Rewriting history (of flashrom)

Sorry to interrupt the stream of GSoC posts! 😉 Some of you may have wondered why there were no flashrom commits at all since the 0.9.9 release in March (i.e. about 5 Months). There wasn’t much direct flashrom development going on on the vanilla branch of flashrom apart from Hatim’s GSoC efforts of course.

Instead I’ve been working on moving our repository to git. I have created some client- and server-side hooks + other infrastructure (with the help of Patrick) that will be used in the future to host the vanilla flashrom repository. This part was actually only the smaller part of time I spent on flashrom in the last months (which was not as much as I would have wished for, obviously). More on this and future development later on the flashrom mailing list…

The remaining time I’ve been working on a script that rewrites history. Not all of history, only the flashrom repository’s history. Continue reading Rewriting history (of flashrom)

GSoC 2014 [flashrom] Support for Intel Bay Trail, Rangeley/Avoton and Wildcat Point

While we were busy updating our AMD driver code to accommodate the new SPI controller found in Kabini and Temash, Intel has also changed their SPI interface(s) in a way that required quite some effort to support it in flashrom. A pending patch set is the result of the work of a number of parties and I will shortly explain some details below.

All started with a patch for ChromiumOS’s flashrom fork in fall 2013 that introduced support for Intel’s Bay Trail SoCs which are used in a number of currently shipping or announced Chromebooks. Bay Trail is part of the Silvermont architecture also in other SoCs intended for different use cases like mobile phones (Merrifield and Moorefield) or special-purpose servers (Avoton and Rangeley). At least for the latter two the SPI interface is equivalent to Bay Trail’s. This was handy for Sage when they were developing their support package for Intel’s Mohon Peak (Rangeley reference board) which was upstreamed to the coreboot repository shortly before this blog post was written. They ported the patch to vanilla flashrom, added the necessary PCI IDs and submitted the result to our mailing list at the end of May.

Because we, the flashrom maintainers, are very picky, the code could not be incorporated as is. I took the patch and completely reworked and refactored it so that more code could be shared and we are hopefully better prepared for future variations of similar changes. Additionally, I have also backported the Intel Wildcat Point support that ChromiumOS got already in May.

The major part of my contribution was not simply integrating foreign code, but refactoring and refining it where possible as well as verifying it against datasheets. While digging these numerous datasheets and SPI programming guides I have also fixed the problem of hardware sequencing not working on Lynx Point (and Wildcat Point) as it was reported in March when I had no time to correct it.

All of this is not committed to the main repository yet, but will be soon. It is mostly untested so far and I would very welcome any testers with the respective hardware.

GSoC 2014 [flashrom] Rise like a phoenix

The best plan is no plan at all, then everything goes according to the plan.  (Jacek Bukowski)

I am 142% on track according to my proposal so far if you take the quote above seriously. But even if you don’t the progress so far is way better than I would have hoped for when I applied. I made 22 commits so far during the official coding period (starting with 2014-05-19 or within ~16 days), and 49 if you count from the date of project acceptance (2014-04-21, i.e. ~37 days). That’s pretty significant for a project that normally does 100-150 commits per year. Not all of the patches were authored by myself, and some of them were bitrotting for an extended period of time before I revived them. I have also reviewed, rebased and merged patches sent in by foreigners as well as long-term contributors. Even Carl-Daniel awakes periodically from hiatus and helps where he can. So flashrom seems to be pretty vivid again, yay.

Two of the most interesting sets of changes are the eventually committed support for AMD’s Yangtze-based SPI controller (found in Kabini and Tamesh), and finer-grained display of support/test status of hardware. For example we can now clearly indicate if a flash chip is actually a ROM that can only be probed and read. This has become necessary when we added our first ROM chip, Macronix MX23L3254. The results can be seen in the wiki as well as flashrom’s -L output. Besides that there were also various new chips and even two programmers committed with another 1-3 waiting.

