Cat that kicks an exclamation mark.
Hardware of a Free Design
Transparent. No Tricks. No Compromises.

Welcome

This is the place to look for recent announcements, activities, personal statements and ingoing donations – all provided to give you the best reasons to follow and endorse Zerocat and its ambitions.


2022/10/30

Chipflasher: New Sales Pages

Sales pages for Chipflasher v2 and Chipflasher v2 – Kit are now provided as previews in the shop. Product descriptions will be refined in November, availability and launch of sale is scheduled for December 2022.

Along with Chipflasher v2 – Kit, a Kit User Guide is published on branch flashrom-interface, commit 7957926c8.


2022/10/28

Chipflasher: First Chipflasher v2 Devices

Branch flashrom-interface, commit 210b3af35:

Five Chipflasher v2 devices have been assembled and successfully tested with kick2 and the new interface to flashrom. I am now preparing the sales package and the shipment to FSF in order to apply for RYF certification. — Kai Mertens


2022/10/20

Chipflasher: New PCBs available

Branch flashrom-interface, commit 5927da721:

A bunch of ten new PCBs are now available for assemblage.
Two first Chipflasher v2 devices are expected to be ready on 25th of October.
The assembling process will be documented!


2022/10/20

Chipflasher’s Flashrom Interface: More Test Reports Available

Branch flashrom-interface, commit 1723df2c5:


2022/10/15

Chipflasher: New PCB Design Sources released!

Branch flashrom-interface, commit fa7ba6995:

Chipflasher board v2 Design Sources are now publically available.

Hardware Design Sources are licensed under CERN Open Hardware License Version 2 – Strongly Reciprocal.

You may redistribute and modify the sources and make products using it under the terms of the CERN-OHL-S v2 or any later version.

This ensures that the source location of the Chipflasher, being engraved into the copper of the PCB, remains with the physical product and its derivatives ;-)

Until new, physical PCBs are available, these sources come with status UNTESTED.


2022/09/30

Chipflasher’s Flashrom Interface: Test Reports Available

Branch flashrom-interface, commit 91b1f109:


2022/09/22

Chipflasher’s Flashrom Interface: Refined Testboard Features

Branch flashrom-interface, commit 98cbba6f:

Testboard features have been refined and enriched:

A difficult-to-flash target ThinkPad T60 with MX25L1605D is now supported.


2022/09/16

Chipflasher’s Flashrom Interface: Testboard with new Features

Branch flashrom-interface, commit a29e1a01:

In preparation for the next chipflasher PCB, the handmade testboard introduces new features:

Chipflasher Flashrom Interface, Testboard Documentation


2022/08/30

Chipflasher’s Flashrom Interface: Testboard Documentation

Branch flashrom-interface, commit 0cd1b4b9:


2022/08/22

Chipflasher’s Flashrom Interface: New Default RS232 Baudrate

Branch flashrom-interface, commit d72b996a:


2022/08/18

Chipflasher’s Flashrom Interface: Full Power SPI Clock Driver @ 40MHz

Branch flashrom-interface, commit f91b83fa:


2022/08/15

Donation received

Stichting NLnet sends €1.500,- for Zerocat Chipflasher Flashrom Interface, Milestone #4(13). Milestones left for this summer: 8


2022/07/29

Chipflasher’s Flashrom Interface: New Tasks Identified

Six additional tasks have been identified. These are now defined as milestones 8 through 13 in a project amendment paper, signed by Bob Goudriaan on behalf of the NLnet foundation. The final budget has been increased.

The project is now heading for an updated chipflasher PCB with improved firmware and will again apply for FSF’s RYF certification by end of this year.


2022/07/27

Chipflasher’s Flashrom Interface: Ultrafast SPI Routines

Branch flashrom-interface, commit 7d693973:


2022/07/21

Chipflasher’s Flashrom Interface: Faster SPI Routines

Branch flashrom-interface, commit f8919500: The SPI bus is now accessed via PASM routines, which provide much better clock rates. Eight bits of data read/write is done with 5MHz. Other bit lengths are still transferred at good clock rates, such like 4MHz (read) and 3.33MHz (write).

See SPI Clock Speed with Flashrom for some pretty oscilloscope snapshots.


