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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".
Education

How Linux Saved A School's Failing Windows Laptop Program (opensource.com) 255

OpenSource.com reports on a Minnesota school's 1:1 program -- one device per child -- where "Lots of the Windows laptops were in very poor condition and needed to be replaced." An anonymous reader writes: An Indiegogo campaign triggered extra money and donations of laptops, allowing the school's Linux club to equip much of the school with Linux laptops. "When you're using open source software you're free to use operating systems and application software without the hassle of license keys or license tracking inherent with proprietary software," says Stu Keroff, the school's technology coordinator. "This allows a school to experiment [and] gives them the freedom to make mistakes...

But there's also another benefit. "By empowering the students to be part of that process we were able to get more done, and to generate more excitement about the learning that the students were taking part in." There's now a waiting list for the school's Linux club, where they'd planned to cap membership at 35...until 62 students applied. Instead, they found themselves creating two Linux clubs, one for the sixth graders, and one for the 7th and 8th graders.

And to answer the obvious question -- they're using Ubuntu, with the Unity desktop.
Portables

Ask Slashdot: What's The Best Cheap Linux-Friendly Netbook? 187

Seems like a good time to revisit this question -- assuming anyone's still using a netbook. Long-time Slashdot reader Qbertino writes: I'm looking for a cheap lightweight netbook that is Linux-friendly, i.e. lets me install Linux without any shoddy modern BIOS getting in my way... The Lenovo 100S-11 looks really neat, but I just read about installation problems... Are there any alternatives?

And if there aren't, what experience do you guys have running Linux on a Chromebook using Crouton -- the Linux-parallel-to-Chrome-OS hack? Is it a feasible alternative to dumping ChromeOS and installing a 100% lightweight Linux?

His budget is around $200, and he ends his submission with "Many thanks from a fellow Slashdotter." So leave your suggestions in the comments. What's the best cheap Linux-friendly netbook?
Data Storage

RIP John Ellenby, Godfather of the Modern Laptop (nytimes.com) 33

John Ellenby managed the development of the Alto II before starting the company that built the world's first successful "clamshell" laptop. Slashdot reader fragMasterFlash quotes the New York Times: Ellenby, a British-born computer engineer who played a critical role in paving the way for the laptop computer, died on August 17 in San Francisco. He was 75... Mr. Ellenby's pioneering work came to fruition in the early 1980s, after he founded Grid Systems, a company in Mountain View, California. As chief executive, he assembled an engineering and design team that included the noted British-born industrial designer William Moggridge.

The team produced a clamshell computer with an orange electroluminescent flat-panel display that was introduced as the Compass. It went to market in 1982. The Compass is now widely acknowledged to have been far ahead of its time.

Back in the 1980s, NASA used them as backup navigational devices on the space shuttle -- one was recovered from the wreckage of the Space Shuttle Challenger -- and John Poindexter, America's national security advisor during the Reagan administration, described them as "built like an armored tank". Data storage cost $8,150 -- equivalent to $20,325 today.
Android

Android Stagefright Bug Required 115 Patches, Millions Still At Risk (eweek.com) 50

eWeek reports that "hundreds of millions of users remain at risk" one year after Joshua Drake discovered the Stagefright Android flaw. Slashdot reader darthcamaro writes: A year ago, on July 27, 2015 news about the Android Stagefright flaw was first revealed with the initial reports claiming widespread impact with a billion users at risk. As it turns out, the impact of Stagefright has been more pervasive...over the last 12 months, Google has patched no less than 115 flaws in Stagefright and related Android media libraries. Joshua Drake, the researcher who first discovered the Stagefright flaw never expected it to go this far. "I expected shoring up the larger problem to take an extended and large effort, but I didn't expect it to be ongoing a year later."
Drake believes targeted attacks use Stagefright vulnerabilities on unpatched systems, but adds that Android's bug bounty program appears to be working, paying out $550,000 in its first year.
Handhelds

Ask Slashdot: Why Do Most Tablet Specs Suck? 231

Slashdot reader Qbertino describes himself as a "happy tablet user," moving from an old HTC Flyer to his Yoga 2. But he notes that most other tablets "have laughable battery times," and "I've yet to find a tablet that does not give me storage or memory problems in some way or other, lasts for a day or two in power and doesn't feel chintzy and like it won't stand a month of regular everyday use and carrying around..." He asks why none of the manufacturers seem willing to offer more than one gigabyte of RAM -- and why they're so stingy with storage. "Where is the rugged 16GB RAM / 1TB Storage / 20-hour battery tablet?"

