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Biology Lab on Your Christmas List December 11, 2018

We hope you have been good this year because we have a list to start your own biology lab and not everything will fit into Santa’s bag (of holding). If you need some last minute goodie points, Santa loves open-source and people who share on our tip line. Our friends at [The Thought Emporium] have […]

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Biology Lab on Your Christmas List

We hope you have been good this year because we have a list to start your own biology lab and not everything will fit into Santa’s bag (of holding). If you need some last minute goodie points, Santa loves open-source and people who share on our tip line. Our friends at [The Thought Emporium] have compiled a list of the necessary equipment for a biology lab. Chemistry labs-in-a-box have been the inspiration for many young chemists, but there are remarkable differences between a chemistry lab and a biology lab which are explained in the Youtube video linked above and embedded after the break.

If you are preparing to start a laboratory or wondering what to add to your fledging lab, this video is perfect. It comes from the perspective of a hacker not afraid to make tools like his heat block and incubator which should absolutely be built rather than purchased but certain things, like a centrifuge, should be purchased when the lab is mature. In the middle we have the autoclave where a used pressure cooker may do the trick or you may need a full-blown commercial model with lots of space and a high-pressure range.

Maybe this will take some of the mystique out of starting your own lab and help you understand what is happening with a gel dock or why a spectrophotometer is the bee’s knees. There are a handful of other tools not mentioned here so if this is resonating, it will be worth a watch.

Biology Lab on Your Christmas List
Source: HackADay

It’s a Briefcase! It’s a Pizza Box! No, It’s a Mini Satellite

Orbiting instruments are now so small they can be launched by the dozens, and even high school students can build them. It’s a Briefcase! It’s a Pizza Box! No, It’s a Mini Satellite
Source: NY Times Tech

Interfacing Phillips Hue Lights With Everything

The Internet of Things is eating the world alive, and we can’t buy incandescent light bulbs anymore. This means the Internet is now in light bulbs, and with that comes some special powers. You can turn lights on and off from a botnet. You can change the colors. This is the idea for the Phillips Hue system, which is well respected among people who like putting their lights on the Internet. There are other brands — and you can make your own — but the Phillips Hue system does work pretty well.

This is what led [Marius] create the software to interface various electronics with the Phillips Hue system. It’s a project called diyHue, and already there’s a vibrant community of devs creating their own smart lights and connecting them to the Internet.

The software for this project is built in Python, and is designed to run on certain single board computers. This allows the SBC to connect to the Phillips Hue bridge so Hue bulbs can be controlled, a MiLight hub so MiLight bulbs can be controlled, or, with the addition of a ZigBee radio, all those ZigBee devices can be controlled. Right now the only thing that doesn’t work is Google Home (because it requires a remote API), the Home & Away future from the Hue app (again, remote API), and the Eneco Toon.

There really are a fantastic number of devices this software works with, and if you’re building out your Internet-connected home lighting solution, this is one piece of software you need to check out. Thanks to [cheesemarathon] for bringing our attention to this. He also liked it so much he’s now contributing to the github. Very cool.

Interfacing Phillips Hue Lights With Everything
Source: HackADay

Apple’s older iPhones might be banned in China over a tussle with Qualcomm


Last night, chipmaker Qualcomm announced that a Chinese court has awarded it two preliminary injunctions against Apple that might lead to it being banned from selling its older phone models, ranging from the iPhone 6S to the iPhone X. However, Apple said that the phones are still on sale across China. The Fuzhou Intermediate People’s Court ordered four subsidiaries of Apple to stop infringing two Qualcomm patents. These patents include reformatting the size and appearance of a photograph, and managing apps on a touchscreen phone through functions for viewing, navigating, and dismissing them. Now, these patents apply to devices running iOS 11 or…

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Apple’s older iPhones might be banned in China over a tussle with Qualcomm
Source: The Next Web

Instagram gets WhatsApp-style walkie-talkie voice messages


Facebook-owned Instagram has just added one of the best features from its sister app, WhatsApp: direct voice messages. Just as in WhatsApp, you can find it in any conversation (including group chats) in the Direct messaging section of the app. Tap and hold the microphone button located in the text entry box, and you can record a message to send to your contacts. They can listen to it whenever they like. I use this a lot on WhatsApp already: it’s great for when your hands aren’t free to type, or if you need to explain something complex quickly. And seeing as how…

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Instagram gets WhatsApp-style walkie-talkie voice messages
Source: The Next Web

Watch scientists make and explode lava to study volcanoes – CNET

When water and lava collide, you’d better get out of the way. Watch scientists make and explode lava to study volcanoes – CNET
Source: CNet

Bootstrapping An MSDOS Assembler With Batch Files

You have a clean MSDOS system, and you need to write some software for it. What do you do? You could use debug, of course. But there are no labels so while you can get machine code from mnemonics, you’ll still need to figure out the addresses on your own. That wasn’t good enough for [mniip], who created an assembler using mostly batch files. There are a few .COM files and it looks as if the first time you use debug to create those, but there’s also source you can assemble on subsequent builds with the assembler.

