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

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.

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…

Hack-The-Planet Podcast: Episode 17

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.

Hack-The-Planet Podcast: Episode 16

Links:

Reminder: addition of floating point numbers is NOT associative

Reminder: addition of floating point numbers is NOT associative… (0.1 + 0.2) + 0.3 ≠ 0.1 + (0.2 + 0.3) …and this is true in basically _any_ language that uses floating point numbers. Here it is in javascript in the browser console:

Mark Kriegsman on Twitter

Skyscrapers unite!

If you’ve ever wondered how this huge building in front of you compares to all the huge sky scrapers around the world: There’s a page for you.

SkypscaperPage gives data and diagrams of the worlds tall buildings. You can even add the one right in front of you yourself!

Kawasaki Skyscraper Diagram

And comparing the biggest building in Kawasaki with the biggest buildings of the world:

I guess Kawasaki is not doing bad, given that Park City is a residential building with mostly apartments…

Linux mac80211 compatible full-stack Wi-Fi design based on SDR

In a tweet we were given an early christmas present – open-sdr released an open source software Wi-Fi stack that utilizes software-defined-radio technology to implement actual working Wi-Fi.

Features:

  • 802.11a/g; 802.11n MCS 0~7; 20MHz
  • Mode tested: Ad-hoc; Station; AP
  • DCF (CSMA/CA) low MAC layer in FPGA
  • Configurable channel access priority parameters:
    • duration of RTS/CTS, CTS-to-self
    • SIFS/DIFS/xIFS/slot-time/CW/etc
  • Time slicing based on MAC address
  • Easy to change bandwidth and frequency:
    • 2MHz for 802.11ah in sub-GHz
    • 10MHz for 802.11p/vehicle in 5.9GHz
  • On roadmap: 802.11ax

See this demonstration:

25.5 kg force mobile power suite

It’s 3.8 kg and delivers 25.5 kg of force. Impressive! And it’s in stores (in Japan).

The “Every Muscle Suit” has a lot going for it. Weighing just 3.8 kilograms, the pneumatic artificial muscle suit is powerful enough to generate up to 25.5 kilogram-force and effectively relieves pressure on users’ backs when performing activities like heavy lifting.

Best of all, its streamlined design conceals an advanced air pressure system that doesn’t require electricity or batteries.

Japan Today

TESLA PowerWall 2 Security Shenanigans

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  • GUI wide open.
  • Default password on WiFi and management interface
  • Attacker can cause financial damage to consumer
  • Attacker can dump entire PW Load into the grid at once
  • Attacker can oscilate between CHARGING and DUMPING (microseconds, the poor sub-station!)
  • Attacker can change grid codes.

More here. At least somebody looked into the security and attack potential of these things.

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.

https://electronicvisions.github.io/hbp-sp9-guidebook/index.html

DIRECTIVE 2009/24/EC – Article 6 – Decompilation

Article 6
Decompilation

  1. The authorisation of the rightholder shall not be required
    where reproduction of the code and translation of its form
    within the meaning of points (a) and (b) of Article 4(1) are
    indispensable to obtain the information necessary to achieve
    the interoperability of an independently created computer
    program with other programs, provided that the following
    conditions are met:

    (a) those acts are performed by the licensee or by another
    person having a right to use a copy of a program, or on
    their behalf by a person authorised to do so;

    (b) the information necessary to achieve interoperability has not
    previously been readily available to the persons referred to
    in point (a); and

    (c) those acts are confined to the parts of the original program
    which are necessary in order to achieve interoperability.
  2. The provisions of paragraph 1 shall not permit the information obtained through its application:

    (a) to be used for goals other than to achieve the interoperability of the independently created computer program;

    (b) to be given to others, except when necessary for the interoperability of the independently created computer program;
    or

    (c) to be used for the development, production or marketing of
    a computer program substantially similar in its expression,
    or for any other act which infringes copyright.
  3. In accordance with the provisions of the Berne
    Convention for the protection of Literary and Artistic Works,
    the provisions of this Article may not be interpreted in such a
    way as to allow its application to be used in a manner which
    unreasonably prejudices the rightholder’s legitimate interests or
    conflicts with a normal exploitation of the computer program.

Original in english and german.

Steno for all

Shorthand is an abbreviated symbolic writing method that increases speed and brevity of writing as compared to longhand, a more common method of writing a language. The process of writing in shorthand is called stenography, from the Greekstenos (narrow) and graphein (to write). It has also been called brachygraphy, from Greek brachys (short) and tachygraphy, from Greek tachys (swift, speedy), depending on whether compression or speed of writing is the goal.

Wikipedia

Of course there’s hardware:

Georgi: Steno For All

Georgi an economic, low profile rework of Gergo made for Steno. Fully assembled and ready to go!

Even when you’re not onto stenography, you it’ll be a full qwerty keyboard for you:

Celebrate Giftmas

Whollyday also known as Santa Claus Day occurring on 67 Aftermath aka 25 December.

A holyday celebrating the capitalist gift giving season.

Do the money dance, waving money in fans whilst blasting Money by Pink Floyd. Identify a ridiculously worthless toy and encourage all small children to want one. Select greyfaces to receive a particular theme gift (like banana-flavored edible underwear) from thousands.

Giftmas

Tabemono – from a name to UX and UI…

As you might know by now I am re-implementing MyFitnessPal functionality into my own application to be deeper integrated with kitchen hardware and my own personal use-cases rather than to be an add infested subscription based 3rd party applilcation.

So the development of this is ongoing, but I wanted to note down some progress and explanation.

Let’s start with explaining the name: Tabemono.

It does really mean something – and as some might have guessed – in japanese:

Tabemono – 食べ物

Taking just the first Kanji:

Implementing the UI from the UX has proven to be as challenging as expected.

When we started to toss around the idea of re-implementing our food-tracking-needs we started with a simple scribble on post-it notes.

This quickly led to a digital version of this to better reflect what we wanted to happen during the different steps of use…

It wasn’t nice but it did act as an reminder of what we wanted to achieve.

The first thing we learned here was that this will all evolve while we are working on it.

So during a long international flight I’ve spent the better part of 11 hours on getting the above drawing into something resembling an iOS user interface mock-up. With the help of the (free for 1 private project) Adobe XD I clicked along and after 10 hours, this was the video I did of the click-dummy:

Since then I’ve spend maybe 1 more day and started the SwiftUI based implementation of the actual iOS application.

And this brought the first revelation: There are so many ideas that might make sense on paper and in a click-dummy. But only because those are just tools and not reality. It’s absolutely crucial to really DO the things rather than imagine them.

And so the second revelation came: If I had an advise to any product manager or developer out there: Go on and pick a project and try to go full-circle.

You ain’t full stack if you’re missing out on the understanding of the work and skill that your team members have and need.