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Hardware

Restricted Hardware and Open Hardware (Raspberry Pi, Arduino Nano)

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Hardware
  • Ryzen Embedded signage system offers secure boot

    EFCO’s “VideoStar100” signage player runs Linux or Win 10 on a Ryzen Embedded V1000 or R1000 with up to 4x simultaneous 4K displays plus 2x GbE, 4x USB, 2x serial, and optional “SecuBoot” security.

  • Raspberry Pi add-on offers dead reckoning GNSS with RTK support

    SparkFun’s “GPS-RTK pHAT” for the Raspberry Pi features u-blox’s 184-channel ZED-F9R module for ADR of up to 4x concurrent GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and BeiDou links with 20cm accuracy when linked to an RTK base station.

    SparkFun has launched a $250 Raspberry Pi add-on board for “highly accurate and continuous position” in automotive, robotic rover, and other unmanned vehicle applications, including asset tracking. The GPS-RTK Dead Reckoning pHAT for Raspberry Pi showcases u-blox’s 184-channel ZED-F9R GNSS receiver module, which supports up to 4x concurrent location signals from sources including BeiDou, Galileo, GLONASS, GPS, and QZSS. Sparkfun also announced a $160 Raspberry Pi 4 Hardware Starter Kit 4GB (see farther below).

  • A hand-following AI task lamp for your desk

    Gao’s 3D-printed device uses a USB camera to take images of the work area, and a Python image processing routine running on a PC to detect hand positions. This sends instructions to an Arduino Nano, which commands a pair of small stepper motors to extend and rotate the light fixture via corresponding driver boards.

Purism "Investing in Real Convergence" and Purism Librem 14

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GNU
Linux
Hardware

  • Investing in Real Convergence

    Like “privacy” and “security” the word “convergence” has become a popular term these days. When words like these become popular, companies tend to redefine them to match whatever they happen to sell. For instance when Google says they protect your privacy they mean “from everyone but us.” When Apple says they are secure, they mean “as long as you give us full trust and total control.”

    When most people think of the promise of convergence they think of what I’ll refer to as “real convergence”–the idea of a single, portable computer that has your data and applications and that can be a desktop computer, a laptop or a pocket computer. To summarize: real convergence means taking your desktop computer with you in your pocket wherever you go. Fake convergence is the opposite: stretching a phone to fit on a larger screen.

  • Purism Librem 14

    The next generation of Librem laptop brings a lot to the table. Gigabit throughput over native RJ45 enables you to enjoy blazing-fast download speeds, security, and reliability. Compared to the Librem 13, the Librem 14 has a similar device footprint while the Intel 10th Gen Comet Lake i7 is much more powerful.

The Supercomputing Monoculture

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GNU
Linux
Server
Hardware

But that very competition led to fragmentation. Alpha, MIPS, SPARC, and all the others each sold to a small niche of users. Meanwhile, Intel was selling x86 processors by the truckload to every PC maker on the planet while backing up forklifts full of cash into its bank vaults. The x86 franchise was an obscenely lucrative cash cow, even if some engineers ridiculed it as outmoded technology. Intel sold more processors than all the other vendors put together. And CPU development is expensive. Very expensive. One by one, the boutique CPU makers (Sun, Digital, Silicon Graphics, Intergraph, et al.) gave up on their in-house designs and started buying commercial processors, often from Intel. And, one by one, those companies failed anyway. PCs running Windows on x86 were ubiquitous and cheap. Artisanal Unix workstations running proprietary RISC processors were expensive – and not much faster than a PC anyway. The full-custom route just didn’t add up.

The huge uptake in x86-based supercomputers starting around 2005 wasn’t because Intel chips got a lot faster (although they did). It’s because most of the other competitors defaulted. They left an empty field for Intel to dominate. If the brains behind Alpha (to pick just one example) had had Intel levels of R&D money to work with, they probably would have stayed near the top of the performance heap for as long as they cared to. But that’s not reality or how the game is played. If my grandmother had wheels she’d be a wagon.

Now the same story is playing out again, but in ARM’s favor. ARM has the volume lead, beating even Intel by orders of magnitude in terms of unit volume. And, although ARM collects only a small royalty on each processor, not the entire purchase price, it also doesn’t have the crushing overhead costs that a manufacturer like Intel carries. ARM’s volume encourages a third-party software market to flourish, and that fuels a virtuous feedback loop that makes ARM’s architecture even more popular. There’s nothing inherently fast about ARM’s architecture – it definitely wasn’t designed for supercomputers – but there’s nothing wrong with it, either. If the x86 can hold the world’s performance lead, any CPU can. All it takes is time and volume.

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Raspberry Pi as a Penetration Testing Implant (Dropbox)

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GNU
Linux
Hardware
Security

Sometimes, especially in the time of COVID-19, you can’t go onsite for a penetration test. Or maybe you can only get in briefly on a physical test, and want to leave behind a dropbox (literally, a box that can be “dropped” in place and let the tester leave, no relation to the file-sharing company by the same name) that you can remotely connect to. Of course, it could also be part of the desired test itself if incident response testing is in-scope – can they find your malicious device?

