Surfing The Web Like It’s 1978 — Carbonyl

[Fathy] gets a kick out of doing odd things with Chromium, and Carbonyl is a clever byproduct of that hobby. In this case, it’s what you get when you connect chrome’s renderer to an SVG output module and then convert that SVG to colored characters on a terminal. See, html2svg is an earlier project, taking Chromium’s Skia engine and plugging it into an SVG back-end. And once you have SVG, why not render it to the terminal?

And the results are actually pretty impressive. Imagery is rendered using Unicode 2584, a half-block character. The background and foreground color can be set per character, giving us two controllable pixels per character. Text is handled a bit differently, rendering using the normal text fonts, making for readable pages.

The source is very much a work in progress, but there are some neat ideas already coalescing around the project, like using sixels for better rendering. There’s already decent mouse support and audio output, making for an impressive terminal experience. This might be a project to keep an eye on.

Classic Calculators Emulated In Browser

The Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator, now known simply as MAME, started off as a project to emulate various arcade games. The project is still adding new games to its library, but the framework around MAME makes it capable of emulating pretty much any older computer. The computer doesn’t even need to be a gaming-specific machine as the latest batch of retro hardware they’ve added support for is a number of calculators from the 90s and early 00s including a few classics from Texas Instruments.

Since no one is likely to build an arcade cabinet version of a TI-89, all of these retro calculators are instead emulated entirely within a browser. This includes working buttons and functions on an overlay of each of these calculators but also pixel-accurate screen outputs for each of these. The graphing calculators have more of what we would consider a standard computer screen, but even the unique LCDs of some of the more esoteric calculators are accurately replicated as well thanks to the MAME artwork system.

There are a number of calculators implemented under this project with a full list found at this page, and the MAME team has plans to implement more in the future. If you’re looking for something fun to do on a more modern calculator, though, take a look at this build which implements ray tracing on a TI-84 Plus CE.

Thanks to [J. Peterson] for the tip!

PyScript: Python In The Web Browser

A chainsaw can make short work of clearing out the back forty. It can also make a good horror movie. So while some people will say we don’t need another tool to allow more malicious scripting in the browser, we also know that, like any tool, you can use it or abuse it. That tool? PyScript, which is, of course, Python in the browser.

The tool is in the early experimental phase, so the project doesn’t suggest using it in a production environment yet. However, if it works well, the promise is not just that you can write browser-based applications in Python — you’ll have a handy way to reuse existing Python code and even be able to run the same code on the browser that currently runs on the server. This has a lot of implications for improved client/server applications, or cases where you want to be able to run against a local backend when disconnected and a remote backend when you do have a connection. Of course, you can interoperate with JavaScript, too.

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Linux And C In The Browser

There was a time when trying to learn to write low-level driver or kernel code was hard. You really needed two machines: one to work with, and one to screw up over and over again until you got it right. These days you can just spin up a virtual machine and roll it back every time you totally screw up. Much easier! We don’t think it is all that practical, but [nsommer] has an interesting post about loading up a C compiler and compiling Linux for a virtual machine. What’s different? Oh, the virtual machine is in your browser.

The v86 CPU emulator runs in the browser and looks like a Pentium III computer with the usual hardware. You might think it is slow and it certainly isn’t going to be fast as a rocket, but it does translate machine code into WebAssembly, so performance isn’t as bad as you might think.

The post goes into detail about how to build and create a simple machine web page that hosts v86. Once you cross-compile the kernel you can boot the machine up virtually. The other interesting part is the addition of tcc which is a pretty capable C compiler and much smaller and faster than the very traditional gcc.

The tcc build is tricky because the normal build process compiles the compiler and then uses the same compiler to build the default libraries. When cross-compiling, this doesn’t work well because the library you want for the host compile is different from the library you want to target for the second pass. You’ll see how to work around that in the post. The post continues to show how to do remote debugging and even gets QEMU into the mix. Debugging inside v86 doesn’t seem to work so far. There are more posts on this topic promised.

Honestly, this is one of those things like teaching a chicken to play checkers. It can be done, there’s little practical value, but it is still something to see. On the other hand, if you spend the weekend working through this, your next Linux porting project ought to seem easy by comparison.

Amazing what you can pull off with WebAssembly. If you need a quick introduction, check this one out from [Ben James].

