Computer hardware orchestra The Floppotron reaches v3.0 • The Register

2022-06-16 09:34:56 By : Ms. Milanda Cai

The Floppotron computer hardware orchestra has reached version 3.0. The question is, where do you even find 512 floppy disk drives? Its creator, Paweł Zadrożniak, tells all.

The Floppotron is a marvellous bit of engineering. Its tones frequent many a YouTube video (this writer was rather taken by the rendition of "Take On Me" performed by the device's second iteration) and as a repurposing of obsolete hardware, it would be hard to come up with a more imaginative approach.

The first version made its debut in 2011 and consisted of a pair of floppy drives. The device's performance of the Imperial March has clocked up 6.7 million views at time of writing.

Version 2.0 increased the drive count to 64 and added eight hard drives and a pair of flatbed scanners. The latest incarnation ups the ante with 512 floppy drives, 16 hard drives and 4 scanners.

Zadrożniak has documented the construction of the machine (we're particularly impressed with the "floppy disk drive wall"). But why?

"The project has started with just a random idea in 2011," he said. "I'm an electronics hobbyist and like to do those small projects for learning purposes or just for pure fun.

"I also like music. I used to play a little piano and when those projects involve any music then it's getting more fun to me."

"Fun" is one word for it, although there is undoubtedly considerable skill in getting MIDI from one end to play out via the instruments (for want of better word) made up of whirring and clunking device motors.

"Maybe it's not a particularly useful device," conceded Zadrożniak, "but it was a little challenging and super fun to make."

Also challenging is scrounging all those parts. After all, where would one even go to find that many working drives nowadays?

"I got the floppy drives in small batches from advertisement/internet auction services," he said. "They usually came from off-lease refurbished or scrapped computers. Sometimes the leasing companies sell the individual parts when the lease period ends.

"The floppy disk drives as well as the scanners are getting more difficult to find as hardly anyone uses them today and they are no longer manufactured. If nobody needs them today, most of them may up in the junkyards."

Or as the beating heart of the Floppotron.

Decades-old hardware does, however, present its own challenges. "It's 20 or 30-year-old hardware and its prone to failure," he said. "Electronics in floppy disks drives tend to fail sometimes when powered up after spending 20 years in dusty warehouse. In my case, 11 FDDs out of 512 have failed shortly after powering up for the first time. Since then, the rest is working fine.

"But I don't know for how long – time will tell."

While much of the electronics are of Zadrożniak's own custom design, another issue is how to power the beast. A PC ATX power supply is nowhere near strong enough to cope, and making hardware scream means high power consumption. "One stack of 32 drives can draw up to around 16A of current when all drives are active," said Zadrożniak, so an array of 16 modular 5V/18A power supplies have been used to power the stacks of drives.

As for the future of his creation, Zadrożniak is eyeing the addition of new instruments, perhaps involving dot-matrix printers.

Right after the latest release of the KDE Frameworks comes the Plasma Desktop 5.25 plus the default desktop for the forthcoming Linux Mint 23.

Researchers at security product recommendation service Safety Detectives claim they’ve found almost a million customer records wide open on an Elasticsearch server run by Malaysian point-of-sale software vendor StoreHub.

Safety Detectives’ report states it found a StoreHub sever that stored unencrypted data and was not password protected. The security company’s researchers were therefore able to waltz in and access 1.7 billion records describing the affairs of nearly a million people, in a trove totalling over a terabyte.

StoreHub’s wares offer point of sale and online ordering, and the vendor therefore stores data about businesses that run its product and individual buyers’ activities.

Germany will be the host of the first publicly known European exascale supercomputer, along with four other EU sites getting smaller but still powerful systems, the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking (EuroHPC JU) announced this week.

Germany will be the home of Jupiter, the "Joint Undertaking Pioneer for Innovative and Transformative Exascale Research." It should be switched on next year in a specially designed building on the campus of the Forschungszentrum Jülich research centre and operated by the Jülich Supercomputing Centre (JSC), alongside the existing Juwels and Jureca supercomputers.

The four mid-range systems are: Daedalus, hosted by the National Infrastructures for Research and Technology in Greece; Levente at the Governmental Agency for IT Development in Hungary; Caspir at the National University of Ireland Galway in Ireland; and EHPCPL at the Academic Computer Centre CYFRONET in Poland.

