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

Tool: Partition Recovery and Undelete – Testdisk

Mass storage hardware breaks all the time. Sometimes it’s hardware that breaks, but sometimes it’s the software that breaks. If it’s the software (or own talent) that made the data go boom, TestDisk is a tool you should know about.

DISCLAIMER: If the data you are trying so recover is actually worth anything you might want to reserve to a professional data recovery service rather than trying to train-on-the-job.

Apart from the availability of pre-compiled packages for most operating systems you can also grab a bootable LiveCD when everything seems gone and lost.

The process itself is rather exciting (if you want the data back) and may require a fresh pair of pants upfront, throughout and after.

Thankfully there’s a great wiki and documentation of how to go about the business of data recovery.

TestDisk is powerful free data recovery software! It was primarily designed to help recover lost partitions and/or make non-booting disks bootable again when these symptoms are caused by faulty software: certain types of viruses or human error (such as accidentally deleting a Partition Table). Partition table recovery using TestDisk is really easy.

  • TestDisk can
    • Fix partition table, recover deleted partition
    • Recover FAT32 boot sector from its backup
    • Rebuild FAT12/FAT16/FAT32 boot sector
    • Fix FAT tables
    • Rebuild NTFS boot sector
    • Recover NTFS boot sector from its backup
    • Fix MFT using MFT mirror
    • Locate ext2/ext3/ext4 Backup SuperBlock
    • Undelete files from FAT, exFAT, NTFS and ext2 filesystem
    • Copy files from deleted FAT, exFAT, NTFS and ext2/ext3/ext4 partitions.

TestDisk has features for both novices and experts. For those who know little or nothing about data recovery techniques, TestDisk can be used to collect detailed information about a non-booting drive which can then be sent to a tech for further analysis. Those more familiar with such procedures should find TestDisk a handy tool in performing onsite recovery.

And if you give up, think about writing an article of you actually digging deeper:

Wireless Network Mapping – data source and data sink

When you work with wireless networks and you do programming and mobile app development that works with things like user location you might find this useful.

Take thousands of users and you’ve got the worlds wifi networks mapped…

WiGGLE (Wireless Geographic Logging Engine) is a project which takes wireless network data + location and puts it into a big database. On top of storage it’s giving you access to that data.

We consolidate location and information of wireless networks world-wide to a central database, and have user-friendly desktop and web applications that can map, query and update the database via the web.

https://wigle.net/faq

So what’s my use-case? Apart from the obvious I will make use of this by finding out more about those fellow travelers around me. Many people probably to the same as me: Travel with a small wifi / 4g access point. Whenever this accesspoints shows up in scans the path will be traceable.

I am curious to see which access point around me is in the million-mile club yet…

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.

the-federation

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.

WiFi QR Code Generator

Whenever we arrive at a place that we have not been before it is important to get properly connected to the internet.

Finding wifi SSIDs and typing passwords is tedious and prone to errors. There is an easier way of course!

The owner of the wireless network can generate a QR code that you can easily take a photo of and your phone will automatically prompt you to log into the wireless network without you having to type anything.

On your phone it looks like this:

To generate these QR codes that contain all information for visitors/new users to connect this simple tool / online generator can be used:

Ever wanted to create a cool QR code for your guests? But never wanted to type in your WiFi credentials into a form that submits them to a remote webserver to render the QR code? QiFi for the rescue! It will render the code in your browser, on your machine, so the WiFi stays as secure as it was before (read the code if you do not trust text on the internet :-))!

Qifi.org

Don’t worry: your access point information is not transferred over the internet. As this is open source at the time of writing the data was held in HTML 5 local storage on the local browser only and not transferred out.

generate web-ready graphs and data visualizations without coding

Plot.ly is both a well known software library of impressive visualizations and a company providing software and know-how around visualizations.

With the libraries requiring a fair amount of know-how and programming to be useful to everyone there is now seemingly a multitude of tools that wraps the powers of the library and provides a great online-/web-browser experience to create impressive visualizations:

The access path to this quite powerful tool does somehow not be very easily found. So I am linking to it for your and my later reference.

electronic firecracker: Chuwi Hi10 AIR Tablet

The Android tablets I am using for my kitchen scale display and for myfitnesspal data-entry are aging quite bad and apart from the near-display death of one of the tablets both are not supported and updated anymore.

