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Hackaday Links: March 12, 2023

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With a long history of nearly universal hate for their products, you’d think printer manufacturers would by now have found ways to back off from the policies that only seem to keep aggravating customers. But rather than make it a financially wiser decision to throw out a printer and buy a new one than to buy new ink cartridges or toners, manufacturers keep coming up with new and devious ways to piss customers off. Case in point: Hewlett-Packard now seems to be bricking printers with third-party ink cartridges. Reports from users say that a new error message has popped up on screens of printers with non-HP cartridges installed warning that further use of the printer has been blocked. Previously, printers just warned about potential quality issues from non-HP consumables, but now they’re essentially bricked until you cough up the money for legit HP cartridges. Users who have contacted HP support say that they were told the change occurred because of a recent firmware update sent to the printer, so that’s comforting.

In other news of corporate unpleasantness, if you’ve bought into the Ring ecosystem, prepare to take out your wallet. The Amazon-owned maker of the wildly and inexplicably popular doorbell cameras is set to lock some previously free features behind a paywall. Starting March 29, users will have to sign up for a Ring Protect subscription for $3.99 per month to access either the Home or Away modes within the Ring smartphone app. If you don’t want to pony up, you’ll still be able to control your Ring camera, but only locally through their Ring Keypad, which is pretty much a deal killer for anyone using their camera to monitor their property remotely.

It seems like it’s nothing that needs to be stated, but just in case, shining a laser at an aircraft in flight is a Really Bad Idea™. That’s why we were surprised to see an article about proposed legislation to make it a felony to flash a plane or helicopter. But a little further reading makes the situation clear, as the proposed bill from the Colorado legislature aims to make it a state felony to aim a laser at an aircraft. Currently, there’s no state-level statute that’s equivalent to the federal prohibition against lasing a plane, which means any reports have to be handled by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, which pretty much means that the flasher is not likely to be caught. Adding a state statute will let the local police or sheriff respond, making it much more likely to catch someone. So it makes sense, but it still leaves us wondering why states haven’t already addressed this issue.

Then again, what’s it all matter when there’s an asteroid out there that could collide with Earth in 2046? Relax, it’s a little one; it’s said to be the size of an Olympic-sized swimming pool, which has to be one of the weirdest units of measure we’ve heard lately. And even though it’s still about 18 million kilometers away from us, NASA’s risk assessment for the space rock, dubbed 2023 DW, is exceedingly low. The current risk factor on the Torino scale — which we only just learned about thanks to this article — is 1, which means that there’s essentially no danger of collision. So you can relax on this one, but if you ever hear someone talking about anything over a Torino 7 risk, you might want to stock up on canned goods.

And finally, if such dire news ever comes to pass, better hope you’re not driving a new Ford Mustang. That’s because Ford has announced that their fabled pony car will join the increasing number of cars where AM radio is no longer an infotainment option. The change is set to start with the 2024 model year. We’ve got to say we find this a puzzling decision; the infotainment system in modern cars has got to be SDR based, so the extra hardware needed to support AM reception should be close to zero. And as the above article points out, there’s a public safety aspect to this, because 90% of the US population is covered by just 75 AM stations. This seems like one of those things that could have unexpected consequences, and unpleasant ones at that.

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