anders tonfeldt

Dissecting my amiga childhood

2018-01-16 11:52

I just finished uploading a few videos of me dissecting one of my amiga 500s. It struck me just how much our view of technology has changed, yet how little the actual technology has changed. In many ways our technological progression has even reversed.

Back in those days a new computer could mean an entirely new architecture, custom dedicated chips, entirely new input methods and, of course, massive leaps forwards in raw processing. What exactly do we get these days? 8% better performance. A bit more diskspace. Once in a blue moon maybe an interesting new connector and underlying technology (really quite fascinated by usb-c). Underwhelming doesn't even begin to describe it.

The pioneering spirit is dead. Its grave has been cemented over and a basketball court serves as its gravestone. Don't get me wrong, I get it. Developing CPUs and GPUs is -expensive-. So expensive that we've pretty much ended up with two behemoths to pick between, intel and amd. Throw in nvidia as a competitor to amd when it comes to GPUs as well.

Exciting. I can pick between x86 and.. x86. Between radeon and geforce. Man, building computers today sure is a thrilling experience. To be even more petty; if I hear one more person brag about how deep their understanding of technology runs because they can slot pci-e cards into their pre-designed, pre-mounted, clearly marked sockets I will bludgeon my inner child to death with a boredom stick.

There's more to my reasoning than just a sense of elitism and illusionary superiority however. Since the amount of choices we have is limited to one or maybe two in rare cases people of today, and more importantly the youth of today, has no reason to ever look outside that narrow viewframe. Attempting to discuss the architectures themselves is impossible since they never have, nor do they have any reason to, tried anything besides x86. Even trying to broach the subject of instruction sets is impossible unless you're talking to an engineer.

Programmers of today seem to just vaguely know what the heap and stack is. It's so abstracted that they have no reason to learn anything beyond what is the latest buzzword they can throw around. Not just no reason but it would actually be a detriment for them to spend the time to learn what their own code actually does since the employers value the buzzwords, not deep understanding.

I keep hearing we live in the "age of choice" yet for every gadget launched it seems the amount of choices decrease. 5000 different cellphones all running the same hardware and one or two operating systems.

A part of me keeps telling me that I'm just entering the "grumpy old fart" phase of my life and that "life wasn't better before". But it outright frightens me when we're grooming entire generations of youth into this mindset, meanwhile outsourcing actual fabrication (and in most cases, design) to other parts of the world. What exactly would happen if you took the seas of javascript and c# developers and tried to get them to solve a mission critical device. What if the device controlled societal services. Essentials.

Our technology isn't just stagnating because of disinterest, it's stagnating because future generations will reason that they have no reason to advance the technology itself, they just need to learn the latest abstraction of an abstraction of an abstraction of the hardware. Then keep insisting that their customers buy the 8% faster version because their stack is 9% slower in each iteration.

Javascript's lack of control and utter smoothness

2018-01-08 15:17

While javascript bears a large part of the blame for ruining the functional interface of the web it does truly boggle my mind how simply one can implement complex, third party solutions with it. I just added disqus to this blog and it took 30 seconds of copy+pasting and changing two environmental variables. That's outstanding in every sense of the word.

Now, comments are mostly useless since you'll get one out of three types in 0.99 of the cases. Either trolling, requests/demands for help or indignent outrage. However I still figured it'd be useful since I occasionally get e-mails with questions about posts where I was unclear. If one person takes the time to e-mail me then a hundred has had the same question but just couldn't be arsed. This way they can more easily.. be arsed. And I get some help in making my posts clearer.

It does amaze me how willingly we hand over total control of aspects of our digital life to nameless corporations however. I know that all of my disqus comments will either be 1) removed 2) made unavailable or 3) gated behind a paywall eventually. One of the three will happen. It is the inevitability of SAAS and closed-source in general.

Yet in this case I'm sort of fine with it since I don't particularly care either way. As long as people can easily tell me when I'm being uncelar then they've served their purpose and our corporate overlords can do whatever they want with them after that.

130 lines blog

2018-01-07 23:30

After not updating my blog for two years I figured a change was in order. But.. why make something simple when it can be awkward?

Two hours, 130 lines and this blog is complete. Custom backend. Old posts migrated. Not a single new word blogged. But at least it's better than no updates at all for two years, right? Christ, it's even uglier than the old one.

(I'm back.)

WS2811 LEDs / neopixels, cap them all!

2015-11-23 22:30

I just facepalmed harder than I have in years. I've been working with ws2811 through hole rgb leds, they're usually referred to as neopixels these days. For some reason strips of the stuff would work great, but the regular led format would blink or flash the wrong colour every now and then.

