Documentation for “Zerocat Chipflasher”
Generated on: Fri, 03 Feb 2023 17:04:03 +0100
Repository: git://
Board: board-v2.0.0-968-3982cc326
Version: v2.0.0-0-3982cc326
Branch: flashrom-interface

Zerocat Chipflasher

– Flash free firmware, kick the Management Engine.


Chipflasher “v2”, Successor of Chipflasher “board-edition-1”

Copyright (C) 2016 kai
Copyright (C) 2016 rekado
Copyright (C) 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 Kai Mertens
Copyright (C) 2017 tomás zerolo

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

Section #../doc/


The initial project was started by Kai Mertens in 2015, as a private project.
It was renamed and continued in 2016, but still kept private.

Authors of the initial code and documentation are:

The project was split and again renamed to the current version in 2016, and turned public. See tag repo-root-info for details.

Authors of Zerocat Chipflasher are now listed according to git log output.
See copyright notices on the title page.

Section #../doc/


Project Goal

The goal of Zerocat Chipflasher is to provide an electronic device for the purpose of firmware replacement, fully hackable and of a free design, even down to chip level.

When it comes to flash a coreboot or libreboot compatible machine, the Zerocat Chipflasher is the right tool to use:

... and it uses the Parallax P8X32A free-design microcontroller!

Special Feature

The chipflasher not only accesses the main memory array of SPI chips, it also gives you full control over the chips’ configuration registers:


Set register values using `kick'/`connect', the first firmware.

In case of chips made by Macronix, it even provides access to the lock bits of the security register, as well as to the secured, one-time-programmable region of these chips (typically 64 bytes in size):


Write and read SOTP Region using `kick'/`connect'.

Clean up and lock the region, before someone else will do it!

Clean-up Examples:


Hardware Considerations

It is assumed that you are running a GNU/Linux-libre operating system on a computer that has an RS232 port available. Your user account is priviledged to access the port, e.g: It is member of the dialout group.

Furthermore, your system should have one or two USB ports available in order to power the chipflasher device. Otherwise, you will have to use an external power Adapter, providing 5 to 6VDC at 1 Ampère.

Get Started

Use git to clone the project’s sources:

    $ git clone git://

Change into the project’s documentation folder:

    $ cd chipflasher/doc/

Study this file to get started:

    $ cat ../doc/

GNU Guix System

If you are on GNU Guix System, use make to create a dedicated profile, once. This allows you to match your environment to the one used by Zerocat, thus yielding for bit-identical results:

    $ make -C ../guix pull

Create an empty environment with dedicated guix channel:

    $ make -C ../guix environment

Create a shell with all prerequisites set up:

    [env]$ make -C ../guix shell
    [env]$ export LANG=en_US.utf8

To list all available targets, type:

    [env]$ make -C ../guix help

To leave the shell and the environment, later on, when you are done with this project, type:

    [env]$ exit
    [env]$ exit

To remove this project’s handy guix profile, type:

    $ make -C ../guix clean

This will remove symlinks only. If you want to remove the profile from your system, run the GNU Guix Garbage Collector.

Other Distro

If you are on another distro, check files ../guix/manifest.scm, ../firmware1/guix/manifest.scm and ../firmware2/guix/manifest.scm; then install the listed packages with your package manager, manually. Adapt package names as required.

Files ../doc/ and ../doc/ should also be taken into account.

If your system does not provide all requirements, you might still consider to install the GNU Guix Package Manager on top.

P8X32A Documents, Design Files and Application Notes

The P8X32A free-design microcontroller of the device is well documented, let’s take a bunch of documents as a common starting point. See ../doc/Makefile for targets P1 and clean-P1. They can be used to get files downloaded, e.g.:

    [env]$ cd ../doc && make P1 && cd -

Generate the Documentation

Set up prerequisites and build hardware design files as described in: #../hardware/

Then, to build the documentation, type:

    [env]$ make -C ../doc

All documentation roots should now be available from the “Home” button.

The chipflasher project ships a small host utility, that is able to communicate with the firmwares. The host utility is called connect, the firmwares are called kick and kick2.

Sources are located in folders ../host/, ../firmware1/ and ../firmware2/, respectively.

Please note that the second firmware, kick2, is additionally able to communicate with the external flashrom utility, if configured to do so.

Section #../doc/ should give you a warm welcome.


To get a full list of available targets, type:

    [env]$ make -C ../doc help

Clean Up

To clean your folders, type:

    [env]$ make -C ../doc clean
Section #../doc/



Since project version v2.0.0, changes are tracked within this file, #../doc/
For changes, introduced by version v2.0.0 and lower, see #../doc/

Changes introduced to hardware design files are tracked in file #../hardware/
For changes, introduced by version board-v2.0.0 and lower, see #../doc/


NOTICE: Anyone modifying the project should provide brief information about the modifications, including the date they were made. Information should be added but never removed from this file. Licensees should provide a brief entry with a date and the nature of the modification for each change. Please use markdown syntax!

