Tag Archives: Linux

The Linux Foundation is building an RTOS for the Internet of Things


The Zephyr Project will offer a modular, connected operating system to support IoT devices.


The Linux Foundation recently introduced the Zephyr Projectan open source collaborative effort that hopes to build a real-time operating system (RTOS) for the Internet of Things. Announced just days before Embedded World 2016, the project is looking to bring vendors and developers together under a single OS which could make the development of connected devices a simpler, less expensive process.

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Industrial and consumer IoT devices require software that is scalable, secure and enables seamless connectivity. Developers also need the ability to innovate on top of a highly modular platform that easily integrates with embedded devices regardless of architecture.

While Linux has proven to be a wildly successful operating system for embedded development, some smart gadgets require an RTOS that addresses the very smallest memory footprints. This complements real-time Linux, which excels at data acquisition systems, manufacturing plants and other time-sensitive instruments and machines that provide the critical infrastructure for some of the world’s most complex computing systems.

If all goes to plan, the Zephyr Project has the potential to become a significant step in creating an established ecosystem in which vendors subscribe to the same basic communication protocols and security settings.

With modularity and security in mind, the Zephyr Project provides the freedom to use the RTOS as is or to tailor a solution. The initiative’s focus on security includes plans for a dedicated working group and a delegated security maintainer. Broad communications and networking support is also addressed and will initially include Bluetooth, BLE and IEEE 802.15.4, with more to follow.

The Zephyr Project aims to incorporate input from the open source and embedded developer communities and to encourage collaboration on the RTOS. Additionally, this project will include powerful developer tools to help advance the Zephyr RTOS as a best-in-breed embedded technology for IoT. To start, the following platforms will initially be supported:

  • Arduino Due (Atmel | SMART SAM3X8E ARM Cortex-M3 MCU)
  • Arduino 101
  • Intel Galileo Gen 2
  • NXP FRDM-K64F Freedom board (ARM Cortex-M4 MCU)

Intrigued? Head over to the Zephyr Project’s official site to learn more.

HardWhere 2.0 is a pocket-sized Linux PC


This small stick can turn any TV into a desktop PC.


Personal computing just got more compact and affordable with HardWhere 2.0, a PC-on-a-stick that plugs into any TV with an HDMI port. This tiny computer offers the same desktop experience without the hassle of long power cables, bulky equipment and loud, overheating fans. You can take all your computing needs anywhere in your pocket!

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HardWhere comes from three Italian Makers based in the little town of Treviso. Andrea Cescon, Marco Crosera and Stefano Artuso have proven that big ideas can come from small places. HardWhere boasts a multi-user experience, with everything from its Ubuntu Linux-based operating system to user files and apps saved on a removable microSD card. To change the user, you just need to replace the microSD; ensuring privacy for each individual.

Despite its sized, its capabilities are hardly minimized. HardWhere still has the full PC experience, with cloud sync and storage, complete web browsing, HD video streaming (VLC, Netflix, YouTube, etc.), OpenOffice, as well as the Linux app market. This minicomputer even runs Android on the internal Flash memory, giving you access to more apps.

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As the team touts, “many lives, one HardWhere.” This device can be useful in many situations beyond a personal computer. It can act as a family PC with each member having their own microSD; as a small server for peer-to-peer downloading and uploading; as a presentation companion that can plug to an HDMI projector; or as an entertainment where you can stream your videos, play your songs, or scroll through photos.

HardWhere’s hardware includes a quad-core ARM-based processor, 2GB of RAM and a GPU Mali-400. It also has built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and comes with two micro- and full-sized USB ports for power, a microSD card reader and an HDMI 1.4 connector. What’s more, HardWhere was designed with Makers in mind. The pocketable PC enables user to code and upload sketches to their Arduino, and even control a variety of 3D printers.

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Ready to take computing to the next level? Head over to HardWhere’s Kickstarter campaign, where its creators are currently seeking $8,768. Delivery is slated for February 2016.

Secure your Raspberry Pi and Linux applications with ZymKey


ZymKey makes it easy to secure your IoT applications and manage them in the real world.


