Category Hardware

The jing-jang of hardware and software support

Ever since the 1980s, a vicious cycle of software and hardware requirements and updates has ‘plagued’ users and maintained high and constant rents to the vendors who systematically collude to render their previous offerings obsolete, while forcing (not enticing) their…

Δυο ημέρες με το Myo

Πριν από τρία περίπου χρόνια εξετάζαμε το ενδεχόμενο ανάπτυξης του AthensBook ως ένα ‘φυσικό’ αντικείμενο (κιόσκι) το οποίο θα βρισκόταν σε συγκεκριμένα σημεία στην πόλη (π.χ. στο lobby ενός ξενοδοχείου, ενός δημόσιου κτηρίου ή την σάλα ενός καταστήματος) και θα…

There goes your airgap.

This latest leak details how the NSA accessed targets by inserting tiny circuit boards or USB cards into computers and using radio waves to transmit data without the need for the machine to be connected to a wider network. It is a significant revelation in that it undermines what was seen to be one of the simplest but most effective methods of making a system secure: isolating it from the internet.
In other words: the NSA planted tranmitters (or tranceivers) and effectively turned air-gapped machines into machines transmitting to (/receiving from) their systems. Somewhat different from actually snooping on 'offline' machines, ala Tempest, as what many 'news' organizations hinted at by using inaccurate titles (the BBC, quoted above from this article, included). Unless all your offices are room-sized Faraday cages, with physical security and extensive background checks of the machine operators, the NSA just invalidated your airgap policy. But then again, your security was probably flawed anyway, especially against an adversary that competent/determined/resourceful.

Mind your Mind Share

It is almost 6 years since Apple announced and released the iPhone. I still remember Steve Jobs mentioning that his goal for the first year was to get 10M iPhones shipped; at the time almost 1% of the global mobile…

On the Google IO Keynote

So Android announced Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), the next version of the operating system with much awaited performance improvements and some new (marginal) features, available to Galaxy Nexus users in mid-July and the remaining 99% of the Android ecosystem sometime…

The (new) Microsoft Surface

Seeing the Microsoft Surface [really Microsoft? You guys couldn’t find a new, unique name?] Keynote reinforces my belief that the company has long lost the capacity of creating and projecting a genuine, unique and interesting image, products and services. When…

A Bill Of Rights

I found this article on EFF to be a very concise summary of many of the issues I've written (and often talked about) in the past, pertaining to the freedom to use the devices you have paid for and own as you see fit, and the increasingly worrying trend of manufacturer lockdowns that largely define what you can and cannot do with them. While Apple with its popular iOS may be the most well-known (and most successful) ambassador of the lock-down platform, the trend has been on the radar well before Apple managed to escape the threat of extinction in the late 1990s; Microsoft, with Windows RT and the Secure Boot flag in UEFI only manages to actually implement all those technologies they initially developed, studied and proposed more than ten years ago with Palladium/TCPA. The cat is still out of the box, but technology ages quickly and the threat is quite real: a combination of a cloud abused by the Valley oligopoly, lack of the computing storage ubiquity and locked down devices would be a nightmare scenario that would strip the computer of its fundamental differentiating quality from appliances of yore: its malleability, the power derived from its programmability and its ability to solve countless problems, to achieve infinite different tasks and not perform a single function, as manufacturers would most likely want.

A PC Emulator in Javascript.

You read this right: this is a 'full-fledged' PC emulator written in pure Javascript. It can boot linux. Amazing stuff, let's hope we get 'readable' source code sometime soon.

What's wrong with this?

Check out this table. A bunch of modern, high-quality, high-performing codecs. AAC+, AAC LC, enhanced AAC+, MP3. All decodable by Android, on all devices. Sadly, Android devices can only encode on AMR-NB at the sad sampling rate of 8KHz. At the miserable bitrate of 4.75 to 12.2kbps. At qualities unheard of since the early days of the telegraph (ok, I'm kidding --- AMR-NB is the voice codec most GSM and UMTS phonecalls are carried over). Now, you may be asking: Couldn't the manufacturer add encoding support for more audio codecs? Sure, and some do. Others, like HTC for example, don't. Even on high-end devices like the Desire. Devices with Qualcomm Snapdragon CPUs clocked at 1GHz. With hardware support for stereo AAC encoding. No, really, what on earth is wrong with these people. At the same time, HTC went into the hassle of adding encoding support for h.264 and 720p (using MPEG4). And it makes me wonder: that they added h.264 encoding support means they are at least clued up with respect to paying royalties, adding the codec to the system and making use of it. That they introduced 720p using MPEG4 on the other hand makes no sense: how useful is 720p video recording --- recently introduced with HTC's Froyo build for the Desire --- or the capability to record audio as a whole come to think of it, when the recorded audio on this phone sounds like a wax record from the 1880s, not least because of the totally backwards codec they use throughout, while one of the most powerful mobile device CPUs in the market today just sits there idling. Idiots.

Microsoft Courier.

If its anything like the demo video Microsoft’s Courier is the closest device I’ve seen to Apple’s — now classic — demonstration entitled the Knowledge Navigator. See the resemblance? From the few images and videos around, the device seems beautiful,…