Section #../hardware/


Using CERN-OHL-S in an otherwise GPL’d Project Environment

The Zerocat Chipflasher Project comes with GPL’ed code, in general. However, as the GPLv3 fits perfectly for the purpose of software distribution, it seems to be not the best choice for the distribution of hardware design files and physical hardware.

The world of hardware is supposed to be more hostile against free software developers and enthusiasts. The fact that patents are still a common tool to restrict access and to empower individual control while removing rights from the public and even from origin developers, is a threat that has to be addressed.

The CERN Open Hardware License Version 2 – Strictly Reciprocal is supposed to set up the revolutionary rights to study, use, modify and distribute hardware design files on the one hand, but establishing protection against patent related threats for the developer and for users on the other.

As specified in FAQs, the CERN OHL is not compatible with GPLv3. However, in the author’s opinion, a combination of both licenses is possible as long as the realm of each license can be distinguished clearly.

To achieve this distinction, the scope of the CERN-OHL license is narrowed to the toplevel hardware folder’s content. The content is self-contained, that is, it should ship everything that is needed to create and work with hardware design files.

To give you a tool that helps you to set up a dedicated shell environment with all prerequisites provided, the hardware folder contains a guix folder, in which a Makefile, a guix channel description file, and a guix manifest file can be found. With these files, you can easily setup a proper shell environment to make make all work, as long as you are running the GNU Guix System.

In order to comply with the license, dedicated license files have been set up for the manifest file and for the guix channel description file. This puts me into an uncomfortable position, as these files are basically generated output of guix commands. Not much work that I have added, thus not much content to justify a copyright statement.

Similar to this, some footprints had to be fixed and are now available from the project’s hardware/gschem/symbols folder, with author and dist-license attributes added, along with corresponding license files.

The CERN-OHL-S license comes with the concept of “Available Components”, as defined in section 1.7 of the license. Available Components may be used as is, with their corresponding license.


If you think I am mistaken or in any way wrong, please let me know and help me to arrange this license pattern, correctly.

As far as I know, the authors of the CERN-OHL-S are asking the Free Software Foundation (FSF) to approve the license as a valid free software license. Let me express my hope that the FSF will do so in near future.

The FSF comes itself with a very important campaign, the Respects-Your-Freedom (RYF) certified hardware. As pointed out above, the licenses that are suggested by FSF still leave the origin, enthusiastic developers of Free-design Hardware with the risk of being invited into court, some day. Accepting the CERN-OHL-S or an improved, later version, would put developers into a stronger position and would hopefully boost the worldwide efforts of individuals to contribute.

As stated by the authors, the license text has been developed in the same spirit that empowers the Free Software Movement. That is, ethical aspects are a vivid part of it. I would appreciate if the name of the license could be changed in order to reflect this, i.e. replacing the term Open Hardware in favor of Free-design Hardware or Hardware of a Free Design.

– K. Mertens, Oktober 2022


GNU Guix System

If you are on GNU Guix System, use make to create a dedicated profile, once. This allows you to match your environment to the one used by Zerocat, thus yielding for bit-identical results:

    $ make -C ../hardware/guix pull

Create an empty environment with dedicated guix channel:

    $ make -C ../hardware/guix environment

Create a shell with all prerequisites set up:

    [env]$ make -C ../../hardware/guix shell
    [env]$ export LANG=en_US.utf8

To list all available targets, type:

    [env]$ make -C ../../hardware/guix help

To leave the shell and the environment, later on, when you are done with this project, type:

    [env]$ exit
    [env]$ exit

To remove this project’s handy guix profile, type:

    $ make -C ../hardware/guix clean

This will remove symlinks only. If you want to remove the profile from your system, run the GNU Guix Garbage Collector.

Other Distro

If you are on another distro, check file ../hardware/guix/manifest.scm and install the listed packages with your package manager, manually. Adapt package names as required.

If your system does not provide all requirements, you might still consider to install the GNU Guix Package Manager on top.

Build Hardware Design Files

Using the shell that has been set up previously, type:

    [env]$ make -C ../../hardware/

To remove generated files, type:

    [env]$ make -C ../../hardware/ clean

To get list of available targets, type:

    [env]$ make -C ../../hardware/ help
Section #../hardware/


NOTICE: Anyone modifying the design should provide brief information about the modifications, including the date they were made. Information about the design should be added but never removed from this file. According to section 3.3.b of the licence, licensees should provide a brief entry with a date and the nature of the modification for each design change. Please use markdown syntax! Example: ‘* 2020/04/26: AC/DC power converter circuit removed as AC input no longer necessary.’

Section #../doc/


Zerocat Chipflasher ships copyrighted work.
See #../doc/ for a list of people that have contributed.

Zerocat Chipflasher is a freely distributable project.

It describes hardware of a free design, licensed under:

It makes use of free software approved licenses for its documentation, artwork, firmware and host utility:

Authorship, copyright and license information may be provided in more detail on a per-folder and/or per-file basis. Check the sources.

Please report a bug if you find the distribution hindered.
See Zerocat Website for contact information.

Section #../doc/


Documentation Files

Documentation source files are written in markdown syntax. They should carry their individual copyright and license notices right below the title giving headline, e.g.:


    Copyright (C) <Year>  <Name-of-Author> <Email Address>  

    Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
    under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3
    or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
    with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover
    Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled
    "GNU Free Documentation License".



