Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
Hardware Hacking

Own An Open Source RISC-V Microcontroller (crowdsupply.com) 101

"Did you ever think it would be great if hardware was open to the transistor level, not just the chip level?" writes hamster_nz, pointing to a new Crowd Supply campaign for the OnChip Open-V microcontroller, "a completely free (as in freedom) and open source 32-bit microcontroller based on the RISC-V architecture." hamster_nz writes: With a completely open instruction-set architecture and no license fees for the CPU design, the RISC-V architecture is well positioned to take the crown as the 'go to' design for anybody needing a 32-bit in their silicon, and Open-V are crowd-sourcing their funding for an initial manufacturing run of 70,000 chips, offering options from a single chip to a seat in the design review process. This project is shaping up to be a milestone for the coming Open Source Silicon revolution, and they are literally offering a seat at the table. Even if you don't end up backing the project, it makes for very interesting reading.
Their crowdfunding page argues "If you love hacking on embedded controllers, breaking down closed-source barriers, having the freedom to learn how things work even down to the transistor level, or have dreamed of spinning your own silicon, then this campaign is for you."
Open Source

Open-Source Hardware Makers Unite To Start Certifying Products (infoworld.com) 57

An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld on the new certifications from the Open Source Hardware Association: The goal of certification is to clearly identify open-source hardware separate from the mish-mash of other hardware products. The certification allows hardware designs to be replicated. For certification, OSHWA requires hardware creators to publish a bill-of-materials list, software, schematics, design files, and other documents required to make derivative products. Those requirements could apply to circuit boards, 3D printed cases, electronics, processors, and any other hardware that meets OSHWA's definition of open-source hardware...OSHWA will host a directory for all certified products, something that doesn't exist today because the community is so fragmented.
After signing a legally-binding agreement, hardware makers are allowed to use the Open Hardware mark, which one of their board members believes will help foster a stronger sense of community among hardware makers. "People want to be associated with open source."
Hardware Hacking

How I Freed My Android Tablet: A Journey in Reverse Engineering (www.thanassis.space) 79

Slashdot reader ttsiod is an embedded software engineer at the European Space Agency, and shares this story about his quest to "dominate" his new tablet: Just like it's predecessor, I wanted to run a Debian chroot inside it -- that would allow me to apt-get install and run things like Privoxy, SSH SOCKS/VPN tunnels, Flask mini-servers, etc; and in general allow me to stay in control. But there was no open-source way to do this... and I could never trust "one-click roots" that communicate with servers in China... It took me weeks to reverse engineer my tablet -- and finally succeed in becoming root. The journey was quite interesting, and included both hardware and software tinkering. I learned a lot while doing it -- and wanted to share the experience with my fellow Slashdotters...
He writes that "I trust Debian. Far more than I trust the Android ecosystem," and describes everything from how he probed the boot process and created his own boot image to hunting for a way "to tell SELinux to get off my lawn".
Classic Games (Games)

The NES Classic is a $60 Single Board Computer Running Linux 121

"Nintendo's accurate NES emulator apparently needs no less than a quad-core CPU," joked Ars Technica. "The next step, of course, is unscrewing of the nostalgic little box to see how it ticks -- and whether its limited functionality might ever be expanded, either officially or by hackers." Slashdot reader romiz summarizes what's inside Nintendo's new miniature emulator for classic games: With a quad-core ARM Cortex-A7, 256 MB of RAM, and 512 MB of NAND Flash, it is typical of the hardware found in Linux single board computers, like the Raspberry Pi 2. Surprisingly for Nintendo, there does not seem to be any custom components in it, and it looks like it even does run Linux. [YouTube video] The GPL license for the kernel and many other open source components is visible in the legal information screen. The source, however, is not yet available on Nintendo's open source page.

But it is the re-edition a 1980s video console: there is no network access, no hardware expansion port, and the 30 games cannot be changed. Changing the system running on it will probably be difficult.
Security

You Can Legally Hack Your Own Car, Pacemaker, or Smartphone Now (wired.com) 106

Earlier this year, we ran a story about how even possessions as personal as one's car or tractor, or insulin pump could not be legally hacked by the owner, but those constraints are things of the past now. From a report on Wired: Last Friday, a new exemption to the decades-old law known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act quietly kicked in, carving out protections for Americans to hack their own devices without fear that the DMCA's ban on circumventing protections on copyrighted systems would allow manufacturers to sue themt (Editor's note: the website may block users who use adblocking tools. Here's an alternate source). One exemption, crucially, will allow new forms of security research on those consumer devices. Another allows for the digital repair of vehicles. Together, the security community and DIYers are hoping those protections, which were enacted by the Library of Congress's Copyright Office in October of 2015 but delayed a full year, will spark a new era of benevolent hacking for both research and repair. "This is a tremendously important improvement for consumer protection," says Andrea Matwyshyn, a professor of law and computer science at Northeastern University. "The Copyright Office has demonstrated that it understands our changed technological reality, that in every aspect of consumers' lives, we rely on code," says Matwyshyn, who argued for the exemptions last year. For now, the exemptions are limited to a two-year trial period. And the security research exemption in particular only applies to what the Copyright Office calls "good-faith" testing, "in a controlled environment designed to avoid any harm to individuals or to the public." As Matwyshyn puts it, "We're not talking about testing your neighbor's pacemaker while it's implanted. We're talking about a controlled lab and a device owned by the researcher."
Hardware Hacking

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Build Your Own Vacuum Tubes? 275

Could you beat wireless headphones by creating your own DIY home audio system? Two weeks ago one Slashdot commenter argued, "to have good audio that is truly yours and something to be proud of, you need to make your own vacuum tube amplifier and then use it to power real electrostatic headphones over a wire." And now long-time Slashdot reader mallyn is stepping up to the challenge: I want to try to make my own vacuum tubes. Is there anyone here who has tried DIY vacuum tubes (or valves, to you Europeans)? I need help getting started -- how to put together the vacuum plumbing system; how to make a glass lathe; what metals to use for the elements (grid, plate, etc). If this is not the correct forum, can anyone please gently shove me into the correct direction? It needs to be online as my physical location (Bellingham, Washington) is too far away from the university labs where this type of work is likely to be done.
Slashdot's covered the "tubes vs. transistors" debate before, but has anyone actually tried to homebrew their own? Leave your best answers in the comments. How do you build your own vacuum tubes?
Open Source

The World's Most Secure Home Computer Reaches Crowdfunding Goal (pcworld.com) 126

"If the PC is tampered with, it will trigger an alert and erase the PC's encryption key, making the data totally inaccessible." Last month Design SHIFT began crowdfunding an elaborate "open source, physically secure personal computer" named ORWL (after George Orwell). "Having exceeded its $25,000 funding goal on Crowd Supply, the super-secure PC is in production," reports PC World, in an article shared by Slashdot reader ogcricket about the device which tries to anticipate every possible attack: The encryption key to the drive is stored on a security microcontroller instead of the drive... The ORWL's makers say the wire mesh itself is constantly monitored... Any attempts to trick, bypass, or short the wire mesh will cause the encryption key to be deleted. The unit's security processor also monitors movement, and a user can select a setting that will wipe or lock down the PC's data if it is moved to another location... The RAM is soldered to the motherboard and can't be easily removed to be read elsewhere...

Your ORWL unlocks by using a secure NFC and Bluetooth LE keyfob. Pressing it against the top of the ORWL and entering a password authenticates the user. Once the user has been authenticated, Bluetooth LE is then ensures that the user is always nearby. Walk away, and the ORWL will lock.

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.

Slashdot Top Deals