Updating Crucial MX100 Firmware with Ubuntu

There has been a Firmware update for the Crucial MX100 to MU02. In case you are running Ubuntu there is an easy way to perform the update without using a CD or USB Stick.

As the firmware comes in form of an iso image containing Tiny Core Linux, we can instruct grub2 to directly boot from it. Here is how:

1. append the following to /etc/grub.d/40_custom:
menuentry "MX100 FW Update" {
# assuming your home is on /dev/sda3 ATTENTION: change this so it matches your setup

Building the program

To trigger a rebuild of the program simply execute

dpkg-buildpackage

To upload a package to a PPA you first need to sign it to prove that you are the author. To do this you have to execute the following in the <packagename><newversion> directory

debuild -S

sudo apt-get install dput

Now change to <somedir> and execute

dput ppa:<your_username>/<repository> <source.changes>

Secure Owncloud setup

While the Owncloud Manual suggests enabling SSL, it unfortunately does not go into detail how to get a secure setup. The core problem is that the default SSL settings of Apache are not sane as in they do not enforce strong encryption. Furthermore the used default certificate will not match your server name and produce errors in the browser.

In the following a short guide in how to set-up a secure Apache 2.4 server for Owncloud will be presented.

The Big Picture

Android consists of three parts relevant to rooting

2. recovery system
3. main system

typically only the main system is running, that is the Linux Kernel, the launcher, the phone app etc.. If we talk about rooting, that means we want to add an additional app to the main system which may access secured parts of the main system and also acts as a gatekeeper for other apps that want to get access too.

The problem is that we need access to the secure parts of the system in order to do so, which means that we cant simply install that app (e.g. an apk) from within the main system.

This means we have to go one level down. This is where the recovery system is. Typically you do not see it, as it is only active when the main system can not run – either because a system update is installed or because you do a factory reset.
As the recovery system can do a full system update, it means that it has also access to the secured parts of the main system – exactly what we need. Unfortunately the stock recovery system does not allow installing apps, so we have to replace it.

The bootloader is a tiny piece of software which decides wether to start the recovery or the main system (or another main system, like Ubuntu Phone). But in the default configuration in only starts systems that it knows and trusts. In this configuration the bootloader is called locked. Although it prevents malicious software to change the phone and spy on us, it also prevents us from replacing the recovery system. This concept is also coming to the PC btw where it is called secure-boot.

Here is a graphical overview of the Android components:

So what we need to do in order to get root access is

2. replace the recovery system
3. install a superuser app

Note that unlocking the bootloader also allows attackers to circumvent any of the android security features. It is possible directly access all the files on the phone from the bootloader.
Therefore android will wipe all userdata when the bootloader is unlocked

Preparations

First you need to install the fastboot binary to be able to perform low-level communication with the device

apt-get install android-tools-fastboot

Next you have to allow non-root users to execute commands over USB, so you do not have to run fastboot as root. For this create the file

/etc/udev/rules.d/51-android.rules

with the following content

SUBSYSTEM=="usb", ATTR{idVendor}=="<VENDOR>", MODE="0666", GROUP="plugdev"

you can find the value for <VENDOR> on the page linked here.

Finally you have to reboot into fastboot mode. Usually there is a key combination you have to press on startup.

Remember this key combination as you will need some more times.

Samsung Devices however, like the Galaxy S3, do not support the fastboot mode – instead they have a download mode, which uses a proprietary Samsung protocol. To flash those you have to use the Heimdall tool. While this article does not cover the heimdall CLI calls, the general discussion still applies.

for google devices, like a Nexus 4 or Nexus 7 it is just

fastboot oem unlock

if you have a Sony Xperia device, like a Xperia Z, you additionally have to request a unlock key and then do

fastboot oem unlock 0x<KEY>

where <KEY> is the key you obtained.

Replacing the Recovery System

There are two prominent alternative recovery systems with the ability to install apps

Clock Work Mod (CWM) is probably most known so we will use that one. From the Website linked above download the recovery image which fits your phone.
Here you have the choice between the ordinary recovery which uses the volume buttons of your device for navigation and the touch recovery which supports the touch screen.

fastboot flash recovery <RECOVERY>.img

where <RECOVERY> is the name of the file you downloaded. For instance for a Nexus 5 and CWM 6.0.4.5 it would be

fastboot flash recovery recovery-clockwork-6.0.4.5-hammerhead.img

Installing the superuser app

To my knowledge the only one superuser app that works with Android 5.0 lollipop is SuperSU. So we will have to use that. However there is also a pull-request for Superuser by CWM which might make it also work with Android 5.0 in the future.

The installation procedure is a little bit different. In the appropriate package for your device you will find a boot image which we have just to start once with

fastboot boot image/CF-Auto-Root-hammerhead-hammerhead-nexus5.img

note that there is no flash in the line above. The image which starts contains a script which installs SuperSU and modifies the startup procedure so it can get around SELinux.

