Writing Blog

May 28, 2016

The Antikythera Laptop

Filed under: Computers,Gadgets,History,Internet,Science,Software,Technology — Rafael Minuesa @ 1:43 PM
Tags: ,
Antikythera Laptop Greek salesgirl showing the latest model of the Antikythera Laptop to Sosipatra. (notice her smile anticipating the sale)

The Antikythera Laptop was an ancient computer powered by an analog mechanism that consisted of a box with dials on the outside and a very complex assembly of bronze gear wheels mounted in the inside.

Antikythera smart wristwatch A prototype for a Antikythera smart wristwatch that didn’t make it to the manufacturing line

The computer didn’t do much apart from accurately computing the time it takes for planetary bodies to complete their orbits, but that was quite an unprecedented feat at the time that could not be replicated until the development of mechanical astronomical clocks in the fourteenth century. Besides Ancient Greeks favored Theater over Video any day of the week, so there was no need for a Graphic Card either, they were happy just watching the dials go round and round, which provided them with an infinite source of inspiration to come up with all kinds of theorems.

In latest models the Antikythera Laptop featured just 2 USB-G ports, a decision that was highly criticized by users who could not understand why they had to part with a substantial amount of extra Drachmas to buy an adapter, just to get their machines connected to other existing standard devices of the time.

The laptops were manufactured using very sturdy materials, which made them extremely hard and durable. They were also waterproof as long as the machinery was not underwater for more than a year or so. They came with a life-time warranty with accidental damage protection. They were definitely different times and different code of ethics back then.

Rusty Antikythera Mechanism This one had the warranty voided after more than 2,000 years under sea water.

October 13, 2008

The Integrator

Filed under: Computers,Software — Rafael Minuesa @ 2:31 PM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Integration of Visual Studio and Expression Blend through XAML

Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML)

XAML or Extensible Application Markup Language (pronounced zammel [ˈzæmɫ̩]) is a declarative XML-based language created by Microsoft which is used to initialize structured values and objects.

XAML is used extensively in .NET Framework 3.0 technologies, particularly Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) and Windows Workflow Foundation (WF).
In WPF, XAML is used as a user interface markup language to define UI elements, data binding, eventing, and other features. In WF, workflows can be defined using XAML.

XAML elements map directly to Common Language Runtime object instances, while XAML attributes map to Common Language Runtime properties and events on those objects.

XAML files can be created and edited with visual design tools such as Microsoft Expression Blend, Microsoft Visual Studio, and the hostable Windows Workflow Foundation visual designer.
They can also be created and edited with a standard text editor, a code editor such as XAMLPad, or a graphical editor such as Vector Architect.

XAML represents a bridge between the designer and developer teams.
A new role has emerged as the result of this fusion, that Paul Alexander, a technical program manager with IdentityMine, calls the integrator:

“The Integrator understands the needs of the developer while also supporting the needs of the designer to assure that the app’s UI is as compelling as it was designed, while also validating that the concepts can be realized in code from the developer.”

The integrator deals mostly with XAML code and provides an interface between the developer and designer, by structuring and modularizing the XAML.

Therefore, the ideal integrator must posess strong design skills and a thorough understanding of XAML and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) concepts such as inheritance, styles, and resource lookup.

The Designer<->Integrator<->Developer Model allows the design team to leave the XAML unattended and focus on having their assets effectively integrated into the project.
Designers can work with tools such as Expression Design, Inkscape or Adobe Illustrator and output the results as XAML.
The integrator then integrates the XAML into the project and passes it on to the developers, who need not to be concerned with design issues.
Obviously, this model also works perfectly well the other way around, and in some cases it is advisable to have the developer team establish the foundations of the project.
Expression Blend, by Microsoft, makes this transition even easier, by accepting and generating XAML code that can be directly imported/exported from/to Visual Studio.

More Info:

February 5, 2008

Keyloggers protection

This is one of a series of articles I posted for magiKomputer.
You can view the original version at:
* * http://magikomputer.blogspot.com/2008/02/keyloggers-protection.html

Keylogging works by recording the keystrokes you type on the keyboard to a log file that can be transmitted to a third party. Keyloggers can capture user names, passwords, account numbers, social security numbers or any other confidential information that you type using your keyboard.

There are two types of Keystroke loggers:

  • Hardware key loggers are devices that are attached to the keyboard cable or installed inside the keyboard. There are commercially available products of this kind, even dedicated keyboards with key logging functionality.
  • Software key loggers are usually simple programs that can capture the keystrokes the user is typing, They can also record mouse clicks, files opened and closed, sites visited on the Internet, etc. A more advanced type of key loggers can also capture text from windows and make screenshots of what displayed on the screen.

While writing keylogging programs is simple, a different matter is installing it inside the victim’s computer without getting caught and downloading the data that has been logged without being traced.

