Posts Tagged ‘microsoft’

Microsoft Plans to Leverage TV Whitespace Frequencies to Offer Internet Access in Remote Areas

July 12th, 2017 9 comments

TV whitespace spectrum represents the frequencies unused by analog TV channels either because noone is broadcasting at a given frequency or because of analog TV sunset. There are plans to use this free spectrum for the Internet of Things with Weightless, but instead Microsoft plans to leverage this new bandwidth for Internet access in remote areas.

There are some hurdles to this technology as government must approve use of TV whitespace spectrum for use other than TV signals, and the receiver is now rather expensive at $1000, but Microsoft expects the price to come down to around $200.

The advantage of TV frequencies is that they can be used over long distances, and easily penetrate through walls. The company has apparently started working on the technology since the end of 2012, and they now have pilot programs in various countries including the US, the UK, Jamaica, Namibia, Kenya, Taiwan and others.

Those projects have been running for some time, but this is now news because the technology will be/has been demonstrated in New York today, with the service becoming available in 12 states in the US soon, not from Microsoft directly, bu via local ISPs.

Via Liliputing.

Microsoft Releases Raspberry Pi 3 Web Simulator Working with Azure IoT Cloud

July 11th, 2017 No comments

If you were already following this blog when the first Raspberry Pi launched, you may have tried to emulate a Raspberry Pi and run Fedora in QEMU, as getting a board was a challenge at that time. Microsoft has launched its own Raspberry Pi (3) simulator running in web browsers, connecting to virtual sensors and components using Fritzing, and interfacing with the company’s Azure IoT cloud service.

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The preview version of the simulator does not allow you customize components on the breadboard, something you’ll be able to do in the release version, so we are stuck with a BMP280 sensor and red LED in the assembly window. on the left. On the top right, we’ve got sample source code written using Node.js to read temperature data from the sensor, push it to an Azure IoT Hub, and blink the LED in the coding area, and finally the integrated console window can be seen on the bottom right corner.

To do anything useful, you’ll need to create a new IoT Hub in Azure, at which point you’ll need to register an account, and provide a mobile phone number and credit card info for authentication, so I stopped there. The company does say “you will not be charged unless you explicitly transition to a paid offer”, so it should be free to try.

You’ll find the full simulator doc here, and the project is open source with all files released in Github.

Via Eddy Lab’s G+ Community

MXCHIP AZ3166 IoT Developer Kit is Designed to Work with Microsoft Azure

June 25th, 2017 3 comments

MXCHIP is a Shanghai based company designing and manufacturing WiFi IoT modules such as EMW3165, which has now made a development board based on their EMW3166 STM32+ Cypress module – called MXChip AZ3166 – specifically designed for Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform.

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MXChip AZ3166 board specifications:

  • Wireless Module – EMW3166 WiFi module with STM32F412 ARM Cortex M4F MCU @ 100 MHz with 256KB SRAM,1MB+2MB SPI Flash, Cypress BCM43362 WiFi chip
  • Display – 128×64 OLED display
  • Audio – Audio codec, built-in microphone, and 3.5mm heaphone jack
  • Sensors – Motion sensor,  magnetometer, atmospheric pressure sensor,  temperature and humidity sensor
  • Expansion – Finger extension interface with 25 external I/O pins including GPIOs, I2C, I2S, UART, ADC, Reset, 3.3V, and GND
  • Debugging – DAP Link emulator
  • USB – 1x Micro USB port for power, programming, debugging
  • Misc – 2x user buttons;  1x RGB light; 3x working status indicator; IR emitter; Security encryption chip
  • Power Supply – 3.3V DC, maximum current 1.5A; 5V via micro USB port

The AZ3166 board is Arduino compatible can be used for prototyping IoT and smart device solutions using Visual Studio Code with Arduino Extension. Applications can  integrates with various services like Azure IoT Hub, Logic App and Cognitive Services. You’ll find more technical details on Microsoft’s Azure IoT Devkit and MXCHIP AZ3166 pages.

Visual Studio Code with Arduino Extension – Click to Enlarge

The board is not for sale yet, but you could get a preview board for free, if you can meet Microsoft’s “select criteria”.

Thanks to Freire for the tip.

Microsoft is Working with Mediatek on Project Sopris Secure WiFi MCU

April 5th, 2017 5 comments

There are serious security issues with the Internet of Things at all levels: hardware, software, network, and end-users. Microsoft Research NExT Operating Systems Technologies Group has been tasked with “exploring the goal of securing the vast number of low cost Internet connected devices coming online” with Project Sopris. They have shared their first technical report that identifies “seven properties of highly secure devices”, and describes their experiments towards designing microcontroller based prototype devices adapted from Mediatek MT7687 MIPS microcontroller, and exhibiting those seven properties.