Pre Android 5.0 lollipop

If you run devices with Adroid older than 5.0 lollipop you have several choices here

although SuperSU is the most prominent one, I would recommend getting Superuser by CWM, as it is open source and also nag-free as there is no “pro” version of it.

To install we need to get this zip archive and copy it to the device. To install it, we need to reboot into fastboot mode and then select “Recovery Mode” to get to the recovery system. Once in Recovery mode select

install zip -> choose zip from /sdcard

then browse and select the “superuser.zip” you just copied.

Once installed select

Go Back -> reboot system now

Once the system has started you should have a “Superuser” App on your device. Congratulations, you are done.

Optional: flash stock recovery

As the recovery is responsible for installing system updates it is a good idea to revert to stock version after you installed root, so the system can auto-update itself again. However a system update will also remove your superuser app so you will have to repeat the above procedure again.

If you have a Google Nexus Device, you can grab the factory images here.  There you will find a image of the stock recovery and restore it by

fastboot flash recovery recovery.img

Debugging native code with ndk-gdb using standalone CMake toolchain

I recently ran into this problem and could not find any good solution on the Internet. So next comes a small summary of the problem with hopefully enough buzzwords, so Google can lead you here.

If you want to do C++ development on Android, you need the NDK for cross compilation. It comes by default with its own build system called ndk-build, which basically is a bunch of custom makefiles. But if you are sharing code between the Android Platform and lets say plain Linux, you have likely already a build system installed. For C/C++ CMake is quite popular as it supports different platforms and compilers. Fortunately there is already a project which adds Android support to CMake. I will not cover that – instead I assume you are using it already.

Unfortunately you cant use the ndk-gdb script supplied with the NDK to debug your application as it relies on the behaviour of ndk-build. But as said earlier, ndk-build is no wizardy, but just a bunch of scripts. So it is possible to emulate the behaviour using CMake, as following:

macro(ndk_gdb_debuggable TARGET_NAME)
get_property(TARGET_LOCATION TARGET ${TARGET_NAME} PROPERTY LOCATION) # create custom target that depends on the real target so it gets executed afterwards add_custom_target(NDK_GDB ALL) add_dependencies(NDK_GDB${TARGET_NAME})

set(GDB_SOLIB_PATH ${PROJECT_SOURCE_DIR}/obj/local/${ANDROID_NDK_ABI_NAME}/)

# 1. generate essential Android Makefiles
file(WRITE ${PROJECT_SOURCE_DIR}/jni/Android.mk "APP_ABI :=${ANDROID_NDK_ABI_NAME}\n")
file(WRITE ${PROJECT_SOURCE_DIR}/jni/Application.mk "APP_ABI :=${ANDROID_NDK_ABI_NAME}\n")

# 2. generate gdb.setup
get_directory_property(PROJECT_INCLUDES DIRECTORY ${PROJECT_SOURCE_DIR} INCLUDE_DIRECTORIES) string(REGEX REPLACE ";" " " PROJECT_INCLUDES "${PROJECT_INCLUDES}")
file(WRITE ${PROJECT_SOURCE_DIR}/libs/${ANDROID_NDK_ABI_NAME}/gdb.setup "set solib-search-path ${GDB_SOLIB_PATH}\n") file(APPEND${PROJECT_SOURCE_DIR}/libs/${ANDROID_NDK_ABI_NAME}/gdb.setup "directory${PROJECT_INCLUDES}\n")

# 3. copy gdbserver executable
file(COPY ${ANDROID_NDK}/prebuilt/android-arm/gdbserver/gdbserver DESTINATION${PROJECT_SOURCE_DIR}/libs/${ANDROID_NDK_ABI_NAME}/) # 4. copy lib to obj add_custom_command(TARGET NDK_GDB POST_BUILD COMMAND mkdir -p${GDB_SOLIB_PATH})
add_custom_command(TARGET NDK_GDB POST_BUILD COMMAND cp ${TARGET_LOCATION}${GDB_SOLIB_PATH})

# 5. strip symbols
add_custom_command(TARGET NDK_GDB POST_BUILD COMMAND ${CMAKE_STRIP}${TARGET_LOCATION})
endmacro()

Then use it like

add_library(YourTarget ...)
ndk_gdb_debuggable(YourTarget)


You should now be able to use ndk-gdb with CMake, just as if you would have used ndk-build.

Note that steps 4 and 5 are optional for debugging. They just reduce the size of the library that has to be transferred to the device. If you dont care, you can just leave them out. But then the solib search path from step 2 must be set to:

file(WRITE ./libs/${ANDROID_NDK_ABI_NAME}/gdb.setup "set solib-search-path ./libs/${ANDROID_NDK_ABI_NAME}\n")

Ideally someone should integrate that in the Android toolchain linked above.

