I am trying to Flash, Skulls on Lenovo X230

I thought I would ask if anyone has done this recently? I notice a web page from Chuck Nemeth on this, where he spent every evening for a week working on the details to do this successfully.

I have duckduckgo ed the subject. Problem with that being search engine can lead to old links, which have most clicks.

I wanted to dialogue with someone who has done this same project recently.

I started on Discourse - Qubes. and Moderator suggested, while interesting, it was not really about Qubes. I should try elsewhere.

One of the certified Qubes suggested laptops is Insurgo, who generously explains on what he does to convert a basic Lenovo X230 into a laptop approved by Qubes, which includes Neutering the Intel ME. That part of Intel ME which phones home to the Intel Mothership and accepts programming changes clandestinely. Insurgo does more than just sell these products, but encourages folks to do this same conversion project locally, and provides that how to information.

Just doing the Skulls portion…

I am working from:
https://github.com/merge/skulls/blob/master/x230/README.md#preparation-required-hardware

As someone else said. One of the biggest problems is finding all the right bits and pieces of hardware to do the flash.

On github, skulls, the write up seems quite good. I am always looking for someone who might say. Well, what was not said is----?

I am also having difficulties in getting the correct power supply for a programmer. I have to order from China. I do not want to wait for three weeks, or maybe more because of Corona delays. Or weather -whatever.

Second Alternative. I might try to buy a PI, Still, that is not cool as I only need it for this one project. I also have problems trying to figure out which is the correct one to buy. Anyone knowledgeable in Raspberry PIs who could point at an exact product on say; Amazon-US, or Newegg?

Given I could hard brick the laptop to get rid of the part of ME that allows Intel to slip in the back door and change the basic processing of the Intel chip.

I have limited income as I am 71 and on Social Security. Also I do not have at home cable internet. I hope to do this by using HotSpot Iphone connection. I can not afford the real product from Insurgo, or the 14 inch Librem laptop from those guys in California. This project makes me appreciate they deserve the amount of dollars they are charging.

I thought I would ask if anyone has done this Bios Skulls flash project recently?

1 Like

I havent done any custom flashing of anything apart from cellphones so maybe someone else knows here.

I am actually more curious why you decided to go with the Lenovo laptop. You have a local laptop maker (modder?) System76 that runs linux out of the box with a pre-disabled Intel ME.

hauntsanctuary
February 5

I havent done any custom flashing of anything apart from cellphones so maybe someone else knows here.

I am actually more curious why you decided to go with the Lenovo laptop. You have a local laptop maker (modder?) System76 that runs linux out of the box with a pre-disabled Intel ME.

A good question. Honestly never thought about System 76.

You bring up a good point that pre-disabled Intel ME. I was unaware of System 76 having done that.

I admit to not having read a lot about System 76.

The reason being I am a very limited budget. I receive a thousand dollars a month. In the US. Medicare. The health care plan for seniors does not pay for everything. So that thousand becomes a lot less.

Once I saw the base price of a System 76. I was only kicking tires.

I can not foresee buying the modded up Lenovo X230 which becomes the Insurgo that is now $1200.00 US or so. I more frequently look at the pricing on a Librem 14 plus anti interdiction. Of course my pricing includes 64 GB of Ram. Drool.

I will be watching. As people buy the Librem 14 they might start offering their older 13 inch Librems for an interesting price.

The plain Lenovo X230 I am trying to mod cost $248.00 US to get to my door. Plus a bit over a hundred for 16 GB of RAM. I don’t recall what I paid for the SSD I swapped into it. Surely less than seventy.

Poverty is with me constantly.

My whining about my being poor is relevant. My poverty directs a lot of my decisions.

i’m also interested in this topic I will be positng some links in the future.
You might be succesful in buying a secondhand laptop in the spectrum you’re talking about for cheap on some soft / hardware forum with a looking to buy + looking to sell message board.

First off: I have not done this to hardware. I don’t own a x230 and have not tried any of that.

With that said, the instructions on Github a pretty straight forward, if you get your Hands on the hardware required. If i where you, i’d seriously wait for the powersuply. Even if it takes 2-3 weeks, that’s certainly better than bricking the chip.

Also, on the pi: I’d highly recommend getting one. If you’re on a limited budget it really is one of the cheapest options to have a machine around to “play” with. Trust me, once you have it, you’ll find a use for it. You could, for example, repurpose it into a pi-hole after using it to flash the laptop. For flashing any pi should work, but i’d recommend the pi 3B+. the 2 isnt any cheaper and the pi 4 is way more power than you need. Plus the 3B+ is more or less the standard at the moment. The 4 hasn’t been out for too long and while they should be compatible, 99% of stuff out there is for the pi 3.

Just make sure you realize that there is a non-zero chance of bricking your Laptop. Power Fluctuations, a wrong command or a bad contact could all lead to a bricked device. The 1200 bucks you pay for a pre-flashed laptop take that into account. I’m personally not sure if i’d risk a 300$ machine if i where as low income as you are. Please be sure that you are fine with trashing the machine in the worst case. If you depend on the laptop working or 300$ is more money than you want to risk, you are maybe better of finding something that does what you need it to do and isn’t Intel powered…

The Pi 3 B+ lists a voltage of 2.5 volts. I guess that is input volts to describe power supply cube.

I think the recommended voltage for flash is 5 volts. I need to figure out memory, and an SD card. or are they the same thing. There are two options for wires/cables to go to Pomona Clip. is one superior to the other. If I follow the other fellows advice. I will have to get a soldering iron/solder for this as well. Something to hold the heat off other things.

Thanks for your knowledge.

These things are not always clear.

I have to wait on Stimulus three for money to do anything, which is some weeks away.

