AMD RS780 chipset documentation released, coreboot support upcoming

coreboot logo

Good news for kernel hackers, and especially coreboot developers like me: AMD has released the chipset documentation for the RS780 chipset, including the BIOS Developer's Guide. And these documents are being released freely and openly to the public, no NDAs required, which is great!

Quoting from the original announcement on the coreboot-announce mailing list:

The coreboot community, which includes government organizations, corporations, research labs and individuals from around the world, is very excited to expand on our existing and decade-long collaboration with AMD. This collaboration has, over the years, resulted in the inclusion of coreboot into everything from some of the largest AMD-based supercomputers in the world to some of the smallest embedded systems.

Together with the recent SB700/SB710/SB750 documentation release, the Developer Guide release for the RS780 family of Integrated Chipset/Graphics Processors enables the coreboot community to support any board with AMD chipsets out there, from embedded to enthusiast desktop and high-end server boards.

This new release once again demonstrates AMD's commitment to open standards and software that provides an improved user experience and Total Cost of Ownership for users in every walk of life. One cornerstone of this openness is the availability of documentation without NDA, enabling everyone to contribute.

[...]

Coreboot is open source, so every interested developer or user can modify, tweak and extend it to their heart's content.

An additional benefit of this documentation release is flashrom support for all AMD chipsets which enables users to reflash their BIOS/firmware/coreboot from within Linux and *BSD without rebooting.

Coreboot code for the SB700 and 780 chipset family is already being worked on by Zheng Bao at AMD in his spare time and the coreboot community is happy to work with him on finishing and integrating the code into the official coreboot codebase.

We'd like to thank Sharon Troia at AMD for making these documentation releases possible.

The exact download URLs are listed at http://www.coreboot.org/Datasheets.

How to run 65535 web servers on a single laptop

OK, so here's what crazy computer geeks come up with when they're bored of just sitting in the subway and staring out of the window.

Web servers usually run on port 80. TCP/UDP ports range from 1 to 65535 (port 0 is reserved). You can run multiple web servers on different ports at the same time... Do you think what I think?

Well, first you need a web server (duh). I decided to use lighttpd, as it's said to be small and memory-efficient (which sounded pretty important given what I was trying to do). Apache would probably not be a good choice here. Mind you, I have not done any benchmarks at all, I'm just guessing...

  $ apt-get install lighttpd

Then, I wrote a little shell script containing a loop, which invoked lighttpd on port 1, 2, 3, 4, ..., 65535. That's it ;)

  #!/bin/bash
  TMPDIR=/tmp
  CONFFILE="server.document-root       = \"/var/www/\"
           index-file.names           = ( \"index.html\" )"
  for ((i = 1; i < 300; i = i + 1)) do
    echo "+++ Starting web server on port $i"
    echo $CONFFILE > $TMPDIR/lighttpd.conf
    echo "server.port = $i" >> $TMPDIR/lighttpd.conf
    /usr/sbin/lighttpd -f $TMPDIR/lighttpd.conf
    rm -f $TMPDIR/lighttpd.conf
  done 

I'm sure this can be optimized a lot, but it's sufficient for now, and it works.

You can test any of the web servers by running "wget http://localhost:3556/" (for example). You can kill them all with killall lighttpd. If you already run some other daemons on some ports, you cannot start a lighttpd on the same port, so you'll end up with fewer than 65535 servers.

In case you try this on your hardware, make sure you have lots of RAM and lots of swap. Don't run this on production hardware. Feel free to post your experiences in the comments.

How to find copies or modified versions of your photos online, e.g. using TinEye

Sugar

I found out about TinEye a few minutes ago. It's a nice little search engine which allows you to find exact copies of a photo or even similar versions of it. You can either upload an image for comparison with their database, or point TinEye to a URL of the image you want to check.

For instance, checkout this this search for my unreasonably popular "Sugar" photo. Or have a look at this list of sample searches.

The site is also used in Wikipedia for detecting the original source of uploaded images.

I know there is some other website which also allows similarity search of images, but I just can't remember the URL. Please leave a comment if you know of other such sites, thanks!

Counting pages in multiple PDFs from the command line, using pdfinfo or pdftk

Say you have a bunch of PDFs and you want to know how many pages each of them has. You could of course use some graphical software to display every single PDF and check the page count (xpdf, evince, whatever), but that gets tedious very fast.

So here's (mostly as a reminder for myself) one way to count pages of many PDFs (in the current directory) using pdfinfo from the xpdf-utils package:

$ cat countpdfpages
#!/bin/sh
for f in *.pdf; do
        echo -n "$f: "
        pdfinfo "$f" 2>/dev/null | grep Pages | cut -d ":" -f 2
done

A sample run:

$ ./countpdfpages
S71147.pdf:           25
S71226.pdf:           38
S71242-01.pdf:        25
S71258.pdf:           26
S71315.pdf:           35
S72045.pdf:           2

I'm sure there are many other ways to do this, e.g. using pdftk foo.pdf dump_data (in the pdftk package), please leave a comment if you know a simpler way to achieve this. Especially so if you don't need an extra script to do it (i.e. if there's a PDF command line tool which can already count pages in multiple PDFs). Thanks!

Flashrom 0.9 release - Flashing your BIOS from the Unix/Linux command line

I have mentioned the flashrom utility in my blog in the past. This is a small command line tool which allows you to update your BIOS/coreboot/firmware chips without opening the computer and without any special boot procedures.

Yesterday, flashrom 0.9 was finally released. Here's a short passage from the release announcement:

After nine years of development and constant improvement, we have added support for every BIOS flash ROM technology present on x86 mainboards and every flash ROM chip we ever saw in the wild.

Highlights of flashrom include:

  • Parallel, LPC, FWH and SPI flash interfaces.
  • 157 flash chip families and half a dozen variants of each family.
  • Flash chip package agnostic. DIP32, PLCC32, DIP8, SO8/SOIC8, TSOP32, TSOP40 and more have all been verified to work.
  • 75 different chipsets, some with multiple flash controllers.
  • Special mainboard enabling code for dozens of nonstandard mainboards.
  • No physical access needed. root access is sufficient.
  • No bootable floppy disk, bootable CD-ROM or other media needed.
  • No keyboard or monitor needed. Simply reflash remotely via SSH.
  • No instant reboot needed. Reflash your ROM in a running system, verify it, be happy. The new firmware will be present next time you boot.
  • Crossflashing and hotflashing is possible as long as the flash chips are electrically and logically compatible (same protocol). Great for recovery.
  • Scriptability. Reflash a whole pool of identical machines at the same time from the command line. It is recommended to check flashrom output and error codes.
  • Speed. flashrom is much faster than vendor flash tools.
  • Supports Linux, FreeBSD, DragonFly BSD, Solaris, Mac OS X. Please refer to the README for build instructions.

Please note that rewriting your flash chip can be dangerous and flashrom developers make no guarantees whatsoever. That said, many users have successfully replaced proprietary tools such as awdflash, amiflash and afudos with flashrom.

Download: flashrom-0.9.0.tar.gz
SVN: svn co svn://coreboot.org/flashrom/trunk flashrom
Debian: apt-get install flashrom

Do yourself a favor and try flashrom next time you want to upgrade your BIOS. No more floppies or bootable CD-ROMs with DOS/Windows binaries or similar crap. Run flashrom conveniently from the Linux command line, or even via SSH or serial console if you want...

Syndicate content