Hack-The-Planet Podcast: Episode 0

A friend of mine started something and I have the honor to be part of it. The world now has one additional podcast to listen to. It’s in german though. For now at least.

We are still working on the website, the feed and the audio mixing and recording quality. So bear with us.

And now: Episode 0 is upon us!

Es ist egal, aber

Tocotronic is one of the bands I listened to during my teens/twenties. That dates me, that dates the band.

It’s very german. You’ll find their music on most streaming platforms. I recommend starting with the albums “wir kommen um uns zu beschweren” and “es ist egal aber”.

Anyhow. Now one member of the band starts a podcast!

Jan Müller ist seit über 25 Jahren Mitglied der Band Tocotronic. Er ist mit dem Format des Interviews bestens vertraut und kann sich als Fragender gut in die Perspektive seiner Gäste hineinversetzen. Die persönliche Auswahl seiner Gesprächspartner*innen bildet die Grundlage für authentische Gespräche, die stets von Interesse und Respekt geprägt sind. Mit “Reflektor” startet Jan seinen ersten Podcast. 


easily draw text based flowcharts

As I am mainly producing text and markdown notes throughout the day I am always interested in ways to quickly create simple text-based flow-charts.

I did write about a couple of tools to accomplish this previously but I want to take note of the most recent addition to the toolbox: ASCIIFlow Infinity.

You open it in your browser and start drawing with the simple tools provided.

When you are done you export it to plain text and do what you feel like with it.

Here’s a feature overview:

train sounds in Japan

If you’ve ever been to Japan you must have noticed that everything and anything makes sounds and talks. Elevators, escalators, doors, train stations, gates, vending machines – you name it, it makes sounds and talks.

It’s so apparent but yet quite comforting that I enjoyed it. It became an additional channel of information without the need of point-and-call all the time. Highly effective for me.

Japan utilizes sounds to a degree that every detail seems to count. Take the station gates you rush through to get to your train platform. It’ll sound differently depending on how you pay, what status your ticket had and even how close your IC-cards balance is to being empty.

Or just the fact that the ticket gates make sounds at all to make you find them easily.

A good portion of this sounds you can find on places like YouTube or specialized websites. One of those specialized websites is hatsumelo.com:

For some routes and stations you find here:

  • Station melody – departing and arrival melodies that are played on the occasion
  • In-car chime – chimes played before and after information broadcasts mainly in the Shinkansen and limited express trains.
  • Door opening and closing – doors make sounds too!

a wild Ma.K (Maschinen Krieger) appears

The franchise was started by Kow Yokoyama in the 1980’s. Yokoyama-san was a scratch-build modeller, artist and sculptor. Among his works he built machines of war that would fight in the 29th century, but took their visual cues from early 19th century weaponry and the early NASA space program. All his models were pieced together from numerous kits including armor, aircraft, cars and found objects (like ping pong balls).


Often described as WWII machinery in space, these kits are the perfect blend of sci-fi modelling with AFV weathering and finishing techniques…

There is also a longer article with high-resolution pictures here.

brain simulators

With recent announcements around human brain and brain-machine interface research like Neuralink the topic is seemingly seeing some more investments now.

As this whole topic is special to my heart I am interested in all things brain simulations. Thus here’s my personal “logbook entry” on the re-appearance of this topic:

This leads to one of the arguments for whole-brain simulation: it’ll help us solve the “biological imitation game,” a Turing test-like assay that pits digitally reconstructed brains against real ones. Iterations of the test help select increasingly more accurate models for a given task, which eventually become the most promising ideas for how specific biological networks operate. And because these models are based on mathematical equations, they could become the heart of next-generation AI.

Singularity Hub

There’s also a paper! – Unfortunately I cannot link directly to the paper as it is behind paywalls. Neuralink on the other side was so kind to publish open-access:

TAICHI: opensource computer graphics library

I am following the proceedings of ACM SIGGRAPH conferences for more than 20 years now and with the recent years development in computational capacity it seems that many more algorithms and ideas make it to an application near you.

Take this one contribution by Yuanming Hu for example – the Taichi open source computer graphics library:

Taichi is an open-source computer graphics library that aims to provide easy-to-use infrastructures for computer graphics R&D. It’s written in C++14 and wrapped friendly with Python.

