General computing

The Argleton affair, and the Wikification of the World-Wide Web

How a non-existent English village ended up on maps, and the implications this has for how we handle information.

Categories: general computing

Adventures with Artix

Artix is a low-resource Linux that can be configured to run well on old, low-powered computer hardware. In this article, I describe my first attempts at setting it up.

Categories: general computing, Linux

Audible's returns policy -- who wins, who loses?

Audiobook supplier Audible has recently caused controversy by changing its long-standing one-click, no-questions-asked returns policy. Why? And who stands to gain and lose from this change? What are the broader implications?

Categories: general computing

Playing Zork 1 on a CP/M emulator on Linux

In the last few years there has been a revival of interest in 8-bit microcomputers from the 70s and 80s. Many of these were based on the Zilog Z80, and many ran CP/M. This article about getting started with CP/M using an emulator on Linux.

Categories: general computing, retrocomputing, Z80

Yet another Darktable/Lightroom comparison

Darktable isn't supposed to be an alternative to Adobe Lightroom, but many people hope to use it as one. After all, Darktable's (free) pricing is very appealing. Here are my views on whether a move to Darktable makes sense.

Categories: general computing, Linux

Why I won't be dumping DuckDuckGo over Ukraine

Does controlling web search rankings amount to censorship? Does it matter if it does?

Categories: general computing, law

What you give up, when you opt out of the surveillance economy

Is it possible to live without Google and the like, and still use modern, portable computing devices? I still don't know.

Categories: general computing

Samsung DeX -- the good, the bad, and the ugly

The advantages and disadvantages of Samsung DeX on an Android cellphone, compared with a desktop or laptop computer.

Categories: general computing

Can Project Gemini rewind the Web thirty years?

The modern World-Wide Web is broken. Is Gemini the repair?

Categories: general computing, retrocomputing

Understanding the Hamming 'sphere packing' bound in coding theory

The Hamming bound is an important metric in the evaluation of information coding schemes. It sets an upper limit on the number of distinct codewords that an error-correcting block code can provide, for a given block length. The Hamming bound is a benchmark for the evaluation of error correction schemes used in digital data storage and communication -- a scheme that meets the Hamming bound is described as perfect. In this article I try to describe, from first principles, how the Hamming bound is calculated.

Categories: mathematics, general computing

On master/slave

A small step in the right direction, or political correctness gone mad?

Categories: general computing

More like Windows every day

The ease of installation and use of modern desktop Linux distributions comes at a price. I review a couple of low-complexity alternatives to mainstream Linux distributions: Alpine and Devuan.

Categories: general computing, Linux

Some thoughts on using a small cellphone as a media player

Modern portable media players are generally smartphones without an antenna. So why not repurpose a real smartphone as a media player?

Categories: general computing

Back to BASICs with a Pro Micro microcontroller

Back in the 70s, desktop computers booted to BASIC. In this article, I describe my efforts to implement a BASIC programming environment on the SparkFun Pro Micro, a small Arduino-like 8-bit microcontroller.

Categories: general computing, retrocomputing, Arduino

Solving a quadratic equation in a prime (finite) field

This article describes how to do arithmetic in a small finite (prime) field. Being able to do this is essential for the implementation of cryptography, among other things. The arithmetic isn't particularly difficult -- particularly if we use software that specifically supports such operations. However, it's illustrative to do it manually, at least for a small field. I will demonstrate simple arithmetic in the field GF(5), by solving a quadratic equation.

Categories: mathematics, general computing

Why the fascination with retrocomputing?

Why do so many IT professionals like to tinker with vintage computers and software?

Categories: general computing, retrocomputing

Does the use of custom Android ROMs improve or worsen security?

This question is not particularly easy to answer, but understanding the implications helps.

Categories: general computing, security

What exactly is 'saturation'?

Most image editing applications provide a 'saturation' adjustment; some provide adjustments of 'brilliance', 'chroma', and other things. This article explains what these terms actually mean.

Categories: general computing

Spy pixels -- how worried should we be?

'Spy pixels' or 'tracking pixels' are surprisingly prevalent in email messages -- they are found, it seems, in perhaps 70% of all such communications. Is this cause for concern? How much personal data are they brokering?

Categories: general computing

Do you need to wipe that hard drive? And can you?

Is it safe to sell a used hard drive without securely erasing all the data? And is it even possible to erase all the data, even if we want to?

Categories: general computing, security