22 Feb 2019

feedTalkAndroid

Despite some confusion, Samsung confirms at least 8GB of RAM in all Galaxy S10 and S10+ models

Whether or not you actually need 8GB of RAM in a smartphone is a conversation and a half on its own, but when Samsung said that the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+ would all have at least 8GB of RAM, that's what buyers are expecting. Unfortunately, there seemed to be a ton of misinformation, software weirdness, and […]


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22 Feb 2019 4:11pm GMT

[TA Deals] Master Microsoft Office with this discounted eLearnOffice certification course (90% off)

Microsoft Office is a crucial piece of software whether you're working in a business, in education, or just handling things at a personal level. It's the most common office software on the planet, it's extremely powerful, and it looks great on a resume if you have legitimate certifications with it. The eLearnOffice Microsoft Office Certification […]


Come comment on this article: [TA Deals] Master Microsoft Office with this discounted eLearnOffice certification course (90% off)

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22 Feb 2019 3:50pm GMT

Older Samsung Galaxy devices will get Bixby remapping in an update

Samsung's latest Galaxy S10 series of phones still have the frustrating Bixby hardware button that no one really asked for, but the newer devices will now allow users to change the function of the button to do other things, too. So while yes, it's still a Bixby button, it can also be a Google Assistant […]


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22 Feb 2019 3:37pm GMT

21 Feb 2019

feedAndroid Developers Blog

Expanding target API level requirements in 2019

Posted by Edward Cunningham, Android Security & Privacy Team

In a previous blog we described how API behavior changes advance the security and privacy protections of Android, and include user experience improvements that prevent apps from accidentally overusing resources like battery and memory.

Since November 2018, all app updates on Google Play have been required to target API level 26 (Android 8.0) or higher. Thanks to the efforts of thousands of app developers, Android users now enjoy more apps using modern APIs than ever before, bringing significant security and privacy benefits. For example, during 2018 over 150,000 apps added support for runtime permissions, giving users granular control over the data they share.

Today we're providing more information about the Google Play requirements for 2019, and announcing some changes that affect apps distributed via other stores.

Google Play requirements for 2019

In order to provide users with the best Android experience possible, the Google Play Console will continue to require that apps target a recent API level:

Existing apps that are not receiving updates are unaffected and can continue to be downloaded from the Play Store. Apps can still use any minSdkVersion, so there is no change to your ability to build apps for older Android versions.

For a list of changes introduced in Android 9 Pie, check out our page on behavior changes for apps targeting API level 28+.

Apps distributed via other stores

Targeting a recent API level is valuable regardless of how an app is distributed. In China, major app stores from Huawei, OPPO, Vivo, Xiaomi, Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent will be requiring that apps target API level 26 (Android 8.0) or higher in 2019. We expect many others to introduce similar requirements - an important step to improve the security of the app ecosystem.

Over 95% of spyware we detect outside of the Play Store intentionally targets API level 22 or lower, avoiding runtime permissions even when installed on recent Android versions. To protect users from malware, and support this ecosystem initiative, Google Play Protect will warn users when they attempt to install APKs from any source that do not target a recent API level:

These Play Protect warnings will show only if the app's targetSdkVersion is lower than the device API level. For example, a user with a device running Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) will be warned when installing any new APK that targets API level 22 or lower. Users with devices running Android 8.0 (Oreo) or higher will be warned when installing any new APK that targets API level 25 or lower.

Prior to August, Play Protect will start showing these warnings on devices with Developer options enabled to give advance notice to developers of apps outside of the Play Store. To ensure compatibility across all Android versions, developers should make sure that new versions of any apps target API level 26+.

Existing apps that have been released (via any distribution channel) and are not receiving updates will be unaffected - users will not be warned when installing them.

Getting started

For advice on how to change your app's target API level, take a look at the migration guide and this talk from I/O 2018: Migrate your existing app to target Android Oreo and above.

We're extremely grateful to the Android developers worldwide who have already updated their apps to deliver security improvements for their users. We look forward to making great progress together in 2019.

21 Feb 2019 7:21pm GMT

13 Feb 2019

feedAndroid Developers Blog

How we fought bad apps and malicious developers in 2018

Posted by Andrew Ahn, Product Manager, Google Play

Google Play is committed to providing a secure and safe platform for billions of Android users on their journey discovering and experiencing the apps they love and enjoy. To deliver against this commitment, we worked last year to improve our abuse detection technologies and systems, and significantly increased our team of product managers, engineers, policy experts, and operations leaders to fight against bad actors.

