building a corne split keyboard

It’s been a while since during a Hack-the-Planet episode I was gifted two PCBs of a corne keyboard by PH_0x17 of Nerdbude and ClickClackHack fame.

Since a picture says more than a thousand words, I give you the result first:

my crkbd based keyboard

This keyboard design is made from the ground up as open source and naturally is fully available as a GIT repository containing everything you need to start: PCB schematics, drawing, documentation and firmware source code.

It took me a couple of months to get all the required parts ordered and delivered. Many small envelopes with parts that seemlingly are only produced by a handful of manufacturers. But anyways: After everything had arrived and was checked for completeness my wife took the hardware parts into her hands and started soldering and assembling the keyboard.

And so this project naturally is split up between my wife and me in the most natural (to us) way: My wife did all the hardware parts – whilst I did the software and interfacing portion. (Admittedly there only was to be figured out how to get the firmware compiled and altered to my specific needs)

Hardware

So make the jump over to the blog of my wife and enjoy the hardware portion over there. Come back for the software portion. I will only leave some pictures of the process here:

Software

After putting the hardware together it was time to get the firmware sorted as well. This keyboard design is based upon the open source QMK (Quantum Mechanical Keyboard) firmware.

Conveniently QMK comes with it’s own build tools – so you will be up and running in no time. Since I had purchased Arduino ProMicro controllers I was good with the most basic setup you can imagine. As the base requirements for the toolchain where minimal I went with the machine that I had in front of me – a Raspberry Pi 4 with the standard Raspberry Pi OS.

These where the steps to get going:

  • get Python 3 and the qmk tool installed – I’ve chosen not to use the tool setup procedure but instead go with a separate clone of the QMK firmware repository.
python3 -m pip install --user qmk
  • clone the QMK firmware repository and get the QMK tool running (in the /bin folder of the firmware repository – it’s actually just a python script)
git clone https://github.com/qmk/qmk_firmware.git
cd qmk_firmware
git submodule sync --recursive
git submodule update --init --recursive --progress
make crkbd:default
  • create your own keymap to work with. You gotta use the crkbd firmware options as a default for this keyboard. The command below will generate a subfolder with the name of your keymap in the keyboards/crkbd/keymaps folder with the default settings of the crkbd keyboard firmware.
qmk new-keymap -kb crkbd
  • build your first firmware by running the command below (note: btk-corne is the name of my keymap)
qmk compile --clean -kb crkbd/rev1/legacy -km btk-corne
success! The first firmware is compiled
  • now you can flash the firmware to both ProMicro controllers. The most straight forward way for me was using avrdude on the commandline. In my case the device is added as /dev/ttyACM0 and the compiled firmware named crkbd_rev1_legacy_btk-corne.hex.

    When you got all this information you need to plug in the ProMicro and trigger a reset by bridging Ground and the Reset Pin. If you added, like we did, a button for reset you can use this. After hitting reset the ProMicro bootloader will enter the state where it’s possible to be flashed. Reset it and THEN run the avrdude commandline.

    The full commandline is:
avrdude -p atmega32u4 -P /dev/ttyACM0 -c avr109  -e -U flash:w:crkbd_rev1_legacy_btk-corne.hex
  • (alternatively) you can also use QMK Toolbox to flash the firmware. Also works.

So now you know how to get the firmware compiled and running (if not, look here further). But most probably you are not happy with some aspects of your keymap or firmware.

By now you might ask yourself: Hey, I’ve got two ProMicros on one keyboard. Both are flashed with the same firmware. Into which of the two do I plug in the USB cable that then is plugged into the computer?

The answer is: by default QMK assumes that you are plugging into the left half of the keyboard making the left half the master. If you prefer to use the right half you can change this behaviour in the config.h file in the firmware:

You have to plug in both of them anyway at times when you want to flash a new firmware to them as you adjust and make changes to your keymap.