Using them therefore poses an increasing risk. After one of them almost died on me I was determined to replace them both. Looking at alternatives at the lowest possible price quickly showed that I am not going to get another Android tablet.

Instead I was ready to give a chinese company a chance:

I ordered it on 24th of June and it was delivered today. All in all I’ve paid 136 Euro for the tablet and 45 Euro for the keyboard attachement.

Despite the ridiculously low price this thing is quite impressive. It’s sporting a fast-enough Intel Atom processor with 1.4 ghz and 4 Gbyte of RAM. The 64 Gb of solid-state storage where quickly upgraded by an additional 400 Gb MicroSD card for local data storage.

As of writing this it’s still installing and updating the Windows 10 to 1903 but so far I am beyond impressed.

I’ll write more about the device when I’ve had more time to use it. One word for the keyboard attachement: the keyboard is good-enough. Not great but better than for example that on the Pinebook. The touchpad is very small but works – the thing has a Touchscreen anyway.

retrofuturism sketches

On twitter and artstation I’ve came across Sheng Lam. An artist with a quite fascinating way of sketching. Take a look and be inspired:

Concept artist with AAA experience. Currently working on Star Citizen at Cloud Imperium Games. Mostly draws and likes to eat delicious food.

Sheng Lam on ArtStation

I don’t like the long-tail Windows 10 default cursor

The first device in my household recently has updated itself to the newest Windows 10 1903 build.

On the very first moment of the login screen appearing and logging in I could tell that I hate one specific change that has made it into this latest update.

And it’s the default mouse cursor.

Back in the Pre-Windows Vista days, when I used to work for Microsoft, I was using the latest internal build of Windows and just around the first RTM (release-to-manufacture) build they touched up on the final designs.

I remember vividly when the mouse cursor had changed from the one we new and used since Windows 3 to a shorter tailed more “high-def” looking one.

Since then there were a couple of changes on the cursor but the general design was kept.

Now apparently with the latest Windows 10 update from 1803 to 1903 I got a new – old default mouse cursor.

left: like!
right: booh!

By reflex I changed it back to the one I love and stored safely in a backup. I cannot stand the long tail and the weird pixel-ness of the cursor. It just looks kinda weird to my eyes.

the “new” cursor in 1903
the beloved cursor.

Which one do you like better?

terminates the calling process if buffer is not a valid userspace pointer.

How to build security into your software? It’s always simple to find examples where things gone wrong. Where security was compromised and things did not work out as the software authors envisioned.

As always there are new concepts and operating systems being implemented.

A particularly interesting example of security software design can be observed here:

Fuchsia is an open source capability-based operating system currently being developed by Google.

In contrast to prior Google-developed operating systems such as Chrome OS and Android, which are based on the Linux kernel, Fuchsia is based on a new microkernel called Zircon. The name Zircon refers to the mineral of the same name.

Google Fuchsia

So you now know what Fuchsia is. Now on to the actual example. For this we have to take a look into the developer documentation of Zircon:

So this describes a method to get random numbers from the systems cryptocraphically-secure-random-number-generator (CPRNG). It takes a pointer to a memory location as a parameter.

Now. What’s secure about that? It’s the behaviour of the method when it is encountering an unsecure situation:

It’ll kill the calling process when the pointer is not valid.

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:

#!/bin/bash

# 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`;
do
        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"
done

IP-over-DNS

Picture yourself in this situation. You connect to a network and nothing works. Except for this:

It is quite common to have DNS working in networks while everything else is not. Sometimes the network requires a log-in to give you access to a small portion of the internet.

Now, with the help of a tool called iodine, you can get access to the full internet with only DNS working in your current network:

iodine lets you tunnel IPv4 data through a DNS server. This can be usable in different situations where internet access is firewalled, but DNS queries are allowed. 

It runs on Linux, Mac OS X, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD and Windows and needs a TUN/TAP device. The bandwidth is asymmetrical with limited upstream and up to 1 Mbit/s downstream. 

iodine

Setting it up is a bit of work but given that you are anyway having access to a well connected server on the free portion of the internet it can be easily done.

