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Gadgets

Purism on Hardware and Security in 2019

Filed under
GNU
Linux
Gadgets
  • 2019 Year in Review: Hardware

    At the end of 2018 and going into 2019 we shipped the Librem 5 development kits – the first hardware for the Librem 5. The dev kits give developers very similar hardware and features to develop software against ahead of the final hardware being released, this is especially useful for GUI developers to visualize the applications. The first dev kits had a bug in the silicon of the i.MX8M CPU which meant the LCD did no work. It took a lot of effort but we fixed the issue in March giving everyone a fully functional LCD. In June we released a software update which enabled cellular calls.

  • 2019 Year in Review: Security

    This year also saw a number of improvements in supply chain security. On the physical supply chain front we announced the Made in USA Librem Key and more recently the Librem 5 USA. In both cases we are bringing the manufacturing of our electronics next to our fulfillment center where we can more directly oversee it.

    Finally we publicized our anti-interdiction services, a service that adds a number of sophisticated security measures to our fulfillment process to make it difficult to tamper with laptop shipments without detection. Up until now we haven’t publicized the service even though we offered it to customers who asked. Now it appears as an upgrade option on our laptops along with the PureBoot Bundle. We’ve already seen a dramatic interest in the service since we announced it publicly.

Early Experiences With PinePhone

Filed under
GNU
Linux
Gadgets
  • Talking about Pine

    At GNU Health Con (now more than two weeks ago) I gave a talk on saturday afternoon about Pine. Thanks to TLLim for providing me we slides (we caught up at Linux App Summit) to start off the talk. I dove down a little more into the products that are available, saying “this is not a sales talk” but ..

    At the end of the day there were lots of people seriously interested in Pine hardware. If I can’t even not sell devices, what am I to do?

  • Yet Another Librem 5 and PinePhone comparison

    Let's start off with mentioning that both these new phones are great steps forward for Linux. While they will probably not beat Android and iOS in popularity, they will at least give Linux power users a device that can be called a Linux phone instead of the usual "technically it's running Linux because that's only a kernel". These phones not only run the latest, mainline Linux kernel, they also have the desktop stacks people are already familiar with.

  • PinePhone review

    Holy shit! This is the phone I have always wanted. I have never been this excited about the mobile sector before. However: the software side is totally absent — phone calls are very dubious, SMS is somewhat dubious, LTE requires some hacks, and everything will have to be written from the ground up.

    I have a PinePhone developer edition model, which I paid for out of pocket1 and which took an excruciatingly long time to arrive. When it finally arrived, it came with no SIM or microSD card (expected), and the eMMC had some half-assed version of Android on it which just boot looped without POSTing to anything useful2. This didn’t bother me in the slightest — like any other computer I’ve purchased, I planned on immediately flashing my own OS on it. My Linux distribution of choice for it is postmarketOS, which is basically the mobile OS I’d build if I wanted to build a mobile OS.

DragonBox Pyra prototypes begin shipping (open source handheld gaming computer)

Filed under
Debian
Gadgets

The DragonBox Pyra is a handheld computer with a 5 inch display, a QWERTY keyboard and a built-in gamepad. It’s designed to run free and open source software, and it’s been under development for more than six years… and after all that time, project leader Michael Mzorek (EvilDragon) has finally begun shipping prototypes to customers who placed pre-orders for pre-production hardware.

Pyra-handheld forum member Grench ordered one of the first prototypes almost three years ago. He received it last week, and has shared some photos and initial impressions.

[...]

It also supports 802.11n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 and has stereo speakers, a headset jack, a micro USB port, and an HDMI port. There’s also a “Mobile Edition” version of the Pyra with a 3G/4G modem.

The handheld PC features a backlit keyboard, a D-pad, analog sticks, a D-pad, and buttons that make the Pyra usable as a handheld gaming device. But it’s also a full-fledged computer that ships with a custom version of Debian Linux, although it also supports alternate operating systems.

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Purism/Librem/PureOS Updates

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GNU
Linux
Hardware
Gadgets
  • Librem 5 November 2019 Software Update

    In November, we shipped the Birch batch of Librem 5, fixed audio routing, made changes to various apps and shared Librem 5 at various meetups and talks.

    A couple of other articles appeared about software development: Oxidizing Squeekboard described the use of the Rust programming language in the Librem 5’s virtual keyboard, and the Linux 5.4 report covered Purism’s contributions to Linux 5.4.

    The software initially included with Birch was tagged, ready to be installed on the phones that shipped out. The built-in software is provided as part of the amber-phone distribution of PureOS, meaning that the core applications are automatically updated if the user enables updates.