In 2018, we introduced a series of new policies to protect users from new abuse trends, detected and removed malicious developers faster, and stopped more malicious apps from entering the Google Play Store than ever before. The number of rejected app submissions increased by more than 55 percent, and we increased app suspensions by more than 66 percent. These increases can be attributed to our continued efforts to tighten policies to reduce the number of harmful apps on the Play Store, as well as our investments in automated protections and human review processes that play critical roles in identifying and enforcing on bad apps.

In addition to identifying and stopping bad apps from entering the Play Store, our Google Play Protect system now scans over 50 billion apps on users' devices each day to make sure apps installed on the device aren't behaving in harmful ways. With such protection, apps from Google Play are eight times less likely to harm a user's device than Android apps from other sources.

Here are some areas we've been focusing on in the last year and that will continue to be a priority for us in 2019:

Protecting User Privacy

Protecting users' data and privacy is a critical factor in building user trust. We've long required developers to limit their device permission requests to what's necessary to provide the features of an app. Also, to help users understand how their data is being used, we've required developers to provide prominent disclosures about the collection and use of sensitive user data. Last year, we rejected or removed tens of thousands of apps that weren't in compliance with Play's policies related to user data and privacy.

In October 2018, we announced a new policy restricting the use of the SMS and Call Log permissions to a limited number of cases, such as where an app has been selected as the user's default app for making calls or sending text messages. We've recently started to remove apps from Google Play that violate this policy. We plan to introduce additional policies for device permissions and user data throughout 2019.

Developer integrity

We find that over 80% of severe policy violations are conducted by repeat offenders and abusive developer networks. When malicious developers are banned, they often create new accounts or buy developer accounts on the black market in order to come back to Google Play. We've further enhanced our clustering and account matching technologies, and by combining these technologies with the expertise of our human reviewers, we've made it more difficult for spammy developer networks to gain installs by blocking their apps from being published in the first place.

Harmful app contents and behaviors

As mentioned in last year's blog post, we fought against hundreds of thousands of impersonators, apps with inappropriate content, and Potentially Harmful Applications (PHAs). In a continued fight against these types of apps, not only do we apply advanced machine learning models to spot suspicious apps, we also conduct static and dynamic analyses, intelligently use user engagement and feedback data, and leverage skilled human reviews, which have helped in finding more bad apps with higher accuracy and efficiency.

Despite our enhanced and added layers of defense against bad apps, we know bad actors will continue to try to evade our systems by changing their tactics and cloaking bad behaviors. We will continue to enhance our capabilities to counter such adversarial behavior, and work relentlessly to provide our users with a secure and safe app store.

How useful did you find this blog post?


13 Feb 2019 6:01pm GMT

12 Feb 2019

feedAndroid Developers Blog

An Update on Android Things

Posted by Dave Smith, Developer Advocate for IoT

Over the past year, Google has worked closely with partners to create consumer products powered by Android Things with the Google Assistant built-in. Given the successes we have seen with our partners in smart speakers and smart displays, we are refocusing Android Things as a platform for OEM partners to build devices in those categories moving forward. Therefore, support for production System on Modules (SoMs) based on NXP, Qualcomm, and MediaTek hardware will not be made available through the public developer platform at this time.

Android Things continues to be a platform for experimenting with and building smart, connected devices using the Android Things SDK on top of popular hardware like the NXP i.MX7D and Raspberry Pi 3B. System images for these boards will remain available through the Android Things console where developers can create new builds and push app updates for up to 100 devices for non-commercial use.

We remain dedicated to providing a managed platform for IoT devices, including turnkey hardware solutions. For developers looking to commercialize IoT products in 2019, check out Cloud IoT Core for secure device connectivity at scale and the upcoming Cloud IoT Edge runtime for a suite of managed edge computing services. For on-device machine learning applications, stay tuned for more details about our Edge TPU development boards.

12 Feb 2019 7:00pm GMT

30 Jan 2019

feedPlanet Maemo

Looking forward to your comments

It took a few days, but I've finally migrated my site to Nikola. I used to have blog.mardy.it served by Google's Blogger, the main sections of www.mardy.it generated with Jekyll, the image gallery served by the old and glorious Gallery2, plus a few leftovers from the old Drupal site.

discussion by Nicolas Alejandro, on Flickr

While Jekyll is cool, I was immediately captivated by Nikola's ease of use and by its developers' promptness in answering questions in the forum. Also, one nice thing about Nikola (and Pelican, too) which I forgot to mention in my previous post is it's support for multilingual sites. I guess I'll have to translate this post in interlingua too, to give you a demonstration. :-)

Anyway, while I've fallen in love with static site generators, I still would like to give people the chance of leaving comments. Services like Disqus are easy to integrate, but given the way they can be (ab)used to track the users, I prefered to go for something self hosted. So, enter Isso.

