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Gadgets

Purism and e Foundation take on the smartphone duopoly

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OS
Gadgets

For years, the devices and services we use have ever more aggressively monitored our activities and mined our data. But as consumers have grown increasingly attuned to privacy concerns, solutions have been appearing to help them evade tracking. Browsers such as Brave and search engines such as DuckDuckGo play up their privacy-first design. When it comes to the dominant mobile operating systems, Google has talked about preserving privacy by providing more transparency and exposing opt-out controls. Apple, on the other hand, has sought to create services that remove the opt-out requirement by not collecting data in the first place, turning privacy preservation into a key differentiator.

But many users aren’t comfortable even with Apple’s approach. Recently, two groups have created new platforms that avoid sharing data with Google, Apple, or any other entity behind the scenes. Nevertheless, their product-development approaches parallel the market strategies of Google and Apple, with some striking differences.

One of these is the e Foundation. Its eOS aspires to be a Google-free version of Android that has a wide range of device support. It’s not a new idea: One existing alternative to Google’s flavor of Android is LineageOS, a fork of what had been the leading Google Android alternative, CyanogenMod. However, according to Gaël Duval, head of e Foundation, producing a version of Android that is completely Google-free requires far more effort than just stripping out Google apps such as Gmail; even LineageOS sends some data through Google’s servers or relies on its services.

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Samsung DeX missed its chance to make a big splash

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Android
GNU
Linux
Gadgets

The Galaxy Note 10 has just broken cover and, just like its predecessors, it has something new for Samsung DeX users. To be fair, the convenience of being able to not just control your phone but access the “DeXtop” from any Windows or Mac computer is a major step forward, but it may have fallen short of what fans of the platform have been expecting or even requesting for a few months now. Samsung DeX definitely has a lot of potential but Samsung may have missed the boat on that one this year.

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Librem 5 Smartphone – Final Specs Announced

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Gadgets
  • Librem 5 Smartphone – Final Specs Announced

    We are proud to unveil the final specifications for the Librem 5 smartphone, set to begin shipping in Q3 of 2019.

  • Librem 5 privacy-focused Linux phone specs finalized as pre-orders begin

    Despite the growing number of evidence and cases of mobile software that blatantly violate user privacy, it’s almost impossible to imagine life these days without a smartphone. While hardcore privacy advocates might be able to ditch their mobile device for good, there are some that try to promise the best of both mobile and privacy worlds. One of those is Purism who has finally finalized the specs and features of its crowdfunded privacy-respecting Librem 5 phone.

    [...]

    The question now is whether all of that is enough to justify a $699 price tag. For those who answer a resounding “yes”, an early bird pre-order will shave $50 off that price for $649 only until July 31. As for the shipping date, that is still unannounced for both those pre-orders and, more importantly, the original backers back in 2017.

  • Purism Reveals Final Hardware Specs of the Privacy-Focused Librem 5 Linux Phone

    Purism, the company behind the powerful Linux-based laptops known as the Librem computers, announced today the final hardware specifications of their upcoming Librem 5 Linux smartphone.

    As you probably are already aware, Purism is working for some time on a Linux-powered smartphone, which the company calls Librem 5. Designed from the ground up to be privacy and security-aware, the Librem 5 Linux phone is currently scheduled for launch in Q3 2019, after it's been delayed a couple of times.

  • Purism Finally Announces The Firmed Up Specifications For The Librem 5 Smartphone

    It still remains to be seen if Purism will be able to ship the Librem 5 Linux smartphone this quarter as is their current revised target, but at least today they are publishing the finalized specifications for the phone's hardware.

    While we've long known of their plans to use the i.MX8 SoC and other components, items like the phone's cameras, battery capacity, and even RAM were not known until now.

Consent Matters: When Tech Takes Remote Control Without Your Permission

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Gadgets

In my previous post I talked about why consent matters when it comes to privacy; and yet, privacy is only one of the areas where tech companies take advantage of users without their consent. Recently, tech companies have come to a troubling consensus: that they can change your computer, remotely (and often silently) without your knowledge or permission.