Yuanming Hu has been working on the development of Taichi since his third undergrad year (2016), mainly in his spare time. He would like to thank Prof. Toshiya Hachisuka and Prof. Seiichi Koshizukafor making possible his internship at UTokyo, where the initial parts of Taichi were developed.

Taichi: About

Also interesting, trivia about the name:

augmented (reality) book cover

If you ever want to quickly explain what augmented reality could be to a person not knowing yet, you might want to use this (and other) use cases for a visual explanation:

I achieved this by separating the artwork and text into many individual layers, that I placed in receding layers of 3D depth, in a 3D program on the computer. And made sure everything outside the borders of the book is excluded, to give it the ‘portal’ effect.

Augmented Reality Book Cover by Alexander Wand

full website screenshots from your commandline

Think of this: You want to capture a whole, multi-scroll-pages, web-page into one image.

This can be difficult without the right tools. It surely will be a lot of work to accomplish a 10th of thousand pixel height screenshot put together from multiple single screenshots…

CutyCapt is there to help! It’s a command line tool encapsulating the very powerful WebKit browser engine to render a full page and then create a single file screenshot of the whole page for you.

By example, this is what it did when told to screenshot this website:

PixelFed – Federated Image Sharing

In search of alternatives to the traditional centralized hosted social networks a lot of smart people have started to put time and thought into what is called “the-federation”.

The Federation refers to a global social network composed of nodes that talk to each other. Each of them is an installation of software which supports one of the federated social web protocols.

What is The Federation?

You may already have heard about projects like Mastodon, Diaspora*, Matrix (Synapse) and others.

The PixelFed project seems to gain some traction as apparently the first documentation and sources are made available.

PixelFed is a federated social image sharing platform, similar to instagram. Federation is done using the ActivityPub protocol, which is used by Mastodon, PeerTube, Pleroma, and more. Through ActivityPub PixelFed can share and interact with these platforms, as well as other instances of PixelFed.


I am posting this here as to my personal logbook.

Given that there’s already a Dockerfile I will give it a try as soon as possible.

CCCamp 2019 – 21. – 25. August 2019

The Chaos Communication Camp is an international, five-day open-air event for hackers and associated life-forms. It provides a relaxed atmosphere for free exchange of technical, social, and political ideas. The Camp has everything you need: power, internet, food and fun. Bring your tent and participate!

CCCamp 2019 Wiki

It has been 2005 that I had the time and chance to attend an international open-air meeting of normal people. Of course I am talking about the 2005 What-the-hack I wrote about back then.

This year it’s time again for the Chaos Communication Camp in Germany. Sadly still I won’t be attending. Clearly that needs to change with one of the next iterations. With the CCC events becoming highly valuable also for families maybe it’s a chance in the future to meet up with old and valued friends (wink-wink Andreas Heil).

The Chaos Communication Camp (also known as CCCamp) is an international meeting of hackers that takes place every four years, organized by the Chaos Computer Club (CCC). So far all CCCamps have been held near Berlin, Germany.

The camp is an event for providing information about technical and societal issues, such as privacy, freedom of information and data security. Hosted speeches are held in big tents and conducted in English as well as German. Each participant may pitch a tent and connect to a fast internet connection and power.

CCCamp in Wikipedia

Enjoy the intro-movie that has just been made available to us, alongside the whole design material:

online archeology: to be young and online in 1987

Archive.org is the place to find out about our common internet past. It’s the another project, besides Wikipedia and …, that started it’s life with a bold claim it so far holds true to:

The Internet Archive, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like a paper library, we provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, the print disabled, and the general public. Our mission is to provide Universal Access to All Knowledge.

