Friday Hodgepodge

Friday, June 12, 2020

Four Things

Here is a list of four software projects you probably haven't heard of. I use the last two myself.

1. I was quite pleased with myself when I managed to get Linux running as a stand-alone virtual machine off my pen drive, but that doesn't hold a candle to making a font based on one's own handwriting. (Post titles from the link employ said font.) That is both very original and very difficult.

And no, I don't have a ready answer to the question of whether I'd find doing that with my chicken-scratch more difficult than reading the result!

2. I didn't need a pandemic and nationwide rioting to tell me that civilization is in trouble. I can see why there is an open source project called CollapseOS with the aim of "preserv[ing] the ability to program micro-controllers through civilizational collapse."

It is designed to:

1. Run on minimal and improvised machines.
2. Interface through improvised means (serial, keyboard, display).
3. Edit text files.
4. Compile assembler source files for a wide range of MCUs and CPUs.
5. Read and write from a wide range of storage devices.
6. Assemble itself and deploy to another machine.
This sounds interesting as an academic exercise, and I do sympathize. But this proposal is emblematic of our time in more ways than one: If we reach the point that we're having to slap things together just to have computers, so many other things will also be wrong that this effort will have been a waste of time.

It is better to direct one's effort at understanding why civilization is in trouble and what one can do to help preserve it, while also living the best life one can.

Or just scan this every time...
"" is a bookmarklet that allows you to send a link to your phone instantly. The site produces a QR code that you can scan in, so you can keep on reading after you leave, or easily forward something to a friend.

It is apparently possible to set up an account with the service, but it is not necessary to do this to generate a QR code.

4. I learned about magic wormhole some time ago, but never had a need for it until recently, when it saved me a bunch of trouble moving a few big files. It is as neat as its name:
Get things from one computer to another, safely.

This package provides a library and a command-line tool named wormhole, which makes it possible to get arbitrary-sized files and directories (or short pieces of text) from one computer to another. The two endpoints are identified by using identical “wormhole codes”: in general, the sending machine generates and displays the code, which must then be typed into the receiving machine. [A recent one for me was something like 2-precocious-puppy. --ed]

The codes are short and human-pronounceable, using a phonetically-distinct wordlist. The receiving side offers tab-completion on the codewords, so usually only a few characters must be typed. Wormhole codes are single-use and do not need to be memorized.
This might remind you of the also excellent Firefox send, but that method requires passing along a lengthy, random URL that is impossible to type or remember.

-- CAV


Dinwar said...

Regarding #1, check out this website:

There's a whole community that makes up new ways to write. Some do it for fun, some to assist with constructed languages (we're all playing in Tolkien's attic), and some do it to experiment with the limits of what constitutes writing. "Handwriting-to-font" programs are useful for actually being able to use constructed scripts, because let's face it, writing by hand takes forever.

This community is larger than people realize. It's an entertaining passtime, and really helps you think about things in new ways. Languages and text have assumptions built into them--concepts they assume, concepts they can't handle, idioms built in by history. Look at the history of the letter A for example. It's an inverted ox head. Compare this with, say, Chinese text, which started (according to how I learned the history) from burned bones used in fortune telling. Making your own script is a fantastic way to look at the world from a new perspective, one external to your own culture. You learn a lot about yourself that way.

Gus Van Horn said...


That's neat, and had I been interested in computers when I was much younger, I might have done something like that. (Inspired by Tolkien and my studies of Latin, I once tried constructing a language.)

In a hurry, but from what I recall, kerning (spacing letters apart in an aesthetically pleasing way) is hard to pull off when coming up with a font. That would drive me crazy, I think, unless there is some mostly systematic way of doing it that I am unaware of.