Hackaday Links: February 23, 2020

If you think your data rates suck, take pity on New Horizons. The space probe, which gave us lovely pictures of the hapless one-time planet Pluto after its 2015 flyby, continued to plunge and explore other, smaller objects in the Kuiper belt. In January of 2019, New Horizons zipped by Kuiper belt object Arrokoth and buffered its findings on the spacecraft’s solid-state data recorders. The probe has been dribbling data back to Earth ever since at the rate of 1 to 2 kilobits per second, and now we have enough of that data to piece together a story of how planets may have formed in the early solar system. The planetary science is fascinating, but for our money, getting a probe to narrowly miss a 35-kilometer long object at a range of 6.5 billion km all while traveling at 51,500 km/h is pretty impressive. And if as expected it takes until September to retrieve all the data from the event at a speed worse than dialup rates, it’ll be worth the wait.

Speaking of space, if you’re at all interested in big data, you might want to consider putting your skills to work in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The Berkeley SETI Research Center has been feeding data from the Green Bank Telescope and their Automated Planet Finder into the public archive of Breakthrough Listen, a 10-year, $100 million initiative to scan the million closest stars in our galaxy as well as the 100 nearest galaxies for signs of intelligent life. They’re asking for help to analyze the torrents of data they’re accumulating, specifically by developing software and algorithms to process the data. They’ve set up a site to walk you through the basics and get you started. If you’re handy with Python and have an interest in astronomy, you should check it out.

Staying with the space theme, what’s the best way to get kids interested in space and electronics? Why, by launching a satellite designed to meme its way across the heavens, of course. The Mission for Education and Multimedia Engagement satellite, or MEMESat-1, is being planned for a February 2021 launch. The 1U cubesat will serve as an amateur radio repeater and slow-scan TV (SSTV) beacon that will beam down memes donated to the project and stored on radiation-hardened flash storage. In all seriousness, this seems like a great way to engage the generation that elevated the meme to a modern art form in a STEM project they might otherwise show little interest in.

It looks as though Linux might be getting a big boost as the government of South Korea announced that they’re switching 3.3 million PCs from Windows to Linux. It’s tempting to blame Microsoft’s recent dropping of Windows 7 support for the defenestration, but this sounds like a plan that’s been in the works for a while. No official word on which distro will be selected for the 780 billion won ($655 million) effort, which is said to be driven by ballooning software license costs and a desire to get out from under Microsoft’s thumb.

And finally, in perhaps the ickiest auction ever held, the “Davos Collection” headed to the auction block this week in New York. The items offered were all collected from the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where the world’s elites gather to determine the fate of the 99.999%. Every item in the collection, ranging from utensils and glassware used at the many lavish meals to “sanitary items” disposed of by the billionaires, and even hair and fluid samples swabbed from restrooms, potentially holds a genetic treasure trove in the form of the DNA it takes to be in the elite. Or at least that’s the theory. There’s a whole “Boys from Brazil” vibe here that we find disquieting, and we flatly refuse to see how an auction where a used paper cup is offered for $8,000 went, but if you’d like to virtually browse through the ostensibly valuable trash of oligarchs, check out the auction catalog.

19 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: February 23, 2020

  1. “Berkeley SETI Research Center has been … asking for help to analyze the torrents of data they’re accumulating, specifically by developing software and algorithms to process the data.” Ah, hell know, I don’t want my mind wiped by Will Smith (well except for that bit that remembers “After Earth”, wipe away Fresh Prince!)

    “South Korea announced that they’re switching 3.3 million PCs from Windows to Linux. It’s tempting to blame Microsoft’s recent dropping of Windows 7 support for the defenestration” Defenestration, HA!

      1. No. It actually means to throw something out a window. (Or someone.) As I said, an Old French word. It was first created around the time of their Revolution. It describes what happened to the unfortunates of the collapsing Empire.

          1. Remove windows => “supprimer les fenêtres”, so maybe “sufenêtres”? … and there are a couple of bad puns from that depending on the pronounciation.

        1. No. It was recorded being used around 1500s, when Protestants or Catholics (depending on locale) were thrown out of a window … It culminated in 30-years’ war 1618-1648 that might have wiped out 1/2 of population of Germany, for example …

    1. Whatever your favorite word Czech tells you, it’s literally un-windowing.

      Though it’s kind of like how you can’t use the word decimated to mean reduce by a tenth any more because people conflate it with annihilated these days.

  2. Don’t know if Korean government’s “move” from Windows have anything to do with the US wanting protection money ($1-$5B) for the base there. It might be a political move to push MS to lobby the US government.

    It is certainly not the cost of Windows licenses as their conversion cost is over $200 per PC.

    1. If the conversion cost is £200/PC, and the software is free, then that’s all IT staff / project management costs, plus training. Switching to another windows version presumably would cost a similar amount + licence costs.

    2. The OS license is only a small fraction of the licensing costs when your OS is Windows. They’re probably also paying enterprise licenses for Office, Active Directory, SCCM, SQL Server, Exchange, Visual Studio, MSTFS, MSDN, and probably a hundred other Microsoft products.

      Yes, they’re (mostly) all good products, but the open source world has caught up to most of them, and many very large organizations have already successfully made the switch.

      (The company to be truly terrified by, though, is Oracle. They’ve been referred to as a giant law firm with a small, shitty tech division. They love suing their own customers for license violations. I’d flee Oracle first, then worry about Microsoft.)

  3. ” It’s tempting to blame Microsoft’s recent dropping of Windows 7 support for the defenestration, but this sounds like a plan that’s been in the works for a while”
    M$’s plan to drop Win 7 support has also been in the works, and public knowledge, for a while. Guess that Korea started planning to drop Windows, sooner or later, as soon as they saw what Win 10 was like and knew that Win 7 would cease getting updates someday. Well done South Korea for escaping M$’s clutches.

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