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Hackaday Links: September 4, 2022

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Say what you will about Tesla, but there’s little doubt that the electric vehicle maker inspires a certain degree of fanaticism in owners. We’re used to the ones who can’t stop going on about neck-snapping acceleration and a sci-fi interior. But the ones we didn’t see coming are those who feel their cars are so bad that they need to stage a hunger strike to get the attention of Tesla. The strike is being organized by a group of Tesla owners in Norway, who on their website enumerate a long list of grievances, including design defects, manufacturing issues, quality control problems, and customer service complaints. It’s not clear how many people are in the group, although we assume at least 18, as that’s the number of Tesla cars they used to spell out “HELP” in a parking lot. It’s also not clear how or even if the group is really off their feed, or if this is just a stunt to get the attention of Tesla honcho and notorious social media gadfly Elon Musk.

No matter where you live, the taxman always cometh. And technology is making the job of squeezing out every bit of revenue possible easier, as we learned with the story this week that France is using AI software to find undeclared swimming pools. A lot of swimming pools were built during pandemic lockdowns, and apparently a fair number of property owners forgot to mention that fact to their local tax authorities. One such agency teamed up with Google, because of course it’s Google, to use machine vision to look for pools in aerial imagery. Once a pool is geolocated, it’s cross-checked against tax records to make sure the owner is paying their fair share. Honestly though, is this really something that requires AI? Anyone who has ever creeped on the neighbors via Google Maps knows that the unearthly turquoise glow of a pool really jumps out at you; it seems like this would have been far cheaper and less dystopic to just dump this job off on a summer intern.

Let’s see, so far we’ve dumped on Tesla and Google, so who’s next? Amazon? Nah, let’s go for Apple! We’ve mentioned their self-repair kits a few times lately, and the bulky kits and complex procedures don’t really do much but pay lip service to the right-to-repair movement. Honestly, for our community, a big old kit of specialty tools and a couple hundred pages of documentation are more like Christmas morning than something to complain about, but we can see where something like that would be off-putting to the normies. But really, the most fascinating thing about this whole thing is learning about the Apple pentalobe drive screw. Not being in the Apple ecosystem much, we hadn’t run across that particularly hellish bit of hardware, but it was interesting learning a little about it — and thinking up ways to defeat it without buying a special tool.

And finally, [Kyle Hill] continues his great “Half-Life Histories” series of short documentaries with a look at the Therac-25 disaster. We’d heard of it before, but what we hadn’t realized is that the notorious “single programmer” who wrote the buggy code was a hobbyist who apparently wrote the code to control the powerful medical linear accelerator as a sort of side project. The video does a good job breaking down the edge conditions that triggered the accidents, which resulted in six massive radiation overdoses and the death of four patients.

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