Hackaday Links: CES is Over

CES is over, and once again we have proof technology does not improve our lives. Here’s the takeaway from the @internetofshit. There’s a garbage can where you can drop your DNA sample. This is obviously not a Bay Area startup, because they just leave DNA samples on the sidewalk there. The ‘smart cooler’ market is heating up (literally) with a cooler that’s also a grill. Someone duct taped an air filter to a roomba, so your air filter can go to where all the dirty air is in your house. Internet of Rubik’s Cubes. The world’s first autonomous shower made an appearance. Now you can take a shower over the Internet. What a time to be alive.

Need some more bad news from CES? We have more proof the entire tech industry is astonishingly sexist. How so? Well, VR sex simulators can win best of show. That’s a given, obviously. But a ‘smart’ sex toy designed by and for women was selected for a CES 2019 Innovation Award in the Robotics and Drone category. This award was given, then rescinded, by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) because it was, ‘immoral, obscene, indecent, profane or not in keeping with the CTA’s image’. We presume they mean the latter, but we’re not sure.

Sometimes, though, there are actual engineers behind some of the gadgets on display at CES. Bell (yes, the aerospace company) unveiled the Bell Nexus, a five-seat VTOL ‘taxi’ powered by six ducted fans. These fans are powered by a hybrid electric power system. We assume a turboshaft connected to a generator powering electric motors. Most interestingly, speculation is that this will be the vehicle Uber’s Elevate air taxi program. This initiative by Uber intends to turn a random parking lot in LA into the busiest airport in the world. This is what the official marketing material from Uber says, I am not making this up, and it’s beyond stupid. You know what, just have Uber buy the Santa Monica airport, close it down, and turn it into an air taxi hub. This is the dumbest and funniest possible future imaginable.

Okay, CES is terrible, but here’s something for you. You can get a free ‘maker license’ of Solidworks. Just go here and enter promo code ‘918MAKER’. This info comes from reddit.

The Impossible Project was founded in 2008 as an initiative to remanufacture Polaroid film and refurbish cameras. The project was a rousing success with many supporters. It is a beacon of hope for anyone who wants to keep obsolete formats alive. Now, another format will live on. MacEffects, a company (or eBay store) in Indiana is remanufacturing color ribbons for Apple ImageWriter II printers. The ImageWriter II was the dot-matrix printer in your elementary school’s computer lab if you’re in the Oregon Trail generation, and yes, it could print color pictures. It could print very high-quality color pictures. The problem is getting color ribbons, and now you can get new ones. We’re very interested in seeing the art that can be made with a color ribbon in an ImageWriter, so if you have a portfolio, send it on in. If you have an ImageWriter, try to print something. It’s a serial printer, not a parallel printer.

Hackaday Links: Christmas Eve Eve, 2018

The entirety of Silicon Valley is predicated on the ability to ‘move fast and break laws’. Have an idea for a scooter startup? No problem, just throw a bunch of scooters on the curb, littering and e-waste laws be damned. Earlier this year, Swarm Technologies launched four rogue satellites on an Indian rocket. All commercial satellite launches by US companies are regulated by the FCC, and Swarm just decided not to tell the FCC. This was the first unauthorized satellite launch ever. Now, Swarm has been fined $900k. Now that we know the cost of launching unauthorized satellites, so if you’ve got a plan for a satellite startup, the cost for an unauthorized launch is a bit more than $200k per satellite. Be sure to put that in your budget.

Santa Claws! Liberty Games would like to donate to a charity this holiday season, but you can’t just write a check. That’s not fun. Instead, they connected a claw machine to the Internet, and anyone can play it. Setting up a webcam was easy enough, but they also had to move the claw and press the button over the Internet. A Raspberry Pi came to the rescue.

Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8, mankind’s first trip beyond Earth orbit. Now, using Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter data, NASA has reconstructed the famous ‘Earthrise’ photo taken by the crew. It’s in 4K, and we’re getting a great diagram of what pictures were taken when, through which window.

It’s that time of year again, and the 176th Air Defense Squadron is on high alert. This squadron, based out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska has the AWACS in the air, on patrol, just waiting for the inevitable. You can take a look at their progress here, and please be sure to keep our service members in your thoughts this holiday season.

Show off your sculpture skills with small bits of wire! Get the blowtorch out because copper work hardens! [Roger] can’t enter the Circuit Sculpture contest, but he did manage to give a body to one of the Tindie heads.

