Hackaday Links: March 15, 2020

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Just a few weeks ago in the Links article, we ran a story about Tanner Electronics, the Dallas-area surplus store that was a mainstay of the hacker and maker scene in the area. At the time, Tanner’s owners were actively looking for a new, downsized space to move into, and they were optimistic that they’d be able to find something. But it appears not to be, as we got word this week from James Tanner that the store would be shutting its doors after 40 years in business. We’re sad to see anyone who’s supported the hardware hacking scene be unable to make a go of it, especially after four decades of service. But as we pointed out in “The Death of Surplus”, the center of gravity of electronics manufacturing has shifted dramatically in that time, and that’s changed the surplus market forever. We wish the Tanner’s the best of luck, and ask those in the area to stop by and perhaps help them sell off some of their inventory before they close the doors on May 31.

Feel like getting your inner Gollum on video but don’t know where to begin? Open source motion capture might be the place to start, and Chordata will soon be here to help. We saw Chordata as an entry in the 2018 Hackaday Prize; they’ve come a long way since then and are just about to open up their Kickstarter. Check out the video for an overview of what Chordata can do.

Another big name in the open-source movement has been forced out of the organization he co-founded. Eric S. Raymond, author of The Cathedral and the Bazaar and co-founder and former president of the Open Source Initiative has been removed from mailing lists and banned from communicating with the group. Raymond, known simply as ESR, reports that this was in response to “being too rhetorically forceful” in his dissent from proposed changes to OSD, the core documents that OSI uses to determine if software is truly open source. Nobody seems to be saying much about the behavior that started the fracas.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the newly emerged SARS-CoV-2 virus, has been spreading across the globe, causing panic and claiming lives. It’s not without its second-order effects either, of course, as everything from global supply chains to conferences and meetings have been disrupted. And now, coronavirus can be blamed for delaying the ESA/Russian joint ExoMars mission. The mission is to include a Russian-built surface platform for meteorological and biochemical surveys, plus the ESA’s Rosalind Franklin rover. Program scientists are no longer able to travel and meet with their counterparts to sort out issues, severely crimping productivity and forcing the delay. Social distancing and working from home can only take you so far, especially when you’re trying to get to Mars. We wonder if NASA’s Perseverance will suffer a similar fate.

Speaking of social distancing, if you’ve already decided to lock the doors and hunker down to wait out COVID-19, you’ll need something to keep you from going stir crazy. One suggestion: learn a new skill, like PCB design. TeachMePCB is offering a free rigid PCB design course starting March 28. If you’re a newbie, or even if you’ve had some ad hoc design experience, this could be a great way to productively while away some time. And if that doesn’t work for you, check out Bartosz Ciechanowski’s Gears page. It’s an interactive lesson on why gears look like they do, and the math behind power transmission. Ever wonder why gear teeth have an involute shape? Bartosz will fix you up.

Stay safe out there, everyone. And wash those hands!

21 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: March 15, 2020

    1. @DJ Biohazard,
      The TeachMEPCB can be taken by anyone. The “prizes” (Altium License, Keysight Oscilloscope, free boards etc…) are North America only. Partly due to not wanting to mess around with potential ITAR restrictions, partly due to international shipping costs. Source: Me — I’m the course organizer.

  1. It’s sad to see Tanner’s close their doors, but at the same time, their hours were awful for a hobbyist. They close at 2 or 3 on Saturday and closed Sunday. Also it’s about 30 minutes from me, so I would only go there every once in a while.

    1. I never found their hours to really be a problem. It is a matter of planning. It also took me about the same amount of time to get there, too. Once again, it is a matter of planning. Given that Tanner’s is a family-owned business, they need to have some time to get their own things done. BTW, they are open 9 AM – 6 PM, Monday through Friday and 9 AM to 3 PM on Saturdays, so they are open plenty of hours each week. I suppose you could always go to Fry’s Electronics or Micro Center.

      1. I dunno about Tanners, but so many of the old surplus places wanted new or near new prices for old stuff, and to some extent did not have much in the way of newer stuff. I have been pondering an amplifier project and looking for some big heatsinks and the surplus places want as much or more than new. The good thing is I was able to hold off until a hamfest and I got what I was looking for in a box with some other stuff for next to nothing. One man’s junk is another mans treasure so to speak. I think a lot of the surplus places became attached to their stuff. Another phenomena you see at hamfests. You make an offer and the people are offended and than you pick the piece out of the trash later on that afternoon. It has happened to me more than once.

        I used to go with 2 piles, one, the bigger one, usually, was stuff that was not coming back so to speak, and the other was stuff that I would part with for a price. I had a girlfriend who loved haggeling with people and she had a ball with the stuff that was not coming back.

