Hackaday Links: May 24, 2020

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We’re saddened to learn of the passing of Gershon Kingsley in December 2019 at the age of 97. The composer and electronic music pioneer was not exactly a household name, but the things he did with the Moog synthesizer, especially the surprise hit “Pop Corn”, which he wrote in 1969, are sure to be familiar. The song has been covered dozens of times, in the process of which the spelling of the name changed to “Popcorn.” We’re most familiar with the 1972 cover by Hot Butter, an earworm from our youth that doesn’t hide the Moog as deeply in the backing instruments as Kingsley did in the original. Or, perhaps you prefer the cover done by a robotic glockenspiel, because robotic glockenspiel.

A few months back, we covered the audacious plan to recover the radio gear from the Titanic. At the time, the potential salvors, Atlanta-based RMS Titanic, Inc., were seeking permission to cut into the submerged remains of the Titanic‘s Marconi room to remove as much of the wireless gear as possible. A federal judge granted permission for the salvage operation last Friday, giving the company the green light to prepare an expedition for this summer. The US government, through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Park Service, argued strenuously to leave the wreck be and treat it as a tomb for the 1,527 victims. For our part, we had a great discussion about the merits in the comments section of the previous article. Now that it’s a done deal, we’d love to hear what you have to say about this again.

Although life appears to be slowly returning to what passes for normal, that doesn’t mean you might not still have some cycles to spare, especially when the time spent can bolster your skillset. And so if you’re looking to adding FPGAs to your resume, check out this remote lab on FPGA vision systems offered by Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University. The setup allows you to watch lectures, download code examples, and build them on your local computer, and then upload the resulting binaries to real hardware running on the lab’s servers in Germany. It sounds like a great way to get access to FPGA hardware that you’d otherwise have a hard time laying hands on. Or, you know, you could have just come to the 2019 Hackaday Superconference.

Speaking of skill-builders, oscilloscope owners who want to sharpen their skills could do worse than to listen to the advice of a real scope jockey like Allen Wolke. He recently posted a helpful video listing the five most common reasons for your scope giving “wrong” voltage readings. Spoiler alert: the instrument is probably doing exactly what you told it to do. As a scope newbie, we found the insights very helpful, and we can imagine even seasoned users could make simple mistakes like using the wrong probe attenuation or forgetting that scope response isn’t flat across its bandwidth.

Safety tip for the gearheads among us: your jack stands might be unsafe to use. Harbor Freight, the stalwart purveyor of cheap tools, has issued a recall of two different models of its jack stands. It seems that the pawls can kick out under the right conditions, sending the supported load crashing to the ground. This qualifies as a Very Bad Day for anyone unlucky enough to be working underneath when it happens. Defective jack stands can be returned to Harbor Freight for store credit, so check your garage and be safe out there in the shop.

And finally, because everyone loves a good flame war, Ars Technica has come up with a pronunciation guide for common tech terms. We have to admit that most of these are not surprising; few among the technology literate would mispronounce “Linux” or “sudo”. We will admit to a non-fanboy level of ignorance on whether the “X” in “iOS X” was a Roman numeral or not, but learning that the “iOS” part is correctly pronounced as three syllables, not two was a bit shocking. It’s all an exercise in pedantry that reminds us of a mildly heated discussion we had around the secret Hackaday writers’ bunker and whether “a LED” or “an LED” is the correct style. If the Internet was made for anything, it was stuff like this.

56 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: May 24, 2020

      1. Out of curiosity, how to you pronounce SCUBA? Self-contained ***UNDERWATER*** Breathing Apparatus. Better start pronouncing it scuh-buh.

        Also Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Better call that one a lass-er as lay-zer is clearly wrong.

        Or we can just admit that the letters in an acronym doesn’t have to be pronounced the same as the component words.

    1. “with a soft G like the peanut butter.”

      In [1]: letters = set('peanut butter')
      In [2]: 'g' in letters
      Out[2]: False

      Errm, what “soft G”? I can’t find _any_ “G”.

  1. People will get the virus, that’s a given, it’s in the nature of viruses.

    The original point of the shutdown was to flatten the curve so that a) we could prepare, and b) we wouldn’t swamp the medical facilities. It was to prevent *unnecessary* deaths due to the coronavirus.

