hifi by apg


Volume 8: Subatomic Bytes

There are at least 2 (known) subatomic bytes. The bit, and the nibble. For those unfamiliar with bytum theory, the bit is a single, well, bit. The nibble is a half-octet, or 4 bits. It’s interesting to consider what information one can actually store in a nibble.

There are a decent number of enumerations that have less than 16 values. Of which, the types common to a programming language. As a result, an implementor might get away with storing the tag for boxed objects in a single nibble, with at least 4 bits more for GC flags or something else.

More interestingly, at least to me, is that in 4 nibbles, one can store a single character for a 3x5 pixel font, with a bit left over to encode, say, reverse video information. In a 3x5 pixel font, hifi might look like:

#    #    #  #
##       #
# #  #  ###  #
# #  #   #   #
# #  #   #   #

(apologies for the crude ASCII art). In 4 nibbles, or just 2 bytes, a lowercase h is simply 0x9ada, i is 0x2092, and f is 0x15d2. We haven’t saved any space in terms of a regular transmission; in fact we’ve doubled the cost of sending text on the wire. Instead of just representing the value, we’ve given all the information necessary to render it for the reader.

I wonder what kind of interesting applications can be created from such things. What if we took long strings of text, and rendered them as the starting state for a cellular automaton? After N iterations, might we get back new 3x5 encoded characters that we could unencode and use as the basis for passphrases, or cryptographic keys?

Are there other, creative ways in which to explore this? If you’ve thought about it, or know someone who has, please let me know! I can’t help but think it’s worth more thought.

Hackity Hacks (in pseudo random order)

Editor’s Note: I’m deep in the backlog of hacks this week. I’ve been doing a poor job of finding new and interesting things, due to holidays, being under the weather, yak shaving, and of course telling people they are wrong on the Internet. Expect less hacks, and more links to interesting articles and discussions this week.

MagSpoof — Samy Kamkar

Imagine being able to spoof the mag stripe on all of your credit cards to make your own Coin. Well, the original MySpace, w0rm creator, has something that might be of interest. Lots of information about mag stripes work, and schematics and firmware for building your own contact free device.

Yi — Many

Yi is a hackable, scriptable editor written in Haskell, with a purely functional core, supporting both virtual terminals, and GTK based graphical UIs.

Planck — Mike Fikes

An alternative, bootstrapped, REPL for ClojureScript on OS X.

adsuck — Conformal Systems

adsuck is a DNS server which blacklists known ad addresses, and forwards the rest. Alternative and/or compliment to some of the features of privoxy

IRCAnywhere — IRCAnywhere Developers

IRCAnywhere is a multi-user IRC bouncer and web based client, meant for teams. You and your team can use this instead of giving into proprietary services such as Slack or HipChat, without giving up all of the graphical nonsense you’ve grown to love (or at least eventually).

mdp — Michael Gohler

A curses based, command line, presentation tool backed by markdown files.

vnStat — Teemu Toivola

Network monitoring for Linux and BSD that doesn’t require capturing packets. Stats are persisted across reboots.

kickstart — Bruno Lara Tavares

Some time ago, I asked for feedback on hifi (I’m happy to receive more, both positive and negative!), and Bruno wrote me. He mentioned his project kickstart, which is a provisioning tool, in the vain of Chef or Puppet, requiring no special clients–just bash and ssh.

[This is the first hack submission I’ve received and published–ed]


I alluded, wayyy back thousands of words ago, that I’d include some articles and posts that I’ve found interesting in the past couple of weeks. Here they are.

Signed. Sealed.

That’s it for Volume 8. If you’ve got complaints, I’ve got an INBOX. If you have suggestions, I’ve got an INBOX. If you have something to show me… I have an INBOX. Just reply to this email and you’ll be on your way to communicating with me.

OH! And, I’m in search of introductions to people doing ambitious and interesting projects, in their spare time. I want to chat with them, and expose them for all they are! (most likely wonderful people!)

And, if I don’t write again before the new year… Happy Holidays if that applies to you, and Happy days to all!

May the December the 18th be with you.

Happy hacking,