Thursday, December 13, 2012

WDTV Live -- Firmware Hacking Series -- Part 3

Patching custom rootfs onto existing firmware

Once you have the serial cable built as mentioned in my previous post, it is possible to patch the current firmware installation with custom rootfs, without having to upgrade/reinstall the whole firmware with custom one.

These are the high-level steps that we need to do:
  1. Discover the partition table and identify where the rootfs is stored in the flash storage.
  2. Read the rootfs of the current firmware and push it to a different machine.
  3. Modify the rootfs to your needs, on the other machine.
  4. Upload it back to WDTV and write the flash partition appropriately.

Discovering the rootfs partition

~ # mount
rootfs on / type rootfs (rw)
proc on /proc type proc (rw)
sysfs on /sys type sysfs (rw)
/dev/sigmblockh on / type cramfs (ro)
none on /proc type proc (rw)
sysfs on /sys type sysfs (rw)
usb on /proc/bus/usb type usbfs (rw)
mdev on /dev type tmpfs (rw)
devpts on /dev/pts type devpts (rw)
none on /tmp type tmpfs (rw)
/dev/loop0 on /tmp/static_config type minix (rw)

Note the highlighted line. /dev/sigmblockh device is the one mounted as / partition. To confirm print the first 100 bytes on the device and you could notice the CRAMFS header.

~ # hexdump -c -n 100 /dev/sigmblockh

0000000   E   = 315   (  \0   @ 021 003 003  \0  \0  \0  \0  \0  \0  \0
0000010   C   o   m   p   r   e   s   s   e   d       R   O   M   F   S
0000020 234 333 016 324  \0  \0  \0  \0   k   &  \0  \0 313 016  \0  \0
0000030   C   o   m   p   r   e   s   s   e   d  \0  \0  \0  \0  \0  \0
0000040 355   A 354 003   D 001  \0   d 300 004  \0  \0 355   A 354 003
0000050 354  \v  \0   d 001 031  \0  \0   b   i   n  \0 377 241 354 003
0000060  \t  \0  \0   d                                                
~ # 
We still need to know the exact flash disk and the partition to which this device points to.

~ # ls /dev/sigm* -l
brw-rw----    1 root     root     254,   0 Jan  1  2000 /dev/sigmblocka
brw-rw----    1 root     root     254,   1 Jan  1  2000 /dev/sigmblockb
brw-rw----    1 root     root     254,   2 Jan  1  2000 /dev/sigmblockc
brw-rw----    1 root     root     254,   3 Jan  1  2000 /dev/sigmblockd
brw-rw----    1 root     root     254,   4 Jan  1  2000 /dev/sigmblocke
brw-rw----    1 root     root     254,   5 Jan  1  2000 /dev/sigmblockf
brw-rw----    1 root     root     254,   6 Jan  1  2000 /dev/sigmblockg
brw-rw----    1 root     root     254,   7 Jan  1  2000 /dev/sigmblockh
brw-rw----    1 root     root     254,   8 Jan  1  2000 /dev/sigmblocki
brw-rw----    1 root     root     254,   9 Jan  1  2000 /dev/sigmblockj
brw-rw----    1 root     root     254,  10 Jan  1  2000 /dev/sigmblockk
brw-rw----    1 root     root     254,  11 Jan  1  2000 /dev/sigmblockl

The highlighted line shows the major, minor numbers for this device. As you might know, the minor number is the partition number on the disk. In this case, the rootfs is stored in the 7th partition.

To understand where is the 7th partition stored in the flash disk, we need to know the partition information of the internal flash disk. This could be obtained in two different ways. Either by looking at the logs during WDTV boot (via serial port) or by issuing the following command at the terminal (via serial again).

~ # cat /proc/sigminfo 

dev:       size     offset   name        CS
sigmblk0:  0ff80000 00000000 "CS0-Device" 0
sigmblk1:  00080000 00000000 "CS0-Part1"  0
sigmblk2:  00040000 00080000 "CS0-Part2"  0
sigmblk3:  00300000 000c0000 "CS0-Part3"  0
sigmblk4:  00300000 003c0000 "CS0-Part4"  0
sigmblk5:  01000000 006c0000 "CS0-Part5"  0
sigmblk6:  00800000 016c0000 "CS0-Part6"  0
sigmblk7:  05a00000 01ec0000 "CS0-Part7"  0
sigmblk8:  05a00000 078c0000 "CS0-Part8"  0
sigmblk9:  00020000 0d2c0000 "CS0-Part9"  0
sigmblk10: 00020000 0d2e0000 "CS0-Part10" 0
sigmblk11: 00020000 0d300000 "CS0-Part11" 0

We are almost there now. This shows the starting offset (0x01ec0000) and the size (0x05a00000) of the partition. That is a 90MB partition reserved for rootfs ie., the compressed cramfs partition cannot exceed 90MB.

