Ten Most Popular Posts of 2016 on CNX Software and Some Stats

The last day of the year is a good time to look back at what the year brought us, and I have to say it has been a fun and interesting year on CNX Software. The TV boxes news cycle has been dominated by Amlogic products, but most products have now switched to 64-bit ARM SoC, with 4K and HDMI 2.0 support, and price have kept going down, so you can now get a 4K TV box for as low as $20, although many people will prefer spending a bit more for extra memory and support. Intel based Bay Trail & Cherry Trail mini PCs have continued to be released with Windows, and in some cases Ubuntu, but the excitement seems to have died off a bit, maybe with the expectation of upcoming Apollo Lake mini PCs that should be more powerful. The year have been especially fruitful in the IoT space with a dramatic reduction in costs and sizes …

How to Create a Bootable Recovery SD Card for Amlogic TV Boxes

I reviewed Rikomagic MK22 TV box about two weeks ago, and with the firmware I had, online firmware update was not enabled, and the company only released .IMG firmware for Amlogic USB Burning Tool, a windows only tools that’s not well designed, and requires some procedure that vary slightly from boxes to boxes which in some cases forces to buy a male to male USB cable. I’ve now started reviewing R-Box Pro TV box also based on Amlogic S912 processor, online firmware update is not working either, and again I only managed to find .IMG firmware for the box on GeekBuying. However, I’ve been informed that “USB Burning Tool” firmware can now be flashed through a micro SD card, or USB flash drive with all recent Amlogic TV boxes, so I’ve tried this method instead of R-Box Pro, and decided to report my experience in this post following some instructions on Freaktab made by user Calc. I’ll show instructions in …

Amlogic USB Burning Tool Still Sucks in 2016

[Update November 2016: If you don’t like USB Burning Tool or don’t have the necessary USB cable, you can flash Amlogic IMG firmware to a micro SD card instead] In the first few years when Android TV Boxes/mini PCs started to hit the markets, in the 2012-2014 period, online firmware update was inexistent for the vast majority of the boxes, and if you wanted to update your firmware you had to use some windows tools like USB Burning Tool for Amlogic, AndroidTool for Rockchip, or PhoenixUSBPro / PhonixSuite for Allwinner platforms. All those tools have poor design, for example the window is not resizable, so it’s impossible to your an old netbook (1024×600 resolution), and then you have to install drivers which is easy, for after detection of the box may be hit and miss, and you have to follow a procedure with the right power sequence with a USB cable connected to a USB OTG port (not always properly …

Hacking ARM TrustZone / Secure Boot on Amlogic S905 SoC

Amlogic S905 processor used in many Android TV boxes and ODROID-C2 development board implements ARM TrustZone security extensions to run a Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) used for DRM & other security features. However, Frédéric Basse, a security engineer, worked with others and managed to bypass secure boot in one Amlogic S905 powered Android TV box, namely Inphic i7, but any other device based on the processor would have made the same thing possible. He explains the steps they went through and how they managed to exploit vulnerability to bypass secure boot in a detailed technical blog post. They first started by looking for info in Amlogic S905 datasheet, but most info about TrustZone had been removed from the public version. So not that much help here except a potential address for BOM Root (ROMBOOT_START   0xD9040000). The next step was to connect the UART pins in order to access the serial console, but he could not read the BootROM from …

Amlogic S905L Processor Drops VP9 Codec, TS Inputs for Tuners, and the Camera Interface

[Update: I’ve received updated documentation for Amlogic S905X too, and the main differences are only the lack of VP9 codec, and HDMI 2.0b interface] Amlogic has apparently decided to launch yet another quad core Cortex A53 processor with Amlogic S905L, which appears to be based on  Amlogic S905X with built-in stereo audio codec and 10/100M Ethernet PHY & MAC, HDR support, but without VP9 codec, camera interface, nor TS inputs, so it looks like a cost-down version purely designed for OTT/IP TV boxes. The document I have is dated June 2016, before the 1.5 GHz “limit” was discovered on Amlogic processors, and the maximum frequency is rated @ 2.0 GHz in the document. Amlogic S905L specifications (based on S905L Quick Referent Manual): CPU – Quad core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU up to 2GHz (DVFS) with Neon and Crypto extensions, unified L2 cache 3D GPU – Penta-core ARM Mali-450 GPU up to 750 MHz+ (DVFS) 2.5D GPU – Fast bitblt engine with …

Amlogic S905 vs Amlogic S912 Benchmarks Comparison

Amlogic has unveiled three new processors this year with Amlogic S905X, S912 and S905D. The latter is not found in devices yet, we’ve seen Amlogic S905X is a bit slower than Amlogic S905, but surely Amlogic S912 with eight Cortex A53 cores and its “multi-core high performance 3D GPU”, namely ARM Mali-T820MP3 must deliver a significant boost in performance. I now have full benchmarks results for two devices: M12N MXQ Plus and Qintaix Q912. M12N is the fastest devices of the two according to benchmarks, and I’ve been told YokaTV KB2 has about the same Antutu score (41K points) as M12N, so I feel confident enough that we have relevant benchmark’s results to compare Amlogic S912 and Amlogic S905 performance using M12N (MXQ Plus) and MINIX NEO U1 TV boxes. The comparison table below contains scores for Antutu 6.x, Vellamo 3.x, and 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme. MINI NEO U1 runs Android 5.1, while M12N runs Android 6.0, so once/if MINIX …

Kodi 17 Setup and Audio/Video Support in Amlogic S912 TV Boxes (as of September 2016)

Most people installing Kodi are going to select Kodi 16.1 as of today, since it is the latest stable release. But I’m currently reviewing Qintaix Q912 TV box based on Amlogic S912 octa-core processor, whose Android 6.0 firmware includes Kodi 17 Alpha 3, so since that’s the first time I run Kodi 17 “Krypton”. I’ve decided to report my experience about the interface, and the current status about audio and video support by testing some 4K videos, and audio files. I used the latest available firmware for the test. Kodi 17 can be found on the main launcher, and for the first launch, we’ll see the default skin has been replaced from Confluence to the new Estuary skin. It’s a little confusing a first. We can access the setup menu by going to the icon on the bottom left, just on the right on the power button, and then select System Information to confirm Kodi 17 Alpha 3 is installed …

Amlogic S905, S905X, and S912 Processors Appear to be Limited to 1.5 GHz, not 2 GHz as Advertised

When I compared the performance Amlogic S905 and Rockchip RK3368 processors  last year, I noticed Amlogic S905 single thread performance not being much faster than the one of Rockchip RK3368, despite the former allegedly clocked at 2.0 GHz against the latter 1.2 GHz. But early this month one member (koschi) on ODROID forums started a thread entitled “No performance difference between 1.5, 1.75 & 2GHz” about ODROID-C2 board. The first post link to Ant-computing website about choosing a processor for a build farm, and one of the tables comparing various ARM and x86 processors with the claim that Amlogic S905 was listed to 1.536 GHz, because “the device claims to run at 2.016 GHz but the kernel silently ignores frequencies above 1.536 GHz!” So koschi did his own tests with 7z and sysbench, using cpufreq-set -u $FREQ to set a fixed frequency between test, and could confirm the issue:

So it looks like Amlogic is cheating with the frequencies, …