Retrocomputing for the Forgotten

The world runs on marketing hype. Remember the public relations swirl around the Segway? Before it rolled out we were led to believe it was going to be remembered as fire, the wheel, and Segway. Didn’t really happen. Microsoft and IBM had done something similar with OS/2, which you may not even remember as the once heir-apparent to MS-DOS. OS/2 was to be the operating system that would cure all the problems with MS-DOS just as IBM’s new Microchannel Architecture would cure all the problems surrounding the ISA bus (primarily that they couldn’t stop people from cloning it). What happened? OS/2 died a slow agonizing death after the Microsoft/IBM divorce. But for whatever reason [Ryan C. Gordon] decided to write a Linux emulation layer for OS/2 call 2ine (twine).

We like retrocomputing projects even if they aren’t very practical, and this one qualifies. The best analog for 2ine is it is Wine for OS/2, which probably has something to do with the choice of name. You might be ready to click away since you probably don’t have any OS/2 programs you want to run, but wait! The good news is that the post has a lot of technical detail about how Linux and OS/2 programs load and execute. For that reason alone, the post is well worth a read.

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Spare RPi? You Have a Currency Trading Platform

While Bitcoin and other altcoins are all the rage these days, there is still a lot of activity in the traditional currency exchanges. Believe it or not, there’s money to be made there as well, although it rarely makes fanciful news stories like cryptocurrency has been. Traditional currency trading can be done similar to picking stocks, but if you’d rather automate your particular trading algorithm you can set up a Raspberry Pi to make money by trading money.

This particular project by [dmitry] trades currency on the Forex exchange using an already-existing currency trading software package called MetaTrader. This isn’t an ARM-compatible software suite though, so some auxiliary programs (Wine and ExaGear Desktop) need to be installed to get it working properly. From there, its easy enough to start trading in government-backed currency while reaping all of the low-power-usage benefits that the Pi offers.

[dmitry] does note that you can easily use MetaTrader on a standard laptop, but you might be tempted to go against your trading algorithms and even then you won’t be reaping the power benefits of the ARM processor. We don’t see too many traditional currency or stock trading tips around here, but don’t forget that it’s still possible to mine some types of cryptocurrency even if BitCoin is out of reach of most now.

Listen To Your Fermentation To Monitor Its Progress

If you are a wine, beer, or cider maker, you’ll know the ritual of checking for fermentation. As the yeast does its work of turning sugar into alcohol, carbon dioxide bubbles froth on the surface of your developing brew, and if your fermentation container has an airlock, large bubbles pass through the water within it on a regular basis. Your ears become attuned to the regular “Plop… plop… plop” sound they make, and from their interval you can tell what stage you have reached.

[Chris] automated this listening for fermentation bubbles, placing a microphone next to his airlock and detecting amplitude spikes through two techniques: one using an FFT algorithm and the other a bandpass filter. Both techniques yielded similar graphs for fermentation activity over time.

He has a few ideas for improvement, but notes that his system is vulnerable to external noises. There is also an admission that using light to detect bubbles might be a more practical solution as we have shown you more than once with other projects, but as with so many projects on these pages, it is the joy of the tech as much as the practicality that matters.

Gaming Beyond Retropie

Looking for something a bit more from your Raspberry Pi? Tired of the usual console and arcade games? Eltech’s Exagear Desktop is a virtual machine that runs on your Raspberry Pi and allows you to run x86 games. [Dmitry]’s done a write-up about running more modern games on your Raspberry Pi.

Up until now, the Pi has been a great platform for retro gaming. By running MAME or EmulationStation, you can play classic arcade games as well as the great console games you played as a kid. Exagear Desktop goes one further, allowing you to use Wine to play more modern PC games on your Raspberry Pi 3.

The Pi 3 is still a bit underpowered for bleeding edge games, but is powerful enough that it can play some of the PC games from a few years ago. [Dmitry]’s example shows how to get Arcanum, Disciples II, and Fallout running on the Raspberry Pi. In the second part of the write-up, [Dmitry] shows you how to get Heroes of Might and Magic 3, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, and Caesar 3 installed and running as well.

Obviously they will always lag behind today’s gaming machines, but the power now available in a computer the size of a credit card is pretty impressive. It’s nice to have a tool that allows one to play more than just the console games from years gone by — this opens up a whole range of great PC games to add to our library. Maybe it’s time to fabricate that new PC game controller.  Or, if the Raspberry Pi seems like too much power, you could consider playing retro games on an Arduino.

IoT Device Pulls Its Weight in Home Brewing

floating-square
The iSpindel floating in a test solution.

Brewing beer or making wine at home isn’t complicated but it does require an attention to detail and a willingness to measure and sanitize things multiple times, particularly when tracking the progress of fermentation. This job has gotten easier thanks to the iSpindel project; an ESP8266 based IoT device intended as a DIY alternative to a costly commercial solution.

Hydrometer [Source: grapestompers.com]

Tracking fermentation normally involves a simple yet critical piece of equipment called a hydrometer (shown left), which measures the specific gravity or relative density of a liquid. A hydrometer is used by winemakers and brewers to determine how much sugar remains in a solution, therefore indicating the progress of the fermentation process. Using a hydrometer involves first sanitizing all equipment. Then a sample is taken from the fermenting liquid, put into a tall receptacle, the hydrometer inserted and the result recorded. Then the sample is returned and everything is cleaned. [Editor (and brewer)’s note: The sample is not returned. It’s got all manner of bacteria on/in it. Throw those 20 ml away!] This process is repeated multiple times, sometimes daily. Every time the batch is opened also increases the risk of contamination. Continue reading “IoT Device Pulls Its Weight in Home Brewing”

Make Mulled Wine With A Processor Heatsink!

Now, over the holiday season there seems to be a predilection towards making merry and bright. As many an engineer and otherwise are sure to note, fine alcohols will facilitate this process. One such warm holiday beverage is mulled wine; there are many traditions on how to make it, but a singular approach to preparing the beverage would be to re-purpose an old PC and a CPU liquid cooling unit into a mulled wine heating station.

Four years ago, [Adam] found himself staring at a pile of mostly obsolete PCs in his IT office and pondering how they could be better used. He selected one that used a power-hungry Pentium 4 — for its high heat output — strapped a liquid cooling block to the CPU and pumped it full of the holiday drink. It takes a few hours to heat three liters of wine up to an ideal 60 Celsius, but that’s just in time for lunch! The Christmastime aroma wafting through the office is nice too.

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Playing StarCraft On An ARM

Starcraft

Except for the really terrible Nintendo 64 port, StarCraft has always been bound to desktop and laptop PCs. Blizzard could take the code for StarCraft, port it to an ARM platform, put a version on the Google Play an iTunes store, and sit there while the cash rolls in. This would mean a ton of developer time, though, and potentially years tracking down hard to find bugs.

Or one random dude on the Internet could port StarCraft to an ARM platform. Yes, this means all the zerg rushes and dark templar ambushes you could possibly want are available for tablets and Raspberry Pis.

This godlike demonstration of compiler wizardry is a months-long project of [notaz] over on the OpenPandora team. Without the source for StarCraft, [notaz] was forced to disassemble the Win32 version of the game, convert the disassembly to C with some custom tools, and recompile it for ARM while linking in all the necessary Win32 API calls from the ARM port of Wine. Saying this was not easy is an understatement.

If you have an OpenPandora and want to relive your heady days of youth, you can grab everything you need here. For anyone without an OpenPandora that wants to play StarCraft on a Raspi, you might want to get working on your own recompiled port. Video below.

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