Isso is a Python server to handle comments; it's simple to install and configure, and offers some nice features like e-mail notifications on new replies.

My Isso setup

Integrating Isso with Nikola was relatively easy, but the desire to keep a multilingual site and some hosting limitation made the process worth spending a couple of words.

FastCGI

First, my site if hosted by Dreamhost with a very basic subscription that doesn't allow me to keep long-running processes. After reading Isso's quickstart guide I was left quite disappointed, because it seemed that the only way to use Isso is to have it running all the time, or have a nginx server (Dreamhost offers Apache). Luckily, that's not quite the case, and more deployment approach are described in a separate page, including one for FastCGI (which is supported by Dreamhost). Those instructions are a bit wrong, but yours truly submitted some amendments to the documentation which will hopefully go live soon.

Importing comments

Isso can import comments from other sites, but an importer for Blogger (a.k.a. blogspot.com) was missing. So I wrote a quick and dirty tool for that job, and shared it in case it could be useful to someone else, too.

Multilingual sites

The default configuration of Nikola + Isso binds the comments to the exact URL that they were entered into. What I mean is that if your site supports multiple languages, and a user has entered a comment to an entry while visiting the English version of the site, users visiting the Italian version of the site would see same blog entry, but without that comment. That happens regardless of whether the blog entry has been translated into multiple languages or not: it's enough that the site has been configured for multiple languages.

My solution to fix the issue could not be accepted into Nikola as it would break old comments in existing sites, but if you are starting a new multilingual site you should definitely consider it.

Testers welcome

Given that I've deployed Isso as a CGI, it's understandable that it's not the fastest thing ever: it takes some time to startup, so comments don't appear immediately when you open a page. However, once it's started it stays alive for several seconds, and that seems to help with performance when commenting.

Anyway, the real reason why I've written all this is to kindly ask you to write a comment on this post :-) Extra points if you leave your e-mail address and enable the reply notifications, and let me know if you receive a notification once I'll reply to your comment. As far as I understand, you won't get a notification when someone adds an unrelated comment, but only when the "reply" functionality is used.

But really, should the commenting system be completely broken, I'm sure you'll find a way to contact me, if you need to. :-)

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30 Jan 2019 8:21pm GMT

20 Jan 2019

feedPlanet Maemo

Choosing a static site generator

In the last few days I've been writing a simple website for Imaginario. I'm a terrible site designer, and I can't really say that I enjoy writing websites, but it's something that from time to time people might need to do. While the PhotoTeleport website is built with Jekyll, this time I decided to try some other static site generator, in order to figure out if Jekyll is indeed the best for me, or if there are better alternatives for my (rather basic) needs.

I set out trying a couple of Python-based generators, Pelican and Nikola. Here is a brief review of them (and of Jekyll), in case it helps someone else make their own choice.

Jekyll

I've been using it since several months for the PhotoTeleport website, which features a news section and a handful of static pages. It does the job very well and I haven't any major complaint. It's very popular and there are plenty of plugins to customize its behaviour or add new functionality. The documentation is sufficient for a basic usage of the site, and information on how to solve more specific issues can easily be found in the internet.

My only issue is that it's not totally intuitive to use, and in order to customize the interactions for your own needs you need to write your own scripts - at least, I didn't find a ready solution to create a new post, or deploy the generated content into my site.

Pelican

My first impression with Pelican has been extremely positive: it's very easy to setup and start a blog. It's also quite popular, even though not as much as Jekyll, and there are may themes for it. By looking at the themes, though, I quickly realized that Pelican is meant to be used for blogs, and not for simple static sites. I'm almost sure that there must be a way to use it to create a static site, maybe with some tweaking, but I couldn't find information about this in its documentation. A quick search in the internet didn't help either, so I gave up and moved to the next one.

If I had to write a blog I'd certainly consider it, though.

Nikola

Nikola is definitely less popular than Jekyll or Pelican, at least if we trust the number of stars and forks in GitHub, but it's still a popular and maintained project, with many plugins. Like Jekyll, it can handle both blogs and sites, or a combination of the two. It's well documented, the people in the forum are helpful, and its command line interface is simpler and more intuitive than Jekyll's. Also, the live preview functionality seems to be more advanced than Jekyll's, in that the browser is told to automatically reload the page whenever the site is rebuilt.