More times than not, developers are faced with two bad options: either deliver a substandard product quickly, or reinvent the wheel and miss the market altogether. Luckily, one Santa Barbara-based startup has come up with a solution, not just a band-aid but a true fix to the all too common conundrum. Introducing ZymKey, a tiny, low-cost piece of hardware for authenticating and encrypting data between Internet of Things devices.

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The key integrates silicon and software into a simple, ready-to-go package that will automatically work with Raspberry Pi and other Linux gadgets. What’s nice is that the ZymKey integrates seamlessly with Zymbit’s existing IoT platform, which includes Zymbit.Connect software, the Zymbit.City community and the Zymbit.Orange secure IoT motherboard that was on display back at Maker Faire Bay Area. Together, Zymbit enables IoT professional developers and Makers innovate faster with the confidence of data security and integrity.

“The Internet of Things will reach its full potential when real people like you and I begin to connect our devices and share data streams,” explained Zymbit CEO Phil Strong. “Then we can work together to solve real problems that impact our everyday lives. Funding our Kickstarter campaign is not just about building the ZymKey, it’s about enabling an entire community of people to collaborate around secure data streams and ideas.”

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Ideally, Zymbit will make it easy to not only collect but to share data in a trusted manner. The platform embraces open technologies and gives people the freedom to innovate quickly without having to compromise security or performance. Aside from that, the so-called Zymbit.City will serve as a forum for those with common interests to collaborate on ideas powered by such verified and authenticated information.

ZymKey works by attaching to IoT Linux platforms like the Raspberry Pi. When combined with Zymbit’s Linux APIs, it offers true authentication and cryptographic services of remote devices, as well as a real-time clock and accelerometer to timestamp security events and detect physical tampering, respectively. For its Kickstarter launch, ZymKey is available in two versions: a header-mounted crypto key for the RPi and a USB stick that plugs into the port of a Linux board, including BeagleBone, UDOO and Dragon.

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For the RPi model, the low-profile hardware attaches directly to the Pi’s expansion header while still allowing Pi-Plates to be added on top. Lightweight firmware drivers run on the RPi core interface with software services through Zymbit.Connect. Meanwhile, the USB version adds more functionality and is usable on any Linux unit with a USB host.

“Great security has to be designed end to end. From silicon to software, from point of manufacture through end-of-life. ZymKey brings all this together and makes it easy to manage your applications and devices out in the real world, without compromising security,” the team explains. “ZymKey integrates speciality silicon with firmware drivers on the host device and the corresponding software services in the cloud. The result is a robust and secure communication workflow that meets some of the highest standards in the industry.”

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Both ZymKeys are embedded with an ATECC508A CryptoAuthentication IC for bolstered security, while the USB version also features an Atmel | SAM D21 Cortex-M0+ core. Once connected to the Zymbit platform, you will have the unprecedented ability to transparently manage all of your remote devices from a single console — upgrade over the air, configure admin rights, and so much more. Additionally, you will be able to publish, subscribe and visualize secure data. Each ZymKey comes pre-packed with dashboard widget that make it simple to customize and share with others.

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So whether you’re connecting one Linux gizmo in your garage to a public forum or have tens of thousands of Raspberry Pis deployed throughout the world, ZymKey seems to be an excellent option for everyone. Interested? Head over to its Kickstarter page, where the Zymbit team is seeking $15,000. Delivery is slated for December 2015.

Creating a Siri clone with an Arduino Yún


An Arduino Yún can act just like Siri, allowing users to ask it a question and get an audio response.


Over the years, voice control applications have risen in popularity with programs like Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and “OK Google” revolutionizing the way in which people interact with their mobile devices. With this in mind, Maker Bob Hammell decided to recreate the capabilities of Apple’s intelligent personal assistant using an Arduino.

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An Arduino Yún (ATmega32U4) was chosen to mimic Siri, enabling users to ask it a question and to receive an audio response moments later. A Proto Shield with a pushbutton sits on top of the Internet-connected Arduino, while an audio interface plugged into the Yún’s USB socket is attached to a microphone and a battery-powered speaker.

Whenever the circuit’s pushbutton is pressed, the Arduino sketch running on the ATmega32U4 launches a Python script on the Atheros AR9331, which emits a tone promoting a user’s question. The inquiry is recorded through the microphone and saved as a WAV file. From there, the file is translated to text using AT&T’s Speech to Text API. This then gets passed into the WolframAlpha computational knowledge engine using the Temboo library, and upon receiving a response, calls another Linux command to share the answer through the speaker.