    On a similar note, the Librem 5 Development policy document was created to discuss how core software development is done for the phone’s system software. While this is aimed at those working for Purism, it is also of interest to the wider community around the Librem 5.

    [...]

    Work continues to improve power consumption by implementing devfreq driver which allows the frequency of the I/O buses to be reduced. This involved changes to the u-boot-builder tool and the trusted firmware. Changes to the kernel to avoid problems with the display at low frequencies as well as a workaround to adjust frequencies when the power key is pressed also try to find a balance between usability and power saving.

    Efforts to save power also involve implementing busfreq support, where the speed of the DDR memory can be reduced as needed. This involved making it work on the devkit.

    An issue where the display would be shifted after a resume was fixed.

    Support for Bluetooth audio has been enabled, making it possible to use Bluetooth headsets.

    The U-Boot bootloader was updated for phones in the Birch shipment.

    Changes to the display stack were backported to Linux 5.3 so that the mxsfb driver could be used.

    The flashing scripts were updated for Birch devices, dropping the recovery U-Boot image, updating them for the unified kernel and U-Boot and adding support for the board types in the flashing tool.

  • 2019 Year in Review: Librem One

    We currently have quite low storage limits. Our goal for the first quarter of 2020 is to allow paying subscribers to upgrade their storage capacity. This will involve some boring work in the middleware layer, but lays the foundation for Librem Sync and Librem Files, which we hope to release by mid-year.

    [...]

    We have begun the very long road to getting all the software we use (clients and server applications) packaged in Debian, our upstream operating system, so that anyone running a Debian-derived system can apt install any service or client. We aim to make any home-baked software “flagship-friendly but vendor-neutral”, so there will be sensible defaults for the librem.one domain, but you will always be able to reconfigure the packages to target an alternate domain. Or, for those that like a challenge, you could release your own distribution preconfigured to a service you run.

  • Purism Has Librem 5 Audio Routing Working, Other Software Progress

    Purism has shared an update on their software work for the Librem 5 Linux smartphone over the course of last month.

    Most notably they got audio routing to work so phone calls can work out properly. But they are still battling power consumption and other software work to at least make the device seem more like beta quality.

    - Fixing audio routing for the Librem 5 Birch batch, allowing this Linux smartphone to actually serve as a working phone. Telephone calls now appear to be working reliably.

2019 Year in Review: PureOS

Filed under
GNU
Linux
Gadgets

Our new stable release is called Amber and is designed to provide the security of coreboot with the stability of a well tested distro. This new version of PureOS retains its status as a Free Software Foundation “free distro” and we’ve added a sibling called Byzantium which is a rolling release.

We’ve improved our release cadence so that we can do in-depth testing with some regularity. Byzantium is now being updated directly from the mothership, Debian testing, for those who want the latest and greatest. We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the adoption of the two distros and I am looking forward to announce the availability of Byzantium ISO images early in the New Year. Some of you might have noticed that while it is possible to upgrade Amber to Byzantium (details in our forum) it’s a big change with lots of new packages. If you’re not feeling adventurous, no need to worry, we’re going to continue to update Amber throughout 2020 with Amber updates and security fixes.

Our new rolling release was made possible by the flexibility of the Laniakea tool which we’ve invested significant resources in. Purism proudly sponsors the project and is also contributing to its broader adoption in the community as a way of building out the ecosystem of Free Software itself. Laniakea holds the logic to create new images as well as update packages which has allowed us to implement continuous delivery. Lanikea has allowed us to use Debian binary packages without having to rebuild each one by hand. Without Laniakea there simply would be too much work for the team. To top it off Matthias Klumpp created a tool that clones the entire Debian build process and let’s you maintain a large Debian derivative with relatively little effort. It is currently powering the Librem 5 and x86 builds distributions.

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Also: Librem 5 – The risks of crowdfunding open hardware

Sailfish OS Nuuksio now available

Filed under
OS
Gadgets

First of all we wish all our customers, business associates and friends, old and new, a very merry Christmas! We are excited to have you with us on the ride to create a world with more security and digital trust.

The Nuuksio National Park location, being in such close proximity to the capital of Finland, Helsinki, is uncommon within Europe. Nuuksio has typical Finnish scenery, with lovely lakes, green forests and rugged crags. Nuuksio has one of the densest flying squirrel populations in Finland.

Sailfish OS 3.2.1 Nuuksio

We’ve included many reliability improvements in Nuuksio especially targeting Email, Calendar synchronisation and VPN settings. In addition to reliability improvements, the Email app now has enhanced support for handling HTML formatted messages. Audio routing for Android apps has been improved on Android app support 8.1, fixing issues with applications such as WhatsApp calls and Youtube. The operating system now supports hardware MPEG2, VP9 and h.265/HEVC video decoding (the exact support depends on the device).

