coreboot

Coreboot is an alternative and open source firmware. Together with its “payloads” it can replace a BIOS or UEFI.

I was not able to find binary packages of coreboot. Maybe that is, because it is so hardware specific and would somehow make its usefulness questionable. However the latest source code version is here.

Why?

  • Take back control: Own a hardware device and its software!
  • Brand your device so that even removing the hard disk does not help.
  • Write your own low level code. You know what? User space programs have no direct access to the contents of the flash.
  • Your life bores you and you want to risk something – clearly speaking: This procedure can very well brick your device!

Hardware requirements

You better have one of these chip clips, best searched with soic16 clip
The cheapest I could find has a small pin pitch (see pictures). I once soldered a soic8 clip, but this time I used modified header cables and flexible heat shrink and only press fitted these. I found that very convenient and it worked perfectly, see here:

How to compile

  • Download the source code
  • run make help for a first orientation
  • run make nconfig
    – if you want a splash image, also set Devices ---> Display ---> Framebuffer mode: Linear "high-resolution" framebuffer
  • run make crossgcc ARCH=x64 CPUS=8
  • run make ARCH=x64 CPUS=8
  • where ARCH is the target architecture and CPUS the number of cores to use for compilation- The default of one takes really long.
  • copy the image coreboot.rom to the system from which you can do the in system programming (e.g. the raspberry, but you may have a USB SPI device)

How to flash

Check the cable connection by reading the chip identifier:

After that works read the contents out to a file:

Repeat the last step three times and compare the files, e.g. with md5sum *
If there are read errors reduce the spispeed, e.g. half it. If all went good, read the memory layout out:

The last step is not strictly necessary, but it helps if you messed something up, e.g. if you flashed the chip before, it was automatically erased to some extend and the --ifd switch from flashrom does not work any more.

Next step would be to write the new BIOS (and BIOS only):

If you see errors like "trying next erase method", further reduce the spispeed!

Otherwise you should be done! Hurray!

Thinkpad x200 starting with coreboot
max,