1. Turtles All the Way Down: Bootstrapping an operating system.

    10 March 2014

    Now we need an operating system for the trusted, open source computer. As previously mentioned, Windows and MacOSX are out because we can't audit the code, and it is known that weaponized 0-days are stockpiled by some agencies for the purpose of exploitation and remote manipulation of systems, and are also sold on the black and grey markets for varying amounts of money (hundreds to multiple thousands of dollars). It has been observed by experts many a time that software being open source is not a panacea for security. It does, however, mean that the code can be audited for …

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  2. Turtles All the Way Down: Firmware and bootloaders.

    26 February 2014

    After rethinking this post a little, I feel a need to caveat things: In a previous post in this series I mentioned the possibility of using an open source System On A Chip because it would simplify the construction process somewhat. I've been doing some more research and I'm not certain that all SoC's (if that is the direction a project like this would go in) require system firmware of the sort we're about to discuss. The Broadcom BCM2835 mentioned earlier, for example, has firmware on board that is sufficient to initialize the hardware and then try to load the …

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  3. Senator Wyrmser explores the American Southwest.

    24 February 2014

    When Jason and I set out for the west coast in October of 2013, we drove cross-country with a Scalemate plushie named Senator Wyrmser riding shotgun for us. He quickly became something of a mascot for the trip, and every morning we'd set out with a cheerful "Squeaka!" from our traveling companion. The last thing I expected was the little guy setting out on his own while Jason and I were visiting the gift shop at the Petrified Forest. I found some of his vacation selfies on my camera last night, and it seems that he did a good job …

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  4. Sweeping advances in precision technologies.

    21 February 2014

    When we think of 3D printing, we usually think of stuff on the macroscale, like automobile engines or replacement parts of some kind. Unless it's in another context, however, we rarely stop to consider the applications of this technology on a finer scale. A couple of weeks back a research team at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany announced a breakthrough: The Nanoscribe, a 3D printer which uses laser light to selectively harden liquid plastic in a successive deposition process. The Nanoscribe can fabricate objects the width of a human hair with amazing precision and a fair amount of …

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  5. Bob Casale, RIP

    20 February 2014

    On Monday, 17 February 2014 Bob Casale, guitarist and audio engineer of Devo died of heart failure. Known as Bob2 to bandmates and spuds, he was a member of the band since their beginnings at Kent State University in the 1970's. In addition to being a solid member of Devo he worked on the soundtracks of dozens of television shows, video games, commercials, and movies. His gift for the guitar will be missed by fans around the world.

    Bob2 is survived by his brother and fellow bandmate Gerald, wife Lisa, and children Alex and Samantha.

    In tribute, the video for …

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  6. My gkrellM config strings.

    20 February 2014

    On most of my desktop machines I use a system monitoring application called GKrellM to keep an eye on the amount of memory in use, aggregate network activity, swap space, and battery life. It's a handy utility and is very configurable. I have a couple of tweaks that I like to make to my settings to make its output a little more useful by increasing the granularity. I'm going to assume that you're interested enough in GKrellM to play around with the settings (right click on the GKrellM panel, Configuration). In the interest of full disclosure, I also intend on …

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  7. Biobatteries and bioengineered petroleum manufacturing.

    17 February 2014

    In the twenty-first century you'd be hard pressed to find a piece of every day kit that doesn't have a power cell of some kind running it. Cellphones, tablets, laptops, MP3 players... they all need to be plugged in periodically to recharge. Under optimal conditions they can go two or three days in between top-offs but sometimes that isn't practical. Additionally, rechargable power cells have a finite lifetime and start to run dry faster and faster after two or three hundred recharges. This next bit of tech makes me wonder... a research team at Virginia Tech has figured out how …

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  8. Another turn around the wheel, another charge over the top.

    15 February 2014

    Another year, another birthday.

    No, I won't post yet another video of Birthday by the Cruxshadows. I've done that the last few years, and I figure everybody could use a break. So, I put together a Youtube playlist of music that I listened to a lot last year. Open it in another tab or a new window and plug your headphones in if you've a mind to. Just click the "Play All" button.

    ...

    Good, you're back.

    I can't say that I expected the last year to turn out the way it did. I always said that I try to demolish …

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  9. Turtles all the way down: Fabbing circuit boards

    14 February 2014

    This brings us right along to designing and fabricating the circuit boards that our bright, shiny new open source chips will plug into. This level of complexity is probably one of the best understood parts of the development process. Arguably electrical engineering has been around since the discovery of electricity, because a circuit of some kind is required to guide an electrical current to do useful work. You could make the case that the wet string that Benjamin Franklin's kite was tied to was one of the first electrical conductors (because the Baghdad battery hypothesis has too many holes in …

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