From the beginning of current year I am learning Docker. First result of this interest on my Github was publishing ccfactory tool, which was supposed to provide easy way to produce compiler toolchains. Almost like they were mass-produced in a factory, thus the name. However, since then I learned a lot and gained some experience. At the moment it is obvious to me, what I did then is not the best design. And because the project is still very fresh, I decided to start once again, from scratch, to create way better design that will be easy to develop and maintain.
Today is time to publish first step to this new design – binutils. I would not do that, but Docker Hub allows to have only one private repo, so the way that I do it disallows me to have it private anyway. So better idea is to describe it somehow to avoid confusion. As I wrote, this first step is binutils and this is simple container that contains binutils and nothing else. My goal is to finally make toolchain base on gcc version 3.3, which might sound weird, but this is what I needed in the past and is best way to prove what this new approach can achieve. With previous one, that I will call legacy from now on, I failed in that and before failing I did even more complicated Dockerfile, than originally planned. So, when finished this one will be proof of good design, I hope. Continue reading “New ccfactory on its way, binutils are already here”→
Some of you may have already heard about new RISCV board that popped up in China recently. It is called Nezha and is the first available SBC having new Allwinner D1 SoC with RISCV core and capable of running Linux. Authors are marketing it as first affordable RISCV Linux SBC and there is a lot of truth in these claims. Maybe this board cannot compete in any way with boards based on ARM Cortex A cores. On the other hand all previous RISCV offerings were in different galaxy in terms of price tag. $999 for Hifive Unleashed during its Crowdsupply campaign vs. $99 for Nezha on Indiegogo. They even claimed to go down as low as to $12, but as they say global supply chain problems made it impossible for now. We have to wait for all this pandemic troubles to end to check, if these claims could be verified by facts. Continue reading “Unboxing, startup and first impression of Nezha board marketed as first affordable RISCV SBC”→
Lately I play a bit with Docker containers. In a chain of problems that I have right now, I needed to have static cURL library on Debian. As it turned out linking cURL statically is not an easy task. Rather it causes a lot of problems, especially when trying this with packages available in Debian repos. After a long fight with these I decided to prepare my own distribution of cURL. But instead of creating usual deb package, I did it all on Docker and as a result, I have Docker image. In it I utilized possibilities of staged builds, where there can be few steps having in common only certain files. As a result I created base image, means the one created from scratch, where there are no other files, than the ones that we provide. So I provided only complete cURL install directory and musl libc to be able to run curl binary, as I did not want to tinker with cURL’s build system even more, than I did. Final image weights only ~1,5 MiB, so a result is really nice space saving compared to usual approach to Docker images. Inside, you can run curl binary separated from your operating system (to extent that Docker provides – remember, it is not virtualization!). Also it is possible to use libcurl to link your own binaries with it, this time completely statically!
As always, sources are on Github and this time there are also ready-to-use images on Docker Hub, so you can pull them directly, without need to build them. All instructions are on both pages and this is nothing unusual for any user of Docker, so I will not repeat myself here.
Few months ago I wrote a tutorial about creating Linux distribution consisting of just busybox as its userspace. In the meantime I worked a bit with docker and it sounded like nice next step in learning docker to automate the process of creating Linux distribution using it. As a result, today I present Linux distribution built with docker and based on my previous tutorial. I called it busy-linux due to it consisting of only busybox at the moment. My plan is to develop it further, most likely for private purposes only, so there might not be much happening in the project, but for sure I want to create dynamically linked variant in the near future, as this is what my use case requires. In the meantime feel free to try it yourself. Continue reading “Creating one-file Linux distribution with docker”→
Today, I would like to show something different, than usual reverse-engineering, that appears on my blog usually. I needed to prepare a Linux distro for myself to be able to run it on my PC. But not the ordinary operating system that we download from webpage, then use fancy graphical installer to select, what we want and where. My goals were very specific. First was to have it custom-compiled. With that in mind there aren’t many choices left (maybe Gentoo?). Second was to not cross 16 MiB boundary. Why exactly that? That’s simple. I have old (15 years old to be precise) SD/MMC card made for Canon of exactly that size. Quick check showed me that this is possible. I tried buildroot and it failed to fulfill second requirement and I decided not to continue, despite the obvious optimizations on kernel modules, I could do. It’s simply too complex for such a simple task. If not buildroot, then let’s go and see how to do such thing from scratch!