The generated documentation carries a license notice right at top on its title page, with copyright statements generated from git log output.

Sections of the generated documentation are build from selected markdown source files, with their individual copyright and license notice stripped.

In order to enrich the generated documentation ...

... and adapt ../doc/Makefile to produce nice output.

In case more tools are needed, don't forget to update ../guix/manifest.scm.


To make your image look nice within the documentation, select a landscape layout of 16:9 aspect ratio.

Use ImageMagick to prepare your image, e.g.:

If your image is big, reduce it to a maximal width of 2000 pixel:

    mogrify -resize 2000x <image>

Please clean image files from metadata, before committing, i.e.:

    mogrify -strip <image>

If you embed your image into a markdown documentation file, use this syntax:


   [<path/to/image>]:     <path/to/image>     "title message"

or alternatly:


   [my-image-shortcut]:   <path/to/image>     "title message"

These patterns will guarantee that <img> tags will have their src, alt and title attributes properly set within the html output.

Code Files

Please use this license header for code source files:

    Zerocat Chipflasher --- Flash free firmware, kick the Management Engine.

    Copyright (C) <Year>  <Name-of-Author> <Email-Address>

    This file is part of Zerocat Chipflasher.

    Zerocat Chipflasher is free software: you can redistribute it
    and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public
    License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either
    version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later

    Zerocat Chipflasher is distributed in the hope that it will be
    useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied
    PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

    You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
    along with Zerocat Chipflasher.
    If not, see <>.

Shell Scripts

If you intend to write shell scripts, use this skeleton to make them work for GNU Guix:


    # Re-exec if we are not using Bash or are using Bash in POSIX mode.
    if [ -z "$BASH" ] || [ "$BASH" = "/bin/sh" ]; then
      bash=`command -v bash`
      if [ -z "$bash" ]; then
        echo "Couldn't find Bash, sorry!"
        exit 1
        exec "$bash" "$0" "$@"

    # We're using Bash now.
    set -o errexit
    set -o nounset
    set -o pipefail

    # Your code goes here ...


Update ../doc/ and list your contributions.

You can use git shortlog to get a starting point for your edit.

Section #../doc/


Development of Zerocat’s “Chipflasher v2” has been made possible by financial means of the NGI PET Fund. Furthermore, I received great support from Michiel Leenaars and the NLnet Foundation, as well as from OSE-Germany e.V. and associated fellows. Dear guys, I am very grateful to have met your friendly companionship and encouragement, thank you! --- K. Mertens

Section #../doc/


Get Started

Get started along these documents:

If you are in a hurry to apply coreboot or libreboot on your machine, first check #../doc/ to see if it is supported.

To generate free firmware ROMs suitable for flashing, you might consider to use Zerocat Coreboot Machines.

Have fun with these sources!
Everyone should flash a free BIOS at least once in his lifetime ;-)
It is an exciting experience.

NOTE: Changes related to hardware and software are tracked in separate files: #../hardware/, #../doc/, #../doc/

NOTE: Care has been taken to keep the software compatible with the RYF-certified chipflasher board-edition-1 device (PCB: board-v1.1.0), so please feel free to upgrade its firmware.

The Circuit Board

The circuit board is the essential part of the Zerocat Chipflasher. As we are aiming for Do-it-Yourself, this documentation should help you to build your own PCB or breadboard circuit.

Related pages are:

The Board’s First Firmware – kick

The first firmware of the chipflasher board is called kick; its source files are located in folder ../firmware1/src/. This firmware is able to communicate with connect.

Related pages are:

The Board’s Second Firmware – kick2

The second firmware of the chipflasher board is called kick2; its source files are located in folder ../firmware2/src/. This firmware is able to communicate with connect and flashrom.

Related pages are:

The Host Utility – connect

Utility connect is part of the flasher project, for the board’s firmware needs someone to talk to. The capabilities of a terminal, set up by propeller-load, are not sufficient. Therefore, sample code had been used to start building up connect. Now it is a small program that suits our needs, its code is located in folder ../host/src/.

Related pages are:

Operate the Device with kick

Related pages are:

Operate the Device with kick2

Related pages are:

Accompanying Pages

This project is accompanied with some more documents that might be useful to describe the spirit and the scope of “knowledge” behind it.

Related pages are:

Section #../doc/



Chipflasher “v2” and Accessories

Hardware of a free Design

Hardware Design Sources are licensed under CERN Open Hardware Licence Version 2 – Strongly Reciprocal, or any later version.

See CERN-OHL-S v2 User Guide to get guidelines on how to use these hardware designs for your own projects.

The Zerocat Chipflasher aims to be free-design as much as possible, that’s why it relies on the Parallax Propeller 1 microcontroller. In 2014, the chip design files of this controller have been released under GPLv3, by Parallax.

Hardware Status

The PCB board-v2.0.0 as of commit fa7ba6995 has been tested successfully.

PCBs of other commits are UNTESTED!

