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.

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

Hack-The-Planet Podcast: Episode 16


Blender 3D – December was full of content

So with the new year started it might be worth looking into some patterns different from the ones we are usually dealing with. So how about a bit of 3D graphics, shaders and modelling?!

Get your gear:

Blender is the free and open source 3D creation suite. It supports the entirety of the 3D pipeline—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, video editing and 2D animation pipeline.


And then get a starting point. Be quick, as this is on Twitter it might fade away:

There’s so much interesting stuff in there – and lots to learn!

about brains and silicon wafers

Please read this first paragraph and let it settle:

At the core of the BrainScaleS wafer-scale hardware system (see Figure 90) is an uncut wafer built from mixed-signal ASICs [1], named High Input Count Analog Neural Network chips (HICANNs), which provide a highly configurable substrate that physically emulates adaptively spiking neurons and dynamic synapses (Schemmel et al. (2010)Schemmel et al. (2008)).

I’ve highlighted in bold the portion that I want you to think about once more. We are not talking about chips, dies or cut-up wafers.

We are talking about real-size, huge, fully developed wafers filled with logic. For the sole purpose of brain scale neural network research and development…

The Neuromorphic Computing Platform allows neuroscientists and engineers to perform experiments with configurable neuromorphic computing systems. The platform provides two complementary, large-scale neuromorphic systems built in custom hardware at locations in Heidelberg, Germany (the “BrainScaleS” system, also known as the “physical model” or PM system) and Manchester, United Kingdom (the “SpiNNaker” system, also known as the “many core” or MC system). Both systems enable energy-efficient, large-scale neuronal network simulations with simplified spiking neuron models. The BrainScaleS system is based on physical (analogue) emulations of neuron models and offers highly accelerated operation (104 x real time). The SpiNNaker system is based on a digital many-core architecture and provides real-time operation.


iPhone 11 Pro battery is…

…quite amazing.

I’ve upgraded just before the Japan travelling to the current iPhone generation. I was expecting some improved battery life but I did not dare to think I would get THIS.

I’ve taken the last 3 generations of iPhones on trips to Japan and they all went through the same exercises and quite comparable day schedules.

The amount of navigation, screen-time, taking pictures and just browsing the web / translating led to all 3 previous generations to be out-of-juice just around half-day.

Not this generation. Apparently something has changed. Not really in terms of screen time – screen on-time got better, but not as great as the overall usage time of the device with screen off.

In regards of how much power and runtime I am getting out of the device without having to reach for a batter pack or power supply is astonishing. I am using my Apple Watch for navigation clues so I am not really reaching out for the phone for that. But that means the phone is constantly used otherwise to make pictures, payments, translations….

I am comfortably leaving all battery packs and chargers at home when all the time before I was charging the phones at lunchtime for the first time. I usually had to charge 2 times a day to get through.

With this generations iPhone 11 Pro I am getting through the whole day and reach the hotel just before getting down to 20%.

I am still using it all throughout the day. But this is such a relief that I am confidently getting through a full day of fun. Thumbs up Apple!


eXoDOS is an attempt to catalog, obtain, and make playable every game developed for the DOS and PC Booter platform. Striving to find original media rather than using scene rips. This collection uses a combination of Dosbox and ScummVM to play these older titles on modern systems. All required emulators are included and have been setup to run all included titles with no prior knowledge or experience required on the users part.

This pack includes 7,000 DOS games. The focus is on games that were either released in English or are fairly easy to play without a knowledge of the native language. This is not every DOS game ever made, however it is a very high percentage of all commercial releases. There are thousands of freeware, homebrew, and shareware games that will continue to be added in future packs.

The games have already been configured to run in DosBOX. Games which are supported by ScummVM will give you the option at launch as to which emulator you would like to use.


Shepard’s Pi

“Shepard’s Pi” is one continous song that lasts for 999,999,999 hours, or about 114 years.

Canton Becker’s music generating algorithm composed this music using the first one billion digits of pi (p). Each digit (3.1415…) determines four seconds of music, supplying the “turn signals” used to determine every musical expression.

Because the numbers in pi never repeat, each of the million hours of “Shepard’s Pi” music are in fact unique. By fast forwarding to some distant moment in the song, you are virtually guaranteed to find yourself listening to something that nobody else – including Canton himself – has ever heard before.