For Sailfish OS 3.2.1 Nuuksio we’ve continued improving the Phone and Messages apps and the UI in general. The message bubbles gained a new visual style with related messages now forming visual groups to enhance readability. The address handling in the email and messages apps has also been improved, so you can now see recipient addresses, as well as having the option to easily remove unwanted recipients.

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Hardware and Gadgets: Librem 5, USB4, WattUp and Raspberry Pi Airdrum

Filed under
GNU
Linux
Hardware
Gadgets
  • Librem 5 – My Thoughts

    While I agree that all of the above is true, I do not agree that the Librem 5 is any different. Over a 3 year period the Librem’s paltry 32GB of internal storage will fill up. Their 3,500 mAh battery will begin to fail and their hardware will become more outdated.

    As far as I can see, there is nothing that gives the Librem 5 a longer life than any other smartphone.

  • MCCI Sells a $795 USB4 Switch for USB4 Product Development

    The USB4 specification was officially released last September with the new standard promising speeds of up to 40 Gbps and up to 100 Watts power delivery over USB-C connectors.

  • Energous Launches WattUp Smart Glasses Developer Kit for Customer Product Designs

    Near-field wireless charging technology has the potential to disrupt the consumer electronics industry, but its adoption has been limited.

  • Hands-free Raspberry Pi Airdrum | The MagPi 89

    We’re always going to beat the drum for projects that seek to improve the lives of people with disabilities. That’s why we fell in love with the Airdrum, which was created to allow anyone, in particular people with disabilities, to play a musical instrument.

Surveillance Openwash: Zigbee Alliance

Filed under
Google
Gadgets
  • Tech heavyweights join Zigbee in launching open source smart home consortium

    Amazon, Apple, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance have formed a “Connected Home over IP” group to develop an open source smart home connectivity standard. Meanwhile Silicon Labs plans to relaunch its Z-Wave spec as a “ratified, multi-source wireless standard” open to all silicon and stack vendors for development.

    Three of the leading smart home device vendors have joined up with the Zigbee Alliance to launch a royalty-free, IP-based home automation connectivity standard. The Project Connected Home over IP working group will develop open source reference implementations for the standard posted on GitHub, followed by a device certification program.

  • Amazon, Apple, Google and Zigbee join forces for an open smart home standard

    The biggest names in the connected home category are reaching across the aisle to create an open-source standard. Marquee names Amazon, Apple, Google and the Zigbee Alliance are leading the charge here.

  • Apple, Amazon, and Google team up with Zigbee to create an open smart home standard in a bid to get rid of proprietary standards
  • Apple, Google, And Amazon Join Forces To Create CHIP

    Apple, Google, Amazon, and the Zigbee Alliance have all teamed up to work on an open-source network standard. The new working group has already gone live under the name of “Project Connected Home over IP” or CHIP.

    According to the new website, the project is aimed at simplifying development for manufacturers and increase compatibility for consumers. By building upon Internet Protocol (IP), the project aims to enable communication across smart home devices, mobile apps, and cloud services and to define a specific set of IP-based networking technologies for device certification.

X11 on iOS 13 spotted, getting Linux for iPhone/iPad not Herculean task anymore

Filed under
OS
GNU
Linux
Gadgets

Do you think you can replace the whole user interface with Linux or any other platform? I hate to bust your bubble! But, the secondary OS stays inside an app and you get to stream it locally over VNC. The developer says nothing will stop someone from changing that.

Moreover, for those who look forward to getting GNOME, it hasn’t been achieved yet. Despite trying, the person behind all these is facing a troubling bug in fontconfig and/or freetype. And, we will update this story if he comes up with a new progress in this affair.

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New postmarketOS build infrastructure is powered by sourcehut builds

Filed under
OS
Android
Gadgets

Development effort from our end went into build.postmarketos.org (in short BPO). This is the name of both the website seen in the second screenshot, as well as the source code for the program that generates the website. Besides that, it manages the jobs that run on sourcehut builds.

BPO has 91% test coverage. A rather unusual design decision is that the website is generated as static HTML page whenever there is a change. It is not generated on demand when requested via HTTP. This seems highly appropriate though, as the content at most changes a few times per second.

We have come a long way from initially having no binary repository and expecting all developers to build everything from source at the project's public launch in May of 2017. During the following months we had an inofficial repository of binary packages for Plasma Mobile packages on postmarketOS at one point. Until we got the first official binary repository at the end of 2017. But that one had to be manually triggered and the build logs where not available online.

Now it's completely automated and transparent, and multiple developers of the core team are able to fix things if they go south. Therefore we allow more people to merge incoming patches, and it is already apparent that this has resulted in increased productivity.

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