Webserver Runs On Android Phone

Android, the popular mobile phone OS, is essentially just Linux with a nice user interface layer covering it all up. In theory, it should be able to do anything a normal computer running Linux could do. And, since most web servers in the world are running Linux, [PelleMannen] figured his Android phone could run a web server just as well as any other Linux machine and built this webpage that’s currently running on a smartphone, with an additional Reddit post for a little more discussion.

The phone uses Termux (which we’ve written about briefly before) to get to a Bash shell on the Android system. Before that happens, though, some setup needs to take place largely involving installing F-Droid through which Termux can be installed. From there the standard SSH and Apache servers can be installed as if the phone were running a normal Linux The rest of the installation involves tricking the phone into thinking it’s a full-fledged computer including a number of considerations to keep the phone from halting execution when the screen locks and other phone-specific issues.

With everything up and running, [PelleMannen] reports that it runs surprisingly well with the small ARM system outputting almost no heat. Since the project page is being hosted on this phone we can’t guarantee that the link above works, though, and it might get a few too many requests to stay online. We wish it were a little easier to get our pocket-sized computers to behave in similar ways to our regular laptops and PCs (even if they don’t have quite the same amount of power) but if you’re dead-set on repurposing an old phone we’ve also seen them used to great effect in place of a Raspberry Pi.

Streaming Deck Removes Need For Dedicated Hardware

Streaming content online has never been more popular than it is now, from YouTube to Twitch there are all kinds of creators around with interesting streams across a wide spectrum of interests. With that gold rush comes plenty of people selling figurative shovels as well, with audio mixing gear, high-quality web cams, and dedicated devices for controlling all of this technology. Often these devices take the form of a tablet-like device, but [Lenochxd] thinks that any tablet ought to be able to perform this task without needing dedicated, often proprietary, hardware.

The solution offered here is called WebDeck, an application written in Flask that turns essentially any device with a broswer into a stream control device. Of course it helps to have a touch screen as well, but an abundance of tablets and smartphones in the world makes this a non-issue. With the software running on the host computer, the streamer can control various aspects of that computer remotely by scanning a QR code which opens a browser window with all of the controls accessible from within. It has support for VLC, OBS Studio, and Spotify as well which covers the bases for plenty of streaming needs.

Currently the host software only runs on Windows, but [Lenochxd] hopes to have MacOS and Linux versions available soon. We’re always in favor of any device that uses existing technology and also avoids proprietary hardware and software. Hopefully that’s a recipe to avoid planned obsolescence and unnecessary production. If you prefer a version with a little bit of tactile feedback, though, we’ve seen other decks which add physical buttons for quick control of the stream.

Your Noisy Fingerprints Vulnerable To New Side-Channel Attack

Here’s a warning we never thought we’d have to give: when you’re in an audio or video call on your phone, avoid the temptation to doomscroll or use an app that requires a lot of swiping. Doing so just might save you from getting your identity stolen through the most improbable vector imaginable — by listening to the sound your fingerprints make on the phone’s screen (PDF).

Now, we love a good side-channel attack as much as anyone, and we’ve covered a lot of them over the years. But things like exfiltrating data by blinking hard drive lights or turning GPUs into radio transmitters always seemed a little far-fetched to be the basis of a field-practical exploit. But PrintListener, as [Man Zhou] et al dub their experimental system, seems much more feasible, even if it requires a ton of complex math and some AI help. At the heart of the attack are the nearly imperceptible sounds caused by friction between a user’s fingerprints and the glass screen on the phone. These sounds are recorded along with whatever else is going on at the time, such as a video conference or an online gaming session. The recordings are preprocessed to remove background noise and subjected to spectral analysis, which is sensitive enough to detect the whorls, loops, and arches of the unsuspecting user’s finger.

Once fingerprint patterns have been extracted, they’re used to synthesize a set of five similar fingerprints using MasterPrint, a generative adversarial network (GAN). MasterPrint can generate fingerprints that can unlock phones all by itself, but seeding the process with patterns from a specific user increases the odds of success. The researchers claim they can defeat Automatic Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) readers between 9% and 30% of the time using PrintListener — not fabulous performance, but still pretty scary given how new this is.

An image of a smarphone sitting on a lightly-colored wooden table. It has a tan case surrounding it on the top 2/3, and a copper case holding a BlackBerry Q10 keyboard jutting out over the bottom of the phone.

FairBerry Brings The PKB Back To Your Smartphone

Missing the feel of physical keys on your phone, but not ready to give up your fancy new touchscreen phone? [Dakkaron] has attached a BlackBerry keyboard to a slightly more recent device.

Designed for the FairPhone 4, [Dakkaron]’s hack should be transferable to other smartphones as it connects to the phone over USB without any of that tedious mucking about with Bluetooth. There’s even a handy OpenSCAD-based generator to help you along in the customization process.