    The phrase “deciding it is ok for a lot more people to die” is simply an emotional appeal with no basis in sound judgement. People will die from the coronavirus whether we open up or not, we can have a lot of people die in a short time or THAT SAME NUMBER OF DEATHS over a longer time.

    Given that we are now prepared and that the shutdown is driving a lot of people into poverty, it makes sense to open up again. Looking at the coronavirus statistics (link below) shows that we changed an exponential rise into a linear one. The lockdown worked too well, and if we continue using the statistics shown it will take 30 years or more for the virus to run its course.

    (About 1.7 million cases currently, and 25K new cases each day. Extrapolate to 300 million will take about 10,000 days, or 30 years. Source: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/)

    The coronavirus has a fatality rate, but so does poverty. The rational choice is to reopen the economy until the ramp-up from the virus becomes exponential again, keep an eye on the fatality rate, and tap the breaks if it looks like the medical infrastructure will get overloaded.

    (Dan did say he wanted a flame war :-)

    1. That’s a good point.

      It’s exactly like smallpox. It wasn’t over until everyone had gotten smallpox.

      Oh wait… we developed a vaccine and saved billions of lives.

      So, shutdown and stay shut until we have a vaccine and save a billion lives.

      Pretty straightforward for those who think about it.

      1. My post has a rationalization backed up by statistics and common sense.

        Your reply talks about saving a billion lives, which is a gross exaggeration used for emotional persuation.

        Don’t let your heart rule your head. It makes no sense to save “a billion lives” at the cost of shutting down the economy for 30 years. That would be stupid, which is the essential point of your post.

        Also, the 1st recorded example of smallpox was around 1500, and the vaccine was developed about 300 years later. So yes it’s exactly like smallpox. We can’t shut down for that long.

        If you have a point to make, use math and science to back up your position. This emotional garbage is how despots trick the masses into voting them into power.

        1. What’s referred to as “the common cold” can be caused by any of several dozen viruses, only a few being coronaviruses. None of them being life threatening on their own.

      2. >That’s a good point.
        >It’s exactly like smallpox. It wasn’t over until everyone had gotten smallpox.
        >Oh wait… we developed a vaccine and saved billions of lives.

        …and in the roughly 12 millennia (it’s estimated to have made the jump to humans around 10000 BC… see https://infogalactic.com/info/Smallpox) from smallpox first surfacing to the development of that vaccine, we shut down the world and all progress ground to a screeching halt.

        Oh wait…we didn’t do that. Yes, lots of people died (about 400k Europeans every year for the latter part of the 18th century), but lots of people die every year of all sorts of things. It’s what we do. None of us are getting out of here alive. Staying holed up at home and sending all your money to Amazon and Uber Eats isn’t living, and neither is going out in public with a diaper on your face.

        Besides, not all viruses are targetable with vaccines. We don’t have vaccines that work against rhinovirus, the bug that’s responsible for the common cold. We don’t have vaccines that work against HIV, despite decades of work toward that goal. Are you willing to shut down the world,, potentially forever, until a workable vaccine is discovered for this latest bug?

    2. Are we prepared? You do all this “appeal to authority” and don’t answer the essential question. What I’m seeing on this end is while some are “driven to poverty” (there’s that emotion again), a lot of places are adapting to a different way of doing business, some with overwhelmingly positive results. Others are “just hanging on”. With the lock-down coming to an end, we’ll see just how prepared we really are.

    3. There are long-term health effects from COVID-19, so if your idea is “everybody gets it and we just don’t overload the hospitals” then you are dooming some folks to long term health issues like diminished lung capacity, blood clots, kidney, heart, and liver damage.
      Really, you don’t want to get this. Nor should you wish it on anybody else.

      Before people decided to “open up” we were reducing the number of new cases in the US by about 2000 a week. Given we are currently at 25000 new cases a day in the US, we would have hit zero new cases a day in about 12 weeks. And then it would be over.

      Some people say “you can’t self-isolate your way out of this”. But you can. China did it. New Zealand did it. Most of Europe… *was* doing it.

