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25 September, 2023

14 September, 2023


Read the article here: Crap: WASMtoy. (

This blogspot site is dead! 

Update your links (and RSS!) to my new blog at

09 September, 2023

20x1000 Use(r)net Archive.

 Read the following article here: 20x1000 Use(r)net Archive. (

This blog is dead! Update your links (and RSS!) to

Below you will find a draft version of the post, all images, formatting and links will be missing here as I moved to my new system.

20x1000 Use(r)net Archive.

An investigation of the old web.

This website is a manifestation of an interest I've acquired over the past couple of years in internet communities, creative spaces and human-centric technology. Yes, my landing back on the "small web" is not just a reaction to seeing what happen when someone like Moron acquires a social network like they did with Twitter...

Part of it is that I consider Roblox itself (my employer at the time of writing, in case you don't know) to be part of the more "humanistic" web, a social experience not driven by ads, algorithms and passive feeds, but by creativity, agency, active participation.

As part of this exploration, I wanted to go back and see what we had when posting online was not subject to an algorithm, was not driven to maximize engagement to be able to monetize ads and the like... I downloaded a few archives of old usenet postings (i.e. when newsgroups were still used for discussions, and not as they later devolved, exclusively as a way to distribute binary files of dubious legality) and wrote a small script to convert them to HTML.

The conversion process is far from... good. As far as I could tell, there is no encoding of the comment trees in usenet, it's just a linear stream of email-like messages as received by the server. 

There does not even seem to be a standard for dates or... anything regarding the headers, so whilst I did write a parser that is robust enough to guess a date for each post in the archive, the date itself is not reliable, as I've seen a ton of different encodings, timezone formats and so on. 

Even the post subject is not entirely reliable, because people change it, sometimes by mistake (misspelling, corrections, truncation), sometimes adding chains of "re:" or "was:" and so on, which again, I tried somewhat to account for, but succeeded only partially.

For each archive I converted only the top 1000 posts by number of replies, and no other filtering was done, so you will see the occasional spam, and a ton of less than politically correct stuff. Proceed at your peril, you have been warned.

And now without further ado, here are a few archives for your perusal.

01 [FILE:EXTERNAL/news/alt.philosophy/index_main.htm alt.philosophy]

02 [FILE:EXTERNAL/news/alt.postmodern/index_main.htm alt.postmodern]

03 [FILE:EXTERNAL/news/]

04 [FILE:EXTERNAL/news/]

05 [FILE:EXTERNAL/news/]

06 [FILE:EXTERNAL/news/]

07 [FILE:EXTERNAL/news/comp.arch/index_main.htm comp.arch]

08 [FILE:EXTERNAL/news/comp.compilers/index_main.htm comp.compilers]

09 [FILE:EXTERNAL/news/ comp.development.industry]

10 [FILE:EXTERNAL/news/ comp.development.programming.algorithms]

11 [FILE:EXTERNAL/news/]

12 [FILE:EXTERNAL/news/]

13 [FILE:EXTERNAL/news/comp.lang.forth/index_main.htm comp.lang.forth]

14 [FILE:EXTERNAL/news/comp.lang.functional/index_main.htm comp.lang.functional]

15 [FILE:EXTERNAL/news/comp.lang.lisp/index_main.htm comp.lang.lisp]

16 [FILE:EXTERNAL/news/]

17 [FILE:EXTERNAL/news/comp.society.futures/index_main.htm comp.society.futures]

18 [FILE:EXTERNAL/news/]

19 [FILE:EXTERNAL/news/comp.sys.apple2/index_main.htm comp.sys.apple2]

20 [FILE:EXTERNAL/news/]

Better times? Worse times?

07 September, 2023

Notes: Reversing Revopoint Scanner.

Read the following article here: Notes: Reversing Revopoint Scanner. ( This blog is dead! Update your links (and RSS!) to

Below you will find a draft version of the post, all images, formatting and links will be missing here as I moved to my new system.

