Emulate A KIM-1 With A Commodore 64

When you think about virtualization, you usually think about making some CPU pretend to be another CPU. However, there are sometimes advantages to making a computer pretend to be the same computer.

That’s the case with [oldvcr]’s KIMplement, which emulates a KIM-1 with a 6502 using a Commodore 64, which also uses a 6502.The reason this makes sense is that you have total control over an emulated CPU. If a program, for example, writes to a critical memory location or tries to take over the screen or keyboard, you can easily make the emulator do something more appropriate. Things like breakpoints and single stepping also become trivial.

The virtual machine at the heart of it is 6o6 (6502 on 6502), and it seems to perform well. By virtualizing, you can easily protect the system from programs that try to, for example, take over an interrupt vector. This is similar to how x86 protected mode can run old real-mode code in a virtual environment and intervene for certain instructions. The emulation is good enough that the emulator can run the emulator, which then runs the emulator to actually run the real target. That’s wasteful, of course, but it does speak to the completeness of the pretend CPU.

If you want a KIM-1 (and an 1802 Elf) but only have an Arduino, you can emulate a different way. At least an emulated KIM-1 doesn’t develop bad memory chips.

The film scanner [xssfox] found, in the center of a table, with other stuff strewn across the table

Answering All Your ISCSI Scanner Questions

iSCSI is a widely used protocol for exposing SCSI devices over a network connection, and some scanners have in the past been equipped with SCSI ports. So, could you have an iSCSI network scanner? [xssfox] details her journey making a Canoscan FS4000US film scanner work over iSCSI, sparked by someone’s overly-confident StackOverflow comment that it couldn’t be done. Nothing in the spec said it couldn’t actually work, however, and after figuring out a tentative architecture, a hardware setup was put together.

No flatbed scanners with SCSI ports could be found on the cheap, so a film scanner had to be procured. After figuring out a few hitches with the loading mechanism and getting a test image locally, it was time to try and build up the software setup, tearing through SCSI compatibility and cabling, driver and PCI pass-through woes, bluescreens, and intermediate software having dropped some of the necessary features by now. Still, [xssfox] eventually exported the scanner as an iSCSI target – and, on the other end of the network, successfully connected to it and completed a scan. The StackOverflow answer was wrong, after all.

It’s fun to see how far old technology can go, and get answers to questions you never knew you had. Whether you’re reminiscing about SCSI days or wondering what the technology about, we’ve talked about it aplenty, from a retrospective to modern-day experiments, repurposing old SCSI hardware for modern SATA ports, a Raspberry Pi implementation, an emulator, and a fair bit more.

We thank [Valentijn Sessink] and [adistuder] for sharing this with us!

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Hackaday Links: May 12, 2024

Don’t pack your bags for the trip to exoplanet K2-18b quite yet — it turns out that the James Webb Space Telescope may not have detected signs of life there after all. Last year, astronomers reported the possible presence of dimethyl sulfide there, a gas that (at least on Earth) is generally associated with phytoplankton in the ocean. Webb used its infrared spectrometer instruments to look at the light from the planet’s star, a red dwarf about 111 light-years away, as it passed through the hydrogen-rich atmosphere. The finding was sort of incidental to the discovery of much stronger signals for methane and carbon dioxide, but it turns out that the DMS signal might have just been overlap from the methane signal. It’s too bad, because K2-18b seems to be somewhat Earth-like, if you can get over the lack of oxygen and the average temperature just below freezing. So, maybe not a great place to visit, but it would be nice to see if life, uh, found a way anywhere else in the universe.

Attention Fortran fans: your favorite language isn’t quite dead yet. In fact, it cracked the top ten on one recent survey, perhaps on the strength of its numerical and scientific applications. The “Programming Community Index” is perhaps a bit subjective, since it’s based on things like Google searches for references to particular languages. It’s no surprise then that Python tops such a list, but it’s still interesting that there’s enough interest in a 67-year-old programming language to make it onto the list. We’d probably not advise building a career around Fortran, but you never know.

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Autochrome For The 2020s

For all intents and purposes, photography here in 2024 is digital. Of course chemical photography still exists, and there are a bunch of us who love it for what it is, but even as we hang up our latest strip of negatives to dry we have to admit that it’s no longer mainstream. Among those enthusiasts who work with conventional black-and-white or dye-coupler colour film are a special breed whose chemistry takes them into more obscure pathways.

Wet-collodion plates for example, or in the case of [Jon Hilty], the Lumière autochrome process. This is a colour photography process from the early years of the twentieth century, employing a layer of red, green, and blue grains above a photosensitive emulsion. Its preparation is notoriously difficult, and he’s lightened the load somewhat with the clever use of CNC machinery to automate some of it.

