A Oscilloscope For The Nuclear Age

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Here at Hackaday, we’re suckers for vintage instruments. More than one of our staffers has a bench adorned with devices spanning many decades, and there’s nothing more we like reading about that excursions into the more interesting or unusual examples. So when a Tweet comes our way talking about a very special oscilloscope, of course we have to take a look! The Tektronix 519 from 1962 has a 1GHz bandwidth, and [Timothy Koeth] has two of them in his collection. His description may be a year or two old, but this is the kind of device for which the up-to-the-minute …read more

Disaster Area Communications With Cloud Gateways

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2017, in case you don’t remember, was a terrible year for the Caribbean and Gulf coast. Hurricane Maria tore Puerto Rico apart, Harvey flooded Houston, Irma destroyed the Florida Keys, and we still haven’t heard anything from Saint Martin. There is, obviously, a problem to be solved here, and that problem is communications. Amateur radio only gets you so far, but for their Hackaday Prize entry, [Inventive Prototypes] is building an emergency communication system that anyone can use. It only needs a clear view of the sky, and you can use it to send SMS messages. It’s the PR-Holonet, and …read more

New York City’s subway disaster now has its own 8-bit video game

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Straphangers who want to experience the rolling nightmare that is New York City’s subway system from the comfort of their own home are in luck. A new video game called “MTA Country,” which debuted this week, takes players on a treacherous ride through graffiti-lined tunnels filled with electrical fires, broken tracks, and stalled subway cars.

Users play as Gregg T., the face of the MTA’s “New Yorkers Keep New York Safe” safety ad campaign, who has since become a bit of a meme. At the start of the game, Gregg T. jumps into a subway car with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Together, the three must leap over track fires and broken-down subway cars full of irritated passengers while dodging pizza rats and…

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Snow, the Korean Snapchat clone, now has its own version of Animoji

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If you’re over Snapchat because of the countless redesigns and re-redesigns but Instagram’s filters don’t tickle your fancy, there’s a Korean app called Snow that takes all of the beloved features and combines them into a super cute camera app. Snow has been around for a while, but the latest update gives it even more features, including its own take on Apple’s adorable Animoji, real-time beauty effects, and a new mirror mode.

The new AR emoji feature lets you overlay your face with animated characters, including a puppy dog and an old man. Once selected, the camera detects your face, masks it with the sticker, and mimics your expressions. The major difference between this and Animoji is that you can still (kind of) see your body….

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A Custom Keypad with Vision

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A combination of cheap USB HID capable microcontrollers, the ability to buy individual mechanical keys online, and 3D printing has opened up a whole new world of purpose-built input devices. Occasionally these take the form of full keyboards, but more often than not they are small boards with six or so keys that are dedicated to specific tasks or occasionally a particular game or program. An easy and cheap project with tangible benefits to anyone who spends a decent amount of time sitting in front of the computer certainly sounds like a win to us.

But this build by [r0ckR2] …read more

9 new trailers you should watch this week

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I was excited to finally get around to watching The Florida Project last weekend now that it’s on Amazon. I knew that it looked (and was supposed to be) good, but I didn’t think I would enjoy it quite as much as I did.

There’s so much to like about the film (including some crazy good acting from an energetic group of kids). But probably the most remarkable thing is its world building: the movie is about poor, struggling families living in the shadow of Disney World outside Orlando; and it really takes that idea and runs with it, turning its rundown locations into makeshift, knockoff extensions of Disney’s kingdom.

It’s a really beautiful, entertaining approach that lets the movie straddle the line between showing adults’ lives and their…

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How to use a rotary dial telephone (1927)

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In 1927, folks in the Fresno, California area went down to the local cinema to learn how to use those new-fangled dial telephones that everybody was talking about. This is the charming footage, a combo of live action and cartoons, created by the American Telephone and Telegraph Co. (AT&T) that they saw 91 years ago.

The AT&T Archives writes:

In 1922, New York City was introduced to dial. The first popularized dial telephone was a desk set candlestick model; the smaller, more familiar desk set came later.

It took decades for dial to sweep the entire Bell System. The last holdout was Catalina Island, off the coast of California, which finally converted to dial in 1978. In Camp Shohola, Pennsylvania, an internal automatic switch system still connects campers with the outside world, it’s the oldest functioning Strowger switch in the world.

(bookofjoe)

Superstar Limo: The story of Disney’s “worst attraction ever”

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We can all take some comfort that even Disney, with all its money and creative resources, can fail.