      Doctors try to work out different scenarios for us, but say “but three months of hard quarantine would end it.” But somehow we can’t even manage that.

      The governments of many European countries had stepped up to “freeze” their economies and pay %70 percent of wages while people have to stay home from work. But somehow the US can’t manage to do that, and so they are guaranteed an economic collapse whether they “open up” or not.

      But this is not the time to be arguing about the economy.
      There is no economy for the dead.
      Please believe the science and be safe!

      1. What happens if an infected person travels from the US to China and restarts the whole thing? I don’t think it’s over until it’s over on a global scale

      2. Believing any coronavirus data coming from China is incredibly naive. I hope you’re not seriously advocating for using China’s actions as a model for other states.

        It’s not that the US “can’t manage” to do what you suggest. But paying people’s wages, even for a few weeks or months, doesn’t make the economic problem go away. And it hits different places in different ways. Imagine this: the developed world shuts down for a few months and scrapes by without dire consequences. What happens to the developing world who rely on the US and other consumers to support their factories, plants, and tourism economies?

        We’ve already undone 2 decades of progress on poverty in the developing world; where will it be a few months from now?

        Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/30/world/asia/coronavirus-poverty-unemployment.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

        I’d like to point out that my linked article blames the coronavirus, but we must keep it straight. The lockdown is what has caused it.

      3. You DO know the government is “paying you” with your future taxes? Your future taxes will depend on how well you do in a ruined economy. The size of the US economy means recession there will be exported as inflation to everyone who holds US Treasury bonds. If they are weak – as they will be also – it will lead to runaway inflation and everything that comes with it and the rise of dictators. This has happened before and the result was WWII and millions dead from violence or starvation. Just say no.

    4. It’s not the same number of deaths between lock down and fully open. It’s all about intensive care unit capacity. There are those that would die even with ICU care and they’re… Not going to have a good time either way, but if the rate of infection is high enough you’ll have more people needing intensive care than you have capacity to help. Once your ICUs are full getting badly affected means death.

      I agree we should re-open a little bit since staying in full shutdown means we’ll see a resurgence once we go back whether that’s in 2 months or 50 years so long as there’s a carrier left. We should just be darned careful about it and as someone else said ready to tap the brakes and go into lock down again if we start exceeding ICU capacity.

      That said I work in the tech industry so if I had to work from home forever I’d be okay with that, and it would reduce my chance of needing ICU care at a critical moment.

    5. The problem with phrases like “reopen” is that that means different things to different people. What exactly is your operational definition of “reopen?” To be clear, let’s just take the idea of a barber shop and some simple yes or no questions. No gotchas, just simple questions.

      Should barber shops now open without any restriction on the number of people in the shop?
      Should barber shops now open without any restrictions on how far apart people work in the shop?
      Should barber shops allow customers to sit in the usual waiting room, side by side in chairs?
      … take the temperature of all workers before a shift?
      … require barbers to wear a mask when working?
      … require customers to take their temperature before entering the shop?
      … require customers to wear a mask, even if it makes cutting their hair harder?
      Should we require the barber shop to test all workers on a weekly basis?
      Should we require the barber shop to notify the state health department if someone tests positive?
      Should the state have access to customer records to notify customers who may have been exposed?
      Should we allow law enforcement to close the shop if it violates the rules per above?
      Should we allow law enforcement to close the shop for a very long time if it violates these rules?

      Many people interpret “reopen” as meaning everything can go back to normal. Under your “reopen” policy, are these things OK right now?
      Should high school football players gather and train as usual in preparation for fall sports?
      Should 100 people gather at their church and sit side by side in the pews now like they did at Christmas mass?
      Should people gather like they did at Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks or Daytona Beach this weekend?

      Your model assumes that a certain percent of people are destined to die of Covid-19, it is just a matter of time. That is actually a testable hypothesis. That was the assumption in the Swedish experiment in “herd immunity.” The data are now available there and show that, right now, compared to Norway, the rate of death is 10x higher in Sweden. Are you saying that you expect the Norwegian and Swedish death rate will eventually be the same? How long do you predict it will be before the Norwegian and Swedish numbers are equivalent?