Why? We aren’t entirely sure. But it is definitely a hack. The technique sort of reminded us of our own universal cross assembler — sort of.

There are a few things that make this work. First, there are not many 8086 instructions to worry about. Second, you have to use a special format — essentially prefixing the op codes with CALL. This keeps the assembler from having to parse op codes. You actually call a batch file with the name of the instruction. For example:

CALL PUSH CS
CALL POP DS
CALL MOV DX WORD %String%

CALL LABEL String
REM H e l l o , w
CALL DB 72 101 108 108 111 44 32 119

That code snippet shows another nuance. You have to CALL LABEL to introduce a label. To use the label in an instruction, you have to surround it with percent signs.

Of course, as a practical matter, you could use gcc to build a proper assembler. But where’s the sport in that?

Bootstrapping An MSDOS Assembler With Batch Files
Source: HackADay

Porsche recalling Macan, Cayenne accessory over incorrect thread? – Roadshow

The German automaker is recalling an improperly manufactured ski accessory because it could fail dangerously in a crash. Porsche recalling Macan, Cayenne accessory over incorrect thread? – Roadshow
Source: CNet

Seattle Seahawks uniforms go Grinch-green on Monday Night Football – CNET

It’s not easy being green, especially when your team looks like a highlighter dipped in nuclear waste. Seattle Seahawks uniforms go Grinch-green on Monday Night Football – CNET
Source: CNet

NBA star Steph Curry drops ball, suggests NASA moon landing was faked – CNET

Commentary: Steph Curry, famous for freakishly dropping 3’s, dunks on NASA’s moon landing — and misses. We hope it was all just good-natured dribbling. NBA star Steph Curry drops ball, suggests NASA moon landing was faked – CNET
Source: CNet

Two years after #Pizzagate showed the dangers of hateful conspiracies, they’re still rampant on YouTube

YouTube has become a convenient online library for racists, anti-Semites and proponents of other extremist ideas. Two years after #Pizzagate showed the dangers of hateful conspiracies, they’re still rampant on YouTube
Source: Washington Post Tech

LG takes up the mantle of brewer with HomeBrew countertop beer bot – CNET

The LG HomeBrew works with single-use capsules that can make up to a gallon of beer with the push of a button. LG takes up the mantle of brewer with HomeBrew countertop beer bot – CNET
Source: CNet

Uber app apparently suffering outage – CNET

Uber Eats seems to be affected as well. Uber app apparently suffering outage – CNET
Source: CNet

Study: The NHS is desperately in need of infosec professionals


The UK’s NHS health system is desperately short of information security professionals, research from infosec consultancy Redscan shows. The firm found that NHS trusts typically have just one member of staff with cybersecurity credentials per 2,628 employees. A quarter of all trusts surveyed – which includes some of the largest trusts, employing as many as 16,000 people – had no infosec professionals on their payroll whatsoever. The firm also looked at spending on cybersecurity training during the last twelve calendar months between trusts, and found the expenditure varied wildly, from as little as £238 to as much as £78,000. In…

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Study: The NHS is desperately in need of infosec professionals
Source: The Next Web

Laptop Chargers Team Up To Get The Juice Flowing

There’s perhaps nothing harder to throw away than a good power supply. Whether it’s the classic “wall wart” whose mate has long since been misplaced or a beefy ATX you pulled out of a trashed computer, it always seems like there should be something you could do with these little wonders of modern power conversion. So into the parts bin it goes, where it will stay evermore. But not for the [TheRainHarvester], who figured out that the secret to putting a drawer full of old laptop chargers to use was combing them like hacker Voltron.

Using three old IBM laptop chargers, he’s able to produce up to 48 volts DC at a healthy 4.5 amps. His cobbled together power supply even features an variable output, albeit with some mighty coarse adjustment. As each charger is individually rated for 16V, he can unplug one of the adapters to get 32V.

In the video after the break [TheRainHarvester] walks viewers through the construction of his simple adapter, which could easily be made with salvaged parts. Built on a trace-free piece of fiber board, the adapter consists of the three barrel jacks for the chargers and a trio of beefy Schottky diodes.

