a 1980s style computer built today for fun

Can you display VGA and play audio on a Cortex-M4 in pure Rust? The short answer is yes, yes you can! Minus the hand-unrolled assembler loop for fixing the phase error in the RGB output. But we don’t talk about that in polite company.

Monotron project page

What currently is in place:

  • The Atari Joystick interface works, but two Joysticks would be more fun
  • The PS/2 Keyboard via the Atmega works, but the pinout was mirrored so you have to put the connector under the PCB :/
  • The RTC works
  • VGA Output works
  • The MIDI Out seems to work when looped to MIDI In, as does the MIDI Though.
  • The MIDI In seems to receive data when connected to my electronic drum kit
  • The Audio output seems to work quite nicely
  • The SD card works, but the power supply can’t handle hot-insertion of the SD card and it makes the TM4C reboot. More capacitors / some current limiting probably required.

I can load games and programs from the SD card into the 24 KiB of free Application RAM. You can interact with these games via the PS/2 Keyboard and Joystick. I can play simple games (like Snake) and play three channels of 8-bit wavetable audio simultaneously. I’ve even got a 6502 Emulator running a copy of 6502 Enhanced BASIC, if you want to go old school!

Localino – Indoor Location

As you might know I am regularly looking into indoor-location systems and opportunities to optimize my own system (based on Bluetooth…)

Now I cam across a concept by a german company called Localino. They’ve built their own hard- and software.

Localino has its own “satellites”, also called “anchors”. The mobile receivers are called “tags” and can locate their position based on the available anchors inside a building. Anchors and tags precisely measure signal propagation delays in the order of sub-nanoseconds, resulting in centimeter-accurate location. Any person or object wearing a tag can be located.

Localino website

There’s also a hack-a-day article on the system which states that all hard- and software would be open source. So far I did not find any source code though…

As far as I could dig into this so far it’s based upon decawave DW1000 hardware and an older base-library of this is available as source code here.

There are some other mentions which are back from 2017 when there seemingly was a big open source portion. Some python code is mentioned but nothing available right away today sadly.

Hack-The-Planet Podcast: Episode 10

Shownotes

Understand Maladay

Boomtime 5 Aftermath: The Apostle Malaclypse the Elder’s Holyday. A wandering Wiseman of Ancient Mediterrania (“Med-Terra” or middle earth), who followed a 5-pointed Star through the alleys of Rome, Damascus, Baghdad, Jerusalem, Mecca and Cairo, bearing a sign that seemed to read “DOOM”. (This is a misunderstanding. The sign actually read “DUMB”.)

Bulletin Board Systems in the wild

While recording a podcast episode we briefly touched on the topic of bulletin board systems and how we both had operated our own FidoNet BBS in the 90s.

To create a bigger reflux of thoughts:

Synchronet Bulletin Board System Software is a free software package that can turn your personal computer into your own custom online service supporting multiple simultaneous users with hierarchical message and file areas, multi-user chat, and the ever-popular BBS door games.

Everything there to set-up a BBS. Maybe I really need to get out a backup of my old BBS and bring it back online?!

Hack-The-Planet Podcast: Episode 009

TIL: iPhone Visual Voicemal is IMAP

Today I learned that the Apple iPhone re-purposes the IMAP protocol to implement the voice mail feature.

By sniffing the network traffic it was possible to examine the IMAP protocol revealing username and the corresponding hashed password (which allows to repeat a successful login) and of course all voicemail files. We want to highlight, that all the voicemail files have been transferred unencrypted.

Assessment of Visual Voicemail from 2012

replacing MyFitnessPal

Well, it’s about time to do something about MyFitnessPal. In our family we’re using their service by the daily. But just for logging. No reports, no further features used.

But still, we were using it for quite a time now:

almost 5 years logged every-single-day.

The service has started to roll out ads for some time now in their apps. There are only iOS / Android apps available. And a mediocre website.

