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:
$ 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...
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.
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:
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.
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...
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.
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:
$ youtube-dl -t 'http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30x4oxyczH4'
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?
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...