Kids + Railway Toilets = Toilet-Blinkenlights…

Today my kids impressed me by repurposing/hacking/misusing the toilet-occupied-light to send (morse-like) signals across a railway car. Their fingers were thin enough to press the micro-switches in the doors which normally would signal a locked door (i.e. occupied toilet). Not sure if someone noticed the strangely flashing lights… ūüėÄ


Unbricking a HP LaserJet M1212nf stuck in an “initialization loop”

I recently helped¬†to repair a bricked HP LaserJet M1212nf printer that was stuck in an “initialization loop”. It booted up normally, but after 10-20 seconds the printer stopped to accept any kind of commands¬†and the text “initializing” was¬†shown on the LC-Display. It then restarted and the whole boot/init¬†started¬†over again and again.

My first approach was to make a hard reset, i.e. set the printer to factory defaults. This can be achieved by:

  1. Turning off the printer
  2. Pressing and holding the “Start Copy” and the “Cancel” button. (Easy, both are below¬†each other.)
  3. Turning on the printer

After setting the initial configs¬†(language, country) the initialization loop reappeared — ¬†the problem was not fixed by the hard reset.

Next, I tried to reinstall the latest firmware which failed due to the loop —¬†there simply was not enough time to upload the firmware I would guess.

I then tried to find out if there is¬†some kind of low level bootloader that would accept a firmware image (many devices nowadays have such a semi-failsafe mode) when the printer is¬†turned on — but did not find any info on that either.

My final approach was just to try out if there would be a firmware upload possibility right after a hard reset (steps as described above). I had recognized that the initial settings/configs right after a hard reset were not affected by the reboot loop. To my surprise this actually worked. I was able to upload the firmware when the first init-setting appeared. After updating the firmware the loop was gone and the printer worked again as before.

I hope this description helps others who are also affected by this problem as I have not yet seen any other solution in the HP forum. I can only guess how the “initializing loop” occurred: maybe an automatic firmware update failed and bricked the printer. Anyways, the 200+ MB printer driver software by HP is a PITA and their web site is a maze…

Watched the Solar Eclipse with a Quick and Dirty Pinhole Camera

Of course neither me nor any of my colleagues had an appropriate protection to view the upcoming solar eclipse. So I had to ‘hack’ together a device to still be able to watch the eclipse pass¬†in a safe manner.

Solar Eclipse (Munich, Germany, 2015.03.20 10:40 CET) viewed though a simple (5 minute hack) pinhole camera:
Simple Pinhole CameraThe camera was built from an old rolled conference poster, some adhesive tape, plastic foil, and a cardboard box. I think it is self-explanatory:
One side was covered with opaque foil, only a tiny pin hole (< 1 mm) let light through. The other side was simple plastic foil (from my lunch). The box acted as a shield to protect from accidentally looking into the sun.
Simple Pinhole Camera showing the Solar Eclipse

It’s a mirror image, by the way.

Additionally (out of curiosity) I’ve taken a photo with my¬†iPhone 4S:
Solar Eclipse Photo  / iPhone CameraThe eclipse can be seen in the lense flare (here a 100% cut-out):
Solar Eclipse Photo  / iPhone Camera (Lense Flare)

Kabel Deutschland TR-069 Auto-Configuration on a FritzBox 7390

The cable provider Vodafone (Kabel Deutschland) does not officially support VoIP connections from other routers than the ones they have issued: in my case a FRITZ!Box 7270. They do not provide the VoIP credentials; their boxes are auto-configurated via TR-069 protocol. Having a FRITZ!Box 7390 led me to investigate how to enable this full auto-configuration in other boxes than the 7270.

This is a follow-up to my previous post on how to clone CWMP settings between FritzBox 7270s.

I started with a freshly recovered FritzBox 7390, i.e. all previous configuration settings were erased. Also I did not connect any devices to the FritzBox. The Power/DSL LED is blinking.

The following changes were made via the UART interface on the PCB. I have not tested them via the FritzBox Telnet connection. It might be possible to write and  trigger them as a shell script (as the network connection is shut down in the process), I have not tested that either.

FritzBox 7390 UART Connection

Start with a shell on the FritzBox and shut down the network and DSL daemons:

cd /etc/init.d/

./ stop
    [...takes some time...]

./ stop
    [...takes some time...]

