Wall of technical text ahead. Contains some rambling as well.
I’m working on merging the X230 FHD patch (finally) into coreboot master. More info can be found on my X230 BIOS repo. As an FOSS (free and open-source) enthusiast and an amateur developer, I’m looking to merge the patch into Heads, osboot and Skulls. These are super cool FOSS projects that is missing on the X330.
As a side note, the gigabit ethernet firmware can actually be generated for the X230, with a user definable MAC address. This means that the only blobs needed for coreboot is the Intel Firmware Descriptor (IFD) and the Management Engine (ME). Both are exactly the same across all X230, meaning that there are now no unique portions of the BIOS that needs to be dumped and extracted from your machine, bringing the X230 one step closer to being truly libre.
There is also crazy stuff like modifying the X230 EEPROM chip size. Instead of concatenating 2 SOIC-8 chips, the board actually allows for one big chip, which allows for even more cool stuff to be done.
As an introduction, 1vyrain is a series of automated exploit that unlocks the BIOS region allowing you to overwrite and write your own BIOS image. This allows anyone to flash anything into this region, including unlocked stock BIOS and even coreboot images.
As the stock 1vyrain does not supply coreboot, I’m looking into building my own derivative to enable anyone to install coreboot with one click. Even Heads can be injected into this image, although you’ll need a hardware flasher to reinstall the image since Heads locks down the image by default.
My goal is to supply IFD unlocked X230 in the future with coreboot installed by default, and you can use a helper script or a bootable liveCD to flash your own firmware. An even more outlandish idea is to leverage the pinmod (HAP=1) to enable IFD to be writable once. It’s demonstrated here.
The only caveat with the X230 is that the stock firmware does not boot with a pre-unlocked IFD, meaning that the X230 is unable to flash the entire EEPROM chip internally from the stock BIOS.
I’ll be pushing out a new update with a flashable .img file that you can write to a thumbdrive and flash. Apparently Intel supplies UEFI-bootable flash image tool (FIT) enabling a fully automated BIOS flashing experience.
I’m currently experimenting with an X270. It’s reballed and resoldered with an 8th gen chip (an i3-8130u for testing). It’s not bootable for now as the BIOS does not contain the right microcode to boot it but I’m looking into modifying the BIOS to enable a fully bootable 8th gen quad-core X270. With a FHD 13.3″ panel and 32GB RAM, it’s one of the smallest, most powerful machine out there with a 96WH battery. It also preserves the last of the TP design with removable battery and RAM.
This CPU upgrade also has the advantage of removing Intel Boot Guard so if any developers are keen on porting coreboot to this machine, please let me know and I’ll gladly sponsor a full laptop for this task.
As a move towards more FOSS laptops, I’ll be pushing out custom T440p as well. With a PGA (swappable) CPU, you can pick any CPU you want. Of course, the laptop is modified with a dual heatpipe custom fan, T450 trackpad, dual 2.5″ and a low power 400 nits FHD panel. The motherboard will further have an additional M.2 2242 PCIe3.0 slot under the keyboard which is actually mapped with PCIe lanes. This enables the motherboard to read an NVMe drive natively, beating the stock SATA 6gbps SSDs in speed.
It will of course come with coreboot which will enable it to boot from the NVMe SSD as well as using Heads on the laptop.
Recelling older batteries
As older laptop batteries are getting more and more difficult to acquire that are of good quality, I’m personally looking into recelling and rebuilding these batteries. This will not be for-profit, as the time and effort put into doing this will far outweigh the cost of these batteries. To acquire cheap cells for these batteries, a lightly used modern OEM battery will be shucked for its cheap cells and they are rebuilt into the older chassis. The older battery controllers will need to be unlocked which involves using dodgy tools from sketchy websites (OEM tools). In short, an overly complex process that really should not be that difficult.
The X230 redux motherboard is still on and not abandoned. It’s delayed though and unfortunately I’m busy with quite a bit of things right now. However, I’m open to all opinions and ideas, and I would like to crowdfund this in the future on a larger platform like crowdsupply. I’ve not launched any of these projects there before as they were all collaborations and I’m not the main person in charge of these projects. However, the X230 will be defined by me and led by me, and I fully intent to push for the best firmware and software experience possible.