You can see my progress with the Imaginario website by inspecting the commits in its repository; you'll see how easy it was to set it up, and hopefully following my steps you'll save some time should you decide to create your own site with Nikola.

Overall, I'd rate Jekyll and Nikola on the same level: Jekyll wins for the wider community and amount of available plugins, while Nikola wins for the better command line interactions, and the fact that it's in Python gives me better confidence should I ever need to modify it deeply (though, admittedly, the latter is just a personal preference - Ruby developers will say the opposite).

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20 Jan 2019 11:44am GMT

11 Dec 2018

feedPlanet Maemo

A Pathetic Human Being

A Venetian gondoliere thought it a good idea to decorate his gondola with fascist symbols, yet he can't handle that others think it not a good "joke"

The post A Pathetic Human Being appeared first on René Seindal.

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11 Dec 2018 3:40pm GMT

25 Sep 2017

feedPlanet Openmoko

Holger "zecke" Freyther: Brain dump what fascinates me

A small brain dump of topics that currently fascinate me. These are mostly pointers and maybe it is interesting to follow it.

Books/Reading:

My kobo ebook reader has the Site Reliability Engineering book and I am now mostly done. It is kind of a revelation and explains my interest to write code but also to operate infrastructure (like struggling with ruby, rmagick, nginx…). I am interested in backends since… well ever. The first time I noticed it when we talked about Kolab at LinuxTag and I was more interested in the backend than the KDE client. At sysmocom we built an IoT product and the backend was quite some fun, especially the scale of one instance and many devices/users, capacity planning and disk commissioning, lossless upgrades.

It can be seen in my non FOSS SS7 map work on traffic masquerading and transparent rewriting. It is also clear to see which part of engineering is needed for scale (instead of just installing and restarting servers).

Lang VM design

One technology that made Java fast (Hotspot) and has seen its way into JavaScript is dynamic optimization. Most Just in Time Compilers start with generating native code per method, either directly or after the first couple of calls when the methods size is significant enough. The VM records which call paths are hot, which types are used and then can generate optimized code (e.g. specialized for integers, remove type checks). A technique pioneered at Sun for the "Self" language (and then implemented for Strongtalk and then brought to Java) was "adaptive optimization and deoptimization" and was the Phd topic of Urs Hoelzle (Google's VP of Engineering). One of the key aspects is inlining across method boundaries as this removes method look-up, call stack handling and opens the way for code optimization across method boundaries (at the cost of RAM usage).

In OpenJDK, V8 and JavaScriptCore this adaptive optimization is typically implemented in C++ and requires quite some code. The code is complicated as it needs to optimize but also need to return to a basic function (deoptimize, e.g. if a method changed or the types passed don't match anymore), e.g. in the middle of a for loop with tons of inlined code (think of Array.map being inlined but then need to be de-inlined). A nice and long blog post of JSC can be found here describing the On Stack Replacement (OSR).

Long introduction and now to the new thing. In the OpensmalltalkVM a new approach called Sista has been picked and I find it is genius. Like with many problems the point of view and approach really matters. Instead of writing a lot of code in the VM the optimizer runs next to the application code. The key parts seem to be:

The revelation is the last part. By just optimizing from bytecode to bytecode the VM remains in charge of creating and managing machine code. The next part is that tooling in the higher language is better or at least the roundtrip is more quick (edit code and just compile the new method instead of running make, c++, ld). The productivity thanks to the abstraction and tooling is likely higher.

As last part the OSR is easier as well. In Smalltalk thisContext (the current stack frame, activation record) is an object as well. At the right point (when the JIT has either written back variables from register to the stack or at least knows where the value is) one can just manipulate thisContext, create and link news ones and then resume execution without all the magic in other VMs.

Go, Go and escape analysis

Ken Thompson and Robert Pike are well known persons and their Go programming language is a very interesting system programming language. Like with all new languages I try to get real world experience with the language, the tooling and which kind of problems can be solved with it. I have debugged and patched some bigger projects and written two small applications with it.

There is plenty I like. The escape analysis of the compiler is fun (especially now that I know it was translated from the Plan9 C compiler from C to Go), the concurrency model is good (though allowing shared state), the module system makes sense (but makes forking harder than necessary), being able to cross compile to any target from any system.

