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Halfbakery (halfbakery.com)
224 points by amelius on Nov 10, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 65 comments

Half Bakery is some awesome old-skool internet stuff. Back in the late 90s it was one of my favourite haunts. Sadly they lost all their content somehow and didn't have a full backup so, funny though it is now, there was some epic stuff on the old site that is lost forever.

Very old school indeed! From the about section: "The halfbakery software is implemented as one big C CGI program, edited with vi, compiled with gcc, invoked by an Apache http server."

Wow! A blast from the past. I started my career in the mid-90s writing software with exactly this same stack.

It's funny—you just need a cgi-bin:

1. with 1777 permissions (sticky bit set); and

2. rsynced between a cluster of systems;

and you've got a modern Function-as-a-Service backend.

And of course you want to use a flat file database on an NFS server, maybe using some cool flock()s to synchronize writes :)

Only to then realise that naive flock() won't cut it on your basic NFS setup so you resort to bizarre tricks like using hard links to the lock file to emulate proper locking on NFS because they can tell you which of the racing clients won. Those were good times... right?

I think you mean setuid bit. The sticky bit (on binaries) went away when we got VMM/swap.

No, I'm talking about the sticky bit for directories: see




cgic was a great library, even if it was still excruciatingly tedious to write. I'm not entirely certain whether I discovered cgic or Perl first, but I know which one I preferred writing.

You might be surprised (or horrified) how much is still out there...

Now... If this is true, it is scary indeed :).

I started with something built on the CGI.pm Perl module.

For all the gripes about cloud computing, the fact that amateurs can set up a website but also have one-click backups and redundancy is worth something. There’s a lot of offbeat web history that’s gone forever because someone’s hard drive crashed.

You'd think we'd have a shared hard drive today.

I remember browsing it in the 90s... remember any epic stuff from back then?

Always loved "Film Noir House" where every room was wired such that it narrated whatever you were doing around the house, but in the style of a Film Noir movie... "He walked into the bedroom... switched on the light..."

Accepting the risk of being downvoted heavily...

Young men + new to browsing + some imagination = Pamela Anderson was epic by then.

hamster dance

That's kind of clever:


Although rendered kind of pointless with modern on-demand boilers.

There was a pretty successful Kickstarter a while back for a product ("Coffee Joulies") that was exactly that, but for your coffee mug. Little bean-shapes made of stainless steel, filled with material that changed phase at 140F.

There's also Ember [1] (also a kickstarter I think) that just made a mug with a heating element and controller to keep your beverage at a specific temperature. Using materials with specific phase change temperatures sounds like an innovative solution, but it's also grossly engineering a problem that can be solved better by $10 worth of components.

[1] https://ember.com/products/ceramic-mug

Is having a processor and electronics and software and sensors, which, despite the cost of components of $10, requires electricity. Is that really that much better than just building a better thermos?

( These things are amazing; if you haven't experienced one yet I recommend picking one up from REI: https://www.yeti.com/drinkware/rambler-20-oz-tumbler/YRAM20.... )

A battery powered mug with an app isn't really any simpler of a solution than fancy ice cubes.

Vacuum mugs already advertise hours of heat retention. Most hot drinks aren't going to taste better after sitting for hours and hours anyway.

I don't know, personally I would absolutely hate having to remember to keep my mug charged - although it's a damn cool product, just not for me.

I'm not sure I can agree about a phase-change solution being overengineered, however; while the materials would be more complex, the design itself should be far simpler than an electronic mug, and exactly the same as a vacuum sealed one.

I'd also be really worried about toxicity and materials that changed phase at that temp... Or well any temp. Can it leech through the walls? I wouldn't be Keen on dropping molten steel in my coffee either.

It's isolated components of vegetable oil:


Not really terrifying.

Seems clear that the stainless steel is to keep the material out of your liquids. It is not molten! Keep in mind you regularly put stainless steel in your mouth and lick it.

I’d say this is a reasonable use.

It was pretty successful, but the product did not work: https://marco.org/2011/08/10/coffee-joulies-review

And also the Temperfect coffee mug (https://joeveo.com/), which builds the material into the coffee mug lining.

