Hackaday has been online in some form or another since 2004, which for the Internet, makes us pretty damn old. But while that makes us one of the oldest surviving web resources for hacker types, we’ve got nothing on 2600 — they’ve been publishing their quarterly zine since 1984.
While the physical magazine can still be found on store shelves, the iconic publication expanded into digital distribution some time ago, thanks largely to the Kindle’s Newsstand service. Unfortunately, that meant Amazon’s recent decision to shutter Newsstand threatened to deprive 2600 of a sizable chunk of their income. So what would any group of hackers do? They took matters into their own hands and spun-up their own digital distribution system.
As of today you’re able to subscribe to the digital version of 2600 in DRM-free PDF or EPUB formats, directly from the magazine’s official website. Which one you pick largely depends on how you want to read it: those looking for the highest fidelity experience should go with PDF, as it features an identical layout to the physical magazine, while those who are more concerned with how the content looks on their reader of choice would perhaps be better served by the flexibility of EPUB. After signing up you can download the current Summer issue immediately, with future issues hitting your inbox automatically. Load it onto your home-built Open Book, and you can really stick it to the establishment.
While the ending of this story seems to be a happy one, we can’t help but see it as a cautionary tale. How many other magazines would have the means and experience to offer up their own digital subscriptions? Or for that matter, how many could boast readers savvy enough to utilize it? The reality is many publications will be injured by Amazon’s decision, some mortally so. That’s a lot of power to be put into the hands of just one company, no matter how quick the shipping is.
We’ve all been there before — you need some 3D printable design that you figure must be common enough that somebody has already designed it, so you point your browser to Thingiverse or Printables, and in a few minutes you’ve got STL in hand and are ready to slice and print. If the design worked for you, perhaps you’ll go back and post an image of your print and leave a word of thanks to the designer.
Afterwards, you’ll probably never give that person a second thought for the rest of your life. Within a day or two, there’s a good chance you won’t even remember their username. It’s why most of the model sharing sites will present you with a list of your recently downloaded models when you want to upload a picture of your print, otherwise there’s a good chance you wouldn’t be able to find the thing.
Now if you really liked the model, you might go as far as following the designer. But even then, there would likely be some extenuating circumstances. After all, even the most expertly designed widget is still just a widget, and the chances of that person creating another one that you’d also happen to need seems exceedingly slim. Most of the interactions on these model sharing sites are like two ships passing in the night; it so happened that you and the creator had similar enough needs that you could both use the same printable object, but there’s no telling if you’ll ever cross paths with them again.
Which is why the recent announcements, dropped just hours from each other, that both Thangs and Printables would be rolling out paid subscription services seems so odd. Both sites claim that not only is there a demand for a service that would allow users to pay designers monthly for their designs, but that existing services such as Patreon are unable to meet the unique challenges involved.
Both sites say they have the solution, and can help creators turn their passion for 3D design into a regular revenue stream — as long as they get their piece of the action, that is.
Long time readers will know that occasionally we mix up our usual subject matter with a dash of farm equipment. Usually the yellow and green variants that come from John Deere, as the agricultural manufacturer has become the poster child for all that is wrong in the fight for the right to repair. An old Deere is worth more than a nearly new one in many places, because for several years now their models have had all their parts locked down by DRM technologies such that only their own fitters can replace them. Now after a long legal fight involving many parties, the repair and parts company iFixit sound justifiably pleased as they announce the world’s first agricultural right to repair law being passed in the US state of Colorado. (Nitter)
This may sound like a small victory, and it will no doubt be followed by further rearguard actions from the industry as similar laws are tabled in other states. But in fact as we read it, with this law in place the game is de facto up for the tractor makers. Once they are required to release any access codes for the Coloradans those same codes will by extension be available to any other farmers, and though we’re guessing they won’t do this, they would be best advised to give up on the whole DRM idea and concentrate instead on making better tractors to fix their by-now-damaged brands.
It’s exciting news for everybody as it proves that right-to-repair legislation is possible, however since this applies only to agricultural machinery the battle is by no means over. Only when all machines and devices have the same protection can we truly be said to have achieved the right to repair.
With a long history of nearly universal hate for their products, you’d think printer manufacturers would by now have found ways to back off from the policies that only seem to keep aggravating customers. But rather than make it a financially wiser decision to throw out a printer and buy a new one than to buy new ink cartridges or toners, manufacturers keep coming up with new and devious ways to piss customers off. Case in point: Hewlett-Packard now seems to be bricking printers with third-party ink cartridges. Reports from users say that a new error message has popped up on screens of printers with non-HP cartridges installed warning that further use of the printer has been blocked. Previously, printers just warned about potential quality issues from non-HP consumables, but now they’re essentially bricked until you cough up the money for legit HP cartridges. Users who have contacted HP support say that they were told the change occurred because of a recent firmware update sent to the printer, so that’s comforting.