      As for me, here’s my prediction. Over the next three or four weeks (certainly by the Fourth of July), despite the summer heat, you will see a tremendous spike in diagnoses, especially in places where people thought they were safe. Politicians in favor of pretending nothing is happening will say it is because we are now testing more. That won’t be the reason. You will see more stories about the significant lifetime damage the virus will cause, including for younger people. And we will begin to hear stories about the financial impact of the reopen-reclose experiment where the last available capital from SBA loans to small businesses was consumed by setting up businesses for COVID-19 only not to sustain minimal revenue and then having to close again. That’s my prediction. By the Fourth of July, you will be able to tell me if I was right or wrong.

      1. Will alligators rise from the sewers and eat us in our sleep? Answer me now, with a qualified expert, a PhD in alligators, Public Sanitation, and sleep studies.

        1. Today is July 6. On May 25, I predicted:

          “Over the next three or four weeks (certainly by the Fourth of July), despite the summer heat, you will see a tremendous spike in diagnoses, especially in places where people thought they were safe. Politicians in favor of pretending nothing is happening will say it is because we are now testing more. That won’t be the reason. You will see more stories about the significant lifetime damage the virus will cause, including for younger people. And we will begin to hear stories about the financial impact of the reopen-reclose experiment where the last available capital from SBA loans to small businesses was consumed by setting up businesses for COVID-19 only not to sustain minimal revenue and then having to close again. That’s my prediction. By the Fourth of July, you will be able to tell me if I was right or wrong.”

          Every single line of that prediction is unfortunately now known to be true. Every single line.

          Need more? Sweden is investigating its state epidemiologist for a policy that has resulted in a staggeringly high death rate and the next phase of the Moderna vaccine trial has been put on delay. There was never an easy button for this pandemic and there will be no quick miracle cure.

          But I didn’t come here to say, I Told You So and I didn’t stop by to give day traders stock tips. I came here to ask you to do three things.

          1. As Marco Rubio said, Wear a Damn Mask. WEAR A DAMN MASK.

          2. Unless it is impossible to avoid it (job, family responsibilities, medical emergency), do not go anywhere you will be in close contact with a large number of people.

          3. If you are an American and old enough to vote, figure out how you will get an Absentee ballot to vote in November and request one. You will need it.

          This should be obvious, but please do not perpetrate the misleading disinformation spouted by people who think money is more important than human life. The stock market is not a measure of how well we are fighting the virus. We have enough money to bail out hedge funds and provide loans to businesses that are 10x the value of the company. We have enough money to test every single American, provide care to those who need it, and provide living funds to individuals who need it. In business, this is called a “bridge loan.” For most people, this is rent money. But the US federal government has been issuing hundreds of billions of dollars of checks (with a stipulation that the money doesn’t need to be repaid), so we do have the money.

          Do not be fooled by politicians who claim they want to “reopen” schools for the benefit of children when they just want the parents to go back to minimum wage jobs so that they won’t have to pay unemployment benefits while those politicians shuffle hundreds of millions of dollars in single-source contracts and unjustifiable loans to political donors. Don’t do pro bono social media marketing for people who have spent a lifetime putting profit over people.

          Please do reach out to friends and family who may be hurting more than physically or financially. This pandemic has taken and will continue to take a terrible toll on people’s mental health. If you have not spoken to one or more of your friends in a while, today is the day to do it, even the “work friends” who you only see at the office. A virtual lunch, goofy txt or meme, phone call, how’s-it-going e-mail. Whatever. We need each other. If being kind to other people does not come naturally, try harder, practice often, and you will get good at it.

          Take care of yourself.


  2. learning that the “iOS” part is correctly pronounced as three syllables, not two was a bit shocking.

    Shocking? Why would it be shocking? I’ve never heard anything BUT eye-oh-ess.
    What rock have you been living under?

        1. Heh, English pronounces i, e, and a differently from English. I remember having a conversation with one of my Spanish colleagues about the English words live (like and organism), live (like a concert), leave, and leaf.
          Anyway I suggest “eye-oss” because people at least know iOS is an Apple product fitting in with iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc.

          1. >Anyway I suggest “eye-oss” because people at least know iOS is an Apple product fitting in with iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc.