On-demand water heaters are really only feasible if you have natural gas or propane heat in your house. The electric ones are quite feeble and expensive to operate. This is a good idea. My intuition though is that the additional up-front costs of this type of setup would be enough of a barrier that adoption would be slow.

My brother uses an on-demand electric water heater he built himself (he is an ee) and it works just fine. Also, it's less expensive to operate than a tank-type heater, as there is no cooloff loss.

I tend to think cool off loss is much less of a problem than people think. The insulation around those heaters is incredible.

I once turned off my water heater before leaving on vacation, and when I got back after a week the water in the tank was still probably 10 to 15 degrees F warmer than room temperature.

Also in a lot of cases (cool climate, electric resistance heat, water heater inside conditioned space) that heat isn't really lost, it's just offsetting heat that would have come from something like an electric baseboard heater.

I had a bad water heater in my apartment that kept turning off. It would take me 2 or 3 days to notice that there wasn't any hot water because I could usually get a few hot showers out of it before I noticed a problem.

I have an on demand 10kW water heater, it's my shower.

There are actually companies manufacturing these things but mainly to increase heat-storage capacity of water tanks for solar heating elements. They use thiosulfates (the stuff in hand warmers) or paraffin wax.

Oh wow, I found a post I made 10 years ago, when I was 12:


It's really strange to read something I wrote almost half a lifetime ago.

And now I feel old...

This was another old favourite http://www.pimpthatsnack.com

I know this isn't 100% relevant (but used to contain half-baked ideas, for sure), but this old-school throwback also makes me remember AfroTech mods... Anyone else remember that guy?


Seems he's updated his site since the olden days... It used to be a cardboard box image with link maps over the image regions and hand-drawn stuff on the box. :D

He has a YouTube channel now. https://www.youtube.com/user/Afrotechmods

Wow, this is a blast from the past. The website looks largely unchanged from when I first visited. I think it was featured by Attack of the Show on G4TV.

The comments are clever as the posts. This is pretty darn funny. http://www.halfbakery.com/idea/Solid_20Underpants#1510132874

I've been a fan of halfbakery for many moons. There are a lot of good (if incompletely thought through) ideas there. :)

Would it be fair to say that the ideas are half-baked?

I like it! I have random ideas all the time, and I'm pleased to have somewhere to post them.

If anybody here works at Google, here's my first post: http://www.halfbakery.com/idea/Translated_20Search

"Child Vouchers" sounds like it's from 1970-s, a notorious example of not everybody getting a memo.

TL;DR anyone?

From their about page:

"The Halfbakery is a communal database of original, fictitious inventions, edited by its users. It was created by people who like to speculate, both as a form of satire and as a form of creative expression. (To learn more about what ideas are appropriate, see the help section.) "

Seems to have been around for a long time.

I remember frequenting this site back in early early 200X's, the community was very vibrant back then. Perfect for people who always have ideas rattling around in their head.

I always wondered why TL;DR requests are being consistently down voted. Sometimes this is not a "too long don't CARE to read" but rather "I'm not sure I'm getting what this is about without investing a few hours into it so please kind Sirs and Ladies, can you sum up in a sentence?". Thanks for responding, responders.

For me, "TL;DR" inevitably implies a certain laziness. If a person really means, "I tried to understand this but I'm not getting it", maybe they could say that.

Given that the top reply to this post is a copy and paste from the first paragraph of the about page, I could see why people suspect the querent did not work very hard before posting, and so values their own time more than that of other people here. That might not be true, but I think it's on the asker to make that clearer, not the readers to guess.

I skimmed the page up and down and couldn't find what it was all about.

And I redid that same thing before posting the TL;DR;

Then that would have been a good thing to say. If you say you didn't read something when you actually did, you can't blame people for taking you at your word.

Fair enough. This is the old implicit vs explicit argument.

I've seen these kind of requests received better when they're phrased "Is anyone with more experience in the field able to summarise what's cool about this?"

tl;dr on this guy's post?

Funny. Take an upvote :)

Half bakery is about ideas that seem interesting but are either absurd or impossible - but crucially are such for interesting or amusing reasons.

Forum to post, rate and discuss half-baked ideas.

Site seems to be momentarily down, I'll make a note to come back later. Thanks for posting this, OP.

Some old man tell me what that is. All I know is it's fun.

Site seems to be down for now, I will come back later. Thanks

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