Hackaday Links: June 30, 2024

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A couple of weeks back we featured a story (third item) about a chunk of space jetsam that tried to peacefully return to Earth, only to find a Florida family’s roof rudely in the way. The 700-gram cylinder of Inconel was all that was left of a 2,360-kg battery pack that was tossed overboard from the ISS back in 2021, the rest presumably turning into air pollution just as NASA had planned. But the surviving bit was a “Golden BB” that managed to slam through the roof and do a fair amount of damage. At the time it happened, the Otero family was just looking for NASA to cover the cost of repairs, but now they’re looking for a little more consideration. A lawsuit filed by their attorney seeks $80,000 to cover the cost of repairs as well as compensation for the “stress and impact” of the event. This also seems to be about setting a precedent, since the Space Liability Convention, an agreement to which the USA is party, would require the space agency to cover damages if the debris had done damage in another country. The Oteros think the SLC should apply to US properties as well, and while we can see their point, we’d advise them not to hold their breath. We suppose something like this had to happen eventually, and somehow we’re not surprised to see “Florida Man” in the headlines.

There was a little hubbub this week around the release of a study regarding the safety of autonomous vehicles relative to their meat-piloted counterparts. The headlines for the articles covering this varied widely and hilariously, ranging from autonomous vehicles only being able to drive in straight lines to AVs being safer than human-driven cars, full-stop. As always, one has to read past the headlines to get an idea of what’s really going on, or perhaps even brave reading the primary literature. From our reading of the abstract, it seems like the story is more nuanced. According to an analysis of crashes involving 35,000 human-driven vehicles and 2,100 vehicles with some level of automation, AVs with SAE Level 4 automation suffered fewer accidents across the board than those without any automation. Importantly, the accidents that Level 4 vehicles do suffer are more likely to occur when the vehicle is turning just before the accident, or during low-visibility conditions such as dawn or dusk. The study also compares Level 4 automation to Level 2, which has driver assistance features like lane-keeping and adaptive cruise control, and found that Level 2 actually beats Level 4 in clear driving conditions, but loses in rainy conditions and pretty much every other driving situation.

There’s a strange story coming out of New York regarding a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enforcement action that seems a little shady. It regards a General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) repeater system used by the New York State GMRS Alliance. GMRS is sort of a “ham radio lite” system — there’s no testing required for a license, you just pay a fee — that uses the UHF band. Repeaters are allowed, but only under specific rules, and that appears to be where things have gone wrong for the club. The repeater system they used was a linked system, which connected geographically remote repeaters stretching from the far western part of the state near Buffalo all the way to Utica. It’s the linking that seems to have raised the FCC’s hackles, and understandably so because it seems to run counter to the GMRS rules in section 95. But it’s the method of notification that seems hinky here, as the repeater custodian was contacted by email. That’s not typical behavior for the FCC, who generally send enforcement notices by certified snail mail, or just dispense with the paper altogether and knock on your door. People seem to think this is all fake news, and it may well be, but then again, the email could just have been an informal heads-up preceding a formal notice. Either way, it’s bad news for the GMRS fans in upstate New York who used this system to keep in touch along Interstate 90, a long and lonely stretch of road that we know all too well.

Third time’s a charm? We’ll see when sunspot region AR3723 (née AR3697 née AR3664) makes a historic third pass around the Sun and potentially puts Earth in its crosshairs yet again. The region kicked up quite a ruckus on its first pass across the solar disk back in May with a series of X-class flares that produced stunning aurorae across almost all of North America. Pass number two saw the renamed region pass more or less quietly by, although it did launch an M-class flare on June 23 that caused radio blackouts in most of the North Atlantic basin. When AR3723 does peek out from behind the eastern limb of the Sun it’ll be a much-diminished version of its former Carrington-level glory, and will likely be given multiple designations thanks to fragmentation while it was hanging out on the backside. But it could still pack a punch, and even if this particular region doesn’t have much juice left, it sure seems like the Sun has plenty of surprises in store for the balance of Solar Cycle 25.

Somebody made a version of Conway’s Game of Life using nothing but checkboxes, which is very cool and you should check it out.

And finally, we’ve been doing an unexpected amount of automotive DIY repairs these days, meaning we spend a lot of time trolling around for parts. Here’s something we didn’t expect to see offered by a national retailer, but that we’d love to find a use for. If it ever comes back in stock we just might pick one up.

14 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: June 30, 2024

  1. Hey Dan, I’m not sure ‘trolling’ is the word you meant to use there, you probably meant ‘trawling’ as in to search thoroughly. I saw the same misuse yesterday in subtitles for Dexter so had to verify this first.

      1. I’m not sure it applies to components because when trolling for fish you’re waiting for them to bite your line, close to the angry reaction definition. No matter how juicy my bait I don’t think an old PC or ham radio will jump into my shopping trolley.

          1. thats the problem with newspeak. you might craft it in such a way where words lose their distinct meaning and where by oppositional thought remains vague and undefined. or what george carlin calls “soft language” where by potentially offensive language is toned down to terms that mean the same thing. of course as soon as that newspeak dictionary reaches the hands of the first graders, they will find ways to corrupt and manipulate the language to their own design. actually a clockwork orange kind of gets into this, as droog speak is foreign to the subsequent generation.

    1. Since you addressed me directly: trolling and trawling are used interchangeably in every situation I’ve ever encountered. An ocean trawler does a large amount of trolling, the small fishing boat with a trolling motor does a small amount of trolling.

      1. Now I would have always suggested that an Internet Troll is the kind that lives under a bridge rather than the sort who goes on fishing trips because of the old saying “Don’t feed the trolls” and “The word evokes the trolls of Scandinavian folklore and children’s tales: antisocial, quarrelsome and slow-witted creatures which make life difficult for travelers.” as well as their propensity to only attack when they hear/see something rather than leaving out bait.

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