I have to admit, I bought my (...checking the settings...) iPhone 13 pro back in the day mostly because of its 3d scanning abilities, I wanted to have fun with acqusition of 3d scenes. It turns out that the lidar camera is not that strong, it's still good fun both for "serious" uses photogrammetry is better (RealityScan or the nerf-based but I digress...

[IMG:sitescape.jpg SiteScape iOS app]

[IMG:nerds.jpg No NERFs, only nerds.]

Point is, I have been fascinated with 3d scanning for quite a while, so when [LINK: revopoint] came out with a new kickstarter for its "range" scanner, I bit the bullet and got me one.
Unfortunately, as it often happens with new companies and products, albeit the hardware in the scanner is quite competent, the software side is still lacking. A fact that is often brought up in the support forums, the most annoying issue being its propensity to lose tracking of the object being scanned, and thus failing to align frames.

[IMG:revoscan.png I assure you, there is no Toshiba Libretto with a keyboard that large...]

This is especially infuriating as in theory one could run a more expensive alignment algorithm on the captured frames offline, but the software only works with realtime alignment, and it is not good enough to actually succeed at that.

Well, this is where knowing a bit of (python) programming, a bit about 3d and a dash of numerical optimization can come to rescue.

Luckily, revoscan saves a "cache" of raw frames in a trivial to load format. The output of the color camera is stored straight as images, while the depth camera is saved in ".dph" files - all being the same size: 500kb.

Now... 640*400 is 256000... so it seems that the depth is saved in a raw 2-byte per pixel format, which indeed is the case. Depth appears to be encoded as a 16 bit integer, with actual range going in the frames I've dumped from circa 3000 to 7000, with zero signaling an invalid pixel.
This seems close enough to the spec sheet, which describes the scanner as able to go from 300 to 800mm with a 0.1mm precision. So far so good!

[IMG:specs.png From the revopoint website.]

I don't want to make this too long, but suffice to say that trying to guess the right projection entirely from the specs I saw, didn't work. In fact, it seems to me the measurements they give (picture above) do not really make for a straight furstum.

[IMG:stretch.png Trying to do some math on pen an paper, from the specs - clearly wrong.]

One idea could be to just scan a simple scene with the included software, either capturing just a single frame (turns out the easiest is to delete all other frames in the "cache" folder, then reopen the scan) or using the included tripod to get a static scan, then convert it to a point cloud with as minimal processing as possible, and try to deduce the projection from there.

Well... that's exactly what I've done.

[IMG:calibration.jpg Trying to create a scene with a good, smooth depth range and some nice details.]

[IMG:revoscan2.jpg How it looks like in RevoScan.]

Point clouds are a well known thing, so of course you can find packages to handle them. For this I chose to work with [LINK: open3d] in Python/Jupyter (I use the Anaconda distribution), which is nowadays my go-to setup for lots of quick experiments. 
Open3d provides a lot of functionality, but what I was interested on for this is that it has a simple interface to load and visutalize point clouds, to find alignment between two clouds and estimate the distance between clouds.

Not, here is where a lot of elbow grease was wasted. It's trivial enough to write code to do numerical optimization for this problem, especially as open3d provides a fast enough distance metric that can be directly plugged in as an error term. The problem is to decide what parameters to optimize and how the model should look like. Do we assume everything is linear? Is there going to be any sort of lens distortion to compensate for? Do we allow for a translation term? A rotation term? How to best formulate all of these parameters in order to help the numerical optimization routine?

I tried a bunch of different options, I went through using quaternions, I tried optimizing first with some rigid transform compentation by having open3d align the point clouds before computing the error, to isolate just the projection parameters, and then fixing the projection and optimizing for translation and rotation (as unfortunately I did not find a way to constrain open3d alignment to an orthogonal transform) and so on.

At the beginning I was using differential evolution for a global search, followed by Nelder-Mead to refine the best candidate found, but I quickly moved to just doing NM for as a local optimizer and just "eyeballing" good starting parameters for a given model. I did restart NM by hand, by feeding it the best solution it found if the error seemed still large - this is a common trick as there is a phenomenon called "simplex collapse" that scipy does not seem to account for.

