Getting The Amiga 500 Online

If you were lucky enough to have a Commodore Amiga or one of its competitor 16-bit home computers around the end of the 1980s, it’s probable that you were doing all the computing tasks that most other people discovered a few years later when they bought their first 486 or Pentium. So in the mid 1990s when all your friends were exclaiming at Paint Shop Pro or their Soundblaster cards you’d have had an air of smugness. Multitasking? Old hat! Digital audio? Been there! Graphics manipulation? Done that!

There was one task from that era you almost certainly wouldn’t have done on your Amiga though, and that was connect it to the Internet. The Internet was certainly a thing back in the late 1980s, but for mere mortals it was one of those unattainable marvels, like a supercomputer with a padded seat round it, or a Jaguar XJ220 supercar.

Later Amigas received Internet abilities, and Amiga enthusiasts will no doubt be on hand to extol their virtues. But the machine most people will think of as the archetype, the Amiga 500, lacks the power to run most of the software required to do it. If your 500 with its tasteful blue and orange desktop colour scheme is languishing though, never fear. [Shot97] has produced a guide to getting it online.

It’s important to understand that an Amiga 500 is never going to run a copy of Chrome or play a YouTube video. And he makes the point that any web browsers that might have surfaced for hardware of this class delivered a painful browsing experience. So instead he concentrates on getting the 500 online for something closer to the online scene of the day, connecting to BBSs. To that end he takes us through setting up a PC with  Hayes modem emulator, and connecting it to the Amiga via a null modem cable. On the Amiga is a copy of the A-Talk terminal emulator, and as far as the Amiga is concerned it is on a dial-up Internet connection.

The PC in this case looks pretty ancient, and we can’t help wondering whether a Raspberry Pi or even an ESP8266 module could be put in its place given the appropriate software. But he has undeniably got his A500 online, and shown a way that you can too if you still have one lurking in the cupboard. He has also produced a video which we’ve put below the break, but be warned, as it’s nearly an hour long.

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OneSolver Does What Wolfram Can’t

Wolfram Alpha has been “helping” students get through higher math and science classes for years. It can do almost everything from solving Laplace transforms to various differential equations. It’s a little lacking when it comes to solving circuits, though, which is where [Grant] steps in. He’s come up with a tool called OneSolver which can help anyone work out a number of electrical circuits (and a few common physics problems, too).

[Grant] has been slowly building an online database of circuit designs that has gotten up to around a hundred unique solvers. The interesting thing is that the site implements a unique algorithm where all input fields of a circuits design can also become output fields. This is unique to most other online calculators because it lets you do things that circuit simulators and commercial math packages can’t. The framework defines one system of equations, and will solve all possible combinations, and lets one quickly home in on a desired design solution.

If you’re a student or someone who constantly builds regulators or other tiny circuits (probably most of us) then give this tool a shot. [Grant] is still adding to it, so it will only get better over time. This may be the first time we’ve seen something like this here, too, but there have been other more specific pieces of software to help out with your circuit design.

Traffic lights tell you when your Xbox Live friends are gaming

It sounds like [Andrew] is trying to build a Pavlovian response into his behavior when it comes to online gaming. He wants to make sure he doesn’t miss out when all his friends are online, so he built this traffic signal to monitor Xbox Live activity. It will illuminate the lights, and drive the meters differently based on which of his friends are currently online. When the light’s green, he drops everything a grabs a controller.

The base of the light is a black project box. Inside you’ll find the Arduino compatible chip which drives the device mounted on a piece of protoboard. A WIZnet W5100 adds network connectivity at the low price of around $25. There is one problem with the setup. The API which [Andrew] found doesn’t use any authentication. This means that he can only see the public status of his friends; anyone who has set their online status set to private will always register as ‘online’. If you know of an existing Xbox Live API that would solve this issue we’d love to hear from you in the comments.

MITx 6.002x wraps up; here’s a review from one of the students

[Jorge] just finished MITx 6.002x with the fine score of 99.1%. Congratulations! We just finished reading through this review of his experience (translate) with the 14-week class and it sounds like the program is extremely well executed. For those that don’t remember, this is an intro to circuits and electronics course offered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Except 6.002x is free to all as an online course (but if you actually want a certificate a fee may be involved).

Above is one of the many screenshots which [Jorge] took of the student web interface. It looks great, and offers pretty much everything you need to complete the class. The textbook, which runs at least $65 for a paper copy, is available through the web interface as part of the course. The labs even include web demos you can use to simulate circuits and probe and measure the resulting signals and wave forms. If you have questions there is access to the teachers, but also a set of forums where you can work with other students.

Perhaps most interesting is [Jorge’s] assessment of the time you will spend working on the class. He thinks that if you’re already familiar with electronics the work can be complete in about one afternoon per week. Scheduling is flexible — tests are available for one week, but once you start taking one it must be completed in 24 hours.

He believes this will be offered again in the fall so keep a look out for registration to begin.

[Thanks Pan]

Online chip reference trims the fat


Quick: which pins are used for I2C on an ATmega168 microcontroller?

If you’re a true alpha geek you probably already know the answer. For the rest of us, ChipDB is the greatest thing since the resistor color code cheat sheet. It’s an online database of component pinouts: common Atmel microcontrollers, the peripheral ICs sold by SparkFun, and most of the 4000, 7400 and LMxxx series parts.

The streamlined interface, reminiscent of Google, returns just the essential information much quicker than rummaging through PDF datasheets (which can also be downloaded there if you need them). And the output, being based on simple text and CSS, renders quite well on any device, even a dinky smartphone screen.

Site developer [Matt Sarnoff] summarizes and calls upon the hacking community to help expand the database:

“The goal of my site isn’t to be some comprehensive database like Octopart; just a quick reference for the chips most commonly used by hobbyists. However, entries still have to be copied in manually. If anyone’s interested in adding their favorite chips, they can request a free account and use the (very primitive at this point) part editor. Submissions are currently moderated, since this is an alpha-stage project.”

Remote control whiteboard

Whenever [sprite_tm] sends in his latest project, it’s like getting a Christmas present and a night off. He put together a whiteboard, x/y stepper system, serial interfaced microcontroller and added a webcam with perspective correction for the online view. Me? I’m tempted to build one of these for leaving notes for the wife when I’m out.