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Date: Saturday, 07 Sep 2013 19:30

Yes, it's that time of the year again. A disk in my desktop-replacement laptop with 2 disks and a RAID-1 has died. Time for recovery.

This laptop has been running 24/7 for the last 3 years or such, so it's not too surprising that a disk dies. Surprisingly though, for the first time in a long series of dead disks, smartctl -a does indeed show errors for this disk. Here's a short snippet of those:

  $ smartctl -a /dev/sda
  Error 1341 occurred at disk power-on lifetime: 17614 hours (733 days + 22 hours)
   When the command that caused the error occurred, the device was active or idle.

   After command completion occurred, registers were:
   -- -- -- -- -- -- --
   40 41 02 1f c0 9c 40  Error: UNC at LBA = 0x009cc01f = 10272799

   Commands leading to the command that caused the error were:
   CR FR SC SN CL CH DH DC   Powered_Up_Time  Command/Feature_Name
   -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --  ----------------  --------------------
   60 f8 08 20 c0 9c 40 00  41d+01:51:50.974  READ FPDMA QUEUED
   60 08 00 18 c0 9c 40 00  41d+01:51:50.972  READ FPDMA QUEUED
   ef 10 02 00 00 00 a0 00  41d+01:51:50.972  SET FEATURES [Reserved for Serial ATA]
   ec 00 00 00 00 00 a0 00  41d+01:51:50.971  IDENTIFY DEVICE
   ef 03 45 00 00 00 a0 00  41d+01:51:50.971  SET FEATURES [Set transfer mode]

  SMART Self-test log structure revision number 1
  Num  Test_Description    Status                  Remaining  LifeTime(hours)  LBA_of_first_error
  # 1  Short offline       Completed: read failure       90%     20511         156170102

The status of the degraded RAID array looks like this:

  $ cat /proc/mdstat
  Personalities : [raid1] 
  md1 : active raid1 sdb7[1]
       409845696 blocks [2/1] [_U]
  md0 : active raid1 sda6[0] sdb6[1]
       291776 blocks [2/2] [UU]

The [_U] means that one of two disks has failed, it should normally be [UU]. There are two RAID-1s actually, a small md0 (sda6 + sdb6) for /boot and the main md1 (sda7 + sdb7) which holds the OS and my data. Apparently (at first at least), only sda7 was faulty and got kicked out of the array:

  $ dmesg | grep kick
  md: kicking non-fresh sda7 from array!

Anyway, so I ordered a replacement disk, removed the dead disk (I checked the serial number and brand before, so I don't accidentally remove the wrong one), inserted the new disk and rebooted.

Note: In order for this to work you have to have (previously) installed the bootloader (usually GRUB) onto both disks, otherwise you won't be able to boot from either of them (which you'll want to do if one of them dies, of course). In my case, sda was now dead, so I put sdb into its place (physically, by using the other SATA connector/port) and the new replacement disk would become the new sdb.

After the reboot, the new disk needs to be partitioned like the other RAID disk. This can be done easily by copying the partition layout of the "good" disk (now sda after the reboot) onto the empty disk (sdb):

  $ sfdisk -d /dev/sda | sfdisk /dev/sdb

Specifically, the RAID disks/partitions need to have the type/ID "fd" ("Linux raid autodetect"), check if that is the case. Then, you can add the new disk to the RAIDs:

  $ mdadm /dev/md0 --add /dev/sdb6
  $ mdadm /dev/md1 --add /dev/sdb7

After a few hours the RAID will be re-synced properly and all is good again. You can check the progress via:

  $ watch -n 1 cat /proc/mdstat

You should probably not reboot during the resync (though I'm not 100% sure if that would be an issue in practice; please leave a comment if you know).

Also, don't forget to install GRUB on the new disk so you can still boot when the next disk dies:

  $ grub-mkdevicemap
  $ grub-install /dev/sdb

And it might be a good idea to use S.M.A.R.T. to check the new disk, just in case. I did a quick run for the new disk via:

  $ smartctl -t short /dev/sdb # Wait a few minutes after this.
  $ smartctl -a /dev/sdb
  SMART Self-test log structure revision number 1
  Num  Test_Description    Status                  Remaining  LifeTime(hours)  LBA_of_first_error
  # 1  Short offline       Completed without error       00%        22         -

Looks good. So far.

Author: "Uwe Hermann" Tags: "cryptsetup, debian, linux, luks, mdadm, ..."
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Date: Wednesday, 30 Jan 2013 01:18

sigrok logo

Just a quick announce: We released libsigrokdecode 0.1.1 today, a new version of one of the shared libraries part of the open-source sigrok project (for signal acquisition/analysis of various test&measurement gear, like logic analyzers, scopes, multimeters, etc). I will update the Debian package soonish.

As you probably know, in addition to the infrastructure for protocol decoding, this library also ships with a bunch of protocol decoders written in Python. Currently we support 29 different ones (in various states of "completeness", improvements are ongoing).

This release adds support for the following new protocol decoders:
CAN probing

Please check the announce on the sigrok blog and/or the NEWS file for the full list of changes and improvements.

Happy hacking and decoding!

Author: "Uwe Hermann" Tags: "decoder, logic analyzer, open-source, pd..."
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Date: Tuesday, 25 Dec 2012 22:27

29c3 logo

Yup, it's been a while since my last blog post, but I'm not dead yet. Most of my spare time goes into sigrok development these days (open-source signal analysis suite for logic analyzers, oscilloscopes, multimeters, and lots more), but I'll try to revive my blog too. I have various microcontroller/embedded topics and devices I want to talk about in a small blog post series in the nearer future. But more on that later.

Feel free to subscribe to the sigrok-devel mailing list, join us on IRC in #sigrok (Freenode) where most of the discussions take place, or follow our new sigrok blog (RSS) if you're interested in the ongoing sigrok developments. Anyway, for now just a quick announce:

Same as last year, we will be at the Chaos Communication Congress (29c3), this time in Hamburg, Germany. The conference takes place from December 27th to 30th, 2012.

We'll have a sigrok "assembly", likely in area 3b of the conference building, where we'll be hanging around, working on new sigrok features, new hardware drivers, new protocol decoders and various other things. We'll have lots of gear with us for demo and development purposes, including logic analyzers, oscilloscopes, MSOs, multimeters, and lots more.

Bring your own device if you own models we don't yet support or know about. We'll be happy to have a look!

Chat with us, give us your suggestions which features you'd like to see, which devices you want to be supported, which protocol decoders you'd like to have, or even help us write some drivers/decoders!

Hope to see you there!

Author: "Uwe Hermann" Tags: "29c3, gpl, hardware, logic analyzer, ope..."
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Date: Wednesday, 02 May 2012 14:05

sigrok logo

I'm happy to finally announce an open-source (GNU GPL), cross-platform (Linux, Mac OS X, FreeBSD, Windows, ...) logic analyzer software package myself and Bert Vermeulen have been working on for quite a long time now: sigrok (it groks your signals).


I originally started working on an open-source logic analyzer software named "flosslogic" in 2010, because I grew tired of almost all devices having a proprietary and Windows-only software, often with limited features, limited input/output file formats, limited usability, limited protocol decoder support, and so on. Thus, the goal was to write a portable, GPL'd, software that can talk to many different logic analyzers via modules/plugins, supports many input/output formats, and many different protocol decoders.

