Cat that kicks an exclamation mark.
Hardware of a Free Design
Transparent. No Tricks. No Compromises.

Welcome

This is the place to look for recent announcements, activities, individual statements and ingoing donations – all provided to give you the best reasons to follow and endorse Zerocat and its ambitions.


2024/06/09

Zerocat Mini Machine: Put the fun back into hardware development!

Presentation, held in English (except German is explicitly required by the audience):

When: 2024, June 12th, 7 p.m.
Where: xHain Hack and Makespace, Grünberger Str. 16, 10243 Berlin, Germany
Web: https://x-hain.de/en/

In respect to electronic hardware development, fun is gone as soon as the tools and the development process take your freedoms away, and bind you to proprietary concepts and business models. Zerocat Mini Machine will be different! While being an interesting hardware project by itself, targeting 100% integrity of text processing towards encrypted morse code, it offers a rock-solid free license concept right from the start.

All software tools of the development chain, e.g. 3D-CAD, Electronic Design Automation (EDA), PCB layout editing, and so on are fully qualified free software, provided in reproducible environments by means of the GNU Guix System.


2024/05/06

“Chipflasher v2” goes Libre Planet: Two devices will be sent to FSF

Zerocat is sponsoring FSF’s raffle during Libre Planet 2024 – two devices will be shipped with updated firmware version.


2024/03/31

Zerocat Maintenance: Website idle, Shop closed, Studio to be relocated

The Zerocat Website as well as Zerocat’s Online Shop go idle for a period of time, but will recover once maintenance tasks are accomplished, a new studio is set up, and an alternative shop portefolio is elaborated. For the time being, Zerocat is operated fromout an historic camper with gas and solar power, but no wifi.


2024/01/12

Happy New Year!

In 2024, I will focus on multi core, multi chip, P8X32A system development in all of its aspects, quietly, for a while. The goal is, to get in depth expertise and stable grounds for future, free-design device development, Zerocat Mini Machine included.

As a starting, Zerocat Project Template has been updated to v0.1.0! It ships a first template that can be set up per make file, easily: “Template 1, P8X32A Starter”. Give it a try, please! You will get your breadboards running in no time, using free software only ;-) — Kai Mertens


2023/07/26

Website changes to HTTPS: Trying Let’s Encrypt Certifcates

./img/IMG_3388.JPG

Love, Joy, Privacy, Promise, Peace, Trust, Courage, Hope, Life


2023/07/15

Website Improved: Layout refined for wide Viewports

The website and its project documentations have been trimmed to look nice on a variety of viewports, up to 2000px in width. The readability is greatly improved, and the appearance should be more appealing.


2023/06/03

New Page: Fundraising Campaign Active!

Let’s focus on the current fundraising campaign, put it on front page. Statistics as well as names or nicknames of donators are provided along with relevant information: Fundraising


2023/05/31

New Project: Zerocat Mini Machine

After years of gathering expertise in the fields of firmware replacement, let’s now dare the essential step: Create a mini laptop of supreme integrity, entirely based on free licenses and design files, even down to chip level.

./img/IMG_3181.JPG

Zerocat Mini Machine – suggested use on a Café’s table

The beauty of this machine is not only formed by its attracting, foldable chassis and transparent keyboard, but by the fact that it is a stand-alone device in concept, shipping its own private data transmission channel: Encrypted Morse Code

Enjoy the sources! The first, wooden prototype should be documented well enough to see what it is all about: Zerocat Mini Machine

Fund the project! The ad-hoc goal is to collect 5,000.00 EUR in June and July 2023, and to apply for public funding in August. See Donate for bank account information. See Team for mail address and OpenPGP keys. – Kai Mertens


2023/05/17

Prototype Demonstration – intense Discussion and Brain-storming

The event took place on May 12th, and turned out to be an intense presentation, discussion and brain-storming for more than three hours. Participants brought their own prototypes, and acknowledged the design of Zerocat’s transparent keyboard and foldable chassis. Requirements for secure, private data transmission channels were discussed. Stay tuned! Sources and documentation of the “Zerocat Mini Machine” project will be launched, next.

img/IMG_3101.JPG

“Prototyping for Transparent Mobile Devices” – Workshop with five participants

img/chassis.scad.view1.png

CAD view of foldable chassis

img/chassis.scad.view4.png

CAD view of transparent keyboard


2023/05/08

Prototype Demonstration – 2023 May 12th, 2p.m., Berlin

In preparation for the launch of a new zerocat project, we are happy to announce the demonstration workshop of its prototype device:

“Prototyping for Transparent Mobile Devices”

Zerocat Workshop
2023 May 12th, 2p.m. local time
c/o Alte Giesserei Berlin e.V.
Herzbergstrasse 123, 10365 Berlin

“Enter the proprietary, industrial area by feet, turn left in front of the first building, head for the blue garage and its open door...” – Kai Mertens

The demonstration workshop is intended for everyone being interested into secure, self-made mobile devices of supreme integrity that run with chips of a free design, only.