The nature of the barrel jacks (which short a pin once the plug is removed) along with the diodes allows [TheRainHarvester] to combine the output of the three adapters in series without running the risk of damaging them if for example one is left plugged into the adapter but not the wall. He’s also looking to add some status LEDs to show which chargers are powered on.

Unfortunately, [TheRainHarvester] realized a bit too late that what he thought was an inert piece of board actually had a ground plane, so he’s going to have to come up with a new way to tie the whole thing together on the next version which he says is coming now that he knows the concept seems workable.

In the meantime, if you’re thinking of hacking something together with the wealth of old laptop chargers we know are kicking around the lab, you might want to take a look at our primer for understanding all those hieroglyphs on the back of the thing.

Laptop Chargers Team Up To Get The Juice Flowing
Source: HackADay

Scientists discover deep-underworld ecosystem teeming with life – CNET

Locked within the Earth are organisms that can withstand extreme pressures, temperatures and lack of nutrients — changing how we think about “life.” Scientists discover deep-underworld ecosystem teeming with life – CNET
Source: CNet

Amazon’s Homegrown Chips Threaten Silicon Valley Giant Intel

The retailer is now making its own server chips. It’s the latest sign that big internet outfits are willing to cut out longtime suppliers. Amazon’s Homegrown Chips Threaten Silicon Valley Giant Intel
Source: NY Times Tech

Congress has a couple more weeks to reinstate Obama-era net neutrality rules – CNET

Thanks to a budget impasse between Democrats in Congress and the White House, there may be more time to eke out a long-shot victory for net neutrality supporters. Congress has a couple more weeks to reinstate Obama-era net neutrality rules – CNET
Source: CNet

Evelyn Berezin, 93, Dies; Built the First True Word Processor

Her device freed secretaries from the typewriter. But as word processing became ubiquitous, it helped eliminate their jobs. Evelyn Berezin, 93, Dies; Built the First True Word Processor
Source: NY Times Tech

Microsoft confirms Edge will support Chrome extensions with Chromium switch


When Microsoft announced its Edge browser would be transitioning to the Chromium platform next year, I had one question: will it support Chrome’s extensions? The answer appears to be yes. As spotted by Thurrott, Edge’s Project Manager, Kyle Alden, took to Reddit to answer some question about the change. Alden notes that it’s Microsoft’s “intention to support existing Chrome extensions.” Alden goes on to address what will happen to apps that currently rely on Edge’s rending engine, saying they will be allowed to continue to use it, but Microsoft will offer the new engine as an option as well. He also mentions…

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Microsoft confirms Edge will support Chrome extensions with Chromium switch
Source: The Next Web

Instagram now lets you send voice messages – CNET

You can reportedly record a message as long as a minute. Instagram now lets you send voice messages – CNET
Source: CNet

5 ways AI can be an ally for human rights over the next decade


Today we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the The Universal Declaration of Human Rights by examining the positive ways artificial intelligence will affect humanity in the next decade. Also, we ate an entire cake by ourselves. There’s very little chance AI will rise up and become sentient any time soon. So there’s no real rush to convene the heads of government and hold a series of extensive arguments about AI and robot rights. But, it’s a bit strange we’re not doing exactly that with regards to AI and its effect on human rights. AI can be a powerful ally for…

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5 ways AI can be an ally for human rights over the next decade
Source: The Next Web

Epic is already poaching indie games from Steam


Last week, Fortnite creator Epic Games announced it was creating its own store, in direct competition with Valve’s Steam store. As part of its incentive, it was using a new revenue sharing model, in which it would keep only 12 percent of revenue, as opposed to the industry standard of 30. It appears that effort is already bearing fruit, as some indie developers have either delayed or outright cancelled their Steam launches. According to a report from PC Gamer, several games have vanished from the Steam store in order to make their debut alongside Fortnite on the new storefront. Some developers are releasing…

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Epic is already poaching indie games from Steam
Source: The Next Web

Stocking stuffers: Best tech gifts under $25 – CNET

Looking for practical, cheap-but-good stocking stuffers? We’ve got you covered. Stocking stuffers: Best tech gifts under – CNET
Source: CNet

Congress is about to grill Google’s CEO. Can Sundar Pichai handle the heat?