Just recently they started to announce that their free service will restrict how many years back are going to be stored. From those 5 years we will loose 3.

In addition the whole integration has never gotten to a point where I would have decided to upgrade to the paid premium version. No functionality ever got added. No interfacing with scales, no optimizations for UI/UX, …

But they now reduce the functionalities and service and want me to cough up a bit of money:

I am not generally against subscriptions. But I am not getting 9,99 Euro of value out of the service. A shared google sheet would almost achieve parity. And the price itself is just not value based. For 2 Euro I probably would not feel the urge to move on. For 9,99 (times 2 for 2 accounts) make me move.

So I’ve sat down with my wife and we scribbled up some things we want to have in a replacement. The content and feature-set is agreed. Now I’ll throw up a prototype app.

It’ll be integrated with the MQTT scales. And with the flow we came up with we hopefully will reduce the interactions dramatically over MyFitnessPal. And it’ll never stop saving history. And I’ll learn something new.

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.

Wikipedia

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.

Remember Habeas Corpus day

Setting Orange 66 Bureaucracy: A Discordian Holy Day of Fondle and Gropage, when all Discordians should grab their Legislative Representatives by the goolies and cry out “Where’s my Bill of Rights, you bastard?!”

On this day in 3025 YOLD (12 October 1859 AD), His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, ordered the Congress of the United States to dissolve.

“Fraud and corruption prevent a fair and proper expression of the public voice; that open violation of the laws are constantly occurring, caused by mobs, parties, factions and undue influence of political sects; that the citizen has not that protection of person and property which he is entitled.”

Habeas Corpus Day

global QR code scavenger hunt

I like location based stuff. I like QR codes. There is something that combines both.

Meet Munzee:

Munzee is the next generation in global scavenger hunt games.

Track down QR Codes hidden in the real world and capture them for points. Whether you are a casual player, an avid explorer, or a hardcore competition enthusiast, Munzee helps you rediscover the world around you.

more blacker

A month ago I wrote about a very black paint. This month brings me a papepr about an even blacker substance.

The synergistically incorporated CNT–metal hierarchical architectures offer record-high broadband optical absorption with excellent electrical and structural properties as well as industrial-scale producibility.

Paper: Breakdown of Native Oxide Enables Multifunctional, Free-Form Carbon Nanotube–Metal Hierarchical Architectures

Magnificent app which corrects your previous console command

We all know this. You typed a loooong line of commands in your shell and you made one typo.

That’s the worst.

Now. There’s a command that aims to help:

It is rather simple. But extremely effective.

The Fuck attempts to match the previous command with a rule. If a match is found, a new command is created using the matched rule and executed.

Grab it on github. Install it right away. It went into my toolbelt in an instant.

Why the MS-DOS floppy disk cache was valid 2 seconds…

If you’re old enough to have used MS-DOS you know the benefits a read cache introduced back at the time for floppy disks. Without such a cache everything data intensive was magnitudes slower.

Now after all these years more and more stories emerge about how certain thresholds and timeings where set back in the days.

This is such a story:

Mark Zbikowski led the MS-DOS 2.0 project, and he sat down with a stopwatch while Aaron Reynolds and Chris Peters tried to swap floppy disks on an IBM PC as fast as they could.

They couldn’t do it under two seconds.

So the MS-DOS cache validity was set to two seconds. If two disk accesses occurred within two seconds of each other, the second one would assume that the cached values were still good.

Raymond Chen blog

There are more links in the original article – so go there and down that rabbit hole!

AR use-case: Motorcycle Helmet

I do not drive motor cycles. I never found a reason to.

Given that non-experience: I can only assume that something like this helmet would really make a difference for bikers.

With the integrated camera system it will have a rear-view mirror screen in sight all the time and be able to overlay all sorts of information into the field-of-view of the driver. In addition it seems to be capable to augment the audio getting to the driver in various ways.

