Linux Fu: The Linux Android Convergence

The Android phone that you carry in your pocket is basically a small computer running Linux. So why is it so hard to get to a usable Linux environment on your phone? If you could run Linux, you could turn your cell phone into an ultra-portable laptop replacement.

Of course, the obvious approach is just to root the phone and clean-slate install a Linux distribution on it. That’s pretty extreme and, honestly, you would probably lose a lot of phone function unless you go with a Linux-specific phone like the PinePhone. However, using an installer called AnLinux, along with a terminal program and a VNC client, you can get a workable setup without nuking your phone’s OS, or even having root access. Let’s see what we can do. Continue reading “Linux Fu: The Linux Android Convergence”

Should You Build For Windows, Mac, IOS, Android, Or Linux? Yes!

The holy grail of computer languages is to write code once and have it deploy effortlessly everywhere. Java likes to take credit for the idea, but UCSD P-Code was way before that and you could argue that mainframes had I/O abstraction like Fortran unit numbers even earlier. More modern efforts include Qt, GTK, and other things. Naturally, all of these fall short in some way. Now Google enters the fray with Flutter.

Flutter isn’t new, but in the past, it only handled Android and iOS. Now it can target desktop platforms and can even produce JavaScript. We haven’t played with the system enough to say how successful it is, but you can try it in your browser if you want some first-hand experience.

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Google Turns Android Up To 11 With Latest Update

Just going by the numbers, it’s a pretty safe bet that most Hackaday readers own an Android device. Even if Google’s mobile operating system isn’t running on your primary smartphone, there’s a good chance it’s on your tablet, e-reader, smart TV, car radio, or maybe even your fridge. Android is everywhere, and while the development of this Linux-based OS has been rocky at times, the general consensus is that it seems to have been moving in the right direction over the last few years. Assuming your devices actually get the latest and greatest update, anyway.

So it’s not much of a surprise that Android 11, which was officially released yesterday, isn’t a huge update. There’s no fundamental changes in the core OS, because frankly, there’s really not a whole lot that really needs changing. Android has become mature enough that from here on out we’re likely to just see bug fixes and little quality of life improvements. Eventually Google will upset the apple cart (no pun intended) with a completely new mobile OS, but we’re not there yet.

Of course, that’s not to say there aren’t some interesting changes in Android 11. Or more specifically, changes that may actually be of interest to the average Hackaday reader. Let’s take a look at a handful of changes and tweaks worth noting for the more technical crowd.

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Hackaday Podcast 075: 3D Printing Japanese Joinery, Android PHONK, One-Armed Time Bandit, And Whistling Bridges

Hackaday editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams scoop up a basket of great hacks from the past week. Be amazed by the use of traditional Japanese joinery in a 3D-printed design — you’re going to want to print one of these Shoji lamps. We behold the beautiful sound of a noise generator, and the freaky sound from the Golden Gate. There’s a hack for Android app development using Javascript on an IDE hosted from the phone as a webpage on your LAN. And you’ll like the KiCAD trick that makes enclosure design for existing boards a lot easier.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

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PHONK – A Hacker’s Fun Shortcut To Android Programming

As the common myth goes, the average human utilizes only about 10% of the true potential their smartphone is capable of. Especially when it comes to electronics projects, it seems that we often overlook how we can integrate and take advantage of their functionality here. Maybe that’s not a big surprise though — while it isn’t rocket science, getting into mobile development certainly has its hurdles and requires a bit of commitment. [Victor Diaz] figured there had to be a better way, so he went on and created PHONK, the self-contained creative scripting toolbox for Android.

PHONK is installed like any other app, and allows rapid prototyping on your Android device via JavaScript by abstracting away and simplifying the heavily boilerplated, native Java parts. So instead of setting up an app from scratch with all the resources defining, UI design, activity and application lifecycle management — not to mention the Android development environment itself — PHONK takes care of all that behind the curtain and significantly reduces the amount of code required to achieve the task you’re actually interested in. In case you’re worrying now that you have to actually program on your phone, well, you can, which can definitely come in handy, but you don’t have to.

Once the app is opened, a web server is started, and connecting to it from any modern browser within the same WiFi network presents you the PHONK development environment with everything you need: editor, file browser, console, and API documentation. You can write your code in the browser, and pressing the run button will execute it straight on the device then. As everything is self-contained within the app itself, no additional software is required, and you can start right away by exploring the set of provided examples that showcase everything supported so far: sensor interaction, BLE server and client, communication protocols like MQTT or WebSockets, OpenStreetMap maps, and even integration with Pure Data and Processing. Attach a USB OTG cable and you can program your Arduino, have serial communication, or interface a IOIO board. You can even connect a MIDI controller.

This is really impressive work done by [Victor], and a lot of attention to detail went into the development. If you have an old Android phone collecting dust somewhere, this would be a great opportunity to revive it and build something with it. And as [Victor] writes on the project’s GitHub page, he’s always curious what people will come up with. If you’re thinking about building a mobile sensor lab, or want to learn more about the sensors inside your phone, have a look at the 36C3 talk about phyphox.

Writing Android Apps In C, No Java Required

Older Android devices can be had for a song, and in many cases are still packing considerable computational power. With built in networking, a battery, and a big touch screen, they could easily take the place of a Raspberry Pi and external display in many applications. As it so happens, Google has made it very easy to develop your own Android software. There’s only one problem: you’ve got to do it in Java.

Looking to get away from all that bloat and overhead, [CNLohr] set out to see what it would take to get 100% C code running on an Android device. After collecting information and resources from the deepest and darkest corners of the Internet, he found out that the process actually wasn’t that bad. He’s crafted a makefile which can be used to get your own C program up and running in seconds.

We mean that literally. As demonstrated in the video after the break, [CNLohr] is able to compile, upload, and run a C Android program in less than two seconds with a single command. This rapid development cycle allows you to spend more time on actually getting work done, as you can iterate through versions of your code almost as quickly as if you were running them on your local machine.

[CNLohr] says you’ll still need to have Google’s Android Studio installed, so it’s not as if this is some clean room implementation. But once it’s installed, you can just call everything from his makefile and never have to interact with it directly. Even if you don’t have any problem with the official Android development tools, there’s certainly something to be said for being able to write a “Hello World” that doesn’t clock in at multiple-megabytes.

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This Week In Security: Firewall 0-day, Apple’s Response, And An Android Bluetooth Bug

Sophos firewall appliances are actively being attacked by a 0-day exploit chain that originates with a SQL injection. That injection is a nasty one, as it can be launched from the WAN user portal. The observed attack used that vulnerability to inject a shell command into the device database, where it would eventually be run automatically. If you have an affected Sophos device, go check that the hotfix was automatically installed.

While the vulnerability was a bad one, Sophos’ response here is laudable. They publicly disclosed the attack less than 24 hours after they were notified of it’s existence in the wild, and began rolling a fix out within three days. Additionally, Sophos engineers did a really detailed write-up (linked above) giving us all the details of the attack. The hotfix that closes the vulnerability also attempts to clean up the infection, although there are some additional manual steps that are suggested if your device was compromised. Continue reading “This Week In Security: Firewall 0-day, Apple’s Response, And An Android Bluetooth Bug”