Hackaday Links: April 24, 2022
Wait what? Is it possible that a tech company just killed off a product with a huge installed base of hardware and a community of dedicated users, and it wasn’t Google? Apparently not, if the stories of Insteon’s sudden demise are to be believed. The cloud-based home automation problem seems to have just disappeared – users report that the service went offline late last week and hasn’t come back since. Additionally, company executives removed Insteon from their LinkedIn profiles, and the CEO himself went so far as to delete his entire page from LinkedIn. The reasons for the sudden disappearance remained a mystery until today, when The Register reported that Smartlabs, Inc., Insteon’s parent company, had become financially insolvent after a planned sale of the company in March. The fact that the company apparently knew this was going to happen weeks ago and never bothered to let the community know before pulling the switches has sparked a lot of resentment among the roughly 100,000 users of Insteonhub.
Then again, with a comet the size of Rhode Island heading our way, a bunch of bricked smart light bulbs might just be a moot point. The comet, known as C/2014 UN271, has a much larger nucleus than any previously discovered comet, making it a somewhat quirky and exciting object to study. For those unfamiliar with the United States, Rhode Island would be a state wedged between Connecticut and Massachusetts, but even after living in those two states, we couldn’t attest to that. For scale, it’s about 80 miles (128 km) in diameter, a bit larger than Luxembourg, which we’re sure is also mythical. The comet is a few billion miles away at this point; it may never approach within a billion kilometers of the Sun, and that in 2031. But given the turn things have taken in recent years, we are not betting on anything.
Excerpt from “Answering the Important Questions,” news this week of the groundbreaking development of the “Oreometer” by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a device for characterizing the physical properties of Oreo cookies. The 3D-printed device is able to attach to the wafer portions of the popular sandwich cookie while applying axial torque. The yield strength of the tasty goo that sticks the two wafers together can be analyzed, with particular emphasis on why it always seems to stay mostly on one wafer. Thoughtfully, the folks at MIT have made the Oreometer models available to everyone, so you can print one out and start your own line of cookie research. As a starting point, maybe take a look at the shear strength of different Oreo flavors, which might explain why the world needs Carrot Cake Oreos.
And finally, since we mentioned the word “skiving” last week in this space, it seems the all-knowing algorithm has taken it upon itself to throw this fascinating look at skiving in our feed. We’re not complaining, notice; the look inside the JE Newman and Sons bookbinding workshop in Dublin, circa 1981, was worth every second of the 23-minute video. Absolutely everything was handmade back then, and one imagines that very little has changed in the workshop over the decades since. The detail work is amazing, especially considering that very few jigs or fixtures are used to make sure everything lines up. By the way, “skiving” in this case refers to the process of thinning the leather using a razor-sharp knife held at an angle to the material. It’s similar to the equally fascinating process used to make heat sinks that we stumbled upon last week.