The best protection against keyloggers is to avoid them in the first place.
A few golden rules:

  • Use a Firewall
  • Use an Anti-virus program
  • Use an Anti-spyware program
  • Never click on links sent by unknown people and be very careful of the known ones since their address might be faked. If in doubt, check the e-mail headers.
  • Never execute attachments on e-mails that are executable files (EXE, COM, SCR, etc). No exceptions here.
  • Never execute programs from the Internet that lack a security certificate. Except from Microsoft update and very few others, there should be no reason for executing any programs from the web.
  • Run a virus and spyware check on ALL files that come from external sources (USB pen, DVDs, etc)

Additional measures that can be taken are:
Monitoring what programs are running on your computer
Monitor your network whenever an application attempts to make a network connection.
Use an automatic form filler programs that prevent keylogging since they’re not using the keyboard.

There are commercially available anti-keyloggers, but if you’re looking for a free alternative try Spybot Search & Destroy, a freeware tool that does a pretty decent job at detecting all kinds of spyware:

Windows Defender, a free program that helps protect your computer against pop-ups, slow performance, and security threats caused by spyware: http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/software/default.mspx

The Sysinternals web site hosts several utilities to help you manage, troubleshoot and diagnose Windows systems and applications.

File & Disk File and Disk Utilities
Utilities for viewing and monitoring file and disk access and usage.
Networking Networking Utilities
Networking tools that range from connection monitors to resource security analyzers.
Process Process Utilities
Utilities for looking under the hood to see what processes are doing and the resources they are consuming.
Security Security Utilities
Security configuration and management utilities, including rootkit and spyware hunting programs.
System System Information
Utilities for looking at system resource usage and configuration.
Miscellaneous Miscellaneous Utilities
A collection of diverse utilities that includes a screen saver, presentation aid, and debugging tool.

In this article:
http://www.lazybit.com/index.php/a/2007/03/01/free_keylogger_protection
Alex provides some free and valuable advice about keylogging protection such as using the on-screen keyboard available in W2000 and XP that can be launched by executing “osk” or the technique of mouse highlighting and overwriting.

Or you can also download Click-N-Type virtual keyboard free from:
http://www.lakefolks.org/cnt/

Click for other popular layouts

Also worth reading is Wikipedia’s article on Keystroke logging:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keystroke_logging

And a simple trick to fool keyloggers:
http://cups.cs.cmu.edu/soups/2006/posters/herley-poster_abstract.pdf

November 7, 2007

Get a Second Life

This is one of a series of articles I posted for magiKomputer.
You can view the original version at:
* http://magikomputer.blogspot.com/2007/11/get-second-life.html
Second Life is a virtual online world with a growing population of subscribers (or “residents”). Currently, the community has well over 10,000,000 residents from all over the World.
By providing the residents with robust building and scripting tools, they can create a vast array of in-world objects, installations and programs in the fields of Animation, Audio, Music, Building, Architecture, Clothing, Fashion, Communications, Maps, Scripting, Textures, Prim, etc.

Although Second Life’s interface and display are similar to most popular massively multi-player online role playing games (or MMORPGs), there are two key differences.
First of all, Second Life provides near unlimited freedom to its Residents. This world really is whatever you make it, and your experience is what you want out of it. If you want to hang out with your friends in a garden or nightclub, you can. If you want to go shopping or fight dragons, you can. If you want to start a business, create a game or build a skyscraper you can. It’s up to you.
And you are the legal proprietor of anything you create. Since its early stages, Linden Lab (the producer of Second Life) has allowed its residents to retain full IP rights over their own creations, thereby insuring that their contributions to the community remain truly their own. As a resident you retain full IP rights over any of your in-world creations.

Second Life is the size of a small city, with thousands of servers (called simulators) and a Resident population of over 10,742,897 (and growing). Residents come to the world from over 100 countries with concentrations in North America and the UK.

Demographically, 60% are men, 40% are women and they span in age from 18 – 85. They are gamers, housewives, artists, musicians, programmers, lawyers, firemen, political activists, college students, business owners, active duty military overseas, architects, and medical doctors, to name just a few.

Even if you don’t know how to do 3D modeling, Second Life makes building an easy task, using the built-in tools. And there are lots of daily Resident-run classes and tutorials to help you learn.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVSzh_QTE00

The Second Life client comes with an updated-daily list of public Events, including games, parties, and contests; the Search window is a veritable traveler’s guide to Second Life—the places to see, the people to meet, and much more.