Take for instance, Disney’s epic failure, a long-gone ride called Superstar Limo. The dark ride, that was once in California Adventure’s Hollywood Pictures Backlot area, took guests in a sparkly purple limousine through a distorted version of Hollywood and Los Angeles. It was open just under a year and was later (and as you’ll see in the video, hilariously) repurposed as the Monsters, Inc. ride.

Kevin Perjurer of the YouTube channel Defunctland describes it as their “worst attraction ever” and offers this critical history of it. His video is 20 minutes long but worth a watch, as his research goes deep and this “Superstar Limo” truly has to be seen to be believed. Be sure to stay to the end to see the reactions of the cast of The Drew Carey Show and Rosie O’Donnell when they all took a whirl in it together.

Also, in case you’re curious, here’s a look at the ride without commentary:

Watch the Honeycomb Clock Gently Track Time

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We love clocks here at Hackaday, and so does [John Whittington]. Last year he created this hexagonal honey clock (or “Honock”) by combining some RGB LEDs with a laser-cut frame to create a smooth time display that uses color and placement to display time with a simple and attractive system.

The outer ring of twelve hexagons is essentially the hour hand, similar to analog clock faces: twelve is up, three is directly to the right, six is straight down, and nine is to the left. The inner ring represents ten minutes per hex. Each time the inner ring fills, the …read more

How Canada Ended Up As An AI Superpower

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pacopico writes: Neural nets and deep learning are all the rage these days, but their rise was anything but sudden. A handful of determined researchers scattered around the globe spent decades developing neural nets while most of their peers thought they were mad. An unusually large number of these academics — including Geoff Hinton, Yoshua Bengio, Yann LeCun and Richard Sutton — were working at universities in Canada. Bloomberg Businessweek has put together an oral history of how Canada brought them all together, why they kept chasing neural nets in the face of so much failure, and why their ideas suddenly started to take off. There’s also a documentary featuring the researchers and Prime Minster Justin Trudeau that tells more of the story and looks at where AI technology is heading — both the good and the bad. Overall, it’s a solid primer for people wanting to know about AI and the weird story of where the technology came from, but might be kinda basic for hardcore AI folks.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Their Battery is Full of Air

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Storing electrical energy is a huge problem. A lot of gear we use every day use some form of battery and despite a few false starts at fuel cells, that isn’t likely to change any time soon. However, batteries or other forms of storage are important in many alternate energy schemes. Solar cells don’t produce when it is dark. Windmills only produce when the wind blows. So you need a way to store excess energy to use for the periods when you aren’t creating electricity. [Kris De Decker] has an interesting proposal: store energy using compressed air.

Compressed air storage …read more

Hackaday Belgrade is On: Join LiveStream and Chat!

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Good morning Hackaday universe! Hackaday Belgrade 2018 has just started, and we’re knee-deep in sharing, explaining, and generally celebrating our craft. But just because you’re not here doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take part.

  • Watch the talks along with us on the livestream.
  • Take part in the conference chat.
  • Follow us on Twitter. We’ll be posting with hashtag #HackadayBelgrade

Come join us!

…read more

Wireless Charger Gives a Glimpse into Industrial Design Process

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Almost every product on the market has been through the hands of an industrial designer at some point in its development. From the phone in your pocket to the car in your driveway or the vacuum in your closet, the way things look and work is the result of a careful design process. Taking a look inside that process, like with this wireless phone charger concept, is fascinating and can yield really valuable design insights.

We’ve featured lots of [Eric Strebel]’s work before, mainly for the great fabrication tips and tricks he offers, like how to get a fine painted …read more

This Robot Barfs Comics!

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If there’s one thing that’s more fun than a comic, it’s a randomly generated comic. Well, perhaps that’s not true, but Reddit user [cadinb] wrote some software to generate a random comic strip and then built a robot case for it. Push a button on the robot and you’re presented with a randomly generated comic strip from the robot’s mouth.

The software that [cadinb] wrote is in Processing, an open source programming language and “sketchbook” for learning to code if you’re coming from a visual arts background. The Processing code determines how the images are cropped and placed and what …read more

Managing React State With Render Props

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Brief Introduction

Over the years, React has evolved with different patterns and techniques to solve two fundamental problems:

  1. How to share and reuse code.
  2. How to manage unidirectional state.

In early versions of React, there was the concept of mixins. These ended up being a fragile solution. Mixins were eventually deprecated and a new pattern emerged called Higher-Order Components (HoC). A HoC helps solve our first issue of sharing and reusing code in a maintainable and composable manner.

