Privacy Report: What Android Does In The Background

We’ve come a long way from the Internet of the 90s and early 00s. Not just in terms of technology, capabilities, and culture, but in the attitude most of us take when accessing the ‘net. In those early days most users had a militant drive to keep any personal or identifying information to themselves beyond the occasional (and often completely fictional) a/s/l, and before eBay and Amazon normalized online shopping it was unheard of to even type in a credit card number. On today’s internet we do all of these things with reckless abandon, and to make matters worse most of us carry around a device which not only holds all of our personal information but also reports everything about us, from our browsing habits to our locations, back to databases to be stored indefinitely.

It was always known that both popular mobile operating systems for these devices, iOS and Android, “phone home” or report data about us back to various servers. But just how much the operating systems themselves did was largely a matter of speculation, especially for Apple devices which are doing things that only Apple can really know for sure. While Apple keeps their mysteries to themselves and thus can’t be fully trusted, Android is much more open which paradoxically makes it easier for companies (and malicious users) to spy on users but also makes it easier for those users to secure their privacy on their own. Thanks to this recent privacy report on several different flavors of Android (PDF warning) we know a little bit more on specifically what the system apps are doing, what information they’re gathering and where they’re sending it, and exactly which versions of Android are best for those of us who take privacy seriously.

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A Cyberdeck Built With Ergonomics In Mind

With a new decade looming over us, the hot new thing for hackers and makers everywhere is to build cyberdecks to go with the flashy black-and-neon clothing that the sci-fi films of old predicted we’d all be wearing come next year. [Phil Hagelberg] has been designing one based on his own ergonomic keyboard, prioritizing not only form but also function.

The Atreus mechanical keyboard has a split layout that foregoes the traditional typewriter-inherited staggered arrangement in favor of one that better fits the user’s hands. The reduced number of keys limits hand movement for a more comfortable writing experience, however if you use function keys often, the trade-off is that you’ll need to use an auxiliary key to access them.

The deck [Phil] documents for us here is built from the ground up around that same design and aims to be small enough for travel, yet pleasant enough for serious use. It’s gone through four revisions so far, including an interesting one where the keyboard is laid out on the sides for using while standing up. As for the brains of the machine, the past revisions have used different flavors of Raspberry Pi and even a Samsung Galaxy S4 phone, though the latest model has a Pine64 running the show. How much has changed between each finished prototype really goes to show that you don’t have to get it right the first time, and it’s always good to experiment with a new idea to see what works.

[Phil] is now moving onto a fifth prototype, and hopes to eventually sell kits for building the whole cyberdeck along with the kits already available for the standalone keyboard. We’ve been struck by the creativity shown in these cyberdeck builds, which range from reusing retro computer shells to completely printing out a whole new one for a unique look. We can’t say for sure if this custom form-factor will eventually surpass mass-produced laptops, but it sure would be hella cool if it did.

Installing Android On Your Nintendo Switch, Because Why Not?

In a continuing trend of ‘but does it run Android?’, enterprising folk over at the XDA-Developers forum have found a way to get LineageOS (the successor to CyanogenMod) installed and running on the Nintendo Switch using Switchroot source code. Promising to release the necessary files to replicate this effort has obviously made other people at XDA-Developers forum as well as on Reddit rather excited.

As for the question of ‘why?’, one has to remember that internally the Nintendo Switch is an Nvidia Tegra X1-based system with a Maxwell GPU, making it definitely one of the nicer ARM-based portable systems out there if one wants to do some Android-based gaming. Even better, the entire Nvidia Shield TV-derived ROM runs from the SD card, so just popping out this SD card is sufficient to return to playing Switch games.

Currently a few nagging issues still have to be worked out with this ROM, such as touchscreen issues, sleep mode not working, auto-rotation not working as communication with the sensor needs to be figured out, and so on. This should make it clear that it won’t be a production ready piece of software, but definitely something that should be used at your own risk.

While it shouldn’t harm the Switch, one should probably not try it on a Switch one cares deeply about. Just in case.

Hackaday Podcast 026: Tamper-Proof Electronics, Selfie Drones, Rocket Fuel, Wire Benders, And Wizard-Level Soldering

Hackaday Editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams are back after last week’s holiday break to track down all of the hacks you missed. There are some doozies; a selfie-drone controlled by your body position, a Theremin that sings better than you can, how about a BGA hand-soldering project whose creator can’t even believe he pulled it off. Kristina wrote a spectacular article on the life and career of Mary Sherman Morgan, and Tom tears down a payment terminal he picked up in an abandoned Toys R Us, plus much more!

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!

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!

Direct download (60 MB or so.)

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