Hackaday Links: December 9, 2018

SpaceX launched a rocket this week, and things did not go as planned. The hydraulics on the grid fins were stuck when the first stage started its atmospheric recovery, and the booster became a fish. The booster landed about a mile or so offshore, which meant we got some great footage of a failed landing, and there are even better shots of the guts of a landed booster. [Scott Manley] whipped out a video showing the ‘new’ discoveries of what’s going on inside a Falcon 9 booster. Interestingly: the weight of the upper stage is carried through the thrust plate of its engine (which makes sense…). There’s a lot of pneumatic stuff going on, and while the composite interstage is very strong along the long axis of the rocket, it doesn’t like being slammed into the ocean.

Winter is coming, and that means you should take your car out during the first snow, drive out to an empty parking lot, and do donuts. I am not kidding this is how you learn to drive in the snow. How do they do it in Russia? They weld 3000 nails to a steel wheel. Does it work? For a while, then the nails bend. We’ve seen this done by drilling screws through a tire, and that works much better; it’s less length for the screws to fulcrum over.

Aaay, we got a date for Sparklecon! It’s February 1-3rd in the endless suburban wastes of Fullerton, California. It’s in an industrial park, there’s a liquor store around the corner, and there’s a remote-controlled couch. Get on it.

Do you wish you had a hassle-free and affordable way to get scorpions delivered straight to your mailbox? Enter Dollar Scorpion Club. Dollar Scorpion Club makes a great gift for all ages. Just enter your friend’s shipping address during checkout, and the extra-special scorpion supply chain management will mean your scorpions are delivered fast to their door.

Regular Car Reviews finally reviewed a Pontiac Aztek. The takeaway is that it’s a bug-out car for Boomers, designed in that episode of The Simpsons where Homer finds out he has a brother.

Want to see something weird? It’s a G3 iMac running Windows 8. This is… weird. Either someone is doing a remote desktop into a Windows 8 machine, someone is just using screenshots, or this machine is way cooler than the craigslist seller is letting on. If you’re in Dallas, it might be worth picking this up.

Hackaday Links: December 2, 2018

CircuitPython is becoming a thing! CircuitPython was originally developed from MicroPython and ported to various ARM boards by Adafruit. Now, SparkFun is shipping their own CircuitPython board based on the nRF52840, giving this board an ARM Cortex-M4 and a Bluetooth radio.

You like contests, right? You like circuit boards too, right? Hackster.io now has a BadgeLove contest going on to create the Blinkiest Badge on Earth. Yes, this is a #badgelife contest, with the goal of demonstrating how much you can do in a single circuit badge. Prizes include a trip to San Francisco, a badass drone, a skateboard, a t-shirt, or socks. YES, THERE ARE SOCKS.

We have a date for the Vintage Computer Festival Pacific Northwest 2019. It’s going down March 23 and 24 at the Living Computers Museum in Seattle. The call for exhibitors is now open so head over and check it out. So far the tentative list of exhibits and presenters include Attack of the SPARC Clones, and I must mention that SPARC systems are showing up on eBay with much higher frequency lately. I have no idea why.

Need another con? How about a KiCAD con? The inaugural conference for KiCAD users is happening next April in Chicago and the call for talk proposals just opened up. The con focuses on topics like using KiCAD in a manufacturing setting, what’s going on ‘under the hood’ of KiCAD, and how to use KiCAD to make an advanced product.

Spanish police have stopped a homemade scooter. Someone, apparently, was tearing around a public road in Galacia on a homemade scooter. From the single picture, we’re going to say ‘not bad.’ It’s a gas-powered weed wacker mounted to a homemade frame.

Every year, in December, we take a look back at what Hackaday has accomplished in the past twelve months. Sure, we gave out hundreds of thousands of dollars in awards in the Hackaday Prize, and yes, we’ve pushed our coverage of tech advancements into weird, uncharted, but awesome territory. Our biggest accomplishment, though, is always how many readers we reach. This year, we had a slight fall-off in our readership in the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea. We’re down from 156 views in 2017 to 75 views this year. While the year isn’t over, we don’t expect that number to change much. What was the cause of this drop-off? We’re not quite sure. Only time will tell, and we’re looking forward to serving fresh hacks every day to the DPRK in 2019.

Hackaday Links: November 25, 2018

Bad Obsession Motorsport have been stuffing the engine and suspension from a 4WD Celica into an old Mini since forever. It is a wonderful homage to Police Squad and some of the best machining and fabrication you’ll see on YouTube. The latest episode tackled the electrical system and how to drive an alternator in an extremely cramped engine bay. The solution was a strange flex-shaft confabulation, and now the Bad Obsession Motorsport guys have a video on how they attached an alternator to a car where no alternator should go. It’s forty minutes of machining, go watch it.

Last Friday was Black Friday, and that means it’s time to CONSUME CONSUME CONSUME. Tindie’s having a sale right now, so check that out.

