Getting a Dell E7240 working with a dock + a monitor

Sep 21, 2015 / 0 comments

I have a Dell E7240. I’m pretty happy with it - my main complaint is that it has a very shiny screen, and that seems to be because it’s the touchscreen variant. While I don’t care about that feature I do care about the fact it means I get FullHD in 12.5”

Anyway. I’ve had issues with using a dock and an external monitor with the laptop for some time, including getting so far as mentioning the problems on the appropriate bug tracker. I’ve also had discussions with a friend who has the same laptop with the same issues, and has some time trying to get it reliably work. However up until this week I haven’t had a desk I’m sitting at for any length of time to use the laptop, so it’s always been low priority for me. Today I sat down to try and figure out if there had been any improvement.

Firstly I knew the dock wasn’t at fault. A Dell E6330 works just fine with multiple monitors on the same dock. The E6330 is Ivybridge, while the E7240 is Haswell, so I thought potentially there might be an issue going on there. Further digging revealed another wrinkle I hadn’t previously been aware of; there is a DisplayPort Multi-Stream Transport (MST) hub in play, in particular a Synaptics VMM2320. Dell have a knowledge base article about Multiple external display issues when docked with a Latitude E7440/E7240 which suggests a BIOS update (I was already on A15) and a firmware update for the MST HUB. Sadly the firmware update is Windows only, so I had to do a suitable dance to be able to try and run it. I then discovered that the A05 update refused to work, complaining I had an invalid product ID. The A04 update did the same. The A01 update thankfully succeeded and told me it was upgrading from 2.00.002 to 2.15.000. After that had completed (and I’d power cycled to switch to the new firmware) I tried A05 again and this time it worked and upgraded me to 2.22.000.

Booting up Linux again I got further than before; it was definitely detecting that there was a monitor but it was very unhappy with lots of [drm:intel_dp_start_link_train] *ERROR* too many full retries, give up errors being logged. This was with 4.2, and as I’d been meaning to try 4.3-rc2 I thought this was a good time to give it a try. Lo and behold, it worked! Even docking and undocking does what I’d expect, with the extra monitor appearing / disappearing as you’d expect.

Now, I’m not going to assume this means it’s all happy, as I’ve seen this sort-of work in the past, but the clue about MST, the upgrade of that firmware (and noticing that it made things better under Windows as well) and the fact that there have been improvements in the kernel’s MST support according to the post 4.2 log gives me some hope that things will be better from here on.

Random post-DebConf 15 thoughts

Aug 24, 2015 / 0 comments

There are a bunch of things I mean to blog about, but as I have just got fully home from Heidelberg and DebConf15 this afternoon that seems most appropriate to start with. It’s a bit of a set of disjoint thoughts, but I figure I should write them down while they’re in my head.

DebConf is an interesting conference. It’s the best opportunity the Debian project has every year to come together and actually spend a decent amount of time with each other. As a result it’s a fairly full on experience, with lots of planned talks as a basis and a wide range of technical discussions and general social interaction filling in whatever gaps are available. I always find it a thoroughly enjoyable experience, but equally I’m glad to be home and doing delightfully dull things like washing my clothes and buying fresh milk.

I have always been of the opinion that the key aspect of DebConf is the face time. It was thus great to see so many people there - we were told several times that this was the largest DebConf so far (~ 570 people IIRC). That’s good in the sense that it meant I got to speak to a lot of people (both old friends and new), but does mean that there are various people I know I didn’t spend enough, or in some cases any, time with. My apologies, but I think many of us were in the same situation. I don’t feel it made the conference any less productive for me - I managed to get a bunch of hacking done, discuss a number of open questions in person with various people and get pulled into various interesting discussions I hadn’t expected. In short, a typical DebConf.

Also I’d like to say that the venue worked out really well. I’ll admit I was dubious when I heard it was in a hostel, but it was well located (about a 30 minute walk into town, and a reasonable bus service available from just outside the door), self-contained with decent facilities (I’m a big believer in having DebConf talks + accommodation be as close as possible to each other) and the room was much better than expected (well, aside from the snoring but I can’t blame the DebConf organisers for that).

One of the surprising and interesting things for me that was different from previous DebConfs was the opportunity to have more conversations with a legal leaning. I expect to go to DebConf and do OpenPGP/general crypto related bits. I wasn’t expecting affirmation about the things I have learnt on my course over the past year, in terms of feeling that I could use that knowledge in the process of helping Debian. It provided me with some hope that I’ll be able to tie my technology and law skills together in a way that I will find suitably entertaining (as did various conversations where people expressed significant interest in the crossover).

