Hackaday Links: September 30, 2018

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If you’re looking for an Open Source computer, good luck. The RISC-V stuff isn’t there yet, and with anything else you’re going to be dealing with NDA’d Intel, AMD, or some other proprietary cruft. System76, however, makes the most big-O Open computer, and they will be announcing a new Open computer called the Thelio next month. It was on display at the Open Hardware Summit, although smartly there were no pictures taken of this box. Liliputing has reported on it, but there are a few things wrong with that speculation. No, it’s not RISC-V. We’re looking at x86 here. It’s a desktop. It has wood (walnut or maple). It doesn’t have enough cold cathode lighting to blind you, but I guess that’s a matter of taste. Everything will be announced in October.

I have a plan in the works to sell snake oil to people. Actually, it’s not snake *oil*, but it is derived from snakes. There are rattlesnake farmers out there, who breed snakes for meat (tastes like chicken!) and their skins for boots. The fascia of the skins is disposed of when this leather is being prepared, and this can be used as the base component of a glue, or something resembling gelatin. It’s basically no different than fish or animal glue, except it’s from snakes. This can be used as one of the ingredients in gummy candy. This is my plan: I’m going to sell snake oil, except it’s really snake-based gummies. They promote digestion and get rid of ions in your body, or something. Better living through snake gummies.

The paragraph you just read is a better business plan than this bit of snake oil. It’s a battery that recharges itself. It’s unclear if it recharges itself over time; if if it just recharges itself automatically, wouldn’t the battery just have more energy in it? It’s hitting all the checkmarks of snake oil too: there are references to Tesla being a ‘forgotten genius’, zero-point energy fields, and a countdown timer to their crowdfunding campaign. This rabbit hole goes deep.

Did you know Hackaday has a Retro Edition, specifically designed for old computers that somehow have web browsers? It’s true! Sometimes, we even add pics of people pulling the Retro Edition up on their ancient devices. [Steven McDonald] wondered if his Blackberry counted. Sure thing! If you can pull up the Retro Edition on your ancient computer, we’ll mention it in the Links post, too. We’re also taking suggestions on how to improve the Retro Edition; I’ll get around to improving it eventually.

51 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: September 30, 2018

    1. I’m putting my money on the rebound effect, mainly because that’s what it looked like, who’d have thought the future of renewable energy would come from something as exotic as lead acid batteries?

    2. It reads like a satire of every startup “So revolutionary, changing the world will never be the same again” trope combined with the standard-issue free energy gibberish about zero point energy (with Bonus erratic CAPITALIZATION and bewildering phrasing, as it is termed by NASA).

      If it’s not intentional satire (damn you, Poe!), then it’s either a poorly composed scam or a sincerely confused idiot who decided that his battery’s rebound effect was the universe giving him free energy and set about making a battery with a bigger rebound effect.

    3. I have the joy of residing near Blacklight Power (Brilliant power? I have lost track..), Randell Mills ‘energy of the universe’, ‘zero point energy’, or whatever company. It has been a sink for gullible VC for 30 years or so, but I keep running into cheerleaders for it, and occasionally reps at conferences or talks (actual or pirate, I neither know nor care) in the region. This was one of the first in the field, and after all of this time, it is still ‘real soon now’, with the infrequent (now) flash demo and ‘no, you can’t look at that’.

      I figure that this is the same cloth in it’s entirety, and there will be patent fights (there are maybe 20 players between the US, EU, Australia, India, and far east), with sound and fury, signifying nothing.

        1. I’ve just wasted half an hour of my life reading their website, or less than one second if you believe their 28 days 19 hours 10 second count down, and as it turns out it’s not bullshit I have some batteries that are obviously prototype xpower batteries fitted to all my vehicles, if you turn them on the voltmeter says around 12 volts but if you try to start them with no pre heat the voltage drops to around 8 volts! Then when you release the key without starting the engine, the voltage climbs back up to 12 volts as the cells recharge themselves!
          What More Proof Do you Need?
          Ismbard Kingdom Brunel once said “if I have seen further, it was by standing on the shoulders of giants.
          Take a moment to appreciate the elements of truth backed up by coincidence and stupidity with random capitalisation and the mention of a smart dead guy.
          I also have some fake X power batteries piled up in the corner of my yard, I know they’re fake ones because they didn’t recharge themselves at all.

  1. Stop calling it “retro edition”. It’s just an archive of a very, very, very old HaD page. If you want to make an actual retro edition, use a script to take the contents of your CURRENT WordPress page and make a plain-old-text webpage out of it.

