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Robotics

Intel Demos A New Robotics Controller Running Ubuntu (hackerboards.com) 21

Intel demoed their new robotics compute module this week. Scheduled for release in 2017, it's equipped with various sensors, including a depth-sensing camera, and it runs Ubuntu on a quad-core Atom. Slashdot reader DeviceGuru writes: Designed for researchers, makers, and robotics developers, the device is a self contained, candy-bar sized compute module ready to pop into a robot. It's augmented with a WiFi hotspot, Bluetooth, GPS, and IR, as well as proximity, motion, barometric pressure sensors. There's also a snap-on battery.

The device is preinstalled with Ubuntu 14.04 with Robot Operating System (ROS) Indigo, and can act as a supervisory processor to, say, an Arduino subsystem that controls a robot's low-level functions. Intel demoed a Euclid driven robot running an obstacle avoidance and follow-me tasks, including during CEO Brian Krzanich's keynote (YouTube video).

Intel says they'll also release instructions on how to create an accompanying robot with a 3D printer. This plug-and-play robotics module is a proof-of-concept device -- the article includes some nice pictures -- but it already supports programming in Node.js (and other high-level languages), and has a web UI that lets you monitor performance in real-time and watch the raw camera feeds.
Classic Games (Games)

Hacked Hobbit Pinball Machine Joins IoT, Broadcasts Itself Over Twitch (lachniet.com) 45

Random web surfers could send a text message or even upload an image to be displayed on the back glass of Mark Lachniet's pinball machine, according to Mael517, while the machine itself webcast footage of both its playing field and backglass using Twitch. Interestingly, all the extra functionality was coded directly into the machine, according to Lachniet, who added only the webcam and an ethernet cord. The Hobbit [machine] has a whole bunch of hardware that I don't really understand and can barely fix... However, it has a computer in its guts, and this I can mostly understand.
After identifying the pinball machine's motherboard, CPU, operating system (Ubuntu) and an SQL database, Lachniet was able to backup its software, and then create his own modifications. He envisions more possibilities -- for example, the ability to announce high scores on social media accounts or allow remote servicing of the machine. Lachniet even sees the possibility of a world-wide registry of pinball game scores with each player's location overlaid on Google Maps "so you could view pinball hot spots and where the high scores were coming from," and maybe even networking machines together to allow real-time global competition."
Hardware Hacking

FCC Requires TP-Link To Support Open Source Router Firmware 52

An anonymous reader writes: Earlier today, the FCC reached a settlement with TP-Link over Wi-Fi router interference. Most of the agreement was routine, addressing compliance with radio emission rules.

But the FCC also did something unprecedented. It required TP-Link to support open source firmware on its routers. You might recall that, last year, the FCC caused a ruckus when it mistakenly suggested it was banning open source router firmware. In fact, the FCC only required that router vendors implement protections for specific radio emission parameters. But the FCC didn't work with router vendors in advance to maintain open source compatibility, resulting in certain vendors (including TP-Link) trying to lock down their routers.

The FCC eventually issued a clarification, but the damage was done. Only recently have a couple router vendors (Linksys and Asus) affirmed that they will continue to support open source firmware.

Today's settlement is a milestone for the FCC. The agency is finally doing something, with deeds and not just words, to demonstrate its support for the open source community. It would be better if the agency hadn't created this mess, but they deserve serious credit for working so hard to fix it.
Hardware Hacking

PS Vita Jailbreak Finally Lets One Run Emulators and Homebrew Software (geek.com) 38

Finally, someone has managed to hack PS Vita, allowing people to install emulators and homebrew software on the handheld gaming console. The jailbreak dubbed HENkaku works on the latest 3.60 Vita firmware. From an article on Geek.com: The exploit allowing full access to the Vita hardware has been created by Team Molecule and named HENkaku. The code injected into the handheld when visiting the website unlocks the hardware and removes the file system from its protective sandbox. It's then possible to access it and the Vita memory card using FTP. The super simple unlock opens up the Vita to homebrew developers who want to create their own games for the system without going through official channels. But it also allows full access to the hardware meaning the ability to overclock the processor, and for PlayStation TV owners it also means all games are whitelisted. That's great news as there are many blocked games known to work perfectly fine on the PSTV.
Open Source

New Crowdfunding Campaign Offers Modular EOMA68 Computing Devices (crowdsupply.com) 122

A new crowdfunding campaign by Rhombus Tech "introduces the world's first devices built around the EOMA68 standard," which separates a "modular" CPU board from the rest of the system so that it can be easily used in multiple devices and upgraded more simply. Rhombus Tech is now offering a 15.6-inch laptop, a laser-cut wooden Micro-Desktop housing, and two types of computer cards, both using A20 dual-core ARM Cortex A7 processors. The cards are available with four flavors of the GNU/Linux operating system, and they're hoping to receive RYF certification from the Free Software Foundation.

