Galaksija tools 0.1.0

29.05.2007 10:15

From the README file:

This is a loose collection of tools for use with Galaksija home
microcomputer:

 gtp2wav     - Convert a binary Galaksija tape file to an audio file for
               loading to a Galaksija computer through the sound card.

 bin2gtp     - Encapsulate a Z80 machine code block into a Galaksija tape
               file together with a simple BASIC loader.

 pgm2scr     - Convert a bitmap to a Galaksija video framebuffer.

 chargendump - Inspect and dump characters from a Galaksija character
               generator ROM image.

 include/    - Header files for use with a Z80 assembler that contain useful
               macro definitions for writing assembly programs for
	       Galaksija.

 examples/   - Example assembly programs for Galaksija

Get the tarball here.

Posted by Tomaž | Categories: Code | Comments »

Quote of the day

27.05.2007 22:06

For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three.

--- Alice Kahn

(via WikiQuote)

Posted by Tomaž | Categories: Life | Comments »

Belgium telecommunications

26.05.2007 19:35

Telephone plugs in Belgium are weird. First, they are gigantic compared to the RJ connectors. Second, the socket will happily accommodate a standard European mains plug if you plug it in at an angle.

Hint: there's something wrong with this picture (and no, my laptop's battery wouldn't charge that way).

Posted by Tomaž | Categories: Life | Comments »

Stop calling it freeware

17.05.2007 22:20

I can't stand people (like surprisingly many people from IT departments I've met) calling free software "freeware".

Call it free software, FLOSS, FOSS, open source, linux (yeah, I know) or whatever.

In my dictionary freeware is windows-only binary-only software that:

  • Dies after one or two releases and no-one even knows it existed or...
  • gets really popular after which it's no longer free (people loose interest) after which it gets adware supported (people start to hate it) after which it either gets free again or dies which disappoints both remaining users or...
  • it is a part of some greater evil plan for world domination.
Posted by Tomaž | Categories: Life | Comments »

Hackers on a plane

15.05.2007 21:27

Hackers on a plane

Click

Pros:

  • Getting to see DefCon

Cons:

  • Having my photo and personal information permanently added to some US database (and considering the nature of such a visit, I'm quite sure that would not be the good guys column)
  • Having to trade in my normal paper passport for an evil biometric RFID steal-my-data-from-a-distance one
  • Getting to see only DefCon. Why spend a fortune on transatlantic airline tickets and stay there just a couple of days?
  • Considering this offer (and the fact that it is cheaper for people from US to come to Europe), there will probably be some people from DefCon at CCCamp. So even CCCamp will probably be more interesting than usual.
Posted by Tomaž | Categories: Life | Comments »

gEDA desktop integration

14.05.2007 17:19

Remember those icons I made for gEDA file types? Here's a neat little package that includes all those icons and some configuration files.

There's a simple install script inside that installs everything in your home directory. It adds gEDA applications to the "Applications" menu and makes Nautilus (and Konqueror also AFAIK) aware of the file types they support.

Shiny

Posted by Tomaž | Categories: Code | Comments »

MFRU

12.05.2007 18:22

Here are some pictures from 13th MFRU (or IFCA in English, International Festival of Computer Arts) in Maribor.

I've been there yesterday evening to do a short presentation of my redesigned Galaksija. It felt a bit strange to present my work at an art festival, since I didn't thought of Galaksija as a work of art. In the end I think that my talk about Galaksija didn't quite reach the audience (although I tried to leave out as many boring technicalities as possible).

On the other hand I saw a number of interesting projects, but I think posting by blurry photos wouldn't do them justice.

Hello!

This little figure made out a RJ-45 connector and a piece of UTP cable was the first exhibit I saw.

Amazon Noir

Amazon noir exhibit was one of the more interesting ones. Authors managed to copy a number of complete books using some feature of the amazon.com web site that allows you to read small parts of some books in the shop. The details of how they managed to do that are pretty well hidden on their web page.

Galaksija at MFRU

Galaksija's corner.

Looking back, the best exhibit of the festival I saw was the "My name is Urška" project. A photo of it would really be pointless here since the whole point of the exhibit was to see a photo of a girl smoothly morphing from a healthy look to how she would look if she had one of genetic disorders while a display showed a statistical frequency of this disorder.

Posted by Tomaž | Categories: Life | Comments »

Downtime

05.05.2007 22:44

Someone dug through a telecom cable for my neighborhood or so my ISP tells me. It cut my server off the net (together with all telephones and ADSL lines in sight) for nearly a day and a half.