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai’s first-ever testimony to Congress on Tuesday is shaping up to be a major test of his skills in managing the company’s reputation at a time when several of Silicon Valley’s biggest names are in crisis — and when many of Google’s employees are in revolt. Congress is about to grill Google’s CEO. Can Sundar Pichai handle the heat?
Source: Washington Post Tech

Huawei Executive’s Lawyers Fight for Bail Ahead of Extradition Decision

On the second day of a bail hearing for Meng Wanzhou, a top Huawei executive who is accused of fraud, her lawyers laid out the reasons she was not a flight risk. Huawei Executive’s Lawyers Fight for Bail Ahead of Extradition Decision
Source: NY Times Tech

New Windows 10 19H1 test build adds more Notepad features, other tweaks

The latest Windows 10 Fast Ring test build, No. 18298, adds a bunch of new Notepad features, alongside other relatively minor feature and settings updates. New Windows 10 19H1 test build adds more Notepad features, other tweaks
Source: ZDNet Microsoft

Crawling PCB ‘Bot Is Flexible Where It Counts

20 years ago, PCB production was expensive and required a multitude of phone calls and emails to a fab with significant minimum order restrictions. Now, it’s cheap and accessible online, which in addition to curtailing the home etching market has created significant new possibilities for home projects. Now that flexible PCBs are also readily available, it’s possible to experiment with some cool concepts – and that’s precisely what [Carl] has been doing.

The aim is to build a walking robot that uses actuators made from flexible PCBs. The flexible PCB is printed with a coil, capable of generating a small magnetic field. This then interacts with a strong permanent magnet, causing the flexible PCB to move when energised.

Initial attempts with four actuators mounted to a 3D printed frame were unsuccessful, but [Carl] has persevered. With a focus on weight saving, the MK II prototype has shown some promise, gently twitching its way across a desk in testing. Future steps will involve building an untethered version. This will replace the 3D printed chassis with a standard fibreglass PCB acting as both control board and the main chassis to minimise weight, similar to PCB quadcopter designs we’ve seen in the past.

We can’t wait to see the next revision, and if you’ve been working on your own walking robots, make sure you let us know.

Crawling PCB ‘Bot Is Flexible Where It Counts
Source: HackADay

Galaxy A8S's O-notch screen hints at Galaxy S10 design – CNET

Rumors point to the “Infinity-O” display coming to the Galaxy S10, too. Galaxy A8S's O-notch screen hints at Galaxy S10 design – CNET
Source: CNet

New Godzilla: King of the Monsters trailer teases battle with King Ghidorah – CNET

Millie Bobby Brown experiences still more stranger things in the sequel to 2014’s Godzilla. New Godzilla: King of the Monsters trailer teases battle with King Ghidorah – CNET
Source: CNet

YouTube bans Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes, latest tech giant to kick him off – CNET

This time, it’s for copyright violations. YouTube bans Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes, latest tech giant to kick him off – CNET
Source: CNet

Galaxy S10 specs, price and release date rumors: Ultrasonic fingerprint reader and Infinity-O screen? – CNET

More hints arrive every day about Samsung’s next big phone. Galaxy S10 specs, price and release date rumors: Ultrasonic fingerprint reader and Infinity-O screen? – CNET
Source: CNet

Mini Van De Graaff is a Shocking Desk Toy

The Van De Graff generator is a device capable of generating potentially millions of volts of electricity which you can build in an afternoon, probably from parts you’ve got in the junk bin. This is not a fact that’s escaped the notice of hackers for decades, and accordingly we’ve seen several Van De Graaff builds over the years. So has high voltage hacker [Jay Bowles], but he still thought he could bring something new to the table.

The focus of his latest build was to not only produce one of the most polished and professional versions of this venerable piece of high voltage equipment, but also make it accessible for others by keeping the design simple and affordable. The final result is a 40,000 volt Van De Graaff generator that’s powered by two AA batteries and can fit in the palm of your hand.

Put simply, a Van De Graaff generator creates static electricity from the friction of two metal combs rubbing against a moving belt, which is known as the triboelectric effect. The belt is stretched between the two combs and passes through an insulated tube, which serves to “pump” electrons from one side to the other. The end result is that a massive charge builds up on the positive side of the Van De Graaff generator, which is all too willing to send a spark firing off towards whatever negatively charged object gets close enough.

The video after the break guides viewers through the process of turning this principle into a practical device, illustrating how remarkably simple it really is. A common hobby motor is used to get the belt going, in this case just a wide rubber band, and the rest of the components are easily sourced or fabricated. Even for what’s arguably the most intricate element of the build, the combs themselves, [Jay] uses nothing more exotic than aluminum foil tape and a piece of stranded wire splayed out.

Combined with the acrylic base and the purpose-made metal sphere (rather than using a soda can or other upcycled object), the final result not only generates healthy sparks but looks good doing it. Though if the final fit and finish isn’t important, you could always build one out of stuff you found in the trash.