Read rootfs and export to different machine

This is required as we need to patch the rootfs of the installed firmware. Press 0 (via the serial port) and restart WDTV Live. This will prevent loading the firmware and will stop boot at booloader YAMON. 

Follow my inline comments in the script below.
[Gerald] Plugin an Ethernet cable connected to a valid network. 
[Gerald] net init, initializes the interface and runs DHCP client.
YAMON> net init

Ethernet driver for SMP86XX (v1.0)
(MAC 00:90:xx:xx:xx:xx)
em86xx_eth0 - full-duplex mode
em86xx_eth0 - 100 Mbit/s
em86xx_eth0 ethernet start
DHCP was successfully configured.
[Gerald] 'nflash read' command is used to read from the flash memory.
[Gerald] Based on the discovery earlier, the following command reads
[Gerald] first 0x1e00000 bytes into memory at 0x8400000.
[Gerald] syntax: nflash read flash_address memory_address size chip_select
[Gerald] chip_select (CS) is available in the partition info at /proc/sigminfo.
[Gerald] Note: Use only 0x84000000 as target. Other addresses didn't let me read
[Gerald] 0x1e00000 bytes at once.Even here, I couldn't read the complete 0x5a00000 
[Gerald] bytes at once.
YAMON> nflash read 0x01ec0000 0x84000000 0x1e00000 0 

[Gerald] Verify if this has indeed read the CRAMFS from flash. 
YAMON> dump 0x84000000 100

84000000: 45 3D CD 28 00 40 11 03 03 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  E=�(.@..........
84000010: 43 6F 6D 70 72 65 73 73 65 64 20 52 4F 4D 46 53  Compressed.ROMFS
84000020: 9C DB 0E D4 00 00 00 00 6B 26 00 00 CB 0E 00 00  .�.�....k&..�...
84000030: 43 6F 6D 70 72 65 73 73 65 64 00 00 00 00 00 00  Compressed......
84000040: ED 41 EC 03 44 01 00 64 C0 04 00 00 ED 41 EC 03  .A..D..d�....A..
84000050: EC 0B 00 64 01 19 00 00 62 69 6E 00 FF A1 EC 03  ...d....bin..�..
84000060: 09 00 00 64                                      ...d 

[Gerald] upload the file to a tftp server of your choice.
[Gerald] syntax: fwrite tftp_path memory_address size 
YAMON> fwrite tftp:// 0x84000000 0x1e00000

About to binary write tftp://

Successfully transferred 0x1e00000 (10'31457280) bytes 

[Gerald] Read the next 0x1e00000 bytes from flash and upload to TFTP
YAMON> nflash read 0x03cc0000 0x84000000 0x1e00000 0

YAMON> fwrite tftp://

About to binary write tftp://

Successfully transferred 0x1e00000 (10'31457280) bytes

[Gerald] Read the next 0x1e00000 bytes from flash and upload to TFTP 
YAMON> nflash read 0x05ac0000 0x84000000 0x1e00000 0

YAMON> fwrite tftp://

About to binary write tftp://

Successfully transferred 0x1e00000 (10'31457280) bytes


Modify the rootfs to your needs

At this point, we have three 30MB files and concatenating them in order, should give a complete cramfs partition. You could now extract the cramfs partition (using modified cramfsck, as mentioned in my earlier post) and make the necessary modification.

I have the following section of script added to the /init script, that gets control to my USB script as root. This lets me run scripts on startup and modify them as required, without having to reflash anything. Don't forget to update the /md5sums.txt file with your updated md5sum.
# Gerald - update - start
if [ -f /tmp/media/usb/wdtv/gerald_init ]; then
    /tmp/media/usb/wdtv/gerald_init &
# Gerald - update - end 
Use the modified mkcramfs (as mentioned in my earlier post) to repack the rootfs into a cramfs filesystem file. Split the file into three 30MB files (note: you may need to append zeros at the end to fill up to 30MB in the third part -- your cramfs filesystem is likely to be < 90MB).

Upload back to WDTV and write the flash partition appropriately

Boot into YAMON. Use 'fread' to read from tftp to memory at 0x84000000. Use 'nflash write' to write the parts into their correct flash locations starting at 0x01ec00000. Once all 3 partitions are written, just reboot. Your new rootfs should be active.

