What Losing Everything Taught Me About Backing Up

Backing up. It’s such a simple thing on paper – making a copy of important files and putting them in a safe place. In reality, for many of us, it’s just another thing on that list of things we really ought to be doing but never quite get around to.

I was firmly in that boat. Then, when disaster struck, I predictably lost greatly. Here’s my story on what I lost, what I managed to hang on to, and how I’d recommend you approach backups starting today.

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Open-Sourcing The Lisa, Mac’s Bigger Sister

Forty years ago, on January 19th of 1983, Apple released the Lisa, which was in many ways a revolutionary system. On January 19th of 2023, to celebrate the system’s 40th birthday, the Computer History Museum released the source code for Lisa OS version 3.1 under the Apple Academic License Agreement. Written in Pascal, the source includes over 1,300 source files, covering the OS itself, the Lisa Toolkit development system and a number of applications. The questions one might ask at this point include what the Apple Lisa even is, and why it was such an important system in computer history.

This especially in light of the terrible flop that the Lisa turned out to be, with only 10,000 units sold over two years. Part of this failure was definitely due to the introductory price, that was set at $9,995 (over $27,000 in 2021 dollars). Although it featured an OS with memory protection, despite the lack of an MMU on the Motorola 68k, among other advanced features that placed it well beyond other desktop computers of the time, it got quickly crushed in the market by Apple’s MacIntosh, even after successive Lisa successor releases that sought to address its shortcomings.

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Broken Genes And Scrambled Proteins: How Radiation Causes Biological Damage

If decades of cheesy sci-fi and pop culture have taught us anything, it’s that radiation is a universally bad thing that invariably causes the genetic mutations that gifted us with everything from Godzilla to Blinky the Three-Eyed Fish. There’s a kernel of truth there, of course. One only needs to look at pictures of what happened to Hiroshima survivors or the first responders at Chernobyl to see extreme examples of what radiation can do to living tissues.

But as is usually the case, a closer look at examples a little further away from the extremes can be instructive, and tell us a little more about how radiation, both ionizing and non-ionizing, can cause damage to biochemical structures and processes. Doing so reveals that, while DNA is certainly in the crosshairs for damage by radiation, it’s not the only target — proteins, carbohydrates, and even the lipids that form the membranes within cells are subject to radiation damage, both directly and indirectly. And the mechanisms underlying all of this end up revealing a lot about how life evolved, as well as being interesting in their own right.

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NASA Lunar Probe Finds Out It’s Not Easy Being Green

If you’re a space fan, these are very exciting days. There’s so much happening overhead that sometimes it can be difficult to keep up with the latest news. Artemis I just got back from the Moon, the International Space Station crew are dealing with a busted Soyuz, SpaceX is making incredible progress with their Starship architecture, CubeSats are being flung all over the solar system, and it seems like every month a new company is unveiling their own commercially-developed launch vehicle.

Lunar Flashlight

So with everything going on, we wouldn’t be surprised if you haven’t heard about NASA’s Lunar Flashlight mission. The briefcase-sized spacecraft was launched aboard a special “rideshare” flight of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket back on December 11th — tagging along with two other craft heading to our nearest celestial neighbor, the Japanese Hakuto-R lander, and a small rover developed by the United Arab Emirates. There was a time when a launch like that would have been big news, but being that it was only the second of seven launches that SpaceX performed in December alone, it didn’t make many headlines.

But recently, that’s started to change. There’s a growing buzz around Lunar Flashlight, though unfortunately, not for the reasons we’d usually hope. It seems the diminutive explorer has run into some trouble with its cutting-edge “green” propellant system, and unless the issue can be resolved soon, the promising mission could come to an end before it even had a chance to start.

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New Study Tells Us Where To Hide When The Nukes Are Coming

Geopolitics is a funny thing. Decades can go by with little concern, only for old grudges to suddenly boil to the surface and get the sabers a-rattlin’. When those sabers happen to be nuclear weapons, it can be enough to have you mulling the value of a bomb shelter in your own backyard.

Yes, every time the world takes a turn for the worse, we start contemplating what we’d do in the event of a nuclear attack. It’s already common knowledge that stout reinforced concrete buildings offer more protection than other flimsier structures. However, a new study has used computer modelling to highlight the best places to hide within such a building to maximise your chances of survival.

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Punycodes Explained

When you’re restricted to ASCII, how can you represent more complex things like emojis or non-Latin characters? One answer is Punycode, which is a way to represent Unicode characters in ASCII. However, while you could technically encode the raw bits of Unicode into characters, like Base64, there’s a snag. The Domain Name System (DNS) generally requires that hostnames are case-insensitive, so whether you type in HACKADAY.com, HackADay.com, or just hackaday.com, it all goes to the same place.

[A. Costello] at the University of California, Berkley proposed the idea of Punycode in RFC 3492 in March 2003. It outlines a simple algorithm where all regular ASCII characters are pulled out and stuck on one side with a separator in between, in this case, a hyphen. Then the Unicode characters are encoded and stuck on the end of the string.

First, the numeric codepoint and position in the string are multiplied together. Then the number is encoded as a Base-36 (a-z and 0-9) variable-length integer. For example, a greeting and the Greek for thanks, “Hey, ευχαριστώ” becomes “Hey, -mxahn5algcq2″. Similarly, the beautiful city of München becomes mnchen-3ya. Continue reading “Punycodes Explained”

Supercon 2022: All Aboard The SS MAPR With Sherry Chen

How do you figure out what is in a moving body of water over a mile wide? For those in charge of assessing the water quality of the Delaware river, this is a real problem. Collecting the data required to evaluate the water quality was expensive and time-consuming, taking over six years. Even then, the data was relatively sparse, with just a few water quality stations and only one surface sample for every six miles of river.

Sherry Chen, Quinn Wu, Vanessa Howell, Eunice Lee, Mia Mansour, and Frank Fan teamed up to create a solution, and the SS MAPR was the result. At Hackaday Supercon 2022, Sherry outlined the mission, why it was necessary, and their journey toward an autonomous robot boat. What follows is a fantastic guide and story of a massive project coming together. There are plans, evaluations, and tests for each component.

Sherry and the team first started by defining what was needed. It needed to be cheap, easy to use, and able to sample from various depths in a well-confined bounding box. It needed to run for four hours, be operated by a single person, and take ten samples across a 1-mile (2 km) section of the river. Some of the commercial solutions were evaluated, but they found none of them met the requirements, even ignoring their high costs. They selected a multi-hull style boat with off-the-shelf pontoons for stability and cost reasons.
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