On Cloud Computing And Learning To Say No

Do you really need that cloud hosting package? If you’re just running a website — no matter whether large or very large — you probably don’t and should settle for basic hosting. This is the point that [Thomas Millar] argues, taking the reader through an example of a big site like Business Insider, and their realistic bandwidth needs.

From a few stories on Business Insider the HTML itself comes down to about 75 kB compressed, so for their approximately 200 million visitors a month they’d churn through 30 TB of bandwidth for the HTML assuming two articles read per visitor.

This comes down to 11 MB/s of HTML, which can be generated dynamically even with slow interpreted languages, or as [Thomas] says would allow for the world’s websites to be hosted on a system featuring single 192 core AMD Zen 5-based server CPU. So what’s the added value here? The reduction in latency and of course increased redundancy from having the site served from 2-3 locations around the globe. Rather than falling in the trap of ‘edge cloud hosting’ and the latency of inter-datacenter calls, databases should be ideally located on the same physical hardware and synchronized between datacenters.

In this scenario [Thomas] also sees no need for Docker, scaling solutions and virtualization, massively cutting down on costs and complexity. For those among us who run large websites (in the cloud or not), do you agree or disagree with this notion? Feel free to touch off in the comments.

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.

Internet Radio Built In Charming Cassette-Like Form Factor

You can listen to plenty of broadcast radio these days. There’s a lot of choice too, with stations on AM, FM, and digital broadcasts to boot. However, if you want the broadest possible choice, you want an internet radio. If that’s your bag, why not build a fun one like [indoorgeek’s] latest design?

The build is based around a PCB and 3D-printed components that roughly ape the design of a cassette tape. It even replicates the typical center window of a cassette tape by using a transparent OLED screen, which displays the user interface. In a neat way, the graphics on the display are designed to line up with those on the PCB, which looks excellent.

An ESP32 is the heart of the operation, which is responsible for streaming audio over the Internet via its WiFi connection. It’s powered by a small lithium-polymer battery, and hooked up with a MAX98357 Class D amplifier driven via the chip’s I2S hardware. Audio is played out over a small speaker salvaged from an old smartphone.

While it’s obviously possible to play whatever you like on a smartphone these days, sometimes it’s fun to have simple devices that just do a single job. Plus, we can’t deny this project looks really neat. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Internet Radio Built In Charming Cassette-Like Form Factor”

The Gopher Revival Is Upon Us

A maxim for anyone writing a web page in the mid 1990s was that it was good practice to bring the whole thing (including graphics) in at around 30 kB in size. It was a time when the protocol still had some pretence of efficient information delivery, when information was self-published, before huge corporations brought everything under their umbrellas.

Recently, this idea of the small web has been experiencing something of a quiet comeback. [Serge Zaitsev]’s essay takes us back to a time before the Internet as we know it was born, and reminds us of a few protocols that have fallen by the wayside. Finger or Gopher, both things we remember from our student days, but neither of which was a match for the browser.

All is not lost though, because the Gemini protocol is a more modern take on minimalist Internet information sharing. It’s something like the web, but intentionally without the layer upon layer of extraneous stuff, and it’s been slowly gathering some steam. Every time we look at its software list it becomes more extensive, and we live in hope that it might catch on for use with internet-connected microcontroller-based computing. The essay is a reminder that the internet doesn’t have to be the web, and doesn’t have to be bloated either.

Browsing The WWW On A 1980s IBM PC Using MicroWeb

Do you ever sit at your 1981 vintage IBM PC and get the urge to pop onto that newfangled ‘WWW’ to stay up to date on all the goings-on in the world? Fret not, because [Al’s Geek Lab] has you covered with a new video (also embedded below), which you will unfortunately have to watch on a device that was made at the very least in the late 1990s. What makes this feat possible is a miniscule web browser called MicroWeb, created by [jhhoward], that will happily run on an 8088 CPU or compatible, without requiring any fiddling with EMS or similar RAM extensions.

Of course, you do need to have some kind of way to actually connect to the World Wide Web, which can be an ISA network expansion card, EtherSlip, as well as using a thin client as a network bridge with some Serial Line Interface Protocol (SLIP) action. Of course, some limitations exist, in that graphics and CSS are not rendered, JavaScript is totally off-limits, and for HTTPS-only websites a workaround like retro-proxy has to be used as TLS encryption would be completely unusable on a couple-of-MHz-CPU.

There’s also the FrogFind service, which will helpfully strip down a target website down to its barest HTML essentials, along with the 68K News site that strips down Google News, so that you can enjoy the WWW in its text-based glory as it would have looked in the early 1980s.

(Thanks to [Stephen Walters] for the tip)

Continue reading “Browsing The WWW On A 1980s IBM PC Using MicroWeb”

Is A Pigeon Faster Than The Internet?

[Jeff Geerling]’s latest project is for the birds — literally. Even though he has a brand new high-speed fiber optic internet connection, online backups of YouTube video projects still take hours. He decided to see if the conclusions from a 2009 in South Africa study still hold true today — that using carrier pigeons to send files can be faster than the internet. [Jeff] sets up an experiment to send 3 TB of data by homing pigeon a distance of one mile to establish a baseline. Next, [Jeff] sends the same 3 TB of data over the internet, and donning the cap of honorary pigeon, simultaneously embarks on a journey by air to his off-site backup service in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway.

[Jeff] points out that you also have to consider the transfer time of your files onto and from the pigeon-suitable memory cards. He jumped through several hoops to minimize that, but it still consumed 2-1/2 hours total. Trying to keep the comparison fair, he also spent a couple days optimizing his internet connection to eek out the best possible speed. Continue reading “Is A Pigeon Faster Than The Internet?”

Stay Online When The Power Goes Out With This Fiber Modem UPS Hack

It’s desirable to have your Internet connection up at all times, particularly as it can take some time to get back online if you have a power interruption or similar. [Brink] had some issues with the power supply in their apartment, so they set about whipping up a backup power solution to keep their Verizon ONT fiber modem up and running in such events.

The I-211M-L modem is actually equipped to run on backup battery power, but by default, it will only keep phone service online. Data and television services are normally switched off when the mains supply goes out. Thankfully, a minor mod to the unit’s power cable shared by [mousehunt] enables it to keep data services online when running on backup power. Grounding a bunch of pins with a strip of foil is enough to do the job.

From there, it’s a simple matter of hooking up a stout 12 V battery to the modem via its backup power connector. [Brink] specified a nifty 12 V rechargeable lithium ion pack for the job, which is sold as a portable power unit for running LED strips. Some neat cabling to keep the battery charged later, and you’ve got a working UPS setup to keep the comms online.

Combined with a UPS to run the rest of your computers and networking equipment, this is a great solution to stay online during local power outages. We’ve featured some other great UPS hacks over the years, too, like these supercap UPSs for special cases. If you’ve got your own nifty power hacks, don’t hesitate to drop us a line!