Internet Archive: About IA

And when you freely roam around the archive you will find many gems, like this one:

Another recommendation / starting point on the archive would be Computer Chronicles:

There’s countless hours of material to dig into and be amazed!

automated downloads

Hmm… I’ve set-up a script to automatically download a TV show about a year ago and just remembered it…

Apparently 1 year of this show is 167 Gbyte…

For completeness the download script – ignore my bad scripting:


# parameter 1: month
# parameter 2: from day
# parameter 3: to day
# parameter 4: year

# data -dmonday +%d

next_monday=$(date -dmonday +%d)
next_monday_month=$(date -dmonday +%m)
next_monday_year=$(date -dmonday +%y)

previous_monday=$(date -d'monday-7 days' +%d)
previous_monday_month=$(date -d'monday-7 days' +%m)
previous_monday_year=$(date -d'monday-7 days' +%y)

next_friday=$(date -dfriday +%d)
next_friday_month=$(date -dfriday +%m)
next_friday_year=$(date -dfriday +%y)

previous_friday=$(date -d'friday-7 days' +%d)
previous_friday_month=$(date -d'friday-7 days' +%m)
previous_friday_year=$(date -d'friday-7 days' +%y)

for i in `seq 1 7`;
        day=$(date -d'today+'$i' days' +%d)
        month=$(date -d'today+'$i' days' +%m)
        year=$(date -d'today+'$i' days' +%y)
        wget -c "https://rodlzdf-a.akamaihd.net/none/zdf/"$year"/"$month"/"$year$month$day"_sendung_dku/1/"$year$month$day"_sendung_dku_3328k_p36v14.mp4"

グランツリー武蔵小杉 and Park City Forest Towers on canvas

I’ve blogged about those pictures taken day- and night-time before. I’ve also blogged about how they where produced.

With a picture spot freed at one of the walls in our house we decided to print the day and night pictures on canvas and have them side-by-side. And it looks great, I think.

I might want to take the night picture again with the slightly different perspective
close up on the canvas structure

Bitmap & tilemap generation with the help of ideas from quantum mechanics

You can get a grasp at the beautiful side of science with visualizations and algorithms that output visual results.

This is the example of producing lots and lots of complex data (houses!) from a small set of input data. It is widely used in game development but also can be helpful to generate parameterized test and simulation environments for machine learning.

So before sending you over to the more detailed explanation the visual example:

This is a lot of different house images. Those are generated using a program called WaveFunctionCollapse:

WFC initializes output bitmap in a completely unobserved state, where each pixel value is in superposition of colors of the input bitmap (so if the input was black & white then the unobserved states are shown in different shades of grey). The coefficients in these superpositions are real numbers, not complex numbers, so it doesn’t do the actual quantum mechanics, but it was inspired by QM. Then the program goes into the observation-propagation cycle:

On each observation step an NxN region is chosen among the unobserved which has the lowest Shannon entropy. This region’s state then collapses into a definite state according to its coefficients and the distribution of NxN patterns in the input.

On each propagation step new information gained from the collapse on the previous step propagates through the output.

On each step the overall entropy decreases and in the end we have a completely observed state, the wave function has collapsed.

It may happen that during propagation all the coefficients for a certain pixel become zero. That means that the algorithm has run into a contradiction and can not continue. The problem of determining whether a certain bitmap allows other nontrivial bitmaps satisfying condition (C1) is NP-hard, so it’s impossible to create a fast solution that always finishes. In practice, however, the algorithm runs into contradictions surprisingly rarely.

Wave Function Collapse algorithm has been implemented in C++PythonKotlinRustJuliaGoHaxeJavaScript and adapted to Unity. You can download official executables from itch.io or run it in the browser. WFC generates levels in Bad NorthCaves of Qudseveral smaller games and many prototypes. It led to new research. For more related workexplanationsinteractive demosguidestutorials and examples see the ports, forks and spinoffs section.

useful CSS Grid Generator

This project is a way for people to use CSS Grid features quickly to create dynamic layouts.

You can set the numbers, and units of your columns and rows, and I’ll generate a CSS grid for you! Drag within the boxes to create divs placed within the grid.

I noticed a lot of people weren’t using Grid because they felt it was too complicated and they couldn’t understand it. Grid is capable of so much, and this small generator only touches on a fraction of the features. The purpose of this is so people get up and running quickly, and create more interesting layouts.

Once you work with this a bit, I suggest checking out resources by Rachel AndrewJen Simmons, and Dave Geddes to dive deeper. There is also a CSS Grid Guide on CSS-Tricks, and a fun little game called Grid Garden to help you learn more!


online celebrities: Elon Musk

Seemingly short-message services are becoming the standard mode of communication for the powerful and rich. It seems that especially Twitter is capable of bringing the worst in those among us to the outside.

