TabFS Makes Your Browser A File System

Like Unix, old-fashioned Linux has the philosophy that everything should look like a file. That paradigm works well and most of the operating system’s core features follow that pattern. However, many modern additions don’t really treat things as files or, at least, not files you can easily manipulate with the other tools. [Omar Rizwan] has a handy Chrome extension, though, that will make your browser tabs look like part of your file system. Not only is it a novel idea, but it is also surprisingly handy.

The extension feels like a bit of a proof of concept, so installation is a bit rough, but it does work and it allows you to do things that you would otherwise have to write an extension or a sophisticated program to screen scrape which is always less than desirable.

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Raspberry Pi 4 Brings Cloud Gaming To Nintendo Switch

Companies like Google and Microsoft have been investing heavily in the concept of cloud gaming, where a player uses their computer or a mobile device to stream the video feed of a game that’s running on powerful machine tucked away in a data center somewhere. With this technology you can play the latest and greatest titles, even if the device you’re using doesn’t have the processing power to run it locally.

Considering the Switch is already a portable system, it’s not too surprising Nintendo doesn’t seem interested in the technology. But that didn’t stop [Stan Dmitriev] from doing a bit of experimentation on his own. With little more than a Raspberry Pi 4 and Trinket M0, he’s demonstrated that users can remotely interact with the Switch well enough to play games in real time.

The setup is fairly straightforward. A cheap HDMI capture device is used to grab the video from the Nintendo Switch dock, which is then streamed out to web with the help of the Pi’s hardware video encoder. Input from the user is sent over the Pi’s UART to the Trinket, which itself is running a firmware specifically developed for mimicking Nintendo Switch controllers. With so many elements involved, naturally some latency comes into play. The roughly 100 millisecond delay [Stan] is reporting isn’t exactly ideal for fast-paced gaming, but is certainly adequate for more relaxed titles.

On the software side of things, the project is using a SDK developed by [Stan]’s employer SurrogateTV. Right now you need to apply if you want to get your game or other interactive gadget up on the service, though he says it will be opened up to the public next year. But even without all the details, we’ve got a clear idea of how both the video capture and user input sides of the equation are being handled. For personal use, all you’d really need to do is put together a simple web interface to tie it all together.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a microcontroller used to interface with the Switch. Other consoles are a bit more selective about what kind of hardware they will talk to, but the Microsoft Adaptive Controller could potentially allow you to do something similar on the Xbox.

Weather Note Tells You What You Need To Know, And No More

Smartphones are portals to an overwhelming torrent of information. Yes, they’re a great way to find out the time, your bus schedule, and the weather, but they’re also full of buzzers and bells going off every three minutes to remind you that your uncle has reposted a photo of the fish he caught ten years ago. Sometimes, it’s better to display just the essentials, and that’s what Weather Note does.

It’s built around the Adafruit Feather Huzzah, a devboard built around the venerable ESP8266. It’s a great base for an Internet of Things project like this one, with WiFi built-in and ready to go. The Weather Note talks to a variety of online platforms to scrape weather data and helpful reminders, with the assistance of If This Then That, or IFTTT. Reminders to walk the dog or get some milk are displayed on a small OLED screen, while there’s also a bunch of alphanumeric displays for other information. WS2812 LEDs are used behind a shadowbox to display weather conditions, with cute cloud, rain, and sun icons. It’s all wrapped up in a tidy frame perfect for the mantlepiece or breakfast table.

It’s a great build to learn about programming for the Internet of Things, and with those bright LED displays, it’s probably a viable nightlight too. It’s a rare project that can both tell you about the weather and keep you from stubbing your toe in the kitchen, after all. Those desiring a stealthier build should consider going down the smart mirror route instead. Video after the break.

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Real Hackers Videoconference In Terminal

At some point or another, many of us have tried to see how much of our digital lives could be accessed from the comfort of a terminal. We’ve tried Alpine for email, W3M for web browsing, and even watched Star Wars via telnet. But, in the increasingly socially-distant world we find ourselves in today, we find ourselves asking: what about video calling?

Okay, we weren’t asking that. But thankfully [Andy Kong] was, and saw fit to implement it when he and a friend created AsciiZOOM, a “secure, text-based videoconferencing app, accessible from the safety of your terminal.”

As you may have guessed, [Andy]’s solution replaces the conventional video stream we’re all used to with realtime animated ASCII art. The system works by capturing a video stream from a webcam, “compressing” each pixel by converting it into an ASCII character, and stuffing the entire frame into a TCP packet. Each client is connected to a server (meeting room?) which coordinates the packets, sending them back and forth appropriately.

As impressive as it is impractical, the only area in which the project lacks is in audio. [Andy] suggests using Discord to solve that, but here’s hoping we see subtitles in version 2! Will AsciiZOOM be replacing our favorite videoconferencing suite any time soon? No. Are we glad it exists? You betcha.

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Literally Tearing Apart A SpaceX Starlink Antenna

While SpaceX’s constellation of Starlink satellites is nowhere near its projected final size, the company has enough of the birds zipping around in low Earth orbit to start a limited testing period they call the Better Than Nothing Beta. If you’re lucky enough to get selected, you have to cough up $500 for the hardware and another $100 a month for the service. Despite the fairly high bar for getting your hands on one, [Kenneth Keiter] decided to sacrifice his Starlink dish to the teardown Gods.

