Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 27th May 2018 18:03 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

I tend to dive down rabbit holes a lot, and given the cost of context switching and memory deteriorating over time, sometimes the state I build up in my mind gets lost between the chances I get to dive in. These 'linkdump' posts are an attempt to collate at least some of that state in a way that I can hopefully restore to my brain at a later point.

This time around I was inspired to look into USB reverse engineering, protocol analyis, hardware hacking, and what would be involved in implementing custom drivers for arbitrary hardware. Or put another way: how do I hack all of the USBs?!??

It seems the deeper I went, the more interesting I found the content, and this post grew and grew. Hopefully it will help to shortcut your own journey down this path, and enlighten you to a whole new area of interesting things to hack!

Let's continue this impromptu series on things I barely understand, shall we?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 27th May 2018 18:00 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

When Analog Devices released their SDR transciever AD9361 in 2013 - it was a revolution in digital radio. SDR's were there before, but only now you can have it all: 2 channels for TX and RX with onboard 12-bit DAC/ADCs with 56MHz of RF simultanious bandwidth, local oscillators, mixers and LNA - all working in the range from 70 (TX from 47) to 6000Mhz. Using AD9361 out of the box one could implement almost any useful digital radio, with the rare exceptions of UWB and 60GHz. You only need to add data source/sink (which is still often an FPGA), external filters and PA if your task requires it.

Finally I was able to take a look inside and peek at manufacturing cost of a microelectronic device with such an exceptional added value.

This is a little over my head, but I love the pretty pictures.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 27th May 2018 17:58 UTC
In the News

The Gemini was the most technically advanced of the personal robots available in 1985, with features that remain impressive today. It not only spoke but took voice commands. It was self-charging, and retained a map of your home for navigation purposes, a feature that was only introduced into the Roomba line in 2015, 13 years and 5 generations after its introduction. It could sing with synthesized piano accompaniment, recite poetry, and connect to early online services like CompuServe.

That's quite amazing.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 25th May 2018 20:25 UTC
Linux

One of the ongoing system administration controversies in Linux is that there is an ongoing effort to obsolete the old, cross-Unix standard network administration and diagnosis commands of ifconfig, netstat and the like and replace them with fresh new Linux specific things like ss and the ip suite. Old sysadmins are generally grumpy about this; they consider it yet another sign of Linux's 'not invented here' attitude that sees Linux breaking from well-established Unix norms to go its own way. Although I'm an old sysadmin myself, I don't have this reaction. Instead, I think that it might be both sensible and honest for Linux to go off in this direction. There are two reasons for this, one ostensible and one subtle.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 25th May 2018 20:23 UTC
Legal

This article is terrible, and clearly chooses sides with advertisers and data harvesters over users - not surprising, coming from Bloomberg.

For some of America's biggest newspapers and online services, it's easier to block half a billion people from accessing your product than comply with Europe's new General Data Protection Regulation.

The Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and The New York Daily News are just some telling visitors that, "Unfortunately, our website is currently unavailable in most European countries."

With about 500 million people living in the European Union, that's a hard ban on one-and-a-half times the population of the U.S.

Blanket blocking EU internet connections - which will include any U.S. citizens visiting Europe - isn't limited to newspapers. Popular read-it-later service Instapaper says on its website that it's "temporarily unavailable for residents in Europe as we continue to make changes in light of the General Data Protection Regulation."

Whenever a site blocks EU users, you can safely assume they got caught with their hands in the user data cookie jar. Some of these sites have dozens and dozens of trackers from dozens of different advertisement companies, so the real issue here is even these sites themselves simply have no clue to whom they're shipping off your data - hence making it impossible to comply with the GDPR in the first place.

The GDPR is not only already forcing companies to give insight into the data they collect on you - it's also highlighting those that simply don't care about your privacy. It's amazing how well GDPR is working, and it's only been in effect for one day.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 25th May 2018 17:23 UTC
Games

Valve's game streaming service Steam Link won't be coming to iOS today, despite a successful Android beta launch earlier this month. According to the official Steam Database Twitter account, Apple rejected the Steam Link app over apparent "business conflicts with app guidelines". Steam Link was first announced for mobile back in March, and the app functions as a remote desktop so users can access their Steam library of PC games from a mobile device and stream them directly for touchscreen play or for use with a Bluetooth controller.

It's not exactly clear at the moment what the "business conflict" here is, and whether it has anything to do with Apple's somewhat contentious 30 percent App Store fee for all purchases, in-app or otherwise. It may perhaps be due to the fact that Steam Link allows an iOS user to access another app store, namely Steam, within Apple's tightly controlled ecosystem. Apple was not immediately available for comment.