Thankfully QMK comes with loads of options and even a very useful configurator tool. I used this tool to adjust the keymap to my requirements. The process there is straightforward again. Open up the configurator and select the correct keyboard type. In my case that is crkbd/legacy. The basic difference between legacy and common is a different communication protocol between the two halves. This really only is important when features are used that require some sort of sync between the two haves – like some RGB LED effects. Since I did not add any LEDs to the build I go with legacy for now. Maybe I need some features later that require me to go with common.

The configurator allows you to set up the whole keymap and upload/download it as a .json file.

That .json file can easily be converted into the C code that you need to alter in the actual keymap.c file. Assuming that the .json file you got is named btk-corne.json the full commandline is:

qmk json2c btk-corne.json

Then simply take this output and replace the stuff in the keymap.c with it:

Now you compile and flash again. And if all went right you’ve got the new keymap and firmware on your keyboard and it’ll work just like that :)

on joining the LuckyV GTA-RP developer team

Disclaimer: I’ve joined for fun and not for profit – this is a new hobby.

For about a year now I was regularly watching some Twitch streamers go along their business and it spawned my curiousity when some of them started to do something they called “GTA V roleplay”.

Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V) is a 2013 action-adventure game developed by Rockstar North and published by Rockstar Games. Set within the fictional state of San Andreas, based on Southern California, the open world design lets players freely roam San Andreas’ open countryside and the fictional city of Los Santos, based on Los Angeles. The game is played from either a third-person or first-person perspective, and its world is navigated on foot and by vehicle.

Wikipedia

So these streamers where mostly using an alternative client application to log into GTA V online servers that where operated by independent teams to play the roles of characters they created themselves.
It started to really get interesting when there is dynamics and interactions happening between those characters and whole stories unfold over the course of days and weeks.

It’s great fun watching and having the opportunity to sometimes see multiple perspectives (by multiple streamers) of the same story and eventually even to be able to interact with the streamers communities.

One such fairly big german server is LuckyV. It’s an alternative GTA V hardcore role-play server creates by players for players.

The hardcore here means: the characters are supposed to act as much as possible like they would in the encountered situations in real life.

So in order to play on this server you have to create a character and the characters background story. You gotta really play that character when on the server.

When you play it’s not just a vanilla GTA V experience. There are lots of features that are specific to the server you are playing on. Some examples are:

  • Communication: you are communicating with people in your vicinity directly – you can hear them if they are close enough to be heard and you can be heard when you are close to people
  • Jobs: there’s lots to be done. Become CEO of your own company and manage it!
  • Social Interaction: there’s probably an event just around the next corner happening. You are able to meet people. Crowds of people even. Remember: There are usually no non-players. Every person you see it a real human who you can interact with.

The LuckyV community made a great overview page where you can watch other people playing and live streaming their journey. It’s extensive – over 200 streamers are online regularly and the screenshot below shows a mid-week day right after lunch…

LuckyV Streamer overview page

Anyhow. This is all great and fun but plot twist: I do not play it. (yet)

So what do I have to do with it except I am watching Streamers? Easy: Behind the game there’s code. Lots of code actually.

In a nutshell there’s a custom-GTA V server implementation that talks to a custom GTA V client. LuckyV is using the altV server and client to expand the functionalities and bring the players into the world.

It allows for 1000 simultaneous players in the same world at a time. So there could be 1000 people right there with you. Actually since LuckyV is about to have it’s first birthday the regular player numbers are peaking at around 450 simultaneous players in Los Santos at a time.

The whole set-up consists of several services all put together:

  • altV server + custom gamemode code (written in C#)
  • web pages for game overlays, in-game UI and administration tools (PHP)
  • a SQL database that holds the item, character etc. data
  • a pub/sub style message hub that enables communication between in-game UI, webpages and the gamemode
  • a TeamSpeak 3 server that allows players to join a common channel (essentially one teamspeak room) and a plug-in called SaltyChat that mutes/unmutes players in the vicinity and allows features like in-game mobile phone etc.
  • everything of the above is in containers and easily deployable anywhere you got enough hardware to run it – when there are 100s of players online the load of the machine grows almost linear – and the machine is doing it’s moneys worth then…

So after the team announced some vacancies through those streamers I watched I contact them and asked if I could help out.