We say sacrifice because [Kenneth] had to literally destroy the dish to get a look inside. It doesn’t appear that you can realistically get into the exceptionally thin antenna array without pulling it all apart, thanks in part to preposterous amount of adhesive that holds the structural back plate onto the PCB. The sky-facing side of the phased array, the key element that allows the antenna to track the rapidly moving Starlink satellites as they pass overhead, is also laminated to a stack-up comprised of plastic hexagonal mesh layers, passive antenna elements, and the outer fiberglass skin. In short, there are definitely no user-serviceable parts inside.

The dish hides many secrets under its skin.

Beyond attempting to analyze the RF magic that’s happening inside the antenna, [Kenneth] also takes viewers through a tour of some of the more recognizable components of the PCB; picking out things like the Power over Ethernet magnetics, a GPS receiver, some flash storage, and the H-Bridge drivers used to control the pan and tilt motors in the base of the dish.

It also appears that the antenna is a self-contained computer of sorts, complete with ARM processor and RAM to run the software that aims the phased array. Speaking of which, it should come as no surprise to find that not only are the ICs that drive the dizzying array of antenna elements the most numerous components on the PCB, but that they appear to be some kind of custom silicon designed specifically for SpaceX.

In short, there’s still plenty we don’t know about how this high-tech receiver actually works. While [Kenneth] does a respectable job of trying to make sense of it all, and we admire the dedication required to rip apart such a rare and expensive piece of kit, it’s still going to be awhile before the hacker community truly masters the tech that SpaceX is putting into their ambitions global Internet service.

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Easy IoT Logging Options For The Beginner

If a temperature sensor takes a measurement in the woods but there’s nobody around to read it, is it hot out? 

If you’ve got a project that’s collecting data, you might have reasons to put it online. Being able to read your data from anywhere has its perks, after all, and it’s key to building smarter interconnected systems, too. Plus, you can tell strangers the humidity in your living room while you’re out at the pub, and they’ll be really impressed.

Taking the leap into the Internet of Things can be daunting however, with plenty of competing services and options from the basic to the industrial-strength available. Today, we’re taking a look at two options for logging data online that are accessible to the beginner. Continue reading “Easy IoT Logging Options For The Beginner”

Google Meddling With URLs In Emails, Causing Security Concerns

Despite the popularity of social media, for communication that actually matters, e-mail reigns supreme. Crucial to the smooth operation of businesses worldwide, it’s prized for its reliability. Google is one of the world’s largest e-mail providers, both with its consumer-targeted Gmail product as well as G Suite for business customers [Jeffrey Paul] is a user of the latter, and was surprised to find that URLs in incoming emails were being modified by the service when fetched via the Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) used by external email readers.

This change appears to make it impossible for IMAP users to see the original email without logging into the web interface, it breaks verification of the cryptographic signatures, and it came as a surprise.

Security Matters

A test email sent to verify the edits made by Google’s servers. Top, the original email, bottom, what was received.

For a subset of users, it appears Google is modifying URLs in the body of emails to instead go through their own link-checking and redirect service. This involves actually editing the body of the email before it reaches the user. This means that even those using external clients to fetch email over IMAP are affected, with no way to access the original raw email they were sent.

The security implications are serious enough that many doubted the initial story, suspecting that the editing was only happening within the Gmail app or through the web client. However, a source claiming to work for Google confirmed that the new feature is being rolled out to G Suite customers, and can be switched off if so desired. Reaching out to Google for comment, we were directed to their help page on the topic.

The stated aim is to prevent phishing, with Google’s redirect service including a link checker to warn users who are traveling to potentially dangerous sites. For many though, this explanation doesn’t pass muster. Forcing users to head to a Google server to view the original URL they were sent is to many an egregious breach of privacy, and a security concern to boot. It allows the search giant to further extend its tendrils of click tracking into even private email conversations. For some, the implications are worse. Cryptographically signed messages, such as those using PGP or GPG, are broken by the tool; as the content of the email body is modified in the process, the message no longer checks out with respect to the original signature. Of course, this is the value of signing your messages — it becomes much easier to detect such alterations between what was sent and what was received.

Inadequate Disclosure

Understandably, many were up in arms that the company would implement such a measure with no consultation or warning ahead of time. The content of an email is sacrosanct, in many respects, and tampering with it in any form will always be condemned by the security conscious. If the feature is a choice for the user, and can be turned off at will, then it’s a useful tool for those that want it. But this discovery was a surprise to many, making it hard to believe it was adequately disclosed before roll-out. The question unfolded in the FAQ screenshot above hints at this being part of Google’s A/B test and not applied to all accounts. Features being tested on your email account should be disclosed yet they are not.

Protecting innocent users against phishing attacks is a laudable aim,  and we can imagine many business owners enabling such a feature to avoid phishing attacks. It’s another case where privacy is willingly traded for the idea of security. While the uproar is limited due to the specific nature of the implementation thus far, we would expect further desertion of Google’s email services by the tech savvy if such practices were to spread to the mainstream Gmail product. Regardless of what happens next, it’s important to remember that the email you read may not be the one you were sent, and act accordingly.

Update 30/10/2020: It has since come to light that for G Suite users with Advanced Protection enabled, it may not be possible to disable this feature at all.