Of course the most controversial statements are being washed away by the sheer throughput. The next one always comes up quicker than you expect.

Helping the masses to keep track is a main task of journalism. That being said traditional journalism (as in newspapers, television) sees great difficulties to keep track as well. Too much, too quick.

So new forms of journalism develop. Often more tendentious then helpful for the cause so they require the cautious mind of the reader to add some more perspective.

This is the example of such a newly developing “tracking journalism” site around the dazzling public character that is Elon Musk. It is called “elonmusk.today“.

Editor’s note: others have done great work exposing Musk’s shameless charlatan carnival barking. If you enjoy this sort of thing, I highly recommend Niya White’s excellent article Musk Misses: The Stories You Don’t Hear About Tesla Anymore …

I/O Is Faster Than the CPU

I/O is getting faster in servers that have fast programmable NICs and non-volatile main memory operating close to the speed of DRAM, but single-threaded CPU speeds have stagnated. Applications cannot take advantage of modern hardware capabilities when using interfaces built around abstractions that assume I/O to be slow. We therefore propose a structure for an OS called parakernel, which eliminates most OS abstractions and provides interfaces for applications to leverage the full potential of the underlying hardware. The parakernel facilitates application-level parallelism by securely partitioning the resources and multiplexing only those resources that are not partitioned.


“are you still watching?” – tailfix

drop in replacement for tail -F that asks you if you are still watching

Just like Laura I am also was having a moment when I stumbled across tailflix.

For those not understanding the reference: At the end of an episode you’ve watched on Netflix you will be shown another one, and so on, and so on. Until if you have not touched the remote at all for several episodes Netflix will ask you “Are you still watching?”.

how long until …

I am a happy user of the Apple Watch and iPhones in general. It’s working out great for me so far.

There are a couple of features that I would wish where there. And simple things like an hour-chime or hour/half-hour tap are frequently included into the WatchOS updates.

But some of the more specific features just won’t materialize on Apple Watch.

Think of this: You are doing your thing, you know, being a productive member of the society. And apart from the information “What’s next” the information of “When’s next and how long until then” is equally important.

I already had all information – like upcoming events – in my calendar. Why not have the watch display directly on the watch face how long I’ve got until then?!

This is where I’ve found an app called “Time Till” by Rachel Higley.

You’re downloading it on your iPhone and when opened up first it will show you a list of your calendars.

You can turn on/off any of them in this app and by doing so you are selecting which of the calendars will be included in the calculation “how long until the next meeting”.

I’ve only selected one calendar which holds those appointments that I need to know how long until then. So it’s not the next work meeting. It’s important things.

On the watch, however many calendars you’ve selected, it will show you something like this:

I’ve circled the complications added by “Time Till”

So in this case it’ll show the hours until I have to wake-up. Whatever I put into this calendar will show up there. If I want with the name of the event, but most commonly I am using the bottom right version: just the hours/minutes until.

Unfortunately Rachel is quite busy and so there’s no update for the app to also support the new Modular Infograph complications of WatchOS 5 and up.

If you don’t know how those look like, here is a picture I’ve put together from Apples developer documentation:

So I am thinking to rewrite the app and include the new complications. In fact: I’ve implemented my “Discordian Calendar Apple Watch Complication” app as a test and exercise to learn how I would be able to rewrite “Time Till”.

Now the only thing I need is to be kissed by the muse that fuels the urge to just get it done :-).

when 川崎市 got the 区

Addresses in Japan are fascinating. There’s a system to it, with lots of exceptions and special cases. And just recently there was an announcement about the city I am technically considering home-base when in Japan: Kawasaki (川崎).

As you see in the title of this post there’s a kanji character missing:

川崎 means “Kawasaki” – just the name itself, like used on signs and such.

川崎市 means “Kawasaki-shi” – the name got extended by -shi which in itself will signal that the name before is a city.

And then there is this other kanji in the title: . It is spoken as “ku” and basically means “ward”. It’s a bigger city broken down into separate wards.

