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Open Hardware: Arduino and Beyond

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  • Don’t try this at home: Colin Furze creates a semi-automatic potato cannon

    Colin Furze decided that he needed a potato cannon for his DIY screw tank, and after making a manually loaded version, he automated the process.

    What he came up with uses a pair of linear actuators to push the barrel forward under Arduino control, allowing a potato-projectile to drop into the device’s chamber assembly. After a short delay, it closes up again, cutting the roundish vegetable into a cylindrical plug. Flammable gas then enters via a solenoid valve for a carefully regulated amount of time.

    With the gas mixed, the cannon is then fired, and a single button press starts the process over again. The powerful cannon creates a mess in his test area after a few shots, actually taking a plug out of the mattress he used to absorb the impact. It should be quite impressive once mounted on the screw tank, though it’s a project that you probably shouldn’t try at home.

  • The Simplest TS100 Upgrade Leads Down A Cable Testing Rabbit Hole

    The fake “Grundlagen Audio” USB lead from my April 1st sojourn into using GNU Radio for audio analysis meanwhile is surprisingly stiff for what was in reality a cheap Amazon Basics item. This is probably due to two factors; it has a braided outer in a bid to copy more expensive leads, and my spraying it with gold paint has only made it stiffer.

  • HeyTeddy is a conversation-based prototyping tool for Arduino

    Programming an Arduino to do simple things like turn on an LED or read a sensor is easy enough via the official IDE. However, think back to your earliest experiences with this type of hardware. While rewarding, getting everything set up correctly was certainly more of a challenge, requiring research that you now likely take for granted.

    To assist with these first steps of a beginner’s hardware journey, researchers at KAIST in South Korea have come up with HeyTeddy, a general-purpose prototyping tool based on dialogue.

    As seen in the video below, HeyTeddy’s voice input is handled by an Amazon Echo Dot, which passes these commands through the cloud to a Raspberry Pi. The system then interacts with the hardware on a breadboard using an Uno running Firmata, along with a 7” 1024 x 600 LCD touchscreen for the GUI.

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Mozilla: OpenPGP in Thunderbird, Firefox Extension Workshop, Add-ons and Marketing

  • OpenPGP in Thunderbird

    It is a pretty rare event to see a nearly 21-year-old bug be addressed—many projects are nowhere near that old for one thing—but that is just what has occurred for the Mozilla Thunderbird email application. An enhancement request filed at the end of 1999 asked for a plugin to support email encryption, but it has mostly languished since. The Enigmail plugin did come along to fill the gap by providing OpenPGP support using GNU Privacy Guard (GnuPG or GPG), but was never part of Thunderbird. As part of Thunderbird 78, though, OpenPGP is now fully supported within the mail user agent (MUA). The enhancement request actually asked for Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) support; PGP is, of course, the progenitor of OpenPGP. The standards effort that resulted in OpenPGP started in 1997. Back in 1999, PGP was the only real choice for email encryption, though the initial version of GnuPG had been released a few months before the request. Early on, the main concerns expressed in the bug tracker were about the legality of shipping cryptographic code. The US government's attempts to restrict the export of cryptographic systems, known as the "crypto wars", were still fresh in the minds of many. It was not entirely clear that adding "munitions-grade crypto" to a MUA like Thunderbird was legal or wise. Early in 2000, the US revised its export-control regulations, which removed that particular concern. There was work done toward adding support for OpenPGP and Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (S/MIME), which is another email encryption standard, over 2000 and 2001, but the code never actually landed. Thunderbird (called "mailnews" in those days) was in fire-fighting mode; fixing bugs and getting basic functionality working took precedence over new features like encryption. There was also a need to design a reasonable plugin mechanism. Eventually, Enigmail showed up, which took some of the pressure off the Mozilla developers. Enigmail could be used on all of the supported platforms for Thunderbird to encrypt and decrypt PGP-style email (either inline or PGP/MIME) using GnuPG. Its initial maintainer, Ramalingam Saravanan, updated the bug with new information about Enigmail several times. In the bug, multiple people suggested that Enigmail be incorporated into Thunderbird and the Enigmail developers were not opposed. In 2003, Patrick Brunschwig, who was a new maintainer for the plugin, said that doing so would help in getting rid of some of the "hacks" that were done to make Enigmail work with Thunderbird. But nothing like that ever happened.