[Dakkaron] started with an Arduino Pro Micro-based implementation, but the most recent iteration uses a custom board that can be obtained partially-populated. Unfortunately, the Hirose connector for the keyboard isn’t available off-the-shelf, so you’ll have to solder that yourself if you’re planning to do this mod. Sounds like a perfect opportunity to practice your surface mount soldering skills!

If the Q10 keyboard looks familiar, it’s probably because it’s one of the most popular keyboards for small projects around here. Check out Regrowing a BlackBerry from the Keyboard Out or a LoRa Messenger with one. We’ve even seen them in a conference badge!

Mailblocks Makes Your Phone Work More Like The Post, Kinda?

Phones can be distracting, with notifications popping up all the time to snare our attention and maybe even ruin our lives. [Guy Dupont] wishes to be no slave to the machine, and thus built a solution. Enter Mailblocks.

The concept is simple. It’s a physical mailbox which [Guy] can put his phone in. All notifications on the phone are blocked unless he puts his phone into the box. When the phone is inside and the box is closed, the little red flag goes up, indicating “DOPAMINE” is available, and [Guy] can check his notifications.

To achieve this, [Guy] is running a custom DNS server. It redirects all the lookups for push notifications on Android so they go nowhere. Placing the phone in the mailbox turns the re-directions off, so the phone can contact the usual servers and get its notifications as normal.

It’s a novel way of fighting against the constant attention suck of modern smartphones. Rather than being bombarded by notifications in real time, [Guy] instead has to take a significant intentional physical action to check the notifications. It cuts the willpower required and the interruptions to his work in a fell swoop.

We’ve featured [Guy’s] innovative and outside-the-box projects before, too. His smart pants were an absolute tour de force, I might add.

Continue reading “Mailblocks Makes Your Phone Work More Like The Post, Kinda?”

Human AI Pin marketing picture. (Credting: Humane)

The AI Pin: A Smart Body Camera That Wants To Compete With Smartphones

Seeking to shake up the smartphone market, Humane introduced its ‘AI Pin’, which at first glance looks like someone put a very stylish body camera on their chest. There’s no display, only the 13 MP camera and some other optics visible above what turns out to be a touch panel, which is its main gesture-based input method, while it’s affixed to one’s clothing using either a magnet on the other side of the fabric, a wireless powerbank or a clip. Inside the unit you find a Qualcomm octa-core processor with 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of eMMC storage, running a custom Android-based ‘Cosmos’ OS.

The AI Pin home screen, demonstrating why hand palms are poor projection surfaces. (Credit: Humane)
The AI Pin home screen, demonstrating why hand palms are poor projection surfaces. (Credit: Humane)

There is also a monochrome (teal) 720p laser projector built-in that provides something of a screen experience, albeit with the expectation that you use your hand (or presumably any other suitable surface) to render it visible. From the PR video it is quite clear that visibility of the projection is highly variable, with much of the text often not remotely legible, or only after some squinting. The hand-based gestures to control the UI (tilting to indicate a direction, touching thumb & index finger together to confirm) are somewhat of a novelty, though this may get tiresome after a day.

An article by [Ron Amadeo] over at Ars Technica also takes a look at the device, where the lack of an app ecosystem is pointed out, as well as the need for a mandatory internet connection (via T-Mobile). Presumably this always-on ‘feature’ is where the ‘AI’ part comes in, as the device has some voice assistant functionality, which seems to rely heavily on remote servers. As a result, this ends up being a quirky device with no third-party app support for a price tag of $700 + the $25/month for online service. Not to mention that people may look a bit odd at you walking around with a body camera-like thing on your chest that you keep rubbing and holding your hand in front of.

To be fair, it’s not often that we see something more quaint in this space come out than Google Glass, now many years ago.

An Open Source Mobile Phone Based On The ESP32

As microcontrollers become ever faster and cheaper, something we’ve been expecting has been an open source smartphone based not upon a high-end chip, but on a cheap commodity one. In the electronic badge arena we’ve come pretty close, but perhaps it’s left to [Gabriel Rochet] to deliver the first one that brings everything together. His Paxo phone is now on version 4, and while the French-language website link stubbornly resists translation with Google translate, English speakers can find a description of its capabilities along with the software in a GitHub repository.

The hardware is surprisingly straightforward, with a resistive touch screen and a PCB featuring power management, an ESP32 main processor, and a GSM module. The 2G connectivity may not be the fastest, or even available in your country, but otherwise the feature set looks more than reasonable for a basic mobile phone.

We like this project a lot, because as we said it starts to deliver on the promise of the 2018 EMF badge and the 2022 MCH badge. We think the former badge’s designers might find something of interest in it.