The obvious rants against software or services “in the cloud” are that you don’t own it, your data isn’t on your own hard drive, or that, when the interwebs are down, you just can’t get your work done. But the one that really grinds my gears is that, at least for many cloud services, you just can’t play around with them. Why does that matter? Well, as a hacker type, of course, I like to fool around, but more deeply, I feel that this invitation to play around is what’s going to grow up the next generation of hackers. Openness matters not just for now, but also for the future.
Of course, it’s unfair to pin all of this on the cloud. There are plenty of services with nice open APIs that let you play around with their systems as much as you want — witness the abundance of amusing things you can do with Twitter or Twitch. Still, every day seems to bring another formerly-open API that gets bought up by some wealthy company and shut down. I built a nice “is it going to rain today” display out of a meter-long WS2812 strip and an ESP8266, but Dark Sky API got bought up by Apple and is going dark soon (tee-hee!) leaving me thinking of how I’m going to get easy weather data in the next few months.
Or take my e-mail annunciator. I wrote a little script that, when I have new mail that’s work related or from my wife (read: important), it displays the subject line on a VFD that I have perched on my monitor. This works with Gmail, which I have to use for work, because they support IMAP so at least I can do cool things with the mail once it reaches my server. But can I do anything with Google Groups, which we use for the Hackaday Tip Line? Fat chance!
So there’s good “cloud” and there’s bad “cloud”. Good cloud is open cloud. Good cloud invites you to play, to innovate, and to come up with the right solutions for yourself. Good cloud gives you access to your data. Good cloud is hackable cloud. Let’s see more of that.
Wink Labs just announced that their home automation hub, the Wink Hub, is “transitioning to a $4.99 monthly subscription, starting on May 13, 2020.” Should you fail to pay the fiver every month, you will lose access to their app, voice control, and automations, which is everything it does as far as we can tell.
This is an especially bitter pill to swallow for Hub users, because the device was just that — a hub. It speaks Bluetooth, Z-Wave, ZigBee, WiFi, Kidde, and a couple other specific device protocols, interfaces with Amazon’s Alexa, has a handy Android master panel app, and had a nice “robot” system that made the automation side of “home automation” simple for normal people. In short, with its low one-time purchase price, compatibility with many devices, nice phone app, and multiple radios, it was a great centerpiece for a home-automation setup.
“Nice home automation system you’ve got there. Would be a shame if anything happened to it.”
Continue reading “Ask Hackaday: Wink Hubs, Extortion As A Service?”
You no doubt heard about the Amazon S3 outage that happened earlier this week. It was reported far and wide by media outlets who normally don’t delve into details of the technology supporting our connected world. It is an interesting thing to think that most people have heard about The Cloud but never AWS and certainly not S3.
We didn’t report on the outage, but we ate up the details of the aftermath. It’s an excellent look under the hood. We say kudos to Amazon for adding to the growing trend of companies sharing the gory details surrounding events like this so that we can all understand what caused this and how they plan to avoid it in the future.
Turns out the S3 team was working on a problem with some part of the billing system and to do so, needed to take a few servers down. An incorrect command used when taking those machines down ended up affecting a larger block than expected. So they went out like a light switch — but turning that switch back on wasn’t nearly as easy.
The servers that went down run various commands in the S3 API. With the explosive growth of the Simple Storage Service, this “reboot” hadn’t been tried in several years and took far longer than expected. Compounding this was a backlog of tasks that built up while they were bringing the API servers back online. Working through that backlog took time as well. The process was like waiting for a bathtub to fill up with water. It must have been an agonizing process for those involved, but certainly not as bad as the folks who had to restore GitLab service a few weeks back.
Yet another Internet of Things service has left its customers in the lurch. IoT devices (mostly lightbulbs)
made sold by Greenwave Systems stopped talking to the outside world on July 1. More specifically, the server to which they all connected (ahem, “the cloud”) has been turned off, which rules out using the bulbs with Internet-based services like IFTTT, which was a major selling point of the Things in the first place.
[Edit: We were contacted by Greenwave, and they pointed out that they merely sold the IoT devices in question. They are made by TCP, which is also responsible for cancelling the service. And TCP has a history of doing this sort of thing before.]
It’s not the first time we’ve seen IoT companies renege on their promises to provide service, and it’s surely not going to be the last. We’re preaching to the choir here, but when even Google is willing to take the PR hit to effectively brick your devices, the only protection that you’ve got against obsolescence is an open protocol.
At least the users of
Greenwave’s TCP’s devices will continue to be able to control them from within the home. That, plus some clever hacking, will make them workable into the future. But it’s not like the convenience that was sold with the devices.
Boo to shady IoT companies! But thanks to [Adrian] for the tip.
[Aaron Wypyszynski] or [Wyp] for short had a dream as a youngster about jumping out of a plane and “carving through the sky” (paraphrasing the video embedded after the break), so when he grew up [Wyp] went ahead and pursued that dream.
What that boyhood dream produced is [Wyp] offering to pull you through the sky on what looks like a proper model of a blunt nosed paper airplane glider. Seems to be a bit like wakeboarding for skydivers, cause that needed to be a thing.
Continue reading “WingBoard: Wakeboarding Behind An Airplane”
Here’s some very, very sad news from [Charles] over at The Maker’s Workbench: on July 16th, his house was hit by lightning causing his workshop to catch fire. His family is safe, but unfortunately thousands of dollars in gear has gone up in smoke. [Charles] lost a Reprap, a ton of dev boards, a huge amount of tools including an awesome soldering setup, and his laptop and file server.
Short of taking up residence inside Yucca Mountain, there’s little that can be done to prevent random, disastrous acts of Thor. The only bright side to [Charles]’ ordeal (if there is one) is that most of his file server – including all the code he’s written over the years – was backed up on the cloud.
Hackaday readers aren’t much for marketing buzzwords like ‘the cloud,’ so we’re wondering what your backup solutions are. If the cloud isn’t for you, is a NAS at home a good idea? rsync will do wonders, but even hard drives at an off-site location fail; maybe tape is the best choice. Of course if you have a laser cutter, there’s always the option of cutting patterns of holes in stainless steel plates and preserving your data for thousands of years.
If [Charles]’ story doesn’t inspire you to backup often and preserve your data, consider this: the greek poet [Sophocles] wrote 123 plays, seven of which still survive. Put in perspective, that’s like the only songs in The Beatles’ catalog surviving 2,500 years coming from the Yellow Submarine soundtrack.