In all of these cases, one great option is a small single-board computer, the best known of which is the Raspberry Pi. It’s inexpensive, compact, easy to come by, and very flexible. It may not be perfect in every case, but it gets the job done in a lot of cases.

I’ll use this opportunity to discuss the setups I’ve done in the past and the things I would change when doing it again or alternatives I considered. I hope some will find this useful. Some familiarity with the Linux command line is assumed.

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Also: Huawei 5G banned in the United Kingdom; must be removed by 2027

Open Hardware: Raspberry Pi, Arduino and More

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Hardware
  • Use an Inky wHAT display with Raspberry Pi

    Carefully line up your Inky wHAT over the GPIO header pins on Raspberry Pi (use the header booster that sits between the wHAT and the board if yours is a full-sized Raspberry Pi model) and press it into place. Connect Raspberry Pi’s mouse, keyboard, screen, and power on. As with using any new hardware, start by updating your Raspberry Pi. We advise using a fresh installation of Raspberry OS, which will suggest updating itself when it first boots up. Follow the prompts to check for and download any updates.

  • Personal Mediawiki with Raspberry PI and Docker

    MediaWiki is an open source collaboration and documentation platform used to share knowledge between people across Internet. It is at base of famous Wikipedia website.

    Licensed under GNU General Public License (GPL), it is extremely powerful, scalable and feature-rich. MediaWiki uses PHP for its front-end to display information to your browser and a number of databases variety (most common being MySQL).

    In this article I’m going to show you how to create your personal wiki with the cheap and powerful Raspberry PI. To simplify installation and setup, I’ll use Docker and docker-compose to deploy services with a single command line and a few configuration files. Instead of MySQL, our database will be built on custom MariaDB installation (fork of MySQL), which is performing better on Raspberry PI boards.

  • Go sailing with this stop-motion 3D-printed boat
  • DIY cable cam made from RC car and 3D-printed parts

    Everything is powered by a Tattu 650mAh 3S LiPo battery, while an Arduino Nano and an L298N dual H-bridge are used to control the motor (taken from an old HP printer) speed, adjustable between multiple settings by engaging the transmitter’s throttle switch. Final results come around the 13:40 minute mark in the video, and the footage looks fantastic!

  • STM32 IoT Discovery Kit Runs AWS-Ready FreeRTOS, Supports Arduino and Pmod Expansion Boards

    STMicroelectronics STM32 IoT Discovery Kit is supposed to ease software development for IoT nodes thanks to a qualified port of FreeRTOS integrated into the STM32Cube ecosystem, and ready to connect to Amazon Web Services (AWS).

    The hardware is comprised of an STM32L4+ Cortex-M4F microcontroller, various MEMS sensors, a secure element, and offers WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2, and NFC connectivity.

Hardware: Wainlux, RasPi, Arduino

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Hardware
  • Wainlux K6 & Alfawise C50 Mini Laser Engravers Offered for $130 and Up

    A few days ago I saw Wainlux K6 “most compact, powerful and simple-to-use” laser engraver on Kickstarter for about $159. I did not think too much of it at the time, but this morning I thought it already showed up for pre-order on GearBest for $129.99 as Alfawise C50. But I was mistaken, as both products are different, albeit sharing some of the same attributes.

    Nevertheless, this brought back my curiosity about these types of devices, especially with Wainlux K6 having already managed to raise over $200,000 from close to 1,400 backers so far. So let’s look at both.

  • Travel the world with a retro musical phone
  • Deck out your ride with an Arduino-controlled spoiler

    Car spoilers can provide downforce for better performance, or simply give the appearance of speed. To take things to another level, Michael Rechtin designed his own custom wing that doesn’t just sit there, but pitches up and down via a pair of servos.

    The system utilizes an Arduino Nano along with an MPU-6050 for control, adjusting itself based on his Mazda’s movement, and powered is supplied by a LiPo battery. Suction cups are used to attach the spoiler, so installation appears to require no actual modification of the car whatsoever.

Gadgets and Devices: MemGlove/Arduino, Starburst and Axiomtek

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Hardware
Gadgets
  • The MemGlove detects hand poses and recognizes objects

    Hand movements have long been used as a computer interface method, but as reported here, the MemGlove from a team of MIT CSAIL researchers takes things several steps further. This augmented glove can sense hand poses and how it’s applying pressure to an object.

    The wearable uses a novel arrangement of 16 electrodes to detect hand position based on resistance, and six fluid filled tubes that transmit pressure depending on how an item is gripped.

    An Arduino Due is used to sense these interactions, which pass information on to a computer for processing. Pose verification is accomplished with a Leap Motion sensor. By training neural networks with TensorFlow, the glove is able to identify various hand poses, as well as distinguish between 30 different household things that are grasped.

