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Hardware

How I Quit Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Amazon

Filed under
Hardware
OSS
Sci/Tech

It was just before closing time at a Verizon store in Bushwick, New York last May when I burst through the door, sweaty and exasperated. I had just sprinted—okay I walked, but briskly—from another Verizon outlet a few blocks away in the hopes I’d make it before they closed shop for the night. I was looking for a SIM card that would fit a refurbished 2012 Samsung Galaxy S3 that I had recently purchased on eBay, but the previous three Verizon stores I visited didn’t have any chips that would fit such an old model.

When I explained my predicament to the salesperson, he laughed in my face.

“You want to switch from you current phone to an... S3?” he asked incredulously.

I explained my situation. I was about to embark on a month without intentionally using any services or products produced by the so-called “Big Five” tech companies: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. At that point I had found adequate, open source replacements for most of the services offered by these companies, but ditching the Android OS, which is developed by Google, was proving difficult.

Most of the tech I use on a day-to-day basis is pretty utilitarian. At the time I was using a cheap ASUS laptop at work and a homebrew PC at my apartment. My phone was a Verizon-specific version of the Samsung Galaxy J3, a 2016 model that cost a little over $100 new. They weren't fancy, but they’ve reliably met most of my needs for years.

For the past week and a half I had spent most of my evenings trying to port an independent mobile OS called Sailfish onto my phone without any luck. As it turned out, Verizon had locked the bootloader on my phone model, which is so obscure that no one in the vibrant Android hacking community had dedicated much time to figuring out a workaround. If I wanted to use Sailfish, I was going to have to get a different phone.

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RISC-V Will Stop Hackers Dead From Getting Into Your Computer

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Hardware
OSS
Security

The greatest hardware hacks of all time were simply the result of finding software keys in memory. The AACS encryption debacle — the 09 F9 key that allowed us to decrypt HD DVDs — was the result of encryption keys just sitting in main memory, where it could be read by any other program. DeCSS, the hack that gave us all access to DVDs was again the result of encryption keys sitting out in the open.

Because encryption doesn’t work if your keys are just sitting out in the open, system designers have come up with ingenious solutions to prevent evil hackers form accessing these keys. One of the best solutions is the hardware enclave, a tiny bit of silicon that protects keys and other bits of information. Apple has an entire line of chips, Intel has hardware extensions, and all of these are black box solutions. They do work, but we have no idea if there are any vulnerabilities. If you can’t study it, it’s just an article of faith that these hardware enclaves will keep working.

Now, there might be another option. RISC-V researchers are busy creating an Open Source hardware enclave. This is an Open Source project to build secure hardware enclaves to store cryptographic keys and other secret information, and they’re doing it in a way that can be accessed and studied. Trust but verify, yes, and that’s why this is the most innovative hardware development in the last decade.

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Touchless health monitoring module works with Raspberry Pi

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Hardware

Olea Sensor Networks’ “OS-3010” healthcare sensor module now works with the Raspberry Pi and other Linux and Android devices. A 24GHz Doppler Radar Sensor monitors heart rate, respiration, and other signals synthesized by OleaSense software.

Reno, Nevada based Olea Sensor Networks Sensor makes a variety of sensors and sensor boards for healthcare, industrial safety, and in-vehicle use. It released its OS-3010 wireless healthcare sensor board earlier this year for Windows and has now updated it to support Linux and Android platforms, with a Raspbian version of its OleaSense software designed to work on the Raspberry Pi.

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Nvidia unveils cheaper 4GB version of its Jetson TX2 and begins shipping its next-gen Xavier module

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Linux
Hardware

Nvidia announced a lower-cost 4GB version of its Linux-driven Jetson TX2 module with half the RAM and eMMC and has begun shipping its next-gen Jetson AGX Xavier.

Nvidia will soon have three variants of its hexa-core Arm Jetson TX2 module: the original Jetson TX2, the more embedded, industrial temperature Jetson TX2i , and now a new Jetson TX2 4GB model. The chip designer also announced availability of its next-gen, robotics focused Jetson AGX Xavier module (see farther below).

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ARM's Work in Linux (Kernel)

Filed under
Linux
Hardware
  • Energy Model Management Framework Queued For Linux 4.21

    A new framework queued for introduction with the Linux 4.21 kernel is the ARM-developed Energy Model Management Framework.

    With different hardware and drivers exposing the processor/system energy consumption in different manners, the Energy Model Management Framework tries to provide a standardized way of accessing the power values for each performance domain in a system. This can help kernel drivers/schedulers and other code that could make smarter decisions based upon current energy use be able to do so via this standardized framework for acquiring the power information on capable systems.

  • ARM's AArch64 Adding Pointer Authentication Support To The Linux 4.21 Kernel

    The 64-bit ARM architecture code (a.k.a ARM64 / AArch64) with the Linux 4.21 kernel is seeing pointer authentication added as a new security feature.