The advantage being, that every time we add a new driver for another logic analyzer it automatically supports all the input/output formats we already have, you can use all the protocol decoders we already wrote, etc. It also works the other way around: If someone writes a new protocol decoder or file format driver, it can automatically be used with any of the supported logic analyzers out of the box.

Turns out Bert Vermeulen had been working on a similar software for a while too (due to exactly the same reasons, crappy Windows software, etc.) so it was only logical that we joined forces and worked on this together. We kept Bert's name for the software package ("sigrok"), set up a SourceForge project, mailing lists, IRC channel, wiki, etc. and started working.

Overview, Features

You can get the lastest sigrok source code from our main git repository:

  $ git clone git://sigrok.git.sourceforge.net/gitroot/sigrok/sigrok

Here's a short overview of sigrok and its features as of today. The software consists of the following components:

  • libsigrok, a shared library written in C, which contains the general infrastructure for handling logic analyzer data in a streaming fashion.
    sigrok logic analyzer collection 2011
    It also contains the individual hardware drivers which add support for various logic analyzers. Currently supported hardware includes: Saleae Logic, CWAV USBee SX, Openbench Logic Sniffer (OLS), ZEROPLUS Logic Cube LAP-C, ASIX Sigma/Sigma2, ChronoVu LA8, and others. Many more devices are on our TODO list (and we already own them), it's just a matter of time to reverse engineer the USB protocols and implement a driver for them.

    Thanks ASIX for being open and helping with the ASIX Sigma driver, and many thanks to ChronoVu for being open as well and providing information about the ChronoVu LA8 protocol! Thanks to Håvard Espeland, Martin Stensgård, and Carl Henrik Lunde (who contributed the ASIX Sigma driver), Sven Peter and "Haxx Enterprises"/bushing (for contributing the ZEROPLUS Logic Cube LAP-C driver, ported from their zerominus tool). Also, thanks to Daniel Ribeiro and Renato Caldas who worked on the Link Instruments MSO-19 driver (still work in progress).

    Finally, libsigrok also contains the individual input/output file format drivers. Currently supported are: sigrok session (the default format, which contains all metadata), bits, hex, ASCII, binary, gnuplot, the OpenBench Logic Sniffer format, the ChronoVu LA8 format, Value Change Dump (VCD) viewable in gtkwave, and Comma-separated values (CSV).
    sigrok VCD file in gtkwave

  • libsigrokdecode, a shared library written in C, which contains the protocol decoder infrastructure and the protocol decoders themselves, which are written in Python (>= 3.0).

    The list of currently supported protocol decoders includes:

      dcf77                DCF77 time protocol
      lpc                  Low-Pin-Count
      mx25lxx05d           Macronix MX25Lxx05D
      jtag_stm32           Joint Test Action Group / ST STM32
      i2s                  Integrated Interchip Sound
      spi                  Serial Peripheral Interface
      edid                 Extended display identification data
      pan1321              Panasonic PAN1321
      mlx90614             Melexis MLX90614
      jtag                 Joint Test Action Group
      rtc8564              Epson RTC-8564 JE/NB
      transitioncounter    Pin transition counter
      usb                  Universal Serial Bus
      i2cdemux             I2C demultiplexer
      i2c                  Inter-Integrated Circuit
      i2cfilter            I2C filter
      mxc6225xu            MEMSIC MXC6225XU
      uart                 Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter

    Many more decoders are on our TODO list, and we especially welcome contributed protocol decoders, of course! We intentionally chose Python as implementation language for the decoders, to make them as easy to write (and understand) as possible, even if that means that performance suffers a bit. Have a look at the SPI decoder for example, to get a feeling for the implementation.

    Protocol decoders can be stacked on top of each other, e.g. you can run the i2c decoder and pipe its output into the rtc8564 (Epson RTC-8564 JE/NB) decoder for further processing of the RTC-specific, higher-level protocol. We also plan to support more complex stacking and combining of decoders in various ways in the nearer future.

  • sigrok-cli, is a command-line frontend, which uses both libsigrok and libsigrokdecode. It can acquire samples from logic analyzers and output them in various formats into files or to stdout, and/or run protocol decoders on the aquired data.

    Example: Data acquisition with 1MHz samplerate into a file.

     $ sigrok-cli -d chronovu-la8:samplerate=1mhz --time 1ms -o test.sr

    Example: Protocol decoding (JTAG).

     $ sigrok-cli -i test.sr -a jtag:tdi=5:tms=2:tck=3:tdo=7
     jtag: "New state: EXIT1-IR"
     jtag: "IR TDI: 11111110, 8 bits"
     jtag: "IR TDO: 11110001, 8 bits"
     jtag: "New state: UPDATE-IR"
     jtag: "New state: RUN-TEST/IDLE"

  • sigrok-qt, a Qt-based GUI for sigrok, using both libsigrok and libsigrokdecode.

    This is intended to be a cross-platform GUI (runs fine and looks "native" on Linux, Windows, Mac OS X) supporting data acquisition and protocol decoding.

    NOTE: The Qt GUI is not yet usable! We're working on getting it out of alpha-stage for the next release.

  • sigrok-gtk, a GTK+-based GUI for sigrok, using both libsigrok and libsigrokdecode (soon).
    This is a cross-platform GUI contributed by Gareth McMullin (thanks!), supporting data aqcuisition (and soon protocol decoding).

    NOTE: The GTK+ GUI is not yet fully usable (but it's more usable than sigrok-qt)! Consider it alpha-stage software for now.

We're happy to hear about other (maybe special-purpose) frontends you may want to write using libsigrok/libsigrokdecode as helper libs!


Saleae Logic

Some logic analyzer devices require firmware to be uploaded before they can be used. As always, firmware is a bit of a pain, but here's what we currently do: For non-free firmware we provide instructions how to extract it from the vendor software or from USB dumps, if possible. For distributable firmware we have a git repo where you can get it (thanks ASIX for allowing us to distribute the ASIX Sigma/Sigma2 firmware files!).

  $ git clone git://sigrok.git.sourceforge.net/gitroot/sigrok/sigrok-firmwares

Finally, for all Cypress FX2 based logic analyzers we have an open-source (GNU GPL) firmware named fx2lafw, started by myself, but most work (and finishing the firmware) was then done by Joel Holdsworth, thanks! The support list includes Saleae Logic, CWAV USBee SX, CWAV USBee AX, Robomotic Minilogic/BugLogic3, Braintechnology USB-LPS, and many others. Get the code from the fw2lafw git repository:

  $ git clone git://sigrok.git.sourceforge.net/gitroot/sigrok/fx2lafw

Example dumps

We collect various captured logic analyzer signals / protocol dumps in the sigrok-dumps git repository:

  $ git clone git://sigrok.git.sourceforge.net/gitroot/sigrok/sigrok-dumps

They can be useful for testing the sigrok command-line application, the sigrok GUIs, or the protocol decoders.

We're happy to include further contributed example data in our repository, please send us .sr files of any interesting data/protocol you may come across (even if sigrok doesn't yet have a protocol decoder for that protocol). See the Example dumps wiki page for details.

Packages, distros, installers

sigrok Windows installer

I'm currently working on updated Debian packages for sigrok (will be apt-get install sigrok to get everything), and we're happy about further packaging efforts for other distros. We have preliminary Windows installer files (using NSIS), but the Windows code needs some more fixes and portability improvements before it's really usable. On Mac OS X you can use fink/Macports to install as usual, fancier .app installer files are being worked on.