The event not only serves for the purpose of brain-storming, it is also meant as a first fundraising event to help the project get started. Participation is free of charge, but your donation would be very much appreciated.

The event will be held in a mix of english and german language.

Prof. Volker Roth (Freie Universität Berlin) will be in attendance. He currently heads a BMBF¹ funded project with the goal to research and develop a trustworthy hardware/software system. He agreed to debate design choices when developing such systems.

¹BMBF – Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, Germany

img/IMG_3097.JPG

“Zerocat Mini Machine”, prototype snapshot, work in progress


2023/04/13

“Chipflasher v2” – v2.0.3 released!

This version ships a new set of GNU Guix channel and manifest files. The guix channel has been upgraded to 6992e66b21. See CHANGES for details of this release.


2023/04/01

OpenPGP keys updated.

Please retrieve Zerocat’s updated key files from this website and check fingerprints. Expiration dates have been set to: 2024-03-31


2023/03/29

Zerocat Coreboot Machines – v0.16.13 released!

This version ships detailed information on how to remove Lenovo’s battery blacklist on xx30 machines to make 3rd-party batteries get charged. Photo documentations are provided for T530 and X230 Tablet type of laptops.


2023/03/15

Zerocat Project Template – v0.0.23 released!

This version comes with a refined skeleton for improved HTML documentation output. A dedicated dropdown button, labeled “GNU Guix Environment”, provides detailed information about a project’s shell environment on GNU Guix System.

All Zerocat projects have been updated accordingly and offer the same type of documentation structure, while maintaining each project’s requirements of development software.

The management of multiple free software projects with their demands for individual toolchains is now made easy. Zerocat uses it as a proof of concept to build this website :-)


2023/02/25

Zerocat Project Template – v0.0.22 released!

This project skeleton supports easy toolchain setup in one go¹, thanks to GNU Guix’ ability to travel in time. If a tool fails after upgrading the project’s guix channel information, just restore that information and your approved, reliable toolchain environment will again be available and keep you productive :-)

¹ type make -C guix pull once, then type make -C guix environment


2023/02/15

“Chipflasher v2” – v2.0.1 released!

A new “Quick Start” section helps you to hook up and operate the device in no time. Make files are fixed and improved, and offer a bunch of new goals for all combinations of firmware, board version, utility, RS232 baudrate and upload destination (e.g. RAM or EEPROM).


2023/02/03

The all-new “Chipflasher v2” is now available!

Improved ready to use devices and chip flasher kits (soldering required) are now in stock, ready to be shipped worldwide. Order your own Chipflasher v2 now from Vikings, our libre-friendly partner, or Zerocat.

See Zerocat’s Shop (static HTML) to get details and product information:
Chipflasher v2 | Chipflasher v2 Kit

Alternatively, checkout The Vikings Store, using a secure HTTP connection:
Chipflasher v2 | Chipflasher v2 Kit

More information is provided on the flasher’s webpage: Chipflasher


2022/12/16

Shop Maintenance

Names are important. Product pages are now using correct terms to specify the installed distribution of the GNU Operating System. Shortcuts on this webpage have been updated or removed.


2022/12/12

Shop Update


2022/12/09

Zerocat Flash Access v0.4.0: HPM How-to for X200 available

The ThinkPad X200 is well known for its Libreboot and blobfree Coreboot compatibility and is offered as an RYF-certified device by various suppliers.

Zerocat now proudly presents a detailed step by step guide to set the firmware into Hardware Protection Mode (HPM), thus elevating the integrity of the machine: X200 SPI Flash Connector

You can book Zerocat’s service, too:
SPI Flash Connector + Write Protection Jumper


2022/10/30

Chipflasher: New Sales Pages

Sales pages for Chipflasher v2 and Chipflasher v2 – Kit are now provided as previews in the shop. Product descriptions will be refined in November, availability and launch of sale is scheduled for December 2022.

Along with Chipflasher v2 – Kit, a Kit User Guide is published on branch flashrom-interface, commit 7957926c8.


2022/10/28

Chipflasher: First Chipflasher v2 Devices

Branch flashrom-interface, commit 210b3af35:

Five Chipflasher v2 devices have been assembled and successfully tested with kick2 and the new interface to flashrom. I am now preparing the sales package and the shipment to FSF in order to apply for RYF certification. — Kai Mertens


2022/10/20

Chipflasher: New PCBs available

Branch flashrom-interface, commit 5927da721:

A bunch of ten new PCBs are now available for assemblage.
Two first Chipflasher v2 devices are expected to be ready on 25th of October.
The assembling process will be documented!


2022/10/20

Chipflasher’s Flashrom Interface: More Test Reports Available

Branch flashrom-interface, commit 1723df2c5:


2022/10/15

Chipflasher: New PCB Design Sources released!

Branch flashrom-interface, commit fa7ba6995:

Chipflasher board v2 Design Sources are now publically available.

Hardware Design Sources are licensed under CERN Open Hardware License Version 2 – Strongly Reciprocal.