And that’s how I got there working on both the gamemode code as well as helping the infrastructure become more stable and resilient.

For my first real contribution to the gamemode I was asked to implement secondary keys for vehicles as well as apartments/houses.

Up until now only the owner / tenant of the vehicle or apartment had access to it. Since this game is about social interactions it would be a good addition of that owner could hand out additional keys to those they love / interact with.

And that I did. I worked my way through the existing code base – which is a “grown codebase” – and after about 3 days of work it worked!

Most impressive for me is the team and the people I’ve met there. This current team welcomed me warmly and helped me to wrap my head around the patterns in the code. Given the enthusiast / hobby character this has it’s almost frightening how professional and nice everything works out. I mean, we developers had a demo-session with the game design team to show off what our feature does, how it works and to let them try it out to see if it’s like the envisioned it.

They even did a trailer for the feature I worked on! And it is as cheesy as I could only wished:

So far so good: It’s great fun and really rewarding working with all these nice people to bring even more fun and joy to players. Seeing the player numbers grow. Seeing streamers actually use the features and play with it – handing over keys to their partner. Really rewarding.

Like this example:

just at 2hrs 5 Min Ariane Barnes is handing over a key to her loved one.

Cyberpunk 2077 in-game panoramic view pt. 2

In part 1 I wrote a bit about this great game and shared some screenshots. By now I’ve finished the story and almost all side-quests and I still see it as the best game since years.

Anyway, here are more pictures taken in-game (sometimes stitched):

Cyberpunk 2077 in-game panoramic view pt. 1

For the first time in the last 10ish years I am back playing a game that really impresses me. The story, the world and the technology of Cyberpunk 2077 really is a step forward.

It’s a first in many aspects for me. I do not own a PC capable enough of playing Cyberpunk 2077 at any quality level. Usually I am playing games on consoles like the Playstation. But for this one I have selected to play on the PC platform. But how?

I am using game streaming. The game is rendered in a datacenter on a PC and graphics card I am renting for the purpose of playing the game. And it simply works great!

So I am playing a next-generation open-world game with technical break-throughs like Raytracing used to produce really great graphics streamed over the internet to my big-screen TV and my keyboard+mouse forwarded to that datacenter without (for me) noticeable lag or quality issues.

The only downside I can see so far is that sooo many people like to play it this way that there are not enough machines (gaming-rigs) available to all the players that want – so there’s a queue in the evening.

But I am doing what I am always doing when I play games. I take screenshots. And if the graphics are great I am even trying to make panoramic views of the in-game graphics. Remember my GTA V and BioShock Infinite pictures?

So here is the first batch of pictures – some stitched together using 16 and more single screenshots. Look at the detail! Again – there are in-game screenshots. Click on them to make them bigger – and right-click open the source to really zoom into them.

Hack-the-Planet Podcast: Episode 25

Diesmal gehen wir der Frage nach, wie viel Speicherplatz ein 5 Meter PNG File benötigt, das Daniel für seinen DIY Arcarde Automaten gebaut hat, wundern uns über LED-Leuchten an, die wie echter Himmel aussehen sollen und freuen uns über den “Digitalen Alltag als Experiment”.

