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Hardware

Custom Embedded Linux Distributions

Filed under
GNU
Linux
Hardware

In the past, many embedded projects used off-the-shelf distributions and stripped them down to bare essentials for a number of reasons. First, removing unused packages reduced storage requirements. Embedded systems are typically shy of large amounts of storage at boot time, and the storage available, in non-volatile memory, can require copying large amounts of the OS to memory to run. Second, removing unused packages reduced possible attack vectors. There is no sense hanging on to potentially vulnerable packages if you don't need them. Finally, removing unused packages reduced distribution management overhead. Having dependencies between packages means keeping them in sync if any one package requires an update from the upstream distribution. That can be a validation nightmare.

Yet, starting with an existing distribution and removing packages isn't as easy as it sounds. Removing one package might break dependencies held by a variety of other packages, and dependencies can change in the upstream distribution management. Additionally, some packages simply cannot be removed without great pain due to their integrated nature within the boot or runtime process. All of this takes control of the platform outside the project and can lead to unexpected delays in development.

A popular alternative is to build a custom distribution using build tools available from an upstream distribution provider. Both Gentoo and Debian provide options for this type of bottom-up build. The most popular of these is probably the Debian debootstrap utility. It retrieves prebuilt core components and allows users to cherry-pick the packages of interest in building their platforms. But, debootstrap originally was only for x86 platforms. Although there are ARM (and possibly other) options now, debootstrap and Gentoo's catalyst still take dependency management away from the local project.

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Also: Open-Source Adreno A6xx GPU Support Posted

No new batches of ColorHug2

11 Myths About the RISC-V ISA

Filed under
Hardware
OSS

Despite its rich ecosystem and growing number of real-world implementations, misconceptions about RISC-V are keeping companies around the world from fully realizing its benefits.

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First Rockchip based Orange Pi SBC taps RK3399

Filed under
Linux
Hardware

Shenzhen Xunlong has launched a $109, open source “Orange Pi RK3399” SBC that runs Android 6.0 or Debian 9 on Rockchip’s hexa-core RK3399 SoC, and offers HDMI 2.0 in and out ports, DP 1.2, eDP, MIPI DSI and CSI, SPDIF, GbE, mSATA, mini-PCIe, a 40-pin header, and more.

One by one, ARM hacker board vendors and commercial x86-centric board vendors are following Firefly’s lead in experimenting with Rockchip’s ARM-based SoCs, which offer x86-type features like HDMI 2.0, mSATA, and mini-PCIe along with powerful, and relatively power-efficient ARM cores. We just saw Aaeon make the plunge with its OEM-oriented RICO-3399 PICO-ITX SBC, and now Shenzhen Xunlong has launched its first Rockchip based Orange Pi single-board computer with the $109 Orange Pi RK3399. Meanwhile, according to a Pine64.org forum post, the quad Cortex-A17 Rockchip RK3328-based Rock64 SBC will soon be joined by an RK3399-based RockPro64, due in March.

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Open Hardware: Open Source Medical Devices, Threat of Patents, and Magnetic Encoder Disks

Filed under
Hardware
OSS
  • Making the Case for Open Source Medical Devices

    ngineering for medical, automotive, and aerospace is highly regulated. It’s not difficult to see why: lives are often at stake when devices in these fields fail. The cost of certifying and working within established regulations is not insignificant and this is likely the main reason we don’t see a lot of work on Open Hardware in these areas.

    Ashwin K. Whitchurch wants to change this and see the introduction of simple but important Open Source medical devices for those who will benefit the most from them. His talk at the Hackaday Superconference explores the possible benefits of Open Medical devices and the challenges that need to be solved for success.

  • Patenting and the New FDA Guidance on 3-D Printing of Medical Devices [Ed: patents ruined/killed/halted 3D printing for decades. Lawyers want to do this again.]

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently finalized its publication on additive manufacturing (commonly referred to as 3-D printing) for medical devices. According to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, the guidance is meant to "help manufacturers bring their innovations to market more efficiently by providing a transparent process for future submissions and making sure our regulatory approach is properly tailored to the unique opportunities and challenges posed by this promising new technology." He further points out that this is only intended to provide the FDA's initial thoughts on the subject of 3-D printing. For our purposes, this guidance also extends the discussion regarding innovation and patenting in the field of 3-D printing and its intersection with regulatory issues.

  • Roll Your Own Magnetic Encoder Disks

    Erich] is the middle of building a new competition sumo bot for 2018. He’s trying to make this one as open and low-cost as humanly possible. So far it’s going pretty well, and the quest to make DIY parts has presented fodder for how-to posts along the way.

