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GNU/Linux on Devices and Open Hardware

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  • Linux-driven module and starter kit tap Renesas RZ/G2

    TQ’s “TQMaRZG2x” module runs Linux on a dual- to octa-core, Cortex-A57 and -A53 based RZ/G2 processor with up to 8GB LPDDR4 and 64GB eMMC plus an optional dev kit and -40 to 85°C support.

    When reporting on the SMARC 2.0 SoM collaboration between Renesas and RelySys last week featuring Renesas’ scalable, 64-bit RZ/G2 processor, we saw that we missed a September announcement from TQ Embedded about its own RZ/G2 module. The 77 x 50mm TQMaRZG2x is listed as “new” and is available with an optional new Embedded Starterkit STKaRZG2x evaluation board. The module is the first of several Renesas based products from TQ.

  • Mass-Produced, Librem 5 Linux Smartphone Begins Shipping to Customers

    Their announcement notes their work on software making desktop applications "adaptive" to phone form factors, adding "This suite of software has now become the most popular software stack to use on other handheld Linux hardware." And they close with an appreciative comment from Purism's founder and CEO Todd Weaver:

    "Shipping the Librem 5 has been an immense multi-year developmental effort. It is the culmination of people's desire to see an alternative to Android and iOS and fund it, coupled with dedication from a team of experts addressing hardware, kernel, operating system, and applications that has turned a lofty near-impossible goal into reality. We have built a strong foundation and with the continued support of customers, the community, and developers, we will continue to deliver revolutionary products like the Librem 5 running PureOS."

  • Understanding Open Source Hardware

    Open source hardware is “a set of design principles and legal practices, not a specific type of object,” says Opensource.com. Thus, although the term is often associated with electronics, it can apply to other objects as well, including boats, houses, industrial machines, and medical devices.

    The main principles defining open source hardware are similar to those of open source software. The Open Source Hardware (OSHW) Definition 1.0 is in fact “based on the Open Source Definition for Open Source Software, which was created by Bruce Perens and the Debian developers as the Debian Free Software Guidelines.”

  • Evaluating Precursor’s Hardware Security « bunnie's blog

    Hardware security is a multi-faceted problem. First, there is the question of “can I trust this piece of hardware was built correctly?”; specifically, are there implants and back doors buried in the hardware? We refer to this as the “supply chain problem”. It is a particularly challenging problem, given the global nature of our supply chains, with parts pulled from the four corners of the world, passing through hundreds of hands before reaching our doorstep. Precursor addresses this problem head-on with open, verifiable hardware: the keyboard, display, and motherboard are easy to access and visually inspect for correct construction. No factory or third-party tool is ever trusted with secret material. Precursor is capable of generating its own secret keys and sealing them within the hardware, without additional tools.

    We also use a special kind of logic chip for the CPU – an FPGA – configured by the user, not the factory, to be exactly the CPU that the user specified. Crucially, most users have no evidence-based reason to trust that a CPU contains exactly what it claims to contain; few have the inspection capability to verify a chip in a non-destructive manner. On the other hand, with an FPGA, individual users can craft and inspect CPU bitstreams with readily available tools. Furthermore, the design can be modified and upgraded to incorporate countermeasures against hardware exploits discovered in the FPGA’s underlying fabric. In other words, the current trustability situation for an ASIC-style CPU is basically “I surrender”, whereas with an FPGA, users have the power to configure and patch their CPUs.

    [...]

    Once Precursor has been glued shut, we propose the easiest method to recover the ciphertext and to gain access to the JTAG ports is to put the Precursor device into a precision CNC milling machine, mill out the PCB from the back side, and then place the remaining assembly into a pogo-pin based mechanism to perform the readout. This of course destroys the Precursor device in the process, but it is probably the most direct and reliable method of recovering the encryption keys, as it is very similar to an existing technique used for certain types of attacks on iPhones. Storing keys in BBRAM can greatly complicate the task of milling out the PCB by creating a high risk of accidental key erasure, but a sufficiently precise CNC with a non-conductive ceramic bit, or a precision laser-based ablation milling system can reduce the risk of key loss substantially. Cryogenic cooling of the FPGA chip itself may also help to preserve key material in the case of very short accidental power glitches.

  • ASUS unveils Tinker Board 2 SBC with faster Rockchip RK3399 / OP1 processor

    ASUS surprised the maker community in 2017 with the introduction of the Rochchip RK3288 powered Tinker Board to compete as Raspberry Pi 3 Model B. It was followed by Tinker Board S with built-in storage and other new features, as well as Tinker Board Edge T and Edge R SBC’s both with an AI accelerator namely Google Edge TPU and the NPU inside Rockchip RK3399Pro. The company has now launched a new model called Tinker Board 2 without AI accelerator, but featuring Rockchip RK3399, or more exactly the higher grade Rockchip OP1 used in Chromebooks, delivering 96% faster single-thread performance and a 64% boost in multi-core performance compared to the Rockchip RK3288 processor found in the original Tinker Board, while the GPU is around 28% faster with glmark2-es2 off-screen benchmark.

  • $89 Lite3DP resin 3D printer fits in the palm of your hand (Crowdfunding)

    I thought Selpic A-star 3D printer we recently covered was already small, but if you’re looking for an ultra-portable printer, it will be hard to beat the Arduino-based, open-source hardware Lite3DP resin 3D printer that can fit in the palm of your hand, and weighs just around 350 grams.

Huang: Evaluating Precursor’s Hardware Security

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