Next year is in Cape Town, South Africa. It’s a long way (though I suppose no worse than Portland and I get to stay in the same time zone), and a quick look at flights indicates they’re quite expensive at the moment. The bid presentation did look pretty good though so as soon as the dates are confirmed (I believe this will happen as soon as there are signed contracts in place) I’ll take another look at flights.

In short, excellent DebConf, thanks to the organisers, lovely to see everyone I managed to speak to, apologies to those of you I didn’t manage to speak to. Hopefully see you in Cape Town next year.

Programming the FST-01 (gnuk) with a Bus Pirate + OpenOCD

Aug 11, 2015 / 0 comments

Last year at DebConf14 Lucas authorized the purchase of a handful of gnuk devices, one of which I obtained. At the time it only supported 2048 bit RSA keys. I took a look at what might be involved in adding 4096 bit support during DebConf and managed to brick my device several times in doing so. Thankfully gniibe was on hand with his STLinkV2 to help me recover. However subsequently I was loathe to experiment further at home until I had a suitable programmer.

As it is this year has been busy and the 1.1.x release train is supposed to have 4K RSA (as well as ECC) support. DebConf15 is coming up and I felt I should finally sort out playing with the device properly. I still didn’t have a suitable programmer. Or did I? Could my trusty Bus Pirate help?

The FST-01 has an STM32F103TB on it. There is an exposed SWD port. I found a few projects that claimed to do SWD with a Bus Pirate - Will Donnelly has a much cloned Python project, the MC HCK project have a programmer in Ruby and there’s LibSWD though that’s targeted to smarter programmers. None of them worked for me; I could get the Python bits as far as correctly doing the ID of the device, but not reading the option bytes or successfully flashing (though I did manage an erase).

Enter the old favourite, OpenOCD. This already has SWD support and there’s an outstanding commit request to add Bus Pirate support. NodoNogard has a post on using the ST-Link/V2 with OpenOCD and the FST-01 which provided some useful pointers. I grabbed the patch from Gerrit, applied it to OpenOCD git and built an openocd.cfg that contained:

source [find interface/buspirate.cfg]

buspirate_port /dev/ttyUSB0
buspirate_vreg 1
buspirate_mode normal
transport select swd

source [find target/stm32f1x.cfg]

My BP has the Seeed Studio probe cable, so my hookups look like this:

Bus Pirate + FST-01 SWD connection

That’s BP MOSI (grey) to SWD IO, BP CLK (purple) to SWD CLK, BP 3.3V (red) to FST-01 PWR and BP GND (brown) to FST-01 GND. Once that was done I fired up OpenOCD in one terminal and did the following in another:

$ telnet localhost 4444
Trying ::1...
Connected to localhost.
Escape character is '^]'.
Open On-Chip Debugger
> reset halt
target state: halted
target halted due to debug-request, current mode: Thread
xPSR: 0x01000000 pc: 0xfffffffe msp: 0xfffffffc
Info : device id = 0x20036410
Info : SWD IDCODE 0x1ba01477
Error: Failed to read memory at 0x1ffff7e2
Warn : STM32 flash size failed, probe inaccurate - assuming 128k flash
Info : flash size = 128kbytes
> stm32f1x unlock 0
Device Security Bit Set
stm32x unlocked.
INFO: a reset or power cycle is required for the new settings to take effect.
> reset halt
target state: halted
target halted due to debug-request, current mode: Thread
xPSR: 0x01000000 pc: 0xfffffffe msp: 0xfffffffc
> flash write_image erase /home/noodles/checkouts/gnuk/src/build/gnuk.elf
auto erase enabled
wrote 109568 bytes from file /home/noodles/checkouts/gnuk/src/build/gnuk.elf in 95.055603s (1.126 KiB/s)
> stm32f1x lock 0
stm32x locked
> reset halt
target state: halted
target halted due to debug-request, current mode: Thread 
xPSR: 0x01000000 pc: 0x08000280 msp: 0x20005000

Then it was a matter of disconnecting the gnuk from the BP, plugging it into my USB port and seeing it come up successfully:

usb 1-2: new full-speed USB device number 11 using xhci_hcd
usb 1-2: New USB device found, idVendor=234b, idProduct=0000
usb 1-2: New USB device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=3
usb 1-2: Product: Gnuk Token
usb 1-2: Manufacturer: Free Software Initiative of Japan
usb 1-2: SerialNumber: FSIJ-1.1.7-87063020
usb 1-2: ep 0x82 - rounding interval to 1024 microframes, ep desc says 2040 microframes

More once I actually have a 4K key loaded on it.

