Hackaday Links: December 19, 2021

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Key fobs as a service? Have we really gotten to that point? It would seem so, at least for Toyota, which is now requiring a subscription to use the company’s Remote Connect function. To be fair to Toyota, the Remote Connect system seems to do a bit more than the average key fob, with things like remote start and smartphone or smartwatch integration. It doesn’t appear that using the key fob for more mundane uses, like opening the doors, will be nerfed by this change. But if you want to warm up your car on a cold winter’s morn while you’re still in your jammies, then be prepared to cough up $8 a month or $80 a year on select 2018 and above models. Whether Toyota and other manufacturers get away with this nickel-and-dime stuff is up to the buyers, of course; if enough people opt out, maybe they’ll think of some other way to pad their bottom line. But since we’ve already seen heated seats as a service (last item), we suspect this is the shape of things to come, and that it will spread well beyond the car industry.

Speaking of cars, if you thought the chip shortage was over just because car dealer lots are filling back up, think again. Steve over at Big Mess o’ Wires reports that he’s having trouble sourcing chips for his vintage computer accessories. He includes a screenshot from Digi-Key showing zero stock on ATmega1284s. He also reports that the Lattice FPGA he uses for his Yellowstone universal disc controller is now unobtainium, where it had previously been easily sourced for about $5. He also has a pointed warning about some suppliers making it look like they have stock, only to send a “whoopsie” email after charging your credit card, or worse, telling you the price has increased over 400%. We suppose this was inevitable; there’s only so much fab capacity in the world, so eventually the fabs will switch over to producing whatever they can get paid the most for. And since car manufacturers have a lot more clout with suppliers than just about anyone else, it’s only natural for the shortages to shift down-market like this.

Do we finally have a “go” on James Webb? Maybe. The launch of the space telescope was originally scheduled for December 18 — well, OK, originally it was supposed to be in space in 2007, but let’s not go there — but a problem with a clamp caused unexpected vibrations in the $10 billion space observatory, resulting in inspections that pushed the launch back to the 22nd. That lasted for about a week, until the fueled and packaged spacecraft stopped sending data to launch controllers. The problem ended up being entirely relatable — a bad data cable — but resulted in the loss of two more days. JWST is now set to launch on Christmas Eve at 7:20 AM Eastern Standard Time, pending a readiness review on Tuesday morning. Fingers crossed that the long-awaited observatory has a safe 30-day trip to Lagrange point L2.

And finally, breathless tech journalists couldn’t wait to report this week that the world’s first warp bubble had been created. The paper was published by Dr. Harold “Sonny” White et al from the Limitless Space Institute, and claims to have discovered a “micro/nano-scale structure” that “predicts negative energy density distribution that closely matches requirements for the Alcubierre metric.” That last bit, the one about the Alcubierre metric, refers to the Alcubierre drive, which proposed a way to warp space-time and drive a ship at arbitrarily high speeds. But did this team actually create a warp bubble? It doesn’t seem so, at least according to one article we read. There’s also the problem of Dr. White’s previous claims of breaking the laws of physics with a reactionless EM drive. Scientific quibbling aside, there’s a sure-fire way of telling that no warp bubble was created — if there had been one, this would have happened.

26 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: December 19, 2021

  1. In Australia we seem to have many ATmega1284’s in DIP but little to nothing that would be used in manufacturing.

    It seems that it is being used instead of a more capable MCU. Why choose an 8 Bitter with relatively more FLASH and less SRAM than others in it’s family? Bloated code that does very little? A heavy weight string protocol?

  2. Key fob as a subscription service isn’t new. GM has been doing it for many years. If I want ANY service other than door locks on my 2016 GMC, it costs. Last I checked, $15/month for remote start, among others.

    Despite what my neighbors think (I have one that will remote his truck- with a “free” exhaust- for a full hour before getting in, year round ‘to protect the engine’), it just doesn’t get that cold, or hot, in NJ, and there is no reason to “warm it up” for 15 minutes or more, at idle, before driving. 30 seconds for the oil to come up and circulate, and go. Go easy, but go. 0W-20 oil isn’t the straight 40wt from 1970. If flows fine at -20C.

    1. I wonder what kind of engines cars on US market have. I live in Warsaw, lattiutude 52N. Now, I know that Europe had milder climate thanks to gulfstream, but idling to heat up the engine is unheard of – in fact it’s illegal to idle for over a minute (outside of traffic jams) in Poland, but the law was introduced to stop people from waiting for AC to cool the car down.

      I just looked at the chart for my 2009 Kia Soul – even for -30C they suggest 5W-30.

      1. Honda recently notified some CR-V customers to use 0W-20 (synthetic) instead of what they originally recommended (5W-something). (USA) IIRC, it is because clearance in the rocker arms needs a thinner lubricant.
        0W-18 is now available at Walmart.

  3. I bought my car (used) with only one fob. I lost it a couple of years later.
    A replacement set from Bezo’s Barn failed to program to the car. Manual locks can be inconvenient at times, but workable.

    My wife and daughter love heated seats, I shut mine off.

  4. 2025 – “Oh man, that oyster chili isn’t sitting right!” 30 minutes later “Oh that feels so much better, I hope it will flush.” Click, Click, Click, “Your TOTO premium flush subscription has expired, please send TOTO $99.99 to renew your subscription before operation proceeds.” Well sonofa… OH-OH can’t wait, hope my sink subscription is still up to date!”

  5. I for one am getting sick of this “Hardware as a Service” any reasonable person who understands the principle would consider it a rip off and a violation of choice.

