When you use one of the Intel Atom Z3735F mini PCs, there’s very little chance to brick it as long as you use the pre-installed operating systems. But if you play around with the BIOS, or use one of the recent dual boot firmware that re-flash the BIOS when you switch OS, there’s a real possibility to completely brick your device. Ian Morrison (Linuxium) and Deadhp1 posted separate instructions to flash the BIOS and recover their devices.
MeegoPad T01 Connected to Flash Writer
Both bricked MeegoPad T01, and deadhp1 used CH341a USB programmer which only supports 3.3V/5V, while the SPI flash on T01 only support 1.8V. It worked for him, but it could potentially fry the flash. So it’s probably better to with Ian’s solution involving EZP_XPro USB Programmer and some SOIC8 Test Clips.
Once you get the hardware, you’ll need to download on install EZP XPro Flash 1.4 on a Windows PC. Now follow the steps below:
Ttake out MeegoPad T01 out of its casing, and disconnect the battery.
Assemble the test clips with the socket adapter and plug into the programmer
Connect the programmer’s USB cable to your PC and attach the test clips to the BIOS chip (pin 1 must be correctly aligned)
Run “EZ” program which should automatically detect the BIOS (flash) chip
Sunchip CX-W8 is an Intel Atom Z3735F TV box running Windows, but I’ve been informed that originally Sunchip designed it for WeTek in order to manufacture a Linux based mini PC. Unfortunately, they finally gave up once they discovered Intel had no intention to work on HDMI audio support in Linux for their Atom Z3700 series processor despite it working on Android… Intel Compute Stick will apparently use a separate DSP to handle that part (TBC).
Nevertheless, when WeTek saw I had Wintel W8, they decided to share the 64-bit “BIOS” they had worked on for the Linux port. By the way, Wintel W8 and Sunchip CX-W8 allegedly come from two different factories / design houses, so although they look alike, the hardware might be different, and the UEFI firmware / BIOS, I’m about to share may or may not be compatible with Wintel W8, so you may brick it if it is not already bricked…
If you want to install a new version of the BIOS, or possibly unbrick your device (TBC), you can download and extract CX-W8_64-bit_UEFI.tar.7z. You should get three files:
H2OFFT-S.efi – H2O UEFI Flash Firmware Tool
M64.W8ANNA01.ROM – 64-bit BIOS
STARTUP.nsh – startup script
Copy these three files to the root directory of a USB flash drive formatted with FAT32, and insert the drive into one of the USB ports of CX-W8 mini PC. Power on the device, and press the “Esc” key on the keyboard repeatedly (not press and hold) until you see the menu below.Now select Boot Manager with the keyboard’s arrow keys and Enter, and select Internal EFI shell.
As you press Enter, the BIOS installation should start.
One installation is completed, the PC will reboot, and you can install the 64-bit operating system of your choice. I’m also trying to get the 32-bit BIOS for people who want to unbrick their device to re-install Windows.
I have not tried these instructions myself, but I know at least two persons who bricked their CX-W8 or W8 mini PC, so hopefully we’ll get some feedback soon.
Linaro has just announced their 15.03 release with Linux 4.0-rc4 (baseline), Linux 3.10.72 and 3.14.36 (LSK), and Android 5.1.
The organization has worked on hardware platforms from members namely Qualcomm, ARM, HiSilicon, Samsung, and STMicro, including the recently announced 96Boards boards, and other ARMv8 platforms.
Highlights of the release:
Linux Linaro 4.0-rc4-2015.03
updated linaro-android topic
added a few build/boot fixes for Arndale (llct-misc-fixes topic)
GATOR topic: version 5.20.1
updated integration-linaro-vexpress64 topic by ARM LT (FVP Base and Foundation models, and Juno support)
updated topic from Qualcomm LT (ifc6410 board support)
simple EEPROM framework (via Qualcomm LT’s topic)
updated topic from HiSilicon LT (Hi36xx, HiP04, and X5HD2 families support)
rebased “ILP32 patch set v3″ onto 4.0-rc2
Linaro builds of AOSP 15.03
updated all the baselines to AOSP 5.1
added commit based trigger feature to CI builds
Linaro OpenEmbedded 2015.03
integrated Linaro GCC 4.9-2015.03
dismantled meta-aarch64 layer
created meta-ilp32 layer
cleaned out meta-bigendian layer
synced overlayed recipes with upstream
added full wget and rt-test on LAMP image as requested by QA team
update busybox xargs config as requested by QA team
integrated ODP 1.0
sysprof: fix arm big-endian build
bitbake.conf: use http:// for GNU_MIRROR instead of ftp://
kexec-tools: fix build failure on aarch64_be architecture
busybox: update to 1.23.1 release
mozjs 17.0.0: fix aarch64 and 64k page builds, generic cleanups
Linaro Ubuntu 15.03
added packages: ti-calibrator
updated packages: LSK 3.10.72/3.14.36 and linux-linaro 4.0-rc4 kernels
Added ILP32 support for ARM64 to Linaro engineering builds
Dismantled meta-aarch64 in favour of OE-core aarch64 support
CI bring up: luvOS (Linux UEFI Validation Operating System)
KVM – support testing arm32 with arm64
Added b2120stxh410 to linux-mainline and linux-arm-soc-for-next build jobs
96boards: enable Xorg by default in eMMC/SD debian build
Added 2 new build slaves
Migrated lt-qcom-ubuntu-images to docker based infrastructure
Upgraded ARMv8 build slaves to 3.19 kernel
Cleaned up LCR (Linaro Confectionery Release) information and instructions
Visit https://wiki.linaro.org/Cycles/1503/Release for a list of known issues, and further release details about the LEB, LMB (Linaro Member Builds), and community builds, as well as Android, Kernel, Graphics, Multimedia, Landing Team, Platform, Power management and Toolchain components.
