[LinuxBIOS] google support: automatic build reports: HOWTO ?

Stefan Reinauer stepan at coresystems.de
Thu Mar 15 18:51:41 CET 2007

* todthgie <todthgie at hotmail.com> [070314 20:37]:
> in some time i will start to install it in some machines here starting whit 
> the to be carpc.
> I'm more a hardware engineer that a software one (but i concider firmware 
> almost hardware;-) )
> and i think i can and maybe will design a (new) device for automated testing 
Sounds very interesting. I'd be glad to assist, but I am a hardware
newbie, roughly understanding what a pull-up resistor is, but not able
to read from the electrical specification when one is needed ;)

> This  because i dont realy like to (hot) swap chips. and i think adding 
> support for new board (i have not found one of my boards on the list)
> will not be done i a few builds. So the device for automated building can 
> help greatly with the 'normal' devolopment.

Yes indeed!

> - as a minimum savior like way to update the bios, but much better is
>   this can be done remote im thinking about using the flash chip as a
>   shared memory between a microcontroler and the motherboard (using
>   tristable drivers for arbitrage)

Yes, a completely external flash ability would be much preferred over
the bios savior variant. 

The BIOS savior hack starts the system, flashes the bios using ssh
login, powers down and then starts the newly flashed system.

This is slow and at least in theory very error prone. It also means that
you have to have a working bios at all, which is not necessarily always
the case.

The alternative I know here are the PROMice devices, but they are 3000
bucks. Since I designed the system to do cheap automated distributed
testing of 50-100+ motherboards, 3000*50 bucks (even with a decent
volume discount) would be far beyound what such a project could bear
with. Building a single "IOC" as I did is below 10€, and a bios savior
was between 10 and 30 eur, so that is roughly a factor 100 below the
costs of a promice. 

Using the same device for development and testing would be a great
additional advantage of course.

Plugging such a microcontroller onto a soldered on flash chip with a
plcc piggyback clip or a plcc socket/plug combination would make an
additional flash chip unnecessary, and allow the device to be ultimately

A lot of equipment in this category is parport driven, which is
extremely bad for people like me with only their legacy free laptop with
lots of USB ports.

> - have a usb to serial convertor so the test server can talk to the 
> microcontroler.

Sounds good. Or it could use a microcontroller with usb built in. No
idea which of them would be suitable for such a project.

> - maybe include a way to switch the mains voltage to the target computer
> - OR / AND inculde a way to switch off the remaining voltage (+5Vsb) of the 
> atx power supply (this is easy)
>       and prevent the mother board from switching on the atx PSU.

Triggering both the atx power button, reset button, real power supply,
would be cool. No idea if the real power plugging would be expensive to
add. I used an IPS-400 for that goal, but it costs 400 bucks for 4
ports --> expensive.

> - monitor at least some core functions of the target device (power supply 
> voltage ect) to report state to the host.

Yes! Maybe even frequencies if that is easily possible?

> - maybe relay the serial debug console of the target to the host.

by addin another usb->serial converter and a hub? that would be neat.
Because the system needs a serial cable for each test system.

another idea would be to detect host writes to the bios chip or some
other memory area and interpret that as console. This is interesting for
those boards that have no serial port anymore. We used a USB debug
device for some of those (80$) but not all boards have debug capable USB

> - of cource als schematics/layouts/Ucfirmware will be public.
> - i have no idea of i price yet. but i hope to come up with something that 
> can do a lost for not too much money.

The hardware requirement for testing a mainboard are roughly

*  25€ for the bios savior
*  10€ for the IOC
* 100€ for 1/4 of the power switch
*  10€ for a serial to usb converter
*  10€ for a USB hub
*  10€ for cabling (usb, serial null modem)
  165€ per board (plus board hardware)

This should be well in the range of the production costs of a decent
microcontroller based solution.

> furthermore i would like to know what kind of bios chips are around on 
> motherboards.. i know of the following:
> Prom like flash devices in DIP or PLCC or SOIC packages that have Address, 
> Data and Control (CE/RD/WR) busses
> Disk on Chip Millenium combo devices that combine a flash 'disk' with a 
> 'bios'
DoC (Millenium) is usually not used anymore. There's a couple of PLCC 
LPC and FWH chips that are normally used.

SST49LF040 for example, or Intel N82802AC, Winbond W49F002UP, Winbond


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