[...]

Anyone who has ever worked for a large company in the computer age has experienced first-hand the authoritarian, controlling, and restrictive policies that IT employs to manage company computers. Starting with centralized systems like Active Directory, IT teams were able to create policies that controlled what sorts of passwords employees could use and whether employees could install applications, access printers, and even, in some cases, insert USB drives.

These centralized tools have evolved over the years: they can now add and remove files, install new software and software updates, remotely control machines over the network in order to view what’s on their screens and access local files. This controls extends into Active Management Technology features embedded into the Intel Management Engine, that lets administrators remotely control computers even if they are turned off. Now that smartphones are critical tools in many organizations, MDM (Mobile Device Management) tools are also often employed at enterprises to bring those devices under a similar level of control–with the added benefit of using GPS to track employee phones even outside the office.

The most common justification for these policies is convenience. If you are an IT department and have thousands of employees–each with at least one computer and one smartphone that you need to support–one of the ways to make sure that the appropriate software is on the systems, and updates get applied, is to push them from a central location. Companies often have custom in-house software their employees rely on to do their jobs, and throughout the life of the company more tools are added to their toolbox. You can’t expect the IT team to go desk-by-desk installing software by hand when you have thousands of employees working at offices all over the world: when an employee’s computer breaks, these same tools make it easy for IT to replace the computer so the employee can get back to work quickly.

The main justification for the strictest–and most controlling–IT policies isn’t convenience, though: it’s security. IT pushes software updates for protection against security bugs. They push anti-virus, anti-malware and remote monitoring tools, to protect both employee and company from dangerous email attachments, from software they might download from their web browser. IT removes local administrative privileges from employees in the name of protecting them from installing malware (and, practically speaking, from installing games and other time-wasting apps). They disable USB storage devices so employees can’t insert disks containing malware or copy off sensitive company documents. Each of these practices have valid reasons behind them for companies facing certain threats.

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Also: Fitness Trackers and Smartwatches Don’t Correctly Track Heart Rate of People with Darker Skin

Ubuntu MATE 19.10 Alpha Arrives, But Only for the GPD MicroPC

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GNU
Linux
Ubuntu
Gadgets

Did you know that Ubuntu MATE is besties with the GPD Pocket & Pocket 2?

Well it is; the pair of pocket-sized PCs, which were made possible through various crowdfunding efforts, got their own, customised, and 100% official Ubuntu MATE 18.10 install image last year, and a follow-up with the 19.04 release this year.

I guess making a custom-spun ISO is the distro equivalent of weaving a friendship bracelet!

Accordingly, it’s no major surprise to learn Ubuntu MATE 19.10 will also come tailored for use on China-based GPD’s latest mini-marvel, the GPD MicroPC.

Interestingly, the device is sold with Ubuntu MATE 18.10 pre-loaded.

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GNU/Linux Devices: Raspberry Pi, AAEON and Librem 5

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GNU
Linux
Gadgets
  • Raspberry Pi 4 B+ - PCI Express

    Without much exaggeration, the new Raspberry Pi is likely the largest single-step improvement on the Pi family since the early changes of the form factor. Although Pi3 introduced 64bit capability, it's been pretty limited in practice due to lack of memory. Pi4 introduces 4GB RAM, USB 3.0 and Gigabit Ethernet.

    Most importantly for our purposes, the USB 3.0 (and 2.0) chip is attached via the PCI Express interface - that means, if we were to remove it, we can gain access to the underlying bus. So, without further ado, the sacrificial goat.. uhm, chip.

  • Modder Connects External PCIe To Raspberry Pi 4

    Raspberry Pi is a low-cost computer designed for tech enthusiasts, students, and engineers who wish to make extreme use of limited hardware. Just two weeks ago, the Raspberry Pi 4 was unveiled, which caught the attention of technology enthusiasts.

