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All posts for the month July, 2013

How about if you discover that your PC is EFI compliant but without… EFI?

All started about one or two years ago, when me and my partner in science Dom (Snake) discovered the beautiful world of Hackintoshes.

We started to try to make OS X boot on our machines; me on my Sony VAIO and him on his desktop (that have the same motherboard as mine), with Chameleon as bootloader. To make OS X works good you need very much time to spend on it, to try various bootloader configurations and drivers (called Kernel Extensions or simply “kexts”). After some MONTHS we had our Hackintosh working at 99%: it’s a great goal!

In this months we switched to Clover Bootloader (firstly me, because with Chameleon I had some difficulties to make the most of the hardware working good, after him for some reasons like mines), and the results was very impressive. Clover is a very great bootloader, that works both in EFI (preferred) and in Legacy mode.

Since our machines are legacy we have to use Clover in legacy mode.

What are the differences?

Dom discovered, by testing on a newer machine with UEFI BIOS, that Clover in EFI mode is REALLY faster and OS X doesn’t need so much drivers/kexts like the Legacy one.

And here is were I got mad. By entering in my VAIO BIOS Setup Menu I discovered the label “Aptio Setup Utility”, and with AIDA64 (A software for Windows that show you ALL the information about your hardware) I discovered that is an AMI EFI BIOS.

So immediately I thought “EFI BIOS without EFI boot?” and made a really vaster search on the internet.

Meanwhile I searched for the BIOS of my VAIO, because Sony NEVER released it and NEVER have released an update! (Instead of other brand that full support users with BIOS updates).

Then I’ve asked directly to Sony support and of course they replied… “We are sorry, but your model is too old!”
A VPCEB4C5E bought in 2011 IS TOO OLD!?
900€ MACHINE IS TOO OLD AFTER TWO YEARS!?

Thanks to various communities we discovered very much about how a BIOS is made and how it works: O-Rom modules (discovered by flashing modified BIOS for our desktop motherboard), DSDT (discovered by working on Hackintoshes), MSR Registers, etc.

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The good thing to have an updated BIOS is that firstly many possibles bugs could be fixed, secondly (and not less important) is the upgrades of O-ROMs.

O-ROMs are little modules provided by hardware producers (Intel, AMD, Marvell, etc) that are substantially the firmwares of each microchip we have in the computer. By testing modified BIOSes, made by KET, for our desktop motherboard (P5Q-E) we discovered firstly great improvements in performances (especially in games!), but also more stability in overclocking! So BIOS updates are really important.

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Now what to do? I just searched on the internet for the “right tools” to dump, explore and modify my BIOS!

Firstly I’ve downloaded tha AMI Flash Tool (AFU for the Aptios), and dumped my BIOS. One time via Windows and another via DOS, for security purposes.

AMI Firmware Update utility(APTIO) for pure 64bits WINDOWS

As you can see the tools just dump 2048Kb from my ROM instead of the 4096Kb which is. The tools open correctly the ROM image, so I assume it’s ok. I’ve also tried with another thirdy part tool, that just dumped all 4096Kb, but by inspecting him I discovered that there are soo much empty bytes (0xFF), so I discarded it. I think that in the first 2048KB there are very important and untouchables things (maybe a self recovery?).

By the way I’ve just opened the ROM with the right tools and started investigating. All menu options seems visible (unlocked), and there are soo many options that not appears in the Setup Menu. By reading on the internet some users says that this options probably are locked thought NVRAM or by a BIOS module. Unfortunately I’ve not found a good tool to dump my NVRAM, edit it and rewrite, maybe I can unlock all these features, or at least some of the more important (Have I told you that my VAIO does NOT support the auto-switch between Intel HD Graphics and ATI Mobility Radeon when is needed? No? Well, my machine have always the Radeon active, and the battery life is about 1h and 30min, in idle, when I’m REALLY lucky. *SIGH*)

But no EFI boot options… So I continued to search on the internet for more information, but nothing…

Recently I had an idea. Just try to search the version number of my BIOS, to see if there are others from others brand. I’ve searched everything, so why don’t try?

I was right. I found a thread where a guy asked help for a boot in UEFI mode, and… He have an ASUS with THE SAME IDENTICAL BIOS AS MY VAIO! But with the differences that he can boot in EFI mode, because there are the options available in the Setup Menu, me not, because I don’t have any option!

Look at differences with AMIBCP. The first one is my BIOS menu, the second is that of the ASUS machine, with UEFI boot options!

Aptio AMI BIOS Configuration Program

I’ve found the module that have the BIOS menu and replaced in my ROM, but when I try to open it with the AMIBCP it crash. So it can’t be replaced. One more thing. In another thread some guys used a “Phoenix Tools” to unlock some restrictions of AMI Aptio BIOSes, and… The ASUS one have the recovery thought USB (when you open the ROM with that tool it search for the right string that should be the name of the ROM that you have to put on the USB stick in case of bricking), my SONY not. Could be because I dumped the ROM, and not downloaded it… But I don’t believe it.