If you are as interested as I am, despite not having a motorcycle: take a look at the Indiegogo campaign.

receiving data from deep space with 159 bytes per second

To remind you of the recently celebrated 42nd mission anniversary of the still active and data transmitting Voyager 2 space craft.

NASA’s Voyager 2 is the second spacecraft to enter interstellar space. On Dec. 10, 2018, the spacecraft joined its twin—Voyager 1—as the only human-made objects to enter the space between the stars

Voyager 2 Homepage

And what reminded me of this astonishing achievement.

Think of this: You are flying at >34k miles per hour. You are >18.5 billion miles away from earth. (It’ll take >16 hours at light speed one-way trip from earth to you). And on top, you are still able to send data back to earth at 159 bytes per second.

Mind. Blowing.

Fonts for Coders: Cascadia

Microsoft recently is releasing a lot of tools and assets for developers and terminal monkeys.

This is good. Very nice of them.

The recent release of a font specifically for terminal and code editing use seems worth a mention here:

Cascadia Code was announced this past May at Microsoft’s Build event. It is the latest monospaced font shipped from Microsoft and provides a fresh experience for command line experiences and code editors. Cascadia Code was developed hand-in-hand with the new Windows Terminal application. This font is most recommended to be used with terminal applications and text editors such as Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code.

Cascadia Code announcement

What’s most interesting about this: It’s got code ligatures. Just recently a lot of development focussed fonts showed up and they started to incorporate special characters for development specific character combinations:

Cascadia Code supports programming ligatures! Programming ligatures are most useful when writing code, as they create new glyphs by combining characters. This helps make code more readable and user-friendly for some people.

Cascadia

good wireguard tutorial

If you, like me, are looking into new emerging tools and technologies you might also look at Wireguard.

WireGuard® is an extremely simple yet fast and modern VPN that utilizes state-of-the-art cryptography. It aims to be faster, simpler, leaner, and more useful than IPsec, while avoiding the massive headache. It intends to be considerably more performant than OpenVPN. WireGuard is designed as a general purpose VPN for running on embedded interfaces and super computers alike, fit for many different circumstances. Initially released for the Linux kernel, it is now cross-platform (Windows, macOS, BSD, iOS, Android) and widely deployable. It is currently under heavy development, but already it might be regarded as the most secure, easiest to use, and simplest VPN solution in the industry.

bold wireguard website statement

To apply and get started with WireGuard on Linux and iOS I’ve used the very nice tutorial of Graham Stevens: WireGuard Setup Guide for iOS.

This guide will walk you through how to setup WireGuard in a way that all your client outgoing traffic will be routed via another machine (server). This is ideal for situations where you don’t trust the local network (public or coffee shop wifi) and wish to encrypt all your traffic to a server you trust, before routing it to the Internet.

WireGuard Setup Guide for iOS.

Wave Function Collapse

I’ve written on this topic before here. And as developers venture more into these generative algorithms it’s all that more fun to see even the intermediate results.

Oskar Stålberg writes about his little experiments and bigger libraries on Twitter. The above short demonstration was created by him.

Especially worth a look is the library he made available on GitHub: mxgmn/WaveFunctionCollapse.

Some more context, of questionable helpfulness:

In quantum mechanicswave function collapse occurs when a wave function—initially in a superposition of several eigenstates—reduces to a single eigenstate due to interaction with the external world. This interaction is called an “observation”. It is the essence of a measurement in quantum mechanics which connects the wave function with classical observables like position and momentum. Collapse is one of two processes by which quantum systems evolve in time; the other is the continuous evolution via the Schrödinger equation. Collapse is a black box for a thermodynamically irreversible interaction with a classical environment. Calculations of quantum decoherence predict apparent wave function collapse when a superposition forms between the quantum system’s states and the environment’s states. Significantly, the combined wave function of the system and environment continue to obey the Schrödinger equation.

Wikipedia: WFC

Right. Well. Told you. Here are some nice graphics of this applied to calm you: