Hackaday Links: August 23, 2020

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Apple, the world’s first trillion-dollar company — give or take a trillion — has built a bit of libertarian cachet by famously refusing to build backdoors into their phones, despite the entreaties of the federal government. So it came as a bit of a surprise when we read that the company may have worked with federal agents to build an “enhanced” iPod. David Shayer says that he was one of three people in Apple who knew about the 2005 program, which was at the behest of the US Department of Energy. Shayer says that engineers from defense contractor Bechtel, seemed to want to add sensors to the first-generation iPod; he was never clued in fully but suspects they were adding radiation sensors. It would make sense, given the climate in the early 2000s, walking down the street with a traditional Geiger counter would have been a bit obvious. And mind you, we’re not knocking Apple for allegedly working with the government on this — building a few modified iPods is a whole lot different than turning masses of phones into data gathering terminals. Umm, wait…

A couple of weeks back, we included a story about a gearhead who mounted a GoPro camera inside of a car tire. The result was some interesting footage as he drove around; it’s not a common sight to watch a tire deform and move around from the inside like that. As an encore, the gearhead in question, Warped Perception, did the same trick bit with a more destructive bent: he captured a full burnout from the inside. The footage is pretty sick, with the telltale bubbles appearing on the inside before the inevitable blowout and seeing daylight through the shredded remains of the tire. But for our money, the best part is the slo-mo footage from the outside, with the billowing smoke and shredded steel belts a-flinging. We appreciate the effort, but we’re sure glad this guy isn’t our neighbor.

Speaking of graphic footage, things are not going well for some remote radio sites in California. Some towers that host the repeaters used by public service agencies and ham radio operators alike have managed to record their last few minutes of life as wildfires sweep across the mountains they’re perched upon. The scenes are horrific, like something from Dante’s Inferno, and the burnover shown in the video below is terrifying; watch it and you’ll see a full-grown tree consumed in less than 30 seconds. As bad as the loss of equipment is, it pales in comparison to what the firefighters face as they battle these blazes, but keep in mind that losing these repeaters can place them in terrible jeopardy too.

For everyone who enjoyed The Martian, here’s your chance to science the Watney out of something. Element14 is running the “One Meter of Pi” contest, which asks you to imagine how to make the most productive use out of one cubic meter. Using a Raspberry Pi 4 and a bunch of other goodies supplied to each of 20 successful applicants, your challenge will be to figure out how to use the Pi and the space to feed as many people as possible, whether they be space travelers or just people here on terra firma. It’s an interesting challenge that we hope someone from Hackaday will absolutely crush.

Another Pi contest: the ZeroDays cyberdeck building competition. This one asks you to design a cyberdeck around the Raspberry Pi Zero. The rules on this one are considerably more flexible, and really seems more about the design of the case rather than the functionality of the cyberdeck. Not familiar with cyberdecks? We’ve got you covered.

And finally, did you ever wonder what DNA sounds like? Neither have we, but it turns out that the sequences of DNA bases can make some interesting music, with a little help from DNA Sonification. The idea is to use the rules of gene expression — how the As, Ts, Gs, and Cs code for different proteins — and use them to create music by mapping notes to each base. Feed the DNA Sonifier a sequence, — say, from your 23 and Me results — set a few reading rules, and you can listen to the music of your genes.

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