Mini Van De Graaff is a Shocking Desk Toy
Source: HackADay

Australia’s horrific new encryption law likely to obliterate its tech scene


Australia‘s government signed a bill into law last week giving law enforcement agencies the right to force technology companies to reveal users’ encrypted messages. Another way of putting it: Australia‘s tech scene will soon be located on the Wayback Machine. The law was introduced as the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018, but now it’s official. And there’s a lot to be concerned about, even if you don’t live or work in Australia. The new law gives Australian law enforcement agencies the power to issue cooperation notices to technology entities with the purpose of gaining access…

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Australia’s horrific new encryption law likely to obliterate its tech scene
Source: The Next Web

Google+ will die 4 months sooner thanks to new bug affecting 52 million users


After announcing in October it would be shuttering Google+, its little-loved social media site, Google today announced that, thanks to yet another security flaw, the end would have to come much sooner than originally expected. The site will now shut down completely in April, rather than August, and access to the API network will be cut off in the next 90 days. What could have happened to make Google hit the proverbial panic button? How about a bug that affects over 50 million users? According to David Thacker, Google’s VP of product management, a November software update contained a security bug…

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Google+ will die 4 months sooner thanks to new bug affecting 52 million users
Source: The Next Web

Google reveals new security bug affecting more than 52 million users

Google revealed Monday that its soon-to-be shuttered social network suffered from another security lapse, a software bug that could have allowed third-party apps and developers to gain access to 52 million users’ personal information without their permission. Google reveals new security bug affecting more than 52 million users
Source: Washington Post Tech

The Space Station has a Supercomputer Stowaway

The failed launch of Soyuz MS-10 on October 11th, 2018 was a notable event for a number of reasons: it was the first serious incident on a manned Soyuz rocket in 35 years, it was the first time that particular high-altitude abort had ever been attempted, and most importantly it ended with the rescue of both crew members. To say it was a historic event is something of an understatement. As a counterpoint to the Challenger disaster it will be looked back on for decades as proof that robust launch abort systems and rigorous training for all contingencies can save lives.

But even though the loss of MS-10 went as well as possibly could be expected, there’s still far reaching consequences for a missed flight to the International Space Station. The coming and going of visiting vehicles to the Station is a carefully orchestrated ballet, designed to fully utilize the up and down mass that each flight offers. Not only did the failure of MS-10 deprive the Station of two crew members and the experiments and supplies they were bringing with them, but also of a return trip which was to have brought various materials and hardware back to Earth.

But there’s been at least one positive side effect of the return cargo schedule being pushed back. The “Spaceborne Computer”, developed by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and NASA to test high-performance computing hardware in space, is getting an unexpected extension to its time on the Station. Launched in 2017, the diminutive 32 core supercomputer was only meant to perform self-tests and be brought back down for a full examination. But now that its ticket back home has been delayed for the foreseeable future, NASA is opening up the machine for other researchers to utilize, proving there’s no such thing as a free ride on the International Space Station.

Off-World, Off-The-Shelf

NASA Render of Spaceborne Computer

To be sure, the Spaceborne Computer is the most computationally powerful machine currently operating in space by a wide margin. But unlike most previous computers intended for extended service in space, it doesn’t rely on bulky shielding or specifically “rad hardened” components. It uses largely stock component’s from HPE’s line of high performance computers, specifically Apollo 4000 servers loaded with Intel Broadwell processors. The majority of the custom design and fabrication went into the water-cooled enclosure that can integrate with the Station’s standard experiment racks and power distribution system.

Instead of physically shielding the system, the Spaceborne Computer is an experiment to see if the job of defending against the effects of radiation could be done through software and redundant systems. Cosmic rays have been known to corrupt storage devices and flip bits in memory, which are situations the Spaceborne Computer’s Linux operating system was specifically modified to detect and compensate for. During its time in space the computer has also had to deal with fluctuating power levels and regular drops in network connectivity, all of which were handled gracefully.

Which is not to say the machine has gone unscathed: ground controllers have noted that nine of its twenty solid-state drives have failed so far. After only a little more than a year in space, that’s a fairly alarming failure rate for a technology that on Earth we consider to be a proven and reliable technology. A detailed analysis of the failed drives will be conducted whenever the Spaceborne Computer can hitch a ride back down to the planet’s surface, but as with most unexpected hardware failures in space, radiation is considered the most likely culprit. The findings of the analysis may prove invaluable for future deep-space computers which will almost certainly be using SSDs over traditional disk drives for their higher energy efficiency and lower weight.