  • To Eleventy and Beyond

    In 2018, we launched Firefox Extension Workshop, a site for Firefox-specific extension development documentation. The site was originally built using the Ruby-based static site generator Jekyll. We had initially selected Jekyll for this project because we wanted to make it easy for editors to update the site using Markdown, a lightweight markup language. Once the site had been created and more documentation was added, the build times started to grow. Every time we made a change to the site and wanted to test it locally, it would take ten minutes or longer for the site to build. The builds took so long that we needed to increase the default time limit for CircleCI, our continuous integration and continuous delivery service, because builds were failing when they ran past ten minutes with no output.

  • Mozilla Addons Blog: Add-ons interns: developing software and careers

    For the last several years, Mozilla has participated in the Google Summer of Code and Outreachy internship programs. Both programs offer paid three-month internship opportunities to students or other industry newcomers to work on a programming project with an open source organization. This year, we were joined by Lisa Chan and Atique Ahmed Ziad, from Outreachy and Google Summer of Code, respectively. With mentorship from (AMO) engineers Bob Silverberg and Andrew Williamson, Lisa built a Homepage Curation Tool to help our editorial staff easily make changes to the AMO homepage. Atique was mentored by Firefox engineers Luca Greco and Rob Wu, and senior add-on admin reviewer Andreas Wagner, and he developed a privileged extension for Firefox that monitors the activity of other installed extensions. This prototype is the starting point of a new feature that will help extension developers, add-on developers, and Firefox engineers investigate bugs in extensions or in the browser’s WebExtensions APIs.

  • The internet needs our love

    It’s noisy out there. We are inundated with sensational headlines every minute, of every day. You almost could make a full-time job of sorting the fun, interesting or useful memes, feeds and reels from those that should be trashed. It’s hard to know what to pay attention to, and where to put your energy. With so much noise, chaos and division, it seems that one of the only things we all have in common is relying on the internet to help us navigate everything that’s happening in the world, and in our lives. [...] You probably don’t know the name Mozilla. You might know Firefox. But we’ve been here, fighting for a better internet, for almost twenty years. We’re a non-profit backed organization that exists for the sole purpose of protecting the internet. Our products, like the Firefox browser, are designed with your privacy in mind. We’re here to prove that you can have an ethical tech business that works to make the internet a better place for all of us. We stand for people, not profit. But we can’t fight this fight alone. Big tech has gotten too big. We need you. We need people who understand what it is to be part of something larger than themselves. People who love the internet and appreciate its magic. People who are looking for a company they can support because we are all on the same side.

Kernel: IO_uring, Bootlin toolchains and latest from LWN

  • Another Kernel Optimization Being Worked On That Can Help IO_uring Performance

    It's always great starting off a new month seeing new work on low-level kernel optimizations. Jens Axboe, Facebook engineer and maintainer of the Linux block subsystem and lead IO_uring developer, sent out a new optimization today. The optimization is to decouple TASK_WORK TWA_SIGNAL handling from signals.

  • Bootlin toolchains 2020.08 released

    We are happy to announce a new release of the freely available cross-compilation toolchains we provide at, version 2020.08-1.

  • Accurate timestamps for the ftrace ring buffer

    The function tracer (ftrace) subsystem has become an essential part of the kernel's introspection tooling. Like many kernel subsystems, ftrace uses a ring buffer to quickly communicate events to user space; those events include a timestamp to indicate when they occurred. Until recently, the design of the ring buffer has led to the creation of inaccurate timestamps when events are generated from interrupt handlers. That problem has now been solved; read on for an in-depth discussion of how this issue came about and the form of its solution.

  • Four short stories about preempt_count()

    The discussion started out as a straightforward patch set from Thomas Gleixner making a minor change to how preemption counting is handled. The resulting discussion quickly spread out to cover a number of issues relevant to core-kernel development in surprisingly few messages; each of those topics merits a quick look, starting with how the preemption counter itself works. Sometimes a simple count turns out to not be as simple as it seems.

  • The seqcount latch lock type

    The kernel contains a wide variety of locking primitives; it can be hard to stay on top of all of them. So even veteran kernel developers might be forgiven for being unaware of the "seqcount latch" lock type or its use. While this lock type has existed in the kernel for several years, it is only being formalized with a proper type declaration in 5.10. So this seems like a good time to look at what these locks are and how they work.

9 Best Free and Open Source Linux Markdown Editors

Markdown is a plain text formatting syntax created by John Gruber in 2004. It’s designed to be easy-to-read and easy-to-write. Readability is at the very heart of Markdown. It offers the advantages of plain text, provides a convenient format for writing for the web, but it’s not intended to be a replacement for HTML. Markdown is a writing format, not a publishing format. You control the display of the document; formatting words as bold or italic, adding images, and creating lists are just a few of the things we can do with Markdown. Mostly, Markdown is just regular text with a few non-alphabetic characters included, such as # or *. Read more