Yesterday, I bought an Acer Aspire E5-421G-45L0 laptop powered by AMD A4-6210 “Beema” processor and after some effort I managed to install Ubuntu 14.04 and make it mostly work, but more on that later. I also planned to copy a 64-bit OS VirtualBox virtual machine from another PC to this PC, but I quickly realized I could only select 32-bit operating systems, so my 64-bit image could not boot.
Virtualization extension are required for 64-bit support in VirtualBox, and I had not checked whether AMD A4-6210 supported these before purchase. Amazingly, I could not find that information on AMD’s very own website, but CPU Boss reports A4-6210 does indeed support AMD-V virtualization. All good, so I must be just a question of enabling it in the “BIOS”. So I rebooted the laptop, and pressed F2 to enter InsydeH20 Setup Utility.
Acer Aspire E5-421G UEFI Setup Utility – Click to Enlarge
There are few options with only Information, Main, Security, Boot, and Exit menus, and there aren’t any Virtualization options to be found in either menus. But after searching a bit more, I’ve found out Acer and some other companies are purposely shipping their device with dumbed down UEFI firmware, and people have found ways to unlock the options by hacking the system, as shown in the pictures showing an unlocked Acer Aspire 4935G Setup Utility with extra Advanced, Power, Diagnostic, and system configuration menus.
This problem is not new at all as I can see complains as far back as 2012. Luckily some website are putting out instructions to enabled avanced options, such as BIOS Mods Forums. I found a partial solution directly on some other forums that involves edit EFI configuration files with an HEX editor, so this is probably not without serious risk of bricking the laptop.
Here’s what you need to do.
If /sys/firmware/efi/efivars/ directory is not mounted / available:
sudo modprobe efivars
sudo mount none /sys/firmware/efi/efivars -t efivarfs
In my case if was already mounted, so I simply installed a graphical hex editor:
sudo apt-get install ghex
And modified byte 0xf4 from 00 to 01 in /sys/firmware/efi/efivars/Setup-a04a27f4-df00-4d42-b552-39411302113d with GHex in order to enable SVM (AMD Secure Virtual Machine) aka AMD-V virtualization.
I powered off the laptop, and power it up again (A reboot will allegedly not do), and I could create a 64-bit virtual machine in VirtualBox.
With some other Aspire laptops, you can also modify byte 0x21b and 0x21c to 0x01 to enable advanced setting in UEFI, but unfortunately it did not work in my case. Nevertheless, if Acer have had the good judgment of providing a UEFI setup utility with access to advanced features this would have saved me, and I’m sure many others, a few hours trying to find out how to enable AMD-V (and possibly VT-x in Intel based laptops), on top of taking the unnecessary risk of bricking the laptop.
HiSilicon has showcased their latest server SoC and board at Linaro Connect Hong Kong 2015, with up to two processors with 32 Cortex A57 cores @ 2.1GHz, 8 DIMM DDR3 slots (up to 128 GB RAM), 12 SATA ports, 4 PCIe slots, 10GbE / GbE ports.
D02 board specifications:
SoC – Hisilicon PhosphorV660 Hip05 with 16 to 32 ARM Cortex-A57 cores @ up to 2.1GHz and 1MB L2 cache/cluster, 32MB L3 cache
System Memory – 2x Memory channel 4x DDR3 DIMM(4x DIMM per processor)
Dimensions – 305 x xyz mm (SSI-EEB/E-ATX Compatible). xyz = 330, 257, 272, 264, or 267 (Not sure yet)
The board can run Ubuntu, Debian, OpenSUSE, or Fedora. The company has released a hacking manual for D02 board, where you can find more details, and learn how to build the kernel, and hack around with Grub and UEFI among other things.