Links

ASIO4All – http://www.asio4all.org/
Corne Keyboard – https://github.com/foostan/crkbd
Prusa Mini – https://www.prusa3d.com/original-prusa-mini/
Andreas YouTube Kanal: https://www.youtube.com/c/AndreasHeil/featured
Forschungsgemeinschaft elektronische Medien e.V. TU-Ilmenau: http://streaming.fem.tu-ilmenau.de/
Overpass Turbo – https://overpass-turbo.eu/
Overpass API – https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Overpass_API
Openstreetmap – https://www.openstreetmap.org
Resilio Sync – https://www.resilio.com/individuals/
Buch Alltag als Experiment – https://www.transcript-verlag.de/978-3-8376-4886-7/digitaler-alltag-als-experiment/
Bürowabe von Panasonic – https://www.golem.de/news/japan-panasonic-bringt-buerowabe-fuers-homeoffice-2008-150435.html
Selbstgebautes Ambilight – https://www.schrankmonster.de/2014/01/12/setting-boblight-raspberry-pi-raspbmc/
Misola LED Tageslichtpanel – https://www.mitsubishielectric.co.jp/news/2020/0204-b.html
Mandalorian Making Of – https://www.indiewire.com/2020/04/mandalorian-documentary-disney-plus-1202225196/
Farbwiedergabeindex CRI – https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farbwiedergabeindex
Retrogames e.V. – https://www.retrogames.info/
Retropie – https://retropie.org.uk/
Bubble Bobble Bartop Arcade built – https://www.schrankmonster.de/2020/08/22/a-self-built-bubble-bobble-bartop-arcade-machine/
LEGO Star Wars 75253 BOOST Droide – https://www.lego.com/en-de/product/droid-commander-75253
Ikea Bygglek – https://zusammengebaut.com/lego-ikea-bygglek-interview-bilder-infos-100595/
Arpanet auf ESP32 – https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arpanet
PH_0x17 baut Arpanet auf ESP32 – https://twitter.com/PH_0x17

a self-built Bubble Bobble bartop arcade machine

I like playing arcade games. I’ve had an “arcade” in my home town and I used to go there after school quite frequently. It was a small place – maybe 5 machines and some pinball machines.

In february this year it occured to be that with the power of the Raspberry Pi and a distribution called RetroPie I could build something that would bring back the games and allow me to play/try those games I never could because my arcade was so small back in the days.

To get a better idea of how to approach this I started to search around and found the build-log of Holbrook Tech where they’ve built a “Bigger Bartop Arcade”.

With their basic plans I started drawing in Inkscape and told my father about the plan. He was immediately in – as the plan now was to not build one but two bartop arcade machines. He would take the task of carrying out the wood works and I would do the rest – procurements, electronics, wiring, design and “painting”.

first drawings of the side panels

While I took the Holbrook Tech schematics as a base it quickly came apparent that I had to build/measure around the one fixed big thing in the middle: the screen.

screen

I wanted something decently sized that the RaspberryPi would be able to push out to and that would require no maintenance/further actions when installed.

To find something that fits I had my requirements fixed:

  • between 24″ – 32″
  • colour shift free wide viewing angle
  • 1080p
  • takes audio over HDMI and is able to push it out through headphone jack

I eventually settled for a BenQ GW2780 27″ monitor with all boxes ticked for a reasonable price.

After the monitor arrived I carried it to my fathers house and we started to cut the bezel as a first try.

measuring the monitor in – on a piece of wood for testing.

After some testing with plywood we went for MDF as it was proposed by others on the internet as well. This made the cutting so much easier.

woodwork

We went with standard 2cm MDF sheets and my father cut them to size with the measurements derived from the monitor bezel centerpiece.

Big thanks to my father for cutting so much wood so diligently! The next days he sent me pictures of what he’d made:

the plywood bezel was replaced with the MDF version
Each sheet of MDF wood got a steel screw thread insert. The screw is going on the inside through another peice of wood which is screwed and glued directly to the insides. This holds everything firm and is invisible from the outsides.
The only screws visible from the outside are holding the back panel on. Because you need to be able to remove the back panel they can be removed. Also the back panel is plit into two parts because that gave more structural strength and helps with the power input mounting later.
I went for Joystick + 6-Button layout for the control panel. I’ve changed the measurements a bit over the ones I’ve found on the internet to my taste.
The above schematics show the actual measured holes as they were drilled. As everything went more or less “free-hand” it’s quite astonishing to me how accurate it went. This measurement schematic was later used to laser cut the acrylic handrest.