It is still a bit early to nail down any fundamental changes I want to tackle, but I think I’ll manage to rewrite the probing algorithm completely this year. I have made one huge step towards that by getting rid of the .probe_timing field of struct flashchip. It was used by some probing functions of parallel chips but there were only about 5 concrete values so they could easily be wrapped into stub functions. This is – as Carl-Daniel correctly stated – not what we normally do… replacing data in tables with code, but in this case I think it is completely justified. The next big step will be to turn the probing loop inside-out. Currently we iterate over all flash chips, filter the ones compatible with the selected programmer, and execute the respective probing function stored. Naturally this creates the same results over and over again because there is only about a dozen different probing functions. That does not only take a lot of unnecessary time but also makes it hard to support more than one probing function. It should be the other way round: we should iterate over all possible probing functions and match the results with the stored flash chips. I will report back how far I got with that in my next post.

GSoC 2014 [flashrom] Do I need to introduce myself?

Hello, my name is Stefan Tauner and I am participating for the third time in GSoC with a flashrom-related project. If you don’t know me then you have to be new here and should write an introduction post instead of me. 🙂 If you really have no idea then please take a brief look at my introductory posts from last year.

I finally managed to finish my master thesis shortly after this year’s accepted GSoC proposals were announced, so this year will be the last time I’ll participate as a student – unless I find time to do it again during my potential PhD project…

Anyway, instead of writing about my goals for this year, I want to share a few graphs related to flashrom development. The first one draws the number of lines added by individual contributors over time. Note that this includes all patches a developer submitted to our Subversion repository even if he is not the original author. The more horizontal a lines is the less active the committer is. Sadly there are a lot of horizontal lines…

lines of code by author over timeI was curious how my hiatus during my thesis work was affecting flashrom development so I created two graphs spanning the last year. This includes not only the final months of my thesis but also last year’s GSoC. One diagram shows the number of average commits per day each month and the other one depicts the emails sent to the flashrom mailing list on average per day each month. The bars for May 2014 are based on only 4 days worth of data, and I really hope that at the end of May it would not show about 25 Emails per day anymore or I’ll have to work on my project from a rehab facility. 😉

Average commits per dayEmails per day

In my next post I’ll lay out my plans for this summer. My (in)formal proposal can be found here. I was quite surprised that it has been accepted instead of my second and more focused proposal for a GUI tool to prepare coreboot images. OTOH, after a short trip into C++ land at the end of my thesis, I am quite delighted that I don’t have to wrestle with Qt and the like…

GSoC 2013 [flashrom] blog post #8

After my last post I continued to improve our flashrom build bot and it now uses VirtualBox’ safe state feature which allows to bring up and down VMs in a matter of seconds. Also, I was able to fully parallelize the builds. Using the safe state feature alone improves the duration of a full build from 4m55.930s to 2m10.496s. The fully parallel execution gets it down to 25.807s, yay.

This week I have merged a mix of old and new patches that fix a few things, add support for other things, and most importantly… gets rid of the dependency on dmidecode: I have finally committed my internal DMI decoder. Compiling for DOS and under various BSDs should be easier now, the AMD patches are slowly getting reviewed… clearly there is some progress, but obviously not enough to reach my original goals for GSoC…

GSoC 2013 [flashrom] blog post #7

Nothing too fancy to report this week. I have added NetBSD and DragonFlyBSD support to our buildbot, which took quite a while: I have never set up a VirtualBox VM on a headless machine. It is quite easy actually, but there are lots of options one can configure with the CLI so that the most important/unconditional ones are not obvious at all. For example, storage controllers need to have a user-defined name given to address it in later commands, one has to specify the bus and device number when attaching a hd to an IDE storage controller (even if you don’t care at all) etc. It does not sound very problematic, but…
$ VBoxManage | wc -l

That’s quite a wall of text. Luckily there is good documentation and lots of howtos online.

In general it wasn’t too bad and the RDP console support of VirtualBox in conjunction with Remmina made up for it: I did not want to set up port forwarding on the remote host nor ssh tunnels myself, but Remmina can do the latter automatically on connect which is really handy.

Configuring the BSDs was way worse. Mostly because I was completely unfamiliar with them and pkgsrc, but also because they have a long way to go regarding usability. Not only that the DragonFly installer does not even try to set a correct keymap, even after installation I could not get that to work and the installer has a few other quirks that thwarts some functionality completely.

