OpenFood Facts

Open Food Facts gathers information and data on food products from around the world.

To replace MyFitnessPal in our toolchain I am on the hunt for at least some quality food fact data.

The Open Food Facts data base seems to be one source – although in sparse and questionable quality (after first initial testing).

There is a comprehensive documentation about the fields of data supported. And there are several formats that the raw data can be downloaded in.

There are ready-made applications available as well. Definitly worth looking into further.

smart OpenVPN client for iOS

There is a free and well integrated OpenVPN client for iOS devices already. And as much as this one works quite well it’s also lacking some comfort features that are now made available through alternative iOS client implementations of OpenVPN.

OpenVPN is an open-source commercial software that implements virtual private network techniques to create secure point-to-point or site-to-site connections in routed or bridged configurations and remote access facilities. It uses a custom security protocol that utilizes SSL/TLS for key exchange.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenVPN

Meet Passepartout. The iOS OpenVPN client that comes with lots of comfort features. Of main interest for me is that Passepartout is aware of the connection you’re currently using and can adopt it’s VPN tunnel status accordingly.

Passepartout is a smart OpenVPN client perfectly integrated with the iOS platform. Passepartout is the only app you need for both well-known OpenVPN providers and your personal OpenVPN servers.

collection of pure bash alternatives to external processes

The goal of this book is to document commonly-known and lesser-known methods of doing various tasks using only built-in bash features. Using the snippets from this bible can help remove unneeded dependencies from scripts and in most cases make them faster. I came across these tips and discovered a few while developing neofetchpxltrm and other smaller projects.

https://github.com/dylanaraps/pure-bash-bible

eXoDOS

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.

https://exodos.the-eye.eu/

the big list of RTL-SDR supported software

RTL-SDR is a very cheap ~$25 USB dongle that can be used as a computer based radio scanner for receiving live radio signals in your area (no internet required). Depending on the particular model it could receive frequencies from 500 kHz up to 1.75 GHz. Most software for the RTL-SDR is also community developed, and provided free of charge.

The origins of RTL-SDR stem from mass produced DVB-T TV tuner dongles that were based on the RTL2832U chipset. With the combined efforts of Antti Palosaari, Eric Fry and Osmocom (in particular Steve Markgraf) it was found that the raw I/Q data on the RTL2832U chipset could be accessed directly, which allowed the DVB-T TV tuner to be converted into a wideband software defined radio via a custom software driver developed by Steve Markgraf. If you’ve ever enjoyed the RTL-SDR project please consider donating to Osmocom via Open Collective as they are the ones who developed the drivers and brought RTL-SDR to life.

https://www.rtl-sdr.com/about-rtl-sdr/

And since the hardware is so affordable there’s lots of software and therefore things that can be done with it.

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

Streamsheets

Streamsheets is, similar to NodeRed, a tool to step in between MQTT data coming in and something being done with it. Just other than NodeRed it is not based on flows but on a spreadsheet that executes in it’s entirety everytime a step is made.

Streamsheets are a new spreadsheet technology specifically designed for real-time data stream processing and the opportunities of digitization and the Industrial IoT.

Streamsheets

SwiftUI on the Web

SwiftUI is the new cool kid on the block when it comes to iOS/iPadOS/macOS application development.

As Apple announced SwiftUI early 2019 it’s naturally only focussing on making all the declarative UI goodness available for the Apple operating systems. No non-apple platforms in focus. Naturally.

But there are ways. With the declarative way of creating user interfaces one apparently can simply start to re-implement the UI controls and have them render as HTML / Javascript…

The SwiftWebUI project is aiming to do so:

Unlike some other efforts this doesn’t just render SwiftUI Views as HTML. It also sets up a connection between the browser and the code hosted in the Swift server, allowing for interaction – buttons, pickers, steppers, lists, navigation, you get it all!

In other words: SwiftWebUI is an implementation of (many but not all parts of) the SwiftUI API for the browser.

To repeat the Disclaimer: This is a toy project! Do not use for production. Use it to learn more about SwiftUI and its inner workings.

SwiftWebUI

Making a RISC-V operating system using Rust

As RISC-V progressively challenges the existing ARM processor ecosystem it’s interesting to see more and more software projects popping up that aim that RISC-V architecture.

