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Help on Libreboot x200

X200/X201/X220 (including equivalent tablet models) and X300/X301 series specific matters only.
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Superfly
Posts: 2
Joined: Mon May 18, 2020 4:28 pm
Location: Berlin, Germany

Help on Libreboot x200

#1 Post by Superfly » Mon May 18, 2020 5:11 pm

Dear forum members, I would like to ask for some comments and possibly for some help.
I have recently tried to flash the BIOS of my X200, but ended up completely stuck.

At present the X200 is not booting any longer.
Before the flashing attempts, the X200 was working great, always booting up reliably and managing an SSD hard disk with a windows partition and a linux partition. You could say that the unit was old but looking great, and performing great, too.

Getting into details, I tried many times to use the specific ch341a interface, through linux, with the software FLASHROM, but the attempts with the ch341a always failed.
I never got a successful read from the BIOS, although there was some kind of communication with the ch341a because the interface was asking me to pinpoint exactly which chip was connected, from a list of 4 choices.
I used a 16 pin clip (a much cheaper clone of the POMONA devices), together with some soldered leads shorter than 5 inches and with 24 AWG (actually they are just standard quality RC hobby servo wires).

So, for step 2, I then moved onto using a Raspberry PI, and actually managed, only with some difficulties, to get 3 successful reads of the BIOS contents.
This read routine is done so to be able to have a reliable backup of the original contents of the BIOS, and the procedure was completed with the HASH check, just to be sure. The three reads were identical.
I was able to reach this improved, partial outcome, only by varying the spi speed parameter option, which is available for the Raspberry PI setup, but is not available for the ch341a.

So, to my knowledge, this kind of explained the different outcomes between the useless attempts with the ch341a, and the successful attempts with the Raspberry PI.

Moving on to the writing stage, I tried in excess of 10 times to write the correct rom file for the Libreboot towards the recognised 16 pin 8 megabytes chip, but all attempts ended up with a failure somewhere during the "Verify" process.

After this repetitive outcome, the BIOS chip keeps on behaving unreliably, and the X200 does not boot any longer, understandably.
Possibly the BIOS got partially overwritten with the Libreboot file in some memory areas, and possibly some other memory areas stayed at the original content, or even worse, they got into a different stage anyway.

Nowadays with the ch341a, there is no more communication any longer, while with the Raspberry PI, there is a read action available, but the write and verify actions fail in all circumstances.
The speed assigned for the communication is 128 (I believe it is in kHz).

Now, my question to you would be:
what can be done at this moment in time with this setup?
If I had a choice, I would like to try to recover the current chip first, so to eventually reach the situation where I managed to install Libreboot into it.
Yet, I have a feeling that either something went wrong, or even that something was not so fully right with that chip even before I tried for the first time a connection with the ch341a.

My point is that right now I don't know what to do next.
I can agree that once I got three successful memory dumps from the chip, all checked to be identical, I felt happy and confident in saying that I was on a stable path so to finally move onto flashing, and the job was bound to be over soon.
Yet, I ended up nowhere.

Alternatively, I could basically buy a new bios chip, attempt immediately to flash Libreboot onto it, even without soldering it to the motherboard (practically, keeping it clenched in the 16 pin clip, directly), and then, especially if noticing a dramatic improvement in the communication speed and reliability of the read and write actions, solder it to the motherboard with much greater hopes (perhaps the original BIOS chip was old and unreliable, although I can't imagine why, besides it's original age of course).

Nonetheless, as I find it extremely difficult to do a proper soldering job with such a tiny 16 pin chip onto the motherboard, I am asking you all kind of opinions and comments so to reach the same result without having to substitute the chip.

Do you have any probable diagnosis of what went wrong in any of those steps (insufficient current supply from the ch341a; insufficient current supply from the Raspberry PI; wrong preference of use for the 3.3v supply instead of the AC motherboard supply; fried chip) and also what is wrong at this moment in time?
Many, many, many thanks!

S

RealBlackStuff
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Re: Help on Libreboot x200

#2 Post by RealBlackStuff » Tue May 19, 2020 12:30 am

You first need to change the CH341A power from 5v to 3.3v.
https://www.chucknemeth.com/usb-devices ... ch341a-mod
https://www.eevblog.com/forum/repair/ch ... msg1323775
The above mod applies to the black CH341A, the green CH341A is supposed to have 3.3v already, but is often unreliable and/or does NOT have 3.3v.
Buying a better 16-pin clip than the one you have now wouldn't go amiss either.
I never needed/used a 16-pin clip, but tried many 8-pin El Cheapo variants, before I settled on the Pomona 5250 clip.
NOT a great day for a Guinness! (the Real Black Stuff).
Ireland is on FULL lockdown till December 2020!
Covid-19: Mask it or Casket!
Check out The Boardroom for Mods and Other Services.

Superfly
Posts: 2
Joined: Mon May 18, 2020 4:28 pm
Location: Berlin, Germany

Re: Help on Libreboot x200

#3 Post by Superfly » Tue May 19, 2020 5:30 am

Thankyou RealBlackStuff!

I wasn't even aware of that 5v / 3.3v issue, so this fully helps in understanding the differences between the outcome of the tests done with the ch341a and the Raspberry PI.

I will still explore the El Cheapo clip, so to probably pinpoint where the faulty connection is.
Meanwhile, could I ask you some help on how to interpret messages from FLASHROM?

My confusion is focused on a particular text suffix placed after an address range.
For example:

0x000000-0x000fff:S

These are the general output feedback I get when FLASHROM is reading or writing the firmware.
What would these following letters
S
E
W
EW
mean?

I believe it is some output referring to the action performed on the address range just approached.

Is it S for Skipped, or Same as already found in memory?
Is it E for Erased?
Is it W for Written?
Is it EW for Erased and also Written in the same action?

Thanks again!

RealBlackStuff
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Re: Help on Libreboot x200

#4 Post by RealBlackStuff » Tue May 19, 2020 6:11 am

NOT a great day for a Guinness! (the Real Black Stuff).
Ireland is on FULL lockdown till December 2020!
Covid-19: Mask it or Casket!
Check out The Boardroom for Mods and Other Services.

cockroach
Posts: 10
Joined: Sat Sep 29, 2012 12:29 am
Location: Bern, Switzerland

Re: Help on Libreboot x200

#5 Post by cockroach » Sat Jun 06, 2020 6:21 am

Have you made any progress?

I recently flashed coreboot on an X200 using a Raspberry Pi and found it rather difficult to get it flashed properly (needed several attempts) but in the end it worked. Also, cheap clips can be a PITA, I used a cheap one to flash the X201 and it kept falling off and/or not quite making a connection; maybe a proper clip would solve your issue.

Also, make sure to use short cables -- the longer the cable, the less reliable your connection will be.
I tried in excess of 10 times to write the correct rom file
Did you eventually get the "Verifying flash... VERIFIED." message?
Debian @ Thinkpad X41 | Gentoo @ Thinkpad X201
Previous: Thinkpad 570

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