Raspberry Pi's latest competitor RockPro64 brings more power plus AI processor

Filed under
Linux
Hardware

Pine64 has released a budget-friendly single-board computer with the high-powered Rockchip RK3399 system on chip (SoC).

Available from around $60, the RockPro64 board comes in two flavors, either with the hexa-core RK3399 SoC or the RK3399Pro, Rockchip's first "artificial-intelligence processor". Unveiled at CES 2018, it combines a CPU, GPU, and neural-network processing unit (NPU).

As noted by CNX-Software, a number of RK3999-based boards have been released in the past week but, priced at around $200 each, they've been aimed at business customers rather than home developers.

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Devices: Mycroft Mark 2, Android at HMD

Filed under
Linux
Hardware

Linux Devices: LimeSDR Mini, ML350 Fanless Computer, Librem 5

Filed under
Linux
Hardware
  • LimeSDR Mini gains Raspberry Pi ready Grove Starter Kit

    Lime Microsystems has launched a Raspberry Pi compatible “Grove Starter Kit” option for its LimeSDR Mini radio hacker board with a GrovePi+ board, 15 Grove sensor and actuator modules, dual antennas for 433/868/915MHz bands, a base plate, and cables.

    Lime Microsystems has added to its successful LimeSDR Mini crowdfunding campaign on Crowd Supply with a $249 Grove Starter Kit designed to work with a Raspberry Pi. The news came shortly after Lime unveiled a DVB transmitter prototype project that combines the open source LimeSDR Mini Software Defined Radio (SDR) board with a Raspberry Pi Zero.

  • Ubuntu-ready embedded PC has optional CEC, 4G, and dual mSATA

    Logic Supply’s fanless, Apollo Lake based “ML350G-10” embedded PC offers 7x USB ports, up to 2x GbE, up to 2TB mSATA via 2x slots, optional WiFi/BT or LTE, and 2x DisplayPorts with optional CEC.

    Most of Logic Supply’s embedded PCs have run on Intel Core chips, but the Vermont-based company has produced a few Linux-ready, Intel Atom-based models including the Bay Trail Celeron based ML100G-10 and quad- or octa-core Avoton Atom C2xxx driven ML600G-10. Now, the company has launched an “ML350 Fanless Computer” series starting with the Apollo Lake-based ML350G-10.

  • Purism Plans to Bring Convergence to Its PureOS Linux Phone and Laptops

    Purism, the computer technology company that sells Linux-powered laptops, is currently working hard on their first Linux phone, Librem 5, for which the company ran a successful crowdfunding campaign last year.

    Last week, Purism published their first report on the upcoming privacy-focused Linux smartphone since the crowdfunding campaign ended, saying they plan to use the i.MX8 ARM processor for the device and the next-generation Wayland display server for the UI (User Interface), which is still in the design phase as they spent last two months establishing a design team.

    Now that their design team is in place and ready to work on the most powerful Linux phone ever, Purism shared their plans on attempting to bring convergence across all devices running the PureOS Linux operating system, including the upcoming Librem 5 smartphone and any of Purism's Librem Linux laptops.

Open Hardware/3-D Printing

Filed under
Hardware
OSS
  • Meltdown And Spectre Processor Vulnerabilities: Is It Time To Revive Open Source Alternative?

    The beginning of the year 2018 brought new challenges in the form of Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities in most of the processor architectures.  In layman terms, both of these vulnerabilities allow hackers to steal sensitive data like passwords.  This vulnerability is applicable to Intel, AMD, and ARM. This means the problem is universal as it affects almost all devices ranging from embedded devices, smartphones, desktops, and servers to supercomputers.

  • When the canary breaks the coal mine

    Nobody likes it when kernels don't work and even less so when they are broken on a Friday afternoon. Yet that's what happened last Friday. This was particularly unsettling because at -rc8, the kernel is expected to be rock solid. An early reboot is particularly unsettling. Fortunately, the issue was at least bisected to a commit in the x86 tree. The bad commit changed code for an AMD specific feature but oddly the reboot was seen on non-AMD processors too.

    It's easy to take debug logs for granted when you can get them. The kernel nominally has the ability for an 'early' printk but that still requires setup. If your kernel crashes before that, you need to start looking at other debug options (and your life choices). This was unfortunately one of those crashes. Standard x86 laptops don't have a nice JTAG interface for hardware assisted debugging. Debugging this particular crash was not particularly feasible beyond changing code and seeing if it booted.