I’m the future of autonomous flight! This week, I got a market research survey in my email from Uber, wanting me to give my thoughts on autonomous ridesharing VTOL aircraft. Uber’s current plan for ridesharing small aircraft involves buying whatever Embraer comes up with (Uber is not developing their own aircraft), not having pilots (this will never get past the FAA), and turning a random parking lot in LA into the busiest airport in the world (by aircraft movements, which again is something that will never get past the FAA). Needless to say, this is criminally dumb, and I’m more than happy to give my thoughts. Below are the relevant screencaps of the survey:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The crux of this survey is basic market research; how much would I pay for a VTOL ride sharing service versus buying a new (autonomous) car versus using an autonomous Uber. You’ve also got a Likert scale thingy asking me if I’m comfortable flying in a battery-powered aircraft. Protip: I highly doubt anyone given this survey has flown in a battery-powered aircraft. Proprotip: the easiest way to screw up the scoring for a Likert scale is to answer ‘1’ for the first question, ‘2’ for the second, etc., and wrap back around to ‘1’ for the sixth question.

Don’t worry, though: I answered all the questions truthfully, but Uber Air will never happen. The FAA won’t let this one fly, and no company will ever carry passengers without a licensed pilot on board.

Hackaday Links: November 18, 2018

The greatest bit of consumer electronics is shipping and the reviews are out: Amazon’s Alexa-enabled microwave is a capable microwave, but befuddling to the voice-controlled-everything neophyte. Voice controlled everything is the last hope we have for technological innovation; it’s the last gasp of the consumer electronics industry. This is Amazon’s first thing with a built-in voice assistant, and while this is a marginally capable microwave at only 700 Watts — fine for a college dorm, but it’s generally worth shelling out a bit more cash for a 1000 Watt unit — the controls are befuddling. The first iteration is always hard, and we’re looking forward to the Amazon Alexa-enabled toaster, toothbrush, vacuum cleaner, and Bezos shrine.

Need a laser cutter, like crowdfunding campaigns, and know literally nothing about laser cutters? Have we got something for you. The Etcher Laser crowdfunding campaign has been pinging my email non-stop, and they’ve got something remarkable: a diode laser cutter engraver for $500. It comes in a neat-looking enclosure, so it’s sure to raise a lot of money.

A while back [Paulusjacobus] released an Arduino-based CNC controller for K40 laser cutters. There were a few suggestions to upgrade this to the STM32, so now this CNC controller is running on a Blue Pill. Yes, it’s great and there’s more floating points and such and such, so now this project is a Kickstarter project. Need a CNC controller based on the STM32? Boom, you’re done. It’s also named the ‘Super Gerbil’, which is an awesome name for something that is effectively a GRBL controller. Naming things is the hardest problem in computer science, after all.

The Gigatron computer is a ‘home computer’ without a microprocessor or microcontroller. How does it do this? A metric butt-load of ROM and look-up tables. This is cool and all, but now the Gigatron logo is huge. we’re talking 18 μm by 24 μm. This was done by etching a silicon test wafer with electron beam lithography.

Hackaday Links: The Eleventh Day Of The Eleventh Month, 2018

For the better part of the last five years, the Great War Channel on YouTube has been covering the events of the Great War, week by week, exactly 100 years later. It’s hundreds of episodes designed for history buffs, and quite literally one of the most educational channels on YouTube. It’s the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the eighteenth year, which means the folks behind the Great War Channel are probably taking a well-deserved vacation. If you haven’t heard of this channel, it might be a good time to check it out.

Ikea is now selling NFC locks. [Mike] wrote in to tell us he found the new ROTHULT drawer deadbolts for $18 at Ikea. No, these aren’t meant for your front door, they’re meant for file cabinets. That’s a different threat model, and no lock is ever completely secure. However, there are some interesting electronics. You get a lock powered by three AAA batteries and two NFC cards for $18. Can’t wait for the teardown.

The biggest news from the United States this week is big. People gathered in the streets. Millions made sure their voices were heard. Journalists were cut down for asking questions. This is a week that will go down in history. The McRib is back for a limited time. It’s just a reconstituted pork patty, pickles, onions, and sauce on a hoagie roll, but there’s more to the McRib than you would think. McDonalds only releases the McRib when the price of pork is low, and in late October, pork belly futures hit their lowest price since the last time the McRib came to town. This has led some to claim the McRib is just a second lever for McDonalds in an arbitrage play on the price of pork. McDonalds is always buying pork futures, the theory goes, and when it looks like they’re going to lose money, McDonalds simply turns on the McRib production line, pushing pork consumption up, and netting McDonalds a tidy profit. With the volume you’re looking at, McDonalds will never lose money by betting on pork.

You can turn anything into a quadcopter. A dead cat? Yes, it’s been done. How about a quartet of box fans? That’s what the folks at Flite Test did, and while the completed article was wobbly and didn’t survive its first crash, it was a quadcopter made out of box fans.