        1. I suspect a lot of the old surpies are going out of business also b/c their owners are of retirement age. I’ve seen this at Javanco in Nashville (where I grew up) and more recently here in Munich. It’s a tough business, and it’s mostly run by people who love what they do, which compensates some of the money.

          But it’s hard to find successors in that climate. So when the owner bails out, so goes the store.

          (Spills a little beer for all the good surpies I’ve known…)

    2. Heh, there was a RC hobby store near here was biotching loud about “lack of support” before closing down for good and they were closed weekends, theoretically open 10-4 4 days a week, 10-noon on Wednesday, and not even that, twice I stopped by and the doors were locked. The one time I got in it was like “spend $1000 on the best outfit I’ve got or GTFO”

  2. We used to be elite, in that most didn’t have techical hobbies and for a longtime it took technical skill to be online. Then it broadened and it was no longer the same thing. What used to exist faded and Disneyfied variants (for money) rose up. Anyone can twitter now, but it doesn’t mean they have anything to say. What the masses want is very different from what people wanted even 25 years ago. And everyone wants to “hack” because they see it as a badge, but many don’t want to put in the effort to become capable. Others see an end that they want, but want it simplified to get there, when traditionally for many of us the path was as interesting as the end. Or to out it another way, the end was a catalyst for learning.

    Perceived barriers aren’t often to keep people out, but to raise them up to another level. Fifty years after I started reading about electronics and radio, I can’t be anything but advanced, that doesn’t make me snobbish and nothing I do shouid be limited because a large portion of the population can’t keep up.

    Last year I commented somewhere and quoted my great, great grandmother. And someone objected to a word she used. But erase that word and the quote doesn’t convey what she felt. Someone complained, and I couidn’t tell if someone was really troubled by the word (in which case I’d expect empathy) or if someone was just troubled by the word, in anticipation of someone actually reacting badly to the word.

    “Inclusiveness” often seems to be a concept, a conformity that often lacks the important part, diversity.

    1. “Inclusiveness” often seems to be a concept, a conformity that often lacks the important part, diversity.”


      “The practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those having physical or mental disabilities or belonging to other minority groups.”

      Sounds like “diversity” is implied.

    2. I have been told in the workplace, a workplace full of college graduates, not to use “$10 words” like “unintelligible”. My [idiot] coworkers and [idiot] boss thought I was saying they weren’t intelligent when I used “unintelligible”, as in “the phone message was unintelligible.”

    1. Raymond wouldn’t fare too well under a meritocracy either. He’s just a windbag who wrote an essay 100 years ago, and has been living off that ever since.

      When people demand license to act like assholes, it always seems to come as a huge surprise that they’re not nearly as indespensable as they thought they were.

  3. @Dj Biohazard says: “Shame the “TeachMePCB” is US only.”

    Wrong. During sign-up it says this:

    I also understand that the prizes (Oscilloscopes and Free Boards) are only for participants who live in the United States and Canada. (Anyone from anyplace can participate in the course).

    [ ] I accept
    [ ] I don’t accept

  4. Don’t like loosing electronics outlets of any kind , around my area we used to have Klouse (Sp?) Radio and Bud’s Electronics both could supply any part needed today, then it was just a local Radio Shack left. And now there are none within a 4 Hour drive ..Zero Zip Mail order only! Sad Day, Oh By the way the link to Tucker Electronics is bad it links to a Tucker Power Sports site??? Tucker gone also??? WoW

  5. In Silicon Valley in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s there was surplus because we actually *made* stuff there. You makes stuff, you generate surplus and scrap, etc.

    Now, since we don’t make anything stateside, all the surplus places have died: HSC, Haltek, Weird Stuff.

    All gone.

  6. FYI: I managed to get Jim Tanner on the phone today and he confirmed that they are in the middle of moving out of their space as we spoke. I’ve dealt with them for over 20 years. One of the best places around for finding those really obscure parts as well as a complete inventory of just about every rf antenna/cable connector that has ever been made. And the amount of Arduino/Pi/etc. parts, kits, sensors, and raw components was off the charts. Great people with whom to have done business for sure. On a personal note, I’m glad that I got him on the phone and had the opportunity to thank him for the long years of service to the hacker/developer/inventor/hobbiest community and for the kindness they’ve always shown to me and anyone else who walked in the door. We need more like him, not less. BUT…The good news is that most of their inventory was purchased by Mr. Tanner’s friend who owns BGMicro, across town in Garland, TX. And while I am sure that BGMicro will be doing inventory and introducing a lot of that stock to their own existing bin boxes, I suspect that we will begin seeing plenty of Tanner inventory in the sale sheet that BG mails out once or twice a week. And probably at decent discounts. Hope this info helps! peace –

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