Hackaday Links: January 3, 2021

Last week we featured a story on the new rules regarding drone identification going into effect in the US. If you missed the article, the short story is that almost all unmanned aircraft will soon need to transmit their position, altitude, speed, and serial number, as well as the position of its operator, likely via WiFi or Bluetooth. The FAA’s rule change isn’t sitting well with Wing, the drone-based delivery subsidiary of megacorporation Alphabet. In their view, local broadcast of flight particulars would be an invasion of privacy, since observers snooping in on Remote ID traffic could, say, infer that a drone going between a pharmacy and a neighbor’s home might mean that someone is sick. They have a point, but how a Google company managed to cut through the thick clouds of irony to complain about privacy concerns and the rise of the surveillance state is mind boggling.

Speaking of regulatory burdens, it appears that getting an amateur radio license is no longer quite the deal that it once was. The Federal Communications Commission has adopted a $35 fee for new amateur radio licenses, license renewals, and changes to existing licenses, like vanity call signs. While $35 isn’t cheap, it’s not the end of the world, and it’s better than the $50 fee that the FCC was originally proposing. Still, it seems a bit steep for something that’s largely automated. In any case, it looks like we’re still good to go with our “$50 Ham” series.

Staying on the topic of amateur radio for a minute, it looks like there will be a new digital mode to explore soon. The change will come when version 2.4.0 of WSJT-X, the program that forms the heart of digital modes like WSPR and FT8, is released. The newcomer is called Q65, and it’s basically a follow-on to the current QRA64 weak-signal mode. Q65 is optimized for weak, rapidly fading signals in the VHF bands and higher, so it’s likely to prove popular with Earth-Moon-Earth fans and those who like to do things like bounce their signals off of meteor trails. We’d think Q65 should enable airliner-bounce too. We’ll be keen to give it a try whenever it comes out.

Look, we know it’s hard to get used to writing the correct year once a new one rolls around, and that time has taken on a relative feeling in these pandemic times. But we’re pretty sure it isn’t April yet, which is the most reasonable explanation for an ad purporting the unholy coupling of a gaming PC and mass-market fried foods. We strongly suspect this is just a marketing stunt between Cooler Master and Yum! Brands, but taken at face value, the KFConsole — it’s not a gaming console, it’s at best a pre-built gaming PC — is supposed to use excess heat to keep your DoorDashed order of KFC warm while you play. In a year full of incredibly stupid things, this one is clearly in the top five.

And finally, it looks like we can all breathe a sigh of relief that our airline pilots, or at least a subset of them, aren’t seeing things. There has been a steady stream of reports from pilots flying in and out of Los Angeles lately of a person in a jetpack buzzing around. Well, someone finally captured video of the daredevil, and even though it’s shaky and unclear — as are seemingly all videos of cryptids — it sure seems to be a human-sized biped flying around in a standing position. The video description says this was shot by a flight instructor at 3,000 feet (914 meters) near Palos Verdes with Catalina Island in the background. That’s about 20 miles (32 km) from the mainland, so whatever this person is flying has amazing range. And, the pilot has incredible faith in the equipment — that’s a long way to fall in something with the same glide ratio as a brick.

28 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: January 3, 2021

  1. >> They have a point, but how a Google company managed to cut through the thick clouds of irony to complain about privacy concerns and the rise of the surveillance state is mind boggling.
    Alphabet(Google) are very serious about privacy, as long as they are only company holding all the private metadata. If data is public and can be accessed by anyone then the value of the metadata is diminished.

    1. You are correct. They will act in their own interest and no one else’s. Private data is only valuable if it is not public, plus of course they will have it.

      Also the real issue here isn’t the potential for invasions of privacy. It’s how _easy_ it becomes to invade someone’s privacy. Pharmacies deliver using marked vehicles all the time, and no one is concerned about that (probably). But to gather that data you have to watch for it yourself, or you need lots of video and trained AI. The drone regulations would allow you to simply log the data automatically.

      Of course, as I have recently learned, in EU privacy regulations restrict recording personal information even if it is publicly available of broadcast, which includes MAC addresses of phones, laptops, etc. Seems possible then to make it illegal to log the flight data. The question is how to enforce it. I wonder if anyone knows how it is enforced in EU.

      1. > Seems possible then to make it illegal to log the flight data.

        Why not just put up some notice on your fence stating that any RF transmission entering your premises may be collected, you have a right to object, yadda, yadda, provide Data Protection Officer contact etc.? Just like they do with CCTV in many places in EU — it’s common to find GDPR notices on lamp posts or walls in publicly accessible places.

  2. KFConsole? A video game console that makes (heats) fried food? This has to be the most American thing EVER! (And I want one.) As for Jet Pack Guy the question is he a jetpack guy or a drone that looks like a jetpack guy?

