Return

You know it's been a while when you try and hop on to make a post and your deploy is broken, your theme is out of date, and in general it takes about as much time just getting something live as you planned to spend actually adding some content.

Broken deploy

The crux of the issue here was building the site locally with an older version of hugo than was being used in the GitLab CI pipeline (not pinned). The fix I went with was updating locally and keeping CI at latest. As an aside, there sure are a lot of ways to install hugo these days. For maximum resiliency I could also pin the CI container version, or use the same container locally, but for now this works.

As it turns out the behavior was not entirely as a result of the hugo version it was really the combination of the current hugo with an old version of the theme I am using. Updating the theme fixed this, but that was another patch of git submodules and figuring out how I had the theme setup.

In the end it's still a really nice setup in that I can write and publish all with just a push. That's pretty low friction.

New Name

Introducing Dev Daily.

This used to be title “Dev Log”, but the repository was titled dev-diary, which always sort of rubbed me wrong. Now I've standardized everything as dev-daily.

Here is an grep, xargs, sed one liner to update all the links in all my posts:

grep -lr "dev-diary" | xargs -I {} sed -i 's/dev-diary/dev-daily/g' {}


Small thing, but nice to have it resolved.

The Main Event

New year, no better time to jump back in and make this habit. When I've spent the time to write here I've personally found it really valuable so getting back on that proverbial horse. This year I am going to try something new. Picking one area/project and following it more deeply with an aim of actually producing something. This is in contrast to my perpetual tinkering, and previously aimless walk through interesting tech.

The specific area that has caught my mind recently is the low level boot process, firmware, and related software ecosystem. I like this because there is a ton I will need to learn in this area, and while it has security implications it is somewhat of a builder type focus, rather than a “find all the bugs” breaker focus. I'd like to build more things.

Motivation

Part of what has sparked this interest is following the creation of the Oxide Computer Company and listening to their On the Metal podcast. So many interesting things going on there.

Another element which sparked my interest was getting a new laptop, the Star Labs Star Lite Mk II. This is a vendor who ships Linux laptops, and provides the feature that

The BIOS, Embedded Controller and SSD receive automatic firmware updates via the LVFS.

I was not previously familiar with the Linux Vendor Firmware Service (LVFS) or the fwupdmgr command, but it is awesome. Think apt update for your chips! How much easier is that than the old way of having to use a windows install, or extract bits from an EXE and build a live usb. Very cool.

The final bit was having a Chromebook which had unfortunately reached End of Life. Though it works perfectly fine for daily browsing, it's not getting updates and so it's not the kind of device I want to put my main google account on. I've always thought Chromebooks are the model for future computing with automatic updates, strong cryptographic guarantees for boot, and a focus on security. The only reason I got the Star Lite rather than a Chromebook was the small friction associated with either crouton or the crostini environments.

In sum, these 3 components are what have set me down this path.

• Ron Minnich talking about webboot and the potential for self-signed verified boot with the NiChrome project.
• Wanting to learn more about coreboot, but it not currently being available for my new machine.
• Having an EOL Chromebook to experiment with.

Plan

So that's what I'm going to do. In even just my first glance there are a ton of resources to get up to speed on. Since they aren't as easily consolidated and discoverable as one might hope, I'm going to try and approach this as a way of documenting them as well.

This may be a bit of a link dump, and follows my personal discovery path rather than perhaps a real hierarchy, if it makes sense I'll eventually organize it.

NiChrome

An open ChromeOS distro with a Go-based userland, X11, and upspin support. (WIP)

Last active August 2019, last/only “release” v1.0.0 (2018-10-01). Interesting because it documents some steps to Re-key your Chromebook and return to Verified mode.

Searching for more information on the current state of NiChome yielded the first real break in helpful information, which was somehow this tweet pointing towards a few relevant Google Documents:

And most helpful of all, the “Open Source Firmware” slack, u-root.slack.com. Unfortunately scroll back/archive of slack is no particularly friendly but it's a start.

webboot

Tools to let a u-root instance boot signed live distro images over the web

This is related in that the kernel “is built using a config originally from NiChromeOS”. Also it seems more actively updated and is mentioned in the slack so could be usable in a real sense, or at least enough to experiment with.

u-root

A fully Go userland with Linux bootloaders! u-root can create a root file system (initramfs) containing a busybox-like set of tools written in Go.

Both of these projects fall under the u-root org.

Onward!

Good day in terms of finding resources. Certainly a stack of things to triage and get through. Excited for this year.