Then reconfigure¬†the environment settings. I’ve used¬†the urlader /¬†boot loader (EVA)¬†to set¬†the tr069-credentials (as described here).¬†I’m not sure if they can be also defined later, but if so, it should look something like this:

echo "tr069_passphrase XXXXXXXXXXXX" >> /proc/sys/urlader/environment
echo "tr069_serial 00040E-XXXXXXXXXXXX" >> /proc/sys/urlader/environment

You might also want to check the MAC addresses: maca, macb, macwlan, macwlan2, macdsl, usb_board_mac, usb_rndis_mac
If the default addresses are set the FritzFox might completely fail to establish an internet connection. You then should set them to (pseudo)random values.

The following settings have to be adapted temporarily to simulate a FritzBox 7270. These environment variables will be reset on the next reboot (unlike the changes in the urlader, btw.). The remote TR069 server is checking the product name and the software version (besides the previously defined tr069-credentials).


export CONFIG_PRODUKT="Fritz_Box_7270_16"

export CONFIG_VERSION="06.05"



export EXTERNAL_BOX_PARAMS="hardware=${HWRevision}&oem=${OEM}&language=${Language}&country=&version=${CONFIG_VERSION_MAJOR}.${CONFIG_VERSION}&subversion=${CONFIG_SUBVERSION##*-}"

After that restart the network settings:

./ start
    [...wait 10-20 seconds...]

Connect the FritzBox to the cable modem (via LAN1). After a while the FritzBox should fetch the CWMP/TR069 settings, including the telephone settings. This can be checked by entering:

 cat /var/flash/tr069.cfg
     [...should list tr069 settings...]
cat /var/flash/voip.cfg
    [...should list telephone settings...]

P.S. I recommend to disable the TR-069 auto-configuration settings if not needed. They theoretically poke a quite huge hole into the security of your router.

Cloning FritzBox 7270 CWMP Settings

I own an over 5 years old AVM FritzBox 7270 router which is after all that time becoming slightly unstable. (The capacitors might be wearing out.) The router uses the CWMP (TR-069) protocol to authenticate itself at my cable provider Vodafone (Kabel Deutschland). As these settings are tied to the box and the FritzBox 7270 is neither sold nor supported anymore I bought two cheap 7270_v2 boxes (identical hardware, different branding) on eBay and successfully transferred the authentication credentials from my old box onto the two new ones.

Warning: Please keep in mind that the following steps worked for me but I do not feel responsible if you brick your FritzBox by trying them out yourself. I tested it on two spare routers I’ve explicitly bought for this¬†purpose.

0. Debranding & serial connection

Opening the¬†cases of the routers allowed direct access to the serial interfaces on the PCBs. This might not be necessary as all (following) steps, at least the debranding¬†(here: “1und1” to “AVM”), can be done without access to the serial interface. I have not tested that. But the serial interface allowed the “deepest” access to the routers’ system.

I will not describe how to set-up a terminal connection and how USB to RS232 adapter work. This is sufficiently covered by other tutorials. It is also not necessary to solder pins onto the RS232 interface¬†on the PCB. For me it worked perfect to just stick a few pin headers into the pads as seen on the following two images. (It’s best to¬†not touch the cable during the process though.)

FritzBox 7270 RS-232 Connection FritzBox 7270 RS-232 Connection

1.Test: Directly connecting the two new boxes to the cable modem

After a factory reset (“Werkseinstellungen”) via the web interface I’ve first connected the two boxes to the cable modem. As expected they were able to fetch the general provider settings but not the VoIP¬†(telephone) settings.

Comment: The VoIP settings can be extracted by hand from a fully authenticated FritzBox but I wanted them to also do that for me.

2.Backups: Storing the environment settings and MTDs

It is always a good idea to make backups of the devices you are going to hack. I attached an USB stick to the box and changed into a newly created directory on it.  You will need to backup the following file on all of your FritzBox routers. (Adapt the destination filename as necessary.)

cp /proc/sys/urlader/environment environment-source-fritzbox.txt

It’s also a good idea to make backups of the block devices… just in case. (The¬†FritzBox 7270 there should have 6 block device¬†“mtd0” to¬†“mtd5”.)

dd if=/dev/mtd0 of=mtd0.bin

3.Cloning the CWMP settings

I once again ran¬†a factory reset while having the serial interface connected to the box. I halted the boot process directly after the¬†reset when the bootloader (“urlader” / Eva_AVM) appeared. The bootloader shows a prompt for 5 seconds and¬†the boot process can be interrupted by entering a command, e.g. “h<enter>” for help.

