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Devices: Mosquitoes, EFCO, Atomic Pi, Android Pie and Bionic Organs

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  • Olav Vitters: Domotica because mosquitoes

    Price wise, it might be good to buy a device (“hub”) with support for all the Zigbee devices, Z-Wave, Wi-Fi, 433MHz, etc. This as building everything yourself might not even be cheaper if you’re only building it once. This as you might need to buy loads of things: soldering equipment, wire stripper, up to possibly a 3D printer. That would be less fun though!

    That said, it’s a bit unfortunate that to really integrate everything together requires too much knowledge. I’d like a more out-of-the box type of solution. Something I’d be comfortable with giving to family that’s easy to use, works well and is still free software.

  • R-Series based gaming box has triple DP

    EFCO’s Linux-friendly “EGL8350” gaming computer runs on an AMD R-Series SoC with Radeon R5 or R7 GPUs and offers 3x DisplayPorts, 2x GbE, 4x each of USB and serial, 72x JAMMA GPIO, and a SATA-enabled “SmartBay.”

    After announcing an EGL6087 casino gaming logic box with an AMD G-Series GX218 LX earlier this year, EFCO has now launched a system that advances to the more powerful AMD Embedded R-Series SoC. The new EGL8350 follows other R-Series based gaming boxes such as Axiomtek’s GMB135.

  • The Atomic Pi: Is it Worth It?

    Several months ago, a strange Kickstarter project from ‘Team IoT’ appeared that seemed too good to be true. The Atomic Pi was billed as a high-power alternative to the Raspberry Pi, and the specs are amazing. For thirty five American buckaroos, you get a single board computer with an Intel processor. You get 16 Gigs of eMMC Flash, more than enough for a basic Linux system and even a cut-down version of Windows 10. You have WiFi, you have Bluetooth, you have a real time clock, something so many of the other single board computers forget. The best part? It’s only thirty five dollars.

    Naturally, people lost their minds. There are many challengers to the Raspberry Pi, but nothing so far can beat the Pi on both price and performance. Could the Atomic Pi be the single board computer that finally brings the folks from Cambridge to their knees? Is this the computer that will revolutionize STEM education, get on a postage stamp, and sell tens of millions of units?

  • The Pie goes forth - Moto G6 road test

    Overall, not bad. I'm happy that my setup is proving itself under duress in that I have minimal inconveniences while still retaining a quiet and peaceful configuration. Android Pie did misbehave a little on the network side, but the fix for that was a simple reboot. On the other hand, battery management is very good.

    From the usability perspective, things can be better. More streamlined workflow and consistency, like the cyclic paths to settings and the light/dark theme thingie. I also don't see the point in the try-a-feature nudges, because if the system is already using AI to predict things, it should also be able to predict I'm not the target audience for most if not all of the available options and tools. Quite the contrary, the nudges actually only breed further hesitation and resistance. That said, the issues were fairly small, and I was able to use the Moto as needed. Android 9.0 Pie works all right, although in my mind, apart from the battery improvements, it doesn't really bring any cardinal advantages. But then, that's a sign of maturity, and we've seen that with many other operating systems. Well, come the D-Day, my Android experience might be okay. Cautiously optimistic. Until the next time.

  • An open source bionic leg, Python data pipeline, data breach detection, and more news

    A generation of people learned the term bionics from the TV series The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman. What was science fiction (although based on fact) is closer to becoming a reality thanks to prosthetic leg designed by the University of Michigan and the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab.

    The leg, which incorporates a simple, low-cost modular design, is "intended to improve the quality of life of patients and accelerate scientific advances by offering a unified platform to fragmented research efforts across the field of bionics." It will, according to lead designer Elliot Rouse, "enable investigators to efficiently solve challenges associated with controlling bionic legs across a range of activities in the lab and out in the community."

    You can learn more about the leg, and download designs, from the Open Source Leg website.

The Khadas VIM3, the Amlogic S922X powered Raspberry Pi competitor, is launching on June 24 for US$69.99

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Both models will run Android 9.0 Pie, Ubuntu XFCE 18.04 and LibreELEC (Kodi GBM & Linux 5.1. The company claims that it is still planning to release a third, and more expensive, version of the VIM3; it has not offered any information regarding this SKU though.

