Patch, Or Your Solid State Drives Roll Over And Die

Expiration dates for computer drives? That’s what a line of HP solid-state drives are facing as the variable for their uptime counter is running out. When it does, the drive “expires” and, well, no more data storage for you!

There are a series of stages in the evolution of a software developer as they master their art, and one of those stages comes in understanding that while they may have a handle on the abstracted world presented by their development environment they perhaps haven’t considered the moments in which the real computer that lives behind it intrudes. Think of the first time you saw an SQL injection attack on a website, for example, or the moment you realised that a variable type is linked to the physical constraints of the number of memory locations it has reserved for it. So people who write software surround themselves with an armoury of things they watch out for as they code, and thus endeavour to produce software less likely to break. Firmly in that arena is the size of the variables you use and what will happen when that limit is reached.

Your Drive Is Good For About 3 Years And 9 Months

Sometimes though even developers that should know better get it wrong, and this week has brought an unfortunate example for the enterprise wing of the hardware giant HP. Their manufacturer has notified them that certain models of solid-state disk drives supplied in enterprise storage systems contain an unfortunate bug, in which they stop working after 32,768 hours of uptime. That’s a familiar number to anyone working with base-2 numbers and hints at a 16-bit signed integer in use to log the hours of uptime. When it rolls over the value will then be negative and, rather than the drive believing itself to be in a renewed flush of youth, it will instead stop working.

Egg on the faces of the storage company then, and an urgently-released patch. We suspect that if you own a stack of these drives you will already know about the issue and be nervously pacing the racks of your data centre.

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File Systems For Tiny Devices

Sometimes you build a computer and use it every day. Sometimes you build a different type of computer and it sits alone on a mountaintop for years. The design considerations for these two setups are remarkably different, right down to the type of file system used. For small computers like [Jo] is using, and for the amount of time they sit alone in remote locations, he decided to build his own file system for them.

Known as JesFs ([Jo]’s embedded serial File system), the file system is for SPI Flash and intended for use in scientific data logging. It can be used on the chip-scale processors found in many development boards, and is robust enough to use in applications where remoteness is a concern. It has a small RAM footprint, is completely open source, includes wear leveling, and has a number of security features built-in as well.

Some of the benefits of using a file system on such a tiny chip aren’t immediately obvious unless you’re doing a lot of data logging, but it does allow you to change virtually any aspect of the firmware much more easily if everything is accessible as a file, and not something you would have to change by reflashing the whole chip, for example. There are also a number of traps that you can easily fall into when working with file systems for tiny devices.

Finally Run Useful Apps On A Windows Phone

Not every piece of technology or software can succeed, even with virtually unlimited funding and marketing. About the same number of people are still playing Virtual Boys as are using Google Plus, for example. In recent memory, the Windows Phone occupies the same space as these infamous failures, potentially because it was late to the smartphone game but primarily because no one wanted to develop software for it. But now, you can run Android apps on Windows Phones now. (Google Translate from German)

To be clear, this doesn’t support all Android apps or all Windows Phones, and it will take a little bit of work to get it set up at all. But if you still have one laying around you might want to go grab it. First you’ll need to unlock the phone, and then begin sending a long string of commands to the device which sends the required software to the device. If that works, you can begin loading Android apps on the phone via a USB connection to a PC.

This hack came to us via Windows Central and Reddit. It seems long and involved but if you have any experience with a command line you should be fine. It’s an interesting way to get some more use out of your old Windows Phone if it’s just gathering dust in a closet somewhere. If not, don’t worry; Windows Phones were rare even when they were at their most popular. We could only find one project in our archives that uses one, and that was from 2013.

Control Lighting Effects Without Programming

Working in a theater or night club often requires a specialized set of technical skills that you might not instantly think about. Sure, the audio system needs to be set up and managed but the lighting system is often actively managed as well. For simple setups, this is usually not too difficult to learn. With more complicated systems you will need to get elbow-deep into some software. With [trackme518]’s latest tool, though, you will only need to be able to edit video.

Sure, this sounds like just trading one piece of software for another, but it’s more likely that professionals working in lighting will already know how to edit video rather than know programming or complicated proprietary lighting software. All you have to do to control a set of lights is to create a video, or use an existing one, and the lighting system will mimic the video on its own. If you do know programming, though, it’s written in Processing Java so changes aren’t too difficult to make.

The software (available on the project’s GitHub page) will also work outside of a professional environment, as well. It’s set up to work with DMX systems as well as LED strips so you could use it to run a large LED display board using only an input video as control. You could even use it to run the display on your guitar.

