USB-ifying an Apple Keyboard II

Thank you, internet, for almost always having an answer to a question. In this case, I had come across an old Apple Keyboard II while rummaging for something else. The AK2 is an ADB (Apple Desktop Bus) device, and so no longer compatible with contemporary Mac hardware. However, according to Scott the Robot, a $16 microcontroller, properly flashed and soldered, corrects that one inadequacy. Next step, [USB-ifying an Apple Keyboard II](

Fragmented Memory

Geoffrey Rockwell linked to a [project][] that seeks to take maps of computer memory and turn those “images” into textiles. The idea is, of course, that by doing so one brings the information revolution full circle: if the first punch cards were for Jacquard looms, then computerized looms now re-create images drawn from hardware states. Fun, but what I found more interesting was learning that there are such looms that can, in essence, weave images on demand. Wouldn’t it be more fun to encode a message, a la a barcode, and have that woven in a tapestry or blanket, perhaps even subtly modifying it to make it more aesthetic?


My Setup

People like to know these things. In particular, students sometimes want to know these things when they are getting started on their own projects and it seems like the tools matter. Sometimes they do; usually they don’t. It is true, though, that better tools make the work easier for all whereas poorer tools sometimes require the craftsman to wield them at all effectively.

I make no great claims to craft, but I do like the tools I use, and they mostly serve my needs. At home and everywhere else but my campus office, I use a MacBook Air for pretty much everything. Lately, with the introduction of a Dell 22-inch HD monitor (S2240L), I find working at my text far more comfortable. It really gives me a lot more screen and bigger, too, which I appreciate a lot more than I care to admit. Luckily for me, we had an Apple bluetooth keyboard sitting in a desk drawer. It works well. The bluetooth mouse we had did not, and so I have an old MacAlly USB mouse plugged into my MBA, which is tucked vertically behind my monitor. (I’ll probably make a little piece of wood with a slot in it to do the job properly some time soon.) I would love to find a bluetooth mouse that works, and also didn’t cost a fortune, but I would be just as happy with an all USB setup: connect the mouse to the keyboard and the keyboard to the MBA when I connect the monitor and all is good.

If I am listening to music while I work, I am doing it mostly wirelessly, using an Airport Express paired with a small Lepai amplifier that powers a pair of Bose 201 speakers I have tucked high up on shelves. It’s not the ideal solution — and I also have a USB-powered Audiobox for those times when I want more fidelity, and less lag, for my audio, but for playing stuff from Pandora that keeps me focused on working, it works well enough.

What’s on the machine itself? These days, it’s mostly Pages for one-off formatted documents that are for my own use, Scrivener for anything long form, and BBEdit for everything else. There’s been a slight change in this regime as I collaborate with my colleague Jonathon Goodwin on an essay: we have elected to use a plain text markup system and a DVCS for our drafting. I suggested Markdown, but Jonathon wanted to try LaTeX, which was fine with me because it’s something I have always wanted to try. For version control, we are using Git. Again, JG is way out in front of me, and I am learning a lot along the way.

And so there’s a massive TeX installation somewhere in the bowels of my machine, but I don’t use it much now. I used it with a Tex GUI editor for a few days so I could see how things worked, but now I am more confident in just trusting the system, and I type away in BBEdit.

For computational work, I continue to teach myself Python. And for quick graphical work, I fall back on my old friend OmniGraffle Pro.

Oh, and Evernote is my mental closet. Everything goes in there. Really.

**UPDATE**: I have found a great bluetooth mouse that is only $15. (Yeah, I am surprised, too.) It’s the [Connectland Bluetooth Optical Mouse](

*Nota bene*: The link in the text is commission-free and the link in the image gives me a piece of the action.

ScanSnap and Evernote

Nice find: [Fujitsu is offering a year’s worth of Evernote Premium][f] if you buy one of their ScanSnap devices.


Power Pwn

The DARPA funded Power Pwn hit the [blogosphere][zd] [last][eg] [week][fo]. This thing should scare the bejeezus out of just about anyone whose life intersects with large organizations — and that includes almost anyone in the developed world. Getting one of these things into place would be very easy, all you need is just a little bit of wherewithal.

Pwnie express power pwn

The Power Pwn is described as “a fully-integrated enterprise-class penetration testing platform” that has an “ingenious form-factor.”

The Power Pwn is marketed as a penetration testing tool and is fully-loaded with hardware and software to allow it to hack into a number of different networks. The device features:

* Onboard high-gain 802.11b/g/n wireless
* Onboard high-gain Bluetooth (up to 1000′)
* Onboard dual-Ethernet
* Fully functional 120/240v AC outlets!
* Includes 16GB internal disk storage
* Includes external 3G/GSM adapter
* Includes all release 1.1 features
* Fully-automated NAC/802.1x/RADIUS bypass!
* Out-of-band SSH access over 3G/GSM cell networks!
* Text-to-Bash: text in bash commands via SMS!
* Simple web-based administration with “Plug UI”
* One-click Evil AP, stealth mode, & passive recon
* Maintains persistent, covert, encrypted SSH access to your target network
* Tunnels through application-aware firewalls & IPS
* Supports HTTP proxies, SSH-VPN, & OpenVPN
* Sends email/SMS alerts when SSH tunnels are activated
* Preloaded with Debian 6, Metasploit, SET, Fast-Track, w3af, Kismet, Aircrack, SSLstrip, nmap, Hydra, dsniff, Scapy, Ettercap, Bluetooth/VoIP/IPv6 tools, & more!
Unpingable and no listening ports in stealth mode
* The Power Pwn also features an unlocked 3G/GSM adapter that’s compatible with GSM carriers in over 160 countries.


Pi Raspberry PC picks up a Gert Board

The possibility for robotics at home just got a lot more interesting. I have been following the development of the Pi Raspberry board, which promises the ability to have a basic computer for something like $25. (I imagine building a custom home file server with something like that, or even re-wiring an old laptop!) It turns out that a Broadcom employee, Gert von Loo, has been experimenting with an add-on board that has the ability to communicate with other kinds of devices. The video above shows a C program, but he notes that one could just as easily use Python or even a shell script. The motor in the video is capable of lifting 60kg.