Category Archives: Technology

Ev Williams says Twitter’s role in Trump’s rise is ‘a very bad thing’

In an interview with the NY Times, Twitter co-founder Ev Williams says Twitter’s role in Trump’s rise is ‘a very bad thing’.

Commenting on the view of Silicon Valley as the “modern Prometheus”, Williams said:

What we tend to forget is that Zeus was so pissed at Prometheus that he chained him to a rock so eagles could peck out his guts for eternity,” he said. “Some would say that’s what we deserve for giving the power of tweets to Donald Trump.

The Relay Computers

Most people are at least vaguely familiar with the early history of modern digital computers, particularly their importance in breaking the Nazi Enigma codes during WWII. Less familiar is the computing machines that preceded them.

In response to the need for more and faster computation, researchers developed a series of analog computers that did the job but were complicated and difficult to maintain. Inspired by (and in some cases actually using) the switches used to connect telephone calls, digital computers using relays were developed that used base 2 arithmetic. As useful as they were these relay computers would end up mostly being forgotten, replaced by machines based on vacuum tubes.

Don’t Give Up on the Guitar. Fender Is Begging You

Let’s be honest, learning to play the guitar is hard. Like 90% of beginners quit within a year hard. This hits guitar builders like Fender right in the bottom line. So they’re coming out with lots of apps, gear and more expressly designed to help new players stick with it long enough to get some momentum going.

Still there are no guarantees. I’ve been playing guitar since I was a teen and despite decades of lessons I’m still not very good.

The ISS Is Sending TV Signals back to Earth

If you have the right setup, you can receive analog TV signals from the International Space Station. AMSAT UK has the details for the curious. This is Slow Scan Television (SSTV), so it’s more like a slide show than the video you’re used to.

Please note the Motherboard link is chock-full of inaccuracies. First of all, you don’t need any license, Amateur or otherwise, to receive RF signals (in the US or Canada, check your local regulations elsewhere). Second, while it may indeed take a week or more to receive your ham license, that’s FCC processing time after you’ve successfully passed a licensing examination. Assuming you’ll have to spend at least a little bit of time studying for the exam a week is wishful thinking.

If you’re interested in getting your license, the ARRL’s page on licensing is a good place to start.

How CERN Fights Hackers

Talk about attack surface: CERN has to keep tabs on around 40,000 bring-your-own-devices from professors, technicians, and other workers; academics and engineers also connect to systems remotely. The organization’s two main data centres in Switzerland and Hungary have around 100,000 hard-drives and 13,000 servers in total.

Then there’s the LHC’s computing grid, spread across North America, Europe, and Asia, which reprocesses data generated by the experiments. Control systems for equipment need to be secure as well, and CERN hosts around 10,000 websites.

555 timer teardown: inside the world’s most popular IC

If you’ve done anything with electronics in the past forty years or so you’ve likely come across the 555 timer IC. It’s small, simple and incredibly useful. I used one as the timing source for a “T-Bird tailights” project in a digital electronics course I took as an elective. The actual chip is fairly small and easy to understand, especially with the interactive die explorer near the bottom.

Don’t forget to check the notes at the end, especially the large-size 555 timer created by Evil Mad Scientist Lab.

The man who made ‘the worst video game in history’

The “E.T.” game for the Atari 2600 is widely considered to be the worst video game ever made. So bad Atari paid to bury 728,000 cartridges in a landfill in New Mexico (some were recently recovered). One of the biggest reasons for its poor quality was being rushed to market in time to meet the Christmas shopping season. Now lead developer Howard Scott Warshaw talks about the mad scramble to build the game that nearly destroyed the gaming industry and began Atari’s decline from industry leader to trivia question.