There are dozens of first-person shooters, strategy games, puzzle and adventure games, even board, and puzzle games.
Several regions of the world have been devoted to role playing, and resemble medieval towns, or futuristic cities. The building and scripting system even enables Residents to create their own version of a MMORPG, including hit points, character stats, and all the other classic elements.
Since gamers are a big part of the Second Life community, friendly games of combat are a regular event.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7uS6P6ihGk

You can get your own virtual land at Second Life.
Having land in Second Life lets you have an on-going presence in the world, for your home, your business, or whatever other special place you’ve created. Even when you’re not online, your friends or customers can stop by to leave you a message or shop for your latest creation.
To get land you must sign up for the Premium membership. You’ll be able to purchase a 512 square meter plot of land before any land maintenance fees kick-in.
However, you can have as much land as you choose. Change the amount of land you have and your monthly fee will adjust accordingly.
You can also consider purchasing more land through the Second Life auctions or from other Residents. Alternatively, you can join with others who are interested in the project to form a group and pool your land holdings. Groups can collectively acquire and use land.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jy4QlbbRPY

Another option is to get an island in Second Life.
Special island regions are available as a separate purchase. You can choose from several different topologies, control access from the mainland, or even decide to start your own separate community.

When you join the community you are given a small weekly stipend of L$ (Second Life’s official unit-of-trade) when you sign up for a Premium account. Plus you can earn L$ by making and selling goods and services, holding events, and playing games.

Residents can buy and sell in-world L$ from the Linden Dollar Exchange, or from other third party websites. Some of these operators offer convenient in-world “ATM” machines to facilitate transactions.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NOHRJB9uyI

You can even start your own business in Second Life.
Shopping is a big part of the Second Life experience for many Residents. You can buy and sell anything that can be made in-world, from clothes, skins, wigs, jewelry, and custom animations for avatars, to furniture, buildings, weapons, vehicles, games, and more. Once you’re ready to bring your products to the market, it’s simply a matter of buying or sub-renting property, for opening up a shop. There are also Resident-owned malls which charge rental fees, or take a cut of your proceeds. As in the real world, the challenge is to build up a reputation that earns a steady stream of customers.
And as in the real world there’s money to be made if you are a successful business person. Real money, I mean.

My overall impression is that this is quite an awesome stuff. It looks like it is going to become the next big thing in our lives, superseding the Internet itself as we know it.
I love the concept, but I have to say that I have this uneasy feeling that somehow there’s something evil in this invention, something that one day will get out of our hands.
Not sure why but it kind of reminds me of the first Terminator movie.
Because the next logical step would be to physically build many of those 3-D human models in the real world. Combine that with the latest advances in artificial intelligence and with the increasing isolation of human beings in today’s societies and you’ll soon get androids living our lives for us.

I don’t know if it happens to anyone else but I’m able to semi-consciously
“choose” my dreams, I mean, I sort of create my dreams to my taste and
discard what I don’t like.
Not always, but many times I can do it. I can even resume some dreams
that I had left half-way through.
One of my favorites is flying. I don’t actually fly, but rather glide
for long distances, as if I were in a place with very low gravity,
just as you can do in SecondLife.

And I’m now having lots of dreams in which I continue to be in that SL
world, flying around, teleporting to strange places, meeting lots of
people, making friends, dancing, meeting beautiful girls by the dozens
and having sex with a large proportion of them. Virtual Sex, that is.
So far.

I am not addicted yet, but all my virtual friends tell me that I will
soon be.

The other day I came across this questionnaire on how Second Life
users are affected by this virtual world in their real lives.
It’s kind of scary, for example, about 30% of users say that SecondLife is the
only thing they find interesting in their lives, or those 30% who say that “The first thing I think about when I wake up is SecondLife”, or the 20% who say that
“In order to be in SecondLife I eat, sleep and/or bathe less.”
Have a look:
http://slsurvey.wordpress.com/survey-result/section-iv-engagement/

I wonder if I should stop now before it’s too late …

November 14, 2005

The Curse of the Amiga

This article was first posted by my alter-ego laparanoia at the magiKomputer‘s Blog.
You can view the original version at:
* http://magikomputer.blogspot.com/2005/11/curse-of-amiga.html

Amiga Survivor DrawingIs the Amiga Dead, Yet?
Not Yet.

Is it cursed?
No doubt.

Even me, as I was writing this post, had Firefox crashed for the first time ever and lost about an hour’s work. Previously I had tried to post from Elicit and Zoundry with similar results. In more than 3 years blogging I had NEVER experienced anything even remotely similar. When I restarted, my right button search function had vanished, and all those circumstances put together have made this post the one that has taken more effort to create by far. But, you see, I am an obstinate bastard, specially when it comes to something I’ve spent so many years working and playing with (or was rather the other way around) and that is so close to my heart as the Amiga.

I have been a fanatic user of the Amiga from 1991 until the turn of the millennium, and I still think it was the best machine mankind has ever created. What has happened to this computer is a real techno-tragedy and I am sure it has altered the course of History, and not for the Good.

