Hackaday Links: February 11, 2024

Apple’s Vision Pro augmented reality goggles made a big splash in the news this week, and try as we might to resist the urge to dunk on them, early adopters spotted in the wild are making it way too easy. Granted, we’re not sure how many of these people are actually early adopters as opposed to paid influencers, but there was still quite a bit of silliness to be had, most of it on X/Twitter. We’d love to say that peak idiocy was achieved by those who showed themselves behind the wheels of their Teslas while wearing their goggles, with one aiming for an early adopter perfecta, but alas, most of these stories appear to be at least partially contrived. Some people were spotted doing their best to get themselves killed, others were content to just look foolish, especially since we’ve heard that the virtual keyboard is currently too slow for anything but hunt-and-peck typing, which Casey Niestat seemed to confirm with his field testing. After seeing all this, we’re still unsure why someone would strap $4,000 worth of peripheral-vision-restricting and easily fenced hardware to their heads, but hey — different strokes. And for those of you wondering why these things are so expensive, we’ve got you covered.

Ingenuity‘s last airfield. The helicopter is that little smudge in the upper left quadrant. Source: NASA/JPL

Up on Mars — or over, whatever — Perseverance has managed to grab a long-distance image of its broken buddy, Ingenuity. The photo was taken on February 4, about two weeks after the helicopter suffered a mission-ending casualty while landing after what ended up being its final flight. According to current location data, the two vehicles are still about a kilometer apart, so the picture is understandably fuzzy. But still, kudos to the MASTCAM team for building a camera that could manage that at all. NASA has partially blamed the rough landing that tore the tips off at least two of Ingenuity‘s rotor blades on a relatively featureless stretch of terrain that confused the helicopter’s vision-based navigation system; looking at its final resting place, that seems pretty plausible. There’s still no word whether NASA plans to send Perseverance over to get a closer look at the damage. Given the terrain and the rover’s primary mission, we suspect not, but it would still be nice to get them back together for one last time.

Good news, bad news from Germany. The good news is that if you’re a network admin with Windows 3.11 and MS-DOS experience, a German railway company is looking to hire you. The bad news, of course, is that there’s a German railway company that needs to hire a network admin with Windows 3.11 and MS-DOS experience. It might not be as bad as it sounds, though, since the hiring company appears to only be in charge of the boards that display the railway schedules and such across the country. So, at least the trains themselves don’t appear to be running on an OS that Microsoft dropped support for over 22 years ago. That’s a relief.

While we’re not keen to push the “it’s aliens” button here, when a 200-foot radio tower disappears without a trace, it’s aliens until proven otherwise. Even if it’s not aliens, the story is weird and hard to swallow. Supposedly, the transmitter shack for a radio station in Alabama, WJLX, was completely cleaned out by thieves, who also removed an adjacent 200-foot-tall (61-meter) guyed tower without leaving a trace. The Geerling boys have put together a good video looking into this, using the elder Geerling’s 40 years of experience as a broadcast engineer to give this story some much-needed context. Sadly, though, it only gets weirder as a result, as pictures of the shack reveal that it was pretty decrepit even before it was hit, and the gear inside couldn’t have been worth much more than a couple of hundred bucks. The tower was a rusty pile of junk, too; assuming it was somehow carefully disassembled and carted away, anyone who bought it would be crazy to put it back up and use it. So, yeah — aliens.

And finally, in a video that makes us irrationally unsettled, the University of Southern Denmark has developed a fully autonomous drone that can operate indefinitely by tapping power lines for juice. The quadcopter resembles a commercially available unit with a complex cable guide mounted on top. When the drone needs to charge, it flies under a high-tension cable and slips a gripper around it. It’s not clear how power is transferred; inductive coupling seems most likely, but a diagram of the UAV has callouts for both “cable contacts” and a “current transformer,” so we’re not sure what to make of this. And before anyone gets as hot and bothered about this as they did for the power-harvesting fence last week, relax — although we can’t find any explicit indication of this being a collaboration between the researchers and the power company, we’d say it’s a pretty safe bet this is sanctioned.

 


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