Roboticists could learn a thing or two from insects if they're looking to build tiny AI machines capable of moving, planning, and cooperating with one another.

The six-legged creatures are the largest and most diverse multi-cellular organisms on Earth. They have evolved to live in all sorts of environments and exhibit different types of behaviors to survive and there are insects that fly, crawl, and swim.

Insects are surprisingly intelligent and energy efficient given the size of their small brains and bodies. These are traits that small simple robots should have if they are to be useful in the real world, a group of researchers posited in a paper published in Science Robotics on Wednesday.

Japan has updated its penal code to make insulting people online a crime punishable by a year of incarceration.

An amendment [PDF] that passed the House of Councillors (Japan's upper legislative chamber) on Monday spells out that insults designed to hurt the reader can now attract increased punishments.

Supporters of the amended law cite the death of 22-year-old wrestler and reality TV personality Hana Kimura as a reason it was needed. On the day she passed away, Kimura shared images of self-harm and hateful comments she'd received on social media. Her death was later ruled a suicide.

South Korea's ambition to launch a space industry on the back of a locally developed rocket have stalled, after a glitch saw the countdown halted for its latest attempt to place its Nuri vehicle into orbit.

The launch was planned for Wednesday, but postponed by a day due to unfavourable weather.

The Korea Aerospace and Research Institute tried again but, as the countdown progressed, an anomaly appeared in a first stage oxidizer tank. That issue was considered so serious that Nuri was returned to its assembly facility.

Cisco Live In his first in-person Cisco Live keynote in two years, CEO Chuck Robbins didn't make any lofty claims about how AI is taking over the network or how the company's latest products would turn networking on its head. Instead, the presentation was all about working with customers to make their lives easier.

"We need to simplify the things that we do with you. If I think back to eight or ten years ago, I think we've made progress, but we still have more to do," he said, promising to address customers' biggest complaints with the networking giant's various platforms.

"Everything we find that is inhibiting your experience from being the best that it can be, we're going to tackle," he declared, appealing to customers to share their pain points at the show.

GPUs are a powerful tool for machine-learning workloads, though they’re not necessarily the right tool for every AI job, according to Michael Bronstein, Twitter’s head of graph learning research.

His team recently showed Graphcore’s AI hardware offered an “order of magnitude speedup when comparing a single IPU processor to an Nvidia A100 GPU,” in temporal graph network (TGN) models.

“The choice of hardware for implementing Graph ML models is a crucial, yet often overlooked problem,” reads a joint article penned by Bronstein with Emanuele Rossi, an ML researcher at Twitter, and Daniel Justus, a researcher at Graphcore.

Japan is reportedly hoping to join the ranks of countries producing leading-edge 2nm chips as soon as 2025, and it's working with the US to make such ambitions a reality.

Nikkei reported Wednesday that businesses from both countries will jointly research the design and manufacturing of such components for devices ranging from smartphones to servers as part of a "bilateral chip technology partnership" between America and Japan.

The report arrives less than a month after US and Japanese leaders said they would collaborate on next-generation semiconductors as part of broader agreement that also calls for "protecting and promoting critical technologies, including through the use of export controls."

Elon Musk still hopes to quash a 2018 settlement agreement with the SEC requiring Tesla-related tweets to be approved by a lawyer before he can post them: on Wednesday, he took his case to the US Court of Appeals after a lower court denied this request.

The Tesla CEO landed himself in hot water with the watchdog when he tweeted he was thinking of taking the company private at $420 a share, and claimed to have already secured the necessary funding (sound familiar?) In reality, however, Musk did not have the funding or approval to do so. Investors, however, took him seriously and they started buying more shares, bumping up the stock price over 10 per cent.

The SEC accused Musk of fraud, saying his tweets were false and misled the public and caused disruption in the market. Musk was sued by the US regulator; he later settled the lawsuit by agreeing to pay $40 million in penalties, step down as chairman of the automaker's board, and accepted that any tweets discussing Tesla would have to be screened from now on.

Samsung has once again been accused of cheating in benchmark tests to inflate the apparent abilities of its hardware.

The South Korean titan was said to have unfairly goosed Galaxy Note 3 phone benchmarks in 2013, and faced with similar allegations about the Galaxy S4 in 2018 settled that matter for $13.4 million.

This time Samsung has allegedly fudged the results for its televisions, specifically the S95B QD-OLED and QN95B Neo OLED LCD TVs. 

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