For both better and worse, the internet landscape moves fast. Shortening attention spans and memories all over the world. But every once in a while, we get a reminder of what once was. [Ron Amadeo] of Ars Technica fired up a Google product of year 2000 in Take one last look at Google Toolbar, which is now dead.
Today it’s hard to find an operating system that does not bundle a web browser. But back then, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was so dominant, the browser’s inclusion in Windows led to an antitrust lawsuit. Trying to get out from under IE’s shadow, many internet companies grabbed a toehold on users’ computers by installing a toolbar. (The comments thread on that Ars Technica article includes some horrific screenshots of mass toolbar infestation.)
Most Chrome users will have come across a neat little Easter egg when their Internet connection has gone down – a game known as “T-Rex” where a dinosaur must be jumped over cactii. Whether or not this is accurate in terms of the evolutionary timeline, it’s a bit of fun, and Volos Projects educator [Danko Bertović] decided to port the game to the ESP32.
The game runs on the LILYGO TTGO T-Display development board, which pairs the powerful microcontroller with a 1.14-inch color LCD. His clone goes as far as authentically replicating the “No Internet” page from within Google Chrome, before kicking into the game at the press of a tactile button.
The game is built using a sprite-based engine, which enables gameplay with a minimum of flickering on the screen. Transparency is included to stop the sprites from occluding other screen elements unnecessarily. [Danko] hasn’t yet released a full tutorial on using sprites on the ESP32, but code is available for your own digestion.
A bench oscilloscope is one of the most invaluable tools in the hardware hacker’s arsenal, but even the slimmest digital models are a bit large to be part of your everyday electronic carry. Sure you could throw one of those cheap pocket scopes in your bag, but what if there was an even easier way to take a peek at a few signals while you’re on the go?
For those who roam, the Arduino-web-oscilloscope project created by [David Buezas] is worth a close look. Using the Web Serial API built into recent versions of Google’s Chrome browser, this project allows you to pop open a software oscilloscope without installing anything locally. Whether it’s a public computer or that cheap Chromebook you keep around for emergencies, a valuable tool is just a few clicks away.
Of course, there has to be some hardware involved. Despite what you might think given the name of the project, the code currently only supports the Logic Green LGT8F328P microcontroller. This cheap ATmega328P clone not only runs at 32 Mhz but according to [David], many operations can be done in fewer clock cycles than on the original 328P. In short it’s fast, and fast is good if you want more samples.
One of the best parts about this project is that a function to flash the firmware to the LGT8F328P is built right in the web interface. With the oscilloscope running in the browser, you just need to plug in a blank board, click the button to flash it, and start taking measurements. You could outfit a whole classroom or hackerspace with basic oscilloscopes in minutes, with a per-seat cost of just a few bucks.
Now as you might expect, there are some pretty hard limits on what you can realistically measure with this setup. For one thing, the board can’t handle anything higher than 5 volts. Even the cheapest oscilloscope kit is still going to be an upgrade, but the fact you can spin this up almost anywhere for the cost of a cheap MCU board makes it hard to complain about the results.
The guys over at Xmarks are working hard to bring their bookmark synchronization service to all browsers and platforms. They’ve recently begun a closed alpha test for their Google Chrome/Chromium extension. We got an invite and decided to give it a test run. Since extensions aren’t yet fully supported, and still a bit buggy you’ll need to use the latest build in the dev channel of Chrome, which means at least version 184.108.40.206 or newer. We tested it on version 220.127.116.11 for Ubuntu with great success. The extension is still pretty basic since it’s still at an alpha stage, but works very well with synchronizing bookmarks across different platforms and browsers. Some of the things left out from the Firefox version are profiles, smarter search, site info and suggested tags. For an alpha release, it’s very well done and functions great, and we’re certainly looking forward to this extension as it develops further.