Hackaday Links: July 12, 2020

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Based in the US as Hackaday is, it’s easy to overload the news with stories from home. That’s particularly true with dark tales of the expanding surveillance state, which seem to just get worse here on a daily basis. So we’re not exactly sure how we feel to share not one but two international stories of a dystopian bent; one the one hand, pleased that it’s not us for a change, but on the other, sad to see the trend toward less freedom and more monitoring spreading.

The first story comes from Mexico, where apparently everything our community does will soon be illegal. We couch that statement because the analysis is based on Google translations of reports from Mexico, possibly masking the linguistic nuances that undergird legislative prose. So we did some digging and it indeed appears that the Mexican Senate approved a package of reforms to existing federal copyright laws that will make it illegal to do things like installing a non-OEM operating system on a PC, or to use non-branded ink cartridges in a printer. Reverse engineering ROMs will be right out too, making any meaningful security research illegal. There appear to be exceptions to the law, but those are mostly to the benefit of the Mexican government for “national security purposes.” It’ll be a sad day indeed for Mexican hackers if this law is passed.

The other story comes from Germany, where a proposed law would grant sweeping surveillance powers to 19 state intelligence bodies. The law would require ISPs to install hardware in their data centers that would allow law enforcement to receive data and potentially modify it before sending it on to where it was supposed to go. So German Internet users can look forward to state-sponsored man-in-the-middle attacks and trojan injections if this thing passes.

OK, time for a palate cleanser: take an hour to watch a time-lapse of the last decade of activity of our star. NASA put the film together from data sent back by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, a satellite that has been keeping an eye on the Sun from geosynchronous orbit since 2010. Each frame of the film is one hour of solar activity, which may sound like it would be boring to watch, but it’s actually quite interesting and very relaxing. There are exciting moments, too, like enormous solar eruptions and the beautiful but somehow terrifying lunar transits. More terrifying still is a massive coronal mass ejection (CME) captured in June 2011. A more subtle but fascinating phenomenon is the gradual decrease in the number of sunspots over the decade as the Sun goes through its normal eleven-year cycle.

You’ll recall that as a public service to our more gear-headed readers that we recently covered the recall of automotive jack stands sold at Harbor Freight, purveyor of discount tools in the USA. Parts for the jack stands in question had been cast with a degraded mold, making the pawls liable to kick out under load and drop the vehicle, with potentially catastrophic results for anyone working beneath. To their credit, Harbor Freight responded immediately and replaced tons of stands with a new version. But now, Harbor Freight is forced to recall the replacement stands as well, due to a welding error. It’s an embarrassment, to be sure, but to make it as right as possible, Harbor Freight is now accepting any of their brand jack stands for refund or store credit.

And finally, if you thought that the experience of buying a new car couldn’t be any more miserable, wait till you have to pay to use the windshield wipers. Exaggeration? Perhaps only slightly, now that BMW “is planning to move some features of its new cars to a subscription model.” Plans like that are common enough as cars get increasingly complex infotainment systems, or with vehicles like Teslas which can be upgraded remotely. But BMW is actually planning on making options such as heated seats and adaptive cruise control available only by subscription — try it out for a month and if you like it, pay to keep them on for a year. It would aggravate us to no end knowing that the hardware supporting these features had already been installed and were just being held ransom by software. Sounds like a perfect job for a hacker — just not one in Mexico.

30 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: July 12, 2020

  1. “available only by subscription — try it out for a month and if you like it, pay to keep them on for a year”

    Nothing new in this, unfortunately.

    My 2017GM remote start is that way, as is GPS. No. I will not pay $US20/month for GPS. My $US99 Garmin does just fine, thank you. And is a bigger screen that doesn’t timeshare with other key things. $US30 for remote start to be reactivated? Are you *expletive* kidding me?

    Though that isn’t as bad as the cable modem model- rent it for $US10/month or no service. If you want to buy it, $US200, than a $US8/month fee that I can’t remember what it is supposed to be., plus, I would have to give them root for it.

      1. Normal people will.
        Like they’re too busy posting on conventional social media to realize they’re willingly giving all their personal information away to identity thieves and advertising companies without moral constraints.

    1. Non-direct injected EFI systems can be driven with a arduino, just sayin’

      (I am well aware that some people will get their panties in a bunch about mentioning Arduino, but it’s the best known platform including old hat 8bit microcontrollers)

  2. Mexico, already has some crazy “The duration of the protection of a copyright work in Mexico is 100 years after the death of the author”. That is roughly four to six generations after work was created that it enters public domain.