See #../doc/ and #../hardware/ to track changes

Main Components


Device Label


PCB (top view)


PCB (bottom view)

Onboard Connectors, Switches and LEDs


PCB “board-v2.0.0”, top view

Source Files

Bill of Material

First Series


Chipflasher “v2”, first series

In October 2022, a set of first five devices is assembled:

Exported PDFs

PDFs, generated from source files via ../hardware/Makefile:


Exported Images of Circuit Schematics


Board Circuit Schematic, Page 1(13): Controller with RAM, of a free Design


Board Circuit Schematic, Page 2(13): Power Input


Board Circuit Schematic, Page 3(13): Voltage Regulators


Board Circuit Schematic, Page 4(13): SPI


Board Circuit Schematic, Page 5(13): Program Status LEDs


Board Circuit Schematic, Page 6(13): RS232 Pinheader


Board Circuit Schematic, Page 7(13): Serial EEPROM (optional)


Board Circuit Schematic, Page 8(13): Vcc_SPI Voltage Monitor


Board Circuit Schematic, Page 9(13): Power Switch


Board Circuit Schematic, Page 10(13): Y-USB Power Cable


Board Circuit Schematic, Page 11(13): RS232 Cable


Board Circuit Schematic, Page 12(13): SPI Cable


Board Circuit Schematic, Page 13(13): SPI Flash Pinouts

Section #../doc/

Chipflasher First Prototype

Test Layout

The PCB layout that ships with the tag pcb-prototype on branch master has been milled into copper in order to prove suitability. However, using that file for production purposes is not recommended. Several fixes were necessary.


worked PCB layout

Hardware Production Process

This is a short photo documentary of the hardware production process:


PCB milling has just finished

The copper board has been milled during an introductory workshop in the FABLAB Berlin.


PCB cleaned up

Cleaning the PCB is important, otherwise you will have to deal with dust located in the gap-routes when you want to apply clear varnish later.


Soldering difficulties on component side

Sockets and parts with a big footprint should not to be soldered to top layer pads, this turns out to be very difficult and tricky. For example, to solder an variable resistor, you will need to use a vacuum pump while pressing the part firmly onto the surface. When done, you are lucky if the pins are still connected. And note that for some reason drilling was not always centric.


How to solve soldering difficulties on component side

Top layer pads should be large, otherwise you will have to lever sockets or chips a bit in order to use their thin legs.


Assemblage complete

When the board is fully populated, don't forget jumpers!
Apply a clear varnish over all, but cover important contacts.

Device in Action


The PCB Prototype in action

It worked right from the start. What you can see here very well is the SPI-cable which uses distances for its wires, in order to prevent signal interferences. The target shown on the photo is a T500 motherboard.

Section #../doc/

Chipflasher board-edition-1

Handmade Example


Handmade Chipflasher with Accessories

Board Layout

    |<---            80mm                -->|

    +---------------------------------------+      ---
    | O                   ######          O |       ^
    |                     ######            |       |
    |  [X] Power Switch   ######      D1 o  |       |
    |                     ######            |       |
    |  o  LED Power       ######      D2 o  |
    -------+              ######            |
    : USB  |              ######      D3 o  |
    : Power|              ######            |
    -------+              ######            |
    |  o  SPI Power       ######            |
    |                     ######   _________|
    |  #######            ##/\##   |SPI-Bus |
    |  #######                     |        |
    |__________  Jumper            |  PLUG# |     100mm
    |RS232 DTE|  x DTR             |    GND |
    | Labels  |  x RST             |    WP# |
    |NC  | GND|  o RTS             |   MISO |
    |RI  | DTR|                    |    CE# |
    |CTS | TXD|           ___      |   MOSI |
    |RTS | RXD|           |R|      |   SCLK |
    |DSR | CD |           |e|      |  HOLD# |
    |_________|           |s|      |    VDD |
    |                     |i|      |________|
    |     ###             |s|    SPI LED o  |       |
    |     ###    ###      |t|               |       |
    |     ###    ###      |o|               |       |
    | O   ###    ###      |r|             O |       v
    +-------------------- |…|---------------+      ---

First Devices with PCB

Some first devices where manufactured, checked out at tag board-edition-1 on branch master.

These devices have been certified to respect computer users’ freedoms by the Free Software Foundation in Boston, USA.


First Series with sponsored PCBs

Bug Fix

A non-critical bug can be fixed by soldering a short wire on the bottom side of the PCB:
One input pin was left floating by mistake, instead of tying it to ground level.


Manual Bug Fix on Bottom Side: Black Wire

Section #../doc/

How to Use

Thank you for trying Zerocat Chipflasher board-edition-1 with kick, the first firmware!

Zerocat Chipflasher is your free-design hardware tool for flashing free firmware to BIOS chips. See #../doc/ for supported chips and targets.

Hardware Features

Recommended Add-Ons in Case of Purchase

Typical Setup

The typical setup requires a host that has an RS232 serial port available, as the chipflasher board doesn't provide its USB port for data, it is used for power only.


Zerocat Chipflasher, typical setup with an Y-USB-Cable

We recommend to drive the flasher with a librebooted or corebooted 64bit X60 ThinkPad. These machines can be flashed with the flashrom user space utility. A serial port is part of their docking station.

