Friday, May 23, 2008

HP BIOS update madness

Say you wanted to update the BIOS on a colleague's HP nc6230. You go to the HP website to find a "ROMPaq for HP Notebook System BIOS (68DTA) – FreeDOS Bootable Diskette", which sounds exactly like what you'd want to download.
Well, follow that link and you'll get a file called sp35281.exe. Does not look like a floppy image at all.
So let's find out what it is:

~> file sp35281.exe
sp35281.exe: MS-DOS executable PE for MS Windows (GUI) Intel 80386 32-bit

Damn. A Windows executable, just to create a floppy image...
But there is always wine, so we'll start it with that...

...long story short: it is some kind of self-extracting archive, which extracts an executable (of course for Windows, not DOS...), which then will write the image to the floppy disk.

There would probably be the possibility to configure wine to use a floppy image as drive A:, but fortunately this was not necessary. Examining the rom.exe, not even too closely gives:

~> du -b .wine/drive_c/SWSetup/sp35281/rom.exe
1502208 .wine/drive_c/SWSetup/sp35281/rom.exe

Which is exactly the size of a floppy disk image (1474560 Bytes) plus 27kB.
Just guessing, i extracted the last 1440kB from the executable:

tux@d173:~> dd of=floppy.img bs=1k skip=27
tux@d173:~> file floppy.img
floppy.img: DOS floppy 1440k, x86 hard disk boot sector

Voilá - a bootable floppy image. Now i only hope for HP to start recognizing that they are doing no favour to their customers by obfuscating their BIOS updates like that...

Friday, May 16, 2008

Cool new machine for me

My boss was a good easter bunny. A little bit late, but the gift he brought was all the better: a brand new HP Compaq 2510p notebook (see e.g. for the gory technical details).

It came with the "small" 6 cell battery, which lasts for over 5 hours without any aggressive power management employed, later i got the "big" 9 cell battery which lasts well over 8 hours. Who says size doesn't matter? ;)

I additionally got the HP hs2300 HSDPA Wireless module (which is very much just a rebranded Sierra Wireless MC8775 with different USB IDs) for which i already sent patches upstream for the Linux kernel and HAL, so that it will work out of the box with openSUSE 11.0.

What can i say? This is an amazing little machine.
LED backlit 12.1" display (why do the HP marketing guys call it "illumi-lite" instead of just plain saying "LED backlight"? It has an ambient light sensor which adjusts the display brightness automatically and works very well for me, but it can be switched off with a key combination.
The internal HSDPA card has an amazingly good reception - much better than all the external PCMCIA / ExpressCard cards i had so far. This might be due to the better antenna built into the display, but i don't care why - it just works much better. Additionally, it does not consume a noticeable amount of the battery unless it is really used for transmitting data. I cannot say this of any of the external solutions.
The Ultra Low Voltage Processor is not a performance monster, but it performs at least as well as the ThinkPad X32 (Pentium M 1.8GHz) i had before, and it additionally has VT extensions nicely usable with KVM and qemu-kvm, combined with the 2GB of RAM it is more than suitable for my needs.

Everything on this machine works just fine: the intel 4965 wireless, the bluetooth adapter, suspend to RAM and suspend to disk - everything. Apart from that, it is really portable and still has a built in DVD burner - what else can you demand from your friendly easter bunny?


P.S.: of course, all this is with the current openSUSE Factory. There was a Vista Business installed on the machine, but after fiddling around with that for a few hours, to get it small enough to resize the Partition to less than 10GB, i never booted that again, i just was not impressed by it at all.