As I do not have at home internet, I have a very limited amount of ‘Hot Spot’ off my phone. So having a PI around is not of much use to me. Except for this project.

I’m pretty sure you’ve gotten Voltage and Amperage mixed up here. The Pi needs 5 Volts Input at a minimum of 2.5 Amps. That’s basically the specification of the USB Powersupply you need to power the pi. Most newish Phone Chargers can deliver that though.

Regardless of that, you should provide external Power to the Pomona Clip as the flashing requires stable 5V and the Pi can only output 3.3V.

As for storage: If you don’t plan on permanently running the pi, any basic MicroSD Card will do. Get a 16G one and it’ll be fine. More expensive ones will only matter when it comes to longevity.

From what i’ve seen, the Pomona Clips have varying connectors. The Pi has GPIO Pins. There are very cheap (often some pi kits include them) cables that can connect to those pins. I’d recommend getting a Pomona clip that either also has just pins at the end or one that’s connected to a board that has pins. No need to get anything that you’d have to solder for a single flash.

You are right, it is 2.5 Amps not volts. Do I really need five volts to flash?

The only HDMI screen I have is 27 inches. I have a fourteen inch serial port. Do I need a smaller HDMI screen?

Thanks for talking to me.

Just saw

The Size of your Screen is irrelevant. The Pi has a regular HDMI Output. Anything up to 1080p no matter the size works fine.

For flash will this have five volt output? Any reason this would not work for flash?

Moving on to new problems. I decided to use the USB programmer CH341 with a Alienware 17, Skylake Processor, and 16 GB RAM with Ubuntu 21 (updated) installed.

I posted this on another forum:

I am trying to to Flash Rom on a Lenovo X-230 with Skulls, supposed to be a frequently used, straight forward Process.

I think my problem is the creation of a back up file, and how the CLI command is then re written.

It is Sunday, and I only have a Hotspot connection on my phone, so I don’t think I have enough data to install a C Compiler just to test what would happen if I downloaded it.

My first read of how to create a file, speaks of creating a txt file. Which is probably not going to function as a back up file.

I start at: GitHub - merge/skulls: pre-built coreboot images and documentation on how to flash them for Thinkpad Laptops

then pick the option for X-230, which leads to

Going down the page, I am trying to Flash (with Ubuntu 21 desktop)

with command in terminal: sudo ./external_install_bottom.sh -m -k

that second line is supposed to read back-up-file-create enclosed in greater than and less than. Post ate it.

I think my problem might be: I need to create a back up file of name I choose, and it would be placed in the same directory with the commands.

I change back through the part of the command with and try to give it a file name of either bottom, or a directory name of folder (both are there).

I get make back: must install ‘Make’ and C Compiler.

Normally I would try to spend a lot of time reading through possibilities and trying different things. but I need to get this Flashed, and the computer put back together before I one of these parts starts walking off on their own.

If it matters, I am using a USB Progammer CH341, and the computer is a 2016 Alienware 17 with I7 Skylake processor and 16 GB RAM. And as I said the latest Ubuntu Desktop download. and a HotSpot connection on a phone. I am guessing it might be related to the basic Flash program wants to phone the Mother Ship to see if it has the latest version of Program. That seems unnecessary to me as I could update the ROM again with the same command after I put it together. This is supposed to be a frequently used, straight forward, Program.

Any of you who expert in CLI take a look and offer a quick opinion?

Perhaps I should start another post, but.
It was suggested I do not need external Power Supply for CH341A.

but remove not only the main battery from the X230, but the CMOS battery.

I did both those things.

I finally tried to Flash the ROM in my Lenovo X230 yesterday. I used the 2016 Alienware 17 with Core I7 Skylake and 16 GB RAM with Ubuntu Hippo.

My lack of knowledge of Linux was one my handicaps. What one needs to be aware of, the part of the command one copies into the Terminal which is greater than file-name less than is for me to enter a file name. Which then generated an error message telling me to install make, C-Compiler. Someone on another forum suggested a command to enter the gcc compiler.

sudo apt install -y make gcc

Turns out Make, and MakeFile which one needs are part of coreutils, which are most likely already installed. but, apt install coreutils

or version using sudo tells me I already have the latest version.

Next error message and someone suggested I install flashrom.

I used the sudo version. apt install flashrom

and we get to another set of problems

It would not work on the bottom chip, which has the part with ME.

Command would work with the top Chip.

Leaving me with:

catacombs@catacombs-Alienware-17-R4 : ~/Desktop/skulls-1.0.1 $ sudo ./external_install_bottom.sh -m -k bottom2
Skulls
Please select the hardware you use:

  1. Raspberry Pi 2) CH341A 3) Exit
    Please select the hardware flasher:
    2 Ok. Connect a CH341A programmer trying to detect the chip… chip not detected.
    flashrom v1.2 on Linux 5.11.0-18-generic (x86_64) flashrom is free software, get the source code at https://flashrom.org Using clock_gettime for delay loops (clk_id: 1, resolution: 1ns).
    No EEPROM/flash device found. Note: flashrom can never write if the flash chip isn’t found automatically. chip not detected.
    Please find it manually and rerun with the -c parameter. catacombs@catacombs-Alienware-17-R4 : ~/Desktop/skulls-1.0.1 $

I put it Lenovo X230 physically back together.
It boots with the Skulls Bunny.
I had to fix the date/time in Mint Linux with the Terminal. Works. I am not sure if the bottom chip in the several times I tried, ever got Flashed. I see the back up for the Top Chip, not for the bottom.

I am unclear what is meant by --Manually – find Chip, and run with -c option.

Do manually refer to the Pomona clip I am using is not appearing to make contact?

Where would I insert the -c command if I try this again.

First, can I verify if the Flash might have finished properly? How?

Is the best procedure to start over like I have done nothing.
and hope the next Flash will work?