      1. The whole idea of retrocomputing is to challenge the implicit assumption that computers become obsolete after a certain amount of time, even if still fully functional. So to answer your question, I would try to browse Hackaday on my old Blackberry because my old Blackberry still works.

        Whenever someone asks a dumb question like this, I point to Craigslist, a still very successful website that continues to use only web features that were available in 1995. Or at least appear to – I haven’t actually tried this. Yes, Craigslist looks dated, but it is still as useful as it ever was.

    1. I tried to render the retro-edition on a true retro computer. I was expecting the low resolution to be the limitation.

      The actual limitation was that there simply wasn’t enough RAM to decode and scale JPEG images on a sub 64 kByte actual “retro” computer.

      If you use a non-compressed format like BMP then it would be workable. Also with BMP the retro-edition author will immediately recognize that a 2 TB image is probably not going to render on a 64 kByte machine with only a 16 kByte video addressing space.

      1. I think that making a truly retro page would involve removing or modifying any content that wouldn’t likely be renderable on the computers that were available around 1993 or so, when Mosaic became available. This could include measures such as scaling down images that would cause problems on these machines.

        However, I don’t think it is realistic to expect a “retro” page to render on computers that were already obsolete when the World Wide Web first became available to the consumer. If you want to browse the web with less capable computers, it would be the responsibility of the browser to avoid trying to render content too big for the hardware. I realize that a lot of software from that era didn’t do the most basic validation of incoming data, but that shouldn’t be the standard for making “safe” web pages. If a computer isn’t capable of rendering a 2k x 5k JPEG, then the browser shouldn’t attempt to render it.

        The standard for a “retro” page should reflect the expectations of browsers actually available in whatever time period you’re targeting. In the mid-90s, it was not reasonable to expect that every user’s machine could run Java or Javascript, so pages would have avoided these.

        In my previous post, I suggested that the way to do this would be to convert WordPress pages to static HTML. This is not because a retro computer can’t handle WordPress (php + SQL), because these are handled on the server side. The problem is that WordPress is likely to produce HTML that can’t be handled by older computers. So another approach would be to use a translator that on request of a WordPress page, requests the page, then dumbs-down the HTML code before relaying that to the user.

    2. PS: It would also help to get rid of the <table> tag and use the align= attributes of <img> instead.

      Too much math and code recursion for <table> which slows an already slow CPU to almost a halt (and catch fire).

  2. Ugh, I’m so SICK of these products that take valuable IONS from my body! It’s always “de-ionized this,” and “ion-free that”. Boo hiss! Give me some snake oil that FILLS ME with ions instead! I want ionized WATER, ionized NUTRIENTS, ionized EVERYTHING!

    IONS: It’s what your body needs!

  3. ” Sure thing! If you can pull up the Retro Edition on your ancient computer, we’ll mention it in the Links post, too.”

    See if someone can get this bad boy running on the Difference Engine.

  4. Interesting fact about EnergyXPower website: every time you open the page, the countdown counter shows 29 days, 22 hours, 43 minutes, and 06 seconds until launch. They look for people naive enough to not to notice such an obvious sign of a scam.

        1. Yep, the same every time. I doubt it’s a time zone difference though, since those can only be on 30 minute intervals.

          Also, check out the countdown on their “about” page. It just says 00:00:00 for me.

          1. Allow me to introduce you to Nepal (UTC+05:45), and Chatham Islands, NZ (UTC+12:45).

            Also: Dublin Mean Time (UTC−00:25:21) ended in 1916. Liberia used UTC-00:44 until 1972. There’s various other historical time zones offset by 20 or 40 minutes.

    1. If I look in the source code to the page, I can see “FlipClock(2569708” blah blah blah.

      2569708 seconds is 29 days + 17 hours + 48 minutes + 28 seconds

      Reloading the page from multiple different machines in different time zones didn’t change the number in the page either. But maybe they’ve got a poor monkey manually updating the amount of time left.

      1. They’re just using this WP plugin https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-flipclock/

        What will be happening is that the content for the clock is being cached by WordPress. It runs this function to generate the code for the page:

        function wp_flipclock_get_timezone_offset($timezone=”UTC”){
        return 0;
        } else {
        $dateTimeOfZone = new DateTimeZone($timezone);
        $dateTimeInZone = new DateTime(“now”, $dateTimeOfZone);
        $dateTimeOfUTC = new DateTimeZone(“UTC”);
        $dateTimeInUTC = new DateTime(“now”, $dateTimeOfUTC);
        return 1000*($dateTimeOfUTC->getOffset($dateTimeInUTC)-$dateTimeOfZone->getOffset($dateTimeInZone));

        These values get cached until WP cache time limit.

