Hackaday Links: January 8, 2023

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Something odd is afoot in the mountains around Salt Lake City, Utah, at least according to local media reports of remote radio installations that have been popping up for at least the past year. The installations consist of a large-ish solar panel, a weatherproof box full of batteries — and presumably other electronics, including radios — and a mast bearing at least one antenna. Local officials aren’t quite sure who these remote setups belong to or what they’re intended to do, but the installations obviously represent a huge investment in resources.

The one featured in the story was located near the summit of Twin Peaks, which is about 11,000 feet (3,300 meters) in elevation, which with that much gear was probably a hell of a hike. Plus, the owner took great pains to make sure the site would withstand the weather, with antenna mast guy wires that must have required lugging a pretty big drill up with them. There aren’t any photos of the radios in the enclosure, but one photo shows a 900-MHz LORA antenna, while another shows what appears to be a panel antenna, perhaps pointing toward another site. So maybe a LORA mesh network? Some comments in the Twitter thread show most people are convinced this is a Helium crypto mining rig, but the Helium Explorer doesn’t show any hotspots listed in that area. Either way, the owners are out of luck, since their gear is being removed if it’s on public land.

Most of us have probably had the realization that at least some aspects of our professional life bear uncomfortable similarities to Mike Judge’s 1999 cult classic, Office Space. It might be the color of your stapler, or it might be your lack of flair, but for one Seattle-area developer, things allegedly went a little further when he was able to swipe about $300,000 from his employer a couple of bucks at a time. The dev, one Ermenildo Castro, is alleged to have pulled a Pete Gibbons by installing code on the checkout page of his employer, Initech Zulily, which sent the shipping fees to his account. He also is accused of manipulating prices on the e-commerce site to buy $41,000 worth of merchandise for pennies on the dollar, presumably paid for with his ill-gotten gains. Sadly, Zulily security found his secret evil plan in a document on his laptop called “Office Space Project,” while Tacoma police found boxes of merchandise piled up on his porch and driveway. So things don’t look good for Ermenildo; maybe he should have vented his work frustrations in a more constructive way.

If you’ve ever been using Google Maps and thought how cool it would be to press a button and get a freshly updated satellite image displayed, you may be in luck. Sony, in cooperation with the Japanese space agency Jaxa and the University of Tokyo, is launching a service called Star Sphere, which aims to provide custom space-based photography to the masses. The service will provide web-based access to a 6U CubeSat in a 500 to 600 km orbit. Details are sketchy, but it appears the satellite is little more than a Sony 4k digital camera with a 28-135 f/4 zoom lens, along with the equipment needed to keep it in orbit and communicate with Earth. It’s not clear if the satellite is in orbit yet, but Sony claims the public will be able to take custom shots of both Earth and the stars. No word of how much this is going to cost, but they say it’ll be available in the US and Japan this year.

And finally, if you prefer a really, REALLY historical view of our planet from space, check out this interactive ancient Earth visualization. You can go back in time up to 750 million years, and see what the planet looked like before plate tectonics had its way with the current arrangement of continents. There’s a handy “jump to” feature that lets you see what the planet looked like when the first algae appeared, or when our ancestors first came down out of the trees onto the savannah. Another nice touch is the ability to locate your city and keep track of it through time; like a lot of places in North America, my city seems to have spent about 500 million years at the bottom of the sea, only popping up above the surface in the early Triassic period.

12 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: January 8, 2023

    1. I know that emotion. My first lunchbox welding machine was painted pink. No one ever hoofed with it. They hoofed with everything else that wasn’t nailed down, but the pink welding machine, nope. Same reason I use oddball, non-standard plugs and recepticals on my gear. They don’t walk.

          1. Naw, that’s too common for bicycles. What you need is a full set of metric tools and then remove 8, 10, 14, 17, 19 and 21 mm, leaving only the intermediate sizes that are used by nobody.

            If you ever come across a Toyota, at least the older cars come with a little leather pouch in the spare tire well that has a 10 / 14 mm spanner inside. Throw it away and replace it with a 9 / 13 mm spanner.

      1. I was dating a supergenius mechanical engineer for a while, and she did this. Every bit of tooling she had was either spraypainted pink or covered in pink nail polish, because that way she could find it easily and nobody else would take it. She was the smartest person I’ve ever met, for way more reasons than this, but this was a good idea.

  1. crap, I hadn’t even considered I’d need a permit for the box I may have “hypothetically” put “up the hill”

    It may have an XBee radio, an SX1278 radio, an SHT 15 temperature and humidity sensor, a Seeed Studio Arduino Mega, small solar panels and 6 NiMh batteries.

    it doesn’t do much, just sits there, I can query temp and humidity, battery voltage
    I just wanted to see how far I could get reliable data back and forth

    I guess I’ll go retrieve it

  2. Late comment, because I’ve been hiking the local mountains. Be very jealous, city boys.

    Last Year, found a sealed ABS box with a solar panel and two antennae on top of a hill on my property. Unscrewed the box and found several Li battery packs, which I consider an extreme fire hazard (in an area where homeowners can no longer buy insurance policies).

    Called sheriff’s dept and had it removed. Last month, caught a young man on my hill looking for his box. He was an engineer and the box was a home project. He said that he did not know he was on private property. Other than the fact that he had to climb over two fences and go past a Private Property No Trespassing sign, I can see that it would not be obvious to a well-educated man that it was private property[sarcasm]. He also chose physical confrontation.

    I learned four things
    1. Many people not raised in the USA do not understand the privileges and rights of property owners.
    2. Many people not raised in the USA do not understand that people that live in isolated, rural areas often carry firearms.
    3. Being well-educated does not necessarily mean being civilized.
    4. Hackers that do these things are not always cool; they are oft a hazard and are criminals.

    Do not be a tool.

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