In semi-related news, secondary DNS for tablix.org is also currently down (so much for redundancy).

And since bad things tend to happen together, a glitch in my dovecot IMAP server deleted half my mailbox. As expected, I was just going to make a backup for this month, meaning I lost a lot of mail I received since April. If I don't answer, you now know the reason.

I'm still investigating this by the way. It seems to be related to this issue. "nobody sane has that many messages in one mailbox" they say? Uhm...

Update: I've been told that I can expect more down time the following week as they will be repairing the damaged cable.

Posted by Tomaž | Categories: Life | Comments »

Dangerous code

03.05.2007 10:21

This piece of Z80 code will assemble into a certain 16 byte sequence that seems to be quite popular last few days.

add hl,bc	;0100   09
ld sp,hl        ;0101   f9
ld de,09d02h    ;0102   11 02 9d
ld (hl),h       ;0105   74
ex (sp),hl      ;0106   e3
ld e,e          ;0107   5b
ret c           ;0108   d8
ld b,c          ;0109   41
ld d,(hl)       ;010a   56
push bc         ;010b   c5
ld h,e          ;010c   63
ld d,(hl)       ;010d   56
adc a,b         ;010e   88
ret nz          ;010f   c0
Posted by Tomaž | Categories: Ideas | Comments »

My childhood dreams for 40€

02.05.2007 15:32

As a kid I used to read and re-read a book titled Choosing and using your home computer (Slovenian translation published in 1984). It contains photographs and descriptions of a lot of contemporary home computers, including the EPSON HX-20. This little device is described as the future of portable computing - it's amazingly small case includes a cassette recorder and a printer and you can even work with it while you are traveling since it has a rechargeable battery. According to this book this is the first truly portable computer, a first sign of what we can expect in the future.

Of course back then I really wanted to have one. The Spectrum we had looked just clumsy compared to it.

This weekend they were selling them at VCFE for 40€ a piece and now I'm wondering why the hell I haven't bought one.

Posted by Tomaž | Categories: Digital | Comments »

Vintage Computer Festival Europe 2007

02.05.2007 0:16

Internet connectivity wasn't very good at VCFE, so here's a late and condensed report from my visit to München. (Organizers did give us internet access, but they said we should use it as little as possible because they only had a limited amount of net traffic allowed)

VCFE from above

My general impression was that for a Computer Festival Europe the whole event was surprisingly centered around German visitors and exhibitors. When I asked why all announcements and speeches were in German they said that they do not want to force English language to the 95% of Germans there. I can understand that, but I don't think that adding a single English sentence would hurt their feelings too much. It would at least give me some idea what that last public announcement was about - even if that meant I would have to go to the nearest native speaker and ask him for a more detailed translation (everyone I spoke to was fluent in English). If CCC in Berlin got the right mixture of English and German language so that I didn't feel pushed aside, I don't see why they couldn't also.

Other than that, I was impressed with what I saw at the festival. I've never seen or heard of a lot of computers and equipment that was on display. It felt a bit strange to walk around and not recognize names on computers (and I thought that I have some knowledge of this field).

Then there was also the tour of the Cray-Cyber collection, which was awesome and deserves a post of its own.

MyCPU was in my opinion the most impressive exhibit of the VCFE. Its author created his own CPU architecture, implemented it with 74HC discreet logic circuits, built a complete computer around it (IDE interface, VGA board and all), wrote a DOS-like operating system for it and on top of everything ran a C64 emulator.

I'm definitely going to have a look at how he managed to implement a PS/2 keyboard interface with logic chips. Perhaps I could make a similar interface for Galaksija to replace that weird keyboard I made.

This Apple eMate laptop looked surprisingly like the OLPC laptop. It has similar size and a similarly unusual user interface. It is also 10 years older and sold for 8 times as much at the time (i.e. it was meant for USA, not Africa).

Yes, not all exhibits were digital! This Dornier DO-80 analog computer draw a ball that was bouncing inside the edges of the oscilloscope screen. I haven't studied the papers I got that describe how they managed to do that, but it sure was an impressive thing to see a box of operational amplifiers draw a nice animation like that

Last but not least, here's Cyberpipe's Museum with my Galaksija. Our exhibits attracted more attention from visitors than I expected. Galaksija was in fact so popular that there are good chances that next year I'll prepare a workshop where anyone will be able to built one.


In conclusion it was a nice experience. As always I really enjoyed being once again among friendly hackers where everyone is prepared to explain what is that weird thing on his table and/or try to help you with a particularly strange hardware problem you stumbled upon.

Posted by Tomaž | Categories: Digital | Comments »