Hackaday Links: March 8, 2020

Hackaday Links Column Banner

A lot of annoying little hacks are needed to keep our integer-based calendar in sync with a floating-point universe, and the big one, leap day, passed us by this week. Aside from the ignominy of adding a day to what’s already the worst month of the year, leap day has a tendency to call out programmers who take shortcuts with their code. Matt Johnson-Pint has compiled a list of 2020 leap day bugs that cropped up, ranging from cell phones showing the wrong date on February 29 to an automated streetlight system in Denmark going wonky for the day. The highest-profile issue may have been system crashes of Robinhood, the online stock trading platform. Robinhood disagrees that the issues were caused by leap day code issues, saying that it was a simple case of too many users and not enough servers. That seems likely given last week’s coronavirus-fueled trading frenzy, but let’s see what happens in 2024.

Speaking of annoying time hacks, by the time US readers see this, we will have switched to Daylight Saving Time. Aside from costing everyone a precious hour of sleep, the semiannual clock switch always seems to set off debates about the need for Daylight Saving Time. Psychologists think it’s bad for us, and it has elicited a few bugs over the years. What will this year’s switch hold? Given the way 2020 has been going so far, you’d better buckle up.

Can distributed computation be harnessed in the fight against Covid-19? Folding@Home thinks so, and wants you to donate some computational cycles to the effort. Folding@Home uses an ad hoc cloud to run protein folding simulations, which are computationally difficult problems that normally require supercomputer-level machines. They hope that enlisting more volunteers will increase the power of their system and reveal the mysteries of 2019-nCoV, the coronavirus causing Covid-19. Download Folding@Home and put that spare machine to work.

Coincidentally, one of the most famous distributed computation efforts of all time, SETI@Home, announced this week that they’d be shutting down. For 21 years, the possibility of having your computer be the one that teased the call from ET from the background noise of the radio universe kept people hooked. The SETI@Home shut down is only a hiatus; the team says that the effort has been so successful that they have a huge backlog of results to work through, and they need a little breathing room. Sounds like a great time to switch to Folding@Home.

And finally, color us only slightly disappointed that Rover McRoverface wasn’t at least a finalist in the Mars Rover 2020 naming competition. NASA announced the winner this week with much fanfare, as the somewhat lengthy video below shows. Skip to 9:27 for the reveal; we won’t spoil it here, but we will say that we’re sure our colleague Jenny List will be displeased with the results. Curious as to what’s onboard the new rover? We’ve got you covered.

16 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: March 8, 2020

  1. “What will this year’s switch hold? ”

    I saw it pointed out elsewhere that this week had people shorted an hour on sleep, a full moon on Tuesday and a Friday the 13th, so yeah, buckle up.

  2. Feb 29th was also Rare Disease Day (it’s the last day of February, not just every four years).

    Oddly some rare diseases are very well known, seeing them on the list surprised me. I assumed they were common because they were so well known.

    But others few have heard of except the few have them. (Oddly, if you add together all the people with all rare diseases, they likely amount to a very large number of people.)

    I was amazed to find I had a rare disease last year, and they knew within two weeks. I’m sure it usually takes a lot more to find a person’s rare disease.

    So why not allocate computer time to some of the rare diseases? They may not get the funding of “popular” diseases, and since they are rare, few are affected. But a rare disease can affect anyone as much as a common disease, and if it kills you, the type of disease doesn’t matter.

    Harold Ramis died from a disease related to mine. Mine won’t kill me, just lets other things happen that could be fatal. It can be kept at bay, but I’ll have to keep taking the drug (and the first one caused a bad reaction after six months, luckily there was a second drug that did the same thing).

    There is already lots of attention to the current virus (and it could be fatal to me, though I already was close to death last March). But lots of other things need attention.

    Don’t forget to sign up for organ donation.

    1. We’ve had “trials” foisted on us 3 times and 3 sparate referendums and each time the answer has been a resounding NO. Still get people bitching and moaning that we don’t have daylight savings.

    2. NO!

      It is a good adaption of our time system to the changing seasons. And changing some clocks is less effort than e.g. changing tires for winter and summer. Most do it automatically nowadays anyway. When the length of the day changes from 8h of daylight in winter to up to 16 hours in summer, then it is only natural to adapt the clock.
      The “jet lag” argument is also quite absurd and meaningless as for most of us the time to get out of bed in the morning changes often more than 1h between work time and weekends.

    1. No doubt. But “the wheels on the bus” fallacy of thinking doesn’t register for many people or companies. Even if there was no one left behind the wheel or on the bus itself, they and all the companies wouldn’t do it.

      Imagine all the idle instances and cpus at all the data centers as well as Microsoft, Amazon and Google.

      The bean counters and auditors would argue about maintenance and electricity. We already know true “Evil” is banal and apathetic.

  3. May paternal grandparents never set their clocks to daylight savings time, but I never noticed, any benifit for them by doing so. The downside is they had to mentally adjust all the time on function in the commuty that used daylight savins time. Domesticated animal herds, while they don’t undertand what changed, they tend to adjust to the slightly altered human schedules Because of that, I can’t put much stock into ay physiological or physiological effects to huans. Most of loose ate least an hour of sleep, more than once a year. I hear a lot of complaining from persos where wheren’t alive before time changes became routine. So like so many other similar complaining, Ihave to consider it an learned ignorant response. Growing up my dad never had job where he had the full weekend off, and never have I. So 7 days of extra daylight allowed us to get much more done in our personal lives, I appreciate daylight sayings time.

    1. There are only a few places that do daylight savings time. (Most of the world doesn’t.) This flip-flopping of times makes things more difficult for long distance interactions.

      The push for daylight savings time comes mainly from stores and recreation vendors. Having more daylight after work hours gives them more customers/$.

      Several states are moving towards maintaining a constant time all year round.
      (Whether standard time or daylight time.)

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.