Apart from support for more logic analyzers, input/output formats, and protocol decoders, we have a number of other plans for the next few releases. This includes support for analog data, i.e. support for (USB) oscilloscopes, multimeters, spectrum analyzers, and such stuff. This will also require additional GUI support (which could take a while). Also, we want to improve/fix the Windows support, and test/port sigrok to other architectures we come across. Performance improvements for the protocol decoding as well as more features there are also planned.


Feel free to contact us on the sigrok-devel mailing list, or in the IRC channel #sigrok on Freenode. There's also an identi.ca group for sigrok. We're always happy about feedback, bug reports, suggestions for improving sigrok, and patches of course!

Author: "Uwe Hermann" Tags: "blog, c, decoder, freesoftware, hardware..."
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Date: Saturday, 24 Dec 2011 00:02

Here's a quick HOWTO for setting up an OpenVPN server and client on any (Debian, in this case) Linux machine of your choice. I'm running an OpenVPN server on a box at home, and a client on my laptop, so I can securely route all my laptop traffic through my OpenVPN server, no matter where I am.

I highly recommend reading the official OpenVPN HOWTO from top to bottom, at least once. But here's a short, condensed HOWTO (specifically geared towards my needs, yours might be different):

On the server:

Install OpenVPN (apt-get install openvpn), then copy the "easy-rsa" files to /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa from where we'll use them to create our keys and certificates:

  $ cp -r /usr/share/doc/openvpn/examples/easy-rsa/2.0 /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa
  $ cd /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa

In the vars file change the KEY_SIZE variable from 1024 to 4096 for good measure:

  export KEY_SIZE=4096

Then, read in the vars file, clean old keys and certificates (if any) and create new ones:

  $ . ./vars
  $ ./clean-all
  $ ./build-ca

You'll now have the chance to enter some data such as country code (e.g. "DE"), state/province, locality, organization name, organizational unit name, common name, name, and email address. The values you choose don't really matter much (except for commonName, maybe, which could be your hostname or domain or such). Finally, the ca.key (root CA key) and ca.crt (root CA certificate) files will be created.

Next, we'll create the server key:

  $ ./build-key-server server

You'll have to enter lots of info again (see above), commonName could be "server" or such this time. Upon "Sign the certificate? [y/n]" say y, as well as upon "1 out of 1 certificate requests certified, commit? [y/n]". Finally, the server.key and server.crt files will be created.

Same procedure for creating a client key (I used "client1" as filename and commonName here):

  $ ./build-key client1

Next up we'll generate Diffie Hellman parameters (this will take a shitload of time due to keysize=4096, go drink some coffee):

  $ ./build-dh

When this step is done, you'll have a dh4096.pem file.

As we want to use OpenVPN's "tls-auth" feature for perfect forward secrecy (it "adds an additional HMAC signature to all SSL/TLS handshake packets for integrity verification"), we'll have to generate a shared secret:

  $ openvpn --genkey --secret ta.key
  $ mv ta.key keys

So much for creating keys. Now, we'll have to configure OpenVPN. Copy the default server config file and edit it:

  $ cd /etc/openvpn
  $ cp /usr/share/doc/openvpn/examples/sample-config-files/server.conf.gz .
  $ gunzip server.conf.gz

The most important change in my setup is that I use port 443/TCP instead of the usual OpenVPN default of 1194/UDP. This increases the chances that you'll be able to use OpenVPN in almost all places, even in environments which firewall/block lots of stuff. Port 443/TCP (for https) will almost always be usable. I also uncommented the following line, which tells the client to use the VPN interface (usually tun0) per default, so that all the client's traffic (web browsing, DNS, and so on) goes over the VPN:

  push "redirect-gateway def1 bypass-dhcp"

Here's my server config file (comments and commented out lines stripped):

  port 443
  proto tcp
  dev tun
  ca /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/keys/ca.crt
  cert /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/keys/server.crt
  key /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/keys/server.key  # This file should be kept secret
  dh /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/keys/dh4096.pem
  ifconfig-pool-persist ipp.txt
  push "redirect-gateway def1 bypass-dhcp"
  keepalive 10 120
  tls-auth /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/keys/ta.key 0 # This file is secret
  user nobody
  group nogroup
  status openvpn-status.log
  log-append openvpn.log
  verb 3

You can now start the OpenVPN server, e.g. via

  $ /etc/init.d/openvpn restart

Server firewall setup/changes:

I'm running a custom iptables script on pretty much all of my boxes. Here's the relevant changes needed to allow the OpenVPN server to work properly. Basically, you need to enable IP forwarding, accept/forward tun0 traffic and setup masquerading (change "eth0" below, if needed):

  echo 1 > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_forward
  iptables -A INPUT -i tun+ -j ACCEPT
  iptables -A FORWARD -i tun+ -j ACCEPT
  iptables -A FORWARD -m state --state ESTABLISHED,RELATED -j ACCEPT
  iptables -t nat -F POSTROUTING
  iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -s -o eth0 -j MASQUERADE

My firewall script gets run upon every reboot. If you don't use such a script, you could add the above stuff to your /etc/rc.local file.

On the client:

Install OpenVPN (apt-get install openvpn), then copy the default client config file and edit it:

  $ cd /etc/openvpn
  $ cp /usr/share/doc/openvpn/examples/sample-config-files/client.conf .

Change the parameters to match the server config (port 443/TCP, and so on) and use "tls-auth /etc/openvpn/ta.key 1" (note the "1" on the client, and the "0" on the server!). Replace xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx with the public IP address of your OpenVPN server. If it doesn't have a public, static IP address already, you can use services such as DynDNS, or (my preferred method), my ssh-based DIY poor man's dynamic DNS setup.

Here's my full client config:

  dev tun
  proto tcp
  remote xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx 443
  resolv-retry infinite
  user nobody
  group nogroup
  ca /etc/openvpn/ca.crt
  cert /etc/openvpn/client1.crt
  key /etc/openvpn/client1.key
  ns-cert-type server
  tls-auth /etc/openvpn/ta.key 1
  verb 3

Now you only need to copy the required certificates and keys to the client (into /etc/openvpn): client1.crt, client1.key, ca.crt, and ta.key. Do not copy the other, server-specific private keys and such to the client(s)! Also, the root CA key (ca.key) should not even be left on the server, but rather moved to some offline storage/box, so that it cannot fall into the wrong hands, e.g. in the case of a server compromise.

I prefer to manually start the client on my laptop when needed, so I use AUTOSTART="none" in /etc/default/openvpn and then start the client via:

  $ openvpn /etc/openvpn/client.conf

That's it. Comments and suggestions for improving the setup and/or the security aspects of it are highly welcome!

Author: "Uwe Hermann" Tags: "howto openvpn vpn linux debian package d..."
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Date: Sunday, 06 Nov 2011 00:16

I recently wanted to buy some MP3 files from Amazon (a whole album in my case, but you can also just buy single MP3 files if you want). Digital music downloads from Amazon are often much cheaper than buying the physical CD (from Amazon), and you can also instantly get the stuff within seconds, without having to wait for the physical CD to be shipped to your place.

The good thing about Amazon's MP3 downloads is that the files are not infested with any DRM-crap (if that were the case I wouldn't spend a single penny on such useless junk, of course). This allows you to burn the MP3 files on CDs and/or play them on any device you like (MP3 player of choice, laptop, hifi-system, car, e-book reader with MP3 playback support, etc. etc).