  3. The FCC’s responses to replies to the NPRM strongly suggest that the FCC didn’t want to impose the fee on amateur radio licenses. Its hands were tied by RAY BAUM’S act (named for the senator who proposed it, with a convoluted backronym for the name). A minor subsection of that law, the primary purpose of which was mandating better position data for 911 service, requires “cost-based” fees for all FCC licensing services including ham radio.

    Adjusted for inflation, that $35 is actually cheaper than the $9 fee that the FCC charged before its elimination in 1977, and it gets you ten years instead of five. But their costs are lower now because of automation. Supposedly, the $9 fee was eliminated in the day because the overhead of Federal transaction processing meant it cost them more to take the money than they collected.

    It might be a bit of a wait for general availability of WSJX-X 2.4, since 2.3 is still in RC status. That update adds the FST4 and FST4W modes for the LF and VLF bands. I haven’t noticed any problems with 2.3, but I’m not using the new modes.

  4. I have a theory about the flying man… it’s a bunch of proto-hacker teens who are fans of Bertrand R. Brinley’s classic “The Mad Scientists Club.” and were inspired by the flying man episode in that. :-D

    1. Those books were truly a great impact on me as a kid. Most of the technology and adventures were entirely practical and inspired me to try a little harder and learn a little more when working on my own projects. Lots of real-world science, physics, and social engineering embedded throughout. Looks like all those books are available on Kindle Unlimited if you’re on that, otherwise if you have a hacker-in-progress in the family it’s still worth buying the hardcopies. They’ll get read and re-read.

      1. Had never heard of that book series but just ordered the paperback collection of the original 4 books from Amazon for about $21. Can’t wait to read them, then give them to my grandkids to inspire more future Hackaday readers! :-)

    2. I’m also a fan of the MSC books, and aspired to recreate some of these type of stunts as a teenager. This was my first thought at hearing about jet-pack guy – that it’s something like a lightweight dummy with some non-jet propulsion. Still seems more reasonable than someone being way out off the coast in a jetpack.

  5. As someone who enjoys the Colonel’s chicken (and probably consumes more of it than I should) there is no way in hell I would let that greasy stuff anywhere near the kind of somewhat expensive gaming input devices that someone rocking that kind of gaming PC is likely to own.

  6. >That’s about 20 miles (32 km) from the mainland, so whatever this person is flying has amazing range

    That seems the most unlikely conclusion to draw from this. A much more likely conclusion is that there is no dude using a jetpack, and we’re seeing something else.

    1. …or this is real and ship-based. Didn’t US marines/SEALs etc have usable jetpacks? I kinda recall seeing a Youtube video that was quite convincing, where a buff dude flew circles around a ship full of VIP-s.

      1. There have been working jet packs for ages, but, flight range/time/altitude are issues.

        However, I doubt most people would be willing to fly to 3000 feet using a jetpack, though I’m sure a navy seal wouldn’t even flinch (which makes your idea plausible).

    2. Last I knew, if you’re off PV you’re 20 nautical south of LAX and 20ish east of Catalina. If you are there, you’re probably not a commercial aircraft since it was the Torrance airport aerobatic zone.

      1. You realize there are other hemispheres and climates, right? It is going to be 38 degrees (Celsius) most of the week here. Also, it doesn’t matter where you are, it will be summer eventually…

      2. You’re just borrowing it in the chicken for a bit though, it will make it’s way to your environment one way or another, so it’s not wasted “waste” heat either.

        I always laugh thinking about one of those “money saving” tips, it went something like “After you bake, leave the oven open to let the heat into your house and save on heating bills” and I’m thinking “What’s it gonna do if you don’t open it, crawl back up the cable to the electric utility?”

        1. Does that analogy really work when consuming it though? I imagine that the heat energy is put into your body reducing its need to create as much heat itself. It isn’t like after you eat something hot you are hotter for the next X minutes to radiate that heat energy you consumed from the hot food.

          Also, it reduced the energy you’d otherwise use for the same task. I doubt many have a small oven next to their gaming rigs, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who has gone back to the kitchen to warm up a meal that I’ve gotten distracted from.

          Also also, I think the idea behind leaving the stove open after cooking is to more efficiently get the heat into the room’s air. Yes, the energy is going to get into the environment one way or the other, but leaving it stored in the oven itself is going to cause it to have to transfer to the oven itself, to the floor and cabinets touching it, and to where ever those things radiate to. By opening it, you allow more energy to transfer to what you actually care about, the air. I don’t think you are going to notice a change in your bill, but I quite like the near instantaneous feeling of warm in the kitchen it creates.

  7. The thing I love about QWERTY keyboards is that the longest English word on one row is “typewriter”.

    And the reason the keys are as they are is because having an “ABCDEF” keyboard back when it was a mechanical device allowed people to type too fast. And with lumps of lead for the with two letters on the end of steel bars moving about carrying considerable inertia, the design was modified to reposition the most common sequence of letters to reduce the odds of the bars slamming into each other and damaging alignment. This also had the effect, at first, of slowing down people typing. It is a good example of making humans adapt to help protect a mechanical mechanism from damage.

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