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Hardware

RISC-V on the Verge of Broad Adoption

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Hardware
OSS

There are major hurdles to overcome when bringing a new processor architecture to market. Today’s fast-paced development practices demand that processor offerings be stable with the promise of a long market lifetime. Further, they must come to market with substantial support in the form of development tools, software libraries, operating systems, emulators, debuggers, and more. The emerging RISC-V instruction set architecture has faced and is overcoming those hurdles and is poised to rapidly gain broad acceptance across the design industry.

There are several reasons the RISC-V ISA has been garnering a lot of interest. For one, the ISA is open source, meaning that anyone can design a processor to implement the ISA without paying a licensing fee. This opens the ISA to a huge, worldwide design community that can review, correct, and enhance the architecture over time. Yet because only the ISA is open source, developers are free to safeguard their hardware design’s intellectual property and keep it proprietary for commercialization.

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Also: Data Conspiracy RISC | User Error 59

Devices: Plug Computers, Estone, Purism's Plan for Privacy

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Hardware
  • Sheeva64 is an $89 tiny headless PC that plugs into an AC outlet

    Plug Computers are tiny PCs that you could easily mistake for an AC power adapter, because they plug directly into a wall outlet and typically don’t include video output. Instead these small, low power, “headless” computers usually run some sort of Linux-based operating system allowing you to use the little PCs as file servers or for other simple jobs.

    One popular option about a decade ago was called the SheevaPlug, and it was a device built around a 1.2 GHz Marvell Kirkwood 6281 ARM9 processor.

  • i.MX8M-driven Pico-ITX SBC features dual-DSP audio module

    Estone is launching an “EMB-2238” Pico-ITX board for audio and voice control applications that runs Linux on an i.MX8M and offers a dual-DSP audio hub and DAC, 40-pin GPIO, and optional PoE and second GbE.

    Toledo, Ohio based Estone Technology (known for its former Habey brand) offers a variety of Linux-friendly Pico-ITX boards, including boards based on the i.MX6 (EMB-2230), i.MX6 UL (EMB2200) models, and Intel Cherry Trail EMB-2610. The company recently announced (via Electronics Weekly) an EMB-2238 board with the same 100 x 72mm form factor. The SBC builds on the audio strengths of NXP’s i.MX8M SoC with the help of high-end audio circuitry from Cirrus Logic.

  • How Purism avoids the FaceTime remote camera viewing

    is not Free Software – with its source code released so that anyone can verify their security claims, like the one we use at Purism – how can you trust what cannot be verified?

    At Purism, both our Librem laptops, and the upcoming Librem 5 phone include this rather simple switch, that makes it remarkably easy to guarantee that the camera and microphone have no electrical circuit enabled.

    See? Powerful simple privacy protection built into all Purism products by default.

Devices: Gemini NC14 + Debian, Filesystem Abstractions for L4Re, Nitrogen8M_Mini

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Hardware
  • Gemini NC14 + Debian

    My main machine is a Dell E7240. It’s 5 years old and, while a bit slow sometimes, is generally still capable of doing all I need. However it mostly lives in an E-Port Plus II dock and gets treated like a desktop. As a result I don’t tend to move it around the house; the external monitor has a higher resolution than the internal 1080p and I’m often running things on it where it would be inconvenient to have to suspend it. So I decided I’d look for a basic laptop that could act as a simple terminal and web browser. This seems like an ideal job for a Chromebook, but I wanted a decent resolution screen and all of the cheap Chromebooks were 1366x768.

    Looking around I found the Gemini Devices NC14. This is a Celeron N3350 based device with 4GB RAM and a 14” 1080p LCD. For £180 that seemed like a decent spec, much better than anything else I could see for under £200. Included storage is limited to a 32GB eMMC, with a slot for an m.2 SSD if desired, but as I’m not planning to store anything other than the OS/applications on the device that wasn’t a drawback to me. Box seem to be the only supplier, though they also list on Amazon. I chose Amazon, because that avoided paying extra for shipping to Northern Ireland.