  3. If you are involved in creating tech subscription models- do some good for humanity.

    Stay in your job- break into a shareholder meeting, and lambaste them on video for proposing horrible demeaning crap like this.

    Then resign, and take others with you, publicly, or this stuff will not stop.

  4. Western governments are watching very closely what’s happennjng in emerging totalitarian countries. They observe for example how easy China is exporting it’s social system to emerging countries (like Mexico, as well as southern and eastern countries). These countries are considered as social laboratories where we can measure how fast and how far a population can accept global surveillance and the lost of civil Rights as well as individual liberties. So HAD should never be shy to educate citizens to what happening all over the world. If your population is informed of this today, you may have a chance to tell your own gov that your don’t want a global surveillance system, social credits tagging, algorithmic processing of people, netc. for you children’s future.

    EU is already designing new laws to prevent this. About time you guys stop admiring your ombilics and do the same.
    Good move HAD!

    1. Oops! Apparently EU is not doing that well after all…. misery!… We’re all doomed…. (Actually I was talking more about France which passed a law to allow people to refuse being submited to algorithmic decisions.)

      Until recently USA was a liberty beacon for the rest of the world. Since your are loosing it, who else gonna do it? Justin Trudeau….?

      1. “Until recently” – I guess I missed something with respect to this comment and also the “dark tales of the expanding surveillance state” referred to in the article. Could somebody clue me in?

        Honestly I’m far more concerned about surveillance from corrupt and authoritarian foreign powers like China. I don’t care what China thinks of me. But corporations that depend on them for money tend to roll over for them, and our world is becoming increasingly influenced by digital media.

  5. As for subscription service electronics? That will be (slowy-ish?) pushed upon us under demands of continued interaction with the world.
    I recently had to update the web browser for a friend, due to their banking site MANDATING it in order to regain access their bank account and pay their bills.
    Web site looked and functioned identically to what it did the month before.
    Probably just laden with more trackers and other cruft, but (as per specific demand of PC owner) I didn’t run any blocking utilities in this install.
    The PC owner feels that it will be “too much trouble” to individually white-list the 20~25 sites that they visit.

    As for car remotes? pfft! Been driving for more than 4 decades and never wanted one. One came with the current vehical. No matter how I threaded it onto my keyring, it was continually pressing a button and cycling the locks (usually open) as I walked away.
    After a couple of weeks of finding the doors randomly unlocked or having to turn off the panic noise (vehical parked about 15 ft from dwelling), I pulled the coin cell, then tossed the fob into the spare key drawer and never looked back.

  6. On the EU side, if the Unitary Patent comes to light, there is a high chance that software patents will be validated by such a court:


    German government is pushing for a ratification by the end of the year, because they believe the UK is still a member of the EU for the purpose of this treaty, which is not true if you read the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

  7. People around the world have sent the wrong message in the last several months, and that is responsible for the creping tide of evil surveillance. If more people had protested against lockdowns, rather than rolled over before government claims of “we’re doing this to kep you safe”(whether true or not), governments would be more wary of encroaching on freedoms in other aspects of life. Whether you consider lockdown to be necessary or not, people who have accepted it have made government see it can get away with crushing basic civil liberties. The same happened afetr the Sept 11th atrocity, too many people seeking safety not liberty. I hope the mexicans and german people will violate the diktats of their overbearing governments, and it is our duty in other parts of the (nowhere near as free as we should be) “free” world to aid tinkerers in those nations to violate unjust laws with impunity, especially Mexico given the truly extreme abuses being plotted in that illegimate law they’ve come up with.

  8. I would like to know what’s being referred to by “dark tales of the expanding surveillance state” in the US.

    That is terrifying news for Mexico and Germany. Particularly the infringement on privacy. It’s a hard line to walk between enabling law enforcement and stepping on people’s right to speak freely and associate on the internet. But I will always lean towards a freer internet than to give the state or the police more power. Free (as in freedom) internet communication is a crucial check on state power and influence.

  9. I remember when I was younger I told my dad in a Harbor Freight “Cool, this metal has a wood grain print”, which he then explained was probably due to the sub-par metal casting techniques in whichever Chinese factory it was made in.

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