"No proprietary software," explains their campaign's video. "No backdoors. No spyware. No NDAs." They envision a world where users upgrade their computers by simply popping in a new card -- reducing electronic waste -- or print new laptop casings to repair defects or swap in different colors. (And they also hope to eventually see the cards also working with cameras, phones, tablets, and gaming consoles.) Rhombus Tech CTO Luke Leighton did a Slashdot interview in 2012, and contacted Slashdot this weekend to announce: A live-streamed video from Hope2016 explains what it's about, and there is a huge range of discussions and articles online. The real burning question is: if a single Software Libre Engineer can teach themselves PCB design and bring modular computing to people on the budget available from a single company, why are there not already a huge number of companies doing modular upgradeable hardware?
Iphone

'Headphone Jacks Are the New Floppy Drives' (daringfireball.net) 771

According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple's upcoming iPhone won't have a 3.5mm headphone jack. The news has already upset many people. The Verge's Nilay Patel wrote on Tuesday that the decision of getting rid of the legacy headphone port is "user hostile and stupid." Apple commentator John Gruber makes a case for why Apple's supposed move is not a bad idea at all. He writes:Patel misses the bigger problem. It's not enforcement of DRM on audio playback. It's enforcement of the MFi Program for certifying hardware that uses the Lightning port. Right now any headphone maker in the world can make any headphones they want for the standard jack. Not so with the Lightning port.He adds that the existing analog headphone jack "is more costly in terms of depth than thickness," and by getting rid of it, Apple could use the extra real estate to stuff in more battery juice. Addressing Patel's point that the move of ditching a deeply established standard will "disproportionately impact accessibility," Gruber adds that "enabling, open, and democratizing" have never been high on Apple's list of priorities for external ports. Gruber also addressed Patel's argument that introducing a Lightning Port-enabled headphone feature will make Android and iPhone headphones incompatible. He wrote: Why would Apple care about headphone compatibility with Android? If Apple gave two shits about port compatibility with Android, iPhones would have Micro-USB ports. In 1998 people used floppy drives extensively for sneaker-netting files between Macs and PCs. That didn't stop Apple from dropping it.As for "nobody is asking" Apple to remove headphone jack from the next iPhone, Gruber reminds: This is how it goes. If it weren't for Apple we'd probably still be using computers with VGA and serial ports. The essence of Apple is that they make design decisions "no one asked for".The 3.5mm headphone jack has been around for decades. We can either live with it forever, or try doing something better instead. History suggests that OEMs from across the world quickly replicate Apple's move. Just the idea of Apple removing the headphone jack -- the rumor of which first began last year -- arguably played an instrumental role in some smartphones shipping without the legacy port this year. If this is a change that we really need, Apple is perhaps the best company to set the tone for it. Though, whether we really need to get rid of the headphone jack remains debatable.
Hardware Hacking

Big Tech Squashes New York's 'Right To Repair' Bill (huffingtonpost.com) 224

Damon Beres, writing for The Huffington Post: Major tech companies like Apple have trampled legislation that would have helped consumers and small businesses fix broken gadgets. New York state legislation that would have required manufacturers to provide information about how to repair devices like the iPhone failed to get a vote, ending any chance of passage this legislative session. Similar measures have met the same fate in Minnesota, Nebraska, Massachusetts and, yes, even previously in New York. Essentially, politicians never get to vote on so-called right to repair legislation because groups petitioning on behalf of the electronics industry gum up the proceedings. "We were disappointed that it wasn't brought to the floor, but we were successful in bringing more attention to the issue," New York state Sen. Phil Boyle (R), a sponsor of the bill, told The Huffington Post.
Hardware Hacking

Apple Is Fighting A Secret War To Keep You From Repairing Your Phone (huffingtonpost.com) 364

It's no secret that Apple makes a ton of money by charging 'astronomical' fee for replacing and fixing display and other components of iPhone and iPad (as well as Mac line). For instance, the company charges $599 for replacing the display on the iPad Pro tablet. Which sounds insane when you realize that you can almost certainly purchase a new iPad Pro under $700. And this is what most people do. A Huffington Post article notes that this behavior has contributed significantly in "generating heaps of e-waste." Citing many advocates, the publication claims that Apple has "opposed legislation that could help curb it." From the report: The Huffington Post spoke with politicians in two states who support such legislation, and confirmed through government filings that Apple has lobbied on the issue. Four states -- Minnesota, Nebraska, Massachusetts and New York -- have considered adopting "right to repair" amendments, which would update existing laws regarding the sale of electronic equipment. Amending these laws would make it easier to fix your devices and would help reduce "e-waste," a catch-all term for any electronic detritus. The New York State Senate and Assembly could approve one of these amendments next week. This would help unofficial repair shops get the information they need to fix your iPad, ideally driving down repair costs and encouraging you to squeeze more life out of your old devices -- thus cutting down on the e-waste generated by our voracious appetites for new gadgets. Apple asserts that it helps recycle millions of pounds of electronics equipment every year. But it won't support right to repair amendments.One would ask what is preventing a user from getting their device repaired by unofficial service person? In addition to the security implication, you also run a risk of getting your device bricked by Apple. To recall, the iPhone maker was found bricking the handsets that had been repaired by third-party vendors earlier this year.
Operating Systems