For example, provided you’ve already installed the right development tools,. including Aarch64 toolchain, you should be able to build the kernel for the board as follows:
git clone https://github.com/hisilicon/estuary
Charbax filmed a demo of the board running Ubuntu, Linaro LAVA server, and LXC (Linux Containers). The board currently come with Hip05 SoC with 16 Cortex A57 cores, but in a couple of months, the version with 32 cores will come out, and and Linaro engineers working on ARM64 server should get their hands on several boards.
MeLE PCG03 is an Intel Atom Z3735F mini PC with 2GB RAM, and 32GB eMMC. I’ve already posted some pictures of the device and board, and since Windows 8.1 with Bing NTE (with proper license) is installed, I’ll first test the device with Microsoft OS as reference, before trying Ubuntu or/and Android.
MeLE PCG03 Setup
The computer comes only with a power adapter, so you’ll need to find an HDMI or/and VGA cable for your display(s), and USB keyboard and mouse to get started. Optionally, you’ll also want an Ethernet cable, and since storage is limited an extra storage device be it a USB hard drive, flash drive, or SD card.
Once all is connected you can press the power button on the left side to boot the device. The boot normally takes about 20 seconds, but the first time, you’ll go through the usual Windows 8.1 setup (I assume), including country, time zone and language selection: 中文简体, 中文繁體, English, Français, Deutsch, Italiano, Nederlands, espanol, Português (Brazil or Portugal), русский, Čeština, slovenščina, ,فارسی Polski, українська, العربية or .עברית If your local language is not listed then you are out of luck.
You’ll also have to create a local account, or sign-in with an MSN account, and you should be done. So the process is pretty much straightforward.
Windows 8.1 Interface (Click for Original)
Click to Enlarge
The screenshot above is after cleaning up the junk a bit, and adding my own app. The box is connected to my 4K TV, but the maximum resolution supported by the device is 1920×1080, and the lowest 1024×768. You may also connect an extra monitor via the VGA port for a dual display setup. I’ll demo this below in this post.
Mele PCG03 System Info
Let’s get some more details about the system.
As advertised the system comes with a Z3735F processor, 2GB RAM, and the 32-bit version of Windows 8.1 with Bing activated. I also received a Windows Update while testing. The company also told me it would be possible to recover the firmware, but did not provide a link. They’ve just provided their FAQ explaining how to upgrade the firmware, and configure other things like audio and video output.
There’s a 28.7GB partition out of the 32GB eMMC, and about 16 GB free space. The screenshot above is after installing Firefox and Crystal Disk Benchmark.
Click to Enlarge
The Device Manager shows the list of devices, but we already knew about the hardware with tear-down. Realtek RTL8723 (BS) is also used in Meegopad T01 and Pipo X7, which should be good news for Android and Linux support.
I ran also HWiNFO32 to get more details about the CPU, which is incorrectly detected as Z3735D, but the other information should be correct, as both processor are very similar.
In case you wonder about the BIOS, it’s basically the same AMI Bios as other Intel Atom Z3735F devices.
AMI BIOS UEFI 2.3 (Click to Enlarge)
You can watch that video to see all options. This is for MeegoPad T01, but the BIOS is bascially the same, except the one in PCG03 has been built one month earlier.
MeLE PCG03 Benchmarks
PCMARK 8 is a standard benchmark for Windows, and covers lots of area include office use, video conferencing, gaming, web browsing and so on. I downloaded the basic version, and ran the baseline test.
PCMark 8 on MeLE PCG03 (Click to Enlarge)
MeLE PCG03 gots 1,105 points in PCMARK 8 HOME CONVENTIONAL 3.0 test. The software somehow detected an Intel Core i7-5960X…
It’s the first time I’ve run this benchmark so looked for some comparison online. For example an Intel Core i7-920 processor with Nvidia GeForce GTX770 gets 2,610 points. I was expecting a larger gap, but if you look into the details, you’ll find that Casual gaming is 10 times faster in the more powerful computer.
I measured the temperature on top and bottom of the enclosure right about the benchmark at respectively 39 °C and 46 °C, so that part is under control.
The internal storage is a Samsung eMMC 5.0 flash, and performance does show.
MeLE PCG03 Usability Testing
Benchmarks are nice, but nothing it worth and hands-on experience, so I’ve shot a video showing the device, some settings including storage and display, and tasks that may be challenging in competing ARM Linux hardware platforms:
Web Browsing in Firefox
Loading CNX Software
Playing an Embedded Video
Playing a 1080p Video in Full Screen mode
Playing a flash game (Candy Crush Saga)
Gaming with Asphalt 8
Kodi with 4K video playback
Dual display support with HDMI TV and VGA monitor
The refresh rate of my camera and the 4K TV does not match, so at time (desktop and web browsing), the video is a pain to watch but hopefully, it will give an idea of the performance and capabilities of this mini PC.