Interested? You can find out more about the project, including its source code and sketches, on the Maker’s detailed page here. Or, simply watch it in action below.

C.H.I.P. is the world’s first $9 computer


Save your documents, surf the web and play games with this palm-sized computer.


When you think back to the days of the earliest computers, which weighed in at 55-pounds, packed only 64 KB of RAM and a carried a price tag of a whopping $20,000, it’s always astonishing to really see just how far we’ve come. Take for instance, Oakland-based startup Next Thing Co., who has just introduced an uber mini, single-board computer with 512MB of RAM for only $9.

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Designed with Makers in mind, C.H.I.P. is not your everyday computer. The open-source board runs Debain-based Linux and boasts a 1Ghz R8 ARM processor, an ARM Mali-400 GPU, 512MB of RAM and 4GB of eMMC storage. Impressively, this little fellow is even more powerful than a Raspberry Pi B+ and equal to the BeagleBone Black in terms of clock speed, RAM and storage.

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What sets C.H.I.P. apart from the others is its built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and extreme portability. This enables users to save their spreadsheets and documents to its on-board storage, surf the web using a Chromium browser, or even play games wirelessly. With dozens of pre-installed applications and tools, the recently-revealed Kickstarter project is ready to “do computer things the moment you power it on.”

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Beyond that, C.H.I.P. comes with a full-sized and micro-USB port, along with an audio jack with a microphone that doubles as a way to output video via a composite cable. The unit has been designed to work with just about any sized screen, whether new or old, and can be easily connected via its built-in composite output or by adding a simple expansion boards for VGA or HDMI.

“At 1Ghz and with 512MB of DDR3 RAM, C.H.I.P. is powerful enough to run real software, and handle the demands of a full GUI just as well as it handles attached hardware. Best of all, CHIP runs mainline Linux, which means it’s easier than ever to keep teaching it new tricks without inheriting a pile of kernel patches,” the Next Thing Co. crew writes.

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What’s more, C.H.I.P. can even teach young Makers how to code. The board comes pre-loaded with the Scratch programming language which instructs users by making fun stories, games and animations. Or, for those musicians out there, just link a MIDI keyboard to C.H.I.P. and start jamming. It can be employed both as a portable music player or as part of an entire ensemble. Attach powered speakers and annoy those petty neighbors with some beats.

As eluded to earlier, C.H.I.P. was created to accommodate the needs of those on-the-go through what the startup calls PocketC.H.I.P. In essence, this gives the $9 board a 4.3” touchscreen as well as a five-hour internal battery. It also includes a “super-clicky” QWERTY keyboard, which is driven by an ATmega328. And, as its name would suggest, it’s small enough to fit right in your back pocket. Entirely open-source, the gadget features several GPIO breakouts and is removable via hatch.

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When combined with the PocketC.H.I.P., users are provided with a fully functioning $50 computer — without the need for a monitor or keyboard. Or, for less than the price of tonight’s dinner, the palm-sized C.H.I.P. can be s slipped into a wide-range of projects, giving them the computer functionality you’ve always wanted.

Intrigued? Head over to its official Kickstarter page, where the Next Thing Co. team is seeking $50,000. Shipment is expected to begin in May 2016.

Building a DIY embedded Linux processor


Maker has impressively devised two Linux SoCs with one based on the Atmel | SMART AT91SAM9N12. 


When it comes to obtaining an embedded Linux device like the Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone for a project, most Makers would simply head online and purchase one. That is unless you’re “hak8or,” who decided to produce his own uber mini board based on an Atmel | SMART AT91SAM9N12 that runs Linux off of a USB drive.

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Inspired by Henrik Forstén’s recent device, hak8or’s system measures just two square inches in size, features 64 MB of DDR2 DRAM, a USB host and OTG port on-board.

