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Comment Re:Where Are Today's Hobbyists? (Score 1) 612

I accidentally posted anonymously, so here's what I wrote, and what I want to add to:

Well, if you want to tinker with 1970s-era home computer technology, the parts for doing so still exist. One of my builds had a Zilog Z80 processor, 32kB of SRAM and EEPROM memory (no interface circuitry required), plus a 4 MHz clock generator. For output, I had 2 latch DACs and a latch gate, hooked up to the X, Y and Z (intensity) inputs of an oscilloscope. Plotting vectors on the screen every 20 or 40 ms only takes up a few processor cycles. Input from a PS/2 keyboard runs at such a low baud rate that you don't really need to worry about having a chip for it either. Use a simple multiplexer and a couple of logical gate chips to set up interrupt triggers for the screen refresh and keyboard input. I believe the PS/2 has a clock pin, so just trigger when that's high or low. You could hook up your EEPROM so the processor can flash it, for some primitive storage, or you could hook up an old tape deck to some simple analog circuitry, for Commodore 64-style storage. IBM PC floppy drives also use a very simple interface, but you'd need more logical circuitry. You could toss on another Z80 as an I/O co-processor and run them in lockstep with the 4 MHz clock. The possibilities for fun tinkering are endless.

I must admit that I've had trouble finding an easy, inexpensive way of prototyping. Sending PCB layouts to fabs is a little bit expensive, especially if you make a mistake. I've used veroboard in the past, but all the soldering for bus lines can take its toll on the copper tracks, especially if you make mistakes, and you often end up having to throw out a board after a while. I've been tempted to try wirewrapping tools lately, because of how easy it is to fix a mispatched connection. I have also experimented with laser printer etching, but it's time consuming, and the chemical brew you need for it is rather nasty. The closest thing I have gotten to "real time development" in the way you would do with software is SPICE, specifically LTspice in my case, but you have to watch out for some things. In the simulation, conductors are ideal and have no time delay, resistance or capacitance, and components behave perfectly, with no thermal noise, so you risk doing an entire design in SPICE, and then discovering later that you actually needed those seemingly optional decoupling capacitors for the circuit to remain stable. This becomes especially apparent as you get closer to the gigahertz range (and is part of the reason why circuits have kept shrinking over the years, as this reduces those side effects).


Submission + - Curiosity Rover Finds "Ancient Streambed" Proving Mars Once Had Water ( 3

eldavojohn writes: As NPR reports, NASA's Curiosity Rover has tweeted pictures of proof of water on Mars. Indications arose earlier this year but researchers are now calling this proof of a stream ankle to hip deep running at about three feet per second judging by the pictures. The shapes prove these rocks were weathered as they were transported by something and the sizes tell you that that something couldn't be wind.

Submission + - Sharp develops see-through solar panel for windows (

An anonymous reader writes: Solar power may hold the promise of free energy from the sun, but the panels used are expensive and do take up a lot of room. Typically you’ll find them installed on a roof or filling an area of land next to the building requiring the green energy. But now Sharp is offering up a third option: solar panels that double as windows.

Sharp has managed to develop a solar panel that takes the form of a sheet of glass and only partially blocks light passing through it. That allows it to still generate energy, but also act as a window. Sharp achieved this by cutting tiny slits in thin-film silicon PV cells. The trade-off for cutting into the cells is lower energy generation. Sharp can currently produce the see-through panels at sizes up to 1.4 x 1.0 meters, and a thickness of just 9.5mm. Each panel weighs 33kg and can produce a maximum output of 95W. Pricing has not yet been revealed.

Comment Re:Sarcastic or not? (Score 1) 353

The funny bit is that a pair of near field monitors can be had for 400 dollars or less these days and with built-in matched amplifiers for each element in the speaker cabinet, their accuracy often beats more expensive Hifi systems.


Submission + - Have you ever had the Programmer's Blues? (

ThJ writes: "This is a little tale of the troubles I have had since I started working as a programmer, and it might come off as a rant. I am currently 26 years old and I have been into electronics and computers since I was very young. With this article, I hope to share my experiences with other programmers, and get some useful feedback from the web community."

Submission + - Google Earth used by terrorists in Inda attacks (

Thor writes: "'The terrorists who attacked various locations in southern Mumbai last week used digital maps from Google Earth to learn their way around, according to officials investigating the attacks.

Investigations by the Mumbai police, including the interrogation of one nabbed terrorist, suggest that the terrorists were highly trained and used technologies such as satellite phones and the Global Positioning System, according to police.' the IDG News Service reports.

What are the moral implications of this? Does Google bear any indirect responsibility? What other modern-day tools could terrorists use to carry out such attacks? Could Google somehow help prevent future attacks, and what consequences would this have for privacy?"


Submission + - Organizing your files

Thor writes: "Over the years, a significant number of files have accumulated on my hard drive. I am not a very organized person, and this has naturally materialized itself in how these files have been (dis)organized. I have a 'Backup' folder. I have a 'Backup' folder inside of the 'Backup' folder. I have a 'Stuff' folder with an older 'Stuff' folder inside of it. My desktop is completely cluttered with icons, which will eventually end up in the 'Stuff' folder. You get the picture.