So leave your educated opinions in the comments. What are your thoughts on the current tablet market? And are they the ultimate all-purpose "convergence" device that Apple and Ubuntu seem to think they are?
Portables

Dell Bringing Thunderbolt 3 USB-C Support To Linux 37

Freshly Exhumed writes: A series of posts on the Project Sputnik developers' forum at Dell indicate that hardware on a soon to be released XPS 13 Developer Edition laptop will support Thunderbolt 3 USB Type C, which has been tested on the device with video and USB 3.1 on non-dock devices, although Dell's Type C docks are not yet supported. Intel has already implemented Thunderbolt 3 drivers in the Linux kernel, so this Dell initiative represents a first for a physical implementation on a consumer platform.
Intel

Dell Packs Xeon and Quadro GPU In 4lb Laptop (hothardware.com) 75

MojoKid writes: To look at the Dell Precision 15 5510, you wouldn't know that it sits in the middle of Dell's workstation lineup. The laptop is thinner and sleeker than you might expect a workstation-class laptop to be and the premium carbon fiber palm rest gives the system a decidedly high-end vibe. Not to mention, like the XPS 15, Dell equipped this machine with its 4K IGZO Infinity Edge display that has almost no bezel on three of its sides. However, the Precision 15 5510 is actually Dell's mid-range mobile workstation that also supports Intel Xeon E3 processors and NVIDIA's Quadro M1000 series GPUs. It's essentially a mobile workstation version of Dell's XPS 15 line but along with an NVMe PCIe Solid State Drive, delivers professional grade performance and the pro app certifications that go with it. Compared to Lenovo's ThinkPad W550 line, the Precision 15 is a more sleek, stylish machine and in testing it packs more punch as well. Lenovo may already have their Skylake Xeon refresh in the works for the ThinkPad W series, however.
Portables

Asus ZenBook UX305CA Shows What Skylake Core M Is Capable Of (hothardware.com) 160

MojoKid writes: ASUS recently revamped their ZenBook UX305 family of ultralight notebooks with Intel's 6th generation Skylake Core m series, which brings with it not only improved graphics performance but also native support for PCI Express NVMe M.2 Solid State Drives. The platform is turning out to be fairly strong for this category of notebooks and the low cost ZenBook ($699 as tested) is a good example of what a Skylake Core M is capable of in a balanced configuration. Tested here, the machine is configured with a 256GB M.2 SSD, 8GB of RAM and a 2.2GHz Core m3-6Y30 dual-core CPU. Along with a 13.3-inch 1080p FHD display and 802.11ac wireless connectivity, the ZenBook UX305 is setup nicely and it puts up solid performance numbers in both standard compute tasks and graphics. It also offers some of the best battery life numbers in an ultralight yet, lasting over 10 hours on a charge in real world connected web testing.
Portables

Building a Laptop Enclosure To Last (makezine.com) 116

An anonymous reader writes: Build quality is a characteristic many people value in laptop design, but one that often goes unrepresented on a spec sheet. Over at Make, Kurt Mottweiler took build quality to the next level with his laptop enclosure design, which replaces the typical plastic clamshell with a wood veneer filled with e-glass cloth and cork composite. The article shows his build process in detail. Quoting: "The LCD panel and main enclosure components are assembled using vacuum bag clamping techniques. After assembling the layers of the panels at the glue station, the assembly is transferred to the molding station where it is put into a seamed bag and sealed up with a roller rod and clamps. Then a special vacuum pump is used to evacuate the bag and allow atmospheric pressure to clamp the layers together while the epoxy binder cures. ... To increase the strength, improve heat dissipation, and enhance the aesthetic properties of the Heirloom's main enclosure, I chose to use an undulating shape across the width of the bottom panel. The slight wave provides a semi-monocoque structure that stiffens the otherwise flat section of the case while providing for a measure of air flow across the bottom of the case."
Businesses