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“NAND Flash doesn’t work for some reason, so dataflash is used instead. The dataflash chip is attached to the SPI bus from the chip to the SPI bus pads while also using it’s own board. DRAM is also underclocked to 100 Mhz instead of 133 Mhz via the main system bus downclock, causing the processor to run at 300 Mhz instead of 400 Mhz. AT91 Bootstrap and U-Boot are located on dataflash at0x00 and 0x8400 respectivly, with U-Boot pulling the kernel from a flash drive connected via USB OTG as well. The kernel then pulls the rootfs off the flash drive in a dedicated ext2 rootfs as rw (read write). GCC has been cross compiled to this board and compiles programs correctly, so this board was used for completion of the project,” hak8or notes.

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Those wishing to delve deeper can head over to the project’s Github page, where the Maker has provided an elaborate readme.md covering the boot process, the root filesystem and the toolchain. He also goes on to list a slew of useful resources for anyone looking to boot Linux on the chips.

Hackerspaces: A prelude to the Maker Movement and today’s Maker culture

So, what exactly is the Maker Movement? Do you remember that ever so distant yet memorable quote by Michelangelo? “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” 

Now, to further set this, [white fuzz] the channel just switched, we are tuned. Things will change right? They have changed. We have the Internet; we will have one layer more, eventually the arrow of technology will continue. There is one congruent dataset, which manifests all things to a new exponent. It’s the pulses and signals resulting from the exterior world meshed with the existing datasets of infrastructure, enterprise, and the consumer. Let’s speak of this layer. It will be filled with sensors, microcontrollers, and code. Already, we learned this from the app revolution and we are not going to remain in just this stage right? The code will be leaner and smarter. Coupled by the signal readings from millions of device upon device, node to nodes, nodes to node, the true power of distribution and networks will again marry now with other application recorded data in a mosaic of diversified integrations resulting from the intersection of data easily bridged from the cloud apps. Yes, the ones we are already familiar today touching from screen to screen to anticipate the next arriving notification.

The arrival of this integration of data will help filter and augment the world before us. Let’s reset to the modern era, thread modern computing to this notion, [for technology’s sake] we have also seen the Gartner quote by Jim Tully stating, “By 2018, 50% of the Internet of Things solutions will be provided by startups which are less than 3 years old”.

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The Digital Renaissance and the Maker Movement

Together with the accessibility and progress of open source and availability of community and embedded development boards [specifically wider use of Arduino Maker class boards], the times have certainly changed. A great deal of the complexities of these development boards are relaxed with onboard abstraction layers to loosen the programmatic rigidness of “hardware,” combined with the collective tuning of the community toward its development software.

Arduino IDE is now quite anchored into well-received feedback/contribution loops supported by the open source model — crowdsource progress and joint development roadmaps. Let’s not forget all the risky and obviously passionate Makers out there doing and bringing ideas to the forefront. The timing is right — found in the appetite to feed the market, the maturing cloud, the developed community, parity in prototyping, and the global production.

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Globalization of Hackerspaces and the Maker Movement | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

As a whole, and to its sum of its parts, all community members are participants in the evolution of the ecosystem and community effort of “Making” with ease. At all aspects of the innovation engine cycle, the open source community couples quite well with hackerspaces, where one can congregate to surface ideas and mature them to fruition.

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Open Source Community and Hackerspaces | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

This is especially true where it applies to the mere process of creating a product. In fact, it’s now true to building things that 10 years ago you needed to be in a big company to make innovating things, but now it truly possible from an individual. Made possible to said horizon, there are the hackerspaces. It’s a place that shows signs of innovation and development, infusing wider spread of technology and community across all economic classes or cultures. In these facilities, these are technical and creative social clubs facilitating activities that include tinkering, machine tooling, 3-D printing, coding, open source, collaboration, and sharing. Some hackerspaces market themselves under the more benign-sounding label of “maker space”. More bluntly, this is really drawing attention as private incubators such as hardware accelerators fueling entrepreneurship and startups [an emulation of an innovation success formula taken from the original hackerspaces.

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There is something about hackerspaces that brings people together that are made of some pretty awesome stuff. Call it “Voltron” if you will, why not? With drones rising and Maker Faires (or similar) blooming all around us, it all seems like the perfect unison of having people interlock together. As the notion of building robots continued to unwind, one fellow by the name of Chris Anderson saw that it would be much easier to have robots fly first than walk bipedal. More simply, it just felt and saw it to be much easier. Perhaps, something even more achievable and widespread adopted as the next step to bring about the age of drones.