Shepard’s Pi

Hack-The-Planet Podcast: Episode 009

Rifftrax revisited

I gave Rifftrax a swing in 2006 when they started their project. Now it’s time for a revisit.

Rifftrax was created by the same people that created and made the series “Mystery Science Theater 3000” so successfull.

Think of this: You go to the movies. Bad movies mostly. And there are 3 of your friends next to you and constantly commenting the movie – in a funny way.

Credit: Comedy Central

Since MST3k had ended a long long time ago the people behind it have started to do the same with current movies. And this they called “Rifftrax”:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy, the former stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000, create commentaries for B-movie oddities and Hollywood blockbusters. It’s like watching a movie with your funniest friends!

Their catalog has grown from 0 in 2006 to over 222 full length feature movies and much much more shorts.

If you have never experienced their art: Give them a try. You’ll probably laugh a lot!

when fly-ready drones get more cameras…

There’s the DJI drones that seemingly own the market at this point. Mostly used to take aerial images and movies. Your average YouTuber will probably have two or more of them.

Turns out that, if you add modern camera technology to these small flying objects and a lot of processing power you can do crazy things like indoor realtime 3D mapping…

Skydio is a vendor to look at when it somes to such interesting mapping applications.

One Soundcard to rule them all

The first sound card I got as an upgrade to a PC without sound back in 90s was the glorious Sound Blaster 16:

There were several different sound card options back in the days and all sounded a bit different.

sound card (also known as an audio card) is an internal expansion card that provides input and output of audio signals to and from a computer under control of computer programs. The term sound card is also applied to external audio interfaces used for professional audio applications.


With the synthesizers and audio processing each series and make produced a distinctive sound. Some of us want to bring these sounds back. But keeping the (old) hardware running is an increasingly difficult task.

For example: The interface used by the above mentioned Sound Blaster 16 card is the ISA bus interface. This interface was introduced in 1981 and replaced in 1993. If you want to hear how such a sound card sounds today you would have to run hardware from this time period.

But some people are working towards getting at least some authentic sound back.

In this talk, Alan Hightower takes a look at the complexities, challenges, and even current progress at integrating all of the above cores into one FPGA based ISA sound card.

This is what the concept would bring if done:

Oh that would be soooooo nice to have all these vintage sound interfaces available and to be able to actually use them for audio output.

a source of iptv streams

Collection of 8000+ publicly available IPTV channels from all over the world.

Internet Protocol television (IPTV) is the delivery of television content over Internet Protocol (IP) networks.

Github: iptv-org/iptv

Using the streams is as simple as it gets: Just open the provided playlilst files in your favorite media player. The above example is th VLC media player.

Hertzian Landscapes

I played with SDR – Software Defined Radio – back in 2013. I’ve still got the equipment around.

Now that I am thinking about it – there is a practical use-case that I will look into in the coming months for sure for it. And just to mention this use case here: With SDR I could create a more versatile 443/886 Mhz receiver.

Anyhow. SDR hardware allows you to access a whole spectrum of radiosignals at once. And a common way to visualize the spectrum is to draw the amplitudes in a line add each new measurement as a new line – color/brightness coded.

What you get is some sort of waterfall diagram that looks like this:

Hertzian Landscapes (2019) is a live visualization of the radio spectrum. Unlike visible light, waves in the radio spectrum cannot be perceived by us directly yet this space is teeming with human activity. Hertzian Landscapes employs a digital receiver to scan large swaths of radio spectrum in near real-time and visualizes thousands of signals into a panoramic electromagnetic landscape. Users can zoom in to specific frequencies by positioning themselves in front of the panorama as if controlling a radio tuner with their body, giving them a sense of walking through the spectrum.
From radio broadcasts to weather satellites and from medical implants to aeronautical navigation, the radio spectrum is divided into hundreds of designated slices each tied to a specific application. Based on a localized frequency database that describes these slices, signals are annotated to provide information about their theoretical type and application.


Experimental Audio Tool: SuperCollider

SuperCollider is a platform for audio synthesis and algorithmic composition, used by musicians, artists, and researchers working with sound. It is free and open source software available for Windows, macOS, and Linux.

SuperCollider features three major components:

scsynth, a real-time audio server, forms the core of the platform. It features 400+ unit generators (“UGens”) for analysis, synthesis, and processing.

sclang, an interpreted programming language. It is focused on sound, but not limited to any specific domain. sclang controls scsynth via Open Sound Control.

scide is an editor for sclang with an integrated help system.