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The Boy Who Cried Wolf is a simple parable that teaches children the fatal risk of raising a false alarm. To do so is to risk one’s life when raising the alarm about a real emergency that may go duly ignored.
Today, we rarely fear wolves, and we don’t worry about them eating us, our sheep, or our children. Instead, we worry about bigger threats, like incoming nuclear weapons, tornadoes, and earthquakes. We’ve built systems to warn us of these calamities, and authorities take a very dim view of those who misuse these alarms. Fox did just that in a recent broadcast, using a designated alarm tone for an advert. This quickly drew the attention of the Federal Communication Commission. Continue reading “Fox Fined For Using EAS Tone In Football Ad”→
It’s been far too long since we’ve had an event in Europe, and we’re going to fix that right now. Hackaday Berlin 2023 will be a day-long conference full of great talks, badge hacking, music, art, madness, and gathering with your favorite hackers on Saturday, March 25.
But it doesn’t stop there. We’ll have a pre-event party Friday night, and then a bring-a-hack brunch on Sunday with further opportunities to show off whatever projects you’re bringing along, hack some more on the badge, wind down, and/or play together. So if your travel plans allow it, come in Friday mid-day and don’t schedule your return ticket until Sunday evening.
Cutting to the chase: early bird tickets are on sale right now, so go get one! But even if you miss out on those, and they’ll go like hotcakes, the regular tickets are well worth it. Everything is fully catered, the badge and the swag are phenomenal, and the talks will be first-rate.
Saturday’s main events will include a handful of fantastic invited guest talks, but also a few hours of Lightning Talks given by you – yes, you! If you’ve never attended a lightning talk, you get seven minutes to run through one of your favorite projects. We want to know what’s on your workbench right now, what new skills you’ve been teaching yourself, or the groundwork you’ve been laying for the next big project. It’s your chance to inspire everyone in the room – grab it.
Everyone asked us to do a second run of the 2022 Hackaday Supercon badge, and now we’ve got the perfect excuse! Designed by Voja Antonic, the badge is a standalone retrocomputer in the style of an Altair or similar, but it’s much more. Between blinking LEDs that display everything going on, down to the gates in the ALU, and a trimmed-down machine language, it’s an invitation to get deeply in touch with the machine. If you felt left out because you couldn’t travel to Pasadena last November, here’s your second chance.
And then there’s the crowd. Hackaday really is a global community of hackers, and Hackaday events tend to bring out the best. Even if you’re not planning to give a lightning talk (and you should!) be prepared to talk about what you’re doing, because everyone else there is just as interested in cool projects as you are. Hackaday Berlin will be a great opportunity to connect and reconnect with new and old friends alike. Come join us!
We’ll be following up with a speaker announcement next week, but if you have any questions, let us know in the comments below. Otherwise, we’ll see you in Berlin.
It was many years ago now when David Bowie asked if there was life on Mars. Since then, we’ve concluded there isn’t, much to everyone’s disappointment. That left scientists the world over to start looking elsewhere for new lifeforms for us to talk to, conquer, or play bridge with. Or perhaps more likely, look at under a microscope.
The latest candidate for hosting nearby life is Jupiter’s moon, Io. Let’s take a look at what makes Io special, and what we might hope to find there.
There comes a point in every engineer’s life at which they need a mixing desk, and for me that point is now. But the marketplace for a cheap small mixer just ain’t what it used to be. Where once there were bedroom musicians with a four-track cassette recorder if they were lucky, now everything’s on the computer. Lay down as many tracks as you like, edit and post-process them digitally without much need for a physical mixer, isn’t it great to be living in the future!
This means that those bedroom musicians no longer need cheap mixers, so the models I was looking for have disappeared. In their place are models aimed at podcasters and DJs. If I want a bunch of silly digital effects or a two-channel desk with a crossfader I can fill my boots, but for a conventional mixer I have to look somewhat upmarket. Around the three figure mark are several models, but I am both a cheapskate and an engineer. Surely I can come up with an alternative.
Cheap And Nasty Sound Cards To The Rescue!
An analogue mixer is an extremely simple device at heart, it simply sums a series of audio signals each of which has its own volume control fader. It’s so simple that one can be made with passive components only, and indeed there are extremely affordable mixers that do just that.
Most small mixers however use straightforward op-amp gain stages and buffers, with adjustable ones for each channel. It’s possible to make one without too much bother, and indeed I considered exactly that. The problem was that the budget climbs with each successive channel towards the point at which I’d be better off spending a bit more and buying one. I’m not pricing for the most expensive faders on the market, but a reasonable quality linear potentiometer adds quite a bit per channel to the BoM.
At this point it occurred to me, can I use the PC as a live mixer with multiple sound cards? I can order a heap of very cheap and nasty USB sound cards for under ten dollars, so it won’t cost me much to try. I placed the order, and when they arrived I plugged them in and instantly had a computer with five audio jacks.
Unfortunately I can’t just fire up Audacity expecting an awesome multi-channel experience. I have a load of sound cards to choose from, but I can only record from one of them at any one time. It’s time for a dive into Linux audio, to a level I’ve never needed to do before because, well, it’s always just worked, hasn’t it?
