Right-to-repair has been a hot-button topic lately, with everyone from consumers to farmers pretty much united behind the idea that owning an item should come with a plausible path to getting it fixed if it breaks, or more specifically, that you shouldn’t be subject to prosecution for trying to repair your widget. Not everyone likes right-to-repair, of course — plenty of big corporations want to keep you from getting up close and personal with their intellectual property. Strangely enough, their ranks are now apparently joined by the Church of Scientology, who through a media outfit in charge of the accumulated works of Church founder L. Ron Hubbard are arguing against exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that make self-repair possible for certain classes of devices. They apparently want the exemption amended to not allow self-repair of any “software-powered devices that can only be purchased by someone with particular qualifications or training or that use software ‘governed by a license agreement negotiated and executed’ before purchase.
It’s pretty obvious what they’re after here — they don’t want anyone snooping around in their “electropsychometers,” or E-Meters — we hate to break the news, but it’s way too late for that. There’s plenty more that can be said about this, but we’d prefer to stay away from most of that. We will say, however, that the wording of the exemption sought makes us a little uncomfortable; aren’t certain ham radios “software-powered devices” used by people with “particular qualifications or training”? We shudder to think of the potential unintended consequences of this one.
Well, that worked a little too well. SBUDNIC, a 3U cubesat that was designed to test low-cost methods for deorbiting dead satellites, reentered the atmosphere last month — about four years ahead of schedule. The satellite was built on a shoestring budget by Brown University students, alumni, and faculty, and sent into orbit aboard a SpaceX flight in May of 2022. The satellite was built mainly from off-the-shelf components, including 48 Energizer AA batteries, an Arduino, and a spaceframe made out of wood, plus a deployable “drag sail” made of Kapton and 3D-printed spars. The satellite was deployed at an altitude of 520 kilometers, and calculations showed that it would deorbit itself within about five years thanks to the drag from the sail, as opposed to 25 years or more without it. It’s not clear why the satellite only lasted 455 days; maybe the sail worked too well, or maybe solar activity increased drag on the satellite. Either way, we’d certainly chalk it up as an overall success, despite its early demise.
One way to keep your finger on the pulse of technology is by monitoring what kind of trade shows various industries are convincing people to pay a lot of money to come to. So what does something like the “World Robot Conference” say about the future of robotics? With 600 exhibitors and more than 800,000 attendees, we’d say that there’s a lot of anticipation for a robot-filled future. The article highlights seven different bots, some aimed at consumers, like a cyborg cat with creepy glowing eyes that totally won’t suck your soul, and some aimed at specific industries, like fruit harvesting and surgery. It’s worth a look through these to see what’s going on in the field, or just to get some inspiration for your next build.
Heads up, fellow US citizens: the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a nationwide combined Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) test scheduled for October 4. If all goes according to plan, at 2:20 PM EDT on the appointed day — a Wednesday, by the way — every TV, radio — satellite and terrestrial, we assume — cell phone, and weather radio from Maine to Hawaii will go off at the same time. Since it’ll be right in the middle of a workday for most of the country, it should make for quite a distraction at the office, especially if you’re lucky enough to enjoy the many benefits of an open floorplan workspace. You’ve been warned.
And finally, we doubt very much that there’s anyone who hasn’t already seen this, but if you’re as much of a “sidewalk supervisor” as we are, you’ll want to check out Grady’s new video series over at Practical Engineering. He’s taking a deep dive into the construction of a sewage pump station in Texas, from groundbreaking to (presumably) commissioning of the completed station. Episode One is pretty interesting — since the pumping station is designed to accept municipal wastewater fed by gravity, the first step is to build a really deep hole. We’ve been watching construction for yours, and there was still plenty to learn from this guided tour. Beautiful drone shots, too. Check it out.