2022/07/11

Chipflasher’s Flashrom Interface: Optimized SPI Routines

Branch flashrom-interface, commit 4825a98e: The Spin routines that access the SPI bus have been cleaned and optimized. SPI modes 0 (default) and 3 are both supported.


2022/07/08

Donation received

Stichting NLnet sends €1.750,- for Zerocat Chipflasher Flashrom Interface, Milestone #3(7). Milestones left for this summer: 3


2022/06/30

Ready to fly: Chipflasher’s Flashrom Interface is Up and Running

I am very pleased to announce herewith the successful release of Chipflasher’s Flashrom Interface. The project’s core milestone #3(7) is now done. It links a widely used free software project to hardware of a free design, even down to chip level.

I receive great support from OSE-Germany e.V. and associated fellows, as well as from Michiel Leenaars from the NLnet Foundation. I am very grateful to meet your friendly companionship and encouragement!

Now have fun to see the documentation: Chipflasher Flashrom Interface

— Kai Mertens


2022/06/26

Team Member leaves Zerocat

Ricardo Morte kindly asks to have his contact details removed from the team page. He would like to direct his focus towards other projects, and changes his list of priorities.


2022/06/19

More Laptops in Shop

Occasionally, ThinkPads come with flash chips that have volatile registers. The chipflasher now handles these types more reliably with kick2, the second firmware approach. Selected devices move into the shop:

At power-up, volatile registers are set into Software Protection Mode (SPM) by the flash itself, that is why Hardware Protection Mode (HPM) cannot be applied via jumper.


2022/05/26

Keys Updated

I have just refreshed the expiration dates of my GnuPG Keys.
New key files are available on pages Team and OpenPGP.
— Kai Mertens


2022/05/25

Professional Circuit Schematics

The documentation of the Chipflasher Device provides professional circuit schematics, now split into pages: Small fixes applied, readability greatly improved!


2022/05/21

Firmware Write Protection for ThinkPad T60

Project Zerocat Flash Access advances to version v0.3.0 and ships a new how-to: See T60 SPI Flash Connector to learn about Hardware Protection Mode (HPM) for the firmware of the T60.

In addition, the T60 is now covered by the corresponding shop service:
SPI Flash Interface + Write Protection Jumper


2022/05/16

Donation received

Stichting NLnet sends €1.250,- for Zerocat Chipflasher Flashrom Interface, Milestone #7(7). Milestones left for this summer: 4


2022/05/08

New Projects


2022/04/24

Firmware Write Protection for ThinkPad T530

Project Zerocat Flash Access advances to version v0.2.0 and ships a new how-to: See T530 SPI Flash Connector to learn about Hardware Protection Mode (HPM) for the firmware of the T530.

In addition, the T530 is now covered by the corresponding shop service:
SPI Flash Interface + Write Protection Jumper


2022/04/19

New Logotypes and Icons

Zerocat used to use the last letter of the latin alphabet for its icons, in conjunction with an emphasized exclamation mark. However, we have to face the fact that this letter has been hijacked. As a consequence, we now drop that letter and use different icons as a clear act of sympathy and empowerment for the ukrainian people and for peace.


Resurrection Sunday, 2022/04/17

New Chipflasher PCB

The chipflasher project comes with an updated printed circuit board (PCB). Version board-v1.3.0 brings new features:

The CAD files have not yet been used for production – a budget of €500,- is needed to place the order of PCBs and to start assemblage. Please help!
See Donate for bank account details. — Kai Mertens


2022/04/09

New Service

SPI Flash Interface + Write Protection Jumper

This service greatly improves the integrity of your ThinkPad, as it applies hardware write protection to the firmware. Selected ThinkPads are supported, according to elaborated how-tos of the Zerocat Flash Access project.


2022/03/30

New Laptops in Shop

First “Next Generation Zerocat Laptops“ are now available for purchase. They come with exciting key features at very affordable prices:

  1. encrypted Operating System preinstalled
  2. Chipflasher Interface below Keyboard
  3. Hardware Write Protected BIOS Chips
  4. Intel ME disabled/neutralized, firmware deleted/cleaned
  5. Zerocat Bootmenu and Branding

All tools required to create these laptops are freely licensed.
See shop’s product pages for references.