Granted, you can not re-sell the digital files on eBay later, this is the one little drawback you have when compared to physical CDs, but I guess most people can usually live with that. Also, it would be great if Amazon would provide Ogg Vorbis files instead (or in addition to) MP3 files, of course.

Anyway, in order to download the MP3 files you buy from Amazon, they suggest to install the Amazon MP3 Downloader, which (surprisingly) is even available in a Mac and Linux version (only 32-bit though), but is (unsurprisingly) closed-source. This is no-go, of course, but luckily there is an alternative.

The clamz tool (GPL, version 3 or later) allows you to easily download single Amazon MP3 files, or whole albums. First, you need to login to your Amazon account and then visit a certain Amazon page (which sets a special "congratulations, the Amazon MP3 Downloader has been successfully installed" cookie in your browser). See the clamz website for the respective URL for your country. For Germany, use this URL.

The clamz installation is easy enough on Debian:

  $ apt-get install clamz

IMPORTANT: It seems you need at least version 0.5 for recent Amazon files as they apparently changed something, see #647043. Current Debian unstable as of today already has 0.5, though.

After that is done, the rest is easy: In Amazon, click on "Buy MP3" or "Buy MP3 album", which will download a special AmazonMP3-1234567890.amz file. You can then let clamz download all the MP3s by typing:

  $ clamz AmazonMP3-1234567890.amz

Wait a few minutes, and you'll have a bunch of non-DRM MP3 files in your current directory. Easy.

See the manpage for a bunch of options which let you configure clamz to your preferences.

Author: "Uwe Hermann" Tags: "amazon, amz, clamz, debian, digital, dow..."
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Date: Sunday, 23 Oct 2011 16:59

The TrekStor eBook Reader 3.0, front
The TrekStor eBook Reader 3.0, front on

There a many, many, e-book reader devices available these days, and they're quickly becoming pretty affordable. The currently cheapest device in Germany (that I know of) is the TrekStor eBook Reader 3.0, model number EBR30-a, at 59.- Euros via Weltbild or Hugendubel.

The device has an 800x480 7" TFT (yep, no e-ink), 2100mAh battery, it can display PDFs, EPUB, and TXT files (and Adobe DRM crap, which I don't really care about), it has an accelerometer which allows for landscape/portrait switching, it can play MP3, OGG, WAV, and WMA audio files (headphone jack), it can display pictures (BMP, GIF, JPG, even PNG, though that's not mentioned in the vendor's specs), and it has 2GB internal storage for books/music/pictures. Uploading of (non-DRM) content is done by a simple file copy, it enumerates as a standard USB mass storage device with FAT filesystem. It's a relatively nice reader for the price, I've read a few PDFs (datasheets, presentations) on it in the subway/train while listening to music from the device and it's quite OK for my purposes. So much for the review part.

However, I didn't really buy it for reading books on it, I was more interested in taking it apart, of course ;-) My hope was that it would turn out to be a really cheap device running Linux/U-Boot which would be perfect for playing around with embedded Linux stuff. Unfortunately, I wasn't so lucky (it seems).

The TrekStor eBook Reader 3.0, opened

I've posted a few photos of the device and its hardware components on my flickr account and over at randomprojects.org, together with all the information I was able to find out so far. Here's a quick summary:

  • Main CPU/SoC: FI E200 B6077BA 26P1
  • RAM: MIRA P3S12D40ETP (512MBit / 64MByte DDR SDRAM, max. 200MHz)
  • NAND flash: Samsung K9GAG08U0E (16GBit / 2GByte, x8, 3.3V)
  • Battery management: KrossPower AXP199 A5004AB 36G
  • RTC/clock/calender chip (I2C): H8563S
  • Some accelerometer (to switch between landscape/portait mode), model unclear so far, maybe the chip labeled 605 132?

The TrekStor eBook Reader 3.0, CPU

There are public datasheets for most of the hardware components (see randomprojects.org for links), but unfortunately the most important one (for the CPU) is not yet found/identified. I was told that the CPU/SoC is probably based on an ARM9 (ARM926EJ-S) core and the firmware running on it seems to be some uCos-based RTOS (not Linux, unfortunately).

So far I was not able to find out the vendor name or website of the "FI E200" CPU/SoC (let alone any datasheets), any hints would be highly appreciated. I checked arm.com: Processor Licensees, but the only two companies whose name starts with "F" having licensed an ARM9 core are Fujitsu and Freescale, which doesn't fit, I think?

I could (and probably will) check the PCB for RX/TX lines on an UART and/or JTAG pads (none are obviously labelled), and given that it's and ARM9 core there is a good chance that OpenOCD can be used and that a standard cross-gcc toolchain for ARM will work. However, that is all pretty pointless until it's clear which SoC exactly is used, and thus whether there is already Linux and/or U-Boot support for it and/or whether datasheets are available so that the respective code could be written. Without datasheets, this is going to be a pretty painful experience, not really worth investing much time, IMHO.

If anyone knows more about the vendor/device and respective datasheets, please let me know. Thanks!

Update 2012-04-19: I found the UART TX pin a while ago, a bootlog is available. The CPU and all other chips are also known now: The SoC is an Allwinner Technology F1 E200, the orientation sensor is a MEMSIC MXC6225XU.

Author: "Uwe Hermann" Tags: "adobe, dissection, drm, e-book, ebook, e..."
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Date: Monday, 29 Aug 2011 16:25

flashrom logo

Forgot to mention this here: We released flashrom 0.9.4 a few days ago, the latest release of the open-source, GPL'd ROM chip flashing software for Linux, *BSD, DOS, and partially also Windows (work in progress, though).

Here's a quick summary of the release announcement. Some of the noteworthy news items include:

  • Support for new programmers: OpenMoko Neo1973/Neo FreeRunner debug board version 2 or 3, Olimex ARM-USB-TINY, ARM-USB-TINY-H, ARM-USB-OCD, and ARM-USB-OCD-H, Open Graphics Project development card (OGD1), Angelbird Wings PCIe SSD/88SX7042, ITE IT85xx embedded controllers, Intel NICs with parallel flash.
  • Dozens of added flash chips, chipsets, mainboards.
  • Improved Dediprog SF100 support.
  • Add support for more than one Super I/O or EC per machine.
  • Always read the flash chip before writing, for improved error checking and faster programming.
  • Enable write support on NVIDIA MCP6x/MCP7x.
  • Lots of bugfixes, documentation fixes, internal improvements, etc.

Get the latest release tarball, or download and build the most recent version via Subversion:

  $ svn co svn://flashrom.org/flashrom/trunk flashrom
  $ cd flashrom
  $ make

I already updated the Debian package to 0.9.4 (it has also already migrated to Debian testing and Ubuntu), other people have updated Fedora, Gentoo, NetBSD etc. etc.

There's already a huge amount of patches queued for the next release, including support for even more programmers, PowerPC support (tested on Mac Mini and others), and of course the usual "more boards, more chips" items...

Author: "Uwe Hermann" Tags: "bios, cdrom, coreboot, dos, efi, flash, ..."
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Date: Sunday, 31 Jul 2011 23:30

FONIC Surf-Stick, Huawei E1750, package
I recently got myself a FONIC account for mobile Internet. This (German) prepaid-provider offers a "daily flatrate" for 2.50€ per day. After the 10th day of usage (i.e., 25€) you don't pay any more. This means, even if you need mobile Internet access 31 days a month, you only pay for 10 days. After 500MB/day or 5GB/month you're throttled down to GPRS speed (but you can still connect, and you don't pay more).

