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Debricking an HG553 with EJTAG using a Bus Pirate


A friend of mine gave to me a couple of years ago an old Vodafone Station, a famous home router for ADSL used in Italy.

He asked to me to install OpenWRT on it; He tried to follow the standard procedure but without success and knowning that I have some fancy electronics gadgets told me to use JTAG to do magic.

JTAG is an interface (but not a protocol) used by manufacturers in order to physically test the well functioning of a board: it allows to access pins and devices attached to this interface. If you want to know more this post is enough.

The standard open source tool to interact with it is OpenOCD, a software client that allows the user to read/write the cpu's register, memory and flash and also to single step the cpu (and much more). There are only two things to configure: the adapter and the target.

The first is the device that you use to connect your computer to the JTAG interface, the last is the device that you want to control via this interface.

The first tries were not so successfully, some times the cpu were recognized and the commands worked very well, some times the cpu resumed. After experimenting and reading all over the fucking internet I discovered that MIPS SOCs implement a proprietary extension of JTAG, called EJTAG.

Without going to deep into explanation of the differences between the two interfaces, the thing you need to know is that in order to make it work you have to pull-up the TRST pin with a 300 Ohm resistor; it's so fucking simple.

What puzzles me is that fact that is indicated as optional signal but without it doesn't work! I mean, it's indicated with a negative logic but nowhere there is an example with the bus pirate where is indicated this connection.


After introduced the scenario, follow me in the procedure: first of all the pinout of the JTAG header is the following on the router

        GND  10  9  TDI (orange)
      nTSRT   8  7  N/C
   nSRST(?)   6  5  TMS (red)
        VCC   4  3  TDO (brown)
(black) GND   2  1  TCK (yellow)

where the colors are of the Bus Pirate cable. The only difference is that I have put a jumper between VCC and nTRST with a 300 Ohm resistor in it.

OpenOCD needs a configuration file, doesn't exist one for this router, but you can create easily one: below the file used by me

source [find interface/buspirate.cfg]

# copied from <bcm6348>
set _CHIPNAME bcm6358
set _CPUID 0x0635817f

jtag newtap $_CHIPNAME cpu -irlen 5 -ircapture 0x1 -irmask 0x1f -expected-id $_CPUID

target create $_TARGETNAME mips_m4k -endian big -chain-position $_TARGETNAME
# see's_Bus_Pirate/OpenOCD_walk_through#F.29_Connecting_OpenOCD_to_your_board.2Fdevice:
buspirate_vreg 0
buspirate_mode open-drain
buspirate_pullup 1

reset_config none

buspirate_port /dev/ttyUSB0

# this model has 16mib
# I don't know bc starts at 0xbe000000 instead of 0xbfc00000
# but I found the address into this post <>
flash bank $_FLASHNAME cfi 0xbe000000 0x1000000 2 2 $_TARGETNAME

Now it's possible to start OpenOCD from the command line:

$ openocd -f vodafone.cfg

However it's not possible to issue commands directly but you need to connect via telnet to the port 4444

$ telnet localhost 4444
Open On-Chip Debugger

the first command is targets, it shows what OpenOCD sees with the JTAG

> targets
    TargetName         Type       Endian TapName            State       
--  ------------------ ---------- ------ ------------------ ------------
 0* bcm6358.cpu        mips_m4k   big    bcm6358.cpu        halted

Now I can try to solve my friend's problem: in order to install OpenWRT you have to somehow write it in the flash, usually is done by the bootloader but this version has it locked down; to overcome this limitation I need to overwrite the bootloader with an unlocked one with OpenOCD. I could write directly the OpenWRT image but the operation is so slow that is preferable to write a 128Kb bootloader that an image of a couple of Mb.

The writing is done via a command called write_flash, it takes an elf, ihex or binary image and write to a specific address in memory, the address must be an address of memory where the flash lives. In my case I used the following line

> flash write_image erase HG553/cfe.bin 0xbe000000 bin
auto erase enabled
No working memory available. Specify -work-area-phys to target.
not enough working area available(requested 140)
Programming at 0xbe000000, count 0x00040000 bytes remaining
Programming at 0xbe000100, count 0x0003ff00 bytes remaining
Programming at 0xbe03ff00, count 0x00000100 bytes remaining
wrote 262144 bytes from file HG553/cfe.bin in 34213.093750s (0.007 KiB/s)

With the Bus Pirate this procedure elapsed for 5 hours! In a near future I'll probably write a post about configuring a raspberry pi as a JTAG adapter, it's like ten times quicker.


At the end of the day I flashed the bootloader but in order to upgrade the OS I needed to start the router holding the reset button for several seconds: after that connecting a computer to it and going to a confortable interface is shown from where it's possible to upload a file.

By the way, if you are interested in stuff that I tear down in my spare time, there is a repo for that. It's an infinite work in progress.


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