Knowing a bit of Erlang (and continuing to read the Phd Thesis of Joe Armstrong) and being a heavy Smalltalk user there are plenty of things missing. It starts with vague runtime error messages (e.g. panicslice not having parameters) and goes to runtime and post-runtime inspection. In Smalltalk thanks to the abstraction a lot of hard things are easy and I would have wished for some of them to be in Go. Serialize all unrecovered panics? Debugging someone else's code seems like pre 1980…

So for many developers Go is a big improvement but for some people with a wider view it might look like a lost opportunity. But that can only be felt by developers that have experienced higher abstraction and productivity.

Unsupervised machine learning

but that is for another dump…

25 Sep 2017 10:11am GMT

02 Sep 2017

feedPlanet Openmoko

Harald "LaF0rge" Welte: Purism Librem 5 campaign

There's a new project currently undergoing crowd funding that might be of interest to the former Openmoko community: The Purism Librem 5 campaign.

Similar to Openmoko a decade ago, they are aiming to build a FOSS based smartphone built on GNU/Linux without any proprietary drivers/blobs on the application processor, from bootloader to userspace.

Furthermore (just like Openmoko) the baseband processor is fully isolated, with no shared memory and with the Linux-running application processor being in full control.

They go beyond what we wanted to do at Openmoko in offering hardware kill switches for camera/phone/baseband/bluetooth. During Openmoko days we assumed it is sufficient to simply control all those bits from the trusted Linux domain, but of course once that might be compromised, a physical kill switch provides a completely different level of security.

I wish them all the best, and hope they can leave a better track record than Openmoko. Sure, we sold some thousands of phones, but the company quickly died, and the state of software was far from end-user-ready. I think the primary obstacles/complexities are verification of the hardware design as well as the software stack all the way up to the UI.

The budget of ~ 1.5 million seems extremely tight from my point of view, but then I have no information about how much Puri.sm is able to invest from other sources outside of the campaign.

If you're a FOSS developer with a strong interest in a Free/Open privacy-first smartphone, please note that they have several job openings, from Kernel Developer to OS Developer to UI Developer. I'd love to see some talents at work in that area.

It's a bit of a pity that almost all of the actual technical details are unspecified at this point (except RAM/flash/main-cpu). No details on the cellular modem/chipset used, no details on the camera, neither on the bluetooth chipset, wifi chipset, etc. This might be an indication of the early stage of their plannings. I would have expected that one has ironed out those questions before looking for funding - but then, it's their campaign and they can run it as they see it fit!

I for my part have just put in a pledge for one phone. Let's see what will come of it. In case you feel motivated by this post to join in: Please keep in mind that any crowdfunding campaign bears significant financial risks. So please make sure you made up your mind and don't blame my blog post for luring you into spending money :)

02 Sep 2017 10:00pm GMT

01 Sep 2017

feedPlanet Openmoko

Harald "LaF0rge" Welte: First actual XMOS / XCORE project

For many years I've been fascinated by the XMOS XCore architecture. It offers a surprisingly refreshing alternative virtually any other classic microcontroller architectures out there. However, despite reading a lot about it years ago, being fascinated by it, and even giving a short informal presentation about it once, I've so far never used it. Too much "real" work imposes a high barrier to spending time learning about new architectures, languages, toolchains and the like.

Introduction into XCore

Rather than having lots of fixed-purpose built-in "hard core" peripherals for interfaces such as SPI, I2C, I2S, etc. the XCore controllers have a combination of

  • I/O ports for 1/4/8/16/32 bit wide signals, with SERDES, FIFO, hardware strobe generation, etc
  • Clock blocks for using/dividing internal or external clocks
  • hardware multi-threading that presents 8 logical threads on each core
  • xCONNECT links that can be used to connect multiple processors over 2 or 5 wires per direction
  • channels as a means of communication (similar to sockets) between threads, whether on the same xCORE or a remote core via xCONNECT
  • an extended C (xC) programming language to make use of parallelism, channels and the I/O ports

In spirit, it is like a 21st century implementation of some of the concepts established first with Transputers.

My main interest in xMOS has been the flexibility that you get in implementing not-so-standard electronics interfaces. For regular I2C, UART, SPI, etc. there is of course no such need. But every so often one encounters some interface that's very rately found (like the output of an E1/T1 Line Interface Unit).

Also, quite often I run into use cases where it's simply impossible to find a microcontroller with a sufficient number of the related peripherals built-in. Try finding a microcontroller with 8 UARTs, for example. Or one with four different PCM/I2S interfaces, which all can run in different clock domains.

The existing options of solving such problems basically boil down to either implementing it in hard-wired logic (unrealistic, complex, expensive) or going to programmable logic with CPLD or FPGAs. While the latter is certainly also quite interesting, the learning curve is steep, the tools anything but easy to use and the synthesising time (and thus development cycles) long. Furthermore, your board design will be more complex as you have that FPGA/CPLD and a microcontroller, need to interface the two, etc (yes, in high-end use cases there's the Zynq, but I'm thinking of several orders of magnitude less complex designs).

