Topic: Computer

Hardware, software & hacks

BBC Computer Literacy Project

In the 1980ies the BBC explored the world of computers as part of the national initiative “The Computer Literacy Project” and produced numerous programs for almost a decade.

This material is now available as an archive where you can watch all the old programs again.  You can also run the software developed in the past for the “BBC Micro” in an emulator directly in your browser:

https://computer-literacy-project.pilots.bbcconnectedstudio.co.uk/

Segmented type displays to play with

Probably everybody knows public displays which are composed of segmented characters.

On https://aresluna.org/segmented-type/ you find an emulator for that which displays different variations from 8 to 93 segments per character. You can type any text on your own  and select different display variations with the displayed text.

Does anyone still remember the time when the first pinball machines started using 14 segment displays which allowed to show not only the current scores but also any kind of messages?

Experiences with NextCloud

Many years ago I already had look at OwnCloud, which was first released in 2010 and claimed to offer an alternative to commercial services like DropBox or Google. The idea was good, only the implementation and the security was lacking at the beginning, which had kept me back from permanent use.

For exchanging files I later discovered Seafile as an alternative. For addresses and appointments I used Baïkal to synchronize the data between my Android devices and different computers with CalDAV and CardDAV. Added to this is Roundcube as a webmail client with an extension for using the Baïkal address book via CardDAV.

Although this constellation basically worked, there were some drawbacks: a browser-based calendar does not exist at all and Baïkal has no longer being actively developed for some time – the latest version is from August 2016 (see release page at Github).

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MouseJack and Logitech

If you are using wireless mice and keyboards you should be aware of the risks. Also see this article at Computerworld.

At least Logitech provides a firmware update which fixes the problems:

Announcement at Logitech concerning “MouseJack”

The program also checks if there is an update needed at all. So I found out that even the Unifying Receiver of a new keyboard (K270), bought in January 2018, was still shipped with an outdated firmware.

Only when the update tools displays a message that all found devices are up to date, there is no risk.

Monitor test

Sometimes I need to check the function and picture quality of displays. Usually this is done by using some kind of test software – but you can not always install or run software, for example when Linux is installed but the test software is only available for Windows.

For this reason (and because I wanted to learn more about using canvas elements in HTML5 and High DPI displays) I created a test page which uses a canvas element and JavaScript to create a number of test pictures. See “Monitor test” in the “Tools” menu.

In the latest version I also fixed some problems for full screen mode, so every modern browser should be usable for the test.

Jim Austin’s computer sheds

In August 2017 I had the opportunity to meet Prof. Jim Austin and visit his “computer sheds”. Jim Austin is a professor of computer science and has a very extensive, private collection of computers that he has collected in his warehouses over many years.

The collection is not (yet) a regular exhibition, but if you register in advance, you can get a private tour for a little donation. Also see http://www.computermuseum.org.uk. Below is a loose collection of pictures I took during my visit.

My special thanks go to Jim Austin and Trevor Howard-Smith for the friendly guidance and to the many people helping with cataloging and preparing the collection!

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Pebble still useable

The Pebble is offically dead  since the end of 2016 where Fitbit bought the software and the production of the hardware was discontinued.

But this does not mean that the existing copies don’t work any longer – Fitbit will turn off the cloud services by the end of 2017 but there is a new version of the Pebble App already available since April 2017 which does not require a cloud connection. Apps which are already installed on the Pebble and which don’t need a cloud connection can still be used. Also side loading of new apps is still possible as in “Nav Me” or “Pebble Camera”.

So my Pebble will still be usable until I got an alternative :-).

Update August 2017

Unfortunately the latest version of the Pebble app turned out not to be very reliable. Therefore I changed to a Samsung Gear S3.