Driving myself nuts in the process I tried -everything- going so far as plugging my bench power supply into another room and even changing out the prototype board. Then I realized I had broken the cardinal rule, if there's voltage in then cap it!

If your leds are flashing or blinking erratically every now and then then simply put a 0.1uf bypass cap on its vin and ground. It'll stabilize its drain preventing timing errors.

Do -not- be tricked by the data signal getting mangled by the 2811s, apparently that's normal. I spent oh so much time trying to clean up the signal as it got passed from led to led to no avail. Below you can see the data-in for the first led in the chain indicated by the blue/ch1 line. As you can see, very clean due to the resistor. But then the second led's data-in, yellow/ch2, is spiking. This seemed like an obvious problem to me, but it wasn't. It was just the drain.

Cap dem inputs!

Atari rebooting Alone in the dark

2014-08-22 13:12

Alone in the dark is the origin of the tank-controlled, horror survival genre that Resident Evil and Silent hill later made truly popular. I loved the first AITD. Absolutely loved it. It was my first exposure to the genre that sparked a lifelong passion. But.. I hated the other two games. It went from an eerie and utterly bizarre, lovecraftian mansion to.. pirates and zombie cowboys? Terrible. Dreadful even. Kind of like the movie adaptions.

The series has already been rebooted once with the 2008 re-imagining. For some reason it was pretty much universally disliked. I was never quite sure why, it had horror, you were alone and you were in the dark. But it was open-world'ish and sandbox'y. Two terms that do not mix well with us survival horror junkies.

I'm looking forward to the (re-)reboot. Sort of doubt it'll arrive for linux so I'll probably have to watch a let's play for it. Maybe not though, dead island was just ported for linux with almost no fanfare at all. A back-catalogue title being ported out of the blue? Good times folks, good times.

No more backlog of games!

2014-08-16 22:36

Holy.. For the first time in 26 years I haven't got a backlog of bought games to play. It all started back in the C64 days when I got access to more games than I simply had time to play through, at the tender age of 6. Since then it's snowballed and gotten worse and worse, at one point I had a backlog of over 400 games.

For the last three years (years!) I've intentionally avoided watching movies or reading books. Always favouring completing games on my backlog. When I worked I watched "Let's plays" of games I wanted to consume but didn't find enjoyable enough to actually play (be it because of flawed mechanics or otherwise). Now I'm done.

I just finished "Hero of the kingdom", which is a cute RPG/adventure game designed for Hidden object and casual players. It was the very last game on my backlog. This is just.. amazing. I know nobody else will care. Most people would simply have ignored their backlog when it reached a size like this. I probably should have done that too but.. freedom! Freedom to buy and play one or maybe two games at a time. Finally.

Games completion list

Secure Settings disrupts Orbot

2014-07-02 10:17

Just a quick note since it had me stumped for several hours. The application / tasker plugin Secure Settings will disrupt and impede Orbot's transparent proxying from functioning correctly.

Despite many, many attempts to get the two to cooperate the only solution I found was to uninstall Secure Settings.

YouTube ragnarök

2014-06-11 12:51

Anyone who's been visiting my YouTube channel (love you 56 subscribers, although I think you'll all leave by the end of the week) know that I mostly make Let's Play videos. I love the concept, it's fun to share your experience of an overlooked game with random bystanders. Maybe they'll love it too and you'll have helped them find a new favourite game.

I'm terrible at making them though. I went on several months long hiatuses for no apparent reason. Many times I kept my thoughts internal, especially when I did blind LPs, since I'm a fairly analytical person. But people did enjoy them, I got 25k views on (for the most part) entirely unknown games. Many developers also contacted me, graciously gave me permission to make LPs of their games and thanked me. That felt great.

I just removed all of my LP videos from my YouTube account. Thus those precious 56 subscribers are about to go poof. For those who enjoyed my LPs I apologize. This wasn't made on a whim. I won't bore you with all the details, nor will I shame anyone publicly, but this is what happened.

Just finished a new series for a new game. I was given permission by the author beforehand and we had a great conversation back and forth. When it was done I was left with a feeling of joy. I really liked the game and it showed. But the developer wasn't happy that I got stuck on a couple of occasions. I tried explaining that it was a blind LP, I wasn't reading a walkthrough so obviously there's a risk of getting stuck. Just like any other player might get stuck.

No, he didn't like that. Could I change it? Well, I could edit some parts down I suppose. This irked me since none of my other LPs were edited, but fine. All was well and I was going to post it. Then he asked me to not show the alternate ending that I stumbled across. Ahem, that was in the middle of the LP. I found it by mistake. I'd have to re-record hours of video to avoid leading up to it. Yes, that's what I should do.