Of course one can also take a "pure software" approach and go for high-speed bit-banging. There are some ARM SoCs that can toggle their pins. People have reported rates like 14 MHz being possible on a Raspberry Pi. However, when running a general-purpose OS in parallel, this kind of speed is hard to do reliably over long term, and the related software implementations are going to be anything but nice to write.

So the XCore is looking like a nice alternative for a lot of those use cases. Where you want a microcontroller with more programmability in terms of its I/O capabilities, but not go as far as to go full-on with FPGA/CPLD development in Verilog or VHDL.

My current use case

My current use case is to implement a board that can accept four independent PCM inputs (all in slave mode, i.e. clock provided by external master) and present them via USB to a host PC. The final goal is to have a board that can be combined with the sysmoQMOD and which can interface the PCM audio of four cellular modems concurrently.

While XMOS is quite strong in the Audio field and you can find existing examples and app notes for I2S and S/PDIF, I couldn't find any existing code for a PCM slave of the given requirements (short frame sync, 8kHz sample rate, 16bit samples, 2.048 MHz bit clock, MSB first).

I wanted to get a feeling how well one can implement the related PCM slave. In order to test the slave, I decided to develop the matching PCM master and run the two against each other. Despite having never written any code for XMOS before, nor having used any of the toolchain, I was able to implement the PCM master and PCM slave within something like ~6 hours, including simulation and verification. Sure, one can certainly do that in much less time, but only once you're familiar with the tools, programming environment, language, etc. I think it's not bad.

The biggest problem was that the clock phase for a clocked output port cannot be configured, i.e. the XCore insists on always clocking out a new bit at the falling edge, while my use case of course required the opposite: Clocking oout new signals at the rising edge. I had to use a second clock block to generate the inverted clock in order to achieve that goal.

Beyond that 4xPCM use case, I also have other ideas like finally putting the osmo-e1-xcvr to use by combining it with an XMOS device to build a portable E1-to-USB adapter. I have no clue if and when I'll find time for that, but if somebody wants to join in: Let me know!

The good parts

Documentation excellent

I found the various pieces of documentation extremely useful and very well written.

Fast progress

I was able to make fast progress in solving the first task using the XMOS / Xcore approach.

Soft Cores developed in public, with commit log

You can find plenty of soft cores that XMOS has been developing on github at https://github.com/xcore, including the full commit history.

This type of development is a big improvement over what most vendors of smaller microcontrollers like Atmel are doing (infrequent tar-ball code-drops without commit history). And in the case of the classic uC vendors, we're talking about drivers only. In the XMOS case it's about the entire logic of the peripheral!

You can for example see that for their I2C core, the very active commit history goes back to January 2011.

xSIM simulation extremely helpful

The xTIMEcomposer IDE (based on Eclipse) contains extensive tracing support and an extensible near cycle accurate simulator (xSIM). I've implemented a PCM mater and PCM slave in xC and was able to simulate the program while looking at the waveforms of the logic signals between those two.

The bad parts

Unfortunately, my extremely enthusiastic reception of XMOS has suffered quite a bit over time. Let me explain why:

Hard to get XCore chips

While the product portfolio on on the xMOS website looks extremely comprehensive, the vast majority of the parts is not available from stock at distributors. You won't even get samples, and lead times are 12 weeks (!). If you check at digikey, they have listed a total of 302 different XMOS controllers, but only 35 of them are in stock. USB capable are 15. With other distributors like Farnell it's even worse.

I've seen this with other semiconductor vendors before, but never to such a large extent. Sure, some packages/configurations are not standard products, but having only 11% of the portfolio actually available is pretty bad.

In such situations, where it's difficult to convince distributors to stock parts, it would be a good idea for XMOS to stock parts themselves and provide samples / low quantities directly. Not everyone is able to order large trays and/or capable to wait 12 weeks, especially during the R&D phase of a board.

Extremely limited number of single-bit ports

In the smaller / lower pin-count parts, like the XU[F]-208 series in QFN/LQFP-64, the number of usable, exposed single-bit ports is ridiculously low. Out of the total 33 I/O lines available, only 7 can be used as single-bit I/O ports. All other lines can only be used for 4-, 8-, or 16-bit ports. If you're dealing primarily with serial interfaces like I2C, SPI, I2S, UART/USART and the like, those parallel ports are of no use, and you have to go for a mechanically much larger part (like XU[F]-216 in TQFP-128) in order to have a decent number of single-bit ports exposed. Those parts also come with twice the number of cores, memory, etc- which you don't need for slow-speed serial interfaces...