 

By this, I’m afraid to do any serious modification and to flash, especially now that my machine COULD NOT have a recovery system, better don’t try.

 

In the ends:

Sony does NOT want help me and all the peoples that have a the same BIOS mounted on their VAIO (2011 machines are too old! Really!), Sony does NOT provide original ROM or an updated one, wich could improve system performances (new O-ROMs), stability, EFI boot (we need it!) and self-switchable VGA to improve BATTERY LIFE, I cannot modify the BIOS to unlock all these menu, or I don’t know how, and I do not want to risk my machine.

And… Next machine of course will be not Sony. I would try an Apple instead, because the battery life is very long (about 7-8h in idle, and with the next OS X “Mavericks” should be around 12h, WOW!), Apple support for serious their users and products, OS X works natively (without any hack), and because I’m thinking about to learn some programming for iOS (yes, I know I can also do with any Hackintosh).

 

So, if you was planning to buy a Sony, think about these words… I ever loved and trusted Sony, but after this, I’m feeling cheated.

Ah, did you know that Sony told me that I CAN’T install Windows 8 because my machine is inadequate? Well I’m waiting Windows 8.1 RTM and I’ll post here if is true!

 

See you!

 

Thanks to Snake, my partner in science, for helping me with my bad english!

Hello World, I’m Giacomo aka “Jacksoft”, and I’m italian.

It all began many years ago, when I was a child. My dad often likes to fix all the broken (and therefore fixable) stuffs, and when he was younger he usually bought some kits from “Else Electronics” where you build “DIY” little circuits capable to do different things. Even now he has a box full of those circuits! I always loved my father, I’m really proud of him, and loved how he was capable to fix, built or invent all these electronic things, so I inherited this passion. Some years later my dad came at home with a BIG box: A COMPUTER! One day, at his workplace, they changed all the computers, and many of them were dismissed, and maybe trown in the dump… It was an 8086 from IBM, with a 5 inches floppy reader, 30MB HDD (WOW!) and a super brilliant green-phosphor screen! And yes, with MS DOS 2.x on-board, I guess, no games, only Wordstar and some other office programs, but it was still awesome. Two or three years after my uncle gave us our first 486: COLORS! So we started with DOS 3.x, Windows 3.11 and tons of floppy disks with… GAMES!!! And when my dad bought a newer computer (AMD Duron 600MHz), well… Wolfenstain 3D, Doom, Duke Nukem 3D… What else should I say? :P

But that’s not all, I also love videogame consoles, even though I was not very “lucky” this time. I began with a Nintendo NES clone, bought for a bunch of bucks, after many and many years my first 32bit console, the PlayStation. Only a few years ago I started to collect videogames and console, of course the main problem is being an expensive hobby…

However in the following  years, beyound games, I learned many things on computers. I discovered what an HexEditor is, how Windows OS works, and when we had our first 56k modem… Does anybody know paradogs.com? Well, learned so much on PSX architecture, a bit of hacking/cracking and… PROTRACKERS! Tons of protrackers downloaded from web! Ahhh… I still love it! And you can’t imagine how many times during the year my dad had to format the computer because of my… experiments, ehm…

While growing up I also learned how to use the soldering iron, what electronic components are and how they work, especially during my high school years. I was lucky, because in my high school (Electronic and Telecommunications, of course) there were very great teachers, that taught and helped me with passion, this is exactly how a teacher should teach.  You can’t imagine how wonderful is to know how a little component like transistor works… SO SIMPLY! (That’s because I always said to myself: “how can I get this to work with 3 pins?!”). After graduating, I continued to study electronic by myself, discovering “new” components like PIC Microcontrollers and doing many experiments on breadboards and on simulators like Multisim and recently Proteus, and also started computer programming, in Microsoft C# .NET thanks to one of my best internet friends, Domenico aka “Snake”, to make PC interfaces for my projects.

Years passed. I opened Jacksoft Labs because I wonted to share with all my knowledge and my experiences, but… As you can see I don’t update it very often, because lack of time. Just started to work, and continued to study to get a technician degree, or something like. A few month ago I moved to Germany, to look for a bit of luck and to see if my studies can be appreciated. How can you feel if the job of your dreams could be easily embraced but your homeland try to cut your legs because they want a nation full of ignorant peoples? Well, this is Italy.

Now I’ve just decided to open this little and simple blog to show you what I, or me with my IRC friends, discover or study while we NOT update the main website. We have ALWAYS something to learn… And even less time to do that!

 

What I wrote until now maybe doesn’t sound very interesting, I know, my life was so much filled with studies and experiments, and I’m still continuing to do this. I need more knowledge!

I’m sorry for my poor english, I’ll try to do the best I can. (And thanks to “Snake” to helping me fixing my posts, both in italian and in english. :P )

I hope you’ll enjoy this blog, follow me!

Cheers! :-)

 

Love the Anaglyph!