    Recently I took a chance and bought a Video doorbell (Orion DC55HA). It works with a smartphone so that you can be away from home and use the Video/Audio link via the internet to talk to someone at your front door when your not home. I didn’t need or want that feature I simply wanted a doorbell and wanted to use the Video link to see who’s at the door if it’s an odd hour.

    The unit will not work with the smart phone app directly even though it uses the data connection on the phone for internet access. Video and Audio HAVE TO go via some server somewhere. The video connection is encrypted, there is no option to turn this off. It takes so long to establish a secure video connection via a server in another country that no one is going to stand at the door waiting so long rendering this feature useless.

    Then the next problem! and this is where it gets ironic.

    I have a WiFi LAN that everything connects to. That LAN connects to my smartphone for internet access. The LAN runs on a WiFi range extender being used as a the permanent WiFi hotspot LAN. It’s a Netgear EX6150v2 and one day I updated the firmware. To reconfigure it I had to “accept” a new “agreement” or the device was not usable (couldn’t progress to the configuration settings). In essence I had to agree to netgear monitoring some undisclosed data of their choosing.

    As a result the video and audio feeds from the doorbell no longer worked. I worked out the reason was that an end to end encrypted connection could not be established “through” the Netgear range extender. How suspicious is that. It very much seems like a “man in the Middle” to me.

    So with exceptional difficulty (from a user perspective) I reverted the firmware. It seem that reverting the firmware was deliberately made difficult compared to upgrading it.

    The irony to me is that the “whatever” motivation like greed, an ability to brick paid for hardware, a desire to extract private information, is playing out like warfare on consumer devices.

    We need a law that says that the agreement “at the time of purchase” is permanent so that manufacturers can’t find ways to force consumers into new agreements by removing features or “updates” or any other tool that have. These are literally rendering the original “agreement” irreverent. You buy something, and then to use it you are eventually (if not immediately) forced into a new agreement where you pay a subscription for the “service” of the hardware.

    We also new laws to make code for these devices that have server dependence open source to the so called “service” can be provided by third (fourth?) parties or even run on your own server. I have had my own (shared) server on the backbone for well over a decade. I shouldn’t have to pay to use some companies server for my doorbell.

    1. next time do more research…there are many intercom systems that just behave as a SIP phone and a ONVIF IP security camera, since, you know…some people actually still give a shit about standards.
      But it’s not BFU-friendly, you have to set stuff up and you need either a public IPv4 IP or you have to use IPv6 for it to be accessible from the outside.

      1. Well a normal consumer should do more research but they wont. For me, as a hacker, I’ll just make it do what I want i to do and if not, well I have a camera connected to a micro-controller capable of Linux.

    2. I just gutted mine, wired in a cheap wireless doorbell and on if camera module. Couldn’t find an IP camera style doorbell for sensible money. Runs off my zoneminder install.

  6. I used complain\joke about intel cpus coming with multiple cores on board but disabled unless the higher priced version was paid for, and it was like buying a car that had 6 cylinders but only 4 enabled and if you wanted the other 2 working having to pay extra to turn them on, even though in both cases you have affectively paid for the hardware upfront.

    1. not exactly…the “locked cores” SKUs start as rejects – the disabled cores are actually faulty, but the remaining ones are good and it would be a waste to trash the chip – so you sell it as a lesser version for less money. Less profit is better then none. Later as the production is dialed in and yield goes up, you now don’t have enough defective chips to satisfy demand for the lower priced versions, but you still want the market share – so you lock out a core or two even if they’re actually good and sell it as a lower core count chip, still for *less* money.

      You are actually benefiting from this by a) getting a cheaper option where there would not be one b) having a chance at a free bonus. This is very different to loading up a car with features right from the design phase and (ab)using software to limit them.

      1. Sometime in the late 80’s floppy disk manufacturing improved to the point that the difference between low density and high density disks was just the labeling. I was told by a friend who worked for Leading Edge that all Elephant Memory System disks were qualified and tested for high density double sided, then packaged and labeled as either high or low. You could punch a second index hole in the disk and convert a single sided disc to a double sided one. For $5/disc (they were $7/each at radio shack) I could get a full 1.2M on a 77k disk.

        Looks like a 5 1/4 disk can be had for $2.50/each on ebay now…..

  7. These things as a service are yet another Philip K. Dick story coming true. In Ubik your apartment door will not open – in or out – without giving it a nickel. Everyone carries change to go about daily life. I don’t recall everything but your stove and water taps. It is just a little side feature in the story and maybe inspired by British gas hookups + advertising.

  8. On the VW eGolf, the delayed charge start feature, requires both a subscription, and cell connectivity. Since I don’t have (nor can get) off peak charging rates, I don’t bother.

    It’s good that I don’t depend on it, as I got a letter from VWUSA saying all the online stuff is 3G dependent, so you are SOL from now on.

  9. I might be in the minority but if it requires servers to be maintained somewhere I’m fine paying a subscription for the feature. It beats “free forever” promises that get broken.

    What I will complain about are the many things that don’t need servers but use them anyway, like my lightbulbs. My security cameras provide a locally hosted Web page with their video feed, nice and easy. The car could connect to WiFi and host its own page, though that’ll be a security problem on every poorly maintained access point.

  10. I tried to buy 550 pieces of a part from Arrow. It was my first time buying from Arrow. They charged my credit card and told me it was “shipping today” for a full week before they realized they didn’t have the parts. I will never deal with Arrow again if I can help it.

    Digikey, on the other hand, I absolutely love. I have so much respect for them not jacking up their prices. It’s clear to me they want people to continue to go to them after all this is over, and they’re not going to try to make a one time cash grab that poisons their customer relationships.

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