    Pointer authentication can be supported by ARMv8.3 hardware and newer to allow for signing and authenticating of pointers against secret keys. The purpose of this pointer authentication is to mitigate ROP attacks and other potential buffer-overrun-style attacks. This ARM64_PTR_AUTH functionality will enable pointer authentication for all user-space processes and the presence of supported hardware is determined at run-time. ARM developers have been working on the plumbing for this Linux kernel support for it the past year.

Devices/Embedded: Omega2 Pro, Power of Zephyr RTOS, ELC Europe

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Linux
Hardware
  • Open source Omega2 module gives way to a “Pro” SBC

    Onion’s “Omega2 Pro” update to its WiFi-enabled Omega2 board boosts RAM to 512MB and flash to 8GB and adds real-world USB and micro-USB ports. The Pro model runs OpenWrt on a 580MHz MIPS SoC.

    Boston-based Onion launched its IoT-oriented Omega computer-on-module on Kickstarter in early 2015 and returned the next year with an Omega2 model that switched the 400MHz Atheros AR9331 with a similarly MIPS-based, OpenWrt-driven 580MHz MediaTek MT7688 SoC that supported additional I/O. The open source module was also available in an Omega2 Plus model that added a microSD slot and doubled RAM and flash to 128MB and 32MB, respectively.

  • The Power of Zephyr RTOS

    The Zephyr Project is a scalable real-time operating system (RTOS) supporting multiple hardware architectures; it’s optimized for resource-constrained devices and built specifically with security in mind. To learn more, we talked with Thea Aldrich, Zephyr Project Evangelist and Developer Advocate, about the goals and growth of the project.

    The first question that comes to mind is what’s the need for Zephyr when the Linux kernel already exists? Aldrich explained that Zephyr is great in those cases where Linux is too big. “It’s a really small footprint, real-time operating system built with security and safety in mind for highly constrained environments,” she said.

  • A crash course in embedded Linux software deployment

    At ELC Europe, Mender.io’s Mirza Krak surveyed popular techniques for deploying embedded Linux software, including cross-dev strategies, IDEs, Yocto-OE package management, config utilities, network boot, and updating software.

    While many Embedded Linux Conference talks cover emerging technologies, some of the most useful are those that survey the embedded development tools and techniques that are already available. These summaries are not only useful for newcomers but can be a helpful reality check and a source for best practices for more experienced developers.

iCEBreaker, The Open Source Development Board for FPGAs

Filed under
Development
Hardware

The Hackaday Superconference is over, which is a shame, but one of the great things about our conference is the people who manage to trek out to Pasadena every year to show us all the cool stuff they’re working on. One of those people was [Piotr Esden-Tempski], founder of 1 Bit Squared, and he brought some goodies that would soon be launched on a few crowdfunding platforms. The coolest of these was the iCEBreaker, an FPGA development kit that makes it easy to learn FPGAs with an Open Source toolchain.

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The Year 2018 in Open Hardware and MIT's 3D Printer

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Hardware
OSS
  • The Year 2018 in Open Hardware

    2018 saw several open hardware projects reach fruition. Where the open hardware movement goes from here, remains to be seen.

    2018 was not “The Year of Open Hardware,” any more than it was the fabled “Year of the Linux Desktop.” All the same, 2018 was a year in which open hardware projects started to move from fundraising and project development to product releases. Many of these open products were traditional hardware, but 2018 also saw the release of innovative tech in the form of new and useful gadgets.

    In the background, open hardware hangs on to traditional niches. These niches occur at the intersection of altruism, hobbyists, academia, and the market, to say nothing of crowdfunding and the relative affordability of 3D printing. A prime example of this intersection is the development of prosthetics. Much of the modern work in open hardware began almost a decade ago with the Yale OpenHand project. At the same time, sites like Hackaday.io offer kits and specifications for hobbyists, while the e-NABLE site has become a place for exchanging ideas for everyone from tinkerers to working professionals in the field. As a result, open hardware technology in the field of prosthetics has grown to rival traditional manufacturers in a handful of years.

    This niche is a natural one for open hardware not only because of the freely available resources, but for simple economics. Traditionally manufactured prosthetic hands begin at about $30,000, far beyond the budgets of many potential customers. By contrast, an open hardware-based company like the UK based Open Bionics can design a cosmetically-pleasing hand for $200, which is still a large sum in impoverished areas, but far more obtainable. A non-profit called Social Hardware estimates that a need for prosthetic hands in India alone numbers 26,000 and hopes to help meet the demand by offering a development kit on which enthusiasts can learn and later donate their results to those who need them.

  • This MIT Developed 3D Printer Is 10 Times Faster Than Modern 3D Printers

    3D printers have become more and more useful in the mass production of complex products that are cheaper and stronger. However, the only issue with 3D printing is its slow speed. These desktop 3D printers can print only one product at a time and only one thin layer at a making.

