Hackaday Links: November 12, 2023

Somebody must really have it in for Cruise, because the bad press just keeps piling up for the robo-taxi company. We’ve highlighted many of the company’s woes in this space, from unscheduled rendezvous with various vehicles to random acts of vandalism and stupid AI pranks. The hits kept coming as California regulators pulled the plug on testing, which finally convinced parent company General Motors to put a halt to the whole Cruise testing program nationwide. You’d think that would be enough, but no — now we learn that Cruise cars had a problem recognizing children, to the point that there was concern that one of their autonomous cars could clobber a kid under the right conditions. The fact that they apparently knew this and kept sending cars out for IRL testing is a pretty bad look, to say the least. Sadly but predictably, Cruise has announced layoffs, starting with the employees who supported the now-mothballed robo-taxi fleet, including those who had the unenviable job of cleaning the cars after, err, being enjoyed by customers. It seems a bit wrongheaded to sack people who had no hand in engineering the cars, but then again, there seems to be a lot of wrongheadedness to go around.

In space, no one can hear you scream, which is probably a good thing for the ISS astronaut who dropped a toolbag during a recent spacewalk. Astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara were out fixing one of the rotary joints that keep the station’s solar panels pointing toward the Sun when the bag got away from one of them; NASA is being kind and not revealing which astronaut did it. Thankfully, the repair work was almost done at the time, and nothing in the toolkit was irreplaceable. And hey — now we have a new satellite that you can actually see with binoculars. But you’d better hurry; free from the regular orbital boosts of the ISS, it’ll probably reenter the atmosphere in a couple of months. Wonder how expensive that shooting star will be?

We recently featured a partly relay-based calculator project; we thought it was pretty snazzy then, but now? Wow! The finished Calc-U-Later build is pretty spectacular, with a custom wood enclosure that really looks great. And bonus points for the attention to detail, especially on the brackets that hold the display to the base. There’s also a video of it in action and it sounds fantastic, almost as if the wood is acting as a resonator for the clicking relays. Great job, Michal!

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“It’s almost 1.7 billion o’clock; do you know where your Unix sysadmin is?” That’s right, in just a few days time, it’ll be 1,700,000,000 seconds since the Unix epoch started on January 1, 1970. Milestones such as these are custom made for clock watcher, odometer freaks, and anyone who appreciates a nice round number. The big moment comes on Tuesday, November 14, 2023 at 22:13:20 GMT, so mark your calendar and head over to Unixtimestamp.com to watch the digits flip. And while you’re at it, ponder the enormity of what awaits us once another mere 447,483,648 seconds elapse and the 32-bit clock in every Unix machine is filled with ones. Y2k problem? Pfft! Think about Y2.038k?

And finally, if you think dealing with car tires is a hassle, check out this highly problematic tire change on an enormous hand-made wooden wheel. We’ve been following the epic story of Engels Coach Shop’s built of 10′ (3 meter) wooden wheels for a logging wagon, and the scale of the work that wheelwright Dave Engel accomplishes here is nothing short of amazing. The wheel build itself is worth following in full, but the final step of shrinking iron tires onto the wooden wheels is the real showstopper. What’s especially fascinating is that there are no fasteners holding the wheel together, and until that tire shrinks and snugs up all the joints, the wheel can barely support itself. While the first wheel of the pair was a textbook example of setting a tire, the one in the video below had different ideas. We won’t spoil the surprise except to say watch out at around the 10:52 mark, when all hell breaks loose — literally. And just think about what kind of effort went into these wheels before forklifts and skid steers.

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