Hackaday Links: April 24, 2022

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Wait, what? Is it possible that a tech company just killed off a product with a huge installed base of hardware and a community of dedicated users, and it wasn’t Google? Apparently not, if the stories of the sudden demise of Insteon are to be believed. The cloud-based home automation concern seems to have just disappeared — users report the service went offline at the end of last week, and hasn’t been back since. What’s more, the company’s executives removed Insteon from their LinkedIn profiles, and the CEO himself went so far as to remove his entire page from LinkedIn. The reasons behind the sudden disappearance remained a mystery until today, when The Register reported that Smartlabs, Inc., the parent company of Insteon, had become financially insolvent after an expected sale of the company failed in March. The fact that the company apparently knew this was going to happen weeks ago and never bothered to give the community a heads up before pulling the switches has led to a lot of hard feelings among the estimated 100,000 Insteonhub users.

Then again, with a comet the size of Rhode Island heading our way, a bunch of bricked smart bulbs might just be a moot point. The comet, known as C/2014 UN271, has a nucleus that is far larger than any previously discovered comet, which makes it a bit of an oddball and an exciting object to study. For those not familiar with the United States, Rhode Island is said to be a state wedged between Connecticut and Massachusetts, but even having lived in both those states, we couldn’t vouch for that. For scale, it’s about 80 miles (128 km) across, or a little bit bigger than Luxembourg, which we’re pretty sure is mythical, too. The comet is a couple of billion miles away at this point; it may never get closer than a billion miles from the Sun, and that in 2031. But given the way things have been going these last few years, we’re not banking on anything.

From the “Answering the Important Questions” file, news this week of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s breakthrough development of the “Oreometer,” a device to characterize the physical properties of Oreo cookies. The 3D printed device is capable of clamping onto the wafer parts of the popular sandwich cookie while applying axial torque. The yield strength of the tasty goop gluing the two wafers together can be analyzed, with particular emphasis on elucidating why it always seems to stay primarily on one wafer. Thoughtfully, the MIT folks made the Oreometer models available to one and all, so you can print one up and start your own line of cookie-related research. As a starting point, maybe take a look at the shear strength of the different flavors of Oreo, which might answer why the world needs Carrot Cake Oreos.

And finally, since we mentioned the word “skiving” last week in this space, it seems like the all-knowing algorithm has taken it upon itself to throw this fascinating look at bookbinding into our feed. We’re not complaining, mind you; the look inside Dublin’s J.E. Newman and Sons bookbinding shop, circa 1981, was worth every second of the 23-minute video. Absolutely everything was done by hand back then, and we’d imagine that very little has changed in the shop over the ensuing decades. The detail work is incredible, especially considering that very few jigs or fixtures are used to ensure that everything lines up. By the way, “skiving” in this case refers to the process of thinning out leather using a razor-sharp knife held on a bias to the material. It’s similar to the just-as-fascinating process used to make heat sinks that we happened upon last week.

11 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: April 24, 2022

  1. Don’t run your local hardware off the cloud.




    Just don’t.

    When a Pi Pico on a board has dual core ARM for $5 on a 2mmx2mm silicon (or whatever it is), why can’t we just have the compute local.

    Consumers don’t know any better, but at some point it will all crash down. After metric tons of E waste is produced. :'(

    1. i cant stand the trend in gadgets where everything you buy requires you make an account on an external site or activate it with a smartphone. i can understand if its tied to an online service, but if its a stand alone product fully capable of functioning on its own, this should totally not be the case.

      1. The typical reason is an additional revenue stream from data mining. Each individual data point has a value close to zero, but collect enough over a long enough time period and patterns emerge that can reveal things that even the people using them may not know about themselves.

  2. Well, the Insteon is a sad story, but with no real cosequences.
    Fhe fun will start, when Software aaS providers like Autodesk or Adobe will go under, leaving all the Engineering and DTP companies with a non-working softhare that all their assets are dependent on.
    Some Russian companies got aware of it right now thanks to the western sanctions, but it was a really small-scale “proof of concept” in comparison with what would demise of de facto industry standard software service providers mean.

  3. I’d like to know why data mining and directed advertising online are still legal practices? It’s as if these companies are being accomodated by regulatory authorities and have been given free reign to engage in such invasive and annoying practices. When really what they do is so not important nor necessary. Essentially, they’re being rewarded for being greedy, and making themselves more money. Enough is enough!

    1. You probably aren’t wrong but it’s also because mere Ad revenue sucks and if that was the only way for a free-to-use service to pay for itself then EVERYTHING would be paywalled.

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