Keeping it Local

Whether on the Station or a future mission to the Moon or Mars, there’s a very real need for high-performance computing in space which boils down to one simple fact: calling home is difficult. Not only is the bandwidth of space data links often anemic compared to even your home Internet connection, but they are notoriously unreliable. Plus as you get farther from Earth, there’s also the time delay to consider. At the Moon it only takes a few seconds for signals travelling at the speed of light to make the trip, but on Mars the delay can stretch to nearly a half an hour depending on planetary alignment.

Even just one of these problems is enough of a reason to process as much data as possible onboard the vehicle itself rather than sending it back to Earth and waiting on a reply. Your Amazon Echo might be able to get away with offloading computational heavy tasks to servers in the cloud while still providing you seemingly instantaneous results, but you won’t have that luxury while in orbit around the Red Planet. As astronauts get farther from Earth, they must become increasingly self reliant. That’s as true for their data processing requirements as it is their ability to repair their own equipment and tend to their own medical needs.

While astronauts on the International Space Station don’t have much of a delay to contend with, they don’t want to saturate their data links either. HPE imagines a future where the feeds from the Station’s Earth-facing 4K cameras could be processed onboard in real time, searching for things like weather patterns and vegetation growth. In perhaps the most mundane application, a high powered computer aboard a spacecraft could work in conjunction with the vehicle’s radio to provide rapid compression and decompression of data; offering a relatively cheap way to wring more throughput from existing communication networks.

First in Class

Space is a fantastically cruel place. From the stress of launching into orbit to operating in a micro-gravity environment, hardware is subjected to conditions which are difficult to simulate for Earth-bound engineers. Sometimes the easiest solution is to simply launch your hardware and observe how it functions. It’s what Made in Space did with their 3D printer, and now what Hewlett Packard Enterprise has done with their server hardware.

When the Spaceborne Computer finally hitches a ride back down to Earth sometime in 2019, researchers will have to make do with the Station’s normal compliment of computers: various laptops and the occasional Raspberry Pi. But now that NASA and HPE have gone a long way towards proving that largely off-the-shelf servers can survive the ride into space and operate in orbit for extended periods of time, it seems inevitable that history will look back on the Spaceborne Computer as the first of many such machines that explored the Final Frontier.

The Space Station has a Supercomputer Stowaway
Source: HackADay

Google Maps' For You recommendations come to iOS – CNET

Google’s For You tab brings up places you may like based on the neighborhoods or interests you follow. Google Maps' For You recommendations come to iOS – CNET
Source: CNet

Samsung, OnePlus' 5G phones: 6 things you need to know now – CNET

We separate the promise from the early reality. Samsung, OnePlus' 5G phones: 6 things you need to know now – CNET
Source: CNet

Alexa gets location-based routines and reminders – CNET

In its latest round of feature updates, Amazon invests Alexa with the power of location awareness, expanded timing controls and more. Alexa gets location-based routines and reminders – CNET
Source: CNet

NASA, SpaceX push back Crew Dragon test launch to ISS – CNET

We’ll have to wait a few more days before Crew Dragon earns its space wings. NASA, SpaceX push back Crew Dragon test launch to ISS – CNET
Source: CNet

iPad Pro's potential becomes clear with this $99 HyperDrive USB-C hub – CNET

Exclusive: Sanho’s six-port HyperDrive USB-C Hub shows that Apple made the right choice when it ditched the Lightning port. iPad Pro's potential becomes clear with this HyperDrive USB-C hub – CNET
Source: CNet

The New New World: The Huawei Executive’s Arrest Is Igniting Fear. The U.S. Should Take Notice.

Chinese tech entrepreneurs are rethinking their business trips and their American ties. They could instead be valuable allies in the drive to bring more freedom to China. The New New World: The Huawei Executive’s Arrest Is Igniting Fear. The U.S. Should Take Notice.
Source: NY Times Tech

Dozens of Servos Flip the Segments of This 3D-Printed Digital Clock

A digital clock based on seven-segment displays? Not exciting. A digital clock with seven-segment displays that’s really big and can be read across a football field? That’s a little more interesting. A large format digital clock that uses electromechanical seven-segment displays? Now that’s something to check out.

This clock comes to us by way of [Otvinta] and is a nice example of what you can do with 3D-printing and a little imagination. Each segment of the display is connected to a small hobby servo which can flip it 90°. Mounted in a printed plastic frame, the segments are flipped in and out of view as needed to compose the numerals needed to display the time. The 28 servos need two Pololu controller boards, which talk to a Raspberry Pi running Windows IoT, an interesting design choice that we don’t often see. You’d think that 28 servos clattering back and forth might be intolerable, but the video below shows that the display is actually pretty quiet. We’d love to see this printed all in black with white segment faces, or even a fluorescent plastic; how cool would that look under UV light?