A typical setup looks like this:

  1. Computer with RS232 port, i.e.:

    • ThinkPad X60 with Docking Station and coreboot/libreboot firmware
    • Intel D945GCLF board with coreboot, no blobs required
    • other blobless desktop boards like GA-945GCM-S2L and GA-G41M-ES2L
  2. The Zerocat Chipflasher

  3. supported SPI flash chip, a single one or one soldered in place on its system board (section #../doc/

  4. external USB-Power-Adapter (5V @ 1000mA) or at least two USB-ports from the computer.

You will use three cables for connection:

Setup with External USB Power Adapter

    +------------+                +-------------+           +·············+
    | Host, i.e. |                | Zerocat     |           +---------+   :
    |  X60 +     |                | Chipflasher |---+3.3V-->| SPI     |   :
    |  Docking   |<--RS232-data-->|             |<---SPI--->|  Chip   |   :
    |            |                | firmware:   |           +---------+   :
    | software:  |      +--+5V--->|  'kick'     |           :             :
    | 'connect'  |      |         +-------------+           : Systemboard :
    +------------+      |                                   : without     :
                    +--------------------+                  : Battery     :
                    | External USB Power |                  : nor Power   :
                    |  5V @ 1000mA       |                  +·············+

Setup with Non-standard Y-USB-Cable

    +------------+                +-------------+           +·············+
    | Host, i.e. |                | Zerocat     |           +---------+   :
    |  X60 +     |<--RS232 data-->| Chipflasher |---+3.3V-->| SPI     |   :
    |  Docking   |                |             |<---SPI--->|  Chip   |   :
    |            |----+-+5V-USB-->| firmware:   |           +---------+   :
    | software:  |   /            |  `kick'     |           :             :
    | `connect'  |--+             +-------------+           : Systemboard :
    |            |                                          : without     :
    +----------- +                                          : Battery     :
                                                            : nor Power   :

Power Supply

WARNING: Proceed on your own risk!

  1. Discharge your body (touch any grounded metal like a water pipe) and make sure your are not electrostatically charged.

  2. If you are flashing a sysboard:

    • Do not power the sysboard on, nor connect any power plug.
    • Remove the main battery
    • Unplug the small coin-battery
  3. Power and GND will be applied to the SPI-chip by the chipflasher board only.

    Make sure you have not mixed these wires!
    See ../hardware/gschem/chipflasher-page13.sch.png for pinouts.

  4. To power the chipflasher:

    • You may safely use your computer’s USB port according to official specs if you are going to flash a single desoldered chip.

    • In case of flashing chips in situ, soldered onto sysboards, please use an external USB-Power-Adapter (5VDC @ 1.000mA).

    • As a workaround, you may try a non-standard Y-USB-Cable which should work well in many cases, as the maximal requested current per USB port typically won't exceed 500mA. See ../doc/ to get into details.

Clock Quality

The Zerocat Chipflasher is a handmade tool with long wires/open case that may catch or generate electromagnetic interference. To give you an idea about clock pulse quality and speed, we probed the signals right at the test-clip for you. The maximal SPI clock speed should be above 2.5MHz.


Zerocat Chipflasher, typical clock pulse quality; here: 2.2MHz


The software connect and the firmware kick are talking to each other via serial RS232 lines. Occasional transmission errors will be repaired automatically. However, if you encounter severe connection problems that render you helpless when trying to verify your data, boot the host with WLAN and network switched off, make sure that no other resource demanding process will start up (e.g. browser), and try again.

As long as the SPI-Bus Status LED (red) is not active, the SPI-Chip is not powered and you may feel free to connect/disconnect your target. However, if the LED is active, don't touch the connection!

If the system hangs for any reason, you should be save to kill the chipflasher’s power, because all SPI bus pins are configured to enter a harmless tristate mode right at brown-out or power-off. However, you might notice some flickering¹ of the SPI-Power LED, so better do not rely on that procedure.

¹ fixed with Chipflasher v2 design


It is assumed that you have followed the steps mentioned in #../doc/ and now have two terminal windows available, with proper environments set up, i.e. Terminal#1 and Terminal#2.

Get Prepared

Connect host and chipflasher with each other, i.e. attach the Y-USB-power-cable to two USB-Ports, attach the RS232-data-cable.

Attach the SPI-cable, but omit the target board (or chip) for now.

  1. Switch the chipflasher device on and verify that the power status LED is bright.

  2. Use a screwdriver to adjust the flasher’s CE# pull-up resistor to its clock-wise maximal position, that is to its biggest value.

  3. Attach the free pinheader connectors of the SPI-cable to the SPI-Chip...

    • by using the 8-pin DIL-socket for discrete chips,
    • by using a test-clip for chips in place,
    • or by connecting previously soldered, flying wires.

    WARNING: You must not mix wires! See ../hardware/gschem/chipflasher-page13.sch.png and check pinouts in advance.