By now everyone has probably seen the devastation wrought by the structural failure of what was once the world’s largest free-standing cylindrical aquarium. The scale of the tank, which until about 5:50 AM Berlin time on Friday graced the lobby of the Raddison Blu hotel, was amazing — 16 meters tall, 12 meters in diameter, holding a million liters of saltwater and some 1,500 tropical fish. The tank sat atop a bar in the hotel lobby and was so big that it even had an elevator passing up through the middle of it.
But for some reason, the tank failed catastrophically, emptying its contents into the hotel lobby and spilling the hapless fish out into the freezing streets of Berlin. No humans were killed by the flood, which is miraculous when you consider the forces that were unleashed here. Given the level of destruction, the displaced hotel guests, and the fact that a €13 million structure just up and failed, we’re pretty sure there will be a thorough analysis of the incident. We’re pretty interested in why structures fail, so we’ll be looking forward to finding out the story here.
Don’t look up! As of the time of this writing, there’s a decent chance that a Chinese Long March 5B booster has already completed its uncontrolled return to Earth, hopefully safely. The reentry prediction was continually tweaked over the last week or so, until the consensus closed in on 30 Jul 2022 at 17:08 UTC, give or take an hour either way. That two-hour window makes for a LOT of uncertainty about where the 25-ton piece of space debris will end up. Given the last prediction by The Aerospace Corporation, the likely surface paths cover a lot of open ocean, with only parts of Mexico and South America potentially in the crosshairs, along with parts of Indonesia. It’s expected that most of the material in the massive booster will burn up in the atmosphere, but with the size of the thing, even 20% making it to the ground could be catastrophic, as it nearly was in 2020.
[Update: US Space Command confirms that the booster splashed down in the Indian Ocean region at 16:45 UTC. No word yet on how much debris survived, or if any populated areas were impacted.]
Good news, everyone — thanks to 3D printing, we now know the maximum height of a dive into water that the average human can perform without injury. And it’s surprisingly small — 8 meters for head first, 12 meters if you break the water with your hands first, and 15 meters feet first. Bear in mind this is for the average person; the record for surviving a foot-first dive is almost 60 meters, but that was by a trained diver. Researchers from Cornell came up with these numbers by printing models of human divers in various poses, fitting them with accelerometers, and comparing the readings they got with known figures for deceleration injuries. There was no mention of the maximum survivable belly flop, but based on first-hand anecdotal experience, we’d say it’s not much more than a meter.
Humans have done a lot of spacefaring in the last sixty years or so, but almost all of it has been either in low Earth orbit or as flybys of our neighbors in the Sol system. Sure we’ve landed plenty of probes, but mostly on the Moon, Mars, and a few lucky asteroids. And Venus, which is sometimes easy to forget. We were reminded of that fact by this cool video of the 1982 Soviet landing of Venera 14, one of only a few attempts to land on our so-called sister planet. The video shows the few photographs Venera 14 managed to take before being destroyed by the heat and pressure on Venus, but the real treat is the sound recording the probe managed to make. Venera 14 captured the sounds of its own operations on the Venusian surface, including what sounds like a pneumatic drill being used to sample the regolith. It also captured, as the narrator put it, “the gentle blow of the Venusian wind” — as gentle as ultra-dense carbon dioxide hot enough to melt lead can be, anyway.
For our money, the best label for pretty much any purpose is one of those embossed Dymo-style stick-on labels, the kind with the raised white letters. There’s just something about them — the raised letters just beg to be touched, their legibility is outstanding, they lend an unmatched retro feel to a project, and the experience of creating one with one of those manual kerchunkers is oddly satisfying.
But alas, those manual label makers aren’t what they used to be, as [Andrei Speridião] discovered when his fell apart in his hands. Rather than complain, he automated his label maker and turned it into a computer peripheral. Dubbed “E-TKT”, the DIY label printer takes the daisy-wheel embossing die from his defunct labeler and puts it under computer control. Rather than the ratchet mechanism of the original, a stepper motor advances the tape, another stepper rotates the wheel to the correct position, and a servo does the kerchunking duty. The process repeats until the label is complete and neatly cut off, ready to apply. An ESP32 runs the mechanism and serves up a web application to compose labels and control the printer. There’s also an OLED display and, of course, an embossed label. Video demo below.
We don’t care what [Bart Simpson] thinks, embossed labels are cool, and this makes them even cooler. And as [Andrei] points out, this is also a neat way around the nasty DRM trick that some companies are foisting on the label-making public. That alone is reason to cheer this project on — but we won’t complain about the beautiful photography and excellent documentation, either.