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Open Hardware Boost for Libre RISC-V

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  • First NLNet Grant Approved to Fund Development

    The application for funding from NLnet and the Next Generation Internet initiative from the European Commission, from back in November of last year, has been approved. It means that we have EUR $50,000 to pay for full-time engineering work to be carried out over the next year, and to pay for bounty-style tasks. For the right people, with the right skills, there is money now available.

    More plans from our community are in the pipeline. We can apply for additional grants (also up to EUR $50,000). In the next couple of days, we will put in an application for “Formal Mathematical Proofs” of the processor design.

    There are several reasons for doing so. The primary one is down to the fact that we anticipate this (commercial, libre) product to be closely and independently examined by third parties, to verify for themselves that it does not contain spying backdoor co-processors, as well as the usual security and correctness guarantees. If there exist formal mathematical proofs that the processor and its sub-components operate correctly, that independent third-party verification task is a lot easier.

    In addition, it turns out that when writing unit tests, using formal mathematical proofs makes for complete code coverage - far better than any other “comprehensive” multiple unit test technique could ever hope to achieve - with less code and not just better accuracy but 100% provable accuracy. Additional, much simpler unit tests can then be written which are more along the lines of “HOWTOs” - examples on how to use the unit.

  • Libre RISC-V Snags $50k EUR Grant To Work On Its RISC-V 3D GPU Chip

    In case you haven't followed the previous articles on Libre RISC-V, this is the latest open-source GPU hardware effort that is taking the approach of using a RISC-V chip running a Rust-written Vulkan software renderer (similar to what LLVMpipe is to OpenGL on CPUs) for providing libre 3D graphics. They hope to have something ready in 2020 but their goal is just 1280 x 720 25 fps, 100 Mpixels/sec, 30 Mtriangles/sec, 5-6 GFLOPs and they think they can accomplish that with just about a 2.5 Watt power draw. But less than 30 FPS for 720p content really isn't much especially in 2020, but they are trumpeting it for its open-source/libre hardware potential.

Introduction to catalog of 125 Linux hacker boards

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Our 2019 spring edition catalog of hacker-friendly SBCs under $200 that run Linux or Android offers updated descriptions, specs, and pricing for 125 SBCs. Two big questions for 2019: Is it time for AI, and what about those tariffs?

Welcome to our latest catalog of 125 community-backed Linux and Android SBCs. We’re skipping the reader survey this year, although you’re welcome to cast your unofficial vote in the comments section at the end of this introduction. In any case, we have compiled the essential prices, features, and comparisons to help you vote with your wallet. We have updated the blurbs and the comparison spreadsheet with new pricing and in some cases, feature changes, and added descriptions of new boards.

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Open Hardware and Raspberry Pi

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  • Stanford Doggo: Students develop open-source agile quadruped robot

    Members of Stanford Student Robotics’ Extreme Mobility team have developed a four-legged robot that can walk, jump and even do a backflip. On May 21, Aaron Schultz ’20 and Nathan Kau ’20 presented Stanford Doggo at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Montreal, Canada.

    All instructions and code for building the robot, called Stanford Doggo, are open-source and accessible on the online project page, with further details in the team’s paper.

    The Extreme Mobility team, started by Kau in the 2017-18 academic year, was borne out of an interest in building legged robots. Stanford Doggo arose as the team researched existing legged-robot projects.

  • How To Make Your Own AirPods for $4

    Apple's Airpods are a tragedy. Ecologically, socially, economically—they're a capitalist disaster (or success story, depending how you look at capitalist endeavors in general). The batteries in the $160 wireless earbuds die within a year and a half, at which point they become useless.

    The opposite of Airpods, then, is this extremely punk pair of DIY wireless earbuds that someone on Reddit hacked together using an old pair of wired Apple headphones and some hot glue.

  • HKCam: A Raspberry Pi-powered and open-source HomeKit security camera that costs under US$20 [Ed: They needs to replace GitHub]
  • Raspberry Pi 3 B+ review: Better than ever, but limits remain

    Hardware hacking is a major focus of the Raspberry Pi, but as this is PCWorld we’ll mostly concern ourselves with how Raspberry Pi functions as a PC. That can mean acting as a basic desktop machine, a home theater PC (HTPC), or a tool for learning how to program.