The FONIC account comes with the "FONIC Surf-Stick", a Huawei E1750 HSPA USB modem (apparently it supports GPRS, EDGE, UMTS, HSDPA (up to 7.2Mbit/s), HSUPA (up to 5.76 Mbit/s), and a SIM card.

In order to use the device on Linux you need two packages, usb_modeswitch and wvdial:

  $ apt-get install usb-modeswitch wvdial

Recent versions of usb_modeswitch (and matching udev entries) already support the Huawei E1750 out of the box, a few seconds after attaching the device it's automatically switched into modem mode. After this has been done you should have three new serial devices, usually /dev/ttyUSB0, /dev/ttyUSB1, and /dev/ttyUSB2. You'll need /dev/ttyUSB0 for talking to the device using AT commands. The lsusb output should look like this (see here for full lsusb -vvv):

  $ lsusb
  Bus 001 Device 045: ID 12d1:1436 Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. 

(before usb_modeswitch was run, the USB IDs were 12d1:1446)

FONIC Surf-Stick, Huawei E1750, front

The required settings for connecting are documented at fonic.de, specifically the APN (pinternet.interkom.de). A username and/or password is not required. You need to provide your FONIC PIN though. Dialing is done using the *99# number and using the ATDT command.

I'm using the following wvdial config file:

  $ cat /etc/wvdial.conf
  [Dialer Defaults]
  Modem = /dev/ttyUSB0
  Baud = 460800
  [Dialer pin]
  Init1 = AT+CPIN=1234
  [Dialer fonic]
  Phone = *99#
  Username = foo
  Password = foo
  Stupid Mode = 1
  Dial Command = ATDT
  Init2 = ATZ
  Init3 = AT+CGDCONT=1,"IP","pinternet.interkom.de"

FONIC Surf-Stick, Huawei E1750, back

For mobile Internet access you would do the following:

  1. Attach the device via USB, wait a few seconds to let usb_modeswitch do its magic.
  2. Run wvdial pin and wait a few seconds (until the prompt returns):

      $ wvdial pin
      --> WvDial: Internet dialer version 1.61
      --> Initializing modem.
      --> Sending: AT+CPIN=1234
      --> Modem initialized.
      --> Configuration does not specify a valid phone number.
      --> Configuration does not specify a valid login name.
      --> Configuration does not specify a valid password.
  3. Run wvdial fonic and wait until the "CONNECT" message appears and you get DNS addresses:

      $ wvdial fonic
      --> WvDial: Internet dialer version 1.61
      --> Initializing modem.
      --> Sending: ATZ
      --> Sending: ATZ
      --> Sending: AT+CGDCONT=1,"IP","pinternet.interkom.de"
      --> Modem initialized.
      --> Sending: ATDT*99#
      --> Waiting for carrier.
      --> Carrier detected.  Starting PPP immediately.
      --> Starting pppd at Mon Aug  1 xx:xx:xx 2011
      --> Pid of pppd: 18672
      --> Using interface ppp0
      --> local  IP address xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx
      --> remote IP address yyy.yyy.yyy.yyy
      --> primary   DNS address
      --> secondary DNS address

If everything worked fine you should now have connected successfully.

There are other alternatives for achieving the same result, including umtsmon (Qt3 in the last release from 2009, looks a bit unmaintained), kppp, the GNOME NetworkManager, and others, but wvdial worked OK for me.

For more details about the Huawei E1750 device (e.g. lsusb -vvv and more photos), see my wiki page at


Update 2011-08-03: My measured download speed for a Debian ISO (over HTTP via wget, at night, roughly 22:00 o'clock) is 350-470 KB/s in case anyone is interested. During this download the blue LED on the stick was enabled, which denotes a UMTS connection (green == GPRS/EDGE, turquoise == HSDPA).

Author: "Uwe Hermann"
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Date: Thursday, 28 Jul 2011 21:39

Debian PowerPC in QEMU, screenshot 1
Debian PowerPC in QEMU, screenshot 2
It's been a while since my last blog post, and also quite a while since my last item in the "Testing stuff with QEMU" series, so here goes.

I'm using this QEMU image to do compile-tests on the PowerPC architecture for various software projects, especially flashrom (open-source flash ROM programming software).

So here's how to install Debian GNU/Linux on PowerPC (in QEMU):

  1. Install QEMU:
    $ apt-get install qemu
  2. Create a (resizable) image which will hold the installed OS. Use the relatively new "qcow2" QEMU image format, which will only take up as much space as is really needed and has some other nice features (compression, encryption).
    $ qemu-img create -f qcow2 debian_powerpc.qcow2 2G
  3. Download a Debian installer ISO for PowerPC:
    $ wget http://cdimage.debian.org/cdimage/archive/5.0.8/powerpc/iso-cd/debian-508-powerpc-netinst.iso
    Note: For some reason, the current Debian stable ISO didn't work for me (red screen with undefined error during the install; didn't look into the issue, yet). Using an older 5.0.8 image worked fine.
  4. Install Debian in the QEMU image:
    $ qemu-system-ppc -hda debian_powerpc.qcow2 -boot d -cdrom debian-508-powerpc-netinst.iso
    The installation is nothing really special, you'll know almost everything from your usual x86 installation procedure. Note that you have to use "qemu-system-ppc" (not your usual "qemu"), of course.
  5. After the install has finished, shut down QEMU; from now on you can boot it with:
    $ qemu-system-ppc -hda debian_powerpc.qcow2

See the screenshots for some system info. By default an OpenBIOS firmware and the quik bootloader is used, the emulated "machine" is g3beige (Heathrow based PowerMAC). You can use QEMU's -M and -cpu options to select different machines or CPUs.

Hope this helps.

Author: "Uwe Hermann"
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Date: Thursday, 26 Aug 2010 08:23

openbiosprog-spi device

If you're following me on identi.ca you probably already know that I've been designing a small PCB for a USB-based SPI chip programmer named openbiosprog-spi.

The main use-case of the device is to help you recover easily from a failed BIOS upgrade (either due to using an incorrect BIOS image, due to power outages during the flashing progress, or whatever). The device only supports SPI chips, as used in recent mainboards (in DIP-8 form factor, or via manual wiring possibly also soldered-in SO-8 variants). It can identify, read, erase, or write the chips.

Of course the whole "toolchain" of software tools I used for creating the hardware is open-source, and the hardware itself (schematics and PCB layouts) are freely released under a Creative Commons license (i.e., it's an "Open Hardware" device). The user-space source code is part of flashrom (GPL, version 2), the schematics and PCB layouts are licensed under the CC-BY-SA 3.0 license and were created using the open-source Kicad EDA suite (GPL, version 2).

openbiosprog-spi schematics
openbiosprog-spi Kicad PCB layout

The schematics, PCB layouts, and other material is available from gitorious:

  $ git clone git://gitorious.org/openbiosprog/openbiosprog-spi.git

You can also download the final Gerber files (ZIP) for viewing them, or sending them to a PCB manufacturer.