A Middle-Aged Writer’s Quest To Start Learning To Code For the First Time

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OpenSourceAllTheWay writes: The Economist’s 1843 magazine details one middle-aged writer’s (Andrew Smith) quest to learn to code for the first time, after becoming interested in the “alien” logic mechanisms that power completely new phenomena like crypto-currency and effectively make the modern world function in the 21st Century. The writer discovers that there are over 1,700 actively used computer programming languages to choose from, and that every programmer that he asks “Where should someone like me start with coding?” contradicts the next in his or her recommendation. One seasoned programmer tells him that programmers discussing what language is best is the equivalent of watching “religious wars.” The writer is stunned by how many of these languages were created by unpaid individuals who often built them for “glory and the hell of it.” He is also amazed by how many people help each other with coding problems on the internet every day, and the computer programmer culture that non-technical people are oblivious of. Eventually the writer finds a chart of the most popular programming languages online, and discovers that these are Python, Javascript, and C++. The syntax of each of these languages looks indecipherable to him. The writer, with some help from online tutorials, then learns how to write a basic Python program that looks for keywords in a Twitter feed. The article is interesting in that it shows what the “alien world of coding” looks like to people who are not already computer nerds and in fact know very little about how computer software works. There are many interesting observations on coding/computing culture in the article, seen through the lens of someone who is not a computer nerd and who has not spent the last two decades hanging out on Slashdot or Stackoverflow.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Collaborating in Fortnite

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Fortnite is popular for tons of reasons, but chief among it is the “battle royale” style of combat — 100 random players dropped on an island, foraging for defenses and weapons, and killing each other until only one is left standing. There’s no in-game chat, so you have to assume that anyone you encounter is a threat. In such a situation, it’s necessarily dog-eat-dog, yes?

Nope. As Robin Sloan — one of my fave writers and thinkers — discovered, it’s also possible to hack a form of cooperation.

It works like this: Sloan unlocked an upgrade that lets you display a “heart” icon above your head. So he tried using it as a single-bit mode of game-theoretical communication. When he was dropped into the game, upon encountering another player, he’d refrain from shooting — and instead toss up the “heart” icon.

At first, it didn’t work. The other player kept on killing him anyway. Until …

Then, one night, it worked. And, in many games since, it’s worked again. Mostly I get blasted, but sometimes I don’t, and when I don’t, the possibilities bloom. Sometimes, after we face off and stand down, the other player and I go our separate ways. More frequently, we stick together. I’ve crossed half the map with impromptu allies.

When it works, it is usually because I have a weapon and my potential ally doesn’t. When (shockingly) I do not blast them and (even more shockingly) do not pull a bait and switch, a real human connection is established, on a channel deeper than any afforded by the interface. Then, very reliably, when the other player acquires a weapon of their own—sometimes it’s a gift from me—there is no double cross.

It’s never not tenuous. You both have your weapons out. Sprinting down steep trails, my ally’s footfalls crunching loud in my headphones, either of us, at any time, could flick our wrist and end the other’s game, collecting their stockpile of weapons and resources.

But we don’t!

When they’re successful, these negotiations are honestly more nervy and exciting than the game’s most intense shoot-outs.

As Sloan points out, being able to forge a detente in a situation where robust communication is impossible has some interesting real-world implications. One, as he notes, is that it refracts the “Dark Forest” theory of Liu Cixin, which argues that the reason we haven’t encountered any other intelligent life in the universe is that they’re keeping their heads low. They’ve decided that, given the possible hostility of other alien civilizations, and given that robust intergalactic-intercivilization communication might be impossible on first contact, the universe is essentially a game of Fortnite: If someone spots you, they’ll zoom in for the kill.

But what if the same logic that allows for low-bandwidth-communication in Fortnite also allows for first-blush cooperation with an alien species?

The stakes of taking that risk are of course existentially rather higher than in a game of Fortnite, heh. But the fun here is, as Sloan points out, in pondering ways that two opponents might say “Hold up. Let’s do this a different way.”

Not a bad lesson for inter-human life here on Earth, frankly.

Go read the whole essay — it’s terrific!

This movie about a 1300-year-old family business is the most sublime thing you’ll see today

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https://vimeo.com/114879061

Built in 718 AD, H?shi is the second oldest ryokan (hotel or inn) in the world and, with 46 consecutive generations of the same family running it, is hands down the longest running known family business in history. But, after 1300 years of tradition, change is in the air. The H?shi ryokan, in Komatsu, Japan, is a beautiful space that has a beautiful story, told well, in this short video by filmmaker Fritz Schumann.

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