Richard Hughes: Breaking apart Dell UEFI Firmware CapsuleUpdate packages

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Red Hat

When firmware is uploaded to the LVFS we perform online checks on it. For example, one of the tests is looking for known badness like embedded UTF-8/UTF-16 BEGIN RSA PRIVATE KEY strings. As part of this we use CHIPSEC (in the form of chipsec_util -n uefi decode) which searches the binary for a UEFI volume header which is a simple string of _FVH and then decompresses the volumes which we then read back as component shards. This works well on plain EDK2 firmware, and the packages uploaded by Lenovo and HP which use IBVs of AMI and Phoenix. The nice side effect is that we can show the user what binaries have changed, as the vendor might have accidentally forgotten to mention something in the release notes.

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Embedded: Open Hardware, Apple Antitrust and Linux Devices

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  • Open Hardware – /e/

    /e/ remains a deeply personal project for Duval. It began with Duval's realization that, after a decade as an iPhone and macOS user, "I had become lazy and that my data privacy had vanished" [3]. Not only was he using a proprietary operating system, but he had entered "voluntary servitude" to Google's range of services and was giving out more personal information than he preferred. According to a study in August 2018 by Douglas C. Schmidt at Vanderbilt University, even when not using a Google service, the average mobile phone connects to Google servers 91 times per hour if using Android, or 51 times per hour if using iOS. Or, to put things another way, Android phones transmit 11.5MB to Google daily, an iPhone 5.7MB (Figure 2) [4]. Figure such as these lead /e/ to talk about "data slavery."

  • Small Crack in the Garden Wall

    A news story is breaking as we send this issue to press, and since this column is always the last thing I do, I find myself with a quiet moment to reflect.

    In a preliminary ruling for the case known as Apple Inc. v. Pepper, the US Supreme Court has decided that iPhone owners have the standing to sue Apple for monopolistic practices with regard to the 30% commission the company charges for apps sold in the iOS app store. Apple argued that it does not have a direct relationship with app buyers and is only acting as an agent for the real seller, who is (according to Apple) the app developer.

    The majority opinion for the court pointed out that Apple actually does have a direct business relationship with the buyer, since it owns the store, receives the money, and manages the transaction. As the opinion states, "Apple's line-drawing does not make a lot of sense, other than as a way to gerrymander Apple out of this and similar lawsuits."

    This preliminary decision does not pronounce Apple guilty of antitrust behavior; it merely confirms that Apple will be required to face the lawsuit and account for its behavior. Does this very high 30% commission, which exceeds industry standards, point to a kind of monopoly control?

    Although the decision does not affect the Linux community directly, it is reason to celebrate for all who oppose walled gardens and hope for a freer and more open approach to software development. The decision basically affirms that US antitrust law is relevant to Apple's interactions with app store customers.

  • Tiny Apollo Lake mini-PC offers M.2 and optional PoE

    Shuttle will soon launch a compact, Linux-friendly “EN01” mini-PC series starting with an EN01J model with an Apollo Lake SoC, up to 8GB LPDDR4 and 64GB eMMC, GbE with optional PoE, and M.2 expansion. A future model will tap the Jetson TX2.

    Although Linux-ready mini-PCs have been around for well over a decade, the market is dominated by Windows models, most of which are aimed at the gaming or desktop replacement markets. Increasingly, however, we’re seeing more embedded focused mini-PCs sold with a Linux option in addition to Windows. Shuttle is known for its wide-range of XPC mini-PCs, many of which also support Linux. Yet few are as small as the 87 x 50 x 84mm EN01 that showed up today as an exclusive on FanlessTech.

  • Latest Tinker boards tap RK3399Pro and Google’s i.MX8M and Edge TPU equipped Coral SOM

    Asus is prepping a “Tinker Edge R” SBC with an RK3399Pro, along with “Tinker Edge T” and “CR1S-CM-A” variants of Google’s i.MX8M and Edge TPU equipped Coral Dev Board. There’s also a 8th Gen Core based “PN60T” mini-PC with an Edge TPU.

    At Computex this week, Asus showed off two new open-spec Tinker boards, including one of several new Asus devices that use Google’s Edge TPU (Tensor Processing Unit) AI chip. Building on the success of its Linux-ready, Rockchip RK3288-based Tinker Board Tinker Board S, Asus unveiled a Tinker Edge R Pico-ITX board with Rockchip’s NPU-enhanced RK3399Pro plus a pair of boards that riff on Google’s open-spec sandwich-style, i.MX8M and Edge TPU equipped Coral Dev Board: the Tinker Edge T and more industrial focused CR1S-CM-A. An upcoming PN60T mini-PC, meanwhile, combines the Edge TPU with an 8th Gen Kaby Lake Refresh Core CPU.