Insufficient number of exposed xLINKs

The smaller parts like XU[F]-208 only have one xLINK exposed. Of what use is that? If you don't have at least two links available, you cannot daisy-chain them to each other, let alone build more complex structures like cubes (at least 3 xLINKs).

So once again you have to go to much larger packages, where you will not use 80% of the pins or resources, just to get the required number of xLINKs for interconnection.

Change to a non-FOSS License

XMOS deserved a lot of praise for releasing all their soft IP cores as Free / Open Source Software on github at https://github.com/xcore. The License has basically been a 3-clause BSD license. This was a good move, as it meant that anyone could create derivative versions, whether proprietary or FOSS, and there would be virtually no license incompatibilities with whatever code people wanted to write.

However, to my very big disappointment, more recently XMOS seems to have changed their policy on this. New soft cores (released at https://github.com/xmos as opposed to the old https://github.com/xcore) are made available under a non-free license. This license is nothing like BSD 3-clause license or any other Free Software or Open Source license. It restricts the license to use the code together with an XMOS product, requires the user to contribute fixes back to XMOS and contains references to importand export control. This license is incopatible with probably any FOSS license in existance, making it impossible to write FOSS code on XMOS while using any of the new soft cores released by XMOS.

But even beyond that license change, not even all code is provided in source code format anymore. The new USB library (lib_usb) is provided as binary-only library, for example.

If you know anyone at XMOS management or XMOS legal with whom I could raise this topic of license change when transitioning from older sc_* software to later lib_* code, I would appreciate this a lot.

Proprietary Compiler

While a lot of the toolchain and IDE is based on open source (Eclipse, LLVM, ...), the actual xC compiler is proprietary.

Further Reading

01 Sep 2017 10:00pm GMT

12 Nov 2011

feedPlanet Linux-to-go

Paul 'pfalcon' Sokolovsky: Shopping for 3D TV...

Shopping for 3D TV (again), few findings:

12 Nov 2011 6:55pm GMT

Paul 'pfalcon' Sokolovsky: Hacking Luxeon SP-1

I finally going to get Arduino, and while I'm choosing flavor and waiting for it, I can't help but disassembling all devices I have at home, each time speaking: "This must have Arduino inside!" (meaning of course that I expect it to be based on general-purpose MCU). Gosh, I usually get "blob chip" (uncased chip with blob of epoxy on top).

Well, I finally had my expectations fulfilled - Luxeon SP-1 voltage stabilizer/cutter features ATMEGA48V-10PU (Flash: 4k, EEPROM: 256, RAM:512). Not only that, it is installed in DIP socket! Buy from Luxeon, they're hacker-friendly ;-).

I bought the device actually for a wattmeter it features (which fact is hard to figure out from common specs found in the shops, I accidentally read somebody mentioning it on a forum). The wattmeter is of course not bright - for a lamp rated 100W it shows 88W, and for more powerful equipment (like perforator) understates wattage even more (maybe it's difference between real and apparent power factor).

Still, for $17 you get Arudino-alike with voltage/current sensor and hacking possibility. Woot!

BOM:
High-power board:

MCU board:


12 Nov 2011 5:58pm GMT

10 Nov 2011

feedPlanet Linux-to-go

Paul 'pfalcon' Sokolovsky: Links for November 2011

Kindle:


Linux kernel module tricks:

10 Nov 2011 3:21pm GMT

feedAndroid Forums

Latest action game INC from OrangePixel now available!

From the developer of Meganoid and Stardash comes a new action arcade game: INC! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9j5OEG-3RyM Get it from the...

10 Nov 2011 9:31am GMT

Free online video chat

More than 1000 broadcast cameras for you online - the most incendiary models in Russia. 1000 girls, 1000, the temptations, 1000, full of desire - all...

10 Nov 2011 7:48am GMT

Layout problem

Hi Friends I decided to work with a tab layout application. Program consist of 3 tabs and a button. I like to place the button below the tab. ...

10 Nov 2011 5:20am GMT

19 Oct 2011

feedPlanet OpenEZX

Antonio Ospite: Gnome 3: go to Shell? Not just yet, thanks.

