Building Linux images for ARM architectures

Want to try your hand at building a Linux package for an embedded device? [SnowBot] decided to give it a try and set out to build Ubuntu for a GumStix. The single-board computer will cost you about $150 to get started, plus a way to connect to the device’s serial port. But once you’ve got your hands on it there is a lot of power in a tiny package.

He’s using the RootStock package to assist in the build. This is a suite of tools that generates the root file system that can be loaded onto an SD card for use with the Gumstix. It’s not quite building from the ground up, but there’s already enough hoops to jump through that this package is a welcomed shortcut.

Already rolling your own Linux packages for embedded hardware? We want to hear about it.

Nike + iPod as a tracking device

[Thomas] found a paper from 2006 that describes using the Nike + iPod system as inexpensive tracking devices. Yep, it’s old as dirt but we think it’s fascinating reading! [Scott Saponas] and his fellow authors take a hard look at the lack of security in the system in a twelve-page PDF. They cover several different ways to capture and track one of the $29 tags in someone’s shoe, including using the Gumstix reader above, or a slightly modified 3G iPod. If the sensors are not removed or manually switched off when not in use they can be picked up by any RF reader within range. Because the tags are cheap and available, one could be planted on an unsuspecting victim James-Bond-style. Maybe this is what prompted Apple’s half-hearted attempt to restrict hacking the devices to do things like unlock doors.

Of course if you don’t want to do the reading you could download their video presentation or just stream it.

Head-mounted computer with Linux, WiFi


Most wearable computers we’ve seen feature a head-mounted display tethered to a small PC system in a backpack or worn on a belt. Here’s a slick little system that does away with the cord, fitting the entire system in the glasses.

[Pascal Brisset’s] WXHMD is based on the tiny Gumstix Overo Fire computer-on-module which features a beefy, 3D-capable OMAP processor that runs Linux. The Gumstix is interfaced with a Vuzix VR920 head-mounted display that includes a three-axis accelerometer and compass. Tying these together is a custom video digital-to-analog converter board of [Pascal’s] own design, created using direct-to-PCB inkjet printing techniques. For less than $1,000 total in parts, the result is a spatially aware six ounce computer, with display and battery and all, that fits neatly over the bridge of one’s nose.

It’s a fantastic hack and a nicely documented project, though even the device’s creator himself questions whether having a pair of microwave transceivers and a LiPo battery strapped directly over one’s eyes and brain is such a good idea.

[thanks w3pt]

Augmented Network Interfaces


Here’s an interesting bit of research to come out of Microsoft and UCSD. The Somniloquy project is a new type of network interface. It’s a USB device that allows a computer to continue network communications after being put to sleep. By offloading these tasks, machines that would normally stay awake for RDP and file transfers are only powered up when absolutely necessary. The device uses a Gumstix board like the one used in the Tor hardware adapter. The device pictured above has two USB interfaces, but the second is just for debugging and not needed for proper operation. The board runs BSD and creates a USBNet bridge to the Vista host. When the host daemon detects the computer going to sleep, it hands off active communication to the gumstix. They developed “stub” applications to handle the various types of communication. For downloads, they used wget to download only the portion of the data that was still left. For bittorrent, they customized the command line client ctorrent to manage the download. Both programs wake up the PC upon completion and transfer the file off of the SD card.

[via Engadget]

Tor hardware privacy adapter


The Janus team have published a preview of their new Privacy Adapter. It’s a small two port router. You just plug it in-line between your computer/switch and your internet connection. It will then anonymize all of you traffic via the Tor network. You can also use it with OpenVPN. The hardware appears to be a Gumstix computer mounted to a daughtercard with two ethernet ports. It will have a web configuration just like a standard router. This looks like a great plug-n-play privacy device. The only improvement we would suggest is adding auto-detect so a crossover cable isn’t required.

Janus is responsible for JanusVM, a virtual machine designed to protect your privacy with technologies like Tor and OpenVPN.

[via @hdmoore]