So overall the device is quite usable, but I experienced obvious stuttering while playing 1080p YouTube videos (Embedded or Full Screen), and animation in Candy Crush Saga were pretty slow. The good news was I could play some 4K videos in Kodi (albeit outputted to 1080p), and Asphalt 8 is running reasonably well, although a higher frame rate would be nice. With the wave of Intel Bay Trail mini PC, the VGA port is clearly a strong point of this box, especially dual display is working as it should. If you really intend to use this device as a PC for web browsing, emails (Outlook. Thunderbird), and an office suite, you’ll likely to run out of space pretty quickly, so an external storage device is a must.
If you miss Microsft BSOD, don’t worry it’s alive and well! This happened when I connected the hard drive via a USB hub, instead of directly to a USB port on the device. Maybe a power issue?
That’s all for today. I’ll write a separate post to thoroughly test video playback in Kodi Windows, and then try alternative operating systems such as Ubuntu and Android, and compare how they perform versus Windows 8.1.
Linaro usually releases images and source code on the last Thursday of the month, but since most people will have long holidays for Chritsmas and New Year, the last working Thrusday of this month was yesterday (18th). Linaro 14.12 release includes Linux kernel 3.18 (baseline), Linux 3.10.62 & 3.14.26 (LSK, same versions as last month), and Android 5.0.1 Lollipop.
Here are the highlights of this release:
Linux Linaro 3.18-2014.12
Based on v3.18 release
GATOR topic: version 5.20
updated topic from Qualcomm LT (includes IFC6410 board support)
updated integration-linaro-vexpress64 topic by ARM LT (FVP Base and Foundation models, and Juno support)
updated LLVM topic (uses the community llvmlinux-latest branch)
included ILP32 patch set v3 rebased on 3.18. Boot tested with aarch64 userland. Work is in progress to test with aarch64-ilp32 userland.
config fragments updated – SELinux related config options enabled in linaro-base.conf, device tree runtime self tests enabled in distribution.conf
Linaro builds of AOSP 14.12
built with AOSP toolchain
All the Android builds have been updated to 5.0.1
Audio on Versatile Express TC2 is fixed (Android 5.0.1)
DNS issue fixed on Juno, FVP models and Versatile Express TC2 (Android 5.0.1)
daily CI updated to include benchmarks for Versatile Express TC2 and Juno
Linaro OpenEmbedded 2014.12
integrated Linaro GCC 4.9-2014.11 and Linaro binutils 2.24-2014.11
You can visit https://wiki.linaro.org/Cycles/1412/Release for a list of known issues, and further release details about the LEB, LMB (Linaro Member Builds), and community builds, as well as Android, Kernel, Graphics, Multimedia, Landing Team, Platform, Power management and Toolchain components.
Linaro 14.10 has just been released with Linux kernel 3.17 (baseline), Linux 3.10.54 & 3.14.19 (LSK, same versions as last month), and Android 4.4.2 & 4.4.4.
Most of the work is a continuation of previous months working member hardware, and ARM64, but one particularly interesting point is that 90% of Debian packages have been built for ARM64, and the next version of Debian should have an official ARM64 port.
Here are the highlights of this release:
Linux Linaro 3.17-2014.10
updated linaro-android topic. In particular, CONFIG_IPV6=y is no longer the requirement for linux-linaro tree builds
GATOR version 5.19 (same version as in 2014.08 release). gatord is fixed to build for ARMv8.
dropped multi_pmu_v2 topic by ARM LT (no longer used)
updated topic from Qualcomm LT (include IFC6410 board support)
replaced integration-linaro-vexpress topic by integration-linaro-vexpress64. Starting from 2014.10 release, linux-linaro kernel tree will use the mainline support for 32-bit vexpress boards. integration-linaro-vexpress64 carried over FVP Base and Foundation models, and Juno support from the integration-linaro-vexpress.
updated LLVM topic (uses llvmlinux-2014.10.01 branch – the most recent v3.17-based version of llvmlinux-latest)
dropped ARMv7 big endian topic(obsoleted; most of the patches are upstream)
Debian arm64 support is going very well. More than 90% of the packages are built. The effort is on track to get next Debian release with an officially supported arm64 architecture.
KVM CI loop on Juno is completed. The remaining work is happening on Xen CI loop.
You can visit https://wiki.linaro.org/Cycles/1410/Release for a list of known issues, and further release details about the LEB, LMB (Linaro Member Builds), and community builds, as well as Android, Kernel, Graphics, Multimedia, Landing Team, Platform, Power management and Toolchain components.