Android for the Paranoid

July 23rd, 2010 Comments off

A couple of apps recently have asked for permissions that I don’t particularly want to give them – they have functionality that’s beyond what I want/need of the app, and I am forced to choose between losing the main functionality of the software, or suddenly trusting it a lot more than I would otherwise need to.

In the case of the excellent android-xbmcremote it has extra functionality that displays SMS and incoming calls on the TV screen from your phone if you want it to. I would never want it to do this, but I have to let it have access to my incoming texts and contacts on install regardless.

At least the source code is available to inspect in that instance.

It’s more frustrating with apps like the Better Keyboard one, which at some point in its upgrade cycle suddenly demanded internet access… hmm… you can send everything I type to an arbitrary server? No thanks!

But wait – why did they add it? Oh yes, so that the new voice recognition feature could send audio off to a speech-to-text server. If you don’t want that extra functionality, tough luck – you’re suddenly faced with a “like it or lump it” decision.

Hopefully one day the Android mechanism will be improved so that on install users could choose fewer permissions, and the applications will check what the user has let them do and alter their UI accordingly. Until then, static permissions and functionally unnecessary levels of trust are the order of the day.

O2 Joggler hacking

April 8th, 2010 Comments off

Well, at £49.99 it would be rude not to… an Intel Atom-based touchscreen computer? Flash interface? Well, you can get rid of that for a start…

Categories: Embedded, Linux Tags: , , ,

One of those new-fangled Xbox things…

February 16th, 2010 2 comments

… now it’s been around for 8 years or more, I thought it was time to pick up an Xbox.  The local Gamestation shop caught my eye, as they were selling “previously enjoyed” stock for £14.99, with leads and a controller.

I got it home and fired it up, noticing that I’d been given a free copy of The Godfather.  It’s a Grand Theft Auto-style game, but with added mafia goodness.  Excellent.  I already have it on the Wii, where I think it benefits from the wiimote actions for head butting and so on, but no harm in seeing it on a different platform.

The next step was to open it up, which involved finding the right Torx screwdrivers, then attacking it.  Job done, and the hard drive was mine for the taking.  I unlocked it, then hotswapped it to apply a patch, installed XBMC on it as the dashboard, then booted it up again to see how badly I’d mangled it.

But no – success was mine!  Added my NAS box as a source, and was able to play films off it over the network with no issues.  Brilliant.

Next step is to get the remote sensor for it, so I can set it up to use with my Logitech Harmony 885 remote (which I love).

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , ,

Don’t save the dolphins…

June 28th, 2009 Comments off

I was a bit late reading this blog post from February, but it’s still worth pointing out.  The gist of it is that moving to dolphin-friendly tuna fishing has caused a vast amount of damage to lots of non-dolphin species, some of which are endangered.

Another case of good intentions not being enough.

Categories: Science Tags:

Acer Aspire Revo is out now

May 18th, 2009 Comments off
Acer Apire Revo

Acer Apire Revo

A NetTop sporting an Atom 230 1.6GHz CPU, 1GB RAM, 8GB SSD, NVidia Ion platform, Wifi (802.11b/g), 10/100 LAN, memory card reader, VGA and HDMI out, eSATA and 6 USB 2.0 ports for £149.99 delivered?

Apparently this Linux-based model will sell with a hard drive instead after this SSD shipment has been got through.  There are more expensive Windows-based versions as well, but this looks really well-priced in comparison.

Finally the age of the powerful-and-cheap-enough system is upon us.

Categories: Linux, Uncategorized Tags: , ,

Amusing alternative history of programming languages

May 10th, 2009 1 comment

This morning I stumbled upon a blog post by James Iry, entitled “A Brief, Incomplete, and Mostly Wrong History of Programming Languages“.  It’s very funny, featuring entries like this:

1842 – Ada Lovelace writes the first program. She is hampered in her efforts by the minor inconvenience that she doesn’t have any actual computers to run her code. Enterprise architects will later relearn her techniques in order to program in UML.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

Cheap-ish S3C2440 board

May 6th, 2009 Comments off
Arm9 S3C2440 dev kit

Arm9 S3C2440 dev kit

I noticed this on ebay the other day.  It’s an ARM9 dev board with ethernet, 3 serial ports, USB host/client, SD card, and even a 3.5″ touchscreen, going for £49.99 + £25 delivery (from Hong Kong, naturally).  It’s amusing to compare the price of this dev kit with what you can get from some embedded hardware companies in Europe… nothing comes very close at all when just looking for a one-off.  Moreover, it comes with both CE 5.0 and Linux BSPs.


April 23rd, 2009 Comments off
Beagleboard photo


The board I’ve had since last year is an altogether different beast. The Beagleboard boasts decent performance in a very small form factor. The Angstrom Linux distro runs well, with DSP-assisted mplayer playback, and 3D acceleration. The OMAP3530 running the show is in PoP format – the CPU, DSP and memory are all stacked on top of eachother in a very small footprint on the PCB.

Categories: Embedded, Linux Tags: ,

Cheap embedded x86-instructon set computer

April 23rd, 2009 Comments off
Biffer Board main module

Bifferboard main module

I’ve been playing around with the bifferboard for a couple of weeks now.  At present, it’s sat on my home network with its rootfs running from a USB key, which is attached via an unpowered hub along with a Logitech QuickCam 5000.  MJPG-Streamer allows me to view the webcam output from wherever I like (using Safari on my iPod Touch demos this nicely).  The bifferboard consumes a whole watt (200mA current at 5V), which isn’t too shabby.  When I bought my board they were going for £26, which isn’t bad for a tiny 486SX-compatible unit running at 150MHz, with 32MB SDRAM, USB host and an ethernet port.

The kernel’s Linux (currently OpenWrt-based), and fits happily inside the 1MB flash available on-board.

My next step is to hook up a cheap temperature monitor I got from a while ago, but that’s a bit more involved.  It’s actually I2C, but with a USB<->Serial adapter interface.  A chap called Tollef Fog Heen has kindly made some source available to control that from Linux, and supplied a  patch to the kernel too.

Categories: Embedded, Linux Tags: ,