By now, you would no longer be worried about what to do if that doesn't boot. Good luck!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

WDTV Live -- Firmware Hacking Series -- Part 2

Building serial cable for WDTV Live motherboard

The motherboard has a serial port that could be used for directly interacting with the device (input and output). The official firmware doesn’t expose any means of terminal access via telnet, ssh etc., So as long as you are on an official firmware there is nothing much you could do with it. When booted, the serial port provides a root shell for directly interacting with the underlying linux. However, the prime use of the serial port is that, it provides input/output right from the time the device is powered on (for eg., once known you could interact with the boot loader etc.,) -- this is the piece that helps you unbrick or play around with much lower levels on the device.

In this post, I will take you through the process of building my own serial cable for WDTV Live. First problem, this is a hardware. So you need to really build tangible things; maybe procure stuff.

Here is the pin out for the serial socket on the motherboard.

The white socket at the bottom of the picture is the serial port. As seen on the picture, the pins are +5V, RX, TX, Gnd in the same order.

Before proceeding any further, one needs to understand the differences in voltage levels on various serial ports.

PC/RS232 serial port (ones that you see at the back of your PC) uses +3V to +15V for logical 0 and -3V to -15V for logical 1.

Most electronic serial adaptors (like the USB to serial convertors etc) and many micro-controller interfaces use 0V for logical 0 and +5V for logical 1 -- normally referred as TTL levels. The MAX232 chips are typically used for RS232 to TTL level conversion so that a micro controller could read/understand the signals to/fro a PC serial port. See my earlier experiment: Serial port logic convertor.

There are some devices which operate in LVTTL (Low Voltage TTL) levels wherein 0V for logical 0 and +3.3V for logical 1 is used. These convertors seem slightly uncommon (at least I could not easily find any convertors for LVTTL levels) and unfortunately WDTV Live operates at these levels on the serial port.

So to interface WDTV Live’s serial port to our PC, we need a USB-to-LVTTL serial convertor. I actually gave a try with my normal USB to serial convertor (TTL) and I did not succeed. The interesting thing is that, I could see a lot of characters scrolling on the screen but all were junk. Basically the ones and zeros were wrongly interpreted by the computer due to the voltage level differences. There were some references on the internet to bring down the voltage by introducing some resistors, but they didn’t work either. I didn’t try to do too much experiments, as I was dealing with a higher voltage (5V) while the serial port on WDTV Live is expected to handle only 3.3V. Better not to blow up something :)

In the internet, one cable that everyone talks about, for this use is Nokia CA-42 cable. Apparently, this cable from Nokia uses 3.3V LVTTL voltage levels to interface with the mobile phones. It looks like this (USB on one end, to the computer / proprietary socket on the the other end, to the phone).

Nokia CA-42 cable
After a lot of tries at various places, I got hold of this cable from ebay India. I could only get a “used” cable but I really wanted to give this a try. To be frank, these were really hopeless tries as I wasn’t sure what was ahead; there was a long way to go and lots of things needed to go right. When I received this parcel in my office in a dirty used box, some of my colleagues really thought I was going nuts with ebay that I was willing to pay for such dirty, used, old Nokia cable :) I really couldn’t explain all this stuff to them then. I didn’t have a compatible Nokia phone to test this cable; so until I got this whole thing to work I wasn’t even sure if the cable is in working condition. I had to confirm receipt on ebay even without testing, as I can’t test this in a day and to test this I was going to cut this cable anyways :)

This web site tells you about how to use a Nokia CA 42 cable to build a serial cable. Use it as a guide to get some useful info; it is not a bible to follow. Some of the details didn’t apply when I tested; These are the important gotchas that I figured out:
  • CA-42 requires a driver and is available only for Windows. I used XP.
  • It does work over VM. I used VirtualBox on Ubuntu to run Win XP.
  • Important catch: CA-42 draws its power from the device, not from USB port (PC). This was very difficult for me to figure out. Some sites/forums explicitly mentioned not to make use of the +5V from the serial port of the WDTV. But unless you connect the +5V from WDTV’s serial port to the appropriate pin in the CA-42 cable and power on WDTV, CA-42 will not be detected on the computer. This was the most painful step.
  • I had to connect all the 4 pins of the WDTV serial port to make this whole thing work! +5V, RX, TX, Gnd.
  • Serial port settings → Baud: 115200, 8N1, no-flow-control, works.
That is all with the cable. Connect the cable, power on the device. Use HyperTerminal or ZOC (I prefer this), you are all set to interact directly with the WDTV.

How and what did I do to patch my own changes permanently into the firmware? stay tuned...