Operate the Chipflasher

Change the directory to ease operation:

    [env]$ cd ../host/start/

Get familiar with targets, provided by ../host/start/Makefile:

    [env]$ make help

Get familiar with targets, provided by ../host/start/

    [env]$ make help

The flasher is operated via two terminal windows in parallel:

Feel free to switch between terminals as required.

Try a Real Target

  1. In Terminal#1, select d: probe chip in order to probe the BIOS-chip for its ID:


    Screenshot: Probe Chip

    Use a screwdriver in counter-clock-wise direction to adjust the CE# pull-up resistor to smaller values until your chip gets clearly detected. See #../doc/

  2. Select ?: show menu to get a verbose menu output:


    Screenshot: Show Menu

  3. Select c: read chip in order to store chip’s content in your first chip2file.txt.

    WARNING: Consider to create backups between read operations, as file chip2file.txt gets overwritten without prompt!

  4. Switch to Terminal#2 in order to monitor and manipulate in- and outgoing chip data.

  5. Continue to Operate the Flasher via Menu (Terminal#1)

    You may now use the menu for dumping, erasing, flashing, verifying your chip. Check register bits for appropriate configurations.

    WARNING: Proceed with care, you may brick your machine!
    Potentially dangerous hotkeys are all upper case, thus protecting you from accidental key hits as long as <CAPS-LOCK> is inactive.

    When using the menu, wait until your selected procedure finishes.
    With q: cancel/(SPI-Bus off)/quit you may cancel it at any time.

  6. When done, hit q in order to quit connect.

    NOTE: In case the SPI bus has been left powered after chip detection due to volatile bits in status registers, it is powered off as an intermediate step before you actually quit the program with an additional q.

  7. Detach the SPI-cables from the target SPI-chip and power off the flasher device.

    Remember to plug a system board’s coin-battery back in.


Onboard EEPROM (Terminal#1)

Until now, we have taken care to always start from free-design RAM using the make -C ../host/start/ kick/connect-ram-v1 command. The pre-flashed firmware in the onboard EEPROM has not been touched, yet.

If you want to try the pre-flashed firmware, type:

    [env]$ make -C ../host/start/ connect-eeprom

If you want to upload a newly built firmware and make things permanent, type:

    [env]$ make -C ../host/start/ kick/connect-eeprom-v1

Custom Invocation of connect (Terminal#1)

Alternately, you might invoke the connect utility manually:

  1. Clean folders, reset the configuration:

        [env]$ make -C ../firmware1/src/ clean
        [env]$ make -C ../host/src/ clean
  2. Configure the desired baudrate, e.g:

        [env]$ make -C ../host/start/ config-baud57600
  3. Compile kick and connect:

        [env]$ make -C ../firmware1/src/ config-BOARD_V1
        [env]$ make -C ../firmware1/src/ kick
        [env]$ make -C ../host/src/ connect
  4. Adjust the port pointer, e.g.:

        [env]$ ln -sf /dev/ttyS1 ../host/start/tty_port_pointer
  5. Upload kick, the firmware:

        [env]$ make -C ../firmware1/start/ kick-ram
  6. Invoke connect with matching parameters, i.e.:

        [env]$ ./connect \
            ../firmware1/start/chip-out.txt \
            ../firmware1/start/chip-in.txt \
            ../host/start/tty_port_pointer \
  7. In order to process in- and outgoing data via ../host/start/, update ROOT_HOST_IO, CHIP2FILE and FILE2CHIP according to your choices.

Section #../doc/


It makes a difference whether you attach a discrete SPI flash chip to the chipflasher or whether you connect a chip-in-situ, which is soldered onto a system board. In the latter case, you will have to test a real life condition - just developing according to chip’s datasheet is not sufficient. Please compare to: ../doc/

This file lists chips and system boards that have been successfully tested.

TODO: For some chips, the block protection mechanism is not fully supported.

TODO: We focus on Standard-SPI. Dual-SPI or Quad-SPI is not implemented.

Single SPI Flash Chips

Please compare to: ../firmware/src/libkick/chipspec.c






System Boards

Not Yet Supported

These laptops are of special interest, because they have the same CPU-Chipset combination (Core Duo or Core2Duo and i945 Northbrigde) as the ThinkPad X60, which is known to lack the Manageability Engine completely. Unfortunately, these machines are not yet supported by coreboot.

Please compare to:

Section #../doc/

Software Tools

This is a short list of software tools which are required...

If GNU Guix is available or if you are on GNU Guix System, type

    $ guix environment --pure -m guix/manifest.scm

to create a shell environment with all prerequisites set up. In case anything fails, the manifest file provides guix channel information to ease replication of guix itself.

Note this project is developed on GNU Guix System, thus the most recent state of art might fail on Trisquel due to unsupported tool versions, e.g.:

Please consider to install the GNU Guix Package Manager on top of Trisquel.


Generate the Documentation

Extra Tools for Device Operation

Optional Tools

Section #../doc/

Parallax’ Tools for the Propeller Microcontroller

Parallax provides a bunch of tools, i.e.:

“Simple Libraries” Library Folder v1.2.0-5-c4f9a3e

The “Simple Libraries” folder is required.