Photo courtesy of Rob Sinclair (Gribiche) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

Take Pictures Around A Corner

One of the core lessons any physics student will come to realize is that the more you know about physics, the less intuitive it seems. Take the nature of light, for example. Is it a wave? A particle? Both? Neither? Whatever the answer to the question, scientists are at least able to exploit some of its characteristics, like its ability to bend and bounce off of obstacles. This camera, for example, is able to image a room without a direct light-of-sight as a result.

The process works by pointing a camera through an opening in the room and then strobing a laser at the exposed wall. The laser light bounces off of the wall, into the room, off of the objects on the hidden side of the room, and then back to the camera. This concept isn’t new, but the interesting thing that this group has done is lift the curtain on the image processing underpinnings. Before, the process required a research team and often the backing of the university, but this project shows off the technique using just a few lines of code.

This project’s page documents everything extensively, including all of the algorithms used for reconstructing an image of the room. And by the way, it’s not a simple 2D image, but a 3D model that the camera can capture. So there should be some good information for anyone working in the 3D modeling world as well.

Thanks to [Chris] for the tip!

The Arduboy, Ported To Desktop And Back Again

A neat little hacker project that’s flying off the workbenches recently is the Arduboy. This tiny game console looks like a miniaturized version of the O.G. Game Boy, but it is explicitly designed to be hacked. It’s basically an Arduino board with a display and a few buttons, anyway.

[rv6502] got their hands on an Arduboy and realized that while there were some 3D games, there was nothing that had filled polygons, or really anything resembling a modern 3D engine. This had to be rectified, and the result is pretty close to Star Fox on a microcontroller.

This project began with a simple test on the Arduboy to see if it would be even possible to render 3D objects at any reasonable speed. This test was just a rotating cube, and everything looked good. Then began a long process of figuring out how fast the engine could go, what kind of display would suit the OLED best, and how to interact in a 3D world with limited controls.

Considering this is a fairly significant engineering project, the fastest way to produce code isn’t to debug code on a microcontroller. This project demanded a native PC port, so all the testing could happen on the PC without having to program the Flash every time. That allowed [rv] to throw out the Arduino IDE and USB library; if you’re writing everything on a PC and only uploading a hex file to a microcontroller at the end, you simply don’t need it.

One of the significant advances of the graphics capability of the Arduboy comes from exploring the addressing modes of the OLED. By default, the display is in a ‘horizontal mode’ which works for 2D blitting, but not for rasterizing polygons. The ‘vertical addressing mode’, on the other hand, allows for a block of memory, 8 x 128 bytes, that maps directly to the display. Shove those bytes over, and there’s no math necessary to display an image.

This is, simply, one of the best software development builds we’ve seen. It’s full of clever tricks (like simply not doing math if you’ll never need the result) and stuffing animations into far fewer bytes than you would expect. You can check out the demo video below.

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Knitting Software Automatically Converts 3D Models Into Machine-knit Stuffies

We’ve seen our fair share of interesting knitting hacks here at Hackaday. There has been a lot of creative space explored while mashing computers into knitting machines and vice versa, but for the most part the resulting knit goods all tend to be a bit… two-dimensional. The mechanical reality of knitting and hobbyist-level knitting machines just tends to lend itself to working with a simple grid of pixels in a flat plane.

However, a team at the [Carnegie Mellon Textiles Lab] have been taking the world of computer-controlled knitting from two dimensions to three, with software that can create knitting patterns for most any 3D model you feed it. Think of it like your standard 3D printing slicer software, except instead of simple layers of thermoplastics it generates complex multi-dimensional chains of knits and purls with yarn and 100% stuffing infill.

The details are discussed and very well illustrated in their paper entitled Automatic Machine Knitting of 3D Meshes and a video (unfortunately not embeddable) shows the software interface in action, along with some of the stuffing process and the final adorable (ok they’re a little creepy too) stuffed shapes.

Since the publication of their paper, [the Textiles Lab] has also released an open-source version of their autoknit software on GitHub. Although the compilation and installation steps look non-trivial, the actual interface seems approachable by a dedicated hobbyist. Anyone comfortable with 3D slicer software should be able to load a model, define the two seams necessary to close the shape, which will need to be manually sewn after stuffing, and output the knitting machine code.

Previous knits: the Knit Universe, Bike-driven Scarf Knitter, Knitted Circuit Board.