  5. Growing up in Pennsylvania, we used to go on rattlesnake hunts and bring our catch (if any) to the local rattlesnake roundup. Not making this up – it was a real thing.

    Learned a great deal about protecting from rattlesnakes while hiking – wrap cardboard around your calves and wear hiking boots, then the bite can’t get to your skin.

    At that time, the rattlesnakes were milked for venom used to make antitoxin. A few years later harvested meat was donated to a young boy (in Philadelphia, IIRC) who was born with a defect that he couldn’t digest any bird or bovine meat. Rattlesnake meat was apparently the only type he could eat safely.

    Nowadays rattlesnakes are a protected species and we can’t hunt them anymore, but we can call the local animal control if one is found somewhere inconvenient.

  6. The only thing better in history than snake oil is the cosmetics they added radioactive material to for enhanced beauty.

    They even added radioactive materials to baby products, cos, you know, it’s easier to find babies in the dark if they glow.

    1. I had to share this lol –

      Oh man…words cannot express what happened to me after eating these. The Gummi Bear “Cleanse”. If you are someone that can tolerate the sugar substitute, enjoy. If you are like the dozens of people that tried my order, RUN!

      First of all, for taste I would rate these a 5. So good. Soft, true-to-taste fruit flavors like the sugar variety…I was a happy camper.

      BUT (or should I say BUTT), not long after eating about 20 of these all hell broke loose. I had a gastrointestinal experience like nothing I’ve ever imagined. Cramps, sweating, bloating beyond my worst nightmare. I’ve had food poisoning from some bad shellfish and that was almost like a skip in the park compared to what was going on inside me.

      Then came the, uh, flatulence. Heavens to Murgatroyd, the sounds, like trumpets calling the demons back to Hell…the stench, like 1,000 rotten corpses vomited. I couldn’t stand to stay in one room for fear of succumbing to my own odors.

      But wait; there’s more. What came out of me felt like someone tried to funnel Niagara Falls through a coffee straw. I swear my sphincters were screaming. It felt like my delicate starfish was a gaping maw projectile vomiting a torrential flood of toxic waste. 100% liquid. Flammable liquid. NAPALM. It was actually a bit humorous (for a nanosecond)as it was just beyond anything I could imagine possible.


      I felt violated when it was over, which I think might have been sometime in the early morning of the next day. There was stuff coming out of me that I ate at my wedding in 2005.

      I had FIVE POUNDS of these innocent-looking delicious-tasting HELLBEARS so I told a friend about what happened to me, thinking it HAD to be some type of sensitivity I had to the sugar substitute, and in spite of my warnings and graphic descriptions, she decided to take her chances and take them off my hands.

      Silly woman. All of the same for her, and a phone call from her while on the toilet (because you kinda end up living in the bathroom for a spell) telling me she really wished she would have listened. I think she was crying.

      Her sister was skeptical and suspected that we were exaggerating. She took them to work, since there was still 99% of a 5 pound bag left. She works for a construction company, where there are builders, roofers, house painters, landscapers, etc. Lots of people who generally have limited access to toilets on a given day. I can’t imagine where all of those poor men (and women) pooped that day. I keep envisioning men on roofs, crossing their legs and trying to decide if they can make it down the ladder, or if they should just jump.

      If you order these, best of luck to you. And please, don’t post a video review during the aftershocks.

      PS: When I ordered these, the warnings and disclaimers and legalese were NOT posted. I’m not a moron. Also, not sure why so many people assume I’m a man. I am a woman. We poop too. Of course, our poop sparkles and smells like a walk in a meadow of wildflowers. Thanks for all the great comments. I’ve been enjoying reading them and so glad that the horror show I experienced from snacking on these has at least made some people smile.

      1. I can’t believe I read the whole thing. It sounds like these were a form of chemical warfare. You give someone 5 pounds of this, and it incapacitates not only them, but everybody around them, because nobody is willing to throw away 4.9+ pounds of free candy.

        I must say, though, I’ve never heard of anybody refer to any part of their anatomy as their “delicate starfish”. And yet it’s immediately clear what is meant by this. Thumbs-up to the writer.

    1. “As stated … I am not a Scientist nor Academic. I do not put forth any theory or science to make claims as far as what the Xpower Battery® is or what it does, let alone how it does it. THAT’s for the Scientists to discover and work out in their labs. I can say as of this very moment, we have engaged CSIRO to carry out some initial Scientific Research.”

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