Experimental Sopris Developer Board

The seven properties identifies by Microsoft team include:

  • Hardware-based Root of Trust – Unforgeable cryptographic keys generated and protected by hardware. Physical countermeasures resist side-channel attacks.
  • Small Trusted Computing Base – Private keys stored in a hardware-protected vault, inaccessible to software. Division of software into self-protecting layers.
  • Defense in Depth – Multiple mitigations applied against each threat. Countermeasures mitigate the consequences of a successful attack on any one vector.
  • Compartmentalization – Hardware-enforced barriers between software components prevent a breach in one from propagating to others.
  • Certificate-based Authentication – Signed certificate, proven by unforgeable cryptographic key, proves the device identity and authenticity.
  • Renewable Security – Renewal brings the device forward to a secure state and revokes compromised assets for known vulnerabilities or security breaches.
  • Failure Reporting – A software failure, such as a buffer overrun induced by an attacker probing security, is reported to cloud-based failure analysis system.

After noticing that most traditional MCUs lacks all of those 7 properties,  they decided to modify Mediatek MT7687 whose block diagram is shown below…

… and replaced the crypto engines and hardware RNG with what Microsoft calls “Pluton security subsystem”, added a memory management unit (MMU) to the CPU, as well as more on-die SRAM. One this was done, they integrated in the prototype picture in the picture at the top of this post.

Sopris WiFI MCU Block Diagram

So now we have a highly secure WiFi-enabled MCU. Since we are talking about security and WiFi, as a quick side node, it’s now possible to exploit Broadcom WiFi SoC security weaknesses to access the host operating systems in Android devices. This won’t affect Sopris MCU however.

Sopris development board is said to support the seven properties:

  • Hardware-based root of trust – device secrets are protected in the Pluton security subsystem.
  • Small trusted computing base – for most operations, the TCB for Sopris is isolated to the Pluton security subsystem.
  • Defense in depth – between the upgraded CPU and the Pluton security system up to seven layers of defense are supported in Sopris.
  • Compartmentalization – for example, separate compartments can be implemented using isolated address spaces enabled by the upgraded CPU.
  • Certificate-based authentication –  for example, private keys stored in the Pluton security subsystem can form the basis of a secure per-device certificate chain.
  • Renewable security – for example, a software stack running on Sopris can use the multiple layers of hardware-protected defense in depth to implement renewable
  • Failure reporting – for example, failure handling code that runs on the Sopris can collect data about failures and relay that information to a failure analysis service through Wi-Fi.

Going forward, Microsoft researchers plans to package Sopris into a simple device board design with software that can be shared with researchers and security experts across academia and industry.

Via EENews Europe

Report: Linux Cannot Be Installed on Microsoft Signature Edition PCs, Laptops and Tablets

September 21st, 2016 21 comments

Microsoft Signature program is designed to make sure certified devices offer the best possible experience for users, as they can not come with bloatware, include Windows Defender, and must meet strict hardware requirements. However according to a Phoronix report, “providing the best possible user experience” also includes blocking installation of alternative operating systems such as Ubuntu, Debian, or other Linux distributions.

microsoft-signature-edition-no-linuxThe issue was discovered by rijesh who attempted to install Ubuntu 16.04 on his Microsoft Signature Edition Lenovo Yoga 900 13-ISK2 laptop, and noticed that while the BIOS and Windows 10 could see his 512 GB hard drive, Ubuntu was unable to find it, and a customer support representative answered that:

This system has a Signature Edition of Windows 10 Home installed. It is locked per our agreement with Microsoft.

Another user reports having successfully installed Ubuntu 16.04 on his Lenovo YOGA 900-13ISK, so the devil is in the details. At the beginning, several users thought that Ubuntu was actually the culprit, as some speculated it might support the very latest hardware…

Anyway if you want to avoid that issue, and have control over which operating system to install on your hardware, Microsoft has a list of devices not to buy prepared just for you…

[Update: Microsoft and Lenovo now claim it was not intentional]

Large American Technology Companies Abusive Practices Against Bloggers

September 10th, 2016 53 comments

OK the title might be a little over of the top, but within the last month or so, I’ve been a “victim” of three American companies’ requests, via third parties, namely their customers or technology partners, never directly, to delete or amend the content of this blog. One which I believe is justified albeit not really necessary, and two are just ridiculous, with the latest one prompting me to write this post.


The first issue was about a post entitled “Allwinner A64 based Pine A64 and Banana Pi M64 Boards Can Now Run Windows 10 IoT Core“, where I shared .ffu firmware file links that I found directly via a page on Microsoft Azure github about Banana Pi board. There were accessible without any EULA, or agreement. So The Internet being the Internet, where you can freely share links that don’t break any sort of copyrights or promote hate, I added the links to my post, as well as a video showing the board with Windows IoT.