Anyway, build testing works on these hosts now and will hopefully prevent future breakage when tinkering with OS-dependent preprocessor #ifdefs (unlike before…). Next: some refactoring of the build bot and fixing issues with getrevision’s use of date on BSDs. Then back again to layout patches and libflashrom.

GSoC 2013 [flashrom] blog post #5

The running gag that is not funny at all: new flashrom release will be out very soon! 😛

There are mainly two reasons why it was not released yet. First we have found a regression due to the inclusion of flash chips bigger than 16 MB and then I was working on adding decent support for a new SPI programmer before release. Continue reading GSoC 2013 [flashrom] blog post #5

GSoC 2013 [flashrom] week #4

There is still no release, but we made quite some progress over the weekend. BSDs should work again as well as Windows (32b) – but the fix for 64b Windows will (most probably) not make it into 0.9.7 because we need to rework a bit of infrastructure code to get this right and we are not too sure about possible breakage from the quick hack I posted. We are still trying to verify the effectiveness of the IMC shutdown patch and looking for Dediprog testers with either an EM100 or a very old flash chip without fast reads. I expect the release to happen in the next two days. Now would be a good time to test flashrom’s trunk or my flashrom_0.9.7 branch on github on flash programmers near you. 😉

I would also welcome contributions to our brain storming about possible features of layout files. I decided to post them to the list instead of making a blog post out of it as envisioned in my last post.

DIY SOIC8 ZIF to DIP8 adapters

As mentioned previously I got an ASRock A180-H sample and want to develop Kabini support for flashrom with it. The board features an 8-pin DIP socket which is way easier to work with than a soldered flash chip, but the included DIP chip is the only one I possess. I do own quite a few SOIC chips though and 3 SOIC8 ZIF sockets though. And one of the two hacker spaces in town has these SOIC8 to DIP8 adapter PCBs in its inventory. So… of course I have built a SOIC8 ZIF to DIP8 adapter out of them.

Complete adapters are usually very expensive (>>50$) for no good reason (from a customer’s perspective only), so building such an adapter is the logical conclusion. Instead of the PCBs from futurlec mentioned above there is a very good deal available from adafruit. The cheapest SOIC ZIF sockets I could find are made by Wieson. They have 3 models available – for “200 mil” 8-pin (G6179-10), “209 mil” 8-pin (G6179-200000) and 16 pin (G6179-070000) chips. They are available from siliconkit (US, 2.5$ per 8-pin adapter, 10 pcs minimum), dediprog (Taiwan, 30$, 15 pcs package), and (UK, 5£) and probably elsewhere. I am using the G6179-10 below – IMHO the difference of the two 8-pin variants is the length of the chip to be inserted, not its width.

Before acquiring a pre-etched PCB I tried to solder a breakout board myself, similar to this tutorial:


Attaching the wires works somewhat (but one needs steady hands and a lot of patience) but there is one major issue: there is just not enough space to fit the SOIC footprint inside the outline of the DIP pins (the DIP rows of the socket on the mainboard are 0.3″/~8mm apart, the SOIC chip including the pins is about the same size), and of course the pitch is so different that one can’t just solder it on top:

One could try solving this by rotating one of the footprints about 90° and routing the connections manually with enameled wires, but I very much prefer PCBs like this one:

Here is the end result with the futurlec PCB which took me a fraction of the time I wrestled with the manual breakout approach:standing_cropped_0


All pictures above are taken by myself and put into public domain.

GSoC 2013 [flashrom] week #3

After enjoying an extended weekend at the customs office the Micron chips finally arrived at my place and I began testing them with flashrom while preparing parts of this post. One has quite a lot of idle time when testing bigger flash chips with a lousy self-made programmer… the execution of flashrom -w with random data took 52m58s on a 16MB chip (N25Q128) to complete (which is actually two complete reads and one complete erase + read + write cycle per block). Oh if only there would be a cheap but awesome open USB programmer… 😉

Carl-Daniel was still missing till I called him at work yesterday, so Continue reading GSoC 2013 [flashrom] week #3