    The latest version of Raspberry Pi is a big improvement over the previous version despite its faulty USB-C port design. It relies on PCI Express for USB chips. However, there isn’t any provision to connect external devices on the Raspberry Pi 4.

  • AAEON Launches BOXER-8150AI Compact Embedded Box PC Features 8 USB 3.0 Ports

    The BOXER-8150AI is able to support up to eight USB connected cameras or devices, each operating independently of one another.

  • Runs on the Librem 5 Smartphone – Week 3

    We’ve been showcasing a different piece of software running on the Librem 5 Smartphone Development Kit every day for the last twenty days.  Twenty.  In a row.

    And we’re not done.  Because, holy smokes, do we have a lot more to show.  And, let’s be honest, these are just plain fun.  Daily videos kick back off tomorrow (July 11th) with video number 21.

    You can enjoy Days 15 through 20 below — and Days 1 through 14 in the Week 1 and 2 posts.

  • Purism and the Linux 5.2 Kernel

    Hello again. Following up on our report for the Linux 5.1 kernel, here’s a list of contributions for the Linux 5.2 kernel cycle, for which our team recently contributed with 14 patches–including a new driver for the Librem 5 devkit’s panel...

Up and Running With Your Librem in Three Minutes

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GNU
Linux
Gadgets

The right to respect and privacy should be unconditional; within the digital world itself, it shouldn’t be necessary to be an expert in computer science to guarantee you can–and know how to–be entitled to those rights. Making secure and respectful devices is essential, but to be fully ethical, those devices also need to be simple to use, so everyone can use them.

Our mission at Purism is to make technologies that respects people, whoever they are and whichever background they come from. That is why we make sure that everything we develop conforms to the Ethical Design manifesto, The manifesto itself is quite simple in what it states: that everyone should have the right to be respected and to have a delightful user experience.

I am not saying that Purism’s technology is perfect in the sense of simplicity of use–nevertheless, we are constantly working towards it, and we will always keep that goal in mind. Purism is a Social Purpose corporation, it is funded by the people, and we give back all our research and development to the people. This way we make sure that the initial ethical goal of Purism is a free seed that will grow no matter what.

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GameShell is a portable and modular DIY retro game console

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GNU
Linux
Gadgets

It’s the “world’s first modular, portable game console” running a GNU/Linux operating system. You can easily play retro games from Atari, GameBoy, GameBoy Advance, Nintendo Entertainment System, and more on the GameShell. Or, create your own game entirely with Preset C, Python, Lua, Javascript, or LISP.

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Also: Google's Fuschia operating system has been in works for years now.

Pine64 Linux PinePhone could get Moto Mod functionality

Filed under
GNU
Linux
Gadgets

With the focus given to Huawei’s US ban, there has also been some discussion about Android, Google’s hold on the platform, and truly free (as in freedom) alternatives to the world’s biggest mobile OS. There has never been a shortage of alternative mobile platforms, many of them revolving around Linux, but there has been a dearth of companies making devices that run and support such platforms. Pine64 is one of those few and it is now sharing some development in its quest to make a privacy-respecting open source smartphone.

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The $149 PinePhone Linux smartphone will support modular add-ons

Filed under
GNU
Linux
Gadgets

The upcoming PinePhone is expected to be an inexpensive, but versatile smartphone designed to run GNU/Linux operating systems. Yesterday we took a look at some of the operating systems that are already being ported to run on the PinePhone. But it looks like the software isn’t the only thing that’s actively under development.

Pine64 has posted an update on the state of the smartphone’s hardware with new details about the phone’s battery, hardware kill switches, and a previously announced feature — support for swappable back covers that can add functionality to the $149 smartphone.