We’re not saying this is the only seven-segment servo clock we’ve seen, but it is a pretty slick build. And of course there’s more than one way to use servos to tell the time.

Welcome back to the tip business, [baldpower]!

Dozens of Servos Flip the Segments of This 3D-Printed Digital Clock
Source: HackADay

Viewing the Approach of SpaceX's Dragon to the Space Station

International Space Station Commander Alexander Gerst viewed SpaceX’s Dragon cargo craft chasing the orbital laboratory on Dec. 8, 2018 and took a series of photos. Viewing the Approach of SpaceX's Dragon to the Space Station
Source: NASA

Chinese Court Says Apple Infringed on Qualcomm Patents

The court’s decision, which bars Apple from selling seven iPhone models in China, is the latest turn in a broad legal battle between the companies. Chinese Court Says Apple Infringed on Qualcomm Patents
Source: NY Times Tech

University College London tells us how it developed its blockchain program

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University College London has its own center dedicated to blockchain – it’s called the UCL Centre for Blockchain Technologies (CBT). UCL’s blockchain team will be joining us at our very own Hard Fork Decentralized this week in London. Free sign-ups for their event are now available. Before their event on December 13, where they’ll discuss decentralized finance, we wanted to learn more about what they do. We sat down and asked them a few questions about the UCL CBT: What were some of the factors that went into the decision to start the UCL Centre for Blockchain Technologies? The UCL…

This story continues at The Next Web

University College London tells us how it developed its blockchain program
Source: The Next Web

The Evolution of Wireless Game Controllers

The story goes that Atari was developing a premium model of their popular home video game console, the Atari 2600, for the 1981 fiscal year. Internally known as the Stella RC, this model revision promised touch sensitive game selection toggles, LED indicators, and onboard storage for the controllers. The focus of the project, however, was the “RC” in Stella RC which stood for remote control. Atari engineers wanted to free players from the constraints of the wires that fettered them to their televisions.

Problem with the prototypes was that the RF transmitters in the controllers were powerful enough to send a signal over a 1000 ft. radius, and they interfered with a number of the remote garage door openers on the market. Not to mention that if there were another Stella RC console on the same channel in an apartment building, or simply across the street, you could be playing somebody else’s Pitfall run. The mounting tower of challenges to making a product that the FCC would stamp their approval on were too great. So Atari decided to abandon the pioneering Stella RC project. Physical proof of the first wireless game controllers would have been eliminated at that point if it were created by any other company… but prototypes mysteriously left the office in some peculiar ways.

“Atari had abandoned the project at the time…[an Atari engineer] thought it would be a great idea to give his girlfriend’s son a videogame system to play with…I can’t [comment] about the relationship itself or what happened after 1981, but that’s how this system left Atari…and why it still exists today.”

Joe Cody, Atari2600.com

Atari did eventually get around to releasing some wireless RF 2600 joysticks that the FCC would approve. A couple years after abandoning the Stella RC project they released the Atari 2600 Remote Control Joysticks at a $69.95 MSRP (roughly $180 adjusted for inflation). The gigantic price tag mixed with the video game market “dropping off the cliff” in 1983 saw few ever getting to know the bliss of wire-free video game action. It was obvious that RF game controllers were simply ahead of their time, but there had to be cheaper alternatives on the horizon.

Out of Sight, Out of Control with IR Schemes

Nintendo AVS 1985 Display
Nintendo AVS console deck and IR controller on display.

Video games were a dirty word in America in 1985. While games themselves were still happening on the microcomputer platforms, the home console business was virtually non-existent. Over in Japan, Nintendo was raking in money hand over fist selling video games on their Famicom console. They sought to replicate that success in North America by introducing a revised model of the Famicom, but it had to impress the tech journos that would be attending its reveal at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

The prototype system was called the Nintendo Advanced Video System (AVS). It would feature a keyboard, a cassette tape drive, and most importantly two wireless controllers. The controllers used infrared (IR) communication and the receiver was built-into the console deck itself. Each controller featured a square metallic directional pad and four action buttons that gave the impression of brushed aluminum. The advancement in video game controller technology was too good to be true though, because the entire system received a makeover before releasing as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) that Christmas. The NES lacked the keyboard, the tape drive, and the IR controllers and its change in materials hardly captured the high-end flash of the AVS. The removal of IR meant the device was cheaper to manufacture. A decision that ultimately helped the NES to become a breakout success that in turn brought back dedicated video game consoles single-handedly.

