Hackaday Links: March 22, 2020

Within the span of just two months, our world of unimaginable plenty and ready access to goods manufactured across the globe has been transformed into one where the bare essentials of life are hard to find at any price. The people on the frontline of the battle against COVID-19 are suffering supply chain pinches too, often at great risk to their health. Lack of proper personal protective equipment (PPE), especially face masks, is an acute problem, and the shortage will only exacerbate the problem as healthcare workers go down for the count. Factories are gearing up to make more masks, but in the meantime, the maker and hacker community can pitch in. FreeSewing, an open-source repository of sewing patterns, has a pattern for a simple face mask called the Fu that can be made quickly by an experienced threadworker. Efficacy of the masks made with that pattern will vary based on the materials used, obviously; a slightly less ad hoc effort is the 100 Million Mask Challenge, where volunteers are given a pattern and enough lab-tested materials to make 100 face masks. If you know how to sew, getting involved might make a difference.

As people around the world wrap their heads around the new normal of social distancing and the loss of human contact, there’s been an understandable spike in interest in amateur radio. QRZ.com reports that the FCC has recorded an uptick in the number of amateur radio licenses issued since the COVID-19 outbreak, and license test prep site HamRadioPrep.com has been swamped by new users seeking to prepare for taking the test. As we’ve discussed, the barrier for entry to ham radio is normally very low, both in terms of getting your license and getting the minimal equipment needed to get on the air. One hurdle aspiring hams might face is the cancellation of so-called VE testing, where Volunteer Examiners administer the written tests needed for each license class. Finding a face-to-face VE testing session now might be hard, but the VEs are likely to find a way to adapt. After all, hams were social distancing before social distancing was cool.

The list of public events that have been postponed or outright canceled by this pandemic is long indeed, with pretty much everything expected to draw more than a handful of people put into limbo. The hacking world is not immune, of course, with many high-profile events scuttled. But we hackers are a resourceful bunch, and the 10th annual Open Source Hardware Summit managed to go off on schedule as a virtual meeting last week. You can watch the nearly eight-hour livestream while you’re self-isolating. We’re confident that other conferences will go virtual in the near-term too rather than cancel outright.

And finally, if you’re sick of pandemic news and just want some escapist engineering eye candy, you could do worse than checking out what it takes to make a DSLR camera waterproof. We’ve honestly always numbered cameras as among the very least waterproof devices, but it turns out that photojournalists and filmmakers are pretty rough on their gear and expect it to keep working even so. The story here focuses (sorry) on Olympus cameras and lenses, which you’ll note that Takasu-san only ever refers to as “splash-proof”, and the complex system of O-rings and seals needed to keep water away from their innards. For our money, the best part was learning that lenses that have to change their internal volume, like zoom lenses, need to be vented so that air can move in and out. The engineering needed to keep water out of a vented system like that is pretty impressive.

23 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: March 22, 2020

  1. It’s a classic case of what was old is new again.

    In some ways one reminded of the biblical story of the Tower of Babel where man thought him self too good and could do anything and as the story goes God them different languages and they couldn’t work together and dispersed around the globe. The recent decades of globalization has seen man thinking he can do away with his deity and go it alone and now we are yet again been dispersed.

    Your views on various dieties may vary but maybe man just isn’t meant to work together on a global scale and globalization/ multiculturalism isn’t best for our health. This isn’t suggesting one is better than another just we are different and working in our different ways and haveing our own culture and language is just the way it works best.

    With out mass international travel this virus and many others that have come before it would be nipped in the bud and kept local and isolated with minimal global disruption.

          1. But who says we are UNDER the sun? Aren’t we above? Or to the side? Looking at the galaxy, we’re spinning around the sun in a spiral as the sun speeds around the core of the Milky Way. It in turn moving through the vast emptiness of the universe.

  2. So I was thinking that a drycleaner’s motorized garment rack system could be a pretty good way to sterilize PPE for reuse if combined with some UVC lamps.

    Hang the N95 masks on the rack, separated a bit to prevent items from occluding each other. Put the lamps on either side of the track, about a foot away and pointed at the track. Turn the lamps on, and run the system for an hour or so, cycling the PPE gear around the track.

    Ideally most of the track and the lamps would be located behind curtains with the rack and its controls out front, so that items could be added or removed without people being exposed to the UV light. Then the UV lamps could be kept on all the time.

    The challenge would be acquiring these racks, used or new, and finding a place to set them up at the hospital. Or hacking together an equivalent system.

    1. Adding: The point of using the motorized track is to solve the problem of sterilizing a lot of PPE at the same time. You need a lot of space so that every item gets fully exposed to UV. You can’t stack masks, etc. The motorized rack would repeatedly bring every item past multiple UV C lamps ensuring each got an equal dose of UV and got it from both sides.

    2. Does UV light work to disinfect fabric?
      UV is only effective on organisms the light can reach.
      In a fabric (like a mask), drops containing viruses could be shaded by
      fibers or folds in the fabric.

      1. I expect it would disinfect the surfaces. So at least they wouldn’t risk contracting the virus by handling a dirty respirator. I don’t know if viral particles inside the filter would be a threat to anyone, either by being blown outward when exhaling or sucked further through the filter when inhaling.

        But externally sterilizing the respirators would be safer than reusing them without sterilizing at all, if supplies aren’t available to allow disposing of respirators after one use. And reusing sterilized respirators would be better than using scarves or fabric surgical masks.

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