    The laptop comes with just a wall-wart style power supply - there’s no paperwork or anything else in the box. The PSU is a 12V/2A model and the cable is only slightly more than 1m long. However there’s also a USB-C power on the left side of the laptop and it will charge from that; didn’t work with any of my USB-C phone chargers, but worked just fine with my Lenovo laptop charger. The USB-C port does USB, as you’d expect, but surprisingly is also setup for DisplayPort - I plugged in a standard USB-C → HDMI adaptor and it worked perfectly. Additional ports include 2 standard USB 3.0 ports, a mini-HDMI port, a 3.5mm audio jack and a micro SD card slot. The whole device is pretty light too, coming in at about 1.37kg. It feels cheap, but not flimsy - not unreasonable given the price point. The keyboard is ok; not a great amount of travel and slightly offset from what I’m used to on the right hand side (there is a column of home/pgup/pgdn/end to the right of the enter key). The worst aspect is that the power button is a regular key in the top right, so easy to hit when looking for delete. The trackpad is serviceable; the middle button is a little tricky to hit sometimes, but there and useful.

  • Filesystem Abstractions for L4Re

    In my previous posts, I discussed the possibility of using “real world” filesystems in L4Re, initially considering the nature of code to access an ext2-based filesystem using the library known as libext2fs, then getting some of that code working within L4Re itself. Having previously investigated the nature of abstractions for providing filesystems and file objects to applications, it was inevitable that I would now want to incorporate libext2fs into those abstractions and to try and access files residing in an ext2 filesystem using those abstractions.
    It should be remembered that L4Re already provides a framework for filesystem access, known as Vfs or “virtual file system”. This appears to be the way the standard file access functions are supported, with the “rom” part of the filesystem hierarchy being supported by a “namespace filesystem” library that understands the way that the deployed payload modules are made available as files. To support other kinds of filesystem, other libraries must apparently be registered and made available to programs.
    Although I am sure that the developers of the existing Vfs framework are highly competent, I found the mechanisms difficult to follow and quite unlike what I expected, which was to see a clear separation between programs accessing files and other programs providing those files. Indeed, this is what one sees when looking at other systems such as Minix 3 and its virtual filesystem. I must also admit that I became tired of having to dig into the code to understand the abstractions in order to supplement the reference documentation for the Vfs framework in L4Re.

  • Nitrogen8M_Mini: A Raspberry Pi Alternative That Consumes Less Power

    There are several good alternatives to Raspberry Pi such as the Allwinner H6 or Rockchip RK3399 SoC but a newly launched board called the Nitrogen8M_Mini is based on a modern platform.

    Nitrogen8M_Mini runs on i.MX 8M Mini platform which is specifically designed to be power efficient. Manufactured using 14nm FinFet technology, this board can scale its clock speed to match power demand by swapping tasks between low and high-powered processors.

20 Best Raspberry Pi Projects That You Can Start Right Now

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Hardware
OSS

The Rasberry Pi is a tiny little computer board that lets students, experts, and hobbyists build innovative computing projects at a very affordable cost. Since its inception 6 years ago, it has enjoyed widespread popularity, thanks to the infinite range of possibilities this system offers. The single board computer is now in its third major version and is being widely used for numerous tech projects around the world. If you’re looking for the best raspberry pi projects to get you started with this fantastic platform, you’re at the right place. Today, we’ll present to you 20 raspberry pi projects you can take on, starting from basic level to advanced.

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Linux Sees Driver Finally For Lighting Up The LEDs With Whiskey Cove PMIC

Filed under
Linux
Hardware

One bit of Intel consumer hardware support not currently handled by the Linux kernel was for their Cherry Trail Whiskey Cove PMIC LEDs -- that's for the LEDs connected to their power-management IC on various laptops.

The Linux kernel has already supported the Whiskey Cove PMIC on Intel Cherry Trail (and the since cancelled Broxton) for GPIO, thermal, charger, and other power management features handled by this IC. But for any attached LEDs to this chip there hasn't been any support.

Of course with Intel having shifted course as well as cancelling the Broxton successor to Cherry Trail, this PMIC LED support hasn't been a priority but now an independent Linux developer has decided to tackle it. The Cherry Trail PMIC is used by various notebooks / low-power-devices with Atom x5/x7 from prior years.

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Devices: RISC-V and Raspberry Pi

Filed under
Linux
Hardware
  • The State Of Debian & Fedora On The RISC-V Architecture

    RISC-V remains of a lot of interest to open-source/Linux users for being a royalty-free and completely open CPU architecture. In part due to the lack of affordable RISC-V hardware limiting developers from working more on this architecture, the state of RISC-V support by Linux distributions varies but at least has improved a lot in recent years.