  • Accelerating 3-D printing

    Imagine a world in which objects could be fabricated in minutes and customized to the task at hand. An inventor with an idea for a new product could develop a prototype for testing while on a coffee break. A company could mass-produce parts and products, even complex ones, without being tied down to part-specific tooling and machines that can’t be moved. A surgeon could get a bespoke replacement knee for a patient without leaving the operating theater. And a repair person could identify a faulty part and fabricate a new one on site — no need to go to a warehouse to get something out of inventory.

Devices: Raspberry Pi, Winmate (With Intel ME Back Doors), and Purism

Filed under
Linux
Hardware
  • Raspberry Pi projects for IT professionals

    The single-board design is affordable and has been used to promote computer science in schools. Despite this and a strong consumer base, the applications for Raspberry Pi have become more advanced over the years beyond just education and is being used in industry too.

    There are various ways the Raspberry Pi can be embedded to create huge value in the enterprise world. Such projects developed using Raspberry Pi may transform traditional businesses.

    Here are some ways to use Raspberry Pi effectively in your business.

  • Apollo Lake mini-PC offers WiFi and a USB Type-C port with DP

    Winmate’s rugged, Linux-friendly “EAC Mini EACIL22S” mini-PC runs on an Intel Apollo Lake processor and offers 64GB eMMC, WiFi, a DisplayPort-ready USB Type-C port, and dual GbE and USB 2.0 ports,

    Winmate has begun adding some Linux-supported systems to its largely Windows-driven embedded lineup, including the recent FM10A VMC touch-panel computer for forklifts. Now, it has launched a rugged, Apollo Lake based mini-PC with Ubuntu 16.04, Linux 4.1.5, or Win 10 IoT Enterprise. The 115 x 90 x 31mm, 0.8 Kilogram EAC Mini EACIL22S follows a similar, but NXP i.MX6 based, EAC Mini EACFA20 system that runs Android 6.0.

  • Break Free from Privacy Prison with Purism

    As 2018 comes to a close, people around the world have to face the stark truth of surveillance capitalism. Nearly all consumer products — speakers, phones, cars, and perhaps even mattresses — are recording devices, storing metrics on our movements and behavior. The New York Times just published a detailed report on location tracking in leaky Android and iOS apps. That’s just a fact of life when people use smartphones, right? Wrong. In 2019, Purism’s Librem 5 smartphone will be proof that no one has to live with spies in their pockets.

    If anything has changed since Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, it’s that more and more people are jumping ship from the Frightful Five: Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft. At Purism, we offer an alternative to the polluted software ecosystems of these tech giants.

    Our code is Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS), the industry standard in security because it can be verified by experts and amateurs alike. The software on our Librem laptops and our upcoming phone stands on a strong, foundational chain of trust that is matched by hardware features such as kill switches. These switches give people the added assurance that their devices won’t record or “phone home” to advertisers, spies, and cyber criminals. Turn off WiFi, microphone, and webcam on the Librem 5 and they’re off, no question about it.

Devices That Run or Support GNU/Linux

Filed under
GNU
Linux
Hardware
  • Fanless, Kaby Lake industrial PC has IEC 61850-3 power protection

    Lanner’s fanless, Ubuntu-ready “LEC-3340” is a 3U rackmount edge server with 7th Gen Core and Xeon E3 CPUs aimed at power subsystems. It features IEC 61850-3 compliance, -40 to 70°C support, isolated serial interfaces, and ESD protection.

    In the new age of edge and fog computing, the line between embedded and server technology is growing ever fuzzier. Bridging the gap at the high end of our coverage purview is Lanner’s new LEC-3340 Consolidation Server, which despite the 3U rackmount form-factor and the high end Kaby Lake-H or Xeon-E3 foundation, is designed to run without a fan.

  • Rugged Coffee Lake panel-PCs run Intel’s OpenVINO AI toolkit

    IEI’s 15- to 24-inch, IP66-armored “PPC-F-Q370” panel-PCs offer 8th Gen Core CPUs with Intel’s OpenVINO AI toolkit plus 2x GbE, 8x USB 3.0, 4x PCIe, 4x SATA bays, and 2x M.2/NVMe slots.

    IEI announced a new panel-PC series based on Intel’s 8th Gen “Coffee Lake” processors that feature Intel’s OpenVINO toolkit for AI development. Designed for applications including machine vision, facial recognition, and product defect detection, the PPC-F-Q370 series includes 15-, 15.6-, 17-, 18.5-, 21.5-, and 23.8-inch 10-point multitouch PCAP touchscreens with anti-glare and IP66 front-panel protection. No OS support was listed, but Linux and Windows are likely to be supported.

  • Little Backup Box: Small but Useful Improvement

    I want my Raspberry Pi-based Little Backup Box to be simple and reliable. So I prefer not to tweak and enhance it too much. I do make occasional exceptions to that rule, though. Case in point, a Little Backup Box fork by David Mathias that has a few interesting features, including a progress indicator.

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