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Carlos Fenollosa

Carlos Fenollosa

Developer & unix enthusiast

Carlos Fenollosa — Blog

Thoughts on science and tips for researchers who use computers

Creating an OS from scratch

September 29, 2014 — Carlos Fenollosa

I am a Computer Engineer major, so I took some classes in college on how to build operating systems. For many reasons, I don't remember most of it, but it is a world which has always excited me.

There has been a recent post on HN which points to a very simple and detailed tutorial on how to write an OS from scratch and it has really inspired me, so I decided to create a Github repo to publish the code at the same pace that I learn to write it.

It is not for everyone; rather, for CS/CE majors who were overwhelmed by college but always were curious about what happens from the moment you turn on your machine up until when an application loads.

I split each "lesson" into one-concept increments, so it can be easy to follow for people like me who don't have a lot of time and brain power to learn at a University pace. This is a work in progress, again, I publish code while I learn and extract it from the original document and other internet resources, so expect it to be updated regularly!

Tags: software, hardware

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Hey NSA, as you sow, so shall you reap

September 25, 2014 — Carlos Fenollosa

It looks like the new "encrypted by default" policy on smartphones is freaking out law enforcement agencies. Honestly, what were they expecting? They have been abusing laws and courts for so long that we are starting to take measures to let private companies protect us from our governments. How twisted is that, huh?

"When I see a police officer now, instead of protected, I feel threatened." That's a bit demagogic but bears some truth. People seem to have interiorized that concept and we now prefer to have some privacy, regardless of what police think. Yes, we are so busy caring for our safety that we don't give a crap if that interferes with the FBI —probably necessary— counterterrorism work.

But wait, is that true? I mean, isn't that reasoning a bit flawed? Are people stupid or careless?

When you think about it for a minute, there is a crucial point. Who is more likely to have resources to circumvent police investigations? Of course, professional criminals. That's why you can't make a backup of your DVDs, but pirates can. Professionals always find a way, it's regular citizens who have no means to protect themselves.

This is a comic I made in 2005 (click to zoom).

It says, "The EU wants to keep a record of phone calls, SMS and emails as a security measure against terrorism." Then, an Al-Qaeda terrorist who's planning to bomb the twin towers starts using carrier pigeons. Both his phone and computer are wired to the CIA, but that's of no use now.

As time told, they passed that law, and now everyone's communications are under police eyes. It's ironic, but nowadays the communications protocol which is the most protected by law is... postal mail.

In the end, it is a false sense of security. We have to give our laptop password to a random guy on an airport and let him check our email and pictures while real terrorists have a decoy encrypted partition. They can manage all the hassle, we can't, so they win.

Or better, they will carry paper documents in a briefcase. Expect next decades' spy films to stop portraying criminals as cyberpunk hackers and go back to the 50's analogic look. In the age of Apple Watches, nobody will suspect that a Casio watch hides a microfilm with the schematics for a bomb.

Tags: internet, law

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Hacking your keyboard

September 23, 2014 — Carlos Fenollosa

Some years ago I started reading on mechanical keyboards, and bought an AEKII.

Unfortunately, despite the positive reviews, I didn't like the keys at all. The sound was damp, and the key feeling was horrible. Honestly, I was expecting something similar to a Model M, and this was really a different story.

I decided to open it and take a look inside, and with the help of some people I managed to hack the sound of its keyswitches, the complicated (white) Alps. I wrote a guide and uploaded it to Github.

A few days ago I received some feedback with more ideas, and I decided to update the guide. It's amazing how you write some guide on Github that probably nobody will ever read, and some years after you can still receive comments and improve on the sound of your keyboard.

Right now I am still undecided if I go again with the AEKII with its new clicky, buckling spring like sound, or keep using the tiny Filco 67-key which allows the mouse to be much closer to your right hand when you're typing. Boy, the AEKII is huge.

Besides the hardware modifications, in the guide you will also find some scripts and ideas that you can use to redefine your keyboard, type faster, and suffer less RSI. If you're still using the vanilla Caps Lock key, please read both articles.

Tags: hardware

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Request for startups

September 14, 2014 — Carlos Fenollosa

Y Combinator have posted a request for startups, where they give founders-to-be some big ideas to work on.

It is interesting to see how things have shifted since just two years ago, when pg posted his "Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas". In just 24 months, we have shifted from internet applications into real life-changing ideas. Biotech has resurrected after its own bubble blew up around 2008. Human augmentation seems to be more than a gimmick now. Fitness is increasingly important for a number of people.

Those ideas seem out of reach for first founders, but after some business success and gathering a bit of experience, momentum and capital, they look like dream jobs. Who wouldn't like to disrupt Hollywood? Transportation? Travel?

What's better, these ideas look feasible with each passing day. Open APIs, Github and the second coming of free software, cheap hardware everywhere, drones. We have spent about 20 years, since around 1995, building great ideas and infrastructure. It seems the right time to connect the dots and do awesome stuff.

Stop for a second and think about it. We really are living in the future.

Tags: startups

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Allowing strangers 24/7 access to you

September 02, 2014 — Carlos Fenollosa

Marco posted about some internet drama and I found the second part of the post quite enlightening.

We allow people access to us 24/7. We're always in public, constantly checking an anonymous comment box, trying to explain ourselves to everyone, and trying to win unwinnable arguments with strangers who don’t matter in our lives at all.

That is exactly spot on, and that is why I always recommend disabling all notifications on your phone except for a few important people on Whatsapp. Otherwise, any random person on the internet can ruin your day at any time with an offensive comment on any public website.

Tags: internet, life

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