumb typist, so no phone keyboard works well for me.

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