Note that Zerocat Coreboot Machines now ships an utility script that eases installation of Hyperbola GNU/Linux-libre – a young distribution that aims to improve reliability and integrity of the GNU System. See webpage for an example script run.


2022/02/27

Website Clean-up

This clean-up eases orientation and helps focussing on core activities.


2022/02/21

New Team Member

It’s always satisfying to modify and free yet another Thinkpad: digging deeper, finding tweaks, making firmware replacement even simpler. My T430 has been flashed without even touching the fan! Let’s elaborate clipless procedures for more models, come and join the Zerocat Flash Access project!

— Jorgo Triantafilidis


2022/02/08

New Project

Zerocat Flash Access – Interfacing BIOS Chips in Hardware Protection Mode

This project demonstrates how your Free-Software Laptop security is further enhanced by activating the Hardware Protection Mode (HPM) of its BIOS chips. This feature is of special significance because it guarantees that your machine will always boot with the same code.

— Kai Mertens


2022/01/24

Donation received

Dave Dlugaiczyk sends €500,- to support the Zerocat Label.


2022/01/16

Let’s start 2022 with some first, good news!

— Kai Mertens


2022/01/12

Donation received

Stichting NLnet sends €1.250,- for Zerocat Chipflasher Flashrom Interface, Milestone #2(7).


2021/12/31

Hurray, the year is over!

It was a difficult year for me and many others, so we do not need to make a resumé! Let’s focus on the next steps instead – I can’t wait to make them all come true in 2022:

  1. Zerocat Chipflasher Flashrom Interface made great progress and continues to receive funding from the NLnet foundation! The project is now starting with core milestone #3(7).
  2. Boost production of the latest free software laptops. In 2022 we will continue to provide the best quality laptops and promote their use. Current trends in digital surveillance, social control and pressure, makes this more relevant than ever. We are all in urgent need of private, secure communication equipment and all-purpose computers.
  3. Launch of Zerocat’s crowd funding page. As we move into many new projects, we need funds to scale up!

I wish you all the very best for the new year and invite you to stop using compromised hardware and smartphones, throw them away! The sooner we liberate ourselves from that crap, the better we can save families, neighboorhoods and societies.

— Kai Mertens


2021/12/27

Zerocat Chipflasher v0.6.1 released!

This is a major step! The interface to the project’s connect utility has greatly been improved. You have full access to chips’ configuration registers and their protection and lock bits.

As an exciting, special feature, it also lets you access and lock the Secured One-Time-Programmable Regions, often found on ThinkPads. Lock the regions, before someone else will do it!

Furthermore, end-of-write-cycle detection can be switched from polling to timeout – This eases flashing of ThinkPad models T530 and W530.

Please note that Zerocat Coreboot Machines has been advanced, too. It now ships version v0.16.2.

Last but not least, all project documentations support inline images – I very much hope you like that!

— Kai Mertens


2021/10/26

Zerocat Coreboot Machines v0.16.0 released!

The project has been cleaned up, it should be very easy to use now. Special thanks to those hackers that have supplied hardware and that have tried the project on their own – you helped to improve it! See NEWS.

— Kai Mertens


2021/10/11

Some Progress / Jour Fixe

— Kai Mertens


2021/09/26

New Projects / New Versions / New Documentation

— Kai Mertens


2021/06/28

Project Chipflasher “flashrom-interface” has been updated.

  1. Interface configuration has been put under user control.
  2. Firmware “kick2” comes with improved block read operations (byte, page, block, chip) for the “connect” utility.
  3. Next steps are tracked in project’s TODO file.

— Kai Mertens


2021/06/26

Sad to say, Zerocat Store Corner is closed.

It is time to look for a new location, long-term or temporal, event-based.

— Kai Mertens


2021/06/14

New Achievement!

Installation of an encrypted Parabola GNU/Linux-libre System is now supported per Zerocat’s alternate install script. See “Coreboot-Machines” dropdown menu.

— Kai Mertens


2021/04/22

Donation received

Stichting NLnet sends €1.250,- for Zerocat Chipflasher Flashrom Interface, Milestone #1(7).


2020/12/23

Free designs become even more important these times, ...

... as we see that societies rely on solidarité rather than on commercial market in cases of emergency. The right way to go is to request free designs not only for software, hardware and seeds, but for immunology vaccine as well.

— Kai Mertens