Hackaday Links: October 16, 2022

Be careful where your take your iPhone 14 or Apple Watch, because under the right circumstances, you might end up swatting yourself. At least that’s what seems to have happened to some owners when their device’s crash detection feature interpreted a roller coaster ride as a car crash, and dialed emergency services. Crash detection is apparently set up to make the call automatically when accelerometers detect the high g-forces that normally occur in a crash, but can also occur on a coaster ride — at least the good one. In at least one case, an ersatz call to 911 was accompanied by the screams of fellow coaster riders, as the service apparently opens the device’s microphone when a crash is detected.

Hilarity ensued, of course, as long as you weren’t someone with a legit emergency who experienced a delayed response because of this. We’d have sworn that having a system auto-dial 911 was strictly illegal for just this reason, but apparently not. We guess there are two lessons here: one, that Apple engineers really should have thought this through, and maybe need to get out into the real world once in a while; and two, that people will gladly fork over their hard-earned dollars for the privilege of going on a fun ride that’s indistinguishable from a car crash. Our own Lewin Day took a close look at the situation earlier this week if you’d like to read more on the subject.

The reports of the death of film photography appear to have been somewhat exaggerated, with old-line photography company Kodak announcing that they can’t hire enough people to keep up with film demand. Kodak is reporting record consumer demand for its products, particularly for 35-mm film,  with consumers eager to exercise their old SLRs. Perhaps it’s a hipster fad, but if it is, it’s a good one for the Rochester, NY company, which moved from one shift five days a week a few years ago to three shifts around the clock. And they’re hiring more people for all their film operations, which is good news for the area. Things weren’t fantastic in Rochester when this particular Hackaday writer lived there in the early 90s, so it’s nice to see a resurgence. Might be time to dust off the old gear and support the one-time hometown again.

The solar system is filled with strange and wondrous sights, especially through a telescope. But pretty much every planet you can see with even a moderately powerful telescope gets a little boring after a while. So what’s the amateur astronomer who’s sick of staring at rocks and gasbags to do? Why, point that telescope at the Sun, of course, and in the process take some beautiful images of our star. David “Deddy” Dayag is a self-taught astronomer who has been bucking the conventional wisdom that solar photography is out of reach of the amateur. His time-lapse images are breathtaking, and show the fine structure of the convective cells on the Sun’s surface, in addition to sunspots, flares, and filaments. It’s remarkable stuff, all the more so for being made with fairly modest equipment.

And finally, great news for people who like to pay an optional extra tax to the State of California, where digital license plates are now legal for all vehicles. We’ve covered the E-ink license plates before, when the project was still in its pilot phase, and what seemed like a solution in search of a problem then still looks the same to us now that all Californians can participate. Renting the plates for $20 a month seems a steep price to pay for the novelty of being able to show custom, DMV-approved slogans and messages along with your car’s registration number. And we wonder what law enforcement thinks about losing the retro-reflective background that makes old-fashioned license plates so easy to read at night. We suppose that’s all academic at this point, and at least we can now look forward to a flood of large-format E-ink displays hitting the secondary market.

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