  • Startups Push Aerospace Innovation

    Entrepreneurs developing lightweight propulsion systems for satellites, cybersecurity for Linux, wireless power and a blockchain application for secure part procurement, among other emerging technologies, presented their technologies to investors, the military and industry. In 10-minute intervals, the company representatives pitched their early stage, aerospace-related technologies at Starburst Accelerator’s third U.S. Virtual Selection Committee meeting on July 9th, which was held virtually. Headquartered in Paris, Starburst's U.S. team brought in the eight hopeful companies, all vying for partnership agreements, venture capitalist funding and a chance to join Starburst's Accelerator Program. The startups’ prospective products range in level of technical readiness and prototyping stages.
    As an aerospace technology incubator, Starburst has been operating for almost 7 years. Initially, the accelerator held specific events targeted at specific stakeholder groups, such as Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Air Force or certain investor groups, explained Van Espahbodi, co-founder and managing partner at Starburst.

    Today, Espahbodi said, they are constantly scouting emerging technology solutions for 50 clients in eight countries across 21 aerospace markets, from quantum sensors, to cybersecurity, to new energy sources and propulsion, he said.

  • Quad-GbE Apollo Lake appliance has dual mini-PCIe slots

    Axiomtek’s Linux-ready “NA346” networking appliance is equipped with a Celeron N3350, 4x GbE ports with optional bypass, 2x USB 3.0, HDMI, and 2x mini-PCIe slots with mSATA and wireless support.

    Axiomtek has launched an entry-level “SD-WAN, VPN and security gateway for industrial IoT security applications.” The 146 x 118.2 x 33.5mm NA346 runs Yocto-based Linux or Win 10 on a dual-core, up to 2.4GHz Celeron N3350 with a 6W TDP from Intel’s Apollo Lake generation. The quad-GbE port networking appliance follows Axiomtek’s earlier, Apollo Lake based, 6-port NA345 and other Apollo Lake based networking gateways such as Acrosser’s 6-port AND-APL1N1FL.

Star Lite Mk III and Purism GNU/Linux Laptops

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GNU
Linux
Hardware

  • Star Lite Mk III Linux Laptop Is Now Available for Pre-Order from Star Labs

    Star Labs just informed me today that they’ve launched the pre-orders for the lightweight Star Lite Mk III Linux laptop from only $428 USD.

    Featuring a lightweight design with a redesigned chassis, the Star Lite MK III Linux laptop features an 11.6-inch LED-backlit Arc IPS matte display with Full HD (1920×1080) resolution and 16:9 aspect ration, which users offers glare-free viewing thanks to the a hard coat that also boasts durability.

    Under the hood, the Linux laptop is powered by a 1.1GHz Quad-Core Intel Pentium Silver N5000 processor that can go as high as 2.7GHz when boosted and promises up to 29% performance increase. It also features 8GB 2400MHz LPDDR4 RAM for up to 33% faster memory.

    It also features Intel UHD 605 graphics, a fanless design, a smoother glass trackpad, improved audio system, backlit keyboard, as well as an ultra-fast 240GB over-provisioned Star Drive SSD with up to 560MB/s read speeds and up to 540MB/s write speeds.

  • The next generation of the Purism Linux laptop is on its way

    For most Linux desktop users who want a ready-to-run Linux laptop, I recommend the latest high-end Dell XPS 13. I can also suggest System76 or ZaReason PCs or laptops for those who want top-of-the-line Linux hardware. But if privacy, security, and free software are at the top of your "Want" list, then you should check out Purism, maker of free software and Linux-powered laptops, and its next-generation Librem 14 laptop.

RaspEX Kodi Linux OS Now Supports the Latest Raspberry Pi 4 with 8GB RAM

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GNU
Linux
Hardware

Arne Exton informs me today about a new release of his RaspEX Kodi Linux OS for Raspberry Pi computers, which is now supported on the latest 8GB RAM Raspberry Pi 4 model.

Based on the Debian GNU/Linux 10 “Buster” operating system and the official Raspberry Pi OS, the new RaspEX Kodi build is here mainly to add support for the recently launched Raspberry Pi 4 with 8GB RAM single-board computer.

Arne Exton tells me that the new RaspEX Kodi build runs very well, offering excellent video and sound performance, especially on the Raspberry Pi 4 with 4GB and 8GB RAM. The system is fast and responsive, and it’s better than other Raspberry Pi/Kodi systems, said the developer.

Under the hood, the latest RaspEX Kodi release ships with the lightweight LXDE desktop environment, Kodi 18.7 “Leia” media center with Amazon Video, Netflix, Plex and YouTube add-ons, VLC media player, NetworkManager for configuring your wireless network, as well as many other useful apps.

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Olimex Tukhla High-End Open Source Hardware NXP i.MX 8QuadMax SBC in the Works

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Hardware
OSS

Most open-source hardware Arm Linux SBCs are optimized for cost, and there are few higher-end boards with extensive connectivity designed for professionals. Beagleboard X15 would be one of the rare examples currently available on the market, but it was launched five years ago.

One European company noticed the void in this market and asked Olimex to develop a high-end open-source Linux board with a well-documented processor. They ruled out RK3399, and instead went Olimex Tukhla SBC will be powered by NXP i.MX 8QuadMax, the top processor of i.MX 8 family with two Cortex-A72 cores, four Cortex-A53 cores, and two real-time Cortex-M4F cores.

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