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Hackaday Links: October 17, 2021

We found a couple of headlines this week that seemed pretty alarming at first, mentioning as they did both “Chinese grannies” and “stun guns.” Digging a little deeper, it appears that widespread elder abuse isn’t what this is about, although there certainly is an unsavory aspect to the story. Apparently, it’s pretty common in Chinese cities for large groups of people to get together for exercise, with “square dancing” being one popular form. This isn’t the “do-si-do and allemande right” square dancing that made high school gym class really awkward for a few days, but rather large groups of mostly older women busting moves to Chinese music in public spaces. It’s the music that’s bothering some people, enough so that they’re buying “stun guns” that can somehow turn off the dancing grannies’ music. None of the articles go into any detail on the device besides describing it as a flashlight-looking thing, and that it appears to do no permanent damage to the sound system. We’d love to know where to get one of these things — you know, for science. And really, it’s kind of sad that people are taking offense at senior citizens just looking for a bit of exercise and social contact.

A couple of weeks back, we mentioned TeachMePCB, a free online PCB design class designed to take you from zero to PCB designer. We’ve been working through the course material and enjoying it, but it strikes us that there’s a lot to keep track when you’re designing a PCB, especially if you’re new to the game. That’s where this very detailed PCB design checklist would come in handy. It takes you right from schematic review and breadboard testing of subassemblies right through to routing traces to avoid crosstalk and stray capacitance problems, and right on to panelization tips and even how to make sure assembly services get your build right. Reading through the list, you get the feeling that each item is something that tripped up the author (grosdode) at one time or another. So it’s a little like having someone with hard-won experience watching over your shoulder as you work, and that can’t really be a bad thing.

Our friend Jeroen Vleggaar over at Huygens Optics on YouTube posted a video the other day about building an entire Schmidt-Cassegrain reflecting telescope out of a single piece of glass. The video is mostly an interview with optical engineer Rik ter Horst, who took up the building of monolithic telescopes as a hobby. It turns out that one of his scopes will be flying to space aboard a cubesat in January. If you’re a fan of precision optics, you’ll want to check this out. Jeroen also teased that he’ll be building his own version of Rik’s monolithic telescope, so watch for an article on that soon.

Heads up — applications are now being accepted for the Open Hardware Summit’s Ada Lovelace Fellowships. This year there are up to ten fellowships offered, each of which includes a $500 travel stipend to attend the Open Hardware Summit in April. The fellowships seek to foster a more diverse community in open-source hardware; applications are being accepted until December 17th, so hurry.

And finally, if you’ve got some spare cycles, you might want to turn your Mark 1 eyeballs to the task of spotting walrus from space. The World Wildlife Federation (WWF) is crowdsourcing its walrus census efforts by training people to spot the well-armed marine mammals in satellite photos. Assessing population numbers and distribution is important to understanding their ecology, and walrus are cute and cuddly (no, they’re not), so getting people to count them makes sense. But this seems like a job for machine vision — there has to be a model trained to recognize walrus, right? Or maybe just something to count dark spots against a white background? Maybe someone can whip something up to make this job a bit easier and less subjective.

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Hackaday Links: March 7, 2021

It’s March, which means Keysight is back in the business of giving away a ton of test gear. Keysight University Live starts on March 15, with daily events the first week followed by a string of weekly live events through April. We always enjoy these Keysight events; sure, they’re clearly intended to sell more gear, but the demos and tutorials are great, and we always learn a lot. There’s also a feeling of community that feels similar to the Hackaday community; just a bunch of electronics nerds getting together to learn and share. If you’re interested in that community, or even if you’re just looking for a chance to win something from the $300,000 pile of goodies, you’ll need to register.

There’s another event coming up that you’ll want to know about: the 2021 Open Hardware Summit. Because 2021 is the new 2020, the summit is being held virtually again, this year on April 9. Tickets are on sale now, and we’re told there are still plenty of Ada Lovelace Fellowships available to those who consider themselves to be a minority in tech. The Fellowship covers the full cost of a ticket; it usually covers travels costs too, but sadly we’re still not there yet.

Once we do start traveling again, you might need to plan more carefully if cities start following the lead of Petaluma, California and start banning the construction of gas stations. The city, about 40 miles (64 km) north of San Francisco, is believed to be the first city in the United States to ban new gas station construction. The city council’s decision also prevents gas station owners from expanding, reconstructing, or relocating existing gas stations. The idea is to create incentives to move toward non-fossil fuel stations, like electric vehicle charging stations and hydrogen fueling. Time will tell how well that works out.

Go home Roomba — you’re drunk. That could be what Roomba owners are saying after an update semi-bricked certain models of the robotic vacuum cleaners. Owners noted a variety of behaviors, like wandering around in circles, bumping into furniture, and inability to make its way back to base for charging. There’s even a timelapse on reddit of a Roomba flailing about pathetically in a suspiciously large and empty room. The drunken analogy only goes so far, though, since we haven’t seen any reports of a Roomba barfing up the contents of its dust bin. But we’re still holding out hope.

And finally, if you’re not exactly astronaut material but still covet a trip to space, you might luck out courtesy of Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa. He’s offering to pay the way for eight people from around the world on a planned flight to the Moon and back in 2023. Apparently, Maezawa bought up all the seats for the flight back in 2018 with the intention of flying a group of artists to space. His thinking has changed, though, and now he’s opening up the chance to serve as ballast join the crew to pretty much any rando on the planet. Giving away rides on Starship might be a harder sell after this week’s test, but we’re sure he’ll find plenty of takers. And to be honest, we wish the effort well — the age of routine civilian space travel can’t come soon enough for us.