Update Merged Upstream

GNOME Project suffering the NIH disease

When I first read about GNOME dropping support for BSD and Solaris, my impression was that this is a good idea to aiming to unify limit resources and get the work done. I was also excited about the idea of the GNOME OS. I think it is necessary to keep the big picture in mind when developing the different components. Previously Ubuntu was the only project that did this and it was also the reason why I started using Ubuntu. Because it made the different parts of Linux work together to achieve the big goal of a great overall system.

But then things started to go wrong. Instead of picking existing components and giving them the final polish like Ubuntu did before, the GNOME project started developing things from scratch without any apparent reason to do so. And even worse: incompatible to existing solutions. It started with the rejection of the appindicator specification implemented by Ubuntu and KDE. At that point it was not clear to me whether the specification was broken or whether the responsible people at GNOME were just ignorant.

Then came systemd. And it started to be apparent that unfortunately it was the latter. To my knowledge Ubuntu is the biggest deployment of GNOME and it is based around the Linux ecosystem. So dropping support for Ubuntu has nothing to do with unifying limited resources. Ubuntu is your target audience, so if you should try to collaborate with a project you should collaborate with Ubuntu. My opinion on that is that some Fedora developers were pissed that the Unity interface was exclusive for Ubuntu and instead of packaging it for Fedora they started making GNOME Shell exclusive for Fedora.

Next I read about the overlay scrollbars re-developed for GNOME. While the first reaction might be the developers simply do not want to use Ubuntu technology, I think the reason is different. The developer does not seem to have any antipathy towards Ubuntu and if we look at the project he developed the scrollbars for another explanation becomes visible.

But first lets take a step back. Lets take a look at the core of GNOME. By this I mean the programming language it is written in. It is C/GObject; plain C extended with naming conventions and libraries to allow modern paradigms such as object oriented programming and events/ observer pattern. From today’s perspective one might wonder why one should choose this over C++, which integrates most of the features at the language level. But back when the GNOME project started C++ was not mature yet which meant that your program might break with the next compiler update or even the next STL update.

Therefore basing your project on plain C was a good idea. But a few years back it became obvious that programming in C/GObject seriosly lacked behind more modern programming languages like C++, Java and C# for application development.

Unfortunately instead of moving the straightforward route from C to C++, which most of C developers took when C++ matured(that was about 10 years ago), Vala was born.

So instead of using a proven and mature foundation, a new layer of indirection was created to essentially provide the same feature set. Commonly this is referred to as the “not invented here” symptom. A more derogative phrase would be reinventing the wheel..

What is sad here is that being an open source project, GNOME disregards the biggest advantage of open source software, namely standing on the shoulders of giants. With open source software you can use take an existing solution and improve upon it. This way you get the base functionality as well as the bug fixes that went in it for free. If you would develop it from scratch, you most likely would have to fix the same bugs again yourself.

To sum up here is what GNOME is losing right now

• 30 years of language and library experience by using Vala instead of C++
• 5 years of deployment and bug fixing by using systemd instead of extending upstart
• 1 year of development testing and design if they reimplement overlay-scrollbars
• 8 years of foundation development that went into Eclipse, by developing Gnome Builder from scratch
• but most importantly: the synergy effects by collaborating with others

Do not get me wrong, I am not saying that the GNOME solutions could be replaced by existing solutions – I am saying that by extending existing solutions the GNOME project and the free software landscape would be better off as a whole.

Tablet PCs – a chance for Maemo?

I just have watched the Apple iPad announcement and I have to say that I am quite impressed by the Apple marketing team. Before the film I could not think of a good use case for a oversized iPod, but after the film I have to say that Apple greatly refined the use case of the netbooks as a second PC.

Instead of putting an ordinary OS into a differently shaped device, like Microsoft is seemingly doing with the Slate, Apple adjusted the OS to the new use case.

If you have a much smaller screen and a much smaller keyboard, like you have on netbooks, you don’t want to write long articles or aim for the tiny buttons of ordinary user interfaces. Instead one should of a netbook like a playback device, which only requires rudimentary interaction.

As apple is great at streamlining stuff, they simply left out the keyboard and used a modified version of the iPhone OS, which is optimized for easy usage and – voilla here comes the computer you actually want to use in your living room, to quickly peek on facebook or your mail inbox.

But there are two big disadvantages that come with using the iPhone OS. First it is stripped down to much; there is no multitasking and no system clipboard which takes a lot of the convenience you have when using a real OS.

And second you are again locked-in by apple. If you use the iPad, you are also more or less forced to use iTunes for your music, iBook Store for your eBook and the AppStore if you want new Software.

Of course you might be able to Jailbreak the device and use third-party software but this will be nowhere as convenient as using the defaults. This is Apples Achilles heel and where Maemo can triumph.

With Maemo you basically have a full-fledged Linux with a easy to use UI. You have multitasking, you have a system clipboard and most importantly you have an open software repository – and all of this very well integrated in the UI.

You can freely choose your email provide, your music player and even the format you save your music in. And even though Nokia does not support OGG by default, the open nature of the OS allows it to be just as integrated as everything else.

Actually Nokia only has to build a Internet Tablet with the size of the iPad…