In the end, I just gave up trying to be "smart" and optimized a 3x4 matrix... yielding this:

[IMG:opt.png Eureka! Cyan is the RevoScan .ply exported cloud, Yellow is my own decoding of .dph files]

In python:
opt_M = [0.,-1.,0.,0., -1.,0.,0.,0. ,0.,0.,-1.,0.] # Initial guess
opt_M = [ 0.00007,-5.20327,0.09691,0.0727 , -3.25187,-0.00033,0.97579,-0.02795,  0.00015,0.00075,-5.00007,0.01569]
#opt_M = [ 0.,-5.2,0.1,0. ,-3.25,0.,0.976,0., 0.,0.,-5.,0.]

def img_to_world_M(ix,iy,d,P=opt_M): # Note: ix,iy are pixel coordinates (ix:0...400, iy:0...640), d = raw uint16 depth at that pixel location
    d/=50. # could have avoided this but I didn't want to look at large numbers in the matrix
    return np.matmul(np.array(P).reshape(3,4), np.array([(ix/400.0-0.5)*d,(iy/640.0-0.5)*d,d,1]))

with open(dph_file_path, 'rb') as f:
    depth_image = np.fromfile(f, dtype=np.uint16)
    print(min(depth_image), max(depth_image), min(depth_image[depth_image != 0]))
    depth_image = depth_image.reshape(400,640)

subset = [(iy,ix) for iy,ix in np.ndindex(depth_image.shape) if depth_image[iy,ix]!=0]
points = [img_to_world_M(ix,iy,depth_image[iy,ix]) for iy, ix in subset]
Surprisingly... the correct matrix is not orthogonal! To be honest, I would not have imagined that, and this in the end is why all my other fancy attempts failed. I tried with a couple of different scenes, and the results were always the same, so this seems to be the correct function to use.

Now, armed with this, I can write my own offline alignment system, or hack the scanner to produce for example and animated point cloud! Fun!

[offline_align.png Several frames aligned offline.]


- In RevoScan 5, the settings that seemed the best are: "accurate" scanning mode, set the range to the maximum 300 to 1200, fuse the point cloud with the "standard" algorithm set at the minimum distance of 0.1. This still does not produce, even for a single frame, the same exact points as decoding the .dph with my method, as RevoScan seems always to drop/average some points.

- The minimum and maximum scanning distance seem to be mostly limited by the IR illumiation, more than parallax? Too far, the IR won't reach, too near, it seems to saturate the depth cameras. This would explain also why the scanner does better with objects with a simple, diffuse, white albedo, and why it won't work as well in the sun.

[IMG:sls.jpg This is probably about ten years old now, around the time Alex Evans (see was toying with structured light scanning, I was doing the same. Sadly, the hard drives with these scans broke and I lost all this :/]

03 September, 2023

How does this work?

Read the following article here: This blog is dead! Update your links (and RSS!) to

Below you will find a draft version of the post, all images, formatting and links will be missing here as I moved to my new system.

(tl;dr: badly)

The common wisdom when starting a personal website nowadays is to go for a static generator. [LINK: Hugo] seems particularly popular and touted as a simple, fast, no-brainer solution.

OMG! If that's what simplicity looks like these days, we are really off the deep end. Now, I don't want to badmouth what is likely an amazing feat of engineering, I don't know enough about anything to say that... But, tradeoffs, right? Let's not just adopt some tech stack because it's "so hot right now". Right? [LINK: Overengineering is the root of all evil].


I had to interact for the first time with hugo for REAC2023, as I was trying to style a bit more our homepage with the graphic design I made this year, and that was enough to persuade me it's not made for my use-cases. I can imagine that if you are running a bigger shop, a "serious" website, handled by professionals, perhaps it makes sense? But for personal use I felt, quite literally, I could be more efficient using raw HTML. And I don't know HTML, at all!

