[frederic] tells a story about their team’s hack of a Google Nest Hub (2nd generation) — running Ubuntu on it, through bypassing Google’s boot image signature checks. As with many good hacks, it starts with FCC website pictures. Reverse-engineering a charger and USB daughterboard pin-out, they found a UART connection and broke it out with a custom adapter. With a debug console and insights into the process, they went on hacking, slicing through hardware and software until it was done with.
This story gives plenty of background and insight into both the code that was being investigated, and the way that attack targets were chosen. Through fuzzing, they found a buffer overflow in the bootloader code that could be triggered with help of a non-standard block size. USB flash drives tend to have these hard-coded, so they built a special firmware for a Pi Pico and shortly thereafter, achieved code execution. Then, they hooked into uboot functions and loaded Ubuntu, bypassing the boot image signature checks.
This is a wonderful documentation of a hacking journey, and an exciting read to boot (pun intended). The bug seems to have been patched for half a year now, so you probably can’t flash your Google Nest into Ubuntu anymore. However, you might be able to run an up-to-date Linux on your Amazon Echo.
We love seeing Linux run on basically anything with a processor. It’s a classic hack at this point. Nintendo has traditionally kept its consoles fairly locked down, though, even in the face of some truly impressive efforts; so it’s always a treat to see the open-source OS run relatively smoothly on the console. This Ubuntu install is based on NVIDIA’s Linux for Tegra (L4T) package, which affords some performance gains over Android installations on the same hardware. As we’ve seen with those Android hacks, however, this software mod also makes use of the Switchroot project and, of course, it only works with specific, unpatched hardware. But if you’ve won the serial number lottery and you’re willing to risk your beloved console, [LOE TECH] also has a video detailing the process he used to get Ubuntu up and running.
Check out the video below for a medley of Gamecube game test runs. Some appear to run great, and others, well… not so much. But we truly appreciate how he doesn’t edit out the games that stutter and lag. This way, we get a more realistic, more comprehensive overview of unofficial emulation performance on the Switch. Plus, it’s almost fun to watch racing games go by in slow motion; almost, that is, if we couldn’t empathize with how frustrating it must have been to play.
Ubuntu 20.04 is an incredibly popular operating system, perhaps the most popular among the Linux distributions due to its ease-of-use. In general, it’s a fairly trustworthy operating system too, especially since its source code is open. However, an update with the 20.04 revision has led to security researcher [Kevin Backhouse] finding a surprisingly easy way to escalate privileges on this OS, which we would like to note is not great.
The exploit involves two bugs, one in accountservice daemon which handles user accounts on the computer, and another in the GNOME Display Manager which handles the login screen. Ubuntu 20.04 added some code to the daemon which looks at a specific file on the computer, and with a simple symlink, it can be tricked into reading a different file which locks the process into an infinite loop. The daemon also drops its privileges at one point in this process, a normal security precaution, but this allows the user to crash the daemon.
The second bug for this exploit involves how the GNOME Display Manager (gdm3) handles privileges. Normally it would not have administrator privileges, but if the accountservice daemon isn’t running it escalates itself to administrator, where any changes made have administrator privileges. This provides an attacker with an opportunity to create a new user account with administrator privileges.
Of course, this being Ubuntu, we can assume that this vulnerability will be immediately patched. It’s also a good time to point out that the reason that open-source software is inherently more secure is that when anyone can see the source code, anyone can find and report issues like this which allow the software maintainer (or even the user themselves) to make effective changes more quickly.
The Raspberry Pi has been with us for over eight years now, and during that time it has seen a myriad operating system ports. It seems that almost anything can be run on the little computer, but generally the offerings have seen minority uptake in the face of the officially supported Raspbian, or as it’s now called, Raspberry Pi OS.
Maybe that could change, with the arrival of an Ubuntu release for the platform. For those of you pointing out that this is nothing new, what makes the new version 20.10 release special is that it’s the first official full Ubuntu release, rather than an unofficial port.
So Raspberry Pi 4 owners can now install the same full-fat Ubuntu they have on their PCs, and with the same official Ubuntu support. What does this really do for them that Raspberry Pi OS doesn’t? Underneath they share Debian underpinnings, and they both benefit from a huge quantity of online resources should the user find themselves in trouble. Their repositories both contain almost every reasonable piece of software that could be imagined, so the average Pi user might be forgiven for a little confusion.
We don’t expect this news to take the Pi desktop world by storm then. Ubuntu is a powerful distribution, but it’s fair to say that it is not the least bloated among distributions, and that some of its quirks such as Snap applications leave many users underwhelmed. By contrast Raspberry Pi OS is relatively lightweight, and crucially it’s optimised for the Pi. Its entire support base online is specific to the Pi hardware, so the seeker of solutions need not worry about encountering some quirk in an explanation that pertains only to PC platforms.
