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Monster 6502 June 30, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Geek Stuff, Mutants, Toys.
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MOnSter 6502 (prototype PCB)

Monster 6502 is a circuit-board replica of the classic (in that it appeared an Apple II) MOS 6502 microprocessor. It is the project of a couple of very serious nerds who will be running BASIC programs on it at the local reverse-engineering meetup next Wednesday.  I can’t wait to meet the guys who wrote the following snippets in the FAQ for this project:

How many components are there on the board?

In total, there are 4304 components on the board. There are 3218 transistors and 1019 resistors that comprise the “functional” part of the 6502. In addition to these, there are also LEDs sprinkled throughout that indicate the values of various control lines, registers, and status bits, as well as additional transistors and resistors (not counted in those “functional” totals) that are necessary to drive those LEDs.

As of the current design, the statistics are as follows:

  • Components that correspond 1:1 with transistors in the original 6502:
    • Total active transistors: 4237
      • 3218 enhancement mode n-channel MOSFETs
        • 2599 discrete
        • 619 located on 161 quad transistor array chips (25 of these 644 transistors were not used)
      • 1019 depletion mode MOSFETs (the MOnSter 6502 uses resistors in place of these MOSFETs)
  • 525 Additional parts present only in the MOnSter 6502:
    • 167 LEDs
    • 123 extra MOSFETs for driving the LEDs
    • 20 filter capacitors
    • 2 zero-ohm jumpers for net tie reasons
    • 8 current limit resistors
    • 167 resistors for the LEDs
    • 36 diodes (for ESD protection)
    • 2 connectors (5 V power, 40-pin “ICR” ribbon cable)
  • Total parts: 4304
Are you nuts?


Are you going to make one out of vacuum tubes next?


Is there going to be a soldering kit version of this?

No. (But on the other hand, “Anything is a soldering kit if you’re brave enough!”)

Exciting update: yeah, it was just great. Never before in the history of the world has anything so pointless been done so very well, with thorough design, component selection and pre-assembly testing carefully prepared against the day that an obsolete processor’s ghost could be made to rattle the chains of Integer BASIC. Woz would be so proud.  I have some Blurricam™ footage:

Light Show June 30, 2016

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When I was a boy all we had were clock crystals, dye, oil and overhead projectors. Of course LSD was legal then, so it seemed as impressive as Jupiter.

Lightweight Plastic Exoskeleton Raw Materials June 30, 2016

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When I worked (briefly) at SRI some twelve years ago, they were developing some stretched-polymer artificial muscles with pretty exotic chemistry. I am really pleased to see how much the field has advanced in the intervening years, probably due to adequate microprocessor-powered software algorithms to make a normal walking gait practical.  This particular polymeric muscle seems to be well on its way to application.

Important Update June 30, 2016

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And Doesn’t it Look Delicious? June 23, 2016

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I should have a category for cake.

Housewife Replacement June 23, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Star Trek Technology, Toys.
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This is SpotMini from Boston Dynamics.  Usually BD makes enormous, noisy hulking robot mules to haul stuff around for the military…but the military said they were too loud and nixed the program.  So, here’s Spot, tidying up after breakfast.  All Spot needs now is the correct voice-activated response to “Get me a beer, will ya?” I see an enormous market for that.

Exciting update:

Told you so.

Silicon Valley Robotics Meetup June 17, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys.
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I went a Meetup named Beer and Bots as part of Silicon Valley Robotics  in San Francisco (held at Comet Labs on Mission Street; thank you for your generosity) for a meeting featuring, well, beer and bots. 
It was almost all schmoozing, though there were three demos: An EE, who demonstrated a $150 black box robot platform (I have his card and will report more on this later);  Tap Interface guys tapwithus.com showing a Bluetooth gizmo for one-handed typing without a keyboard; and a robot gripper guy with a robust gripper that is fairly cheap, can hoist beer bottles despite guys trying to remove them by hand, but gentle enough to not wreck a tortilla chip (my test for gentleness).  Also met a recruiter from a contract robotics engineering firm, from whom I might get a little work here and there. Among other things I learned that Andra (boss of this little show) doesn’t have time to arrange any more robotics job fairs and is looking for someone to help with that kind of thing.  Could be me, maybe; I have some bandwidth coming available soon.

Rappers Don’t Use Guitars June 16, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Music, Mutants, Toys.
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although for this guitar I am sure they would make an exception and include melody in their screaming. Though this may look like a death metal band member’s dream it’s for an actual rapper, Wyclef Jean.

Driven to Church Every Sunday June 15, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Uncategorizable.
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I picture this little job driven by a gentle little old lady who dislikes rude drivers (notice the cannon).

Mini-Me June 15, 2016

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Our beloved Lily has a toy that follows her from room to room.IMG_20160220_094743


I have about a dozen photos of her taking it with her everywhere.


Sorry about this.

Another Cheery Sculpture June 15, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Mutants, Octopus, Uncategorizable.
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Also from Maker Faire. I want one, please

Pretty Sure the Flamethrower Works June 15, 2016

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but I couldn’t get the builder to demonstrate it for me.  This was early morning at Maker Faire, before the customers showed up.  He was just too careful.

