Video Killed The Radio Alarm Clock

For decades now, MTV has been on a bizarre trajectory given its original name was an acronym for Music Television. In the original days in the 80s and 90s it kept mostly true to its name, but starting around two decades ago they expanded into reality and other non-musical television programming and have now left it largely behind. Plenty of those who grew up in its heyday have an understandable amount of nostalgia for the channel as a cultural touchstone, and [Derf] used MTV archival footage to build a video alarm clock which helps him keep in tune with the past.

To keep the appropriate 80s aesthetic, the build uses a portable TV from the late 80s with its original CRT. The video files are hosted on more modern technology though, in this case a Raspberry Pi. The Pi is set up to run a python script which launches the VLC media player with a playlist loaded with video files, in this case a long list of MTV shows. Some configuration needs to be done to get it to output to the old CRT properly which depends on the hardware used, but once that’s in place it’s ready to be used as an alarm. [Derf] is using a smart outlet to power the TV at the appropriate time, and a cron job which starts the video player simultaneously at a somewhat random point in the playlist.

As far as retro TVs go, having one as an alarm clock is certainly a novel idea. We have seen a few others in the past, though, one to play the golden age of The Simpsons, and another that recreates the nostalgia of 90s cable television complete with a preview channel and era-appropriate commercials.

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Experiencing Visual Deficits And Their Impact On Daily Life, With VR

Researchers presented an interesting project at the 2024 IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces: it uses VR and eye tracking to simulate visual deficits such as macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and other visual diseases and impairments.

Typical labels and pill bottles can be shockingly inaccessible to a variety of common visual deficits.

VR offers a unique method of allowing people to experience the impact of living with such conditions, a point driven home particularly well by having the user see for themselves the effect on simple real-world tasks such as choosing a pill bottle, or picking up a mug. Conditions like macular degeneration (which causes loss of central vision) are more accurately simulated by using eye tracking, a technology much more mature nowadays than it was even just a few years ago.

The abstract for the presentation is available here, and if you have some time be sure to check out the main index for all of the VR research demos because there are some neat ones there, including a method of manipulating a user’s perception of the shape of the ground under their feet by electrically-stimulating the tendons of the ankle.

Eye tracking is in a few consumer VR products nowadays, but it’s also perfectly feasible to roll your own in a surprisingly slick way. It’s even been used on jumping spiders to gain insights into the fascinating and surprisingly deep perceptual reality these creatures inhabit.

Security Alert: Potential SSH Backdoor Via Liblzma

In breaking news that dropped just after our weekly security column went live, a backdoor has been discovered in the xz package, that could potentially compromise SSH logins on Linux systems. The most detailed analysis so far seems to be by [Andres Freund] on the oss-security list.

The xz release tarballs from 5.6.0 in late February and 5.6.1 on March 9th both contain malicious code. A pair of compressed files in the repository contain the majority of the malicious patch, disguised as test files. In practice, this means that looking at the repository doesn’t reveal anything amiss, but downloading the release tarballs gives you the compromised code.

This was discovered because SSH logins on a Debian sid were taking longer, with more CPU cycles than expected. And interestingly, Valgrind was throwing unexpected errors when running on the liblzma library. That last bit was first discovered on February 24th, immediately after the 5.6.0 release. The xz-utils package failed its tests on Gentoo builds.

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Electrospinning Artificial Heart Valves

When you think about additive manufacturing, thoughts naturally turn to that hot-glue squirting CNC machine sitting on your bench and squeezing whatever plastic doodad you need. But 3D printing isn’t the only way to build polymer structures, as [Riley] shows us with this fascinating attempt to create electrospun heart valves.

Now, you may never have heard of electrospinning, but we’ll venture a guess that as soon as you see what it entails, you’ll have a “Why didn’t I think of that?” moment. As [Riley] explains, electrospinning uses an electric field to build structures from fine threads of liquid polymer solution — he uses polycaprolactone (PCL), a biodegradable polyester we’ve seen used in other medical applications, which he dissolves in acetone. He loads it into a syringe, attaches the positive terminal of a high-voltage power supply to the hypodermic needle, and the negative terminal to a sheet of aluminum foil. The charge turns the PCL droplets into fine threads that accumulate on the foil; once the solvent flashes off, what’s left is a gossamer layer of non-woven plastic fabric.

To explore the uses of this material, [Riley] chose to make an artificial heart valve. This required a 3D-printed framework with three prongs, painted with conductive paint. He tried a few variations on the design before settling on a two-piece armature affixed to a rotating shaft. The PCL accumulates on the form, creating a one-piece structure that can be gingerly slipped off thanks to a little silicon grease used as a release agent.

The results are pretty impressive. The structure bears a strong resemblance to an artificial tricuspid heart valve, with three delicate leaves suspended between the upright prongs. It’s just a proof of concept, of course, but it’s a great demonstration of the potential of electrospinning, as well as an eye-opening look at what else additive manufacturing has to offer.

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Retrotechtacular: The IBM 7070

If you think of IBM mainframe computers, you most likely are thinking of the iconic S/360 or the slightly newer S/370. But what about the 7070 from 1958? It had transistors! It didn’t, however, use binary. Instead, it was a decimal-architecture machine. You can see a lost video of the machine below.

It was originally slated to upgrade the older IBM 650 and 705 computers. However, it wasn’t compatible with either, so IBM had to roll out the IBM7080, which was compatible, at least, with the 705. Both machines could run 650 code via emulation.

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Hackaday Podcast Episode 264: Cheap Minimills, 65-in-1 Electronics, And Time On Moon

It was Dan’s turn behind the mic with Elliot this time as we uncovered the latest from the world of hacking, and what an eclectic mix it was. It was slightly heavy on machining, with a look at mini-mills that are better than nothing, and a DIY DRO that’s A-OK. We also kicked the nostalgia bucket over — whatever that means — and got a new twist on the old “65-in-1” concept, found hidden code in 80s music, and looked at color TV in the US and how it got that way. We’ve got ample alliteration about grep, thoughts about telling time on the Moon, and what does Canada have against the poor Flipper Zero, anyway?

Grab a copy for yourself if you want to listen offline.

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The Most Annoying Thing On The Internet Isn’t Really Necessary

We’re sure you’ll agree that there are many annoying things on the Web. Which of them we rate as most annoying depends on personal view, but we’re guessing that quite a few of you will join us in naming the ubiquitous cookie pop-up at the top of the list. It’s the pesky EU demanding consent for tracking cookies, we’re told, nothing to do with whoever is demanding you click through screens and screens of slider switches to turn everything off before you can view their website.

Now [Bite Code] is here to remind us that it’s not necessary. Not in America for the somewhat obvious reason that it’s not part of the EU, and perhaps surprisingly, not even in the EU itself.

The EU does have a consent requirement, but the point made in the article is that its requirements are satisfied by the Do Not Track header standard, an HTTP feature that’s been with us since 2009 but which almost nobody implemented so is now deprecated. This allowed a user to reject tracking at the browser level, making all the cookie popups irrelevant. That popups were chosen instead, the article concludes, is due to large websites preferring to make the process annoying enough that users simply click on the consent button to make it go away, making tracking much more likely. We suspect that the plethora of cookie popups also has something to do with FUD among owners of smaller websites, that somehow they don’t comply with the law if they don’t have one.

So as we’d probably all agree, the tracking cookie situation is a mess. This post is being written of Firefox which now silos cookies to only the site which delivered them, but there seems to be little for the average user stuck with either of the big browsers. Perhaps we should all hope for a bit more competition in the future.

Cookies header: Lisa Fotios, CC0.