    At this past weekend's FOSDEM 2019 conference was a RISC-V track with several interesting talks about this open processor ISA and various software efforts around it.

  • Best Raspberry Pi cases: Great options to dress up your mini-PC

    You don't have to buy a case for a Raspberry Pi, but doing so makes the experience that much nicer. That's particularly so if, for example, you plan to use a Pi 3 B+ as a home-theater PC or even a secondary desktop.

    A whole sea of options exist out there, though, ranging from simple acrylic cases to elaborately carved wood shells. So we dug into the mix to find the best of the bunch at different prices—and came up with a selection that should make minimalists, HTPC fans, gamers, hardware hackers, and even hot-rod enthusiasts happy.

Open Hardware/Modding: Overheating Sony Cameras, Linaro, LIDAR, Arduino and RISC-V Based Systems

Filed under
Hardware
OSS
  • This guy created an open source 3D printable solution to A7III overheating issues

    We thought with the Sony A6500 that the overheating issue days with Sony would be over, but apparently not.

  • Someone Made an Open-Source Body Cooler for Overheating Sony Cameras

    Sony’s mirrorless cameras have been known to have overheating issues, prompting Sony to release firmware fixes and photographers to come up with novel solutions such as mounted sunshades. Now one guy has created an open-source design for a Sony camera body cooler.

    Brian Windle of Wilmington, Delaware, has shared a design for a Sony a7 III body cooler over on Thingiverse, where you can download all the files needed to 3D print and assemble your own.

  • Industry leaders to present Open Source on Arm insights at Linaro Connect Bangkok 2019

    Linaro Ltd, the open source collaborative engineering organization developing software for the Arm® ecosystem, announced today the keynote speakers for Linaro Connect Bangkok 2019. Joining the hundreds of engineers at the Centara Grand in Bangkok, Thailand 1-4 April 2019, will be industry leaders invited to share their insights into different segments and topics relating to the Arm ecosystem.

  • Open Source LIDAR Lets You Get Down To The Nitty Gritty

    If you’re unfamiliar with LIDAR, you might have noticed it sounds a bit like radar. That’s no accident – LIDAR is a backronym standing for “light detection and ranging”, the word having initially been created as a combination of “light” and “radar”. The average person is most likely to have come into contact with LIDAR at the business end of a police speed trap, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Unruly is the open source LIDAR project you’ve been waiting for all along.

    Unlike a lot of starter projects, LIDAR isn’t something you get into with a couple of salvaged LEDs and an Arduino Uno. We’re talking about measuring the time it takes light to travel relatively short distances, so plenty of specialised components are required. There’s a pulsed laser diode, and a special hypersensitive avalanche photodiode that operates at up to 130 V. These are combined with precision lenses and filters to ensure operation at the maximum range possible. Given that light can travel 300,000 km in a second, to get any usable resolution, a microcontroller alone simply isn’t fast enough to cut it here. A specialized time-to-digital converter (TDC) is used to time how long it takes the light pulse to return from a distant object. Unruly’s current usable resolution is somewhere in the ballpark of 10 mm – an impressive feat.

  • DIY Arduino weather station is open source, tweets and more

    Hackster.io member Jonty has published a new project providing details on how to build your very own DIY Arduino weather station. Aptly named TWIST the open source environmental monitoring system is capable of sending tweets and collecting meteorological data thanks to its include gas, rain, light, temperature and humidity sensors. The weather station takes approximately two hours to build and has been classed at an intermediate skill level project.

    Powered by the Intel Edison Board the Internet of Things weather station can be modified further and is compatible with a variety of sensors. All code, design files, schematics and PCB layouts are open source enabling those interested to share their modifications and new sensor support with others.

    “Ever wanted to monitor your city’s Current Weather Conditions, Carbon Footprint, Noise and Pollution levels? Do you want be a Climate Change Crusader or set-up your own Tweeting Weather Station and share your local weather conditions with the world?”

  • Internet, meet things: This starter kit is perfect for makers

    Spend any time at all around creative-minded techies, and you'll likely hear about Arduino. Whether you're making a simple motion sensor or a fully internet-controlled robot, Arduino is the platform of choice. If you're just diving in, we can't think of a better entry point than the Arduino Uno Ultimate Starter Kit & Course Bundle.