Fujitsu Spins Off Its PC and Mobile Divisions (engadget.com) 100

An anonymous reader writes: Back in February, Sony unloaded the part of its business that built PCs. Now, a year later, competitor Fujitsu is doing the same. The company announced it would be spinning off its PC and mobile business, effective 1 February 2016. Your first reaction was probably, "Fujitsu had a PC and mobile business?" You're not alone, and this is likely why the split is happening. In their press release, they say, "With the ongoing commoditization of ubiquitous products, mainly of PCs and smart phones, it has become increasingly difficult to achieve differentiation, and competition with emerging global vendors has intensified." More simply: they couldn't make a competitive product. Hopefully, this is the start of a trend; the race to zero in the Windows laptop market is finally killing off some of the participants.
Handhelds

Ask Slashdot: What Single Change Would You Make To a Tech Product? 508

An anonymous reader writes: We live in an age of sorcery. The supercomputers in our pockets are capable of doing things it took armies of humans to accomplish even a hundred years ago. But let's face it: we're also complainers at heart. For every incredible, revolutionary device we use, we can find something that's obviously wrong with it. Something we'd instantly fix if we were suddenly put in charge of design. So, what's at the top of your list? Hardware, software, or service — don't hold back.

Here's an example: over the past several years, e-readers have standardized on 6-inch screens. For all the variety that exists in smartphone and tablet sizing, the e-reader market has decided it must copy the Kindle form factor or die trying. Having used an e-reader before all this happened, I found a 7-8" e-ink screen to be an amazingly better reading experience. Oh well, I'm out of luck. It's not the worst thing in the world, but I'd fix it immediately if I could.
IOS

Tim Cook: Apple Won't Create 'Converged' MacBook and iPad (independent.ie) 337

LichtSpektren writes: In an interview with Independent.ie, Apple CEO Tim Cook has stated that Apple is currently not looking to create an iPad that runs Mac OS X. "We feel strongly that customers are not really looking for a converged Mac and iPad, because what that would wind up doing, or what we're worried would happen, is that neither experience would be as good as the customer wants. So we want to make the best tablet in the world and the best Mac in the world. And putting those two together would not achieve either. You'd begin to compromise in different ways." Cook also commented that he does not travel with a Mac anymore, only his iPad Pro and iPhone.
Portables

InFocus's New Kangaroo: a Screenless $99 Windows 10 Portable PC (venturebeat.com) 224

An anonymous reader writes: InFocus today debuted the Kangaroo, a $99 Windows 10 portable PC that "goes anywhere and works with any screen." The term "mobile desktop" may seem like an oxymoron, but that really is the best description: Picture your typical desktop PC tower shrunk down to the size of a phablet sans screen; just like any desktop, you'll still need to connect a mouse, keyboard, and monitor.
Handhelds

What Might a $50 Tablet Inspire? (arstechnica.com) 169

theodp writes: Surprisingly, says Ars Technica's review of Amazon's $50 Fire tablet, it doesn't suck. "There's simply very little reason to spend more when you can get 90 percent of the functionality for a fraction of the price," writes Mark Walton. "The only real niggle right now with the Fire Tablet is the display (and the camera, if you really want to take photos with your tablet). Once budget tabs start coming with 1080p displays as standard, the writing really will be on wall. For now, the Amazon Fire Tablet is the budget tablet to beat." How does cheap technology like this mesh with Bill Gates's dream of putting a computer in every home, and projects like OLPC? Beyond that, any thoughts on what a $50 tablet price point might inspire in education, gaming, and other areas?