            That pronunciation also distinguishes iOS from IOS, which is definitely pronounced “eye-oh-ess” and runs on a completely different class of hardware.

            (IIRC, iOS was originally called “iPhone OS,” back when the iPhone was the only device that ran it. Apple had to get Cisco to sign off on renaming it, as it was believed there may be some confusion between iOS and IOS.)

  3. i dont think its a good idea to use new york level virus control measures everywhere. big thing is minimize travel in and out of the hotspots. keeping the cold spots open (while taking appropriate precautions) and operating will mitigate the economic impact in the long term. that too is going to come with a level of lethality due to all the suicides.

    1. The primary NYC vector appears to be the subways and all large Chinese cities have extensive subways. Maybe his explains the similarity to China and the disparity with most the US.

  4. Huh composers. Do any of you besides me listen to classical music? About the time the Moog became mainstream, a musician named Williams went to her backers and offered to do all of J.S. Bach that way. Suffice to say it was successful. About twenty years ago she released Switched on Bach 2000. She works with a Midi keyboard now, and a Mac and three Siamese cats. When it comes to music especially electronic music that’s my style.

    1. The revisionist history really doesn’t help anyone no matter how woke you are. In case anyone wants to search out more info, a musician legal name Walter Carlos went his backers, etc etc. Later work is under the legal name Wendy Carlos after she changed her name.

      See? Apply the gender that matches the event. You don’t change the address of a buffer and expect to find previous data in it. Just because Wikipedia can’t handle it doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t.

      1. I met her after the fact. I only found out about all that stuff about the time she released the 2000 album. And I did meet her at the now closed J&R store in Manhattan. I get handed a photo and it showed the lady with the gear I mentioned and the three cats. I commented, “Well at least you’ve got good taste in cats.”, and I get a nice smile and “Thanks!” The WQXR announcer was surprised, and looked at the photos and smiled at me.

        1. Wendy Carlos is awesome.

          She was also a total intonation freak in the 80s. She had this two-keyboard arrangement that would play just intonation on the big keyboard in whichever key she tapped on the small one, solving hundreds of years worth of intonation compromises with technology.

          Similarly, she made up a few (strange!) microtonal scales. http://www.wendycarlos.com/resources/pitch.html AFAIK, she only did the one song with Beta — her scale that gets all of the important intervals right, with the exception of the most important: the octave. It’s really worth a listen if you can find it, though. It sounds “wrong” for quite a while before it sounds “right”. That’s a pretty cool experience.

  5. O’scopes. How long have any of you been using them? Me? I’d say about since high school. I’m now using a Tek 2213A rig, who’s retired from being used to repair the odd DG computer and now assists me in sorting out the strange behavior of logic and the odd analog circuit problem. Especially logic.

  6. My take on “an LED” or “a LED”: use “a” if the next word starts with a consonant, “an” if it starts with a vowel. If you say each letter in “LED” individually, then it’s “an L.E.D.” because the name of the letter “L” starts with an “e” vowel. If you say LED as a word like “lead”, then it’s “a LED” because the first letter is a consonant.

    What if it’s written? I prefer the individual letter version (“an LED”) but either form is acceptable–use your preference.

    1. Exactly, it’s down to whether you are pronouncing LED as an acronym or a word… “an ell eee dee” sounds perfectly fine. “a ell eee dee” or “an lead” sounds odd.

  7. Wait, whaaat!? Hot Butters Popcorn was not the original?
    Thanks for the history lesson.

    Though, I can see why Hot Butter was more popular. It sounds a lot cleaner.

  8. Linux is Leenux according to the audio file I heard played when some distro finished installing “Hello. My name is Leenus Torvalds and I pronounce Leenux, Leenux.”

  9. I remember when Nanao changed their company name to something more pronounceable by we Western customers. People would argue constantly about it, even at trade shows on the company stand. So, after much deliberation they adopted the new name of Eizo.

    So, now we have constant arguments about how it should be pronounced where I work, between the I-zo and the A-zo crowds. Even though I have shown the video about the company president explaining all this, and that in his opinion it should be pronounced A-zo, I am the only person who uses that variant. Given we are in a Diagnostic Imaging world, where there are essentially Barco and Eizo competing for the business, it is very tiring.

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