File ../firmware/src/Makefile offers a target to clone the Parallax Simple-Libraries repository, checked out at commit c4f9a3e273002ec5e6f8b1d1ab95c14cb1823e82:

    $ make setup-lib-parallax

The library folder will then be available as:

    ../firmware/src/parallaxinc/Simple-Libraries/Learn/Simple Libraries/

Subfolders are passed as arguments to propeller-elf-gcc.

More recent versions of this folder lead to bigger binaries and are not yet usable for the chipflasher firmware.

Tool Installation via GNU Guix

GNU Guix provides a very comfortable way to...

Please install the GNU Guix package manager on top of your system, if not already. The GNU Guix project recommends installation using the latest release binary, which can be downloaded here: The instructions are linked there too. Alternatly, run GNU Guix System.

Alternatives & Resources

“SimpleIDE 1.0 RC1” Binary Package

With this binary package, all tools are bundled together. The latest packaged release for GNU/Linux is 1.0 RC1 from 11-24-2014.

Until more recent source repositories of these tools will work, Parallax suggests to install this old binary package “SimpleIDE 1.0 RC1” as a fallback.

This package is too old for Trisquel 10.0.1, dependencies cannot be resolved :-/


Please visit page SimpleIDE Software for Linux, which provides binary packages for both, 32 and 64 bit architectures.

For your convenience, we provide a shortcut to the ZIP file here:

    $ wget \
    $ unzip

Former Linux Installation Instructions

For your convenience, we provide our backup of former installation instructions, that are known to work.

Related Source Repositories

Original repositories of the first bundle release (SimpleIDE 1.0 RC1):

New Source Repositories

These are newer repositories from David Betz.

Until these repositories will work, Parallax suggests to install the old binary package “SimpleIDE 1.0 RC1” as a fallback.

Section #../doc/

RS232 Cable Pinouts

These RS232 data cables have been used during development. Their pinouts are provided here in the hope they will be useful.

Number 1) and 2) seem to be the best, for they have proper grounding of GND and Protective GND. Usual length of each cable is about 100cm.

All pin names reflect their function from the host’s point of view (DTE pin labels). See chipflasher-page11.sch or chipflasher-page11.sch.png for more details.

Pin Functions and Zerocat Connect Usage

    DTE Function        | DTE pin label | DTE pin | DCE pin | Zerocat Connect Usage (Host)
    ------------        | ------------- | ------- | ------- | ----------------------------
    Carrier Detect      | CD            | 1       | 1       | not used
    Data Set Ready      | DSR           | 6       | 2       | not used
    Receive Data        | RXD           | 2       | 3       | receive data
    Request To Send     | RTS           | 7       | 4       | alternative reset line
    Transmit Data       | TXD           | 3       | 5       | transmit data
    Clear To Send       | CTS           | 8       | 6       | not used
    Data Terminal Ready | DTR           | 4       | 7       | default reset line
    Ring Indicator      | RI            | 9       | 8       | not used
    Ground              | GND           | 5       | 9       | gnd, power return

1) Cable with 9 Wires and Shield

    DTE pin label               | DTE pin | colour | DCE pin
    -------------               | ------- | ------ | -------
    CD                          | 1       | brown  | 1
    DSR                         | 6       | grey   | 2
    RXD                         | 2       | blue   | 3
    RTS                         | 7       | green  | 4
    TXD                         | 3       | red    | 5
    CTS                         | 8       | yellow | 6
    DTR                         | 4       | violet | 7
    RI                          | 9       | orange | 8
    GND                         | 5       | black  | 9
    PGND                        | 5       | shield |

2) Keyboard Cable with 4 Wires and Shield

    DTE pin label               | DTE pin | colour | DCE pin
    -------------               | ------- | ------ | -------
    RXD                         | 2       | white  | 3
    TXD                         | 3       | red    | 5
    DTR                         | 4       | green  | 7
    GND                         | 5       | yellow | 9
    PGND                        | 5       | shield |

3) Mouse Cable with 5 Wires

    DTE pin label | DTE pin | colour | DCE pin
    ------------- | ------- | ------ | -------
    RXD           | 2       | brown  | 3
    RTS           | 7       | white  | 4
    TXD           | 3       | orange | 5
    DTR           | 4       | green  | 7
    GND           | 5       | blue   | 9

4) Mouse Cable with 6 Wires

    DTE pin label | DTE pin | colour | DCE pin
    ------------- | ------- | ------ | -------
    DSR           | 6       | white  | 2
    RXD           | 2       | black  | 3
    RTS           | 7       | yellow | 4
    TXD           | 3       | brown  | 5
    DTR           | 4       | red    | 7
    GND           | 5       | orange | 9
Section #../doc/

Version History

This history gives you a version overview of the chipflasher firmware, software and documentation – in contrast to its hardware, which is represented by files under the ../hardware folder. To see the version history of the hardware, please check #../doc/ instead.

Version Scheme


NOTE: Tags are using the first three numbers only, i.e. v0.1.0.

A fully qualified version description thus might look like this:






This version takes advantage from updated files under ../hardware/, see ../doc/



Branch firmware2-wip has been merged into master.