In Debian Unstable the transition to Gnome 3 is taking place; when Gnome 3.0 firstly came out some unnamed geeky users complained loudly about the design decisions of the development team to push strongly towards gnome-shell as a new default UI; gnome-shell was designed focusing on usability (usability is a metric relative to a certain target audience BTW) and simplicity, hiding a lot of details from the users. Obviously you can never make everyone happy so some of us simply happened to be "out of target": you know us computer people (*cough cough*), we like to be in charge and control The Machine... I must admit I still don't have a definitive opinion about the gnome-shell concept, for now I just know that it does not suit me; I am going to try it eventually, maybe I'll get used to it, but in the mean time I need my desktop back just like I shaped it through the years; can this be done without loosing all the good Gnome technologies (Empathy over all of them)?

To be completely fair I have to say that there is little to complain about with Gnome developers, we can still get our good old GNOME desktop fully back by using the fall-back mode based on gnome-panel and live happily ever after, let's take a look at how this can be accomplished.

NOTE: GNOME people state that the fall-back mode is meant for systems with older graphic cards which cannot run gnome-shell, however it can very well be seen as a good opportunity for those who do not want to run gnome-shell just yet.

Getting back to the topic: some minor touches are needed to make the panel look more like what we are used to, maybe some of these settings could even become default for fall-back mode, we'll see.

First, enable fall-back mode (on Debian there is a dedicated session you can choose from the Log-in Manager for that) and change some desktop settings, in a terminal type:

$ gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.session session-name 'gnome-fallback'
$ gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface 'menus-have-icons' true
$ gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface 'buttons-have-icons' true
$ gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background 'show-desktop-icons' true

gnome-tweak-tool can be used for some of these settings like shown in the attached images.

Then rearrange the applets on the panel as you please (use Alt-RightClick to access the panel properties), and fix the theming using this patch to have a light panel again (against gnome-themes-standard=3.0.2-1):

$ mkdir $HOME/.themes
$ cd $HOME/.themes
$ cp -r /usr/share/themes/Adwaita Adwaita-fallback
$ cd Adwaita-fallback
$ patch -p1 < $HOME/adwaita-fallback-panel-theme.patch
$ gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface 'gtk-theme' 'Adwaita-fallback'

Some final touches for the Metacity window manager and to the clock applet, and we are all set:

$ gconftool-2 --type string --set /apps/metacity/general/focus_mode mouse
$ gconftool-2 --type boolean --set /apps/metacity/general/compositing_manager true
$ gconftool-2 --type string --set /apps/panel3-applets/clock/custom_format '<span color="#333">%a %d %b</span> <b>%H:%M</b>'
$ gconftool-2 --type string --set /apps/panel3-applets/clock/format custom

Ah, in the new gnome-panel based on Gtk3 there are still some details to take care of, I hope issues like that will be addressed and that the panel will be supported for quite some time.

Attached images:
Gnome Shell default look on Debian
gnome-tweak-tool show desktop icons
Gnome 3 fall-back mode default look on Debian
Gnome 3 fall-back mode applets rearranged
Gnome 3 fall-back mode rethemed to have a light panel
Attached files:
text/x-diff iconAdwaita theme patch for fall-back mode

19 Oct 2011 9:37pm GMT

09 Jun 2011

feedPlanet OpenEZX

Michael Lauer: The Eagle Has Landed!

After letting us wait for a bit longer than scheduled (13 days), the hospital initiated the contractions. For the first couple of hours, everything went just perfect, but then the little one got stuck on the way and we had to resort to a cesarean section. Lara Marie Lauer was born 8th of June at 04:41 (AM) with 3460 gramms and 49 cm.

Mummy was still on intensive care and so they gave her to me. I can't express the feelings I had in this very moment. I'm still kind of overwhelmed every time I see her. Thanks for all of you who waited anxiously with me and those who prayed for us. The most important tasks for the near future is getting Mummy to recover and Lara Marie to become accustomed to us and the rest of the outside world.

Please bear with me if in the next time I'm not as responsive as usually :)

Lara Marie Lauer

09 Jun 2011 4:06pm GMT

30 May 2011

feedPlanet OpenEZX

Michael Lauer: German Post on time!

And now for something completely different… while we are all waiting for my baby to arrive (who was scheduled for 25th of May), she just received her first greeting card - together with a personalized bib and a towel (with integrated hood - pretty fancy!) from my good friends at #openmoko-cdevel.

Guys, seeing this card was very heartwarming - it means a lot to me that you share my anticipation, thanks a lot! And I'm 100% sure she will appreciate her gifts… now let's cross fingers it won't take much longer… waiting is the hardest part of it :)

Yours,

Mickey.

30 May 2011 8:54am GMT