  • Arduino Enters the Cloud

    Love it or hate it, for many people embedded systems means Arduino. Now Arduino is leveraging its more powerful MKR boards and introducing a cloud service, the Arduino IoT Cloud. The goal is to make it simple for Arduino programs to record data and control actions from the cloud.

    The program is in beta and features a variety of both human and machine interaction styles. At the simple end, you can assemble a dashboard of controls and have the IoT Cloud generate your code and download it to your Arduino itself with no user programming required. More advanced users can use HTTP REST, MQTT, Javascript, Websockets, or a suite of command line tools.

    The system relies on “things” like temperature sensors, LEDs, and servos. With all the focus on security now, it isn’t surprising that the system supports X.509 authentication and TLS security for traffic in both directions.

  • SmartDV Supports RISC-V Movement with TileLink Verification IP for RISC-V Based Systems

Raspberry Pi-like RK3328 and Snapdragon 410 SBCs lead Novasom SBC onslaught

Filed under
Linux
Hardware

Novasom has launched two Linux-powered, RPi-like SBCs — the Rockchip RK3328 based SBC-M7FT and Snapdragon 410C driven SBC-M8FT — plus an ESP32-based SBC-U1 board. Upcoming boards include Apollo Lake and RK3399 models.

Bucharest, Romania based Novasom Industries has a wide range of Linux-powered SBCs, most of which were launched in 2018. Over the last month, Novasom has launched two new tuxified SBCs – the SBC-M7FT and SBC-M8FT – as well as an SBC-U1 board that runs FreeRTOS on an ESP32 SoC. The company has a US office and its products are distributed by Arrow, Texim, and others.

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Slimbook & Kubuntu - Combat Report 5

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KDE
Hardware

Anyway, I am still quite happy with Slimbook + Kubuntu. There are some annoying things - the Wireless connection glitch on first login, the icons in the task manager, the session save bug. But then, the system is stable, fast, ever so slightly but consistently improving, the game repertoire is pleasantly nice and growing, and overall, the desktop feel rich, fun and polished. You notice how advanced Plasma is when you switch over to other systems and try other environments. Me liking, but I wants even more good stuff! Well, to be continued some more.

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Pine64 to Launch Open Source Phone, Laptop, Tablet, and Camera

Filed under
GNU
Linux
Hardware

At FOSDEM last weekend, California-based Linux hacker board vendor Pine64 previewed an extensive lineup of open source hardware it intends to release in 2019. Surprisingly, only two of the products are single board computers.

The Linux-driven products will include a PinePhone development kit based on the Allwinner A64. There will be second, more consumer focused Pinebook laptop -- a Rockchip RK3399 based, 14-inch Pinebook Pro -- and an Allwinner A64-based, 10.1-inch PineTab tablet. Pine64 also plans to release an Allwinner S3L-driven IP camera system called the CUBE and a Roshambo Retro-Gaming case that supports Pine64’s Rock64 and RockPro64, as well as the Raspberry Pi.

The SBC entries are a Pine H64 Model B that will be replace the larger, but similarly Allwinner H6 based, Model A version and will add WiFi/Bluetooth. There will also be a third rev of the popular, RK3399 based Rock64 board that adds Power-over-Ethernet support.

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Also: Raspberry Pi 3 Debian Buster *unofficial preview* image update

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Ubuntu-Centric Full Circle Magazine and Debian on the Raspberryscape

  • Full Circle Magazine: Full Circle Weekly News #121
  • Debian on the Raspberryscape: Great news!
    I already mentioned here having adopted and updated the Raspberry Pi 3 Debian Buster Unofficial Preview image generation project. As you might know, the hardware differences between the three families are quite deep ? The original Raspberry Pi (models A and B), as well as the Zero and Zero W, are ARMv6 (which, in Debian-speak, belong to the armel architecture, a.k.a. EABI / Embedded ABI). Raspberry Pi 2 is an ARMv7 (so, we call it armhf or ARM hard-float, as it does support floating point instructions). Finally, the Raspberry Pi 3 is an ARMv8-A (in Debian it corresponds to the ARM64 architecture). [...] As for the little guy, the Zero that sits atop them, I only have to upload a new version of raspberry3-firmware built also for armel. I will add to it the needed devicetree files. I have to check with the release-team members if it would be possible to rename the package to simply raspberry-firmware (as it's no longer v3-specific). Why is this relevant? Well, the Raspberry Pi is by far the most popular ARM machine ever. It is a board people love playing with. It is the base for many, many, many projects. And now, finally, it can run with straight Debian! And, of course, if you don't trust me providing clean images, you can prepare them by yourself, trusting the same distribution you have come to trust and love over the years.