Flashing TI Chips With An ESP

Texas Instruments is best known to the general public for building obsolete calculators and selling them at extraordinary prices to students, but they also build some interesting (and reasonably-priced) microcontrollers as well. While not as ubiquitous as Atmel and the Arduino platform, they can still be found in plenty of consumer electronics and reprogrammed, and [Aaron] aka [atc1441] demonstrates how to modify them with an ESP32 as an intermediary.

Specifically, the TI chips in this build revolve around the 8051-coreĀ  microcontrollers, which [Aaron] has found in small e-paper price tags and other RF hardware. He’s using an ESP32 to reprogram the TI chips, and leveraging a web server on the ESP in order to be able to re-flash them over WiFi. Some of the e-paper displays have built-in header pins which makes connecting them to the ESP fairly easy, and once that’s out of the way [Aaron] also provides an entire software library for interacting with these microcontrollers through the browser interface.

Right now the project supports the CC2430, CC2510 and CC1110 variants, but [Aaron] plans to add support for more in the future. It’s a fairly comprehensive build, and much better than buying the proprietary TI programmer, so if you have some of these e-paper displays laying around the barrier to entry has been dramatically lowered. If you don’t have this specific type of display laying around, we’ve seen similar teardowns and repurposing of other e-paper devices in the past as well.

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The Noble Effort To Put OpenSCAD In The Browser

In a world of CAD packages with arcane or unfriendly interfaces there’s a stand-out player that’s remarkable because it has no interface. OpenSCAD is a CAD package for coders, in which all design elements are created in a scripting language rather than graphically. It’s maybe not for everyone but it has a significant following, and its reach has been extended further as you can now run it from within a modern web browser.

The origins of this project can be tracked back to August of 2021, when when Autodrop3D’s [mmiscool] offered a sizable bounty for anyone willing to port the parametric CAD modeler to web assembly. Developer [Dominick Schroer] ultimately answered the call with openscad-wasm, which implements the core of OpenSCAD as a JavaScript ES6 module. From there, it just needed to get paired with a user interface, and off to the cloud we go.

Opening it up and giving it a go, we found it to be a very usable OpenSCAD version, albeit a little slower to render than the desktop equivalent on a mediocre laptop. We didn’t try exporting and printing an STL, but so far it has given us no reason to believe it wouldn’t be every bit as useful as the version you’re used to.

But wait, there’s more! Parallel to this effort, [Olivier Chafik] has also been working on his own idea of what OpenSCAD in the web should be. He’s using the same core developed by [Dominick], but has combined it with the Monaco editor from Microsoft and a Javascript STL viewer. Despite being very similar, we’re happy to report there’s no rivalry here; in fact, according to the video after the break, it sounds like two the projects have already swapped a bit of code.

The move among desktop applications to move into the browser and often into a pay-to-play cloud has seemed relentless over recent years, so it’s pleasing to see a rare example of a browser migration that’s open-source. It has the handy effect of bringing the CAD package to platforms such as tablets or Chromebooks which wouldn’t normally be an OpenSCAD platform, and this we like, a lot.

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Cloud-Based Atari Gaming

While the Google Stadia may be the latest and greatest in the realm of cloud gaming, there are plenty of other ways to experience this new style of gameplay, especially if you’re willing to go a little retro. This project, for example, takes the Atari 2600 into the cloud for a nearly-complete gaming experience that is fully hosted in a server, including the video rendering.

[Michael Kohn] created this project mostly as a way to get more familiar with Kubernetes, a piece of open-source software which helps automate and deploy container-based applications. The setup runs on two Raspberry Pi 4s which can be accessed by pointing a browser at the correct IP address on his network, or by connecting to them via VNC. From there, the emulator runs a specific game called Space Revenge, chosen for its memory requirements and its lack of encumbrance of copyrights. There are some limitations in that the emulator he’s using doesn’t implement all of the Atari controls, and that the sound isn’t available through the remote desktop setup, but it’s impressive nonetheless

[Michael] also glosses over this part, but the Atari emulator was written by him “as quickly as possible” so he could focus on the Kubernetes setup. This is impressive in its own right, and of course he goes beyond this to show exactly how to set up the cloud-based system on his GitHub page as well. He also thinks there’s potential for a system like this to run an NES setup as well. If you’re looking for something a little more modern, though, it is possible to set up a cloud-based gaming system with a Nintendo Switch as well.

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