Tiny Ray Tracer Fits In 64 Bytes

Throughout human history, people try to make the biggest, the fastest, and — sometimes — the smallest. [Hellmood] falls into the latter category and proves it with a 64 byte interactive 3D raycasting application for MSDOS.

Why MSDOS? We suppose why not? The .COM file format is lean, and you can take over everything without a lot of work. If the program were huge, it wouldn’t be very impressive. There are 64 shades of gray which is odd looking these days, however there are versions that use various color palettes and each one fits in 64 bytes or less. There’s even mouse control and you can see the results in the video below.

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Doom Battle Royale Mod with 64 Players Hurts Plenty

Sixty-four players are dropped into a map, but there can be only one that emerges victorious…heard that before, right? Thanks to PC Game modder [Bambamalicious] there is yet another entrant into the rapidly growing videogame genre. The difference this time, however, is that their 64 player DooM Royale (with cheese) mod is ready to show all those other also-ran games how the granddaddy of FPS games does it.

Doom Battle Royale WIth Cheese Mod Screenshot

According to the announcement post the mod is “…a 64 player Battle Royale using Doom 2 as the IWAD, and the Zandronum engine as it’s base. The speed of gameplay will be unchanged from normal Doom, and when you die, that’s not the end for you!”. There is a respawn system, but each player is given a limited number of lives. To ensure no server feels like a ghost town [Bambamalicious] included bots that will spawn in matches with low participation. Each game inevitably results in a “last man standing” face off that has the victor coming away with the coveted “Royale with cheese”. Other than the aforementioned changes, this is still the seminal classic Doom (1993).

Do note that in order to play the mod, the Zandronum engine is a required in order to take part in the fun. The engine is the backbone that allows for leaderboards as well as hopping between custom servers. Zandronum additionally supports many other multiplayer match types for instance: Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Possession, and Skulltag. Up to 64 players are supported in those match types as well.

From the looks of the DooM Royale (with cheese) map, there should be frequent enemy player encounters and no respite for those seeking to just “hide in a bathtub”. The multiple levels should supply plenty of opportunity to take advantage by attacking from above. Test footage of the mod in action can be seen in the video below.

For more on the DOS game that just won’t die, check out Doom running on an ATM.

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One Man’s Disenchantment With The World Of Software

There is a widely derided quote attributed to [Bill Gates], that “640k should be enough for anyone”. Meaning of course that the 640 kb memory limit for the original IBM PC of the early 1980s should be plenty for the software of the day, and there was no need at the time for memory expansions or upgrades. Coupled with the man whose company then spent the next few decades dominating the software industry with ever more demanding products that required successive generations of ever more powerful PCs, it was the source of much 1990s-era dark IT humour.

XKCD no. 303 (CC BY-NC 2.5)
XKCD no. 303 (CC BY-NC 2.5)

In 2018 we have unimaginably powerful computers, but to a large extent most of us do surprisingly similar work with them that we did ten, twenty, or even thirty years ago. Web browsers may have morphed from hypertext layout formatting to complete virtual computing environments, but a word processor, a text editor, or an image editor would be very recognisable to our former selves. If we arrived in a time machine from 1987 though we’d be shocked at how bloated and slow those equivalent applications are on what would seem to us like supercomputers.

[Nikita Prokopov] has written an extremely pithy essay on this subject in which he asks why it is that if a DOS 286 could run a fast and nimble text editor, the 2018 text editor requires hundreds of megabytes to run and is noticeably slow. Smug vi-on-hand-rolled GNU/Linux users will be queuing up to rub their hands in glee in the comments, but though Windows may spring to mind for most examples there is no mainstream platform that is immune. Web applications come under particular scorn, with single pages having more bloat than the entirety of Windows 95, and flagship applications that routinely throw continuous Javascript errors being the norm. He ends with a manifesto, urging developers to do better, and engineers to call it out where necessary.

If you’ve ever railed at bloatware and simply at poor quality software in general, then [Nikita]’s rant is for you. We suspect he will be preaching to the converted.

Windows error screen: Oops4321 [CC BY-SA 4.0]

H2gO Keeps Us from Drying Out

The scientific community cannot always agree on how much water a person needs in a day, and since we are not Fremen, we should give it more thought than we do. For many people, remembering to take a sip now and then is all we need and the H2gO is built to remind [Angeliki Beyko] when to reach for the water bottle. A kitchen timer would probably get the job done, but we can assure you, that is not how we do things around here.

A cast silicone droplet lights up to show how much water you have drunk and pressing the center of the device means you have taken a drink. Under the hood, you find a twelve-node NeoPixel ring, a twelve millimeter momentary switch, and an Arduino Pro Mini holding it all together. A GitHub repo is linked in the article where you can find Arduino code, the droplet model, and links to all the parts. I do not think we will need a device to remind us when to use the bathroom after all this water.

Another intrepid hacker seeks to measure a person’s intake while another measures output.

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Open-source Circuit Simulation

For simple circuits, it’s easy enough to grab a breadboard and start putting it together. Breadboards make it easy to check your circuit for mistakes before soldering together a finished product. But if you have a more complicated circuit, or if you need to do response modeling or other math on your design before you start building, you’ll need circuit simulation software.

While it’s easy to get a trial version of something like OrCAD PSpice, this software doesn’t have all of the features available unless you’re willing to pony up some cash. Luckily, there’s a fully featured free and open source circuit simulation software called Qucs (Quite Universal Circuit Simulator), released under the GPL, that offers a decent alternative to other paid circuit simulators. Qucs runs its own software separate from SPICE since SPICE isn’t licensed for reuse.

Qucs has most of the components that you’ll need for professional-level circuit simulation as well as many different transistor models. For more details, the Qucs Wikipedia page lists all of the features available, as does the project’s FAQ page. If you’re new to the world of circuit simulation, we went over the basics of using SPICE in a recent Hack Chat.

Thanks to [Clovis] for the tip!

Learning Software In A Soft Exosuit

Wearables and robots don’t often intersect, because most robots rely on rigid bodies and programming while we don’t. Exoskeletons are an instance where robots interact with our bodies, and a soft exosuit is even closer to our physiology. Machine learning is closer to our minds than a simple state machine. The combination of machine learning software and a soft exosuit is a match made in heaven for the Harvard Biodesign Lab and Agile Robotics Lab.

Machine learning studies a walker’s steady gait for twenty periods while vitals are monitored to assess how much energy is being expended. After watching, the taught machine assists instead of assessing. This type of personalization has been done in the past, but the addition of machine learning shows that the necessary customization can be programmed into each machine without a team of humans.

Exoskeletons are no stranger to these pages, our 2017 Hackaday Prize gave $1000 to an open-source set of robotic legs and reported on an exoskeleton to keep seniors safe.

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Zephyr Adds Features, Platforms, And Windows

Zephyr is an open source real-time operating system (RTOS) that appeared on the scene a few years ago with support for a few boards. The new 1.11 release adds a lot of features, a lot of new boards, and also has a Windows development environment. But don’t worry, the environment is portable so it still runs on Linux and Mac, as well.

The OS has support for many ARM and x86 boards. It also supports ESP32, NIOS II, and can also target Linux which is useful for debugging or studying execution using desktop tools.

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