The side panels got a cut around for the black T-Molding to be added later.

electronics and wiring

After about 2 weeks my father had built the first arcade out of sheets of MDF and I had taken delivery of the remaining pieces of hardware I had ordered after making a long list.

The most interesting parts of the above list might be the 2-player joystick + buttons + encoder set.

It contains 2 standard 4/8-way switchable arcade joysticks, 10 buttons, all microswitches required and the Ultimarc I-PAC-2 joystick encoder.

You connect every microswitch to this board and it will translate all button presses/joystick movements into keyboard or joystick movements. You connect it through USB to the RaspberryPi and it either shows up as 2 gamepads or one keyboard. Also a nice configuration app is available from the manufacturer.

So when I got the first arcade from my father I started to put in the electonics immediately.

The wiring to the I-PAC was straight forward. Worked at the first try.

The sound was a bit more complicated. I wanted a volume control knob on the outside but also did not want to disassemble any audio amplifier.

I went with the simplest solution: A 500k Ohm dual potentiometer soldered into the headphone extension cable going to the amplifier. The potentiometer then got put into a pot and a whole made it stick out so that a knob could be attached.

The RaspberryPi set-up then only lacked cooling. The plan was to put a 120mm case fan to pull in air from the bottom and went it out another 120mm case hole at the upper back. Additionally the RaspberryPi would get it’s own small 30mm fan on top of it’s heatsink case.

I attached both fans directly to the RaspberryPi – so I saved myself another power supply.

software

Now I had to make it all work together. As I wanted to use RetroPie in the newest 4.6 release I’ve set that up and hooked it all up.

On first start-up EmulationStation asked me to configure the inputs. It had detected 2 gamepads as I had put the IPAC-2 into gamepad mode before. You can do this with a simple mode-switch key-combination that you need to hold for 10 seconds to make it switch.

The configuration of the buttons of the two players went without any issue. First I had set-up the player 1 input. Then I re-ran the input configuration again for player 2 inputs.

The controls where straight forward. I wanted mainly 4-way games but with enough buttons to switch to some beat-em-ups at will.

So I configured a simple layout into Retroarch with some additional hotkeys added:

vinyl design

I tossed around several design ideas I had. Obviously derived from those games I wanted to play and looked forward to.

There was some Metal Slug or some Cave shooter related designs I thought of. But then my wife had the best ideas of them all: Bubble Bobble!

So I went and looked for inspiration on Bubble Bobble and found some but none that sticked.

There was one a good inspiration. And I went to design based upon this one – just with a more intense purple color scheme.

I used Inkscape to pull in bitmap graphics from Bubble Bobble and to vectorize them one by one, eventually ending up with a lot of layers of nice scalable vector graphics.

With all design set I went and sliced it up and found a company that would print my design on vinyl.

With the final arcade-wood accessible top me I could take actual measurements and add to each element 4cm of margin. This way putting it on would hopefully be easier (it was!).

Originally I wanted to have it printed on a 4m by 1,2m sheet of vinyl. It all would have fit there.

But I had to find out that Inkscape was not capable of exporting pixel data at this size and a pixel-density of 600dpi. It just was too large for it to output.

So I had to eventually cut all down into 5 pieces of 1,2m by 80cm each.

After about 7 days all arrived printed on vinyl at my house. I immediately laid everything out and tried if it would fit. It did!

Now everything had to go onto the wood. I did a test run before ordering to check if it would stick securely to the wood. It did stick very nicely. So putting it on was some intense fiddling but it eventually worked out really really great.

You can see the inside here and the structural struts where everything attaches to screwed in from the insides.

Now it was time for some acrylic. I wanted to get a good bezel and covering of the monitor as well as the handrest and the front buttons.

