I just found out that nobody wrote a few lines about this year’s FOSDEM 2011. This year we had a booth (aka a “table”) in one of the buildings. We had total 4 speeches. I did one lightning talk about the coreboot and x86 init (video) and a lecture about coreboot and its speed. Carl-Daniel Hailfinger had lightning talk (video) and a talk about RAM Cold Boot Attacks The talks had a great success and a lot people attended. Continue reading
flashrom is growing rapidly and we are constantly adding support for new SATA/PATA controllers, network cards, graphics cards, USB devices, JTAG cables, DIY hardware hacks, desktop/server mainboards and even some laptops.
If you own a piece of hardware which has a flash chip and lives in a PC (embedded devices with NAND flash are already covered by other software), and if you want to reflash that piece of hardware, please comment here (with some info on how to reach you) or mail us at email@example.com. We will use this to prioritize support for hardware people are interested in.
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).
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)
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.
My GSoC 2010 flashrom project has been a full success, and I managed to add lots of features to flashrom which were not part of the original requirements as well.
You can now use flashrom on PowerPC and MIPS with most programmers. I added the last bit of infrastructure in version 0.9.2-r1111, and we got a few success reports since then. All USB/serial/network drivers work, and quite a few PCI drivers work fine as well.
Added bonus: If your flashrom driver selection does not need direct hardware access (e.g. USB programmers, serial programmers, dummy, …) you can now compile flashrom on all architectures, even those which are not explicitly supported. That feature was added in version 0.9.2-r1116.
This is a big step forward for flashrom which had been x86 centric since the beginning.
I merged my Nvidia MCP61/MCP65/MCP67/MCP73/MCP78S/MCP79 SPI support patch a few days ago in version 0.9.2-r1113, but right now flashrom will refuse to erase/write on those chipsets for safety reasons. Details about the patch can be found in my earlier blog post: First successful Nvidia MCP6x/MCP7x SPI access.
Current flashrom is thus well-equipped to handle any x86 mainboard you throw in its way.
A few days ago I added flashrom support for the RayeR SPIPGM hardware by Martin Rehak. It is basically one capacitor and a few resistors attached to a classic parallel port cable, and you can use it to reflash SPI chips. Many recent mainboards from MSI, Gigabyte, VIA and other vendors have either removable SPI flash chips or a JSPI/JSPI1/SPI header where you can attach RayeR’s programmer to perform a BIOS recovery. See http://rayer.ic.cz/elektro/spipgm.htm for schematics and instructions.
If you want to test it, compile flashrom version 0.9.2-r1093 or later. RayeR support is enabled by default. To invoke the RayeR driver, run
flashrom -p rayer_spi
Since a few hours, my Nvidia MCP61/MCP65/MCP67/MCP73/MCP78S/MCP79 SPI driver is tested and it works well. Only probing for a flash chip was tested, but still… this means my SPI bitbanging code is correct, and Michael Karcher’s reverse engineered docs are correct, and my implementation of the Nvidia GPIO interface used for bitbanging SPI is correct as well.
This is big news because with this patch flashrom finally has 100% support for all x86 chipsets we saw in the last ten years.
Huge thanks go to Michael Karcher for reverse engineering the interface and writing up cleanroom documentation which I could use for implementing the interface.
Huge thanks to Johannes Sjolund for testing my patch on his hardware although it was completely untested before.
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.
Getting the flashrom 0.9.2 release out of the door was a really labor-intensive process because we wanted to make 0.9.2 the 1000th commit in the repository. That worked and 0.9.2 is a really nice release with no known regressions, but a lot more features and improved reliability. Speaking from experience of the last 3 releases, acting as release manager is really a full-time job and will not leave any spare time for developing cool features.
flashrom GSoC development is right on track. So far, I have posted patches for: