Modern Linux Runs On Ancient Toshiba

While Microsoft no longer supports those of its operating systems that were in heavy use into the early 2000s, support for old hardware is not typically something that you will have to worry about if you run Linux on your machines. Sure, there will be driver issues from time to time, and you might have to do some things by hand, but if you’re using legacy hardware you’ll want a Linux distribution of some sort. Especially if you’re running it on one of the first laptops to ever feature a Pentium processor of any kind.

This is a Toshiba T4900CT which [MingcongBai] has been able to spruce up by installing a simplified version of the AOSC OS Linux distribution. The distribution is known for its simplified user interface, and this particular one runs a “Retro” command-line-only version. Upon startup (which takes over two minutes), the user can view the hardware and software specs: Linux kernel 4.19.67 (released within the past year) on a 75 MHz Intel processor.

Getting old equipment to work, even if the software is available, is a challenge and this one stands out for the historical noteworthiness of the laptop. We didn’t see it connect to the Internet, but if it ever does we still keep Retro Hackaday up specifically for situations like this.

Joining The RISC-V Ranks: IBM’s Power ISA To Become Free

IBM’s Power processor architecture is probably best known today as those humongous chips that power everything from massive mainframes and supercomputers to slightly less massive mainframes and servers. Originally developed in the 1980s, Power CPUs have been a reliable presence in the market for decades, forming the backbone of systems like IBM’s RS/6000 and AS/400 and later line of Power series.

Now IBM is making the Power ISA free to use after first opening up access to the ISA with the OpenPower Foundation. Amidst the fully free and open RISC-V ISA making headway into the computing market, and ARM feeling pressured to loosen up its licensing, it seems they figured that it’s best to join the party early. Without much of a threat to its existing business customers who are unlikely to whip up their own Power CPUs in a back office and not get IBM’s support that’s part of the business deal, it seems mostly aimed at increasing Power’s and with it IBM’s foothold in the overall market.

The Power ISA started out as the POWER ISA, before it evolved into the PowerPC ISA, co-developed with Motorola  and Apple and made famous by Apple’s use of the G3 through G5 series of PowerPC CPUs. The PowerPC ISA eventually got turned into today’s Power ISA. As a result it shares many commonalities with both POWER and PowerPC, being its de facto successor.

In addition, IBM is also opening its OpenCAPI accelerator and OpenCAPI Memory Interface variant that will be part of the upcoming Power9′ CPU. These technologies are aimed at reducing the number of interconnections required to link CPUs together, ranging from NVLink, to Infinity Fabric and countless more, not to mention memory, where OMI memory could offer interesting possibilities.

Would you use Power in your projects? Let us know in the comments.

DIY ZigBee Therapy Lights Are Hue Compatible

Working on a project into the wee hours is hardly uncommon for us hackers, but if you’re consistently sleeping until the afternoon, it’s possible you’re suffering from a condition known as Delayed Phase Sleep Disorder (DPSD). Put simply, your body’s internal clock is out of alignment with the world around you. One of the ways to treat this condition is to expose yourself to bright light in the morning, which can help you wake up and feel more refreshed. Unfortunately, these so-called “Bright Light Therapy” boxes tend to be pretty expensive.

Looking for a way to treat his own DPSD, [Edward Shin] decided to build his own light box based on the research he’d done on the various commercial offerings out there. After all, a box full of bright lights that operates on a timer doesn’t seem particularly complex. Of course, in reality there’s a bit more to it than that, but so far the results are certainly promising.

The first decision [Edward] had to make was what kind of light he wanted. Classic light therapy devices, often used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), tend to be full spectrum lights that try and simulate sunlight. But in his research, he found a paper from Nature that explained the melanopsin in the human eye responds primarily to blue and green light. But as intense blue light can apparently lead to macular degeneration, he decided to go with green.

Since [Edward] already uses the Philips Hue system for his home’s lighting, he wanted to bring his therapy light into that ecosystem. The idea was that he could easily schedule his new green light box to go on when he wanted to wake up in the morning. So he used the Mesh Bee from Seeed Studio which not only supports ZigBee, but for which software is available to emulate a Hue bulb. Then he just needed to pair that with a sufficiently beefy LED driver and some 510 nm emitters. Everything is enclosed in a box made of laser cut wood that’s designed to hang from the headboard and shine down onto his face.

Over the years we’ve seen a number of similar projects trying to address SAD, so the idea of a hacker tweaking the concept to tackle DPSD seems a natural enough evolution of the idea. Just remember to speak with a medical professional before coming up with a homebrew treatment plan.

