If development platforms were people, Google would be one of the most prolific serial killers in history. Android Things, Google’s attempt at an OS for IoT devices, will officially start shutting down on January 5, 2021, and the plug will be pulled for good a year later. Android Things, which was basically a stripped-down version of the popular phone operating system, had promise, especially considering that Google was pitching it as a secure alternative in the IoT space, where security is often an afterthought. We haven’t exactly seen a lot of projects using Android Things, so the loss is probably not huge, but the list of projects snuffed by Google and the number of developers and users left high and dry by these changes continues to grow.
By now you’ve probably heard about the drone operator who was fined a cool $182,000 by the FAA for violations of the rules regarding safe drone operation. It may seem exorbitant, but when you dig a little deeper, it seems like the drone pilot, who goes by the handle “Mikey” on YouTube, pretty much had it coming. He has been operating drones in the Center City area of Philadelphia for a while now, in flagrant disregard for FAA rules like not operating in beyond line of sight, not operating at night, and not flying in restricted areas. Mikey, who by the way doesn’t have a remote pilot’s certificate, did all this and more, and posted everything on YouTube. We normally give the benefit of the doubt and take pity on people who get hassled for just enjoying their hobbies, but after listening to about three minutes of Mikey’s schtick on YouTube, we decided that he probably had it coming.
Still looking for the perfect gift this holiday season? What about the gift of silicon? DIY chip maker Sam Zeloof is auctioning off chips from his first production batch of homemade ICs, cooked up right in his garage. The Z1 chip, which we featured back in 2018 when Sam first announced it, is a dual-differential amplifier with six FETs and a handful of other components, packaged in a 14-pin ceramic DIP. The current bid is up to $315, which seems a fair price considering all the work Sam put into this, plus the fact that proceeds go to keeping Sam’s fab lab running.
We’re normally loathe to bring up anything that has to do with the safety of 3D-printing, as it mostly just devolves into a flame war in the comments section. But what the heck — it’s Christmas! There’s news of a paper, apparently presented at last week’s Society of Risk Analysis annual meeting, that reportedly confirms what most of us intuitively know already: that the fumes from 3D printers aren’t great to inhale. Specifically, the researchers found that emissions from ABS filament were moderately toxic to human lung cells, while minimally toxic to rats. There’s a lot of detail missing here — for example, “lung cells” implies a cell culture, which is not the same thing as observing clinical changes in someone’s lungs, nor is a rat always a good model for what’s going to happen in humans. Still, we’re keen to read the actual paper and dive into the details. Until then, we’ll probably keep on printing — just maybe with the window cracked.
Looking for a fun project to while away some time between Christmas and New Year? You could do worse than by trying to tune into slow-scan TV broadcasts from the International Space Station. The ARISS program, or Amateur Radio aboard the ISS, has been operating from on high for 20 years now, and to celebrate they’ve scheduled SSTV broadcasts from December 24 to December 31. SSTV is an amateur radio mode that transmits low-def, static images on amateur bands that can be received with simple equipment, and without a license. If you want to give it a shot, you should check out Jenny’s how-to article for the basics on getting an RTL-SDR hooked up and getting the right software installed. You also need an antenna — this simple v-dipole should do the trick. Happy watching!