Not all cities in Japan are required to differentiate into wards – just the ones considered big enough. Kawasaki was considered big enough by 1972 to name out it’s wards.

And so its the Nakahara-ward (中原区) I am usually staying to be more specific on the Kawasaki-home-base-statement at the beginning of this post.

And the designated cities are somehow ranked according to their population. The news here is that apparently given the 2019 population numbers Kawasaki has improved it’s position among all big designated cities by one rank:

Some more details then to the japanese addressing system:

Japanese addresses begin with the largest division of the country, the prefecture. Most of these are called ken (県), but there are also three other special prefecture designations: to (都) for Tokyo (道) for Hokkaidō and fu (府) for the two urban prefectures of Osaka and Kyoto.

Following the prefecture is the municipality. For a large municipality this is the city (shi, 市). Cities with a large enough population, called designated cities, can be further broken down into wards (ku, ). (In the prefecture of Tokyo, the designation special ward or tokubetsu-ku, 特別区, is also used for municipalities within the former city of Tokyo.) For smaller municipalities, the address includes the district (gun, 郡) followed by the town (chō or machi, 町) or village(mura or son, 村). In Japan, a city is separate from districts, which contain towns and villages.

Japanese addressing system

So let’s make an example, since it’s always great fun for me to figure out the address again when I try to order the SIM card to the hotel address. A good example would be a randomly selected and nice hotel in Nakahara-ku:

Richmond Premier Hotel address as written on it’s website.

The typical english-language online order form / address entry form for shipping SIM cards to hotels gives you this interface:

Ha! Now that’s a challenge, right? At first glance its not obvious but if you take a look at the structure of the address it opens up:

And so, this will reach it’s destination:

Look me in the eye

As tools get better artists really polish out what technology enables them to do with computers nowadays.

This eye above made me awww. It’s from a user “ChrisJones” in the Blender Forum who posted his progress on modelling a human head in upmost detail.

Go there and be awwd as well. And while you’re there grab a copy of Blender and give it a go.

N8.5 – Tokyu White

It always seems to me so much easier to meet a Hackers in Japan than anywhere else. Maybe social-gravity works different there. Or there are more of them.

Whatever the reason, I keep crossing paths with people that more or less deep-dive into topics and understand systems in ways and in details that you would normally not expect.

And todays example is a detail you would normally not think about:

The footbridge that was newly built in Shibuya was painted in N8.5. This is commonly known as “Tokyu White”…

はらしょ‏ on Twitter

“Tokyu White”, N8.5, … of course…if you would need a bucket of this you can order it online.

how did games get to 82 Gbyte sizes?

Every month there are free games to download and try out with the Playstation Plus subscription. There was a game named “Conan Exiles” included and so my Playstation started the download.

After the download taking unexpectedly long I checked the download queue and found the reason why it would take so long to download. This game is over 82 Gbyte in size. This is quite unexpected.

Conan Exiles is an open-world survival game set in the brutal lands of Conan the Barbarian. Survive in a savage world, build your kingdom, and dominate your enemies in brutal combat and epic warfare.

Start with nothing but your bare hands and forge the legacy of your clan, building anything a small home to gigantic fortresses and entire cities. Wage war using swords, bows, siege weapons, and even take control of giant avatars of the gods and lay waste to enemy cities.

Explore a vast, seamless world full of challenge and opportunity. Hunt animals for resources, slay monsters for treasure, and delve deep underground to discover the secrets of ancient civilizations.

Conan Exiles: The Game

It’s still downloading. But what content could await if it only fits into 82 Gbyte of (assuming) compressed data?!

more small projectors coming

Good news everyone!

There are new micro-projectors coming and they are looking good. After the first availability of really small and low-power but enough-light LED projectors (see here) manufacturers have apparently added a laser to the equation.

It is said that…

Unlike traditional projectors that constantly need to be focussed, the Nebra AnyBeam picture is always perfect. You can project onto curved or irregular surfaces with ease – perfect if you want to use it on the fly, or if you want to try your hand at a bit of projection mapping!

This thing will be available, according to the Kickstarter, as a all-in-one package with power and HDMI inputs. It’s got 720p inputs. Well. Well really?

And it will be available to the maker market as a RaspberryPi Hat…