I haven’t tried the latest hardware and software, but here is an excellent review of Jeremy Reimer, who bought an AmigaOne Micro with OS4 on November 2004:

The Micro-AmigaOne and Amiga OS4 Developer Prerelease
Jay Miner started the Amiga Inc. computer company in 1982 before Commodore bought them out.
The Amiga computer was first commercialized released in 1985 by Commodore, that eventually went bankrupt in April 1994.
Commodore was bought at liquidation by Escom AG, who had no real interest in the Amiga. Escom itself went bankrupt a few years later, and the Amiga was briefly bought out by set-top manufacturer VISCorp, before they too filed for liquidation.
Its new owner was Gateway Computers, who were only interested in Commodore’s old patent portfolio. When it became increasingly clear that Gateway was never going to do anything with the Amiga, a consortium of investors calling themselves Amino Development bought out the rights to the Amiga hardware and OS in 1999.
The new AmigaOne motherboards were first released in 2002, but there was no OS to go with them, so they shipped with Debian PPC Linux. After an agonizing 18-month wait, the first Developer Prerelease CD of OS4 was shipped to AmigaOne owners worldwide.

AmigaOne OS4
OS4 boots remarkably quickly. From a cold boot, including waiting for power up, BIOS messages, straight to a usable desktop took slightly over 30 seconds. A “warm boot,” which bypasses the BIOS start-up and merely reloads the operating system, takes slightly over 10 seconds.

One feature of the original custom Amiga graphics chips was that you could “pull” down screens with the mouse to see screens that were behind them. This feature, called “draggable screens,” was never duplicated by any graphics card manufacturer since, so sadly it is not available on the AmigaOne.

A cold boot, including power up, BIOS messages, takes less than what it takes you to get accommodated in your chair. Compare that to any Windows/Mac OS start-up. They usually give me enough time to go and make coffee (Mac OSX is not that sluggish, to be honest).
I am sorry to hear that there is no “draggable screens“.
Another cool feature was the ability of clicking on several menu items at once (holding right-side button and clicking with the left), and get the commands batch-processed at once.

Many people, upon reading the hardware specs of the Micro Amiga One, will feel that the performance (800MHz PowerPC 750FX, SDR RAM) is far below modern gear. This is true to a certain extent, but it does not give the whole picture. AmigaOS was originally written for a 7.14 MHz 68000, and the last Classic version released by Commodore, 3.1, was optimized for a 12 MHz 68020 platform. According to Hyperion, over 90% of the OS code has been converted from 68k to PPC, and the only code yet to be translated (serial port code, AREXX macro routines), does not typically impact on performance.
Because the OS is so small (About 60MB on disk for a complete install), it fits very nicely in 256MB of RAM, with room for several applications, most of which have a similarly small memory footprint. This means that you can run the OS and multitask between several applications without ever swapping to the disk.

I have created and run multimedia presentations for TV stations on as little as an Amiga 500, 1Mb RAM, 720 Kb floppy, no Hard Drive. Gosh, I miss Scala so much…

In speeches around the world, Alan Redhouse of Eyetech always opens by saying that everyone always asks them: “Why are you doing this?” And the answer he gives, with a smile, is “We don’t know!” There is an infectious enthusiasm among Amiga users…

Infectious enthusiasm defines the feeling of Amiga users at that time.
As of today, if you visit Amiga’s Headquarters (http://www.amiga.com/) you’ll be presented with the latest technology in … Jackpots!!!?
It has broken my heart.

Better visit this one: http://www.amiga.org/

Is there a future for the Amiga?
Some people seem to think so:

http://www.amigaworld.net/
http://www.amitopia.no/

Jeremy Reimer has a website full of undiscovered gems at:
http://www.pegasus3d.com/jer_main.html
where among other things he promotes StudlyOS, as the Only Operating System You Will Ever Need.
I wish I had the time to try it out.
I liked the Amigan comment on it, though:

“StudlyOS sucks!!!1111 Y00 think itz c00l but your rong!!!!!11111 I Cant run it on my Am1ga so what yoos is it????/ My Am1ga beats yor peecee anyday!!!!!! !!!11111111 Peecee even with StudlyOS cant beet Amiga because Amiga rules!!!! Amiga iz better because it is Amiga!!!1111 Nothing else is Amiga!!!11111” – B1FF


The Amiga Boing Ball is a mythical object in the computer industry. It was created as an example of the machines ability. The demo showed a red and white ball bouncing around the screen and interacting with the environment- it bounced off the walls, spun, while multitasking in the background.

That demo displaying smooth animation in full colorwhen other computers were only just managing color display, helped sell over a million Amigas at a time when a computer was a synonym of science fiction.

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