Bricking & Unbricking a Dell Inspiron Mini 9

I dusted off an old Dell Mini 9 netbook I had lying around, I’d stopped using it as the netbook refused to charge its battery once it’d run down completely (easily do-able if the machine is used lightly & could go up to a month without use), after the second battery It happend to, I gave up on it.
A side effect of the battery being run down was that it was not possible to flash the BIOS through windows, Phoenix WinPhlash refuses to write to the flash if there is no battery detected & exits with error code: -144.
This is not an issue on DOS using the phlash16 utility. Here lies a different kind of madness, as it’s attempting to write to the flash it stops using the mains & switches to battery power source, which if you have an unchargable battery results in bricking the netbook.
At this point, you can perform a flash recovery using a boot floppy containing a special boot sector, the phlash16 utility, some library and a copy of the image to flash named as BIOS.WPH generated with the BIOS recovery tool.
To initiate the recovery mode, the power and battery need to be removed, a USB floppy drive connected (of the left hand side ports only the USB port closest to the SD card reader worked on mine). With the Fn & B keys held down on the keyboard, connect the power whilst continuing to hold the keys down. At this point the power light should switch on. Press the power button & when you hear a beep, let go of the keyboard keys.
After a moment the system will begin reading the floppy & once reflashing commences, the system will begin beeping, once it has finished the system will reboot & startup normally.
I was unable to find working links for prepared images which I could write using dd so instead had to resort to finding another machine running Windows XP & a USB floppy drive but I’ve imaged the floppies I created so hopefully It wont be a repeated exercise.

The images can be written to a USB flash drive & used to recover a Mini 9

A04 Bios recovery image
A07 Bios recovery image

If you have a faulty or uncharged battery & you intend to use the phlash16 utility, remove the battery before attempting to flash the BIOS.

Running nwdiag on Mac OS X

nwdiag is a tool written in python for generating network diagrams from text files, rack diagrams can also be built using the bundled rackdiag utility.
nwdiag requires PIL built with freetype2 support, if this is missing you’ll receive the following error when you try to generate a diagram:
ERROR: The _imagingft C module is not installed.

Following the instructions in the README file included with PIL, once the build process completes you’ll receive a summary:
version 1.1.7
platform darwin 2.7.1 (r271:86832, Jul 31 2011, 19:30:53)
[GCC 4.2.1 (Based on Apple Inc. build 5658) (LLVM build 2335.15.00)]
--- TKINTER support available
*** JPEG support not available
--- ZLIB (PNG/ZIP) support available
*** FREETYPE2 support not available
*** LITTLECMS support not available

It appears that freetype2 support is not built by default & I wasn’t paying enough attention so I missed the notice following the summary
To add a missing option, make sure you have the required
library, and set the corresponding ROOT variable in the script.
After a brief search I came across this blog post which covered how to define the paths for the freetype library & header files.
Setting FREETYPE_ROOT in to
FREETYPE_ROOT = "/usr/X11/lib", "/usr/X11/include"
solved the problem & the summary listed --- FREETYPE2 support available when I reran the build process.
After that everything worked fine, the following config generated the image at the bottom of the page:
nwdiag {
inet [shape = cloud];
inet -- router;
network office {
"Mail server";
"Web server";

Network diagram generated using nwdiag

The project is still in its infancy and there are features missing for implementing common elements from a cisco discipline (like representing etherchannel) but it’s promising as you can put a simple diagram together very quickly.

Typo in Webalizer manpage

Whilst writing the weblizer.conf file for this site I came across a typo in the man page. The keyword Hostname listed in the manpage is wrong, if used the following error is spat out when webalizer is run:
Warning: Invalid keyword 'Hostname' (/etc/webalizer.conf)

The correct keyword is: HostName

PF Statistics

I’ve gone stat & monitoring crazy in the past few weeks, using Hatchet you can generate graphs & charts from the PF log files on the state of PF. Another tool is also available called pfrtg which does a similar job.

Connecting to Apple Remote Desktop with VNCviewer

To access you mac’s desktop remotely using vncviewer you’ll need to install the Apple Remote Desktop Client 2.1 update which you can download from here
Then goto the Sharing preferences panel located in System Preferences, tick the Apple Remote Desktop tick box under the Services Tab & press the Access Priveleges button, set the permissions as you’d like & tick the VNC viewers can control screen with password box & specify a password in the box provided.
You can now connect to your mac using vncviewer from any machine 🙂

Orinoco Silver to Gold Firmware hack

A few years too late 🙂 but anyways, If you’ve got any old Orinoco based chipset cards that you’d like 128 bit WEP encryption on you can use a tool called alchemy to mod the firmware so the card is ID’d as a Gold card, then reflash the firmware to have full 128 bit wep.

You can grab a copy of Alchemy here or here

Then use the Agere firmware flash util filename to reflash the card (as It’ll flash just about any Orinoco based card), grab a copy of the tool here

Exchange Mail Box / Store Disaster Recovery

I cant recommend Ontracks PowerControls Exchange recovery tool enough, I was cought out by a exchange server last week which had gone into meltdown, PowerControls let me mount the mailstore & dump the contents of the mail boxes & public folders to pst, it also has the option to dump the contents of a store to a exchange mailbox aswell which is extremly handy if you have another server live elsewhere (which I didnt!!! but I do now 😀 )