It’s fair to say though, that this release is almost certainly not targeted at the casual desktop user. We’d expect that instead it will be in the Ubuntu portfolio for commercial and enterprise users, and in particular for the new Raspberry Pi 4 Compute Module in which it will no doubt form the underpinnings of many products without their owners ever realising it.
Everyone has their favorite brands, covering everything from the clothes they wear to the cars they drive. We see brand loyalty informing all sorts of acquisition decisions, not only in regular consumer life but in technology, too. Brand decisions sort people into broad categories like Mac versus PC, or iPhone versus Android, and can result in spirited discussions of the relative merits of one choice over the others. It’s generally well-intentioned, even if it gets a bit personal sometimes.
Perhaps no choice is more personal in hacker circles than which Linux distribution to use. There are tons to choose from, each with their various features and particular pros and cons. Ubuntu has become a very popular choice for Linux aficionados, attracting more than a third of the market. Canonical is the company behind the Debian-based distro, providing editions that run on the desktop, on servers, and on a variety of IoT devices, as well as support and services for large-scale users.
To fill us in on what’s new in the world of Ubuntu, Canonical product manager Rhys Davies and developer advocate Alan Pope will stop by the Hack Chat this week. They’ll be ready to answer all your questions about the interesting stuff that’s going on with Ubuntu, including the recently announced Ubuntu Appliances, easy to install, low maintenance images for Raspberry Pis and PCs that are built for security and simplicity. We’ll also talk about snaps, desktops, and whatever else crops up.
Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about. Continue reading “Ubuntu Update Hack Chat”→
Who would have thought that software packaging software would cause such a hubbub? But such is the case with snap. Developed by Canonical as a faster and easier way to get the latest versions of software installed on Ubuntu systems, the software has ended up starting a fiery debate in the larger Linux community. For the more casual user, snap is just a way to get the software they want as quickly as possible. But for users concerned with the ideology of free and open source software, it’s seen a dangerous step towards the types of proprietary “walled gardens” that may have drove them to Linux in the first place.
Perhaps the most vocal opponent of snap, and certainly the one that’s got the most media attention, is Linux Mint. In a June 1st post on the distribution’s official blog, Mint founder Clement Lefebvre made it very clear that the Ubuntu spin-off does not approve of the new package format and wouldn’t include it on base installs. Further, he announced that Mint 20 would actively block users from installing the snap framework through the package manager. It can still be installed manually, but this move is seen as a way to prevent it from being added to the system without the user’s explicit consent.
The short version of Clement’s complaint is that the snap packager installs from a proprietary Canonical-specific source. If you want to distribute snaps, you have to set up an account with Canonical and host it there. While the underlying software is still open source, the snap packager breaks with long tradition of having the distribution of the software also being open and free. This undoubtedly makes the install simple for naive users, and easier to maintain for Canonical maintainers, but it also takes away freedom of choice and diversity of package sources.
Telepresence is one of those futuristic buzzwords that’s popped up a few times over the decades; promising the ability to attend a meeting in New York City and another in Tokyo an hour later, all without having to leave the comfort of your home or office. This is the premise of Double Robotics’ Double 3, its most recent entry in this market segment, as the commercial counterpoint to more DIY offerings.
Looking like a tablet perched on top of a Segway, the built-in dual 13 megapixel cameras allow the controller to get a good look at their surroundings, while the 6 beamforming microphones should theoretically allow one to pick up any conversation in a meeting or on the work floor.
Battery life is limited to 4 hours, and it takes 2 hours to recharge the built-in battery. Fortunately one can just hop over to another, freshly charged Double 3 if the battery runs out. Assuming the $3,999 price tag doesn’t get in the way of building up a fleet of them, anyway.
Probably the most interesting aspect of the product is its self-driving feature, which has resulted in a whole range of sensors and cameras (Intel RealSense D430 stereo vision depth sensors) being installed. To handle the processing of this sensor data, the system is equipped with an NVidia Jetson TX2 ARM board, running Ubuntu Linux, which also renders the mixed-reality UI for the user with way points and other information.
Currently Double Robotics accepts sign-ups for the private beta of the Double 3 API, which would give developers access to the sensor data and various autonomous features of Double 3’s hardware. Co-founder of Double Robotics, [Marc DeVidts] stated to Hackaday that he is looking forward to seeing what people can build with it. Hopefully this time people will not simply take the thing for a joyride, like what happened with a predecessor of the Double 3.