Hackaday Links: Leap Day, 2012

The Earth orbits the Sun every 365.256 days. Because this number isn’t a whole number, an extra day is tacked onto February every four years, unless the year is evenly divisible by 100, except in cases where the year is divisible by 400, or something like that. To commemorate this calendar hack, here’s some stuff that has rolled in over the last week or so.

Marble sequencer

[Brian] sent in this marble-based sequencer that sounds like someone is running MIDI into an Atari 2600. There are photoresistors in there somewhere, and it really reminds us of those thingamagoop robots.

YouTube CLI

[Mike] uses YouTube as his music library. While this is a perfectly acceptable way to listen to music, the user interface is terrible. To solve this problem, [Mike] is downloading videos from the command line, automagically converting them to MP3, and playing them over speakers. It works well with SSH, so we’ll call this a win.

Key card lock

[valenitn] just joined the MIT Media Lab, but something was terribly wrong with his keys – an ID card was required to get into the building, but a key was necessary to get into his office. He doesn’t need the key anymore, at least since he modded his office door. Check out the video.

Pop Tart Cat is everywhere

[skywodd] saw our writeup on the Maximite Basic computer and figured he could send in a project he’s been working on. He programmed his Maximite to sing the nyan cat song and then created a BASIC music player. Nice job, [skywodd].

Not sure if brilliant or insane

[Vikash] ran across a forum post where a user named [I Shooter] describes his setup to dual-boot Windows and Linux: [I Shooter] connected data cables to a pair of SATA hard drives, one loaded up with Windows, the other with Linux. The power cables are switched using relays so only one drive is powered at a time. [I Shooter] gets a ton of points for creativity, but there’s a reason this brute force hardware dual-boot setup isn’t more common. We wish there were pictures of this one.

28 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: Leap Day, 2012

  1. The mit hack is neat and clean. Yet this man knows nothing of security. What happens when someone bit bangs it or worse..snags that wire.

    Well all in all its sacrificing security for access in a reasonably clean, efficient manner. Plus the key still works when the power goes out.

  2. That Maximite has a PIC and an Arduino-running AVR. I see a TI power regulator, and a Microchip battery regulator. All it’s missing is an ARM, and maybe a Paralax chip, of some sort, and it would be a sign of armageddon.

  3. On the VERY rare occasions I’ve let Billdoze share a system with linux and/or DRDOS, I put ‘Doze on hdc1, linux on hdb1, DRDOS on hda1.
    If I want ‘Doze, I disable hda and hdb in the BIOS, then reboot.


    Because one fateful day after finally getting map drive in LILO to work with all 3 OS’,

    FRIGGEN ‘Doze decided not only the first 2 IDE drives were “broken” and tried to “repair” them,
    it went through the 4 SCSI drives I had and tried to “fix” them as well!
    And it “fixed” ’em real good!

    My ‘Doze boxes only run ‘Doze.

    My dual boot systems are Debian/DR-DOS.

    Lest we forget!


    1. So all my years of dual/triple booting from one drive are wrong? I guess I just got lucky. I think it has been 10 years since I had to deal with LILO. Tho when convenient I will use separate hard drives for different OS but all of my laptops are single drives and dual boot Windows/linux. Maybe you had one too many Z’s some place and the BIOZ choked on it;)

      1. Yes all the time. Modern CPU, lots (AND LOTS) of ram and it’s just like have several physical boxes all in one.

        My edge device is VMWare Hypervisor with IPCOP v1.4, IPCOP v2, PFSense, CentOS (running a LAMP stack), Debian (running a Proxy service), and W2K8 (running my Email and Trouble Ticket software).

        My file server is another VMWare Hypervisor running W2K8 Server (Sharepoint and Sql) and CentOS (Samba) sharing a 6T (4x3T RAID 10) storage array.

        My laptop runs Windows 7 with Virtual Box and a handful of Linux VM’s.

        My Desktop runs Windows 7 with Virtual Box and dozens of test VM’s.

        Dual/Multi boot is for the birds. I can’t imagine the huge amount of time wasted shutting down one OS to then waiting for another to Boot. Plus with enough RAM, running 3 or 4 or 6 VM’s at once (plus the Host OS) is not only possible, but immensely practical.

        Anyone still Dual Booting should immediately move to Amish Country (along with their analog record player and butter churn).

