The Script

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Peter Scargill’s Script:

Regular readers will know about the script that Aidan Ruff and I originally developed to put Node-Red and several other packages onto the Raspberry Pi for our own home control purposes. This has been developed with help from several people and in particular my friend Antonio “Mr Shark”.
WELL – here is the script which is intended to help set-up certain Raspbian, Debian or similarly-based SBCs which now includes logging and handling Raspbian Buster (tested on Raspberry Pi 2, 3, 3B+, 4 with Stretch, 3B+ and 4 with Buster). As well as it’s original purpose of setting up a Raspberry Pi, the script also runs well with several other boards. See right hand side of the above image for what the script does, given a basic operating system install. We currently suggest NOT using this with DIET PI, original Pi or the Raspberry Pi Zero as we are no longer testing either and the latter pair are just TOO SLOW.

See the full post on Scargill’s Tech Blog.

Check out the video after the break.

EEPROM rotation for ESP8266 and ESP32

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Xose Pérez over at Tinkerman writes:

The Arduino Core for ESP8266 and ESP32 uses one SPI flash memory sector to emulate an EEPROM. When you initialize the EEPROM object (calling begin) it reads the contents of the sector into a memory buffer. Reading a writing is done over that in-memory buffer. Whenever you call commit it write the contents back to the flash sector.
Due to the nature of this flash memory (NOR) a full sector erase must be done prior to write any new data. If a power failure (intended or not) happens during this process the sector data is lost.
Also, writing data to a NOR memory can be done byte by byte but only to change a 1 to a 0. The only way to turn 0s to 1s is to perform a sector erase which turns all memory positions in that sector to 1. But sector erasing must be done in full sectors, thus wearing out the flash memory faster.

How can we overcome these problems?

Full details at tinkerman.cat.

Atari Now Runs Java, Thankfully Doesn’t Require Constant Updates

Java Grinder is a tool that compiles Java programs to run on platforms like microcontrollers and consoles, by outputting native assembly code and using APIs to work with custom hardware like bespoke graphics and sound chips. Amongst other hardware, Java Grinder supports the Commodore 64, which uses a variant of the 6502 CPU. [Michael Kohn] realized the Atari 2600 shares this processor, and figured he’d get started on making Java Grinder work with the Atari by expanding on the C64 work done by [Joe Davisson]. Together, they brought Java to the Atari 2600 and made a game along the way.

According to [Michael], parts of the project were easy, as some Java routines compile down into as little as 1 or 2 instructions on the 6502. Other parts were harder, like dealing with the graphics subsystem, and modifying Java Grinder to output 8-bit bytecode to fit into the Atari’s tiny 4K ROM limit. Even with this tweak, they still couldn’t fit in a game and title screen. In the end they relied on bank switching to get the job done. [Joe]’s game is pretty solid fare for the Atari 2600 — blocky graphics and bleepy sounds — and they’ve uploaded it to the page so you can try it yourself in an emulator.

At the end of the day, porting Java code to a system with 128 bytes of RAM probably isn’t going to be particularly useful. However, as a coding exercise and learning experience, there’s a lot of value here in terms of building your skills as a coder. Other such experiments have shown us Java running on other unexpected devices, like the Sega Genesis or the MSP430. Video after the break.


Filed under: classic hacks

Toyota’s Code Didn’t Meet Standards and Might Have Led To Death

We were initially skeptical of this article by [Aleksey Statsenko] as it read a bit conspiratorially. However, he proved the rule by citing his sources and we could easily check for ourselves and reach our own conclusions. There were fatal crashes in Toyota cars due to a sudden unexpected acceleration. The court thought that the code might be to blame, two engineers spent a long time looking at the code, and it did not meet common industry standards. Past that there’s not a definite public conclusion.

[Aleksey] has a tendency to imply that normal legal proceedings and recalls for design defects are a sign of a sinister and collaborative darker undercurrent in the world. However, this article does shine a light on an actual dark undercurrent. More and more things rely on software than ever before. Now, especially for safety critical code, there are some standards. NASA has one and in the pertinent case of cars, there is the Motor Industry Software Reliability Association C Standard (MIRSA C). Are these standards any good? Are they realistic? If they are, can they even be met?

When two engineers sat down, rather dramatically in a secret hotel room, they looked through Toyota’s code and found that it didn’t even come close to meeting these standards. Toyota insisted that it met their internal standards, and further that the incidents were to be blamed on user error, not the car.

So the questions remain. If they didn’t meet the standard why didn’t Toyota get VW’d out of the market? Adherence to the MIRSA C standard entirely voluntary, but should common rules to ensure code quality be made mandatory? Is it a sign that people still don’t take software seriously? What does the future look like? Either way, browsing through [Aleksey]’s article and sources puts a fresh and very real perspective on the problem. When it’s NASA’s bajillion dollar firework exploding a satellite it’s one thing, when it’s a car any of us can own it becomes very real.


Filed under: car hacks