If that really is the reason Apple banned the application, they should ban every single remote desktop application.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 25th May 2018 17:21 UTC
Linux

Have you ever tried to install Minecraft and seen an error message like, "This application requires a Java Runtime Environment 1.6.0"? Or you try to install something on Windows, and you get an error that says some .NET framework is missing? Or, as a more basic example, have you ever spent a couple hours setting up a new computer with all your applications and preferences?

Those are the kinds of problems Docker, and "containers" more broadly (Docker is kind of the Kleenex of containers), are meant to solve. Docker makes it easy to install Linux applications on servers, along with their required dependencies and whatever preferences you might have for those applications. And, as an added bonus, conflicting dependencies between applications (maybe one app relies on Python 2, and another app relies on Python 3) aren't an issue, because everything is isolated in different containers.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 24th May 2018 22:15 UTC
Windows

In this new version, there are two ways to control file access. You can either decide which apps can access your files stored in the Documents, Pictures, or Videos libraries. Or you can choose which apps have full system access to all of your files, including the ones in the Documents, Pictures, Videos, and local OneDrive folders.

In this Windows 10 guide, we'll walk you through the steps to manage settings to prevent apps from accessing your files.

A nifty little feature I didn't even know existed.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 24th May 2018 22:11 UTC
Android

Big news for those of you who have NVIDIA Shield TV - which, by the way, is the only Android TV box you should consider right now. The Android 8.0 Oreo update (which brings it up to the latest major version of Android) is available starting today.

This'll bring along a major update to the user interface. You'll get new sections along the left side of the screen, with your favorite apps (customizable, of course), play next (where what you've been watching and playing recently will appear) and channels (which is what apps are now called, sort of).

In addition, Amazon Prime Video will get a major refresh, Plex Media Service is improved, and a whole bunch more.

The NVIDIA Shield TV is a device with a what I guess is a small, but very dedicated fanbase. I'm always tempted to buy one to see what all the fuss is about.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 24th May 2018 22:06 UTC
Android

Instead, the problem with the gestures in the current iteration of the Android P beta is one that is sadly familiar to Android users: jank. That's the technical term (no really) that Google itself uses to describe the behavior of the System UI on this beta. "Jank" is usually translated as weird jitters, effects, and scrolling behavior.

I trust that much of that will be resolved in later iterations of the software, but I'm frankly terrified that the subtler issues won't be. I'm speaking about the basic feel of moving elements around on the screen. It needs to be as close to perfect as possible - as good as it is on the iPhone X in my opinion - otherwise that sense of "jank" is going to permeate everything.

On a modern flagship, I haven't experienced any animation issues on Android in years. I remain convinced that iOS users think Android scrolling is "laggy" because Android scrolling is different, not because it's actually any worse on a flagship, that is. I haven't touched a lower-spec Android phone in ages, so I don't know how bad the situation is on those phones.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 24th May 2018 22:01 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Essential Products Inc., a startup co-founded by Android creator Andy Rubin that launched last year to great fanfare, is considering selling itself and has canceled development of a new smartphone, according to people familiar with the matter.

Well, that was a short run.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 24th May 2018 21:17 UTC
Internet Explorer

One of the big advantages that Microsoft has been promoting for its Edge browser is that it's more battery efficient than both Chrome and Firefox. My own anecdotal experience bears this out; although I use Chrome for most browsing, I've found it burns battery faster than Edge under similar workloads. Whenever I'm mobile, I switch to Microsoft's browser over Google's.

Microsoft's own figures use a video-playback benchmark, and the company has duly released a new comparison for the Windows 10 April 2018 Update, version 1803. Edge still comes out ahead - it lasts 98 percent longer than Mozilla Firefox, and 14 percent longer than Google Chrome - but it's striking that the gap with Chrome has narrowed.

I'm one of those weird people who legitimately prefers Edge over other browsers on Windows, and I can say that it's getting better with every single update. The battery life issue is a huge win over Chrome, but what's most important to me is that Edge seems to tax my processor less, and, of course it actually looks like a Windows application, whereas Chrome looks like an outdated eyesore that stands out.

For now, I'll keep using Edge over other browsers, but as always, I keep an eye on developments like this.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 23rd May 2018 22:54 UTC
Microsoft

Microsoft is extending the GDPR's rights to all of its customers across the world.

That's why today we are announcing that we will extend the rights that are at the heart of GDPR to all of our consumer customers worldwide. Known as Data Subject Rights, they include the right to know what data we collect about you, to correct that data, to delete it and even to take it somewhere else. Our privacy dashboard gives users the tools they need to take control of their data.