I presume that other people have the same problem. Further, I optimistically presume that they must have solved it in some glorious way that I am tragically unaware of. What I'm (presumably) looking for is some piece of software that will do the grunt work of sorting through my files, perhaps by following some sort of ruleset, placing them in categorized folders. Perhaps some kind of Bayesian filtering with a training window popping up when I drop new files on my desktop?

NOTE: I am a fan of Linux, but due to various circumstances, I use Windows XP as my desktop OS."

New Approach To Malware Modifies Linux Kernel 170

Hugh Pickens writes "Professor Avishai Wool has unveiled a program to watch for malware on servers with a modification to the Linux kernel. 'We modified the kernel in the system's operating system so that it monitors and tracks the behavior of the programs installed on it,' says Wool. Essentially, Wool says, his software team has built a model that predicts how software running on a server should work (pdf). If the kernel senses abnormal activity, it stops the program from working before malicious actions occur. 'When we see a deviation, we know for sure there's something bad going on,' Wool explains. Wool cites problems with costly anti-virus protection. 'Our methods are much more efficient and don't chew up the computer's resources.'"

Has the Higgs Boson Particle Field Been Hiding in Plain Sight? 163

sciencehabit writes with a link to the ScienceNow site, noting an article saying the Higgs boson may already have been found in previous observations of the known universe. A theorist at Michigan state is arguing that scientists may have already found evidence for the elusive particle. The key appears to be that the particles that make up the Higgs field are of various 'strengths', and some of those particles may tug on others very weakly. "The lightest Higgs can be very light indeed, but it would not have been seen at [CERN's Large Electron-Positron (LEP)], because LEP experimenters were looking for an energetic collision that made a Z that then spit out a Higgs. That wouldn't happen very often if the lightest Higgs and the Z hardly interact. 'Just within the simplest supersymmetric model, there's still room for Higgs that is missed,' Yuan says. However, this lightweight Higgs is not exactly the Higgs everyone is looking for, says Marcela Carena, a theorist at Fermilab. 'The Higgs they are talking about is not the one responsible for giving mass to the W and Z,' she says. It can't be because it hardly interacts with those particles, Carena says. Indeed, in Yuan's model, the role of mass-giver falls to one of the heavier Higgses, which is still heavier than the LEP limit, she notes."
Red Hat Software

Fedora 8 A Serious Threat to Ubuntu 334

Tubs writes "According to's latest article, Fedora 8 from Red Hat is a serious threat to Ubuntu. The author writes, "I was never that swept up with past releases of Fedora. There was nothing compelling about it. But for the first time, I cannot help but feel that the Fedora team has been spoon fed an extra helping of Wheaties, which has put them into overdrive with their accessibility efforts."

Schneier On the War On the Unexpected 405

jamie found this essay by Bruce Schneier, The War on the Unexpected. (It originally appeared in Wired but this version has all the links.) "We've opened up a new front on the war on terror. It's an attack on the unique, the unorthodox, the unexpected; it's a war on different. If you act different, you might find yourself investigated, questioned, and even arrested — even if you did nothing wrong, and had no intention of doing anything wrong. The problem is a combination of citizen informants and a CYA attitude among police that results in a knee-jerk escalation of reported threats... After someone reports a 'terrorist threat,' the whole system is biased towards escalation and CYA instead of a more realistic threat assessment... If you ask amateurs to act as front-line security personnel, you shouldn't be surprised when you get amateur security."

Bridgestone Shows Off Ultra-Thin, Full-Color e-Paper 177

Bridgestone, the company which debuted the "world's thinnest" sheet of two-color e-paper last year, has turned around and delivered a new version which is capable of displaying over four thousand colors. "In case that wasn't enough, the company is also touting what it calls the "world's largest full color e-paper that is A3 size, which is equivalent to a 21.4-inch screen." As you'd expect, the latter is expected to be used solely for advertising and could hit the market as early as next year, while the former technology is set to be commercially available in 2009."

Replacing a Thinkpad? 902

An anonymous reader writes "As a very happy Thinkpad T20 user (still working after 7 years), I always planned on replacing it with another Thinkpad T-series. However, Thinkpads are now produced by Lenovo, a Chinese company, and I can't quite bear to buy Chinese while the Burmese military are shooting at monks with the Chinese Government as their biggest backer. Maybe this is silly, as whatever I buy is likely to be made (at least in part) in China... but still, what are my options for something as well built as the Thinkpad T-series?"

The Downsides of Software as Service 326

JustinBrock writes "Dvorak's article yesterday, entitled Don't Trust the Servers, argues that the danger of software as a service was highlighted when 'the WGA [Windows Genuine Advantage] server outage hit on Friday evening and was finally repaired on Saturday. It was down for 19 long hours.' The whole fiasco raises an interesting perspective on the software as a service 'fetish'. Dvorak highlights it hypothetically: What if the timeline were reversed, and we were moving from online apps to the desktop. Hear his prophecy of the marketing: 'You can image the advertising push. "Now control your own data!" "Faster processing power now." "Cheaper!" "Everything at your fingertips." "No need to worry about network outages." "Faster, cheaper, more reliable." On and on. I can almost hear the marketing types brag about how much better "shrink wrap" software is than the flaky online apps. The best line for the emergence of the desktop computer in a reverse timeline would be "It's about time!"'"

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"When the going gets tough, the tough get empirical." -- Jon Carroll