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But still, wait, there’s even more to how this started. We also owe the spawning of drones to a unique origin where a group of people, hive together pursuing one ultimate quest.

Call it social science and synergy if you will. Something happens when a group gets “too large” and suddenly it all transforms from a conversation into a cacophony and a team into a mob then something incorporated too soon begins may wield the ugly cues of politics. Yet, going it alone is usually impossible if the task at hand is at all sometimes complicated [maybe the next best thing for technology]. Assembling IKEA furniture is probably best done as an individual, but things like raising a family, having a stand-up meeting, or shipping a meaningful product is definitely a team sport…

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For hackerspaces, one of these unique values is in having opportunities to meet different people from all sorts of backgrounds. Combined in a common pursuit of sharing and making, there is a common thread of being willing to be giving their time and talents to others. Note, it was in what’s said as “giving” as the common notion in hackerspaces are the more you give, the more you get back, helping to change the course of things to come [individual pairing of ideas to the intellectual hackerspace benefit of networking ingenuity]. It’s all about the community. This is the hallmark of the Internet. The Internet started as a community in its deeper past with ARPANET. We are all reaping those originally rooted benefits today [first operational packet switching networks implementing TCP/IP] creating layer upon layer new industries, service models, and ecosystems (ie Apps, Cloud, M2M, IoT, etc). Now what we are seeing today sprout from city to city are hackerspaces. In fact, we may begin to see every community in a city drawing upon good reason to incubate and nest new hackerspaces. Perhaps, it’s a progenitor to something more in the next trend of innovation.

The digital life now is a result of the collision of software and hardware. Technology is fashion. Fashion is Technology. Both are now intertwined together in the speed and making of culture. Have you ever tried leaving your home without the mobile touch screen device or everyone has out grown to wearing the old flip analog/cdma phones of the past. Digital influence upon culture and self move along prevalently—the desire for hackerspaces are becoming more acquainted in many metropolitans.

There’s a secret sauce to the structure of the hackerspaces. Unravel this structure. From within, it reveals a true community based packed with peer-to-peer involvements. People with skills converge in distinct trades upon others with other skills. Combined, they make this union, transforming their once ideate policy of making, broadening their abilities coupled by a giving and sharing of others to expand the design envelope of possibilities.

Surely, one may see it as a digital and hardware renaissance, comparatively from the distant spark of the past. The foundries of artistry in Florence and Rome once prevailed, urging communities of artist to congregate and make creative expression toward emulating realism via sculpture, oil and canvas. Well, now it’s about achieving a more meaningful product. The canvas has changed, coalescing digital and hardware. Giving rise to an idea where the ideas mature into a minimal valuable product that is mapped to some form of developed connectivity. This some form of developed connectivity is what we call the Internet of Things or many of the products sprouting from emergent crowdfunding rooted by makerspaces or hackerspaces.

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A common construct. Make Ideas, Make Genuis, and Make Things | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

Now, let us imagine a place where people get together without a common construct or preconceived established code, they then converse, and collaborate. It is filled to the brim with entrepreneurs and inventors of all types working on projects that they hope will change the world or at least convinced to usher an adoption to things making what we usually do more easier or enhanced.

Many of them are on laptops or standalone computers frantically typing business plans or hacking out code; others are making phone calls while trying to set up connections wherever they can.

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Hackerspaces have an environmental core that keep ideas flowing | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

As all the chaos goes about, one can see that in this space is an environmental core that keeps the magic flowing around innovation. It is the center foundation of what the area will turn into. While the outer linings are being fine-tuned and polished, the inner workings remain relatively unchanged. The concrete has been laid; the electrical wires have been strung throughout the wooden frames and the insulation and drywall is mostly there, all while a wireless network is hangs throughout the air. Projects can begin even if the air conditioning isn’t hooked up yet.

As long as there is a good foundation, people can get stuff done. The rest of the work on the outer edges will always be changing. Paint will cover the walls in different shades and dust will always need to be cleaned up. However as time goes on and unless a major change happens, all the people running the space will need to do is adjust the dials of the environment (when needed) and continue progressing the community. Once the foundation is done first, the rest will fall into place.

Next up, read the 1:1 interview with Mitch Altman, co-founder of Noisebridge San Francisco as we dive deeper into hackerspaces, the Maker Movement and more