Third party manufacturers were also able to ride Nintendo’s success to bring out the wireless controllers that Nintendo wouldn’t. Chief among the third party wireless controller offerings was the Acclaim Remote Controller. Released in 1989, the Remote Controller featured an adjustable turbo switch and could be played up to 30 ft. away over IR. That was mostly true, as long as no one was standing in front of the receiver. Nintendo would revisit the idea of infrared controllers when they released the NES Satellite adapter. It was more of a wireless controller hub than controller itself, but up to four controllers could be plugged in for simultaneous gameplay in supported titles. It worked well enough as long as it was provided a regular diet of six C-cell batteries, but the line of sight requirement was limiting. Sadly infrared continued to be the extent of wireless controller technology for the next decade (including first party IR controllers releasing for the Sega Genesis and Sega Saturn), and would ultimately take a company that always ran parallel to gaming to provide a new path forward.

It’s Really More of a Spectrum as RF Came of Age

Intel Wireless Series Gamepad 2000
Intel Wireless Series Gamepad accessory in the retail packaging.

Life in the year 2000 was less futuristic than all the sci-fi depictions of it would have their readers believe. For all the promises of robotic servants and flying cars, the reality was that most things still needed to operate as they did in the 20th century. Intel sought to change that in some small way when they announced their Wireless Series of PC peripherals at CES that year. Obviously there was a wireless mouse and keyboard combo shown off, but curiously Intel also revealed a wireless game controller. Intel was always at the forefront of processor technology, but video games were more of a “happy accident” that helped to drive their main business.

All devices in the Wireless Series connected via the same USB receiver called, “the base station” over the 900 MHz band. A mixture of up to four devices could be connected simultaneously meaning that local multiplayer could finally work on PC and it wouldn’t require monopolizing every last bit of I/O. The setup sounded great, in theory, but there were a couple of issues with the Intel Wireless Series Gamepad’s design. To put it succinctly, it looked like a toilet seat.

The introduction of a UHF spectrum controller would be refined a few years later by Nintendo. A year after launching their GameCube console, Nintendo released the WaveBird controller in 2002. Many gamers saw it as revelatory. Being able to play a game on the other side of a wall, while impractical, was a freedom that few were able to experience previous to that controller’s release. Eager to bring parity to other platforms, third party manufacturers like Logitech would follow suit by releasing cordless controllers of their own. Though in an effort to increase battery life those controllers would integrate the 2.4 GHz band.

To this day wireless controllers still operate within the ISM band. From the Bluetooth connectivity of the Nintendo Wii remote to the proprietary protocol of the Xbox One Elite controller, wireless controllers would become the norm rather than the exception for home consoles. The convenience they provide is indispensable to the enjoyment of video games in their current form. Although the company that originally tinkered with wire-free gaming is no longer around, the result of that tinkering remains.

Wireless Is a Marketing Magnet

There is perhaps no better way to relive the evolution of wireless controllers than through the marketing campaigns that grew up around them. To that end, we close today with some of the ads that trumpeted this march of technology.

Atari 2700 Advertisement 1981
Game Mate 2 Wireless Joysticks 1983
Nintendo AVS Ad 1984
Acclaim Remote Controller Ad Still 1989
NES Satellite Multiplayer Adapter 1989
Acclaim Dual Turbo Controllers 1993
Sega Remote Arcade Pad (1994)
Sega Saturn Cordless Pad 1997
Nintendo Wavebird Ad (2002)
Logitech Cordless Precision Xbox Controller (2002)
PS3 Concept "Boomerang" Controller (2005)
Nintendo Wii Remote 2006
Xbox 360 Transforming Dpad 2011
Nintendo Wii U Gamepad 2011
PlayStation DualShock 4 20th Anniversary Promotion Still (2014)
Still From Xbox One Elite Controller Promo (2015) The Evolution of Wireless Game Controllers
Source: HackADay

Why Victorians feared modern technology would make everyone blind


From concerns over blue light to digital strain and dryness, headlines today often worry how smartphones and computer screens might be affecting the health of our eyes. But while the technology may be new, this concern certainly isn’t. Since Victorian times people have been concerned about how new innovations might damage eyesight. In the 1800s, the rise of mass print was both blamed for an increase in eye problems and was responsible for dramatizing the fallibility of vision too. As the amount of known eye problems increased, the Victorians predicted that without appropriate care and attention Britain’s population would become…

This story continues at The Next Web

Why Victorians feared modern technology would make everyone blind
Source: The Next Web

Amazon reportedly fires workers in seller scam crackdown – CNET

The company was investigating reports about data leaks and bribes, according to the Wall Street Journal. Amazon reportedly fires workers in seller scam crackdown – CNET
Source: CNet

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