Cutting acrylic myself was out of questions – so I went with a local company that would laser-cut acrylic for me to my specification.

I’ve sent them the schematics and measurements and the panels for reference and 4 days later the acrylic arrived. We could then put the last bits together for completion!

Result

I am really happy how this turned out – especially since with everything that required actual work with hands I am a hopeless case. With this somehow everything worked out.

I still employ the idea of a vertical shoot-em-up centered version… but maybe some day.

If you got any questions or feedback let me know!

Hack-the-Planet Podcast: Episode 24

Wir haben uns wieder zusammengefunden – diesmal mit unserem Gast Philipp von nerdbude.com – und haben über Tastaturen, Github Arctic Vault, OCRmyPDF und einen selbstgebauten Arcade Automat gesprochen.

Wie schon bei der letzten Folge 23 haben wir zusätzlich zur Tonspure eine Videospur aufgezeichnet – allerdings nicht als “Talking-Heads” Episode sondern während wir über die Themen sprechen versuchen wir die Themen mit zusätzlichem Inhalt zu unterfüttern – Links und Bilder eben.

Link zu YouTube

So, we’re building something

For some weeks now I am working on the design of something that is being built within the next couple of weeks out of wood and metal (and electronics).

It’s hopefully going to be as nice as I dream it up… What could it be?

I did this design based upon some pixel-material and pictures I’ve gathered around the internets – and took a lot of inspiration from them.

Although I had to create everything in vectors from those small pixel templates… But now everything above is going to be printed on vinyl in glorious vectors – no pixeljunk.

12 years ago

It’s been 12 years that I’ve married my wonderful wife.

And there’s story to the rings. We have them, we were wearing them on the day of our wedding. But actually never since. They don’t fit anymore anyways.

But, the story: Both rings got the date of our wedding engraved.

The 19th of April 2008 – or 190408 or – and this is what actually is engraved:

101110011111001000

Neumorphism is upon us!

After the demise of Skeuomorphism and material-design there’s a new kid on the block to take the trophy: Neumorphism!

Neumorphic card however pretends to extrude from the background. It’s a raised shape made from the exact same material as the background. When we look at it from the side we see that it doesn’t “float”.

uxdesign.cc

As you might have noticed I have already switched the drop-shadows on this blogs theme to also use this very simple shadow-recipe.

And if you want to – you can go here and generate all you need in a handy configurator:

Apple Watch repair attempt

After years of use the display of my trusty Apple Watch popped off. It seems the glue had given in and failed.

As there was nothing wrong with the watch otherwise I am attempting a repair.

I’ve got the new adhesive seal, a new force touch sensor and a new battery while I am at it.

Add opening and disassembling was an adventure in itself I had to give up for now as I am missing an exotic Y000 screwdriver.

While I wait for this to arrive – here is the screw I had to stop at:

DOS64

So this is interesting: Normally a Windows program (executable) if you try to run it anywhere else will show a message “cannot be run here” and terminates.

Printing this message is actually done by a little program whos task is to only print out this very message. So it can be overwritten.

Michael Strehovský did exactly this, very impressively. He documented what he did to get the game “snake”, written in C#, running on DOS instead of the “does not run here” stub. In an executable file that would run both, on standard 90s MS-DOS as well as on Windows with the .NET Framework installed.

He used a quite elaborate toolchain – namely DOS64-stub.

You can read all of this in the full thread. I recommend a deeper dive, as it’s a great start to better understand the inner workings of your computer…

German Train Network Plans

Apparently the german main train operator does offer their regional and nationwide train network in an overall one-pager plan version:

Now, if you take the nationwide one, it looks like this:

It looks okay, but not that great. Given the many examples of proper train network plans.

Someone as well was not satisfied, so this person created one and put it on reddit:

This is so much nicer! Of course this has to be taken with the addition of: there are several “jokes” hidden in the names and lines. Don’t take this as an actual reference – rather go by the official ones.