Some more design notes:

  • The device uses the FTDI FT2232H chip as basis for USB as well as for handling the actual SPI protocol in hardware (MPSSE engine of the FT2232H).
  • Attaching the SPI chip:
    • There's a DIP-8 socket on the device so you can easily insert the SPI chip you want to read/erase/program.
    • Optionally, if you don't want a DIP-8 socket, you can solder in a pin-header with 8 pins, which allows you to connect the individual pins to the SPI chip via jumper wires or grippers/probes.
  • The PCB board dimensions are 44mm x 20mm, and it's a 2-layer board using mostly 0603 SMD components.

Basic usage example of the device on Linux (or other OSes supported by flashrom):

  $ flashrom -p ft2232_spi:type=2232H,port=A -r backup.bin (reads the current chip contents into a file)

openbiosprog-spi PCBs
openbiosprog-spi parts list

Over at the main projects page of openbiosprog-spi at


I have put up a lot more photos and information such as the bill of materials, the Kicad settings I used for creating the PCBs, the Gerber files and the Excellon drill files and so on.

The first few prototype boards I ordered at PCB-POOL.COM (but you can use any other PCB manufacturer of course), the bill of materials (BOM) lists the Mouser and CSD electronics part numbers and prices, but you can also buy the stuff elsewhere, of course (Digikey, Farnell, whatever).

I already hand-soldered one or two prototypes and tested the device. Both hardware and software worked fine basically, you just need a small one-liner patch to fix an issue in flashrom, but that should be merged upstream soonish.

In order to make it easy for interested users to get the PCBs I'll probably make them available in the BatchPCB Market Place soonish, so you can easily order them from there (you do still need to solder the components though). Note: I'm not making any money off of this, this is a pure hobby project.

All in all I have to say that this was a really fun little project, and a useful one too. This was my first hardware project using Kicad (I used gEDA/PCB, also an open-source EDA toolsuite, for another small project) and I must say it worked very nicely. I didn't even have to read any manual really, it was all pretty intuitive. Please consider not using Eagle (or other closed-source PCB software) for your next Open Hardware project, there are at least two viable open-source options (Kicad, gEDA/PCB) which both work just fine.

Author: "Uwe Hermann" Tags: "bios, cc, coreboot, creativecommons, diy..."
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Date: Thursday, 15 Jul 2010 07:56

HP Pavilion dv7-3127eg

Yep, so I bought a new laptop recently, my IBM/Lenovo Thinkpad T40p was slowly getting really unbearably sloooow (Celeron 1.5 GHz, 2 GB RAM max). After comparing some models I set out to buy a certain laptop in a local store, which they didn't have in stock, so I spontaneously got another model, the HP Pavilion dv7-3127eg (HP product number VY554EA).

Why this one? Well, the killer feature for me was that it has two SATA disks, hence allows me to run a RAID-1 in my laptop. This allows me to sleep better at night, knowing that the next dying disk will not necessarily lead to data loss (yes, I do still perform regular backups, of course).

Other pros: Much faster than the old notebook, this one is an AMD Turion II Dual-Core Mobile M520 at 2.3 GHz per core, it has 4 GB RAM (8 GB max), and uses an AMD RS780 / SB700 chipset which is supported by the Free-Software / Open-Source BIOS / firmware project coreboot, so this might make the laptop a good coreboot-target on the long run. I'll probably start working on that when I'm willing to open / dissect it or when the warranty expires, whichever happens first.

Anyway, I set up a page at randomprojects.org which contains lots more details about using Linux on this laptop:


Most of the hardware is supported out of the box, though I haven't yet tested everything. There may be issues with suspend-to-disk / suspend-to-RAM, sometimes it seems to hang (may be just a simple config change is needed in /etc/hibernate/disk.cfg).

Cons: Pretty big and heavy (but that's OK, I use it mostly as "semi-mobile desktop replacement"), glossy screen, loud fans (probably due to the two disks).

For reference, here's an lspci of the box:

  $ lspci -tvnn
  -[0000:00]-+-00.0  Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] RS780 Host Bridge Alternate [1022:9601]
           +-02.0-[01]--+-00.0  ATI Technologies Inc M96 [Mobility Radeon HD 4650] [1002:9480]
           |            \-00.1  ATI Technologies Inc RV710/730 [1002:aa38]
           +-05.0-[08]----00.0  Atheros Communications Inc. AR9285 Wireless Network Adapter (PCI-Express) [168c:002b]
           +-06.0-[09]----00.0  Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL8111/8168B PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet controller [10ec:8168]
           +-11.0  ATI Technologies Inc SB700/SB800 SATA Controller [AHCI mode] [1002:4391]
           +-12.0  ATI Technologies Inc SB700/SB800 USB OHCI0 Controller [1002:4397]
           +-12.1  ATI Technologies Inc SB700 USB OHCI1 Controller [1002:4398]
           +-12.2  ATI Technologies Inc SB700/SB800 USB EHCI Controller [1002:4396]
           +-13.0  ATI Technologies Inc SB700/SB800 USB OHCI0 Controller [1002:4397]
           +-13.1  ATI Technologies Inc SB700 USB OHCI1 Controller [1002:4398]
           +-13.2  ATI Technologies Inc SB700/SB800 USB EHCI Controller [1002:4396]
           +-14.0  ATI Technologies Inc SBx00 SMBus Controller [1002:4385]
           +-14.2  ATI Technologies Inc SBx00 Azalia (Intel HDA) [1002:4383]
           +-14.3  ATI Technologies Inc SB700/SB800 LPC host controller [1002:439d]
           +-18.0  Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] K10 [Opteron, Athlon64, Sempron] HyperTransport Configuration [1022:1200]
           +-18.1  Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] K10 [Opteron, Athlon64, Sempron] Address Map [1022:1201]
           +-18.2  Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] K10 [Opteron, Athlon64, Sempron] DRAM Controller [1022:1202]
           +-18.3  Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] K10 [Opteron, Athlon64, Sempron] Miscellaneous Control [1022:1203]
           \-18.4  Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] K10 [Opteron, Athlon64, Sempron] Link Control [1022:1204]

Full lspci -vvvxxxxnnn, lsusb -vvv, and a much more detailed list of tested hardware components is available in the wiki.

Author: "Uwe Hermann" Tags: "debian, dv7, freesoftware, gnu, hardware..."
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Date: Thursday, 24 Jun 2010 10:31

Oasis UMO19 MCU003 digital USB microscope

I've been buying quite a lot of (usually cheapo) gadgets recently, which I'll probably introduce / review in various blog posts sooner or later. Let me start with a fun little gadget, a digital USB-based microscope. I found out about it via this thread over at lostscrews.com.

You can get this (or a very similar device) e.g. on eBay for roughly 50 Euros. Mine seems to be from a company called Oasis (though they're probably just the reseller, not sure). The device doesn't seem to have a nice name, but I can see UMO19 MCU003 on the microscope, so I guess that's the name or model number.

It can focus on magnifications of 20x or 400x. The image resolution is said to be a max. of 1600x1200, but in practice most of my images are 640x480, maybe I have to change some settings and/or the resolution depends on the magnification factor and lighting conditions.

The device acts as a simple UVC webcam when attached to USB, so you can view the images easily via any compatible webcam software, e.g. luvcview and also save screenshots of the magnified areas (see images).

UMO19 chip
UMO19 fabric

First three from left to right: SMD LED (400x), clothes/jacket (400x), random PCB (20x). The other two below: A via on a PCB (400x), and the "pixels" of a TFT screen (400x).

