Hackaday Links: March 28, 2021

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If you thought the global shortage of computer chips couldn’t get any worse, apparently you weren’t counting on 2021 looking back at 2020 and saying, “Hold my beer.” As if an impacted world waterway and fab fires weren’t enough to squeeze supply chains, now we learn that water restrictions could potentially impact chip production in Taiwan. The subtropical island usually counts on three or four typhoons a year to replenish its reservoirs, but 2020 saw no major typhoons in the region. This has plunged Taiwan into its worst drought since the mid-1960s, with water-use restrictions being enacted. These include a 15% reduction of supply to industrial users as well as shutting off the water entirely to non-industrial users for up to two days a week. So far, the restrictions haven’t directly impacted chip and display manufacturers, mostly because their fabs are located outside the drought zone. But for an industry where a single fab can use millions of gallons of water a day, it’s clearly time to start considering what happens if the drought worsens.

Speaking of the confluence of climate and technology, everyone problem remembers the disastrous Texas cold snap from last month, especially those who had to endure the wrath of the unusually brutal conditions in person. One such victim of the storm is Grady, everyone’s favorite YouTube civil engineer, who recently released a very good post-mortem on the engineering causes for the massive blackouts experienced after the cold snap. In the immediate aftermath of the event, we found it difficult to get anything approaching in-depth coverage on its engineering aspects — our coverage excepted, naturally — as so much of what we found was laden with political baggage. Grady does a commendable job of sticking to the facts as he goes over the engineering roots of the disaster and unpacks all the complexity of the infrastructure failures we witnessed. We really enjoyed his insights, and we wish him and all our friends in Texas the best of luck as they recover.

If you’re into the demoscene, chances are pretty good that you already know about the upcoming Revision 2021, the year’s big demoscene party. Like last year’s Revision, this will be a virtual gathering, but it seems like we’re all getting pretty used to that by now. The event is next weekend, so if you’ve got a cool demo, head over and register. Virtual or not, the bar was set pretty high last year, so there should be some interesting demos that come out of this year’s party.

Many of us suffer from the “good enough, move on” mode of project management, leaving our benches littered with breadboarded circuits that got far enough along to bore the hell out of us make a minimally useful contribution to the overall build. That’s why we love it when we get the chance to follow up on a build that has broken from that mode and progressed past the point where it originally caught our attention. A great example is Frank Olsen’s all-wood ribbon microphone. Of course, with magnets and an aluminum foil ribbon element needed, it wasn’t 100% wood, but it still was an interesting build when we first spied it, if a bit incomplete looking. Frank has fixed that in grand style by continuing the wood-construction theme that completes this all-wood replica of the iconic RCA Model 44 microphone. It looks fabulous and sounds fantastic; we can’t help but wonder how many times Frank glued his fingers together with all that CA adhesive, though.

17 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: March 28, 2021

  1. “But for an industry where a single fab can use millions of gallons of water a day, it’s clearly time to start considering what happens if the drought worsens.”

    Don’t they recycle?

    1. Careful now, you’re going to ruin it for them. They’d soon have to figure out how to remove the pollutants from the water, which requires hiring new engineers and researchers, and those guys are going to find out things which will require new regulations, and the cost of doing business is going to skyrocket! The next thing you know, they’ll be manufacturing in the USA again!

      1. They have been working hard on methods and sensors to use less water for 15 years. The use ultra-pure water. No bacteria, nothing as huge as a virus. They use it in polishing and rinsing wafers before and even between process steps. Afterwards, the water is not ultra-pure. There are contaminants that will ruin a 7nm process that are harmless to life (The smallest virus is 20nm). I’m not up on it to know why it can’t be reprocessed, but I suspect it is because of carbon and elements from the deposition stages that will pass through filtration systems and would require double distillation or other extreme high energy demand processes. And change happens slowly dues to cost and due to acquisition methods. The chip makers go to extraordinary lengths to get process reliability and precision to match on every fab line. Intel calls their process “Copy Exact” and means right down to the screws that hols the panel on a temperature sensor. AMAT has the same requirement with suppliers in order to meet the copy exact standards when they deliver to a chip maker. Introducing changes means a lengthy and costly procedure.

  2. Look at a real water way, the cargo vessel blocking the Suez Canal is costing billions of dollars a day. Why? 15% of the worlds crude oil is transported through the Suez Canal. The local water ways around our country have toxic run off from farming, hot water discharges altering the waters biological species feeding areas, and evasive water species threatening the waters environments. A report released in Science stated scientists have found the greatest carbon pollution is caused by gas and oil pipelines. The environment is our life force and we need to alter our responsibilities to save the planet from water droughts and deadly farming mistakes destroying bees. There’s just too much to say.

    1. Okay, Hack-A-Day’s site has been having some serious problems lately. I was viewing the Sunday round-up article and replying to the first comment on that article. Now, after submitting that comment, my comment was apparently delivered as a top-level reply to an entirely different article. WTF, HaD?

        1. It’s pretty much a meme at this point that that the commenting system here is seriously flawed.

          It seems that the internet has decided that breaking commenting is a price worth paying for slightly reducing the odds of seeing trolls.

          Personally, i would like to see a moderation system, so that comments don’t get deleted, juat buried so they don’t get in the way of the grownups.

          The main drawback with community moderation is that it can become a popularity contest (like Reddit), rather than rewarding on-topic, insightful conversation.

  3. > But for an industry where a single fab can use millions of gallons of water a day, it’s clearly time to start considering what happens if the drought worsens.

    I think that Taiwan, along the rest of civilized world, uses liters of water, not gallons.

  4. “Politics (from Greek: Πολιτικά, politiká, ‘affairs of the cities’) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups”

    What alternative is there?
    To not have groups? To not make decisions? To have all decisions made by a single person? (Would that really be better?)

  5. Everyone should have known in the back of their mind things like this could and will happen ! The sad part is that the world has become so dependent on a supply of semi conductors and basically everything electronic among so many other commodities from such places that insist on Governing via Communistic establishment and have such low regard for life, any life. You can bet Russia isn’t near as dependent as we or the rest of the so called free world are. I see this as a call for institutions such as TI, STI, Motorola, and so many others to start looking at bringing industry back into this country at least on a limited level for the short term and expand what is already and or still here. People here need to accept the notion that not everyone is suited to sit at a station looking at a computer and processing data, designing with CAD or any other aspect involved with IA. Some one is required to construct factories, maintain equipment, assemble products and distribute them. I read about the current new administration in DC moving towards another program such as the last one to rebuild our infrastructure, fixing up the railroads, roadways and bridges and I have to say, this isn’t the only thing in this country that makes things work or produce what is needed ! Sure we need to work on those but we also need to rebuild our manufacturing industry. Make a lot fewer new cars that no one is going to buy, look at all the new cars sitting in huge fields awaiting to be dismantled for NOS parts which will go on shelves and sent out to replace parts on cars already on the road breaking down. We cannot rely on software alone to solve all of our woes. Let places that have low resources take care of that, like the U.K. I’m not referring to Lucas Electric here either. I know how that would turn out.

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