Here’s one project that aims to develop (and explain along the way) how to create an operating system from scratch. On top of the RISC-V specifics this tutorial also aims to teach how this all can be done in a programming language called Rust.

Keep in mind that all of this is done on a baremetal system. No other software is running.

RISC-V (“risk five”) and the Rust programming language both start with an R, so naturally they fit together. In this blog, we will write an operating system targeting the RISC-V architecture in Rust (mostly). If you have a sane development environment for RISC-V, you can skip the setup parts right to bootloading. Otherwise, it’ll be fairly difficult to get started.

This tutorial will progressively build an operating system from start to something that you can show your friends or parents — if they’re significantly young enough. Since I’m rather new at this I decided to make it a “feature” that each blog post will mature as time goes on. More details will be added and some will be clarified. I look forward to hearing from you!

The Adventures of OS

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.

REST-API testing: Reqres

I am back again and developing some smaller APIs for my own use.

As I am learning a new programming language and framework (SwiftUI) and for my little learning project I need to also implement a server backend. Implementing a RESTful service is quite straight-forward but for testing and UI prototyping I actually want to do some testing before really setting up the server side.

To easily test RESTful calls without actually implementing anything I found that Reqres is a quite useful tool to have in the toolbelt:

Apart from some pre-set-up API endpoints with dummy data (like users, …) it also features a request mirror service.

With that you can simply throw a JSON document into the general direction of Reqres and it will put a timestamp on it and return it right away.

Like so:

Writing Network Drivers in C#

Somebody had to do it. Maximilian Stadlmeier did:

User space network drivers on Linux are often used in production environments to improve the performance of network-heavy applications. However, their inner workings are not clear to most
programmers who use them. ixy aims to change this by providing a small educational user space network driver, which is gives a good overview of how these drivers work, using only 1000 lines of C code.
While the language C is a good common denominator, which many developers are familiar with, its syntax is often much more dicult to read than that of more modern languages and makes the driver seem more complex than it actually is.

For this thesis I created a C# version of ixy, named ixy.cs, which utilizes the more modern syntax and additional safety of the C# programming language in order to make user space network driver development even more accessible. The viability of C# for driver programming will be analyzed and its advantages and disadvantages will be discussed.

The actual implementation (with other programming languages as well) can be found here.

Apparently it’s not as slow as you might think:

Odometer for the HUD

Since I am back at developing the Head-Up-Display app I was writing about in February (yeah, mornings got darker again!) I want to leave this nice looking Odometer Javascript library here:

Odometer is a Javascript and CSS library for smoothly transitioning numbers. See the demo page for some examples.

Odometer’s animations are handled entirely in CSS using transforms making them extremely performant, with automatic fallback on older browsers.

odometer

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?!

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.

ASCII browser games

A lot is going on in browsers these days. They are becoming increasingly powerful and resource-demanding.

So it just feels natural to combine high resource usage infrastructure with low resource using graphics to get the worst of both worlds.

Not quite, but you get the idea.

There’s a guy on the internet (haha) who dedicates time to write ASCII / character based graphics engines and games with it.

Meet MrGumix:

Of course, what’s that games and graphics?

Exhibit #1:

And the more advanced Exhibit #2:

using AI to generate human faces from emojis and thumbnails

Back in March 2019 we’d already seen artificial people. Yawn.

Back then a Generative adversarial network (GAN) was used to produce random human faces from scratch. It synthesized human faces out of randomness.

Now take it a step further and input actual small images. Like thumbnails or emojis or else.

And what do you get?

Quite impressive, eh? There’s more after the jump.

Oh and they wrote a paper about it: Progressive Face Super-Resolution via Attention to Facial Landmark

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.

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.

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.

http://www.hertzianlandscapes.com/

C# PlayStation emulation

After looking into the NES emulation written entirely in C# I came across a similar approach using C# to emulate a full and much more complex PlayStation 1.

Scott Hanselman wrote:

I then stumbled on this very early version of a PSX Emulator in C#.

Now, if you were to theoretically have a Playtation SCPH1001.BIN BIOS and then physically owned a Playstation (as I do) and then created a BIN file from your physical copy of Crash Bandicoot, you could happily run it as you can see in the screenshot below.

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!

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.

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.