Two days later, I received an email from a company telling Microsoft had been asked them to ask me to “remove the ffu links from the article as MS are quite sensitive about publishing them” and “could you remove the video?”. I reluctantly did it, since I’ve received DMCA requests from Microsoft in the past for allegedly infringing on their copyrights in that post, but the way Google words them, it’s nearly impossible to find out why exactly. Google will normally comply with Microsoft request, so the page was removed from Google Search results, but funnily enough I can find it in Bing… On the bright side, there’s a lawsuit against DMCA by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in progress… Who knows, this might also help terminate YouTube’s “you’re guilty until proven innocent” policy regarding fair use of copyrighted audio and video…

The second US company asking me to modify my content this month was Intel, against by proxy, through their customer. The post was “Intel Atom C3000 Denverton Processor Targets Low Power Servers“, and a company contacted me to remove two pictures, and references to a specific company, as Intel had seen this was in conflict with an NDA. I got the picture and info from Anandtech, but I was explained that there’s been a misunderstanding with Anandtech when they published the pictures, and I could see they had themselves removed the pictures, so I did it too as I felt it was a fair request. However, I still have a hard time understanding how those two pictures can negatively impact Intel business, and IMHO they’d better focus their efforts on more important things. It also took them around 50 days to report the issue…

Netflix was the third company asking me to remove content or even delete a post by proxy. The interesting part is that I did not have any input from any company involved when I wrote “MINIX NEO U9-H 4K HDR Amlogic S912-H Android TV Box Coming in October“, as I got all my info from HDBlog Italia, except for one confirmation about the use of Amlogic S912-H processor. The post was written five days ago, and today I received an email by a third party asking me to remove the post. Wow, that’s quite a request without explanation… So I asked why and whether I could amend part of the post instead, and I was told that Neflix was quite unhappy about my post because of the text in bold below:

One interesting point is that Widewine Level 1 DRM is supported, so some premium video streaming app will support HD and maybe 4K UHD. It does not mean Netflix HD/4K will be supported however, as this requires an extra agreement with Netflix, but it’s still a step in the right direction.

It’s quite a well known fact that Netflix HD and 4K does not work on all devices, and Netflix even have a list of working devices. It’s quite hard to understand why this comment would become an issue, unless Netflix feels like it makes them look like the deliver a poorly supported service… Anyway, I changed the “inadequate” post by removing the text in bold, and wrote this post instead to make everybody happy 🙂

Sensors Predicting The Future – Elderly Persons Fall Prediction and Detection with Kinect, Webcams and Microphones

September 9th, 2016 No comments

Wearables can be used your young children or elderly persons to monitoring their locations or health, and one use case, especially for old age persons, is to detect falls. However, it’s quite possible they don’t like it and/or not always wear it, so the Center for Eldercare and Technology of the University of Missouri designed a system based on Microsoft Kinect, two webcams, and microphones in order to detect falls, and even predict falls by analyzing gait, i.e. the pattern of movement of the limbs.

fall_detection_and_prevention-kinect_microphones_webcamsThe picture above shows at least part of the hardware setup with the Kinect, a webcam, and a PC  tower doing the processing stored in a cupboard.

Fall detection algorithms are relying on the microphone array, Microsoft Kinect depth camera, and a two-webcam system used to extract silhouettes from orthogonal views and construct a 3D voxel model for analysis. Passive gait analysis algorithms are for their part taking data from the kinect and the two-webcam system. The system was installed in 10 apartment, with data gathered for a period of 2 years, and they found that a gait speed decline of 5cm/s was associated with an 86.3% probability of falling within the following three weeks, and that shortened stride length was associated with a 50.6% probability of falling within the next three weeks.

You can see Gait detection in action in the video below.

More details about the studies and links to research papers can be found on Active Heterogeneous Sensing for Fall Detection and Fall Risk Assessment page on the University of Missouri website.

Via Electronics Weekly

Hardware Requirements for Discounted Windows 10 Licenses for Entry Level mini PCs, TV Sticks, Tablets, Notebooks, and AiO

September 2nd, 2016 6 comments

Even since the first low cost mini PCs and TV sticks started to come to market there was lots of confusion about Windows 8.1/10 licenses, because while small tablets could be shipped with Windows 8.1 with Bing/Windows 10 with a free license, mini PCs required  a different discounted NTE license costing between $15 and $30. Price differs depending who your ask… So while the cheapest devices normally shipped unactivated, some companies like PiPo decided to install Windows with the latest version to cut costs… Microsoft eventually noticed, and PiPo had to stopped the practise, instead making mini PCs with small displays

The exact hardware requirements were also unclear so far for either the free or discount tablet, but the following table dropped in my email Inbox recently… It explains which hardware is accepted for an Entry level license.

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Click to Enlarge

OST means Online Service Terms, and the devices matching the hardware requirements above should be eligible for a discount. A Low End CPUs should be Intel Bay Trail, and Cherry Trail processor, and most likely Braswell and Apollo Lake too, plus some AMD processors. So if you buy a Intel Core iX processor, you should not get a free/cheap Windows license.

Windows 10 mini PCs like Beelink BT7 and Vorke V1 match most requirements of the “WW Entry Desktop/AiO” with a low end Atom X7-Z8700 and Celeron J3160 processor, 4GB RAM, no hard drive, and no optical drive. However, they fail the maximum storage requirements since they ship with at least 64GB internal flash. That means they should be paying the full Windows 10 license, and while they come activated, they are likely in breach of Windows OST. I’ve also been informed Microsoft has been taking legal action against at least one manufacturer of non-compliant devices.