System76 Is Making Progress On Open-Source Firmware For Their Laptops

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For the past number of months Linux PC maker System76 has been beginning to work on Coreboot support for their products and over the course of May they addressed more obstacles in order to begin having this open-source firmware implementation work on some of their laptops.

When it comes to their firmware hacking efforts during May 2019, here is what they wrote in their monthly status report: "The camera toggle hotkey is now functional. The last remaining hardware issues with running open firmware on our laptops lie with Thunderbolt. On Whiskey Lake chipsets, the Thunderbolt controller is often not in a functional state after suspending/resuming the system. On Kaby Lake chipsets, the Thunderbolt controller is never visible...A new BIOS setup menu is also being designed for our open firmware so that the look and feel is consistent with the beautiful aesthetic you can expect from a System76 product. This will be implemented once the new firmware is ready for release."

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Intel's Open-Source SVT-AV1 Video Encoder Ends May With Another Performance Boos

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It's been very fascinating to watch the speed improvements of Intel's SVT-AV1 open-source AV1 video encoder since in February when being made aware of Intel's new SVT video projects. The SVT-AV1 project is ending out May with another step-up in performance for what is already one of the fastest CPU-based AV1 video encoders.

It was just in mid-May that SVT-AV1 0.5 was released while since then the Intel open-source developers have remained busy working on more improvements.

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Also: Intel’s NUC Compute Element is an internal variant of discontinued Compute Card

HPC Chips, IBM and Red Hat on Servers

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Red Hat
  • Tachyum Boots Linux on Universal Processor Chip

    Today Tachyum announced it has successfully deployed the Linux OS on its Prodigy Universal Processor architecture, a foundation for 64-core, ultra-low power, high-performance processor. Running an OS directly and natively on its chip, without the need for host processors or other expensive components, reduces the cost of at-scale data centers and enables nearly unlimited flexibility in use.

  • Powering the Future of HPC & AI with OpenPOWER

    It is coming up on one year that the Summit supercomputer based on IBM POWER9 at Oak Ridge National Lab claimed the number one spot on the Top500 ranking. This system represents the culmination of a significant collaboration between OpenPOWER foundation members IBM, Nvidia, Mellanox and Red Hat with the goal of producing well a balanced computing platform for not only traditional HPC workloads such as modelling and simulation, but also AI workloads. With this milestone approaching, we took the opportunity to catch-up with Hugh Blemings, Executive Director at the OpenPOWER Foundation to chat about the foundation, and what lies ahead.

  • The limits of compatibility and supportability with containers

    Many folks who do container development have run Alpine container images. You might have run Fedora, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), CentOS, Debian, and Ubuntu images as well. If you are adventurous, you may have even run Arch, Gentoo, or dare I say, really old container images - like, RHEL 5 old.

    If you have some experience running container images, you might be led to believe that anything will just work, all the time, because containers are often thought to be completely portable across time and space. And a lot of the time, they do work! (Until they don't.)

    It’s easy to assume that there is nothing to worry about when mixing and matching the container image userspace and host operating system. This post intends to give a realistic explanation on the limits of compatibility with container images, and demonstrate why bring your own images (BYI) isn't a workable enterprise solution..

  • Unlocking new levels of operational efficiency in financial services

    The financial services industry is changing. While the fundamental principles that the industry is built on remain the same—such as trust, value and customer service—the way financial organizations deliver on these values is far different from what it once was. We are now in an always-on, ever-connected world where banking customers expect to have access to accounts, information and services whenever and wherever they want, and the way organizations handle these operations can make or break the overall customer experience - and the bottom line.

    Financial services institutions need to find a balance between driving new innovations and keeping costs in check—all while meeting regulatory requirements. This culture of real-time engagement and access to information is leading organizations to not only reexamine business operational processes but also to think critically about the capabilities their core back-end banking systems provide, making changes and modernizing systems to keep pace.

  • Multi-architecture OpenShift containers

    Following the initial release of RHEL8-based OpenJDK OpenShift container images, we have now pushed PPC64LE and Aarch64 architecture variants to the Red Hat Container Registry. This is the first time I've pushed Aarch64 images in particular, and I'm excited to work on Aarch64-related issues, should any crop up!

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