    1. How’s your hardware support through virtualization? This is Hackaday. If it isn’t easy to connect your Arduino powered device X and use it in the guest OS then virtualization is the wrong answer.

      Personally I rarely do either, virtualization or dual boot. I just run Wine in Linux and almost anything I ever attempt to run works great!

  4. Not seeing what’s so terrible about switching power to the drives. I pull only the power of the root disk on my desktop when I need to use a boot CD for imaging disks and other stuff where a mistyped device name can ruin my day.

  5. the relay-power boot system is a great idea. as far as the computer is concerned there is only one drive, you can install anything you want and you never have to bother with virtualization or bootloaders (bootloaders are always replaced when reinstalling an OS anyway). and if one drive fails, you wont lose both OSs. its genius.

    1. meh, to each their own I guess. I see it as a quick and dirty. It’s not bad, but in my opinion properly configuring your bootloader is easier, cheaper and not dependent on a hardware hack. This is what bootloaders are for anyway…

      Plus, he mentioned having XP around for the grandkids to play games. Kids love to flick switches, hell I love to flick switches. This method introduces a pretty quick self destruct method I suppose.

      A RAID setup will protect against drive failures, which if you’re really interested in data loss, you’re probably dealing with anyway.

      1. @Whatnot I guess I don’t understand what you’re getting at. The guy in the forum who installed the switch said he’s not a techie person, but he’s installing switches and relays on power lines? It’s easier to setup GRUB than wire relays and switches and drill holes in a computer case. Just to switch a hard drive? I think by “not techie” he meant, didn’t bother to even try. GRUB isn’t rocket science, edit a damn text file and you’re good to go.

        “kids love playing with switches” isn’t nonsense. You obviously aren’t around kids very often.

        Calling this hack ‘genius’ is a huge stretch in my opinion. The reason it’s not done more commonly (as eluded to by the HAD blurb) is because there are better ways to do this.

        A damn drive caddy would be “better”, cause at least if you yank a drive during operation you don’t run the risk of destroying the other drive.

      2. I suppose if you really wanted to over-engineer this you could throw some logic between the switch and the relay that only allows it to switch when the computer is powered down.

        Or maybe another option might be to just use one of those keyed switches like the on/off switches in removeable drive bays.

        I do agree… I would just use GRUB myself. It’s interesting hearing about other solutions people have come up with though whether I think they are better or worse or if I would use myself or not. I appreciate that he posted this.

    1. Nice, I thought maybe I was the only one who did that… I used a dpdt switch mounted on the front of the case to flipflop master/slave settings on the drives too to swap which one the machine would boot from… I’d go the VM route today, but back in the day it worked well enough…

    1. I’m not sure exactly what you mean by ‘never acceptable’; I do agree that there are situations where a proper music collection if much better, but not always.

      As far as sound quality goes; by ‘better speakers’ I mean a £20 2.1 set over the tinny horrible things in my netbook. Not going to satisfy an audiofile but I’m not an audiofile.

      The copyright issue is not that big a deal, but occasionally something won’t download (which I have down to either copyright or adult content, which could be fixed by telling youtube-dl to use an account). A larger issue I’ve come accross is sometimes you get the clean radio edit rather than the original explicit track.

      Yes it’s not perfect, but it is useful when a group of people are sitting around and want the ability to add whatever they feel like listening to to the playlist.

  6. I guess many users came across some dual boot issues now and then, and not everyone wants to solve that kind of software glitch with more software.
    Using a virtual machine is often a good approach to many of those problems and avoids shutting down the machine every time you want to use an OS specific feature.

  7. I use to do something similar (HDD switch to choose which OS to boot)

    back in ’99, I had my main PC with an IDE hard drive booting windows, and then a cable going from my scsi card over to a second computer case full of old, 1 gig scsi hard drives loaded with linux on the boot drive and misc. media files across all the others.

    I then set the boot order of the PC to boot the SCSI first, and IDE second if the SCSI drives weren’t found. so at boot time, I can choose my OS by turning on or off the SCSI tower. and as far as I know, the nature of SCSI allowed me to turn the drive tower on or off at will without any ill effect (provided no data was being read or written to them at the time)

    I don’t do that any more, but I thought it was a nice work-around for the limited resources on hand. these days, I just run straight linux with XP in a virtual machine.

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