  • DIY Open-Source PantoProbe Precision Probe

    Electronics enthusiasts, hobbyists and makers looking for a handy tool to help you troubleshoot their latest project, may be interested in an open source PantoProb created by Kurt Schaefer. As you can see from the image above the open source probe requires a few 3D printed parts as well as some off-the-shelf hardware which is easily sourced. Kurt has also provided full instructions and a Github repo with all the necessary files to make your very own 3D printed testing probe. Check out the video below to learn more.

  • What the Apple 3D Printing Patents Mean for Our Industry

    Recently Apple has been granted a patent for a color 3D printing idea whereby the printed object is first made and then colored in afterwards. This idea is a straightforward one; using it one could print an object using FDM for example and then later color it with an inkjet print head. This method would play to both technologies’ strengths with FDM making for strong objects that are very dimensionally accurate but often suffer from poor surface quality. By having a separate print head then color in and, more importantly perhaps, strengthen and smooth over the object as well as add things such as conductivity, the resulting object would look nice as well. This could be a potential breakthrough in expanding 3D printing.

Devices: Debugging Tools, TP-Link, Raspberry Pi and Android

Filed under
Android
Linux
Hardware
  • Debugging Tools

    That’s three strands (red, white, black) from a USB-to-serial converter, soldered on to a 3-pole screw-tightened connector. Clamped into that are the serial lines (red, green and blue) which were originally crimped straight to the lines. After a few months of use, the crimping failed and the red cable (RX) broke off.

    So I had to fix it, and in the process decided to make it more sturdy, more ugly, but also easier to use.

  • TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi Plug with Energy Monitoring Review

    Opening up the box reveals both plugs sitting in a plastic tray. A quick start guide, tech support contact information, and a copy of the GNU General Public License were found on top of the plugs. Following the quick start guide proved to be very straightforward.

  • Reading Buttons from a Raspberry Pi

    When you attach hardware buttons to a Raspberry Pi's GPIO pin, reading the button's value at any given instant is easy with GPIO.input(). But what if you want to watch for button changes? And how do you do that from a GUI program where the main loop is buried in some library?

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  • Rooting Android Just Isn’t Worth It Anymore

    Since Android is based on Linux and uses a Linux kernel, “rooting” effectively means allowing access to root permissions in Linux. It’s really that simple—these permissions aren’t granted to normal users and apps, so you have to do some special work to gain them.

  • What’s the Difference Between Android One and Android Go?

    In 2014, Google announced a lineup of low-cost, low-spec phones called Android One. In 2017, they announced Android Go, specifically designed for low-cost, low-spec phones. So…what’s the difference?

PC desktop build, Intel, spectre issues etc.

Filed under
Hardware
Security

Apart from the initial system bought, most of my systems when being changed were in the INR 20-25k/- budget including all and any accessories I bought later.

The only real expensive parts I purchased have been external hdd ( 1 TB WD passport) and then a Viewsonic 17″ LCD which together sent me back by around INR 10k/- but both seem to give me adequate performance (both have outlived the warranty years) with the monitor being used almost 24×7 over 6 years or so, of course over GNU/Linux specifically Debian. Both have been extremely well value for the money.

As I had been exposed to both the motherboards I had been following those and other motherboards as well. What was and has been interesting to observe what Asus did later was to focus more on the high-end gaming market while Gigabyte continued to dilute it energy both in the mid and high-end motherboards.

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More in Tux Machines

Thunderbolt 3 in Fedora 28

  • The state of Thunderbolt 3 in Fedora 28
    Fedora 28 is around the corner and I wanted to highlight what we did to make the Thunderbolt 3 experience as smooth as possible. Although this post focuses on Fedora 28 for what is currently packaged and shipping, all changes are of course available upstream and should hit other distributions in the future.
  • Thunderbolt 3 Support Is In Great Shape For Fedora 28
    Red Hat developers have managed to deliver on their goals around improving Thunderbolt support on the Linux desktop with the upcoming Fedora 28 distribution update. This has been part of their goal of having secure Thunderbolt support where users can authorize devices and/or restrict access to certain capabilities on a per-device basis, which is part of Red Hat's Bolt project and currently has UI elements for the GNOME desktop.

New Heptio Announcements

Android Leftovers

New Terminal App in Chome OS Hints at Upcoming Support for Linux Applications

According to a Reddit thread, a Chromebook user recently spotted a new Terminal app added to the app drawer when running on the latest Chrome OS Dev channel. Clicking the icon would apparently prompt the user to install the Terminal app, which requires about 200 MB of disk space. The installation prompt notes the fact that the Terminal app can be used to develop on your Chromebook. It also suggests that users will be able to run native apps and command-line tools seamlessly and securely. Considering the fact that Chrome OS is powered by the Linux kernel, this can only mean one thing. Read more