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Hackaday Links: August 6, 2023

Jun 07, 2023

“Have you tried turning it off and on again?” is a common tech support maneuver that everyone already seems to know and apply to just about all the wonky tech in their life. But would you tell someone to apply it to a reservoir? Someone did, and with disastrous results, at least according to a report on the lead-up to the collapse of a reservoir in the city of Lewiston, Idaho — just across the Snake River from Clarkston, Washington; get it? According to the report, operators at the reservoir had an issue crop up that required a contractor to log into the SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system running the reservoir. The contractor’s quick log-in resulted in him issuing instructions to local staff to unplug the network cable on the SCADA controller and plug it back in. Somehow, that caused a variable in the SCADA system — the one storing the level of water in the reservoir — to get stuck at the current value. This made it appear that the water level was too low, which lead the SCADA system to keep adding water to the reservoir, which eventually collapsed.

The blame game seems to be settling in on software as the culprit, but we’re not so sure. This seems to be the reverse of the “software fixes for hardware problems” trend (second item) we’ve been harping on recently. Sure, the contractor should have known that losing network connectivity could cause problems, and it’s not cool to release software to production that can result in variables left in an undefined state at startup. But this really seems more like a problem with the mechanical design of the reservoir, whose job is to safely hold water. Were there no fail-safe features like a spillway to channel overflow water away without causing damage? Blaming the software alone seems

Resin printers — seems like people either love them or hate them. Or maybe a little of both; the quality of the prints is pretty phenomenal, but oh, the stink of the photopolymer resins you have to use. The stuff just smells dangerous, like an organic chemistry lab, and with good reason. So if you want to keep your resin printer going safely, you might want to take a look at new guidelines for the safe handling of UV-curable resins. The guidelines are the joint product of the Photopolymer Additive Manufacturing Alliance (PAMA), the National Institutes for Standards and Technology (NIST), and RadTech, the Association for Ultraviolet and Electron Beam Technologies. The guidelines cover best practices in terms of clean-up, spill control, storage, and disposal of waste. It’s mostly common sense stuff, but given the chemically complicated nature of photopolymers, a little reminder of the basics is probably a good thing.

3D printers aren’t the only printers that can be dangerous, of course, as Canon helpfully reminds us to practice good data security when disposing of old printers. The suggested steps include deleting your WiFi credentials, which seems like an obvious step and one that could be accomplished by a factory reset. But according to Canon, that’s somehow not enough for at least 200 of its printer models. So once the ink runs out and you’re ready to pitch the thing and buy a new one rather than being extorted into emptying your wallet for new cartridges, make sure you take all the extra steps recommended to clear your data. It’ll be fun, really.

“Banana for scale”? Not anymore — behold the wonder of the online parametric banana generator. If you’ve been looking for a way to generate custom bananas of any size and shape, here’s your chance. You control the length, girth, and bend radius of the fruit, and the model does the rest. Sadly, surface texture and bruising aren’t supported, and it looks like only the now-ubiquitous — and possibly endangered — Cavendish banana is supported. So no plantains, please.

And finally, we leave you with “Unitree Go2,” a robodog that’s the “new creature of embodied AI.” It actually looks pretty cool, and at $1,600, it seems like a bargain, at least compared to a Boston Dynamics Spot, which will set you back like $40K. Go2 seems like the perfect little pet who will run up to greet you when you come home and “dance to pleasure you” too, if you’re lucky. There’s the fine print, though, of course — the pro model will run you $2,800 plus shipping, and a cool 25% duty if you’re in the US. But when you think about it, some purebred dogs go for about that much, and if you add in vet bills, food, and training, this just might be the right way to go.