system is going down ..
The system is going down NOW!
Sent SIGTERM to all processes
Requesting system reboot

(AVM) EVA Revision: 1.455 Version: 1455
(C) Copyright 2005 AVM Date: Apr 1 2008 Time: 13:07:03 (1) 2 0x0-0x41D

[FLASH:] ST Uniform-MirrorBit-Flash 16MB 64 Bytes WriteBuffer
[FLASH:](Eraseregion [0] 128 sectors a 128kB) 
[SYSTEM:] UR8 on 360MHz/120MHz syncron

 Commands Description
 -------- -----------
 help help
 dm dump mem <addr> <range>
 cm change mem <addr> <value>
 erase Erase Flash <mtd>
 printenv print Env. Variables
 restart reboot Device
 setenv set Env. variable <var> <value>
 unsetenv unset Env. variable <var>
 go load & start kernel from mtd1
 setmac set mac addresses <addr> (like 12:23:40)
 memtest test memory

To really erase all settings from the FritzBox 7270 I’ve used the “Erase Flash” option. The settings are stored in two TFFS blocks: mtd3¬†and¬†mtd4.

Warning: stay away from mtd2 (the bootloader)! Erasing this block device will brick your router.

Eva_AVM >erase mtd3
erase from 0x90F80000 to 0x90FC0000

Eva_AVM >..
Eva_AVM >erase mtd4
erase from 0x90FC0000 to 0x91000000

Eva_AVM >..
Eva_AVM >restart
<create new TFFS>

[...break here! ...]

After a restart the TFFS partitions are recreated based on the hardcoded settings in the bootloader. Again¬†interrupt the boot process directly after the TFFS¬†blocks were restored. Now you have to look into the previously stored environment settings from the original FritzBox and add (or overwrite) the CWMP settings in the destination box. It might be necessary to also set the MAC addresses as they might have been set to default values. (The default MAC addresses possibly won’t let you connect at all – I’ve had that problem with one of my boxes.)

Eva_AVM >setenv tr069_passphrase XPASSPHRASEX

Eva_AVM >setenv tr069_serial 00040E-XXXSERIALXXX

Eva_AVM >restart

Comment: You can check with the “printenv” command if the settings were successful and if the default environment (MAC) settings were set.

Eva_AVM >printenv

In my case that was all I had to do. I then let the router boot as normal and connected it to the cable modem. After a minute or so it fetched all necessary settings (including the VoIP settings) and pre-configurated the FritzBox.

Surprisingly it was not necessary to transfer the MAC addresses or any other settings from the original FritzBox to the other two boxes. (Something I expected based on various forum posts.).

I’ve later also tried the same steps on a FritzBox 7390 but failed to receive the VoIP¬†settings. The¬†ProductID (FritzBox 7270) and the software version¬†is additionally transmitted along with the tr-069 credentials. In a second post I’m providing a possible solution on how to achieve an auto-update via TR-069 on other FritzBoxes.

Homemade minimal Raspberry Pi (Raspbian) image

I have to admit that I’m a big fan of single-board computers for specific tasks like home-automatation, backup systems, network gateways, or file-sharing. I also like the approach of the Raspberry Pi Foundation to provide an image file with Raspbian (an adapted Debian) for easy use. For most people out there it is the best way to fetch an SD-Card with a¬†capacity of at¬†least 4 GBytes, download and copy the Raspbian image onto the card. I have a few unused 1 and 2 GByte SD-Cards lying around which should be sufficient for my tasks but are too small for the ‘generic’ Raspbian image. So I had to create my own minimalistic Raspbian installation. Here is a step-by-step example of the creation process.

I started with the installation of a few later required packages. I’m pretty¬†sure this¬†list is incomplete as I’ve already had quite a lot dev-tool packages installed before…

sudo aptitude install qemu-user-static \
binfmt-support fakeroot debootstrap git

To get Qemu running to support armhf I had to add a parameter to itc configuration file:

echo "EXTRA_OPTS=\"-L/usr/lib/arm-linux-gnueabihf\"" > /etc/qemu-binfmt.conf

I used “/tmp/” as my working directory which might not be the best location (temporary, as the name says). Feel free to use another dir, but you might need to keep an eye on the (root) access permissions…

cd /tmp/
mkdir raspi raspi/bootfs
cd raspi

Next I downloaded a minimalistic list of Raspian packages that will later go onto the root partition. I’ve tried to avoid working with root permissions as far as possible (therefore ‘fakeroot’).