Indeed in most cases for a blog like this, [LINK: raw HTML is all you need] (exhibit [LINK: B]). But I'm a programmer, first and foremost, and thus trained to waste time in futile efforts if they promise vague efficiency improvements "down the line" (perhaps, in the next life).

Bikeshedding, what can go wrong? In all seriousness though, this is a hobby, and so, everything goes. Plus, I love Python, but I don't know much about it (that's probably why I still love it), so more exercise can only help.

From the get go, I had a few requirements. Or anti-requirements, really:

1) I don't want to build a site generator, i.e. my own version of hugo et al. I'll write some code that generates the website, but the code and the website are one and the same, everything hardcoded/ad-hoc for it.
2) I don't want to write "much" code. Ideally I aim at fewer lines in total than the average Hugo configuration/template script.
3) I don't want to use markdown. Markdown is great, everyone loves it, but it's already overengineering for me. I just need plain text, plus the ability to put links and images.
4) I don't want to spin a webserver just to preview a dumb static website! Why that's a requirement is puzzling to me.
5) I want to be able to easily work on my articles anywhere, without having to install anything.
6) No javascript required. Might add some JS in the future for fun stuff, but the website will always work without.

This is actually how I used to write my blog anyways. Most of my posts are textfiles, I don't write in the horrible blogspot editor my drafts, that would be insane. The textfiles are littered with informal "tags" (e.g. "TODO" or "add IMAGE here" etc) that I can search and replace when publishing. So why not just formalize that!

That's about it. "txt2web" is a python script that scans a folder for .txt files, and convert them mechanically to HTML, mostly dealing with adding "br" tags and "nbsp". It prepends a small CSS inline file to them for "styling", and it understands how to make links, add images... and nothing else! Oh, yeah, I can **bold** text too, this is another thing I actually use in my writing.

Then it generates an index file, which is mostly the same flow converting an "index.txt" to web, but appending at the end a list of links to all other pages it found. And because I felt extra-fancy, I also record modification dates, so I can put them next to posts.

Yet, in its simplicity it has a few features that are important to me, and I could not find in "off the shelf" website builders. As of "v0.1":

- It checks links for validity, so I can know if a link expired. Maybe one day I could automatically link via Internet Archive, but I don't know if that's even wise (might confuse google or something?).
- It parses image size so the page does not need to reflow on load. Maybe one day I'll generate thumbnails as well. In general, the pages it generates are the fastest thing you'll ever see on the web.
- It reminds me of leftover "TODO"s in the page.
- The 10-liner CSS I added should correctly support day/night modes, and it should be mobile-friendly.
- It generates a good old RSS feed! I personally use Feedly/Reeder (iOS app) daily, after google killed its reader product.

If you want to check out the code (beware, it's horrible, I always forget how to write good "pythonic" code as I use it rarely), you'll find it [ here.]

Also, for each .htm there should be on the server the source .txt, as I upload everything (the source and the "production" website are one and the same). For example [FILE:001_txt2web.txt]!



What about gopher/the tildeverse/smol-net/permacomputing?
I like the idea. A lot. I believe there is more value to the individuals in being in smaller communities than in "megascale" ones. I believe that there is more value in content that is harder to digest than in the current "junkfood for the brain" homogenized crap we are currently serving.

I suspect Twitter and TikTok "won" because they are exploiting evolutionary biases - which make sense and we have to accept, but that do not necessarily serve us the best anymore. And I suspect that the most value of world-scale anything is extracted by celebrities and advertisers, to have a platform with a wide reach, not by most of the people on the platform.

But, needless to say, this is bigger topic for another time! BTW, if you don't know what I'm talking about, let me save you some google: [LINK:], [LINK:], [LINK:]

What's relevant to this post is that yes, the fact I have control over the website and I chose a minimalistic, text-based format, would allow me to output to other representations as well... Maybe one day I'll have a gopher page for work-in-progress stuff, for few people who care to lurk those kind of things.

[IMG:libretto.jpg Achievement unlocked?]

[IMG:cafe.jpg Hipster coffee, hipster writing.]