rom

Flashrom 0.9.4 released - Flashing BIOS/ROM chips from the Unix/Linux command line using various programmers

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...

flashrom 0.9.2 released -- Open-Source, crossplatform BIOS / EEPROM / flash chip programmer

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.

coreboot / flashrom in GSOC 2010 -- student application deadline today!

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.

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...

Coreboot hacking: How to solder a PLCC socket on your board

Desoldering station.

When trying to port coreboot (previously LinuxBIOS) to a new mainboard you're often confronted with a big problem: the BIOS/ROM chip on the respective motherboard is soldered onto the board (i.e., not in a socket).

This means that you cannot easily (hot-)swap the chip during development or for recovery purposes. So you basically have exactly one try to flash the ROM chip with a fully working/booting coreboot image. If that goes wrong your board is bricked.

Desoldering the chip

This makes it pretty much impossible to develop a coreboot port for such boards (and soldered-on ROM chips are becoming more and more common, unfortunately).

However, I've recently tried to replace the soldered-on (PLCC) ROM chip on one of my boards with a socket. What sounds pretty scary at first, especially given that I have almost non-existant soldering skills, turned out to be really not that hard. Also, it can be done with relatively cheap and readily available equipment.

I have written a short HOWTO for desoldering chips and soldering on sockets in the coreboot wiki, and also finished a video showing most of the process, which I hope will be helpful for others:

Place the PLCC chip


The video is CC-BY-SA 3.0, music is taken from ccmixter.org and is CC-NC 3.0 licensed. Video editing was done using Kino (which uses ffmpeg2theora for Ogg Theora export).

I also tried to upload the video to Vimeo, but first they told me to install the Flash 10 abomination (and there's no way I will do that). After browsing the help/forum pages a bit I found a traditional, non-flash upload form, but that then tells me that I cannot upload Ogg Theora videos. WTF?

Soldering the socket

The Ogg Theora video support feature request has been open for more that a year. Until that issue is fixed I'll just use other video services, thanks...

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