fakeroot debootstrap --foreign --no-check-gpg --include=ca-certificates --arch=armhf testing rootfs

No we need to (temporarily) add some arm binaries to the root directory.

cp $(which qemu-arm-static) rootfs/usr/bin

The following step will start the actual installation process of the Raspian packages. For some reason I was not able to continue at this point without root permissions. (Any tips to fix this are welcome.)

sudo chown root.root rootfs -R

sudo chroot rootfs/ \
/debootstrap/debootstrap --second-stage --verbose

You will need some of the¬†Raspberry Pi firmware files. The following commands download and install them . The Git repository is huge (3.1 GB), so this might take some time…

git clone \

sudo cp -r firmware/hardfp/opt/* rootfs/opt/

At this point you could create a custom kernel image based on the downloaded files. In my opinion the stock kernel is just fine so I just used it as is:

mkdir -p rootfs/lib/modules/

sudo cp -r firmware/modules/* rootfs/lib/modules/

Create the boot partition (i.e. copy the necessary files):

mkdir bootfs
cp -r firmware/boot/* bootfs/

Next we can make some adaptions to the future image files: set a new root password, hostname, adapt the sources list, etc…

sudo chroot rootfs/ /usr/bin/passwd

vim rootfs/etc/hostname

cat >> rootfs/etc/apt/sources.list deb testing main contrib non-free rpi

It might also be a good idea to adapt the future system to your local settings, e.g. keyboard layout.

sudo chroot rootfs/ apt-get update

chroot rootfs/ apt-get install console-data \ 
console-common console-setup tzdata most locales keyboard-configuration

sudo chroot rootfs/ dpkg-reconfigure locales

sudo chroot rootfs/ dpkg-reconfigure \

sudo chroot rootfs/ dpkg-reconfigure tzdata

Now we can do some clean-up:

sudo rm rootfs/usr/bin/qemu-arm-static

Next step is the creation of the actual boot and root partitions on a SD-Card. I’ve not documented these steps in detail as everyone has a different¬†favourite partition manager. This step can be done with fdisk, (g)parted, or other tools.

You have to create two partitions on your SD-Card. For the boot partition 64 MB are sufficient, the remaining space is used for the root partition. The boot partition needs to be a FAT32 partition. The nice thing about the Raspberry Pi is, that boots of the first FAT32 partition without further installing a boot block or so.

Here an example how a 2 GB SD-Card could look like:

fdisk -l /dev/sdd
  /dev/sdd1 2048 133119 65536 b W95 FAT32
  /dev/sdd2 133120 3987455 1927168 83 Linux

Now we can copy the files from the two directories we previously created onto the two SD-Card partitions (you might need to mount them first) and test the card.

cp -R rootfs/* /media/USER/root/ && sync
cp -R bootfs/* /media/USER/boot/ && sync

I also have created an image file, mounted is (as a block device), partitioned it similar to the steps above. But I have not yet documented these steps. Might be added¬†in a future update…

Dissecting an EasyBox 602

Some time ago I got a Vodafone EasyBox 602 router into my hands (16,- ‚ā¨ incl. shipping) and thought about playing around a bit with this¬†hardware and trying to get OpenWRT running on it.

EasyBox 602 - Complete Package

Opening the case is a bit tricky but can be done with a set of plectra. (They are perfect for this task.)EasyBox 602 - Non-destructive Opening

I’ve added two¬†fotos of the pcb inside the case and the position of the plastic hinges.EasyBox 602 - Case 2 EasyBox 602 - Case 1

Inside you will find an already assembled connector for the serial interface. I played around a bit and identified the RxD and TxD pins. I attaced wires to the them and for convenience added an external access to the pins.EasyBox 602 Serial Interface EasyBox 602 External Serial Interface

I’m still playing around with the installed boot loader and firmware but so far I can confirm the following layout of the the rom image:

Area Address Length
Boot 0xB0000000 128K
Configuration 0xB0020000 256K
None 0xB0060000 64K
Special Area 0xB0070000 64K
Primary Setting 0xB0080000 64K
Code Image 0 0xB0090000 3776K
Code Image 1 0xB0440000 3776K
Boot Params 0xB07F0000 64K
Flash Image 0xB0000000 8192K

I’m soon going to add some links to (discontinued) analyses of others on this router. So far it looks like OpenWRT (as an example for an alternative firmware) cannot be installed, but let’s see…

