In an upcoming episode of the Cool Tools Show podcast, I tell the story of how I wrecked my iMac by trying to replace the hard drive. Instead of buying a new iMac, I bought an Acer G257HU 25-inch (2560 x 1440) display and connected it to my MacBook Pro. I actually like this set up more than having two different computers. The display is gorgeous and the brightness can be cranked way up if you need it.
Right now, Amazon has a great deal on a Seagate 5TB external hard drive. It's $110 (the same price as the 4TB mode). I've been looking for a way to back up all the computers in my household (with Time Machine) and I might buy this. I think can just create several partitions on it and plug it into the USB port of my wireless access point. Has anyone had success doing it this way? Read the rest
Chipmaking is a relentless competition to make transistors smaller and smaller. Such refined technology is as inscrutable to users as angels dancing on the head of a few hundred copper pins, so James Newman set out to make a working CPU whose every connection can be explored and understood by students.
"Like all modern processors the Megaprocessor is built from transistors," he writes. "It's just that instead of using teeny-weeny ones integrated on a silicon chip it uses discrete individual ones... Thousands of them. And loads of LEDs."
The resulting machine took two years to construct and recalls the earliest room-filling electronic computers, with banks of blinking lights and ropes of cable linking each refridgerator-sized peripheral. But this time, it's by choice rather than limitation: with a light on every connection, you can see the logic and movement of data through the chip in person.
Ten meters wide and 2 meters tall, the 16-bit Megaprocessor is deliberately simple and slow. Clocked at 20kHz, it could feel at home in an airport-sized Commodore Amiga or classic Mac, though it's not quite as complicated as the Motorola 68000 that inspired it.
There's already software to play with, though, including a rough implementation of Tetris. You can download an emulator to get started on making your own.
"I didn't plan on ending up here. I started by wanting to learn about transistors," Newman writes. "Things got out of hand. Read the rest
Chris Noessel and Nathan Shedroff demonstrated that in movies depicting computers in the future, the screens are mostly blue.
Some interesting exceptions: 1991's Terminator 2 made red popular, and the Matrix Trilogy made green the in thing for a while. But within a couple of years, we were back to blue. And it's been this way since the 60s.
I think that green usually signifies "old" computers, perhaps? The Matrix was clever in that way.
Forgive me if I'm mistaken, but I'm struck by the thought that the first and third Alien movies (which were British haunted house movies, sort of) used green screens, whereas the second one, Aliens (an American action movie) used blue. Google Images isn't entirely helpful.
Guardians of the Galaxy (above) appears, of course, to be both. Read the rest
Chock-A-Block was a computer-themed educational TV show for young children that was shown on the BBC in 1981. What I still love about it is that it's an early example of retrocomputing nostalgia, depicting a room-sized magnetic-tape mainframe to youngsters who owned their own ZX81s.
Chock-A-Block was surreal and a bit druggy, like a lot of British kids' TV. It uttered strangely satisfying noises when its strangely satisfying buttons are pressed and strangely satisfying media are inserted. This show is to blame for my love of computers, but also for my love of the strange relationship we have with old technology, and also my love of being high. Read the rest
HP's Spectre is thinner than all the others, and the company says that it is "more artisan than manufactured" in a promo video that touts its slim, jewelry-like design. The $1,170 laptop has an Intel Core i7 processor, 8 GB of memory and a 13" display. It's 2.5 pounds: heavier than the 12" MacBook and Lenovo Yoga, but lighter than pretty much anything else and much more powerful than those machines. Read the rest
The Raspberry Pi got a major upgrade. The third revision of this tiny, $35 Linux computer is 50% faster than the Raspberry Pi 2 and has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE. Alasdair Allan of MAKE has a good first look at the board.
Here's Eben Upton, founder of Raspberry Pi, talking to MAKE about the Pi 3: Read the rest
John Markoff reports on an important area of research: how to make a talking computer sound friendly and approachable to humans? The trick, as exemplified by IBM's Jeopardy-winning Watson and Apple's Siri: you want it to sound slightly robotic, thereby avoiding uncanniness.
Most software designers acknowledge that they are still faced with crossing the “uncanny valley,” in which voices that are almost human-sounding are actually disturbing or jarring. The phrase was coined by the Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori in 1970. He observed that as graphical animations became more humanlike, there was a point at which they would become creepy and weird before improving to become indistinguishable from videos of humans.… “Jarring is the way I would put it,” said Brian Langner, senior speech scientist at ToyTalk, a technology firm in San Francisco that creates digital speech for things like the Barbie doll. “When the machine gets some of those things correct, people tend to expect that it will get everything correct.”
The article has some of the Watson test voices. A masculine one was chosen to sound "objective and natural" and "like a trusted colleague." Rejected feminine voices can be heard at the article, as well as a childlike voice deemed too "creepy." Read the rest
At The Malware Musuem you can enjoy the experience of DOS-era viruses, trojans and other digital beasties without any of the risk. Many of them manifested as wild graphical tricks and other spectacular coding feats, distracting you as they formatted hard drives or corrupted files.
The Malware Museum is a collection of malware programs, usually viruses, that were distributed in the 1980s and 1990s on home computers. Once they infected a system, they would sometimes show animation or messages that you had been infected. Through the use of emulations, and additionally removing any destructive routines within the viruses, this collection allows you to experience virus infection of decades ago with safety.
The Oldschool PC Font Resource is your one-stop shop for the fonts bundled with classic PC-compatible computers of the 80s and early 90s. It even has little reviews!
Read the rest
The rebadged Olivetti M24, with its enhanced CGA-compatible video, introduced 400-line text and graphics modes for increased resolution. These supported a 8x16 character set, which was similar to the IBM MDA font, but with more of a slab serif style on the uppercase letters, and more consistent metrics for the lowercase and accented Latin characters.
This is the text mode version - in the 640x400 graphics mode, the only difference is a more rounded 'h' (identical to the IBM MDA one). The 8x8 BIOS font, on the other hand, was exactly the same as IBM's.
Sensitive electronic files from America’s biggest police union were posted online this week after a hacker breached the Fraternal Order of Police website. The ill-gotten dump includes officers' names and addresses, message board posts bashing Barack Obama, and details of eyebrow-raising contracts made between the union and city authorities.