Periodensystem der KI

Jeder kennt das »Periodensystem der Elemente« aus dem Chemieunterricht. Das Periodensystem ist ein intuitiver und schneller »Lego-Baukasten«, der uns unterstützt, komplizierte Zusammenhänge zwischen Bausteinen (Atomen) und Molekülen (Naturstoffe, Steine oder Metalle) intellektuell zu erfassen.

Der amerikanische Informatiker Kristian Hammond hat den Versuch unternommen, eine Lingua Franca für künstliche Intelligenz zu konzipieren. In Anlehnung an die Chemie bezeichnet er sie als »Periodensystem der Künstlichen Intelligenz«.

Das Periodensystem der Künstlichen Intelligenz unterstützt dabei, den Begriff KI auf Geschäftsprozesse abzubilden und ein Verständnis der Elemente aufzubauen – ähnlich wie im Periodensystem der chemischen Elemente. Der Ansatz hilft beim Verständnis und bei der Einschätzung von Marktreife, Aufwänden, benötigtem Maschinentraining sowie Wissen und Erfahrungen der Mitarbeiter.

multi-Protocol to MQTT tool

When you are dealing with IoT protocols, especially at hobby-level, you probably came across the MQTT protocol and the challenge to have all those different devices that are supposed to be connected actually get connected – preferably using the MQTT protocol.

Recently this little project came to my attention:

OpenMQTTGateway project goal is to concentrate in one gateway different technologies, decreasing by the way the number of proprietary gateways needed, and hiding the different technologies singularity behind a simple & wide spread communication protocol: MQTT.

OpenMQTTGateway

OpenMQTTGateway support very mature technologies like basic 433mhz/315mhz protocols & infrared (IR) so as to make your old dumb devices “smart” and avoid you to throw then away. These devices have also the advantages of having a lower cost compared to Zwave or more sophisticated protocols. OMG support also up to date technologies like Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) or LORA.

Of course, there is a compatible device list…

bootable disks and raw disk copies

Every once in a while I need to take an image or duplicate an SSD/SDCard/Harddisk. And it’s gotten quite complicated to get the proper formatting and alignment when you want to achieve certain things.

For example creating a EFI compatible bootable USB stick is not as straight forward as one would think.

In those cases, a tool called rufus helps:

For all other cases I am using the HDDGuru tool on Windows.

HDD Raw Copy Tool is a utility for low-level, sector-by-sector hard disk duplication and image creation.

  • Supported interfaces: S-ATA (SATA), IDE (E-IDE), SCSI, SAS, USB, FIREWIRE.
  • Big drives (LBA-48) are supported.
  • Supported HDD/SSD Manufacturers: Intel, OCZ, Samsung, Kingston, Maxtor, Hitachi, Seagate, Samsung, Toshiba, Fujitsu, IBM, Quantum, Western Digital, and almost any other not listed here.
  • The program also supports low-level duplication of FLASH cards (SD/MMC, MemoryStick, CompactFlash, SmartMedia, XD) using a card-reader.

HDD Raw Copy tool makes an exact duplicate of a SATA, IDE, SAS, SCSI or SSD hard disk drive. Will also work with any USB and FIREWIRE external drive enclosures as well as SD, MMC, MemoryStick and CompactFlash media.

FriendOS – OS concept in your browser

brace for marketing:

Friend OS, a modularfully-customizable operating system accessible via any device that can support a modern web browser, or Friend’s Android and iOS apps. Friend OS leverages Internet and blockchain technologies to offer all the features of a commercial operating system, but one that gives you access to a secure and private cloud-based virtual desktop anytime, anywhere, no matter what hardware or software you use.

So what does this all mean? It’s apparently a web application scaled up to behave and be used like an operating system. It encapsulates an application and directory/filesystem like concept and essentially lives in one of your browser windows.

As long as you’ve got a supported browser, all your apps and data will be accessible through this. They claim.