I refused. So then he unceremoniously revoked his permission and told me he'd file a copyright strike for each video of his game I'd post. Alright then, that's fine since I wasn't planning on posting the LP after this debacle. Apparently that isn't what he wanted to hear, next he's saying he's going to start filing copyright strikes on my other Let's Play series, out of spite I suppose. Because he "had the power to get my youtube account shut down". Awesome.

The thing is, he does. Any random person can file a claim for just about any video. The way Google has set up YouTube to avoid any and all risk on their part you're pretty much screwed against trolls. I've gotten flagged before, many times. Somehow I always managed to work it out and never got a strike.

Then the automated content-id system was introduced and wham, I was getting my videos claimed because the games included music that third parties had (illegally) claimed was their own. Great. Still, it didn't matter to me since I'm not running ads on my LPs. Claiming $0 out of $0 is fine by me.

But I've got things planned for my YouTube account. I find it very gratifying to help people figure things out. Maybe find a helpful application. How to solve a problem. Thus it would be a disaster if I did get my account shut down because I was making Let's Plays of games people don't know, that hardly anyone watches and that I don't make any money out of but that still get illegally claimed.

Am I a coward for running? Probably, since I love the Let's Play scene. But it's just too much of a hassle these days. So screw it. I'm done.

What must my next phone have?

2014-06-09 14:59

For some reason (brand loyalty) my decision to leave the android sphere wasn't that popular with some of my friends. I get it, we've all been using it since its inception and making a wide variety of private apps together. Some agree with me but aren't going to switch. Some have already switched. Some are rabidly telling us we're making a mistake. In order to get this out of the way I figured why not another list? One where the actual essentials are listed.

I need my next phone to do the following;

  1. Run TOR for individual applications.
  2. Run Python (2.x is acceptable, 3.x much preferable).
  3. The phone must run linux.
  4. The bulk of the phone must be open-source or at least have its bits replaceable by open source.
  5. A superuser setting must be enabled, I will never be forced to "root" my phone again.

Those are the essentials. There's a ton of other things that I require, as evidenced by my last post about must have android apps. But the above solves the vast majority of those, the rest I can code myself or just port. Here's some examples of apps that the above solve.

  1. todo.txt
  2. rss-reader
  3. pdf/document readers
  4. foldersync
  5. tasker
  6. twilight

Some you just need a browser for, apps tend to be smoother but they're just not required.

  1. reddit
  2. spotify

Finally we're left with a handful that will affect me to some degree. The worst likely being the status of a KeePassX port. The chromecasting of netflix won't matter since I've got a nexus tablet around but I'll still mention it since it is inconvenient. I'm sure there'll be a podcast manager of some variety, but it won't be beyondpod.

  1. Keepass2android - Works perfectly with KeePassX.
  2. Beyondpod - Podcast perfection.
  3. Whitepapers link - Scanning of specially marked papers.
  4. Bankdroid - Not sure about internationally, but fantastic bank widget.
  5. Chromecast - For, well, our chromecast.
  6. Netflix - For now, there's finally cropping up alternatives.
  7. Skånetrafiken - Swedish public transport system.

Since the Ubuntu phone isn't out yet let's have a look at the Jolla. Does it meet my criteria? Yes, mostly.

  1. Yes, TOR is available via something called the package warehouse(?). Reports tell me it works, and the basic version of TOR we all know and love is being ported.
  2. Yes, "Starting with Sailfish OS, Python 3.3.3 and PyOtherSide are shipped in the official repositories". Perfect.
  3. Yes, it runs linux. Actual linux.
  4. Yes, Sailfish OS is built upon the Mer project. So parts will be interchangeable. Jolla also said their entire OS would be open-source, but even if it isn't I can always replace the bits that aren't.
  5. Enabling root is as simple as switching on developer's mode and setting a password. Perfect.

In other words, I could switch right now. The Jolla is being sold a few kilometres from me if I remember correctly. So, what's my lame excuse for not doing so right now? It's a mundane one, I'm a bit strapped for cash and my note 2 does function decently now that I've got cyanogenmod on it. I'm also interested in seeing just what the live Ubuntu phone will and won't do once it's released.

I've got a bad track record of jumping on the latest hotness and getting burned, badly. I think I'll wait just a bit this time, once the Ubuntu phone is out I'll do an in-depth comparison to the Jolla one and then pick the one I prefer. And, to be honest, the cheapest. Amusingly the cheapest will likely still end up in the premium range when compared to android/ios, but them's the breaks when living in a niché market.

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