DeLonghi Coffee Machine Sound Modification

About a month ago I stumbled across¬†a thread¬†(in German) about improving the sound of DeLonghi ESAM coffee machines. It was said, that with rather few changes the sound profile of the machine can be significantly improved.¬†I’ve used a necessary complete overhaul of our DeLonghi Magnifica ESAM 4500 (Pronto Cappuchino) coffee machine to also add this modification…
…with more or less significant improvements.¬†Only two parts are necessary:

  • The ULKA EP5 pump was swapped for an¬†Innensys CP4/SP.
  • The DeLonghi pressure relief valve was¬†exchanged¬†by a Saeco membrane filter (sorry, no type/model number available).
The original DeLonghi pump.
The original DeLonghi pump.
The new parts installed in the DeLonghi ESAM 4500.
The new parts installed in the DeLonghi ESAM 4500.
The membrane filter and the pump (originally intended for Saeco coffee machines).
The membrane filter and the pump (originally intended for Saeco coffee machines).

The new pump and membrane filter both let the coffee machine sound much deeper and calmer. Although the new pump has about 20 W more ‘power’, it runs a bit slower (about five seconds for one cup of coffee, as shown in the figure with the acoustic profiles).

Comparison of the acoustic profile of the DeLonghi ESAM 4500 before and after the modification.
Comparison of the acoustic profile of the DeLonghi ESAM 4500 before and after the modification.

I’ve also made a video which shows (or should I say: plays ūüôā ) the before/after effect. The most significant change can be heard after the coffee was grounded, when it is actually poured into the cup.

Homemade DCF77 receiver [FAIL]

A few weeks ago our old clock radio broke. Out of curiosity I’ve disassembled it: I wanted to remove the DCF77¬†clock radio signal receiver. Unfortunately, the clock contained a single board, but the receiver part was clearly distinguishable from the rest.

The circuit board of my broken clock radio. The radio signal receiver is marked with a yellow frame.

For fun, I cut out the relevant part of the board and replaced/refreshed the solder joints. I also added four connections for 1.5 Volt (power supply), the clock signal and a power-on line. (At least I think that’s what the last two lines should be).

My low cost self made DCF77 clock signal receiver.

I have not yet managed to get a stable time signal.¬†On my digital storage oscilloscope I get occasional spikes with a distance of one second (what you would expect), but only a few of them and then nothing… The problem is probably the correct initialization of the chip under the black blob (a so called chip-on-board, by the way). Maybe, I also damaged a part of the receiver while cutting out the board, or when resoldering the two joints on the¬†77.5 kHz antenna.

Update: Well, after playing a bit more with the receiver I’m pretty sure I damaged it while cutting it out. I used common initialization sequences and did not manage to get it work. Too bad…

Logitech M705: How to fix a defective mouse button

After cleaning and reassembling...

I’m a big fan of Logitech mice, or at least was until a few days ago. My wireless Logitech M705 started to behave¬†strangely: Pressing down the left mouse button resulted in multiple clicks (i.e. double-clicking) and dragging became impossible due to random interruptions when holding down the button.

Without a warranty (which had expired three months ago) I did not feel guilty when opening the mouse to look for the cause. The culprit was quickly found: the microswitch of the left mouse button. Luckily, I had spare microswitches as I’m currently playing around with the optical sensors from other spare/defective mice. I will cover this in another post.¬†To come to the point: after replacing the microswitch, the mouse works again as usual. I’ve made a few photos (a picture is worth a thousand words ūüėČ ) to help others during disassembly of the housing. Screws are marked red, and I have also marked (in yellow) two tiny springs that can easily be lost.

This fix has a bad aftertaste: at least in Germany, there is much talk about “planned obsolescence”, and I’m wondering if Logitech (and other manufacturers) use cheap microswitches that only survive a certain number of clicks. Especially after my mouse showed the previously mentioned defect so soon after the expiry of the warranty… On the other hand Logitech kept its promise regarding the battery life – I’m still using the first set.

Update (2014-11-22):¬†Just as¬†a brief clarification, after I got some feedback on the M705. (Apparently several users have had similar experiences.) Logitech uses Omron switches that actually seem to be pretty good. So I want to point to posts from Kogos and Ralf ¬†below: First you should try what is recommended in a Logitech forum post. After that you might¬†try resoldering the joints. If that doesn’t help an exchange might be the best option…