Hackaday Links: June 25, 2023

Hackaday Links Column Banner

Is it really a dystopian future if the robots are radio-controlled? That’s what came to mind reading this article on a police robot out of Singapore, complete with a breathless headline invoking Black Mirror, which is now apparently the standard by which all dystopias are to be judged. Granted, the episode with the robo-dogs was pretty terrifying, but it seems like the Singapore Police Force has a way to go before getting to that level. The bot, which has been fielded at Changi Airport after extensive testing and seems to be completely remote-controlled, is little more than a beefy telepresence robot. At 5.5 feet (1.7 meters) tall, the bot isn’t terribly imposing, although it apparently has a mast that can be jacked up another couple of feet, plus there are lights, sirens, and speakers that can get the message across. Plus cameras, of course; there are always cameras. The idea is to provide extra eyes to supplement foot patrols, plus the potential to cordon off an incident until meatspace officers arrive. The buzzword game here is weak, though; there’s no mention of AI or machine learning at all. We have a feeling that when the robots finally rise up, ones like this will be left serving the drinks.

In our quest to answer the eternal “Are we alone?” question, we’ve wisely concentrated mainly on our little slice of the galaxy. We checked out the Moon, but didn’t find anything there, and things aren’t looking fantastic for evidence of ancient life on Mars either. So, outer planets it is, especially now that there appears to be evidence of phosphates in the waters of Enceladus. The satellite of Saturn has long been known to have an icy crust above a liquid water ocean, as well as hydrothermal processes that could potentially power a food chain. Analysis of particles from plumes of water erupting from the ice into space and captured by the Cassini probe revealed five of the six CHNOPS elements — carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur — needed for life as we know it. Only phosphorus was missing, until analysis of data collected during Cassini’s leisurely passes through the region of Saturn’s ring system where Enceladus orbits. Calculations suggest that the concentration of phosphates in the oceans of Enceladus is 1,000 times that on Europa, typically thought of as the most likely place to find life outside of Earth.

Another surplus electronics store is calling it quits. All Electronics, a 56-year veteran of the Southern California electronics scene, has announced that they’ll be closing their doors by the end of August. We seem to recall getting on their mailing list once many years ago, and getting their catalog in the mail. The variety of stuff they had even back then was impressive, and we remember wishing Van Nuys wasn’t on the other side of the continent from us. So if you’re in the area, perhaps it’ll be worth the drive to see what they’ve got left, and what kind of deals you can score.

In other time-sensitive news, element14 has an “Experimenting with Supercapacitors Design Challenge” going on right now that sounds pretty interesting. The focus is on green technology uses for supercapacitors, and you’ve got until July 17 to submit an application idea. They’ll then choose finalists to receive a Cornell-Dubilier supercap kit, which you’ll use to build your design. The prizes are pretty good, with a spectrum analyzer and DC electronic load going to the grand prize winner. Of course, we’ve got a couple of contests of our own going on right now, so don’t let this one distract you.

And finally, we got a tip on this brief but informative video, which serves as a powerful reminder that you get what you pay for, especially when it comes to amateur radio. Sure, the new Quansheng UV-K5 is all the rage, partly because it can be had for very little money, but mainly because the transceiver’s firmware can be easily hacked. The bad news is that the transmitter’s output is a little on the dirty side, to say the least. As ham OH2FTG shows using a spectrum analyzer, while the manufacturer’s claim of 5 Watts output power on the 6-meter band is technically true, it’s only because it’s the sum of the power of all the harmonics that this radio spews across multiple bands. In fact, the second harmonic — which is in the middle of the FM broadcast band, by the way — is about 50 times more powerful than the fundamental! Caveat emptor is always true, but it’s especially important for amateur radio operators, who are expected to police themselves and make sure they’re not filling up the bands with garbage.

15 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: June 25, 2023

    1. Yeah, probably more like a series of short pulses (like you’d get with a comb generator) than an actual signal. Seems weird, though: I’d have thought it’d be pretty hard to build it like that. Even harmonics aren’t hard to avoid being generated.

  1. I never had the opportunity to visit Fry’s, All, or other large surplus stores, living mid-continent, but thanks for posting the link for the closeout sale!

    Maybe it was a good thing they were inaccessible; I have too much stuff collecting dust as it is…

  2. Nooo, not All Electronics… I order from them at least biannually. Though it has been harder and harder to make up an order worth shipping as time goes on. Early noughts they always had amazing stuff for decent prices.

    1. I had the same thought. What the article does is list the six elements required for life. They had found five in the plume of water and have now detected the sixth element ( phosphorus).

  3. I’ve been to Singapore and find it hard to believe they don’t have enough hi-def CCTV cameras in that airport that a roving police robot is really a useful solution to anything.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.