Hands-On WIth Dell's 4K Infinity Edge-Equipped Laptops (hothardware.com) 77

MojoKid writes: Dell's 2015 version of the XPS 13, the company's 13-inch premium ultrabook, is arguably one of the most acclaimed laptops of the year, with its "Infinity Edge" display that comes in resolutions from 1080p up to UHD 4K, with almost no bezel, and a carbon fiber composite chassis design with a machined aluminum lid. Based on the product's success in the market, Dell recently announced they were bringing the design approach and 4K Infinity Edge display to both their XPS 15 consumer based ultrabooks as well as their Precision 15 professional line up. At Dell World 2015 this week Austin, the company had both 15-inch versions on display for demos and this quick hands on shows just how compact and well-built the machines are, though they're also now refreshed with Intel Skylake processors and PCIe NVMe SSDs.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Mission To Reignite the PC Sector (nytimes.com) 267

HughPickens.com writes: Sales of personal computers have been declining for so long — 14 consecutive quarters — that it's hard remember a time when PCs ruled the tech world. Now Nick Wingfield writes in the NY Times that Microsoft is leading the way on a mission to re-ignite the PC market by taking the once-unthinkable step of competing with its hardware partners. This week, Microsoft dived even further into the business with a laptop device, the Surface Book. The stated reason that Microsoft got into the PC hardware business three years ago, with the original Surface, was not to put PC companies out of business — but to better illustrate the capabilities of its software, providing devices that would inspire PC makers to be more innovative.

One of the most remarkable things about Microsoft's growing presence in the hardware business is that it has not led to open revolt among its partners. Initially, many of them were not happy about Microsoft's moves, complaining in private. "It's positioned as a laptop, very squarely against the MacBook Pro as an example. But that could also be extended to a Dell XPS 13, or an HP x360," says Patrick Moorhead. One reason there hasn't been more pushback from OEMs is that Microsoft's Surface business is still relatively small. Another is that the money Microsoft has poured into marketing Surface has raised the broader profile of Windows PCs. While Microsoft obviously risks alienating its partners, it's doing so with a much bigger fight in mind. "Right now Microsoft really believes that it has to have a combined hardware, software, and services play to go up against the likes of Apple," says Moorhead. "That's why it's doing this. That's why it's taking such an aggressive stance now, moving to laptops."

Portables

Ask Slashdot: Recommendations For a Reliable Linux Laptop? 237

An anonymous reader writes: I will be looking for a new laptop soon and I'm mostly interested in high reliability and Linux friendliness. I have been using an MSI laptop (with Windows 7) for the last five years as my main workhorse and did not have a single, even minor problem with the hardware nor the OS. It turned out to be a slam-dunk, although I didn't do any particular research before buying it, so I was just lucky. I would like to be more careful this time around, so this is a hardware question: What laptop do you recommend for high reliability with Linux? I will also appreciate any advice on what to avoid and any unfortunate horror stories; I guess we can all learn from those. Anti-recommendations are probably just as valuable, a lesson I learned when an HP laptop I bought (low-end, I admit) turned out to be notoriously fickle when it comes to Linux support. Since our anonymous submitter doesn't specify his budget, it would be good if you specify the price for any specific laptops you recommend.
DRM

WSJ: We Need the Right To Repair Our Gadgets 345

An anonymous reader writes: An editorial in the Wall Street Journal rings a bell we've been ringing for years: "Who owns the knowledge required to take apart and repair TVs, phones and other electronics? Manufacturers stop us by controlling repair plans and limiting access to parts. Some even employ digital software locks to keep us from making changes or repairs. This may not always be planned obsolescence, but it's certainly intentional obfuscation." The article shows that awareness of this consumer-hostile behavior (and frustration with it) is going mainstream. The author links to several DIY repair sites like iFixit, and concludes, "Repairing stuff isn't as complicated as they want you to think. Skilled gadget owners and independent repair pros deserve access to the information they need to do the best job they can."
Handhelds

Amazon Reportedly Aiming For the Low End With a Loss-Leader $50 Tablet 111

Amazon has been dogged with criticism for its high-end, somewhat oddball phone, but done rather better with its high-end Fire tablets, and has mostly defined the market for e-ink book-reading devices with its long-lived Kindle series. Now, according to a report in the WSJ echoed by Fortune (and by Ars Technica and many others), the company is said to be working on a tablet aimed at the low end of the market, with a 6-inch screen, a mono speaker, and a tiny pricetag -- which could be as low as $50. "At the bottom end of the range at least, the devices won’t be priced to make a profit," writes Fortune. "The dirt-cheap price tag is intended to maximise the reach of its e-book and Amazon Prime video streaming content."

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