It worked out of the box on Linux for me, the uvcvideo kernel driver was loaded automatically.

 $ lsusb
 Bus 001 Device 013: ID 0ac8:3610 Z-Star Microelectronics Corp.

I set up a wiki page for more details (including full lsusb -vvv) and sample images at:


I will also post some more images there over the next few days.

UMO19 via
This is a really fun device for having a look at stuff you'd normally not see (or not well enough), and also useful for e.g. checking PCB solder joints, checking all kinds of electronics for errors or missing/misaligned parts, finding the chip name / model number of very tiny chips etc. etc. I can also imagine it's quite nice for biological use-cases, e.g. for studying insects, tissue, plants, and so on.

Anyway, definately a nice toy for relatively low price, I can highly recommend a device like this. Check eBay (search for e.g. "usb mikroskop 400") and various online shops for similar devices, there seem to be a large number of them with different names and from different vendors. Just make sure it has at least 400x magnification, there are also some with only 80x or 200x which is not as useful as 400x, of course.

Author: "Uwe Hermann" Tags: "20x, 400x, debian, electronics, freesoft..."
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Date: Tuesday, 08 Jun 2010 15:30

The long-pending 0.9.2 version of the open-source, cross-platform, commandline flashrom utility has been released.

From the announce:

New major user-visible features:
* Dozens of newly supported mainboards, chipsets and flash chips.
* Support for Dr. Kaiser PC-Waechter PCI devices (FPGA variant).
* Support for flashing SPI chips with the Bus Pirate.
* Support for the Dediprog SF100 external programmer.
* Selective blockwise erase for all flash chips.
* Automatic chip unlocking.
* Support for each programmer can be selected at compile time.
* Generic detection for unknown flash chips.
* Common mainboard features are now detected automatically.
* Mainboard matching via DMI strings.
* Laptop detection which triggers safety measures.
* Test flags for all part of flashrom operation.
* Windows support for USB-based and serial-based programmers.
* NetBSD support.
* DOS support.
* Slightly changed command line invocation. Please see the man page for details.

Experimental new features:
* Support for some NVIDIA graphics cards.
* Chip test pattern generation.
* Bit-banging SPI infrastructure.
* Nvidia MCP6*/MCP7* chipset detection.
* Support for Highpoint ATA/RAID controllers.

Infrastructural improvements and fixes:
* Lots of cleanups.
* Various bugfixes and workarounds for broken third-party software.
* Better error messages.
* Reliability fixes.
* Adjustable severity level for messages.
* Programmer-specific chip size limitation warnings.
* Multiple builtin frontends for flashrom are now possible.
* Increased strictness in board matching.
* Extensive selfchecks on startup to protect against miscompilation.
* Better timing precision for touchy flash chips.
* Do not rely on Linux kernel bugs for mapping memory.
* Improved documentation.
* Split frontend and backend functionality.
* Print runtime and build environment information.

The list of supported OSes and architectures is slowly getting longer, e.g. these have been tested: Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD, DragonFly BSD, Nexenta, Solaris and Mac OS X. There's partial support for DOS (no USB/serial flashers) and Windows (no PCI flashers). Initial (partial) PowerPC and MIPS support has been merged, ARM support and other upcoming.

Also, the list of external (non-mainboard) programmers increases, e.g. there is support for NICs (3COM, Realtek, SMC, others upcoming), SATA/IDE cards from Silicon Image and Highpoint, some NVIDIA cards, and various USB- or parallelport- or serialport- programmers such as the Busirate, Dediprog SF100, FT2232-based SPI programmers and more.

More details at flashrom.org and in the list of supported chips, chipsets, baords, and programmers.

I uploaded an svn version slightly more recent than 0.9.2 to Debian unstable, which should reach Debian testing (and Ubuntu I guess) soonish.

Author: "Uwe Hermann" Tags: "3com, bios, buspirate, cdrom, coreboot, ..."
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Date: Friday, 09 Apr 2010 00:42

GSoC 2010 logo

As you may know there's a Google Summer of Code program again this year.

The deadline for student applications is April 9th at 19:00 UTC, so if you're a student and you want to work on a coreboot (open-source BIOS / PC firmware) or flashrom (open-source BIOS chip flasher) project, please apply in time.

The following coreboot/flashrom GSOC project ideas have been proposed so far (but you can also suggest your own ideas, of course):

  • Infrastructure for automatic code checking
  • TianoCore on coreboot
  • coreboot port to Marvell ARM SOCs with PCIe
  • coreboot port to AMD 800 series chipsets
  • coreboot mass-porting to AMD 780 series mainboards
  • coreboot panic room
  • coreboot cheap testing rig
  • coreboot GeodeLX port from v3 to v4
  • Drivers for libpayload
  • Board config infrastructure
  • Refactor AMD code
  • Payload infrastructure
  • flashrom: Multiple GUIs for flashrom
  • flashrom: Recovery of dead boards and onboard flash updates
  • flashrom: SPI bitbanging hardware support
  • flashrom: Generic flashrom infrastructure improvements
  • flashrom: Laptop support

See this wiki page for why and how to apply for a coreboot/flashrom project.

Author: "Uwe Hermann" Tags: "bios, coreboot, flashrom, freesoftware, ..."
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Date: Tuesday, 06 Apr 2010 21:27

Miro 3.0

Yep, the new major release, Miro 3.0, of the cross-platform Internet RSS audio/video aggregator and player has been released.

Please check the release notes and the feature list for details. Overall more than 139 issues have been fixed since the last 2.x series release. The most notable changes are probably the dropping of xine support upstream (gstreamer is used now for all video/audio on Linux) and the introduction of subtitle support.

I have uploaded a new Miro 3.0 Debian package to unstable recently (which have been a delayed a bit due to Debian server issues), by now it should be available from most mirrors. Let me know if there are any issues...

Author: "Uwe Hermann" Tags: "cross-platform, democracy, democracy pla..."
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Date: Thursday, 04 Mar 2010 13:20

Olimex STM32-H103 eval board

I guess it's time to finally announce libopenstm32, a Free Software firmware library for STM32 ARM Cortex-M3 microcontrollers me and a few other people have been working on in recent weeks. The library is licensed under the GNU GPL, version 3 or later (yes, that's an intentional decision after some discussions we had).

The code is available via git:

 $ git clone git://libopenstm32.git.sourceforge.net/gitroot/libopenstm32/libopenstm32
 $ cd libopenstm32
 $ make

Building is done using a standard ARM gcc cross-compiler (arm-elf or arm-none-eabi for instance), see the summon-arm-toolchain script for the basic idea about how to build one.

The current status of the library is listed in the wiki. In short: some parts of GPIOs, UART, I2C, SPI, RCC, Timers and some other basic stuff works and has register definitions (and some convenience functions, but not too many, yet). We're working on adding support for more subsystems, any help with this is highly welcome of course! Luckily ARM stuff (and especially the STM32) has pretty good (and freely available) datasheets.

We have a few simple example programs, e.g. for the Olimex STM32-H103 eval board (see photo). JTAG flashing can be done using OpenOCD, for example.

Feel free to join the mailing lists and/or the #libopenstm32 IRC channel on Freenode.

The current list of projects where we plan to use this library is Open-BLDC (an Open Hardware / Free Software brushless motor controller project by Piotr Esden-Tempski), openmulticopter (an Open Hardware / Free Software quadrocopter/UAV project), openbiosprog (an Open Hardware / Free Software BIOS chip flash programmer I'm in the process of designing using gEDA/PCB), and probably a few more.

