Sep 212014

This is a photo of the origami gnu-like model I took to the “Money-less Yard Sale on September 6th. I may try another with horns curling upwards as in the GNU logo.  Ted P.

origami gnu - well sort  of.

origami gnu – well sort of.

Sep 202014

After the problems I had making good dvd’s of various iso’s I have acquired a desktop pc with 64 bit capacity. Just need to install an OS and get a good dvd internal burner.

Addendum 09-24-14: I have installed Xubuntu 14.04.1 (64 bit) and the machine runs well. I have two iso’s and will download more, adding Trisquel as recommended for new users. The dvd burner just arrived and I will install it soon. I will let the group know how it is going at our next meeting.

Nov 072013

Tonight we recovered a beagleboard! Many months ago we tried to install Debian and lost video and network access to the device. Obviously, U-Boot wasn’t able to boot the broken Debian install attempt.

beaglebone-black-serialWe attempted to re-flash using the SD card and that didn’t work. So, we thought it was broken at a deeper level and thought serial access would be helpful. A few meetings ago we attempted to build a serial cable that would interface with the BBB. We tried a standard rs232 serial cable and matched the pinout to the BBB board serial pins. Much continuity testing with a multimeter was required to match up pins. Yet, nothing we did worked. Then we realized that its not rs232 and is in fact TTL Serial (a description of the difference). Sam bought a TTL to USB controller and we used a ribbon cable and a breadboard to hook them up.
Once we successfully connected to the BBB over serial we saw the BBB was outputting the character “C”. CCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCC…..
We asked on #beagle and the user magyarm told us that the C output means that the BBB can’t boot and all we need to do is re-flash the eMMC from a SD card. We previously had tried this and it didn’t work so the consensus was that we did it wrong. We retried the flashing of eMMC using the SD and we are happy to report a success!

We downloaded Robert Nelson’s Debian install image at


unxz BBB-eMMC-flasher-debian-7.2-2013-10-25.img.xz

dd if=BBB-eMMC-flasher-debian-7.2-2013-10-25.img of=/dev/sd[x] bs=1M

Then place the microSD in the BBB, hold down the boot button, apply power (use the power cord, because when flashing, the BBB consumes more power than the usb cable can provide), hold the boot button until the first LED comes on (this will boot from the microSD card). Wait for the bank of 4 LEDs to stop flashing and go solidly lit, it takes many minutes depending on the speed of your SD card. Once those 4 LEDs are solidly lit, the eMMC is flashed. Remove power, remove SD card and re-power on. It should now boot from internal eMMC!

Instead of blindly trying to flash, we had the serial output of the BBB and knew exactly what was going on the entire time! YAY! Instead of guessing whats going on.

Hardware options:


Oct 282012

“Updating your BIOS” has a tendency to be a bit of a white-knuckle chore. Fraught with opportunity to use lots of non-free legacy tools and even if you make an effort to use all free software the actual flashing tool (not to mention the code in the BIOS firmware that you are flashing.) is historically non-free software. owflash32.exe? Sounds like something that would make me want to install clamav 🙂

Well, my free software loving friends, that doesn’t have to be the case! You can use

Developed by the same crowd that brought you coreboot; flashrom’s a tool that can read, write and erase flash chips like the ones that typically hold the BIOS image on a motherboard. Sort of like that brikflash32.exe that you used to download from your motherboard vendor, except instead of needing to find that 15 year old bootable floppy disk, it’s just an apt-get away. And you don’t even need to reboot. When things go well it’s as easy as:

#flashrom -p internal -w newbios.rom

You do still want to pay attention, as of course if you do manage to improperly flash the chip, it can be difficult or even impossible to recover. But flashrom is pretty good about keeping you out of that situation. While the software has no mechanism to verify that the image you’re trying to flash is appropriate for your board; it does automatically verify that your source file and the chip’s image match exactly and gives very clear feedback if anything goes wrong.

Uh oh. Erase/write failed. Checking if anything changed.
Your flash chip is in an unknown state.
Get help on IRC at (channel #flashrom) or
mail with the subject "FAILED: "!

Just Kidding! that _never_ happens. (Or at least not often, unless you use the “–programmer internal:laptop=force_I_want_a_brick” option (not kidding that time.)

Unfortunately flashrom will refuse to flash most laptops, as the extra bit of hardware that laptops have, the “Embedded Controller” that handles battery charging and blinkenlights is often intermingled with the BIOS in undocumented and crash-prone ways.
You may have seen, that I’m excited to get coreboot running on some laptops. And that flashrom needs it’s hand held a bit to work in that situation. I’ll tell you that story some time too. (spoiler: it’s working)

But the next time you’re flashing a Desktop BIOS; or did I mention it also works great for updating the firmware on things like RAID controllers or updating the bootrom on your NIC? Give it a try; or haul that machine to the next glug meeting, and we’ll lend some cheerful and wreckless encouragement.

Aug 162012

Coreboot (formerly known as LinuxBIOS) is a free software project aimed at replacing the proprietary BIOS firmware with a free system for loading and running the operating system.
There are very few laptops available that are able to run properly when flashed with coreboot. Sam has found a lenovo x60 6365CTO tablet and will attempt to use a program called flashrom to put Coreboot (with a SeaBIOS payload) on this machine.
Unfortunately due to limitations of the IBM/Lenovo factory BIOS, flashrom can not detect which of the many flash chips that were used in the various revisions of these machines is present. At least not with enough specificity to be confident that the flash will be correct. So the solution is to disassembble the laptop and identify the chip visually!

At tonights meeting we worked taking apart the x60 tablet. Sam and Rob (Jason helped some too) dug into the tablet and stripped it all the way down to the motherboard. It was even harder to find the actual bios chip, as we did not know where it would be located on the board. We did know that it would be a SOIC8 chip (8 pins connecting to the motherboard) with extremely small writing on it.

Eventually we found a likely part, but after scraping off a sticker (we’ll assume it had a factory bios revision level or some such on it.) Sam declared; “That’s not it, it is supposed to have some writing on it.” The markings are that feint.
After lots of straining with a magnifier we deciphered “SST25VF016B”.

Hurray, a known part supported by flashrom!





Feb 242012

Computer Repair LED


The glug’s original kiosk machine for the Baking Company, “the breadbox” has been out of commision for quite a while now.

But the replacement machine, is still a popular attraction and it’s not so cool when it consistently crashes.

There’s suspicion that the problem is an overheating GPU on the motherboard, so during this meeting we’ll be cleaning it up a bit, and trying to manage any cooling issues, maybe with a new fan or two, and probably installing a seperate video card.

So bring a screwdriver and some canned air (or just eat some legumes), and come be part of the fun!

Thursday the 1st of March at SFBC

Feb 272011

At the last meeting, Mars pointed out that nmglug had no ssl for login and registrations.. oops. Its setup now.. Its self signed so ignore the warnings.. Whats important is that its encrypted. I set define('FORCE_SSL_ADMIN', 'true'); in wp-config.php so its enforced for all login and registration pages.


Nov 032010

I had plans to build a widget to track our next meeting. Then I realized I don’t have a lot of time and it would require work… Also, why re-invent the wheel when someone else has already done the work. Events Manager is extrememly full featured. It even has RSS feeds! Hope to see you at the next meeting..

 Posted by at 12:09 pm
Sep 022010

Its official, a new site for, complete with new hosting (dreamhost virtual private server, so we have root). Of course, its not all ready. The theme needs work, the site needs content. What has been done? The mail list archives have been imported to the new mailman (some very recent emails are lost:-(). A framework is in place for people to spring into action, register and make this site the next slashdot. woot