The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'hardware'
For those looking for the ideal present for the hacker in their lives, Make has an open-source gift guide. This includes all sorts of nifty (in a rather geeky way) things, from a DIY TB-303 clone kit to a software radio transceiver that can handle all kinds of signals to persistence of vision displays for bicycle wheels, and a DIY game console (on which you can play and write 1982-style video games), a Linux-based pocket game console, and not one but two open-source mobile phone platforms, not to mention numerous controller and interface boards to build stuff out of.
The first MP3 player I owned was an Archos Jukebox Recorder. This was a relatively bulky unit consisting of a low-power CPU, monochrome bitmap display and notebook hard drive (20Gb, though it was easy enough to open it up and swap the hard disk for a larger one, at least until Archos started soldering their hard drives into cages of circuit boards).
Just under a year ago, I bought an iRiver H340; this is a smaller unit, with a more powerful CPU (Motorola ColdFire; it's powerful enough to decode MP3 and OGG in software, and someone has gotten an iRiver emulating a GameBoy), a colour display, two USB ports (device and host), and based around a smaller (1.8", i.e., iPod-sized) hard drive. Like the Archos, it could record to MP3, from a (crap) built-in microphone or line in (I think it even has a microphone preamp built in, unlike the Archos). However, it seemed to have one crucial missing feature: no real-time clock.
Why is that such a big problem, you ask? Well, when you suddenly record something on the go, how will you know what it is that you recorded later on? The files it makes are named VOICE001.MP3, VOICE002.MP3 and so on, which doesn't say much. There is no keypad, touch screen or other data-entry method to give them names either. Of course, if the device has a real-time clock, you can look at the timestamp of the file to see when it was recorded, but with no such clock, all files created get an arbitrary creation time such as midnight on 1/1/2002, so you're left guessing.
Mind you, now it emerges that the H340 hardware does have a real-time clock, just that the firmware didn't use it. I just found out the most recent firmware upgrade adds a clock function, displaying the current time, and adding sensible timestamps to any files recorded. Which makes the iRiver slightly more useful for things other than listening to music.
(Of course, the firmware is still annoyingly clunky when it comes to doing some things; though now that it is confirmed that there is a clock inside the unit, Rockbox can make use of it when it is ported to it.)
The most impressive car stereo ever? (via Toby)
A few new items from Gizmodo: this ultra-expensive Sparc/Solaris laptop, for when a PC running Linux or a PowerBook just won't do. (Unlike Apple, it appears that Sun are happy to sell their OS for use with third-party hardware.) And, for the sexually-frustrated otaku out there, busty anime-girl mousepads, made by a company in Taiwan.
Meanwhile, in the same neighbourhood (thematically and geographically), a Chinese woman recently paid for breast enlargement surgery (apparently from a disreputable clinic), and ended up growing a second pair of breasts on her stomach. It is not clear exactly she ended up with the extra pair, which she subsequently had removed.
Owen Williams proposes that hardware reviews should add a rating for "openness", or how unrestrictive and flexible the technology used is. At one end, you'd get things that use cryptography to keep the user on a short leash, and that you can do very little with, such as the DivX video player and major-label online music-rental services; at the other end, you get completely hackable devices, like commodity PC hardware. For example, MP3 players which act like USB/FireWire disks (like the iPod or MP3 keyrings) would get a higher Openness score than ones which require special software to "check in" files (like the Dell Jukebox). (I imagine that devices like the Archos Jukebox would get the highest rating, because they not only act as standard USB disks, but allow you to install your own firmware and hack the hardware to your heart's content; which is how things should be.) (via bOING bOING)
First there was the C-One, the Commodore 64 of the future, and now some hackers are using FPGA chips (i.e., dynamically reconfigurable hardware) to reimplement old arcade game boards, all on a chip; just supply the ROMs. The FPGA designs apparently even have extra "code" to convert the arcade-video-monitor signals to VGA, for those who don't have one of those big glass bottles sitting around. (via Slashdot)
(This is cool, not just because of the hipness of the the retro-video-game thing; the fact that you can make a small FPGA chip emulate any digital circuit, from a Pac-Man board to a Commodore 64 with an IDE interface bolted onto it, all by downloading the right information into it, is very cool. Now you have hackers creating open-source "hardware" components for FPGAs; i.e., code which, when integrated into a project, makes a complete 6502 core or USB interface or whatever, and others bolting them together to make all sorts of highly miniaturised gadgets. Unfortunately, FPGAs seem to only work for digital circuits, so something like a purely analogue open-source TB-303 core (suitable for embedding into mobile phones, childrens' toys and other gizmos) would not be possible.)