Spies in Our Midst June 15, 2016

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My new house is infested with starlings.  Dozens of the little yellow-eyed black-feathered devils darken the skies when they swarm.  Their cries ring from morning till night everyday.

The most insidious thing about these spawn of Satan is their subtle forward observation posts, right under the kitchen window and the bedroom window. 


Indeed, there is a nest in every bush around the house, and two each in the cedars framing the driveway.  The tree overlooking the back patio is bare now, so they take their chances spying on us from that place.

Hitchcock was prescient in a way. 

Exciting update:  they have been joined in their espionage by a swallow watching the front door.  We’ll fix him; we locked it and use the side door.


Afterworlds, by Scott Westerfeld June 14, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Books.
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Afterworlds, by Scott Westerfeld is a strange amalgam of a book.  It’s half a story of a young writer come to New York to write on the strength of her first YA novel and half the story she wrote, featuring a young girl who escapes terrorist attacks at her local airport by pretending to be dead…a little too convincingly.  She finds herself in a sort of between life and death world, from which she is (eventually) able to come and go as she pleases.

The book seesaws between the mundane business of publishing (I am sure no first-time writer has it as easy as she does) and the horror-suspense of the Afterworld in a way that is surprisingly well balanced; each chapter moves the story along a little ways, sometimes in a connected way, mostly not. This is not as jarring a transition as you might imagine: Westerfeld is an excellent writer, and the character of each of the two protagonists is well-developed enough that you hardly notice how slow the book really is.

That was intended as praise.  I like a book I can linger over.

The link above goes to amazon; I got my copy at the local library.

What It’s All For June 10, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology, Uncategorizable.
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Exciting update:


Just One of Those Days June 7, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Photography.
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I Was a Callow Youth of Forty When June 7, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Japan, Mutants, Octopus, Toys, Video.
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I first saw Ghost in the Shell, an anime of now classic status, which features cyborgs questioning their own humanity and a possible AI they may discover, and perhaps combat.  There is competent animation, what I imagine is good writing (the subtitles I saw on this fan-subbed version were perhaps a reflection of the translator, however) and an interesting soundtrack.

It also spawned a legion of anime geeks and fanboys, one of whom has made a copy of the mech of choice from said anime, the Tachikoma.  It is very, um, lifelike:

It’s a beautiful build. I would be so proud if this were my child.

Redshirts, by John Scalzi June 2, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Books, Geek Stuff, Mutants.
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Redshirts, by John Scalzi is a fun little read featuring a suspiciously Star Trek-like ship’s enlisted personnel dying with frightening frequency on planet-bound missions. The “new kids” notice this and the real fun begins; they try to figure out why and how this is happening.

Well performed by Wil Wheaton (whose annoying character really should have gone on more away missions), this book deals really nicely with sci-fi tropes we know and love, and old TV shows we love irrationally.  Wil’s reading is a source of great entertainment for me, as he always seems to put the right amount of astonishment into the voice of his unfortunate character’s mouth.

Link goes to Amazon; also available at sfpl.org.


Not related, but related.

Soon I Will be Invincible, by Austin Grossman June 2, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Books, Geek Stuff, Uncategorizable.
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OK; I have never reviewed a superhero novel, possibly because I didn’t think there were such things. This is one, however. As impossible as this is, it is also a literary comic book, filled with various heroes with strange origin stories (like the sad, immortal faerie with hardly any forests left to sustain her), and a villain created in the moment of the main heroes’ creation.

This is more than a simple comic book without pictures; there’s actual pathos here, where the half-human half-robot girl (who weighs in at about a half-ton of steel and titanium) really wants to get laid and knows that’s never going to happen.

The villain is just a super-smart guy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and wanted the hero’s girl pretty badly when they were school kids together.  It’s very fun to listen in on HIS thoughts, I promise you.

Oh, and he does become invincible.  So there’s kind of a challenge for the heroes there, when he decides to plunge the Earth into a new ice age.

Pretty fun.  Link goes to Amazon, but I can’t remember where I got the book, so it’s probably available at sfpl.org and other public libraries. Or maybe your local comics store.

Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld June 1, 2016

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Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld is a cute little steampunk novel set (largely) on board a living blimp run by the Victorian English (“Darwinists”) about to run afoul of the dastardly, mechanically-inclined Hun (“Clankers”). Both sides weapons are drawn in a WWI epic (this series runs to three novels) that features heroism, pluck and improvisation by the adolescent FEMALE protagonist, nobility but naiveté in the male protagonist and lovely action, drama and romance all around.  Great fun, especially the complex business of running a living airship made by DNA (“life strands”) editing and running steam-powered robots through heavily-forested areas. Well-drawn characters make this a nice audiobook (and the other two, Goliath and Behemoth) to listen to on a long drive. The narrator’s voice covers a very wide range of characters convincingly. I was very entertained.

Nicely done all around.  Links above go to Amazon; of course available at sfpl.org, and other public libraries no doubt.