Of course the source is on github.

making ICs at home

Try to wrap your head around this: There are people out there that take the term “Maker” to new levels. People Like Sam Zeloof. He went out and created his very own integrated circuit designs and then he built them. Like the actual silicon, the die, the bonded chip, the IC. The real thing.

Be inspired:

I am very excited to announce the details of my first integrated circuit and share the journey that this project has taken me on over the past year. I hope that my success will inspire others and help start a revolution in home chip fabrication. When I set out on this project I had no idea of what I had gotten myself into, but in the end I learned more than I ever thought I would about physics, chemistry, optics, electronics, and so many other fields. Furthermore, my efforts have only been matched with the most positive feedback and support from the world; I owe a sincere thanks to everyone who has helped me, given me advice, and inspired me on this project. Especially my amazing parents, who not only support and encourage me in any way they can but also give me a space to work in and put up with the electricity costs… Thank you!

Sam Zeloof

Decoding history, the hard way (and with machine learning)

Imagine you’ve got this ancient piece of technology in front of you. You clearly understand how the hardware works and you are even able to emulate the hardware on your modern-world computer.

Unfortunately hardware is only one half of the story. Software is the other half. And software at this time of the past was burned into chips which do not easily give their secret software away.

But let’s start with the hardware:

The IBM 5100 Portable Computer is a portable computer (one of the first) introduced in September 1975, six years before the IBM Personal Computer. It was the evolution of a prototype called the SCAMP (Special Computer APL Machine Portable) that was developed at the IBM Palo Alto Scientific Center in 1973. In January 1978, IBM announced the IBM 5110, its larger cousin, and in February 1980 IBM announced the IBM 5120. The 5100 was withdrawn in March 1982.

When the IBM PC was introduced in 1981, it was originally designated as the IBM 5150, putting it in the “5100” series, though its architecture was not directly descended from the IBM 5100.

And now on to the software:

The IBM 5100 portable computer came with some of its built-in programs stored in a read-only memory called the “non-executable ROS”. (ROS = “read-only storage”.) In contrast with the “executable ROS”, which supplies instructions to the 5100’s processor directly, the non-executable ROS is accessed using sequential I/O operations, a bit like a tape.

Most notably, the non-executable ROS holds the interactive interpreters for the APL and BASIC programming languages. These are not “native” 5100 programs but were expressed instead in System/370 mainframe and System/3 minicomputer machine code respectively. The 5100 runs emulator programs for those computers in order to host the interpreters, so perhaps it’s just as well that the non-executable ROS is non-executable.

DATA

So this write-up is all about how the bits where pushed to the screen and recorded as pictures of the said screen. The characters in these pictures then where analyzed and with the help of machine learning the data could be successfully extracted. It is mind-boggling. And it is all on Github.

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!

Source

seen: properly scrolling through code

When working on source files with wide-ranging scopes, I wish source editors could pin the declaration lines to the top of the window like section headers, something like this…

Joe Groff on Twitter

This looks like something that would really make a difference when editing code. Let’s see how long until we get something like that in modern editors…

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.

https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=3317550.3321426

“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?”.

serve live interactive Jupyter notebooks

The Jupyter Notebook is an open-source web application that allows you to create and share documents that contain live code, equations, visualizations and narrative text. Uses include: data cleaning and transformation, numerical simulation, statistical modeling, data visualization, machine learning, and much more.

voilá

Voila serves live Jupyter notebook including Jupyter interactive widgets.

Unlike the usual HTML-converted notebooks, each user connecting to the Voila tornado application gets a dedicated Jupyter kernel which can execute the callbacks to changes in Jupyter interactive widgets.

https://github.com/QuantStack/voila

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 :-).

Faux Joe Rogan

Our deep learning engineers at Dessa built a model to replicate Joe Rogan’s voice to showcase current AI techniques. To understand how we developed the technology and to discuss the ethical implications of this work, read our announcement article.

fakejoerogan.com

They’ve got 8 example sound snippets and it’s up to you to identify the fake or the real file:

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.

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…