Hackaday Links: April 2, 2023

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It may be hard to believe, but it’s time for the Hackaday Prize again! The 2023 Hackaday Prize was announced last weekend at Hackaday Berlin, and entries are already pouring in. The first-round challenge is all about “Re-engineering Education,” which means you’ve got to come up with a project idea that helps push back the veil of ignorance somehow. Perhaps you’ve got a novel teaching tool in mind, or a way to help students learn remotely. Or maybe your project is aimed at getting students involved and engaged. Whatever it is — and whatever the subject matter; it doesn’t just have to be hacking-adjacent — get an entry together, build a team, and get to work. The first round closes on April 25, so get to it!

From the “Stupid ChatGPT Tricks” department, this week we saw the wildly popular chatbot used to generate activation keys for Windows 95. While trying to scam the licensing engine of a nearly three-decade-old OS might sound like a silly thing to ask an AI to do, especially one geared to natural language processing, the hack here was that the OP, known as Enderman on YouTube, actually managed to trick ChatGPT into doing the job. Normally, the chatbot refuses to honor requests like, “Generate an activation key for Windows 95.” But if you ask it to generate a string that fits the specs of a valid Win95 key, it happily complies. Enderman had to tailor the request with painful specificity, but eventually got a list of valid-looking keys, a few of which actually worked. Honestly, it seems like something you could do just as easily using a spreadsheet, but discovering that all it takes to get around the ChatGPT safeguards is simply rewording the question is kind of fun.


Back in December we came across an outfit called WatchDuty, a non-profit wildfire alerting, mapping, and tracking service. WatchDuty provides near-real-time information on wildfires, which can potentially provide those living in wildfire country the time they need to get out of harm’s way. WatchDuty relies on a network of reporters who listen to first responders on scanners to get up-to-the-minute information to subscribers. Originally, the coverage area was limited to California, which of course is no stranger to wildfires. Now, WatchDuty is expanding to all the western states, and they’re looking for volunteers. If you’ve got experience listening to public service communications on scanners and you live in one of the western states, you might want to check it out.

Speaking of radio, we were turned onto a short documentary about amateur radio that’s worth a watch. Simply titled “HAM,” the film focuses on the amateur radio community in Montana (the film was produced by University of Montana students) and features Lance Collister (W7GJ), who made history in 1983 (as WA1JXN) when he contacted Owen Garriot (W5LFL) aboard the shuttle Columbia, becoming the first ham to make contact with anyone in space. The film is a good look at amateur radio and what it’s all about.

In that film, we were pleased to learn that director Grace Wolcott seems to have caught the radio bug and is now working toward her license. And while getting your license no longer requires learning Morse code, if she wants to take the dive, there would be worse ways to practice than Morsechat, the web-based chat system that uses Morse. Morsechat lets you practice your Morse skills by tapping out code using either a mouse button or the space bar and getting instant feedback on what you keyed. We didn’t try out the social feature, which allows you to chat in Morse with other users, but we gave the practice room a shot with a standard “CQ” message. That’s something that even the most Morse-less ham knows how to pound out by heart, but the message didn’t get decoded properly. It turns out that Morsechat is very fussy about the speed at which you’re sending code, and you need to adjust the WPM slider very carefully. Once you get it dialed in, though, it seems to work fine — although the space bar on a crappy old keyboard makes a poor substitute for a quality key.

And finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t note that Tim Hunkin is back at it with a third installment in his “Secret Life of Components” series. This one looks like a doozy — the first episode, which looks at pneumatics, popped up on our feed a few days ago and we can’t wait for a chance to watch it. Happy viewing!

One thought on “Hackaday Links: April 2, 2023

  1. Tim Hunkin deserves a knighthood. His recent YouTube series is an excellent overview with practical experience on each type of component, plus he’s been making entertaining and engaging public artworks for decades. No doubt thousands of current and future engineers find inspiration in his work.

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