NABU PC – A 1984 Z-80 Computer You Can Buy Today

Want to hack on brand new 8-bit 1980s hardware? Until recently you needed a time machine, or deep pockets to do this. All that has recently changed with the NABU PC. A retro machine that can be bought brand new for $59.99, (plus shipping) no time machine needed.

[Adrian] has one in his Digital Basement, and breaks it all down for us. The NABU PC was a Canadian computer.  Designed to connect to the cable TV network, the standard system had no internal secondary storage. You read that right; the NABU used the cable network to download and play games, view documents — just about anything you’d want to do with a computer. Cable modems back in the 80s — maybe someone did have a time machine?

Unfortunately, the NABU network failed. Not due to the PC’s hardware, but because the cable system back then was not designed for bidirectional data. While the NABU PC did see a limited release in Canada, was never widely successful. When production was shut down, the machines couldn’t be liquidated, as they didn’t do anything without the network. So in the warehouse, they sat, until this month, where can find them being sold on eBay.

So what’s inside a NABU? It starts with a Z-80 CPU sporting 64 kB of RAM. A TMS9918 handles video, while a General Instrument AY-3-8910 does the sound.  There are also two UARTs. An 8251 for serial io to the keyboard and joysticks, and a high-performance UART chip to handle comms with the network adapter. The keyboard is loaded with good old ALPS switches, and [Adrian] found it rather impressive.

That’s all well and good, but what can you actually do with a NABU PC? Right now, not much. The ROM software comes up and looks for the network adapter, then complains when it doesn’t find it. This means it’s hacking time! An army of retrocomputing enthusiasts are already working on bringing back the NABU computer. Check [Adrian]’s video description for all the documentation links, and check here on Hackaday for the latest updates!

This isn’t our first time watching this sort of liquidation — remember the HP touchpad?

Continue reading “NABU PC – A 1984 Z-80 Computer You Can Buy Today”

RSS Printer Gives You The Hard Copy News You Desire

The days of yore saw telex machines and dot-matrix printers with continuous feed paper churning out data in hardcopy form in offices around the world. [Jan Derogee] wanted a bit of that old-school charm, and set about building a RSS news printer using a venerable old printer in his possession. 

The build relies on an ESP8266, with the WiFi-enabled microcontroller readily capable of jumping online and querying RSS feeds for content. It scrapes the XML files for title, description, and publication date information, and formats this for output to the printer. The microcontroller then spits out the data over a Commodore serial interface to a Brother HR-5C printer. Unlike dot-matrix printers of its contemporary era, the HR-5C is a thermal printer. Once loaded up with a roll of the appropriate paper, it can print continuously without requiring any hard-to-source ink ribbons.

Armed with a continuous supply of wireless internet and 210 mm rolls of thermal printer paper, [Jan]’s system should provide news summaries to him for years to come. We’ve seen similar retro news ticker projects before, too. Video after the break.

Continue reading “RSS Printer Gives You The Hard Copy News You Desire”

The Label Says HDMI 2.1 But That Doesn’t Mean You’ll Get It

Technology moves quickly these days as consumers continue to demand more data and more pixels. We see regular updates to standards for USB and RAM continually coming down the pipeline as the quest for greater performance goes on.

HDMI 2.1 is the latest version of the popular audio-visual interface, and promises a raft of new features and greater performance than preceding versions of the standard. As it turns out, though, buying a new monitor or TV with an HDMI 2.1 logo on the box doesn’t mean you’ll get any of those new features, as discovered by TFT Central.

Continue reading “The Label Says HDMI 2.1 But That Doesn’t Mean You’ll Get It”

John McAfee’s Wild Ride Is Over

John McAfee, the founder of McAfee Associates and pioneer in the antivirus field, was found dead today, June 23, 2021, of an apparent suicide in a Barcelona prison cell.

Born in 1945, the term “colorful” doesn’t begin to describe the life of McAfee. His entree into the nascent computer industry began with a degree in mathematics, followed by choice assignments at places like Xerox PARC, NASA, Univac, Booz Allen Hamilton, and Lockheed. He built up an impressive resume of programming skills until serendipity struck, in the form of one of the earliest computer viruses: the Brain virus. First found in the mid-1980s, Brain infected the boot sector of floppy disks and was originally intended as a somewhat heavy-handed form of copy protection by its authors. The virus rubbed McAfee the wrong way, and he threw himself into writing software to protect PCs from such infections. These were the roots of McAfee Associates, which opened its doors in 1987.