It’s interesting as there is a lot of open source in there and even some docker effort made to get it running. Seems abandoned / not updated at the time of writing, but it’s a nice concept to begin with anyways.

Hack-The-Planet Podcast: Episode 17

generative art: flowers

It started with this tweet about someone called Ayliean apparently drawing a plant based upon set rules and rolling a dice.

And because generative art in itself is fascinating I am frequently pulled into such things. Like this dungeon generator or these city maps or generated audio or face generators or buildings and patterns

On the topic of flowers there’s another actual implementation of the above mentioned concept available:

TubeTime and BitSavers

I was pointing to BitSavers before. And I will do it again as it’s a never ending source of joy.

Now some old schematics had been spilled into my feeds that show how logic gates had been implemented with transformers only.

BitSaver brought it up:

And not only BitSaver is on this path of sharing knowledge, also TubeTime is such a nice account to follow and read.

Travel Tip: get an electronic public transport card in Japan without any hassle (iOS)

Previously you had to be in Japan or to have a japanese AppStore account to get access to software that allows you to manage and add SUICA cards to your wallet and use it right-away for public transport.

Now with the 2020 olympics approaching more and more tourist support-apps are made available to non-japanese audiences.

Just like this little helper:

So the scenario was: You arrive at an airport in Japan. And the first thing you needed to do to use the public transport system was to get such a SUICA card either purchased or topped-up.

This is a straight forward process and they even came up with “Tourist SUICA” cards that will deactivate themselves after a certain amount of time and are cheaper to purchase upfront – still it was a process you had to know how it works.

With the above helper app you’re simply doing this:

  1. Download app.
  2. Make sure you’ve got Apple Pay set-up with at least one of your credit cards
  3. Use the SuicaEng app to create a brand new SUICA card out of thin air and top it up right there.
  4. (optional) push your SUICA card to your watch to simplify the purchase processes even more – you’ll just tap your wrist to pass through gates or purchase goods.

batch convert HEIF/HEIC pictures

When you own a recent iOS device (iOS 11 and up) you’ve got the choice between “High Efficiency” or “Most Compatible” as the format all pictures are being stored by the camera app.

Most Compatible being the JPEG format that is widely used around the internet and other cameras out there and the “High Efficiency” coming from the introduction of a new file format and compression/reduction algorithms.

A pointer to more information about the format:

High Efficiency Image File Format (HEIF), also known as High Efficiency Image Coding (HEIC), is a file format for individual images and image sequences. It was developed by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) and is defined by MPEG-H Part 12 (ISO/IEC 23008-12). The MPEG group claims that twice as much information can be stored in a HEIF image as in a JPEG image of the same size, resulting in a better quality image. HEIF also supports animation, and is capable of storing more information than an animated GIF at a small fraction of the size.

Wikipedia: HEIF

As Apple is aware this new format is not compatible with any existing tool chain to work with pictures from cameras. So you would either need new, upgraded tools (the Apple-way) or you would need to convert your images to the “older” – not-so-efficient JPEG format.

To my surprise it’s not trivial to find a conversion tool. For Linux I’ve already wrote about such a tool here.

For macOS and Windows, look no further. Waltr2 is an app catering your conversion needs with a drag-and-drop interface.

It’s advertised as being free and offline. And it works a treat for me.

Drawing Transit Maps

Almost exactly 1 year ago I wrote about transit maps. And it seems to be a recurring topic. And rightfully so – it’s an interesting topic.

Along the presentation of a redesigned Singapore transit map, there’s more content to gather on the “Transit Mapping Symposium” website.

The “Transit Mapping Symposium” will take place in Seoul / South-Korea on 20/21st of April 2020 with researchers and designers meeting up.

The Transit Mapping Symposium is a yearly international gathering of transport networks professionals, a unique opportunity to share achievements, challenges and vision.

Our participants and speakers include experts from all fields of the industry:

– Mapmakers
– Network Operators
– Transport Authorities
– Digital Platforms
– Designers