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.

Nouveau - Free Software 3D acceleration for NVIDIA cards is making progress

Nice... the Nouveau project, which aims at creating Free Software drivers with accelerated 3D graphics for NVIDIA cards, is making some progress...

I'm looking forward to the day when I can replace "nv" with "nouveau" in my xorg.conf.

Update 2006-11-27: Yes, I know it's spelled "nouveau" (not "noveau"), which means "new" in French. Need more coffee ;-)

(via Pro-Linux News)

NVIDIA Binary Graphics Driver Root Exploit

A security advisory was released today which warns about a severe security issue in the binary-only NVIDIA drivers:

The NVIDIA Binary Graphics Driver for Linux is vulnerable to a
buffer overflow that allows an attacker to run arbitrary code as
root. This bug can be exploited both locally or remotely (via
a remote X client or an X client which visits a malicious web page).
A working proof-of-concept root exploit is included with this

The only possible solution (as NVIDIA still hasn't fixed the issue, although they know about it since 2004):

Disable the binary blob driver and use the open-source "nv" driver that is included by default with X.

Yes, you won't have 3D acceleration any more if you do that. Yes, that sucks. Complain to NVIDIA that they don't provide documentation so that free drivers can be written.

Luckily I stopped using the NVIDIA binary-blob quite a while ago, and I don't intend to ever use it again. This exploit clearly shows me that that's a good decision. For now, I'll have to live with the fact that I must use software-rendering for 3D (which is slow). When I buy my next computer it won't have an NVIDIA card, that's for sure.

But maybe there's hope. Maybe, just maybe, NVIDIA releases proper documentation one day (but don't hold your breath).

Alternatively, I just learned about the nouveau project: a project which aims at producing Open Source 3D drivers for nVidia cards. I don't know what the current status is and whether it's usable already, but this is definately a project which is worth trying out and worth supporting!

(via Kerneltrap)


Draft: Debian GNU/Linux on a Toshiba Satellite A80-117

I intended to write up some sort of HOWTO for using the Toshiba Satellite A80-117 with Debian GNU/Linux for quite some time now, but I don't seem to get around to really finish it. So for now, I'll just release some quick hints about how to get everything working — I'll cover more details and stuff as soon as time permits.

Please consider this a draft and let me know if you have any comments.

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