Continue reading “John McAfee’s Wild Ride Is Over”

COVID-tracing Framework Privacy Busted By Bluetooth

[Serge Vaudenay] and [Martin Vuagnoux] released a video yesterday documenting a privacy-breaking flaw in the Apple/Google COVID-tracing framework, and they’re calling the attack “Little Thumb” after a French children’s story in which a child drops pebbles to be able to retrace his steps. But unlike Hänsel and Gretl with the breadcrumbs, the goal of a privacy preserving framework is to prevent periodic waypoints from allowing you to follow anyone’s phone around. (Video embedded below.)

The Apple/Google framework is, in theory, quite sound. For instance, the system broadcasts hashed, rolling IDs that prevent tracing an individual phone for more than fifteen minutes. And since Bluetooth LE has a unique numeric address for each phone, like a MAC address in other networks, they even thought of changing the Bluetooth address in lock-step to foil would-be trackers. And there’s no difference between theory and practice, in theory.

In practice, [Serge] and [Martin] found that a slight difference in timing between changing the Bluetooth BD_ADDR and changing the COVID-tracing framework’s rolling proximity IDs can create what they are calling “pebbles”: an overlap where the rolling ID has updated but the Bluetooth ID hasn’t yet. Logging these allows one to associate rolling IDs over time. A large network of Bluetooth listeners could then trace people’s movements and possibly attach identities to chains of rolling IDs, breaking one of the framework’s privacy guarantees.

This timing issue only affects some phones, about half of the set that they tested. And of course, it’s only creating a problem for privacy within Bluetooth LE range. But for a system that’s otherwise so well thought out in principle, it’s a flaw that needs fixing.

Why didn’t the researchers submit a patch? They can’t. The Apple/Google code is mostly closed-source, in contrast to the open-source nature of most of the apps that are running on it. This remains troubling, precisely because the difference between the solid theory and the real practice lies exactly in those lines of uninspectable code, and leaves all apps that build upon them vulnerable without any recourse other than “trust us”. We encourage Apple and Google to make the entirety of their COVID framework code open. Bugs would then get found and fixed, faster.

Continue reading “COVID-tracing Framework Privacy Busted By Bluetooth”

Microsoft Confirms GitHub Acquisition

After recent talks, Microsoft has now officially confirmed that it will be merging GitHub to master. The acquisition will cost $7.5 billion, and has received mixed reactions so far. A staple of the open source community, GitHub is well known to Hackaday readers, and has played a key role in developing an incredible amount of the software we use on a daily basis.

Microsoft has embarked on a community crusade of late, seemingly trying to win some respect from developers and makers. Under the encouragement of Satya Nadella, we’ve had Visual Studio Code, Typescript, the Ubuntu-on-Windows saga, and many more. It’s hard to tell whether these endeavours have succeeded in winning the hearts of the community or not, but those who distrust Microsoft may be looking to make a move away from GitHub. In fact, since murmurs started about the possibility of the acquisition, GitLab, one of GitHub’s major competitors, has reported 10x the number of normal repositories moving to GitLab.

How does GitHub make money? Mainly through paid private repositories plans, and GitHub Enterprise for businesses. This provides GitHub with enough cash to allow free public repositories for the community. It will be interesting to see what changes in business and culture are made (if any) by Microsoft’s Nat Friedman (founder of Ximian) who will be taking the role of GitHub CEO.

To keep a close eye on your GitHub activity, you can monitor your repositories with an LED matrix.

The End Of Arduino 101: Intel Leaves Maker Market

This looks like the end of the road for Intel’s brief foray into the “maker market”. Reader [Chris] sent us in a tip that eventually leads to the discontinuation notice (PCN115582-00, PDF) for the Arduino 101 board. According to Intel forum post, Intel is looking for an alternative manufacturer. We’re not holding our breath.

We previously reported that Intel was discontinuing its Joule, Galileo, and Edison lines, leaving only the Arduino 101 with its Curie chip still standing. At the time, we speculated that the first wave of discontinuations were due to the chips being too fast, too power-hungry, and too expensive for hobbyists. Now that Intel is pulling the plug on the more manageable Arduino 101, the fat lady has sung: they’re giving up on hardware hackers entirely after just a two-year effort.

According to the notice, you’ve got until September 17 to stock up on Arduino 101s. Intel is freezing its Curie community, but will keep it online until 2020, and they’re not cancelling their GitHub account. Arduino software support, being free and open, will continue as long as someone’s willing to port to the platform.

Who will mourn the Arduino 101? Documentation was sub-par, but a tiny bit better than their other hacker efforts, and it wasn’t overpriced. We’re a little misty-eyed, but we’re not crying.  You?

[via Golem.de]