Who Knew There Was So Much To Linux Audio!
In the beginning, there was the Open Sound System, or OSS. My Linux in the 1990s was all about setting up web servers, so the first Linux sound subsystem passed me by. Instead like probably most of you, I’m used to ALSA, the Advanced Linux Sound System. This sits at kernel level and provides an interface to the disparate pieces of sound hardware there may be connected to the system. On top of that lie sound servers providing a further interface layer such as PulseAudio or Jack,and in many distributions the whole lot has been replaced by PipeWire.
All these promise mixing and multiple card support as their killer feature, so somewhere in that lot it should be possible to find what I want, right? Unfortunately not, because while they can all see a load of soundcards, none of the various machine configurations I tried could make applications see more than one of them at once. Perhaps a solution could be found in binding several cards together as a virtual ALSA card. But here yet again there’s no reward, because as the instructions point out, the real hardware will drift out of sync over time. I wonder whether my live mixer application would find this less problematic than a simultaneous multi-track recorder, but something tells me if it did, everybody would be doing it.
So I’ve conspicuously failed to make a cheap live mixing desk out of a thousand-dollar laptop and ten dollars’ worth of cheap sound cards. Plenty of you will be no doubt be queueing up to berate me for my less-than-1337 level of Linux wizardry, but the truth is I’ve never really concerned myself with the multimedia features before. I’m still curious though, can this be done? Answer me below in the comments!
Well, this week’s Links article is likely to prove a bit on the spicy side, thanks in no small part to the Chinese balloon that spent the better part of the week meandering across the United States. Putting aside the politics of the whole thing — which we’ll admit is hard to do, given the state of the world today — there are some interesting technical aspects to this story, which the popular press has predictably ignored. Like the size of this thing — it’s enormous. This is not even remotely on the same scale as the hundreds of radiosonde-carrying balloons sent aloft every day, at least if the back-of-the-envelope math thoughtfully sent to us by [Dr_T] holds up. If the “the size of three buses” description given in most media reports is accurate, that means a diameter of about 40 meters, for a volume of 33,500 cubic meters. If it’s filled with helium — a pretty safe bet — that makes its lifting capacity something like three metric tons. So maybe it was a good idea to wait until it was off the Carolinas to shoot it down.
Copyright law is a triple-edged sword. Historically, it has been used to make sure that authors and rock musicians get their due, but it’s also been extended to the breaking point by firms like Disney. Strangely, a concept that protected creative arts got pressed into duty in the 1980s to protect the writing down of computer instructions, ironically a comparatively few bytes of BIOS code. But as long as we’re going down this strange road where assembly language is creative art, copyright law could also be used to protect the openness of software as well. And doing so has given tremendous legal backbone to the open and free software movements.
So let’s muddy the waters further. Looking at cases like the CDDB fiasco, or the most recent sale of ADSB Exchange, what I see is a community of people providing data to an open resource, in the belief that they are building something for the greater good. And then someone comes along, closes up the database, and sells it. What prevents this from happening in the open-software world? Copyright law. What is the equivalent of copyright for datasets? Strangely enough, that same copyright law.
Data, being facts, can’t be copyrighted. But datasets are purposeful collections of data. And just like computer programs, datasets can be licensed with a restrictive copyright or a permissive copyleft. Indeed, they must, because the same presumption of restrictive copyright is the default.
I scoured all over the ADSB Exchange website to find any notice of the copyright / copyleft status of their dataset taken as a whole, and couldn’t find any. My read is that this means that the dataset is the exclusive property of its owner. The folks who were contributing to ADSB Exchange were, as far as I can tell, contributing to a dataset that they couldn’t modify or redistribute. To be a free and open dataset, to be shared freely, copied, and remixed, it would need a copyleft license like Creative Commons or the Open Data Commons license.
So I’ll admit that I’m surprised to have not seen permissive licenses used around community-based open data projects, especially projects like ADSB Exchange, where all of the software that drives it is open source. Is this just because we don’t know enough about them? Maybe it’s time for that to change, because copyright on datasets is the law of the land, no matter how absurd it may sound on the face, and the closed version is the default. If you want your data contributions to be free, make sure that the project has a free data license.
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This week, Editor-in-Chief Elliot Williams and Assignments Editor Kristina Panos met up over thousands of miles to discuss the hottest hacks of the past seven days. There’s a whole lot of news this week, and the really good part is the the small radioactive source that went missing in Australia has been found. Phew!
Kristina is still striking out on What’s That Sound, but we’re sure you’ll fare better. If you think you know what it is, fill out the form and you’ll be entered to win a coveted Hackaday Podcast t-shirt!
Finally, we get on to the hacks with an atomic pendulum clock that’s accurate enough for CERN, safecracking the rough-and-ready way, and plenty of hacks that are non-destructive to nice, old things. We’ll gush over a tiny DIY adjustable wrench, drool over CNC pizza, and rock out to the sounds of a LEGO guitar/synthesizer thing.
Check out the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!