[GSOC] Panic Room, week #2

How was your last week?

Let’s say that it was a bit unexpected.

I spent the majority of it trying to wrap my head around the ELF (Executable Linkable Format) specification.
I used this new acquired knowledge to improve the utility cbfstool and allow it to extract payloads contained inside a CBFS directly into ELF instead of SELF (commit).

In order to achieve this cbfstool has to do a few things:

  • Extract the payload from the coreboot image
  • Parse the segment table contained inside the SELF payload in order to find out how many and which segments are present.
  • Using the elf_writer API generate a compliant ELF header
  • Take the content from each segment and copy it to the correspondent ELF section header and configure it accordingly
  • Once the section table is filled out, use elf_writer to generate the program header table and write out the final ELF

The final results would allow to, for example, easily move payloads from a CBFS to another one without having to re-build the payload, coreboot rom or mess with the build system configuration.
Right now the implementation it’s not complete yet but it works quite well with a good chunk of the payloads commonly used with coreboot such as SeaBIOS, coreinfo, nvramcui and others.
The major hurdles right now are to get the GRUB payload to work and add a way to handle the extraction of a compressed payload.

Wait a minute! Weren’t you working on SerialICE?

You are quite the inquisitive type, aren’t you?

Yes, my main goal is still to continue integrating SerialICE and coreboot.
Unfortunately there have been a few showstoppers this week, first my only test clip broke and now my target, Lenovo x60, stopped working and I am no longer able to flash its BIOS chip.
I already ordered a replacement but it’ll probably take a bit more than a week to arrive.

In the meantime my mentor (adurbin) kindly pointed out the task above to keep me busy while waiting.

What are your plans for the next week?

I plan to finish implementing the functionality described above and test all the remaining payloads.
Hopefully I will also be able to start looking at some of the other tasks that have been suggested to me by my mentors.

That’s it for today, see you next week!

[GSOC] Panic Room, week #1

Who are you?

Hello everyone, I’m Antonello Dettori (avengerf12 on IRC) and I’m the student currently working on improving SerialICE.

What are you working on?

I’m glad you asked.

As I said just a bunch of lines before I’m working on SerialICE, which is one of the main tools used in reverse engineering an OEM BIOS and therefore in understanding the initialisation process that coreboot will have to perform in order to properly run on a target.

The original idea of my proposal was to work towards:

  • Incorporating the functionality of SerialICE into coreboot.
  • Allowing for a way to flash a coreboot-running target without a working OS environment.

The situation has changed a bit in the few months after the proposal was written and part of the goals have already been worked on by some of the wonderful contributors in the coreboot community.
I still have plenty of work to do and my mentors already pointed out some of the areas of the project with which I could spend my time.

How was your first week?

Oh boy, you had to go there, didn’t you?

I’ve been kind of a late bloomer regarding this project since only from this week I came to truly appreciate all of the work that goes into making coreboot and SerialICE tick.
I’m therefore still knee-deep in the learning process, but don’t worry, progress is being made on this front.
Unfortunately, this also means that I don’t have any actual code to reach my goals yet.

What will you do during the next week?

I will, hopefully, manage to wrap up my learning “session” with SerialICE and get to finally write some actual (possibly useful) code.
In particular I hope to fix the problem regarding the conflicts in managing the cache and its related registers that occur when coreboot initialises the target but SerialICE is used as the romstage.

That’s pretty much it  for now, see you next week!