Basically the plan is to have custom Linux distro compiled from scratch. It may sound like something incredibly complex and hard to do. But it’s not. There are just few problems one must learn on how to overcome. The most problematic constraint in my case is, obviously, 16 MiB limit. To not exceed it, I have to use busybox as my userspace. This by the way simplifies distro development significantly. Busybox works the way, that, if linked statically, requires only one, single binary to be able to work correctly. So, to sum up, on software side, we need Linux and busybox. You may wonder, how do I want to boot that system, then? Well. I said I need Linux 🙂 Maybe some people know, some does not, that Linux is itself a boot loader of some kind. At least, when using UEFI and this is what I want to use, it can be loaded directly by UEFI firmware. But that’s another thing to note – I will describe a way to prepare a distro for UEFI – it won’t be as simple as that, for legacy BIOS.
The whole plan will look as follows:
Compile Linux kernel
Compile busybox (statically and stripped!)
Prepare initramfs with whole userspace
Format drive as EFI System Partition
Combine kernel and initramfs into single binary
Optionally sign the binary, in case we want Secure Boot to be enabled
Having a tailored cross compiler is a problem I encountered couple of times in the past. Of course there are solutions to that problem like great crosstool-ng or more complex buildroot. In most cases crosstool-ng (ct-ng) can solve them. But whatever the tool we use, it has always its own drawbacks. For ct-ng these are small number of supported versions of toolchain components and huge dependence of environment, where it is started. The latter is even more problematic, because of the way continuing interrupted build work in ct-ng. Obviously if you want to build in example one compiler for ARM and one for MIPS, both consisting of latest tools, then it is not a problem.
But I have another use case for compiling toolchains. I do some reverse engineering from time to time. Nowadays many products have Linux under the hood and often there is no chance to get any SDK for them. But having ability to build something for the device can help a lot, either to run it there, or link with found tools and run in emulator. But I could also imagine that outside the reverse engineering field there might be a need to get toolchain in exact configuration, which is sadly not available via ct-ng or buildroot. Anyway, in any case where ct-ng or buildroot are not applicable, there is third way – docker. And this is the way I chose. This is how CC Factory appeared. It is docker container that builds gcc cross compiler on first startup and lands you in an container that have working compiler for the platform of your choice. And it does not require big effort to port it for the next architecture, or different tool version, unless the changes between the versions were really significant. Continue reading “Meet CC Factory – a factory for cross compilers”→
Android emulator is really nice way to play with Android’s internals. Unfortunately at least those emulators, which have Play Store preinstalled, also don’t have root access via adb root command. What is more, latest emulators started encrypting userdata partition, even if no lock mechanism is configured and there is no way to undo the encryption from inside the Android.
In this article, I will show how to gain access to emulator’s partitions from outside the emulator.
Long, long time ago, before prices of inkjet and laser printers fell to levels allowing home users to own and use them, there was a primitive printing technology called dot-matrix. As any technology of the past, it is not competitive anymore. However it still has few advantages and one of them is reliability of these devices. Some time ago I found quite a cheap Oki 3321 printer that has 9 pin head and is capable of printing on A3 paper in portrait orientation. Usual mode of printing for these devices was simple text mode, where you just were writing your text in ASCII (or any weird coding popular in your country of origin) to its parallel port. Fortunately these printers usually had also graphic mode, where you could fully use capabilities of the device.
I already was experimenting some time with my device, so I already know it uses Mazovia variant (with zł as single glyph) as its codepage. I was also able to guess how to switch into graphic mode, so in theory I was able to print images for some time. Unfortunately any CUPS drivers I used did not provide acceptable results, so all I could do was to write some support tool myself. Continue reading “Printing pictures like its 1873 using Oki 3321 dot-matrix printer”→
When I have seen CO2 sensor for the first time, it was quite expensive device. Well, if one want to buy consumer device these days, it still could cost a lot. However in the days of cheap Chinese electronics sellers on biggest auction platforms, for makers, situation is quite different now. MH-Z14 is the cheapest CO2 sensor I was able to find. I costs about $19 and comes in few variants: MH-Z14 and MH-Z14A. Also it can measure up to 1000 ppm, up to 2000 ppm or up to 5000 ppm. However the range does not matter in practice, as it is possible to switch between them using UART.
The device interfaces are quite flexible for such a cheap device, as beside mentioned UART port it provides PWM and analog output. However, I was not able to measure valid value using analog and my cheap multimeter. Maybe some more sophisticated equipment is required for that.
While tinkering with spy camera, I found one detail that is significantly slowing the process of reverse engineering and debugging the applications, installed on its embedded Linux platform – finding final values of preprocessor directives and sometimes also results of sizeof() operator.
As I am not aware of any existing solution for that problem (I guess there might be some included in one of the more sophisticated IDEs, however I use Vim for development) it is good reason to create one. By the way I used cmake template I published some days ago to bootstrap the project. Continue reading “SADVE – tiny program for computing #define values”→