Developer Installs Windows 95 On An Apple Watch (theverge.com) 98

An anonymous reader writes: Developer Nick Lee has successfully installed Windows 95 on his Apple Watch. It works, but it runs very slow. For example, it takes about an hour for the OS to boot up. In a blog post, Lee points out the Apple Watch features specs capable of running the old OS. To get Windows 95 running on the Apple Watch, Lee had to modify Apple's development software in "rather unorthodox ways" that allowed him to turn the OS into a Watch app, which also emulates an environment for the OS to run on, he tells The Verge. To deal with the fact that Apple Watch's screen is always turning itself off when not in use, he set up a motorized tube that constantly turns the Watch's crown, preventing it from falling asleep. In addition, Lee altered the Watch's software to let Windows 95 track a single fingertip, hence the constant swiping in his video.
United Kingdom

One Million School Children To Get Free BBC Micro:bit Computers 157

Mickeycaskill writes with this news from TechWeek Europe: Every Year 7 student in England and Wales, Year 8 student in Northern Ireland and S1 student in Scotland will be handed, for free, a BBC micro:bit computer specially designed to help pupils learn to code. Micro:bits, which are smaller than the size of a credit card and can be hooked up to a mobile app or accessed via the Internet, will be delivered nationwide through schools and made available to home-schooled students over the course of the next few weeks. The students are able to keep their devices as their own, meaning they can work with the device for homework, in school holidays, and use it for more applications as their grasp on coding increases. The initiative follows on from the BBC's Micro programme that was introduced in the 1980s, and sees a partnership between the BBC and some of the world's most notable technology companies such as ARM, Microsoft, and Samsung. The computer will hope to emulate the Raspberry Pi, of which more than eight million have been sold. A BBC story explains a bit about the project's ambitions, and points out a few "bumps in the road"; originally, the hardware was to be in classrooms several months sooner. The BBC's own micro:bit page features more on programming the device, as well as many sample projects.
Hardware Hacking

Sony Outage Disables DASH Devices, No ETA On a Fix 116

New submitter Jack Greenbaum writes: In 2012 Sony closed the developer site for the DASH, their version of the Chumby platform. Sony never officially killed off the product, and they kept the back end servers on line, until recently at least. About two weeks ago DASH owners started seeing their devices fail with a cryptic error message "Unable to download the Control Panel (No download information available). Please restart your dash to try again." Sony acknowledges that the issue is at their end, but no ETA for a fix has been provided. The passionate DASH community is not pleased that Sony is being so quiet about a fix. One user even overslept for work because they depended on the alarm clock feature. Now every DASH is dead until Sony decides to not abandon its walled garden.
Data Storage

Raspberry Pi Gets Affordable, Power Efficient 314GB Hard Drive On Pi Day 144

Mickeycaskill writes: Western Digital has released a had drive optimized for the Raspberry Pi. The 314GB drive, released on Pi Day (3/14), costs $31.42 for a limited time and promises to be more reliable, power efficient and easier to use with the computer than other storage. The company, which also has a 1TB drive, says the unit has been designed to coordinate with the Pi's own power systems in order to minimize energy use without affecting the maximum data transfer rate on a USB connection. The Raspberry Pi Foundation says the new drive will stimulate the development of storage-hungry projects.
Hardware Hacking

Using Kexec Allows Starting Linux In PlayStation 4 70

jones_supa writes: Team fail0verflow, the hacker group who made Sony PlayStation 4, has introduced another method to start Linux in the game console. Instead of the previous exploit which was based on a security hole in an old PS4 firmware version, the new trick allows a kexec call to start Linux through Orbis OS (the FreeBSD-based system software of PS4). The code can be found in GitHub. Maybe this will lead to more and better PlayStation clusters.
Security

Fingerprint-Protected Phones Vulnerable To Inkjet Attack (softpedia.com) 56

An anonymous reader writes: Two researchers have come up with a new method of hacking smartphones that use fingerprint biometrics to protect and lock the user's data. Their method only needs a regular inkjet printer, three AgIC silver conductive ink cartridges, a normal black ink cartridge, and special AgIC paper. The entire attack takes no more than 15 minutes. Current tests only included a Samsung Galaxy S6 and a Huawei Hornor 7. The researchers said that while the Samsung was easy to crack, the Huawei phone needed more tries.
Hardware Hacking

