Microsoft Flight Simulator’s Data Insanity Spawns Enormous Buildings And Anomalies From OpenStreetMap

lust cinema sex tubeThe OpenStreetMap project is an excellent example of how powerful crowdsourced data can be, but that’s not to say the system is perfect. Invalid data, added intentionally or otherwise, can sometimes slip through the cracks and lead to some interesting problems. A fact that developers Asobo Studio are becoming keenly aware of as players explore their recently released Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020.

lust cinema sex tubeLike a Wiki, users can update OpenStreetMap and about a year ago, user nathanwright120 marked a 2 story building near Melbourne, Australia as having an incredible 212 floors (we think it’s this commit). The rest of his edits seem legitimate enough, so it’s a safe bet that it was simply a typo made in haste. The sort of thing that could happen to anyone. Not long after, thanks to the beauty of open source, another user picked up on the error and got it fixed up.

But not before some script written by Asobo Studio went through sucked up the OpenStreetMap data for Australia and implemented it into their virtual recreation of the planet. The result is that the hotly anticipated flight simulator now features a majestic structure in the Melbourne skyline that rises far above…everything.

The whole thing is great fun, and honestly, players probably wouldn’t even mind if it got left in as a Easter egg. It’s certainly providing them with some free publicity; in the video below you can see a player by the name of Conor O’Kane land his aircraft on the dizzying edifice, a feat which has earned him nearly 100,000 views in just a few days.

But it does have us thinking about filtering crowdsourced data. If you ask random people to, say, identify flying saucers in NASA footage, how do you filter that? You probably don’t want to take one person’s input as authoritative. What about 10 people? Or a hundred?

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Hammer Seeks Nail

People sometimes say “when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” as if that were a bad thing. Hitting up Wikipedia, they’re calling it the Law of the Instrument or Maslow’s Hammer and calling it a cognitive bias. But I like hammers…

I’m working on a new tool, a four-axis hot-wire foam cutter based roughly on this design, but built out of stuff in my basement so far. I want it primarily to turn out wings for RC airplanes so that I can play around with airfoils and construction methods and so on. But halfway through building this new “hammer”, I’m already getting funny ideas of other projects that could be built with it. Classic nail-seeking behavior.

And some of these thoughts are making me reconsider the design of my hammer. I originally wanted to build it low, because it’s not likely that I’ll ever want to cut wing sections taller than 50 mm or so. But as soon as cutting out giant letters to decorate my son’s room, or maybe parts for a boat hull enter my mind, that means a significantly taller cutter, with ensuing complications.

So here I am suffering simultaneously from Maslow’s Hammer and scope creep, but I’m not sad about either of these “ills”. Playing with a couple manual prototypes for the CNC hot-wire cutter has expanded my design vocabulary; I’ve thought of a couple cool projects that I simply wouldn’t have had the mental map for before. Having tools expands the possible ways you can build, cognitive bias or not.

One person’s scope creep is another’s “fully realizing the potential of a project”. I’m pretty sure that I’ll build a version two of this machine anyway, so maybe it’s not a big deal if the first draft were height-limited, but the process of thinking through the height problem has actually lead me to a better design even for the short cutter. (Tension provided by an external bow instead of born by the vertical CNC towers. I’ll write the project up when I’m done. But that’s not the point.)

Maybe instead of lamenting Maslow’s cognitive bias, we should be celebrating the other side of the same coin: that nails are tremendously useful, and that the simple fact of having a hammer can lead you to fully appreciate them, and in turn expand what you’re capable of. As for scope creep? As long as I get the project done over my vacation next week, all’s well, right?

Stop Bad Laws Before They Start

With everything else going on this summer, you might be forgiven for not keeping abreast of new proposed regulatory frameworks, but if you’re interested in software-defined radio (SDR) or even reflashing your WiFi router, you should. Right now, there’s a proposal to essentially prevent you from flashing your own firmware/software to any product with a radio in it before the European Commission. This obviously matters to Europeans, but because manufacturers often build hardware to the strictest global requirements, it may impact everyone. What counts as radio equipment? Everything from WiFi routers to wearables, SDR dongles to shortwave radios.

The idea is to prevent rogue reconfigurable radios from talking over each other, and prevent consumers from bricking their routers and radios. Before SDR was the norm, and firmware was king, it was easy for regulators to test some hardware and make sure that it’s compliant, but now that anyone can re-flash firmware, how can they be sure that a radio is conformant? Prevent the user from running their own firmware, naturally. It’s pretty hard for Hackaday to get behind that approach.

The impact assessment sounds more like advertising copy for the proposed ruling than an honest assessment, but you should give it a read because it lets you know where the commission is coming from. Reassuring is that they mention open-source software development explicitly as a good to be preserved, but their “likely social impacts” include “increased security and safety” and they conclude that there are no negative environmental impacts. What do you do when the manufacturer no longer wants to support the device? I have plenty of gear that’s no longer supported by firmware updates that is both more secure and simply not in the landfill because of open-source firmware.