Feeding Chickens, With Style

Ah, the joys of domestic animals. Often adorable, occasionally useful, they’re universally unable to care for themselves in the slightest. That’s part of the bargain though; we take over responsibility for their upkeep and they repay us with whatever it is they do best. Unless the animal in question is a cat, of course – they have their own terms and conditions.

Chickens, though, are very useful indeed. Give them food and water and they give you delicious, nutritious, high-quality protein. Feeding them every day can be a chore, though, unless you automate the task. This Twitch-enabled robotic chicken feeder may be overkill for that simple use case, but as [Sean Hodgins] tell it, there’s a method to all the hardware he threw at this build. That would include a custom-welded steel frame holding a solar panel and batteries, a huge LED matrix display, a Raspberry Pi and camera, and of course, food dispensers. Those are of the kind once used to dispense candy or gum for a coin or two in the grocery; retooled with 3D-printed parts, the dispensers now eject a small scoop of feed whenever someone watching a Twitch stream decides to donate to the farm that’s hosting the system. You can see the build below in detail, or just pop over to Sweet Farm to check out the live feed and gawk at some chickens.

It’s an impressive bit of work on [Sean]’s part for sure, and we did notice how he used his HCC rapid prototyping module to speed up development. Still, we’re not convinced there will be many donations at $10 a pop. Then again, dropping donations to the micropayment level may lead to overfed chickens, and that’s not a good thing.

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Be Better Bracelet Breaks Bad Habits, Fosters Favorable Fixations

Do you want to be a better person? Maybe you want to curse less, drink more water, or post fewer inflammatory comments on the internet. You could go the old school route by wearing a rubber band around your wrist and snapping it every time you slip, or literally pat yourself on the back when you do the right thing. While these types of reinforcement methods may deter bad behavior and encourage good, they are quite lean on data. And who wants that?

After an unpleasant conference call, [Darian] cursed a blue streak that left his coworkers shocked and speechless. This inciting incident began the hero’s journey that will end with a kinder, gentler [Darian], as long as he has his trusty Be Better Bracelet. He tried involving Alexa when at home, and various apps elsewhere to track these venomous utterances, but he yearned for a single solution that’s always available.

The sole purpose of this bracelet is low-cost, unobtrusive habit tracking. Though tied to a phone, it won’t tell time, predict the weather, or alert the user to incoming what-have-yous. It will simply record button presses, which are assigned meaning in the app settings. It’s up to the user to set goals, analyze the data, and reward or punish themselves accordingly.

[Darian] is still working out the design kinks to make this as small and cheap as possible. If you have suggestions, let him know.

Airport Runways And Hashtags — How To Become A Social Engineer

Of the $11.7 million companies lose to cyber attacks each year, an estimated 90% begin with a phone call or a chat with support, showing that the human factor is clearly an important facet of security and that security training is seriously lacking in most companies. Between open-source intelligence (OSINT) — the data the leaks out to public sources just waiting to be collected — and social engineering — manipulating people into telling you what you want to know — there’s much about information security that nothing to do with a strong login credentials or VPNs.

There’s great training available if you know where to look. The first time I heard about WISP (Women in Security and Privacy) was last June on Twitter when they announced their first-ever DEFCON Scholarship. As one of 57 lucky participants, I had the chance to attend my first DEFCON and Black Hat, and learn about their organization.

Apart from awarding scholarships to security conferences, WISP also runs regional workshops in lockpicking, security research, cryptography, and other security-related topics. They recently hosted an OSINT and Social Engineering talk in San Francisco, where Rachel Tobac (three-time DEFCON Social Engineering CTF winner and WISP Board Member) spoke about Robert Cialdini’s principles of persuasion and their relevance in social engineering.

Cialdini is a psychologist known for his writings on how persuasion works — one of the core skills of social engineering. It is important to note that while Cialdini’s principles are being applied in the context of social engineering, they are also useful for other means of persuasion, such as bartering for a better price at an open market or convincing a child to finish their vegetables. It is recommended that they are used for legal purposes and that they result in positive consequences for targets. Let’s work through the major points from Tobac’s talk and see if we can learn a little bit about this craft.

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Hackaday Podcast 032: Meteorite Snow Globes, Radioactive Ramjet Rockets, Autonomous Water Boxes, And Ball Reversers

Hackaday Editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams recorded this week’s podcast live from Chaos Communication Camp, discussing the most interesting hacks on offer over the past week. I novel locomotion news, there’s a quadcopter built around the coanda effect and an autonomous boat built into a plastic storage bin. The radiation spikes in Russia point to a nuclear-powered ramjet but the idea is far from new. Stardust (well… space rock dust) is falling from the sky and it’s surprisingly easy to collect. And 3D-printed gear boxes and hobby brushless DC motors have reached the critical threshold necessary to mangle 20/20 aluminum extrusion.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (41 MB)

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