As a result, the second firmware approach called kick2 is available in ../firmware2/src/, whereas the default firmware called kick is offered in ../firmware/src/ just as before.

Both programs are configured to start with an interface to connect, this project’s own host utility.

Follow advices in ../doc/ to build the complete documentation.

If interested in trying kick2 with its interface to flashrom, checkout branch flashrom-interface and see what has been achieved.









This version is ready to be run on GNU Guix System.







NOTE: This version works best with board versions board-edition-1 and board-v1.2.0.





This version works best in conjunction with board version board-edition-1, please compare to #../doc/


This version works best in conjunction with board-v1.1.0.

Note that older boards may still be used, but the configuration file should be modified according to twisted pin functions.



Improve hardware documentation...


Make the chipflasher repository freely distributable...


Yep, this is a real version! It comes with a complete set of licenses.


Unfortunately, version v0.2.1 introduced a severe bug, due to exorbitant HUB-RAM usage. The system will hang. This commit reverts the commit that introduced that bug and reduces code size by 20 bytes. Now, flashing should work fine although we are still pretty much at the edge.


Important bugfixes for chip readouts:

New features:


This version must be used with board-v1.0.0 and later, however board-v1.0.5 is recommended due to its pnp MOSFET.


This version may be used with all v0-boards (i.e. below board-v1.0.0), usage is probably limited to X60/X60s and X200/X200s sysboards.

Section #../doc/

Board Version History

This history gives you a version overview of the chipflasher hardware in contrast to its firmware or host utility software. The chipflasher hardware is represented by files under the ../hardware folder, most prominently to mention the ../hardware/gschem/chipflasher-page??.sch circuit schematic files. To see the history of firmware, software and documentation, please check #../doc/ instead.

Board Version Scheme


NOTE: Tags are using the first three numbers only, i.e. board-v0.1.0.

NOTE: There may be exceptions, which do not follow the Board Version Scheme.

Changes, not yet Tagged






The PCB of this version still is fully compatible with board-v1.1.0 and board-edition-1. Set jumper across J4:2 and J4:3.




We continue to use the unmodified PCB of tag board-v1.1.0.


We continue to use the unmodified PCB of tag board-v1.1.0.


Same as board-edition-1, but we resume the Board Version Scheme as described above. This helps us to avoid ambiguities from now on as the version board-edition-1 is RYF-Certified and must not be linked to any changed content. Note the front panel sticker has been updated accordingly.

We continue to use the unmodified PCB of tag board-v1.1.0.


General info:

Upgraded comments in ../hardware/gschem/board.sch:

Device upgrades as drop-in replacements in ../hardware/gschem/board.sch allow us to access the sysboard of a ThinkPad T60 while access to a ThinkPad X60/X60s sysboard now works more reliable as well:



The file ../hardware/pcb/board.pcb has been reverted to version board-v1.1.0 which allows us to use already manufactured PCBs in conjunction with updated files and front-label version tags.



A second linear power regulator has been added, which separates the Propeller’s supply from that of the SPI bus. That way, the chipflasher is independend from power failure due to high inrush currents when the target sysboard is powered.

That allows as well to enable the Propeller’s built-in Brown-Out-Detection: Pins keep a well defined level even if the supply voltage is not certain, a very usual situation during power-off.

Furthermore, a simple overcurrent and overvoltage protection has been added right behind the USB power entry. A Polyfuse is used, which limits the maximal USB current to about 1000mA. Currents of up to 500mA are well in range, which is enough for all tested boards except the ThinkPad-X60s sysboard. However, the latter still can be flashed although current consumption is throttled to around 700mA by the Polyfuse. (Note that the related developer board (board-dev.sch) is equipped with a 0.025Ohms PowerShunt which facilitates overall current measurement.)

NOTE: This version ships with a first elaborated pcb layout file, which is untested by the time of writing.

WARNING: To ease pcb layout, two pins have been twisted, thus requiring the updated firmware version v0.3.0 (See #../doc/ for details.)


The pnp transistor has been replaced by a pnp MOSFET, because when flashing the X220 the transistor gets too hot.


Add standard SPI chip layout examples, which are handy to have available when connecting the SPI-Cable.


Small bug fix: A junction had been misplaced.


Generate new devices numbers, they will be used in the bill of materials (


Update SPI cable to new SPI connector layout.

WARNING: This should be regarded as a major hardware change! Upgrading your firmware is required!


This board supports more sysboards.

This board requires a firmware update.


Board with protection diodes across power regulator, in preparation for next board version.


First Tandem-Workshop. Board with different SPI connector, uses 5x2 pinheader.


Starts from RAM as well.


Reset line is DTR or RTS (optional).


First board that has been shipped for testing.



Initial board.

Section #../doc/

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    with the Invariant Sections being LIST THEIR TITLES, with the
    Front-Cover Texts being LIST, and with the Back-Cover Texts being LIST.

If you have Invariant Sections without Cover Texts, or some other combination of the three, merge those two alternatives to suit the situation.

If your document contains nontrivial examples of program code, we recommend releasing these examples in parallel under your choice of free software license, such as the GNU General Public License, to permit their use in free software.