Similarly, “the increased capacity of the EU to autonomously secure its products is also likely to help the citizens to better protect their information-related rights” is from a bizarro world where you can trust Xiaomi’s home-automation firmware to not phone home, but can’t trust an open-source replacement.

Public comment is still open, and isn’t limited to European citizens. As mentioned above, it might affect you even if you’re not in the EU, so feel free to make your voice heard. You have until September, and you’ll be in some great company if you register your complaints. Indeed, reading through the public comments is quite heartening: Universities, researchers, and hackers alike have brought up reasons to steer clear of the proposed approach. We hope that the commission hears us.

There’s An Engineer In Germany I’d Like A Word With; Tale Of A Crumbling Volkswagen Lock

In common with quite a few in the hardware hacking community, I have a fondness for older vehicles. My “modern” ride is an older vehicle by today’s standards, a Volkswagen Polo 6N made in the late 1990s. It’s by my estimation a Good Car, having transported me reliably back and forth across the UK and Europe for several years.

Last week though, it let me down. Outside the church in a neighbouring village the driver’s door lock failed, leaving me with my igniton key stuck in the door, and a mildly embarrassing phone call to my dad to bring the Torx driver required to remove the assembly and release it. I am evidently not 1337 enough, I don’t carry a full set of Torx bits with me everywhere I go. The passenger side lock has never worked properly while I’ve had the car, and this is evidently my cue to sort it all out.

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The Sincerest Form Of Flattery

In the art world, it’s often wistfully said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In the open-source hardware world, this flattery takes the shape of finding your open-source project mass produced in China and sold at outrageously low markups. Looking around on my lab, I’ve been the direct beneficiary of this success.

I see an AVR Transistor Tester that I picked up for a few bucks a long time ago. Lacking anything better, it’s my go-to device for measuring inductance and capacitor ESR. For $7, it is worth much more than I paid for it, due to some clever design work by a community of German hackers and the economics of mass production. They’re so cheap that we’ve seen people re-use them just for the displays and with a little modification, turned them into Tetris consoles. That’s too cool. Continue reading “The Sincerest Form Of Flattery”

Surgery On The Arduino IDE Makes Bigger Serial Buffers

It is pretty well-known that I’m not a big fan of the Arduino infrastructure. Granted, these days you have more options with the pro IDE and Platform IO, for example. But the original IDE always gives me heartburn. I realized just how much heartburn the other day when I wanted to something very simple: increase the receive buffer on an ATmega32 serial port. The solution I arrived at might help you do some other things, so even if you don’t need that exact feature, you still might find it useful to see what I did.

Following this experience I am genuinely torn. On the one hand, I despise the lackluster editor for hiding too much detail from me and providing little in the way of useful tools. On the other hand, I was impressed with how extensible it was if you can dig out the details of how it works internally.

First, you might wonder why I use the IDE. The short answer is I don’t. But when you produce things for other people to use, you almost can’t ignore it. No matter how you craft your personal environment, the minute your code hits the Internet, someone will try to use it in the IDE. A while back I’d written about the $4 Z80 computer by [Just4Fun]. I rarely have time to build things I write about, but I really wanted to try this little computer. The parts sat partially assembled for a while and then a PCB came out for it. I got the PCB and — you guessed it — it sat some more, partially assembled. But I finally found time to finish it and had CP/M booted up.

The only problem was there were not many good options for transferring data back and forth to the PC. It looked like the best bet was to do Intel hex files and transfer them copy and paste across the terminal. I wanted better, and that sent me down a Saturday morning rabbit hole. What I ended up with is a way to make your own menus in the Arduino IDE to set compiler options based on the target hardware for the project. It’s a trick worth knowing as it will come in handy beyond this single problem.

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Why Are Digital Cameras Still Boring?

In the matter of technological advancement, we are as a species, mostly insatiable. The latest toy, the fastest silicon, the largest storage, the list goes on. Take digital cameras as an example, what was your first one? Mine was a Casio QV200 in about 1997, I still have it somewhere though I can’t immediately lay my hands on it, and it could hold a what was for its time a whopping 64 VGA-resolution pictures in its 4Mb of onboard memory.

The QV200 showing off its VGA capabilities. It's March 1998, and this is a brand-new PlayStation that I'm about to install a mod chip inside.
The QV200 showing off its VGA photography capabilities. It’s March 1998, and this is a brand-new PlayStation that I’m about to install a mod chip inside.

It’s a shock to realise that nearly a quarter century has passed since then, and its fixed-focus 640×480 camera module with a UV-sensitive CMOS sensor that gave everything a slight blue tint would not even grace the cheapest of feature phones in 2020. Every aspect of a digital camera has improved beyond measure since the first models in the 1980s and early 1990s that started to resemble what we’d know today as a standalone digital camera, they have near-limitless storage, excellent lenses, huge and faithfully-reproducing sensors, and broadcast-quality video capability.

But how playful have camera manufacturers been with the form factor? We see reporters in sci-fi movies toting cameras that look nothing like their film-based ancestors. What do our real-life digital cameras have on offer as far as creative body design goes?

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