Hackaday Links: March 6, 2022

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As if the war in Ukraine weren’t bad enough right here on Earth, it threatens knock-on effects that could be felt as far away as Mars. One victim of the deteriorating relationships between nations is the next phase of the ExoMars project, a joint ESA-Roscosmos mission that includes the Rosalind Franklin rover. The long-delayed mission was most recently set for launch in October 2022, but the ESA says that hitting the narrow launch window is now “very unlikely.” That’s a shame, since the orbital dynamics of Earth and Mars will mean that it’ll be 2024 before another Hohmann Transfer window opens. There are also going to be repercussions throughout the launch industry due to Russia pulling the Soyuz launch team out of the ESA’s spaceport in Guiana. And things have to be mighty tense aboard the ISS right about now, since the station requires periodic orbital boosting with Russian Progress rockets.

If you wear a fitness band, chances are pretty good you do so for health reasons. The idea of keeping track of your activity and vitals around the clock makes sense — right up until your wrist bursts into flames. At least that’s what’s reported to have happened to 174 Fitbit smartwatch users, resulting in a recall of 1.7 million units. The problem, unsurprisingly, is the lithium battery, overheating of which has resulted in 78 reported cases of burns. Injuries from overheating seem to be pretty rare, but Googling around for some images of injuries is pretty risky for the weak-stomached. You’ve been warned.

If you’re into embedded design and RT-Thread, you might want to take a look at the contest LCSC and other companies are sponsoring. The challenge is to come up with a design that uses the CH32V307, a 32-bit RISC-V microcontroller. Whatever you come up with needs to use RT-Thread as an OS. If you’ve got an embedded idea that you’re itching to try, this might be a good contest to try. Accepted entries all get either a CH32V307 dev board or chip, and you have until April 30 to get your entry in.

Here’s one from the “Malicious Compliance” files, with just a touch of social engineering. It’s the story of the most ridiculous railway ever built, and how it’s used to skirt around protectionist trade laws. The Bayside Canadian Railway is all of 200 feet (61 meters) long, and goes exactly nowhere other than from one side of a parking lot to the other in the province of New Brunswick. It has a small locomotive and exactly one flatbed car. Frozen fish from Alaska are shipped through the Panama Canal to a port in New Brunswick, loaded onto semi-trucks, and then are driven onto the flatbed rail car.

After their 45-second trip down the track, they’re driven back off the railway and across the border into Maine, thereby completing part of their journey to market on a railroad in Canada. This allows the load to qualify for an exemption to the USA’s 1920 Jones Act, which prevents foreign vessels from moving cargo between American ports. Figuring out exactly how all this makes financial sense is left as an exercise for the reader, but we suspect that it will boil down to something like, “Technically legal is the best kind of legal.”

12 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: March 6, 2022

  1. “Accepted entries all get either a CH32V307 dev board or chip, and you have until April 30 to get your entry in.”

    Seems you’ll be needing the prize so one can enter.

    1. yeah the writer could’ve done a better job by copying what the original article said:
      “The project needs to deploy on WCH RISC-V MCU CH32V307, the participants will be awarded the free Hardware (chips or development boards).”

      So everyone who is allowed in will get a free dev kit.

      The prizes if one wins are less clear.

  2. I’m perplexed that it is cheaper to ship fish all the way down to Panama and back up the east coast. Why don’t they put the token railway across the border between Vancouver and Seattle, then truck or rail across the top of the U.S?
    (I’m from New Zealand, so not familiar with American transport logistics)

    1. I’m not sure why it’s cheaper, there are plenty of railroads that cover these locations, so I imagine that is an other possible option. The shipments could also just be sent with American ships, so I imagine there’s a cost factor involved there too for some reason.

      The Jones Act sounds really stupid, but I believe the rationale for it was that if America didn’t have incentives to have a functioning ship building industry, we may just buy ships from other countries, and if a big war breaks out, we wouldn’t be able to supply our own navy. The Jones Act was supposed to make sure that we retained ship-building abilities, but in practice it generally means people have to find creative ways to work around it. We still build military ships here anyway, so it doesn’t seem to be a real concern to the military at this point.

    2. It seems there were already (foreign) ships bringing the fish east, and folks wanted to take advantage of that.

      If the fish were being sent over land from the west, there would be no need for the token railway, since there would no longer be foreign ships going between two American ports.

  3. The first option listed appears correct, as it’s correctly spelled in this article.

    Typos are a nuisance, and lead to confusion. additionally: undefined acronyms as mentioned in comments in other recent topics. Lastly, missing relevant detail, which an article seems to be written around, but never actually addresses.

    But this case isn’t any of those.

    Edit to add: link to wikipedia below.

  4. I’ve been having my wrist burst into flames metaphorically with several “smartwatch”/tracker type devices, the straps whether hard or stretchy plastics seem to begin to degrade after a month or two use and then despite frequent cleanings, cause my skin to react with blotchy swellings and blistering. I don’t remember Casio or other digital watch brand plastics affecting me like this in the 80s and 90s. I had one stiffer band that was okay, but it turned to “stale cheese” strength after a few months and cracked all to pieces. I wish more of them took regular watch bands, then at least I could stick a leather one on and put up with it getting stinky or a stainless steel and put up with it tugging the hairs.

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