Hackaday Links: June 11, 2023

Hackaday Links Column Banner

As Tom Nardi mentioned in this week’s podcast, the Northeast US is pretty apocalyptically socked in with smoke from wildfires in Canada. It’s what we here in Idaho call “August,” so we have plenty of sympathy for what they’re going through out there. People are turning to technology to ease their breathing burden, with reports that Tesla drivers are activating the “Bioweapon Defense Mode” of their car’s HVAC system. We had no idea this mode existed, honestly, and it sounds pretty cool — the cabin air system apparently shuts off outside air intake and runs the fan at full speed to keep the cabin under positive pressure, forcing particulates — or, you know, anthrax — to stay outside. We understand there’s a HEPA filter in the mix too, which probably does a nice job of cleaning up the air in the cabin. It’s a clever idea, and hats off to Tesla for including this mode, although perhaps the name is a little silly. Here’s hoping it’s not one of those subscription services that can get turned off at a moment’s notice, though.

Fancy though “Bioweapon” mode on a Tesla may be, do these cars have an “Alien Abduction Prevention” mode, too? Let’s hope so, because if a whistleblower report on non-human craft is to be believed, we’re all going to need it. A highly placed former intelligence officer, David Grusch, has apparently briefed the US Congress on the retrieval of craft, in whole or in part, “of exotic origin (non-human intelligence, whether extraterrestrial or unknown origin) based on the vehicle morphologies and material science testing and the possession of unique atomic arrangements and radiological signatures.” He claims this has been going on for decades, with technology being recovered not only by the US government but also by its allies and, curiously, defense contractors. All of which begs the question: If we’ve had vehicles of “exotic origin” available to us for decades, where the hell are our flying cars?

A strange case out of Connecticut, where a rural couple claims the state environmental agency sent a camera-wearing bear to illegally spy on them. The couple, Mark and Carol Brault, own a large piece of property where they charge visitors an admission fee to watch wildlife. They claim that the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) attached a camera to a bear that’s known to frequent the Brault property, with the intention of conducting a warrantless search on their private wildlife reserve. They apparently had previously been accused by the town government of feeding bears, which would be a problem if true, and certainly seems like something a collar-mounted camera would pick up. We’ve had dealings with Connecticut DEEP — we used to live in the state, and once had DEEP respond to our property to try to catch a nuisance bear that had killed some of our livestock. The trap was baited with day-old jelly donuts; alas, we never caught the perp, but our experience with DEEP was nothing but pleasant. The jelly donuts were pretty tasty, too.

Factory tour time! Raspberry Pi maven Jeff Geerling recently took a trip to the UK, which included not only a bit of hob-nobbing with Eben Upton, but also a tour of the Sony Tech Center in Wales where Raspberry Pis are made. Everyone loves factory tours, and seeing how Pis get made is especially nice — not to mention seeing Pis piled to the rafters. There are all the usual sights and sounds of a modern electronics factory — the high-speed pick and place, the hand rework of boards that don’t pass QC — but the best part in our book is the line of two-armed collaborative robots working on placing the through-hole components. The little wiggle they give to get Ethernet jacks and other through-hole parts placed is pretty clever, and the fact that they work directly across an assembly line from meat-bots is pretty impressive. Enjoy the tour!

And finally, if the 1983 movie WarGames was as influential for you as it was for us, you’ve got to check out this incredibly detailed diorama of David Lightman’s room. Played by a not-as-young-as-he-looked Matthew Broderick, for some of us David Lightman was about as cool as you could ever hope to be — not least because he had his own en suite bathroom. The IMSAI 8080 his desk sported was something most of us could only dream about owning, and the level of detail captured by this model is breathtaking. Not only is the computer exterior accurately modeled, everything inside the case is reproduced too! The big power supply caps, the transformer, the card cage and boards with tiny components — everything is there. And that’s not to mention all the other gear Lightman had in his room, like the top-load VCR, the printer, the 8″ floppies — even the acoustically coupled modem he used to nearly launch World War 3. Shall we play a game?