Recovering a DGN3500 via JTAG

Jul 21, 2015 / 0 comments

Back in 2010 when I needed an ADSL2 router in the US I bought a Netgear DGN3500. It did what I wanted out of the box and being based on a MIPS AR9 (ARX100) it seemed likely OpenWRT support might happen. Long story short I managed to overwrite u-boot (the bootloader) while flashing a test image I’d built. I ended up buying a new router (same model) to get my internet connection back ASAP and never getting around to fully fixing the broken one. Until yesterday. Below is how I fixed it; both for my own future reference and in case it’s of use any any other unfortunate soul.

The device has clear points for serial and JTAG and it was easy enough (even with my basic soldering skills) to put a proper header on. The tricky bit is that the flash is connected via SPI, so it’s not just a matter of attaching JTAG, doing a scan and reflashing from the JTAG tool. I ended up doing RAM initialisation, then copying a RAM copy of u-boot in and then using that to reflash. There may well have been a better way, but this worked for me. For reference the failure mode I saw was an infinitely repeating:

ROM VER: 1.1.3
CFG 05

My JTAG device is a Bus Pirate v3b which is much better than the parallel port JTAG device I built the first time I wanted to do something similar. I put the latest firmware (6.1) on it.

All of this was done from my laptop, which runs Debian testing (stretch). I used the OpenOCD 0.9.0-1+b1 package from there.

Daniel Schwierzeck has some OpenOCD scripts which include a target definition for the ARX100. I added a board definition for the DGN3500 (I’ve also send Daniel a patch to add this to his repo).

I tied all of this together with an openocd.cfg that contained:

source [find interface/buspirate.cfg]

buspirate_port /dev/ttyUSB1
buspirate_vreg 0
buspirate_mode normal
buspirate_pullup 0
reset_config trst_only

source [find openocd-scripts/target/arx100.cfg]

source [find openocd-scripts/board/dgn3500.cfg]

gdb_flash_program enable
gdb_memory_map enable
gdb_breakpoint_override hard

I was then able to power on the router and type dgn3500_ramboot into the OpenOCD session. This fetched my RAM copy of u-boot from dgn3500_ram/u-boot.bin, copied it into the router’s memory and started it running. From there I had a u-boot environment with access to the flash commands and was able to restore the original Netgear image (and once I was sure that was working ok I subsequently upgraded to the Barrier Breaker OpenWRT image).

What Jonathan Did Next

Jun 29, 2015 / 0 comments

While I mentioned last September that I had failed to be selected for an H-1B and had been having discussions at DebConf about alternative employment, I never got around to elaborating on what I’d ended up doing.

Short answer: I ended up becoming a law student, studying for a Masters in Legal Science at Queen’s University Belfast. I’ve just completed my first year of the 2 year course and have managed to do well enough in the 6 modules so far to convince myself it wasn’t a crazy choice.

Longer answer: After Vello went under in June I decided to take a couple of months before fully investigating what to do next, largely because I figured I’d either find something that wanted me to start ASAP or fail to find anything and stress about it. During this period a friend happened to mention to me that the applications for the Queen’s law course were still open. He happened to know that it was something I’d considered before a few times. Various discussions (some of them over gin, I’ll admit) ensued and I eventually decided to submit an application. This was towards the end of August, and I figured I’d also talk to people at DebConf to see if there was anything out there tech-wise that I could get excited about.

It turned out that I was feeling a bit jaded about the whole tech scene. Another friend is of the strong opinion that you should take a break at least every 10 years. Heeding her advice I decided to go ahead with the law course. I haven’t regretted it at all. My initial interest was largely driven by a belief that there are too few people who understand both tech and law. I started with interests around intellectual property and contract law as well as issues that arise from trying to legislate for the global nature of most tech these days. However the course is a complete UK qualifying degree (I can go on to do the professional qualification in NI or England & Wales) and the first year has been about public law. Which has been much more interesting than I was expecting (even, would you believe it, EU law). Especially given the potential changing constitutional landscape of the UK after the recent general election, with regard to talk of repeal of the Human Rights Act and a referendum on exit from the EU.

Next year will concentrate more on private law, and I’m hoping to be able to tie that in better to what initially drove me to pursue this path. I’m still not exactly sure which direction I’ll go once I complete the course, but whatever happens I want to keep a linkage between my skill sets. That could be either leaning towards the legal side but with the appreciation of tech, returning to tech but with the appreciation of the legal side of things or perhaps specialising further down an academic path that links both. I guess I’ll see what the next year brings. :)

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