OSS: SVT-AV1, LibreOffice, FSF and Software Freedom Conservancy

  • SVT-AV1 Already Seeing Nice Performance Improvements Since Open-Sourcing
    It was just a few weeks ago that Intel open-sourced the SVT-AV1 project as a CPU-based AV1 video encoder. In the short time since publishing it, there's already been some significant performance improvements.  Since the start of the month, SVT-AV1 has added multi-threaded CDEF search, more AVX optimizations, and other improvements to this fast evolving AV1 encoder. With having updated the test profile against the latest state as of today, here's a quick look at the performance of this Intel open-source AV1 video encoder.
  • Find a LibreOffice community member near you!
    Hundreds of people around the world contribute to each new version of LibreOffice, and we’ve interviewed many of them on this blog. Now we’ve collected them together on a map (thanks to OpenStreetMap), so you can see who’s near you, and find out more!
  • What I learned during my internship with the FSF tech team
    Hello everyone, I am Hrishikesh, and this is my follow-up blog post concluding my experiences and the work I did during my 3.5 month remote internship with the FSF. During my internship, I worked with the tech team to research and propose replacements for their network monitoring infrastructure. A few things did not go quite as planned, but a lot of good things that I did not plan happened along the way. For example, I planned to work on GNU LibreJS, but never could find enough time for it. On the other hand, I gained a lot of system administration experience by reading IRC conversations, and by working on my project. I even got to have a brief conversation with RMS! My mentors, Ian, Andrew, and Ruben, were extremely helpful and understanding throughout my internship. As someone who previously had not worked with a team, I learned a lot about teamwork. Aside from IRC, we interacted weekly in a conference call via phone, and used the FSF's Etherpad instance for live collaborative editing, to take notes. The first two months were mostly spent studying the FSF's existing Nagios- and Munin-based monitoring and alert system, to understand how it works. The tech team provided two VMs for experimenting with Prometheus and Nagios, which I used throughout the internship. During this time, I also spent a lot of time reading about licenses, and other posts about free software published by the FSF.
  • We're Hiring: Techie Bookkeeper
    Software Freedom Conservancy is looking for a new employee to help us with important work that supports our basic operations. Conservancy is a nonprofit charity that promotes and improves free and open source software projects. We are home to almost 50 projects, including Git, Inkscape, Etherpad, phpMyAdmin, and Selenium (to name a few). Conservancy is the home of Outreachy, an award winning diversity intiative, and we also work hard to improve software freedom generally. We are a small but dedicated staff, handling a very large number of financial transactions per year for us and our member projects.

Security: Back Doors Running Amok, Container Runtime Flaw Patched, Cisco Ships Exploit Inside Products

  • Here We Go Again: 127 Million Accounts Stolen From 8 More Websites
    Several days ago, a hacker put 617 million accounts from 16 different websites for sale on the dark web. Now, the same hacker is offering 127 million more records from another eight websites.
  • Hacker who stole 620 million records strikes again, stealing 127 million more
    A hacker who stole close to 620 million user records from 16 websites has stolen another 127 million records from eight more websites, TechCrunch has learned. The hacker, whose listing was the previously disclosed data for about $20,000 in bitcoin on a dark web marketplace, stole the data last year from several major sites — some that had already been disclosed, like more than 151 million records from MyFitnessPal and 25 million records from Animoto. But several other hacked sites on the marketplace listing didn’t know or hadn’t disclosed yet — such as 500px and Coffee Meets Bagel. The Register, which first reported the story, said the data included names, email addresses and scrambled passwords, and in some cases other login and account data — though no financial data was included.
  • Vendors Issue Patches for Linux Container Runtime Flaw Enabling Host Attacks
  • How did the Dirty COW exploit get shipped in software?
    An exploit code for Dirty COW was accidentally shipped by Cisco with product software. Learn how this code ended up in a software release and what this vulnerability can do.