Hackaday Links: September 4, 2022

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Say what you will about Tesla, but there’s little doubt that the electric vehicle maker inspires a certain degree of fanaticism in owners. We’re used to the ones who can’t stop going on about neck-snapping acceleration and a sci-fi interior. But the ones we didn’t see coming are those who feel their cars are so bad that they need to stage a hunger strike to get the attention of Tesla. The strike is being organized by a group of Tesla owners in Norway, who on their website enumerate a long list of grievances, including design defects, manufacturing issues, quality control problems, and customer service complaints. It’s not clear how many people are in the group, although we assume at least 18, as that’s the number of Tesla cars they used to spell out “HELP” in a parking lot. It’s also not clear how or even if the group is really off their feed, or if this is just a stunt to get the attention of Tesla honcho and notorious social media gadfly Elon Musk.

No matter where you live, the taxman always cometh. And technology is making the job of squeezing out every bit of revenue possible easier, as we learned with the story this week that France is using AI software to find undeclared swimming pools. A lot of swimming pools were built during pandemic lockdowns, and apparently a fair number of property owners forgot to mention that fact to their local tax authorities. One such agency teamed up with Google, because of course it’s Google, to use machine vision to look for pools in aerial imagery. Once a pool is geolocated, it’s cross-checked against tax records to make sure the owner is paying their fair share. Honestly though, is this really something that requires AI? Anyone who has ever creeped on the neighbors via Google Maps knows that the unearthly turquoise glow of a pool really jumps out at you; it seems like this would have been far cheaper and less dystopic to just dump this job off on a summer intern.

Let’s see, so far we’ve dumped on Tesla and Google, so who’s next? Amazon? Nah, let’s go for Apple! We’ve mentioned their self-repair kits a few times lately, and the bulky kits and complex procedures don’t really do much but pay lip service to the right-to-repair movement. Honestly, for our community, a big old kit of specialty tools and a couple hundred pages of documentation are more like Christmas morning than something to complain about, but we can see where something like that would be off-putting to the normies. But really, the most fascinating thing about this whole thing is learning about the Apple pentalobe drive screw. Not being in the Apple ecosystem much, we hadn’t run across that particularly hellish bit of hardware, but it was interesting learning a little about it — and thinking up ways to defeat it without buying a special tool.

And finally, [Kyle Hill] continues his great “Half-Life Histories” series of short documentaries with a look at the Therac-25 disaster. We’d heard of it before, but what we hadn’t realized is that the notorious “single programmer” who wrote the buggy code was a hobbyist who apparently wrote the code to control the powerful medical linear accelerator as a sort of side project. The video does a good job breaking down the edge conditions that triggered the accidents, which resulted in six massive radiation overdoses and the death of four patients.

19 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: September 4, 2022

    1. norway is a lot different though.

      the Norwegian government basically ‘paid’ people to buy ev’s for a good number of years. i don’t know how their policy has changed in the past 3-4 years, but i talked to a norwegian about 5 years ago when i couldn’t understand the uptake of ev’s in norway.

      between city taxes, registration taxes, engine size taxes, and parking fees, the government waived all of that for anyone that got an ev. he was saying that just getting those fees waived essentially paid for a $80k car in 3-4 years, contrasted an imported $60k vw golf that would then have all those fee’s tacked on top of that every year. he said it made the decision a no-brainer. 5 years ago, few ev’s other than tesla existed, so they became the primary brand there.

      when the government games the system that hard, it’s almost impossible not own a tesla.

      1. ^ this, people often miss this out when holding up Norway as an example of a country with high uptake of EV’s.

        Personally I do think we need *much* higher taxes on car purchases, countries where cars are still expensive it shifts the economics toward keeping cars for longer – the stuff you see in UK scrapyards for want of relatively minor repairs is heartbreaking and wasteful.

        1. In Rochester NY, if you drive your car every day, it will last 10 years. After which its a pile of rust. Does not matter if its $100K or $20K though at $100K it will look nicer on the outside after 10 years. But brake lines and fuel lines and mechanical undersides will be completely coated with rust. EVs won’t last either, and in the Winter their batteries will only provide 70% and take much longer to recharge.

          We could walk a mile and wait in the cold for a bus like we did in High School.

          I’m hoping NY will give me an EV now so I can extend the life of my V8’s until I can no longer drive.

          Luckily for me I no longer have to drive every day. When all my current vehicles rust through and are no longer repairable, and you can’t buy a gas powered vehicle because NY follows CA and outlaws there sales, I’ll be too old to drive anyway.

          1. At some point “reshelling” EVs will probably become a thing in those area’s. Take a good body-shell of a (much) older car with destroyed internals from a dry area and put the gubbins of a rusted out shell into it. Barring some really catastrophic events after 10 years most of the driveline, electronics and battery should still be good (enough) to warrant such an operation.

    1. Better do the other way around. Start painting big areas in water blue/turquoise or put great turquoise tarps as a “decoration” rendering the system useless as it cannot tell apart swimming pools from “decorations”.

      1. I was thinking that. Build a fake pool until they notice. Take it down then go through whatever the process is for fighting it. Get someone to come out and see that there is no pool. Repeat until they start to ignore your property. Then build a real pool.

    2. The local govt is going to want that extra bit of shakedown money one way or another – if it’s not pools, it’ll be something else: “We see you have an outdoor table with 6 chairs instead of the regular 4 – that’ll be an extra $200 per year please”, “We see you have 8kW of solar panels…”, “We see you have a work truck and a car – you can only have one in that zone now”. Without resorting to a complete cover over the lot(!) how best to protect your privacy against high-altitude aerial photographs? Random paint patterns on everything placed outside? What about IR signatures?

        1. Very true. As an “outsider” though, it’s right difficult to enter the world of politics, and going to town hall meetings are a lesson in futility. And, besides, where’s the fun in that when you could spend your days developing a “hack to keep your hard earned money from being spent by someone else”?!

  1. Pentalobe screwdrivers are included in a lot of A**le repair kits bought through humongous online retailers. I got one that was too large ( by a microscopic amount) and the Seller immediately sent a replacement .

    1. My secret weapon for all sorts of “security” bits is a piece of 3/8″ acetal rod. If you heat it until it’s plastic (able to be formed, not material type) and quickly smoosh (technical term) it down on the screw head, it’ll form a perfect driver for that exact screw.

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