Hackaday Links: January 16, 2022

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As winter well and truly grips the northern hemisphere, it’s time once again to dunk on Tesla for leaving some owners out in the cold — literally. It seems that some Model 3 and Model Y owners are finding their ride’s heat pump isn’t exactly up to the task of, you know, pumping heat. That this seems to be happening mostly in the northeastern US and southern Canada, where a polar vortex is once again dominating the weather and driving temperatures down into the -30 °C (-22 °F) range, perhaps speaks more to the laws of thermodynamics than it does to the engineering of the Tesla climate control system. After all, if there’s not much heat outside the car, it’s hard to pump it inside. But then again, these are expensive machines, some of which have had extensive repairs to address this exact same issue when it cropped up last year. It seems to us that owners have a legitimate gripe with Tesla about this, and they may be getting some help from the Feds, who are taking an interest in the situation from a safety standpoint. After all, no heat likely means fogged up windows, and that’s hardly conducive to a safe trip. But hey, that’s what self-driving is for, right?

Much has been made of the dearth of engineering cameras on the James Webb Space Telescope, and the fact that we’ve been relying on animations to illustrate the dozens of deployments needed to unfurl the observatory and make it ready for its mission. Putting aside the fact that adding extra cameras to the spacecraft makes little sense since the interesting stuff was all happening on the side where the sun doesn’t shine, we did get treated to what was billed as “humanity’s last look at Webb” thanks to an engineering camera on the Ariane 5 rocket. But not so fast — an astrophotographer named Ethan Gone managed to spot the JWST as it transited to L2 the day after launch. Granted, the blip of light isn’t as spectacular as the Ariane shots, and it took a heck of a lot of astrophotography gear to do it, but it’s still thrilling to watch Webb moving gracefully through Orion.

When it comes to protecting components and assemblies from damage by electrostatic discharge (ESD), there seem to be two schools of thought: either you take it seriously and take precautions, or you think it’s a lot of fuss about nothing. It seems like Dan Kollen (AI6XG) falls into the former camp, and shared with us his thoughts on the risks of ESD damage and the approaches he takes to mitigate them. The article is brief but full of interesting information, like the effect of relative humidity on ESD generation and the relative sensitivity of various components to getting zapped. He also shares his strategies for ESD protection — spoiler alert: you don’t always need to wear a wrist strap. The ESD nomenclature list is a handy reference too.

If Henry Ford were alive today, and somehow managed to get a job at BMW at the ripe old age of 159, he might be tempted to say that “You can have any color you want, as long as it’s black or white, or maybe red someday.” That’s thanks to the German company’s announcement at CES of a color-changing car with an electronic ink paint job. If the promotional video is to be believed, it actually looks pretty cool, especially the faint hexagonal grid of electrodes visible on the surface. While we can see the utility of the idea — a white car for summer, a black car for winter — we can’t help but wonder about the legality of changing the physical appearance of the car on the fly like that.

And finally, apparently there’s no hiding from the all-seeing eyes of Google. At least that’s probably what Gioacchino Gammino thinks now that Google Street View was used to help find and capture the alleged mafioso (English translation from original Spanish) after two decades on the lam. The clue came from a Street View image of a grocery store in Galapagar, Spain, where Gammino had fled and started a new life under an assumed name. Apparently, the police already knew he was in the town; the pixelated shot resembled the suspect enough to give them a lead to his specific whereabouts. A quick check of the establishment’s Facebook page showed a clear photo of Gammino, complete with an identifying facial scar. We suppose the lesson here is that crime doesn’t pay, and it really doesn’t mix well with social media.

21 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: January 16, 2022

  1. Color changing car could be the police’s bane. They could radio ahead of criminals fleeing in a white car, the police ahead only sees black car and completely misses the criminal.

    1. I was thinking the exact opposite, law enforcement connecting to the cars manufacturer and remotely triggering a flashing target symbol on the roof for easy tracking by cameras.

      The flashing does not even have to be noticeable to a human. Digital cameras can already be used to detect peoples heart rate, something that is imperceivable to humans, because of of minute changes in the number of red pixels from frame to frame. So it would be the visual equivalent of a silent alarm on the roof of the car that law enforcement wanted to track.

      1. So is it possible to replace the black pigment with very dark green, very dark brown or very dark sand color?
        Dynamic camo color, granted gonna be a pita to change it to different environments (forest, desert, so on)

  2. Hoo boy, that tesla story reminds me of when it hit minus 25 degrees celsius.
    The poignant part was that the only thing preventing my 20 year old diesel banger from starting was the starter battery itself being old’ish and later found out was too small.
    Dragged it inside and slapped the charger on it for half an hour and it could make the engine chooch despite the cold.
    Winterized diesel and factory “deep freeze package” which basically were pre-heaters in the intake (which were just 3 glowplugs) along with the normal glowplugs doing their thing.
    But had to hook up my ctek to it when not driving, and (as mentioned) later found out my battery were undersized since it was basically the “tropical” battery size.
    It did look funny with a battery that were only 80% the size of the battery tray, but previous owner was a skinflint.

    So one of the few things that did not make me miss my late 80’s diesel banger, since I had to start a fire under the engine when that experienced the deep freeze.

  3. Teasla owners are a bunch of crybabies. Recently, despite it being -15 degrees C outside I took a 60-minutes trip in my Miata with the roof down (too cold to close it). You just need to wear right clothes, gloves, cap and a scarf.

    No issue with windows fogging up.

    1. Far too many people haven’t experienced the nuances of daily driving a absolute shitbox.

      Like having a box heater on a leftover piece of countertop placed in the middle of the hear seat pointed towards the windshield, and hooked up to a Christmas light timer, because the heater core were incontinent and thus got disconnected from engine coolant loop.

      Cranked that bad boy up to maximum overdrive and timed it to run until the interior was almost sauna like, so there was enough thermal inertia in the cabin air that my windows only started to show signs of fogging up at the end of my 1 hour commute.

  4. I fail to see a problem with the design. EVERY heat pump has a low temp limit where it is not efficient, typically about -10 to- 20. We’re below that. I’m surprised you can even drive it when it is that cold. Ever hear of resistance heat?

    1. That’s the thing, there’s no resistance heat in the car, but there should be.

      Priuses have resistance heaters in the HVAC for the period before the engine warms up, for instance. So it’s not like there isn’t precedent for it, automotive-rated parts for it, etc. Tesla made a decision not to bother, and that’s the decision being questioned.

      1. For that matter, my diesel car has a resistance heater in the HVAC system……. The fact that Tesla continues being touted (by tesla and owners alike) as the greatest thing to ever exist seemingly neglected to include this…. LOL.

  5. I’m not sure if it’s FMVS I would have to check but many markets have a legal requirement for time to demist a screen. If tesla fall outside that time they could be illegal. All depends on the testing temp. Will have a look in the morning.

  6. re: ESD and wrist straps.
    Back in the 80s, the company I worked for had trouble with PC boards going bad during manufacture. Eventually some were sent for forensic analysis.
    Turns out there was a hand shaped pattern of zapped chips.
    The test engineer undid his wrist strap to carry the board across the room to a second test station where he then snapped on his other wrist strap (much too late to be any protection).
    So, I’m on the side of being serious about ESD prevention. :)

  7. there are teslas,and other electric cars in northern norway,with charging infrastructure north of the artic circle,this would not
    be a thing unless it worked.
    in a large part of europe electrics are outselling diesels and in some markets in northern europe electrics are more than 50%
    of new car sales.all those risk taking finlanders and swedes just
    pack there skis, what?

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