Good move, but these controls and options should've been there from the start. Goes to show that corporations are terrible at self-regulation - something everybody should know by now. In any event, I'll be spending some time this weekend digging through all the data Google, Apple, and Microsoft have on me.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 23rd May 2018 22:49 UTC
Mac OS X

Here's a bit of numerology for you. Today marks 17 years, one month, and 29 days since Mac OS X 10.0 was released on March 24, 2001. That's a strangely odd number - 6269 days - but it also happens to be the exactly length of time between January 24, 1984 (the launch of the original Macintosh) and March 24, 2001.

In other words, today the Mac's second operating system era, powered by Mac OS X (now macOS) has been in existence as long as the first era was.

Time is a weird thing, and it truly doesn't feel like OS X is that old.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 23rd May 2018 19:54 UTC
Games

Behold the Philips CD-i! It’s got Mario! Zelda! Movies on CD! Uh… interactive encyclopedias! What could go wrong? Apparently, everything.

Born out of the same aborted efforts to create a CD-based console for Nintendo that would eventually produce the Sony Playstation, the CD-i was an ambitious attempt to create a multi-purpose home entertainment console. However, instead of kickstarting the trend of CD-based gaming, the CD-i turned into one of the great failures of the video game industry, reportedly costing Philips near a billion dollars by the time it was discontinued.

Nonetheless, it did end up fostering some amazingly idiosyncratic (and widely reviled) pieces of video game history.

Since I'm Dutch and have lived in The Netherlands my whole life, I feel like the CD-i is a much greater part of my memory than of people in other countries. Philips is a Dutch company, after all, and I vaguely recall the CD-i being hyped into the stratosphere over here. I wanted one when the hype started, but I never did even see one in real life.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 23rd May 2018 19:50 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces

There's something about the macOS operating system that kind of drives people wild. (Heck, even the original Mac OS has its strong partisans.) In the 17 years since Apple first launched the first iteration of the operating system based on its Darwin Unix variant, something fairly curious started to happen: People without Macs suddenly wanted the operating system, if not the hardware it ran on. This phenomenon is somewhat common today - I personally just set up a Hackintosh of my own recently - but I'd like to highlight a different kind of "Hackintosh", the kind that played dress-up with Windows. Today's Tedium talks about the phenomenon of Mac skinning, specifically on Windows. Hide your computer's true colors under the hood.

I used to do this back in the early 2000s (goodness, I've been here way too long!). It was a fun thing to do, since you could never make it quite good enough - there was always something to improve. Good times.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 23rd May 2018 19:39 UTC
Apple

Apple has today launched its new Data and Privacy website, allowing Apple users to download everything that Apple personally associates with your account, from Apple ID info, App Store activity, AppleCare history to data stored in iCloud like photos and documents. This is currently only available for European Union accounts, to comply with GDPR, and will roll out worldwide in the coming months.

There are also simple shortcuts to updating your info, temporarily deactivating your account and options to permanently delete it.

It's almost like all the people whining about suddenly having to care about their users' personal data were wrong, and the GDPR is actually doing what it's supposed to do: force accountability onto data holders.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 23rd May 2018 19:36 UTC
Windows

Twitter user WalkingCat, famous for finding and sharing this kind of information, has discovered files in the SDK mentioning an "Andromeda device" and "Andromeda OS". As previously reported, Andromeda OS is just one variant of the upcoming Windows Core OS the company has been working on. WalkingCat has found mention of Polaris as well - the version of Windows Core OS targeted at more traditional PCs.

Windows Core OS is a new, "modern" version of Microsoft's flagship OS, which strips out most of the legacy compatibility and software, making the operating system lighter and more flexible. Core OS is said to adapt its interface to all different kinds of devices thanks to the new CShell UI.

Eventually, the hammer's gonna drop: all new laptops and PCs will ship with a Win32-less version of Windows. The signs are clear for anyone to see, and as a Windows developer, you'd do good by preparing yourself.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 23rd May 2018 19:31 UTC
Legal

A federal district court judge on Wednesday ruled that President Trump can't block people from viewing his Twitter feed over their political views.

Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, said President Trump's Twitter account is a public forum and blocking people who reply to his tweets with differing opinions constitutes viewpoint discrimination, which violates the First Amendment.

I'm sure an autocrat like Trump will respect the wishes of a court. I mean, it's not like he has a history of attacking courts and judges, right?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 22nd May 2018 23:30 UTC
Internet & Networking

Computer History Museum (CHM), the world's leading institution exploring the history of computing and its impact on the human experience, today announced the public release and long-term preservation of the Eudora source code, one of the early successful email clients, as part of its Center for Software History’s Historical Source Code. The release comes after a five-year negotiation with Qualcomm.

The source code for both the Mac and Windows versions are released, and there's a post on Medium with more details about this latest work by the Computer History Museum.

I've never used Eudora in any serious manner, so I don't have the kind of connection with it that some others have. Still, I am always happy when 'dead' software's source code is released as open source, so that it effectively never dies.