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More in Tux Machines

Purism: A Privacy Based Computer Company

It all started when Todd Weaver, Founder and CEO of Purism, realized Big Tech could not be trusted as moral guardians of his and his children’s data. The current paradigm of corporations data hoarding is, as Todd describes it, built on “a tech-stack of exploitation”–and not by accident, but by design. Companies such as Google and Microsoft–and especially Facebook–intentionally collect, store and share user data to whomever they see fit. In recent events, the California Consumer Privacy Act, which becomes effective on January 1, 2020, will make residents of California able to know what personal data is being collected about them, know whether their personal data is sold or disclosed and to whom, say no to the sale of personal data, access their personal data, request a business delete any personal data information about a consumer collected from that consumer and not be discriminated against for exercising their privacy rights. This sounds good, and it is, but not according to Big Tech. Big Tech such as Facebook hired a firm to run ads that said things like “Your next click could cost you $5! Say no to the California Consumer Privacy Act”. Big Tech does not care about privacy, they care about their bottom line. This is where Purism comes in. Purism is a privacy focused company. Their devices, the Librem5, Librem13 and Librem15 run PureOS–a GNU/Linux distribution that puts privacy, security and freedom first, by design. It includes popular privacy-respecting software such as PureBrowser. The OS helps you “Surf the web safely without being tracked by advertisers or marketers” and allows you to easily encrypt your entire OS and data with your own encryption keys. This is huge, especially if you understand how much of your “private” data is actually being shared. Read more

Benchmarks: Linux Boot Times, 16-Core HoneyComb LX2K ARM Workstation and New PTS Release

  • A Look At The Speedy Clear Linux Boot Time Versus Ubuntu 19.10

    Given the interest last week in how Clear Linux dropped their kernel boot time from 3 seconds to 300 ms, here are some fresh boot time benchmarks of Clear Linux compared to Ubuntu 19.10 on both Intel and AMD hardware. The systemd-reported boot time was compared between the latest Clear Linux and Ubuntu 19.10 daily images. Ubuntu 19.10 was used for offering the bleeding-edge packages and being more in line to what is offered by the rolling-release Clear Linux. As well, Canonical has been working on some boot time improvements for Ubuntu 19.10.

  • 16-Core HoneyComb LX2K ARM Workstation Looks To Offer A Decent Performance Oomph

    When it comes to ARM-powered workstation boards there hasn't been a whole lot to get excited about with the likes of the Socionext 96Boards Developerbox being quite expensive and not yielding good performance or featureful boards compared to alternative Intel/AMD/POWER workstation/enthusiast boards. One of the more promising ARM workstation boards we have been following is the HoneyComb LX2K (formerly the "ClearFog" board) and it's looking like it could end up being a decent offering in this space. The HoneyComb LX2K / ClearFog is the 16-core mini-ITX workstation board we have been following since earlier this year. They have been aiming for this 16-core ARM workstation board for $500~750 USD and it looks like they will actually strike on the lower-end of that price-range.

  • Phoronix Test Suite 9.0 Released With New Result Viewer, Offline/Enterprise Benchmarking Enhancements

    Phoronix Test Suite 9.0 is now available as the latest quarterly feature release to our cross-platform, open-source automated benchmarking framework. With Phoronix Test Suite 9.0 comes a rewritten result viewer to offer more result viewing functionality previously only exposed locally via the command-line or through a Phoromatic Server (or OpenBenchmarking.org when results are uploaded), new offline/enterprise usage improvements, various hardware/software detection enhancements on different platforms, and a variety of other additions.

SDR dev kit builds on Zynq UltraScale+ RFSoC

Avnet has launched an “RFSoC Development Kit” that extends Xilinx’s eval kit for its Linux-powered, Zynq UltraScale+ RFSoC. The kit adds a Qorvo 2×2 Small Cell RF front-end for SDR prototyping and integrates MATLAB and Simulink. Xilinx launched its 5G-focused Zynq UltraScale+ RFSoC variant of its Arm/FPGA hybrid Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoc last year and then announced a Gen3 update in early February. Avnet has now launched an extended version of the Linux-driven Xilinx Zynq UltraScale+ RFSoC ZCU111 Evaluation Kit that adds a Qorvo 2×2 Small Cell RF Front-end 1.8GHz Card and MATLAB support for software-defined radio (SDR) prototyping, Read more Also: SMARC 2.0 module runs Linux on i.MX8M Mini

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