Pressing the plates via CNC

His web site has the full details of how he prepares and exposes the plates, so perhaps it’s best here to recap how it works. Red, green, and blue dyed potato starch grains are laid uniformly on a glass plate, then dried and pressed to form a random array of tiny RGB filters. The photographic emulsion is laid on top of that, and once it is ready the exposure is made from the glass side do the light passes through the filters.

If the emulsion is then developed using a reversal process as for example a slide would be, the result is a black and white image bearing colour information in that random array, which when viewed has red, green, and blue light from those starch filters passing through it. To the viewer’s eye, this then appears as a colour image.

We can’t help being fascinated by the autochrome process, and while we know we’ll never do it ourselves it’s great to see someone else working with it and producing 21st century plates that look a hundred years old.

While this may be the first time we’ve featured such a deep dive into autochrome, it’s certainly not the first time we’ve looked at alternative photographic chemistries.

IRCB S73-7 Satellite Found After Going Untracked For 25 Years

When the United States launched the KH-9 Hexagon spy satellite into orbit atop a Titan IIID rocket in 1974, it brought a calibration target along for the ride: the Infra-Red Calibration Balloon (IRCB) S73-7. This 66 cm (26 inch) diameter inflatable satellite was ejected by the KH-9, but failed to inflate into its intended configuration and became yet another piece of space junk. Initially it was being tracked in the 1970s, but vanished until briefly reappearing in the 1990s. Now it’s popped up again, twenty-five years later.

As noted by [Jonathan McDowell] who tripped over S73-7 in recent debris tracking data, it’s quite possible that it had been tracked before, but hidden in the noise as it is not an easy target to track. Since it’s not a big metallic object with a large radar cross-section, it’s among the more difficult signals to reliably pick out of the noise. As can be seen in [Jonathan]’s debris tracking table, this is hardly a unique situation, with many lost (XO) entries. This always raises the exciting question of whether a piece of debris has had its orbit decayed to where it burned up, ended up colliding with other debris/working satellite or simply has gone dark.

For now we know where S73-7 is, and as long as its orbit remains stable we can predict where it’ll be, but it highlights the difficulty of keeping track of the around 20,000 objects in Earth orbit, with disastrous consequences if we get it wrong.

Pi with the PiFEX shield on the right, the SSD under test on the left with testpoints held by a jumper clip, jumper wires connecting the two together

JTAG Hacking An SSD With A Pi: A Primer

[Matthew “wrongbaud” Alt] is well known around these parts for his hardware hacking and reverse-engineering lessons, and today he’s bringing us a JTAG hacking primer that demoes some cool new hardware — the PiFEX (Pi Interface Explorer). Ever wondered about those testpoint arrays on mSATA and M.2 SSDs? This write-up lays bare the secrets of such an SSD, using a Pi 4, PiFEX, OpenOCD and a good few open-source tools for JTAG probing that you can easily use yourself.

The PiFEX hat gives you level-shifted bidirectional GPIO connectors for UART, SPI, I2C, JTAG, SWD and potentially way more, an OLED screen to show any debugging information you might need, and even a logic analyzer header so that you can check up on your reverse-engineering progress.

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Tweeze Your Way To Soldering Success!

Soldering, for those of us who spend a lot of time at an electronics bench, is just one of those skills we have, in the way that a blacksmith can weld or a tailor can cut clothing. We have an uncommon skill with hot metal and can manipulate the tiniest of parts, and incidentally our chopstick skills aren’t that bad as a consequence, either.

But even the best with a soldering iron can find useful tips from an expert, and that’s where [Mr SolderFix] comes in. His channel is chock-full of soldering advice, and in his latest video he takes a look at tweezers. They’re a part of the solderer’s standard kit and we all have several pairs, but it’s fair to say that we don’t always have the right pair to hand.

It was refreshing to hear him confirm that a good pair of tweezers, once a certain quality threshold has been met, need not necessarily be the most expensive set. We’ve certainly seen expensive tweezers with suspiciously bendy ends, and have found random AliExpress purchases which have stood the test of time. He also makes the point about which situations a set of tweezers with serrated heads might be more useful, and he demonstrates with a crystal oscillator.

As with photography though, we’d observe that sometimes the best set of tweezers to rectify a mishap are the ones in your hand. If you’re interested in more from [Mr SolderFix], we’ve featured his work more than once in the past. When he showed us how to lift SMD pins, for example.