Friday, July 4, 2008

Repurposing the TI EZ430U, Part 2

by Travis Goodspeed <travis at>
at the Extreme Measurement Communications Center
of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory

EZ430 24c32 EEPROM Tap

Section 1, wherein topics of discussion are enumerated and datasheets cited.

The first installment of this series described a method of accessing the EZ430's MSP430 firmware by way of JTAG. That's dandy, but the MSP430 isn't the only microprocessor on the board! This installment will focus on the firmware and reprogramming of the TUSB3410 USB to serial chip, which contains an 8052 microprocessor core.

Section 11 of SLLS519 describes the boot sequence of the TUSB3410. In brief, an I2C EEPROM is used if such a chip is present and it contains an image with the proper signatures. Firmware may also be loaded over USB, in which case the EEPROM is either absent or provides only such minutia as the device ID.

The EEPROM on the Revision 2.0 boards--those with six pins for the target device--is the CAT24C32 by Catalyst Semiconductor. Revision 1.1 used the smaller CAT24C16 chip, presumably because that revision had no need for such complicated software. (See Part 1 for details.)

Section 2, wherein firmware is forcefully extracted by use of hypodermic syringe and our heroes contemplate an intriguing fragment of a schematic diagram.

The 24C32 chip, like all I2C devices, uses two lines for communication. These are SDA and SCL. Addressing lines, allowing for multiple units of the same chip to reside on a board, are unused and tied to ground. Thus, the chip looks something like the following schematic.

24c32 schematic

To read the chip, it is necessary to have an I2C host adapter, such as the Total Phase Aardvark. So as to avoid soldering headers to the chip, I attached two of my syringe logic probes to the Aardvark's SDA and SCL lines. Power was shared through USB, negating the need to tie it into the target board. I tapped an unlabeled via near R23 for SDA and tapped SCL directly on a leg of the EEPROM. I2C's multi-master feature allows this to be done without disabled anything in the board.

Section 3, wherein our heroes--having extracted the firmware of the 24C32 of the EZ430U--conspire to similarly free the firmware of an I2C EEPROM of a much finer vintage.

Dumping firmware from similar chips on the green EZ430U and a USB-FET gave samples for comparison. The contents of the green board and the FET were nearly identical, differing only by a few bytes. They are also significantly smaller than the red firmware, even though the FET contains a larger EEPROM. Unused bytes are padded as 0xFF.

The most common complaint regarding the EZ430-RF series is that, unlike the original EZ430, there exist no Linux drivers for the board. By reflashing the firmware of both the MSP430 and the 24C32 chips, a red EZ430 can be reverted to the green firmware, making it compatible with Linux.

For those without access to an I2C programmer, it is worth noting that the MSP430 of this board is tied to the 24C32 EEPROM. It is possible to write an MSP430 firmware image that, upon booting, does nothing but reprogram the TUSB3410's ROM.

Section 4, wherein your esteemed author prematurely concludes this article of the series.

The third installment contains instructions for compiling new firmware for the EZ430 by retargetting GCC and manually linking in the USB bootloader.


Peter said...

Hi Travis!

I'm eagerly waiting for the third part. What I would like to see are step-by-step instructions on how to make the ez430-rf2500 usable under Linux. Thank you for your time and effort!

Travis Goodspeed said...

Howdy Peti,

The end result of this series is to be a "Hello World" for writing your own replacement firmware that runs on the EZ430U programmer board. Making the red board compatible with Linux was just a pleasant side-effect.

As for using the RF2500 kit under Linux, I intend to rewrite TI EZ430 in Linux with IAR Kickstart for the RF2500. Perhaps it will be ready by late August?

For those of you without the equipment to downgrade your EZ430U's firmware, I'm happy to do it for you, either at a conference or by mail. Email me for details.


Travis Goodspeed said...

A reader referred me to
svn co
for writing the EEPROM through USB and generating proper EEPROM headers.

Unknown said...

Dear Travis,

i wrote you 2 e-mails, maybe they were filtered by your spam filter?

Please contact me as soon as possible!

Regards, Marcus