If you plan to work on any new (or existing) microcontroller hardware- or software-projects involving an STM32 microcontroller, please consider using libopenstm32 (it's the only Free Software library for this microcontroller family I know of) and help us make it better and more complete. Thanks!

Author: "Uwe Hermann" Tags: "arm, cortex, cortex-m3, embedded, firmwa..."
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Date: Thursday, 25 Feb 2010 17:10

This is what I set up for backups recently using a cheap USB-enclosure which can house 2 SATA disks and shows them as 2 USB mass-storage devices to my system (using only one USB cable). Without any further introduction, here goes the HOWTO:

First, create one big partition on each of the two disks (/dev/sdc and /dev/sdd in my case) of the exact same size. The cfdisk details are omitted here.

  $ cfdisk /dev/sdc
  $ cfdisk /dev/sdd

Then, create a new RAID array using the mdadm utility:

  $ mdadm --create /dev/md0 --level=1 --raid-devices=2 /dev/sdc1 /dev/sdd1

The array is named md0, consists of the two devices (--raid-devices=2) /dev/sdc1 and /dev/sdd1, and it's a RAID-1 array, i.e. data is simply mirrored on both disks so if one of them fails you don't lose data (--level=1). After this has been done the array will be synchronized so that both disks contain the same data (this process will take a long time). You can watch the current status via:

  $ cat /proc/mdstat
  Personalities : [raid1]
  md0 : active raid1 sdd1[1] sdc1[0]
        1465135869 blocks super 1.1 [2/2] [UU]
        [>....................]  resync =  0.0% (70016/1465135869) finish=2440.6min speed=10002K/sec
  unused devices: 

Some more info is also available from mdadm:

  $ mdadm --detail --scan
  ARRAY /dev/md0 metadata=1.01 name=foobar:0 UUID=1234578:1234578:1234578:1234578

  $ mdadm --detail /dev/md0
          Version : 1.01
    Creation Time : Sat Feb  6 23:58:51 2010
       Raid Level : raid1
       Array Size : 1465135869 (1397.26 GiB 1500.30 GB)
    Used Dev Size : 1465135869 (1397.26 GiB 1500.30 GB)
     Raid Devices : 2
    Total Devices : 2
      Persistence : Superblock is persistent
      Update Time : Sun Feb  7 00:03:21 2010
            State : active, resyncing
   Active Devices : 2
  Working Devices : 2
   Failed Devices : 0
    Spare Devices : 0
   Rebuild Status : 0% complete
             Name : foobar:0  (local to host foobar)
             UUID : 1234578:1234578:1234578:1234578
           Events : 1
      Number   Major   Minor   RaidDevice State
         0       8       33        0      active sync   /dev/sdc1
         1       8       49        1      active sync   /dev/sdd1

Next, you'll want to create a big partition on the RAID device (cfdisk details omitted)...

  $ cfdisk /dev/md0

...and then encrypt all the (future) data on the device using dm-crypt+LUKS and cryptsetup:

  $ cryptsetup --verbose --verify-passphrase luksFormat /dev/md0p1
  Enter your desired pasphrase here (twice)
  $ cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/md0p1 myraid

After opening the encrypted container with cryptsetup luksOpen you can create a filesystem on it (ext3 in my case):

  $ mkfs.ext3 -j -m 0 /dev/mapper/myraid

That's about it. In future you can access the RAID data by using the steps below.

Starting the RAID and mouting the drive:

  $ mdadm --assemble /dev/md0 /dev/sdc1 /dev/sdd1
  $ cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/md0p1 myraid
  $ mount -t ext3 /dev/mapper/myraid /mnt

Shutting down the RAID:

  $ umount /mnt
  $ cryptsetup luksClose myraid
  $ mdadm --stop /dev/md0

That's all. Performance is shitty due to all the data being shoved out over one USB cable (and USB itself being too slow for these amounts of data), but I don't care too much about that as this setup is meant for backups, not performance-critical stuff.

Update 04/2011: Thanks to Bohdan Zograf there's a Belorussian translation of this article now!

Author: "Uwe Hermann" Tags: "backup, backups, cryptsetup, debian, dis..."
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Date: Saturday, 06 Feb 2010 11:31

coreboot logo

Quick public service announcement (which probably comes a bit too late, sorry):

There's a coreboot developer room at this year's FOSDEM (Free and Open-Source Software Developer's European Meeting), which starts roughly... um... today. In 20 minutes, actually. Unfortunately I cannot be there, hopefully there will be video archives of the talks. If you're at FOSDEM already, here's the list of talks:

Sat 13:00-14:00 coreboot introduction (Peter Stuge)
Sat 14:00-15:00 coreboot and PC technical details (Peter Stuge)
Sat 15:00-16:00 ACPI and Suspend/Resume under coreboot (Rudolf Marek)
Sat 16:00-17:00 coreboot board porting (Rudolf Marek)
Sat 17:00-18:00 Flashrom, the universal flash tool (Carl-Daniel Hailfinger)
Sat 18:00-19:00 Flash enable BIOS reverse engineering (Luc Verhaegen)

Highly recommended stuff if you're interested in an open-source BIOS and/or open-source, cross-platform flash EEPROM programmer software.

Author: "Uwe Hermann" Tags: "2010, acpi, board, coreboot, devroom, en..."
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Date: Tuesday, 26 Jan 2010 11:43

coreboot logo

Only few days ago a long-standing bug in coreboot, the Free Software x86 BIOS/fimware project, has been fixed: Adding support for a laptop/notebook.

The code was developed by coresystems GmbH (thanks a lot!). Quoting from the announcement:

coreboot® is running on a multitude of different computers, ranging from tiny embedded systems as small as the palm of your hand over desktop and server systems to super computers with thousands of nodes. However, one might say that in the area of mobile computers coreboot has to catch up, compared to its support of other devices.

Thus, I am especially glad to announce that
">coresystems GmbH
is releasing coreboot® for the Roda RK886EX a.k.a Rocky III+ notebook today. It's a rugged notebook, protected against shock, vibration, dust and humidity:

We have been testing various Linux distributions as well as Windows XP and Windows 7 booting on this nice notebook.

I want to sincerely thank those who made this project possible with their funding:

  • secunet Security Networks AG
  • Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnologie (Federal Office for Information Security, BSI)

A big thank you also goes to everyone who worked with coresystems on this project.

The committed patch series includes improved support for the Intel i945 / ICH7 chipset (which was also written by coresystems), the SMSC LPC47N227 Super I/O, the Texas Instruments Cardbus+Firewire bridge TI PCI7420, and finally the Renesas M3885x Embedded Controller (EC).

Btw, the latter, the so-called embedded controller (sometimes integrated in the Super I/O, sometimes it's an extra chip) is one of the major problems for coreboot support on laptops. They are almost always undocumented (i.e., no public datasheets are available), but they have low-level control over power/battery management, early power-up sequence, and often include keyboard controller functionality and other important stuff. Luckily, for this notebook an EC datasheet is available. Checkout the coreboot EC support code for the Renesas M3885x for an impression of what this stuff is all about.

Anyway, there is hope that this laptop will only be the first in a row of multiple supported ones in the future. Interested developers and contributors are of course always welcome on the coreboot mailing list :-)

Author: "Uwe Hermann"
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