Hacking a Professional Drone 27

New submitter ricardinho writes: Research done at the University of Twente, in the Netherlands, shows that paying thousands of dollars for a professional drone does not guarantee that the device will be hack proof. These professional drones are commonly used across various industries to perform daily critical operations, such as surveillance and recon missions by law enforcement authorities. During his research, student Nils Rodday discovered that a professional drone could be compromised in multiple ways (PDF). One of these attack vectors investigated by the student is much more sophisticated than those used to compromise recreational drones that cost few hundreds of dollars and are not expected to be strongly secured. By reverse engineering the drone's operation and firmware, the student found ways to obtain key information that is used to validate the communication on the telemetry link between the drone and its remote controllers. This allowed for a Man-in-the-Middle attack in which the hacker could take full control of the attacked drone from a distance of up to 2 km. Manufacturers of professional drones are blindly trusting XBee chips for the communication between devices. These chips however are not meant to be used in sensitive devices and this flaw can compromise any sort of operation that the drones are deployed for. In addition, the solution is not simple since a firmware update patch cannot be simply released, but manufacturers have to actually recall the devices for in-house upgrades. Perhaps even more surprising is the cost of the described attack: 40 dollars is enough for an attacker to take full control of a $30,000 drone. Nils will explain and demonstrate his hacking into a professional drone during talks at RSA conference in San Francisco and Black Hat Asia in Singapore.
Hardware Hacking

Microcasting Color TV By Abusing a Wi-Fi Chip (hackaday.com) 63

szczys writes: The NTSC standard has effectively been replaced by newer digital standards, but most televisions still work with these signals. This can be done through a composite video connection, but more fun is to broadcast video directly to your television's analog tuner. This is what cnlohr has been working on, using a lowly ESP8266 module to generate and transmit the color TV signal. This board is a $3 Wi-Fi module. But the chip itself has a number of other powerful peripheral features, including I2S and DMA. This hardware makes it possible to push the TV broadcast out using hardware, taking up only about 10% of processor time. Even more impressive, cnlohr didn't want to recompile and flash (which is a relatively slow process) during prototyping so he used a web worker to implement browser-based development through the chip's Wi-Fi connection. Speaking of chip-abuse in the interest of hyperlocal signal propagation, reader fulldecent writes to point out a project on GitHub that "allows transmission of radio signals from a computer that is otherwise air gapped. Right now this could be useful for playing a quick tune or for pranks. But there are more nefarious uses as this could also be used to exfiltrate information from secure networks."
Education

Raspberry Pi 3 Rolls Out With Faster CPU, On-Board Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 203

An anonymous reader writes: The original Raspberry Pi went on sale four years ago, and more than 8,000,000 units have shipped since then. Raspberry Pi computers are used in schools and universities, in factories and other industrial applications, in home automation and hobby projects, and much more. Today the Raspberry Pi 3 was announced, featuring a 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 CPU clocked at 1.2GHz, making it roughly 10x the speed of the original Pi 1. Many people will be pleased to hear that the Raspberry Pi 3 also features on-board Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, greatly improving the device's connectivity. The new device goes on sale today at the usual price of US $35. (Here's the official announcement itself.)
Government

TP-Link Begins Lockdown of Firmware In Response To FCC 157

An anonymous reader writes: In response to an FCC rule that requires manufacturers to lock down computing devices (routers, PCs, phones) to prevent modification if they have a "modular wireless radio," TP-Link has begun locking down its routers to prevent firmware not signed by TP-Link from being installed. This essentially prevents open source OSs (OpenWRT, for example) from being used on routers. TP-Link may not be a prestige brand, exactly, but the company makes a lot of routers suitable for installing third-party firmware, precisely the sort of thing being locked down makes difficult if not impossible.
Cellphones

Apple vs. the Right To Repair (bloombergview.com) 381

retroworks writes: Bloomberg columnist Adam Minter takes on Apple's "Error 53 Code" and the precedents being challenged by the Right To Repair movement. Apple claims that bricking the phone if it's repaired by a non-Apple certified repair shop protects you from tampering with, say, the fingerprint scanner. But the column documents how the number of "certified" repair shops is under attack. If you can't open it, do you really own it?
Security

Push To Hack: Reverse Engineering an IP Camera (contextis.com) 35

New submitter tetraverse writes: For our most recent IoT adventure, we've examined an outdoor cloud security camera [the Motorola Focus 73] which like many devices of its generation a) has an associated mobile app b) is quick to setup and c) presents new security threats to your network. From the article: This blog describes in detail how we were able to exploit the camera without access to the local network, steal secrets including the home networkâ(TM)s Wi-Fi password, obtain full control of the PTZ (Pan-Tilt-Zoom) controls and redirect the video feed and movement alerts to our own server; effectively watching the watchers.

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