You may redistribute and modify the sources and make products using it under the terms of the CERN-OHL-S v2 or any later version.

This ensures that the source location of the Chipflasher, being engraved into the copper of the PCB, remains with the physical product and its derivatives ;-)

Until new, physical PCBs are available, these sources come with status UNTESTED.


2022/09/30

Chipflasher’s Flashrom Interface: Test Reports Available

Branch flashrom-interface, commit 91b1f109:


2022/09/22

Chipflasher’s Flashrom Interface: Refined Testboard Features

Branch flashrom-interface, commit 98cbba6f:

Testboard features have been refined and enriched:

A difficult-to-flash target ThinkPad T60 with MX25L1605D is now supported.


2022/09/16

Chipflasher’s Flashrom Interface: Testboard with new Features

Branch flashrom-interface, commit a29e1a01:

In preparation for the next chipflasher PCB, the handmade testboard introduces new features:

Chipflasher Flashrom Interface, Testboard Documentation


2022/08/30

Chipflasher’s Flashrom Interface: Testboard Documentation

Branch flashrom-interface, commit 0cd1b4b9:


2022/08/22

Chipflasher’s Flashrom Interface: New Default RS232 Baudrate

Branch flashrom-interface, commit d72b996a:


2022/08/18

Chipflasher’s Flashrom Interface: Full Power SPI Clock Driver @ 40MHz

Branch flashrom-interface, commit f91b83fa:


2022/08/15

Donation received

Stichting NLnet sends €1.500,- for Zerocat Chipflasher Flashrom Interface, Milestone #4(13). Milestones left for this summer: 8


2022/07/29

Chipflasher’s Flashrom Interface: New Tasks Identified

Six additional tasks have been identified. These are now defined as milestones 8 through 13 in a project amendment paper, signed by Bob Goudriaan on behalf of the NLnet foundation. The final budget has been increased.

The project is now heading for an updated chipflasher PCB with improved firmware and will again apply for FSF’s RYF certification by end of this year.


2022/07/27

Chipflasher’s Flashrom Interface: Ultrafast SPI Routines

Branch flashrom-interface, commit 7d693973:


2022/07/21

Chipflasher’s Flashrom Interface: Faster SPI Routines

Branch flashrom-interface, commit f8919500: The SPI bus is now accessed via PASM routines, which provide much better clock rates. Eight bits of data read/write is done with 5MHz. Other bit lengths are still transferred at good clock rates, such like 4MHz (read) and 3.33MHz (write).

See SPI Clock Speed with Flashrom for some pretty oscilloscope snapshots.


2022/07/11

Chipflasher’s Flashrom Interface: Optimized SPI Routines

Branch flashrom-interface, commit 4825a98e: The Spin routines that access the SPI bus have been cleaned and optimized. SPI modes 0 (default) and 3 are both supported.


2022/07/08

Donation received

Stichting NLnet sends €1.750,- for Zerocat Chipflasher Flashrom Interface, Milestone #3(7). Milestones left for this summer: 3


2022/06/30

Ready to fly: Chipflasher’s Flashrom Interface is Up and Running

I am very pleased to announce herewith the successful release of Chipflasher’s Flashrom Interface. The project’s core milestone #3(7) is now done. It links a widely used free software project to hardware of a free design, even down to chip level.

I receive great support from OSE-Germany e.V. and associated fellows, as well as from Michiel Leenaars from the NLnet Foundation. I am very grateful to meet your friendly companionship and encouragement!

Now have fun to see the documentation: Chipflasher Flashrom Interface

--- Kai Mertens


2022/06/26

Team Member leaves Zerocat

Ricardo Morte kindly asks to have his contact details removed from the team page. He would like to direct his focus towards other projects, and changes his list of priorities.


2022/06/19

More Laptops in Shop

Occasionally, ThinkPads come with flash chips that have volatile registers. The chipflasher now handles these types more reliably with kick2, the second firmware approach. Selected devices move into the shop:

At power-up, volatile registers are set into Software Protection Mode (SPM) by the flash itself, that is why Hardware Protection Mode (HPM) cannot be applied via jumper.


2022/05/26

Keys Updated

I have just refreshed the expiration dates of my GnuPG Keys.
New key files are available on pages Team and OpenPGP.
— Kai Mertens


2022/05/25

Professional Circuit Schematics

The documentation of the Chipflasher Device provides professional circuit schematics, now split into pages: Small fixes applied, readability greatly improved!


2022/05/21

Firmware Write Protection for ThinkPad T60

Project Zerocat Flash Access advances to version v0.3.0 and ships a new how-to: See T60 SPI Flash Connector to learn about Hardware Protection Mode (HPM) for the firmware of the T60.

In addition, the T60 is now covered by the corresponding shop service:
SPI Flash Interface + Write Protection Jumper


2022/05/16

Donation received

Stichting NLnet sends €1.250,- for Zerocat Chipflasher Flashrom Interface, Milestone #7(7). Milestones left for this summer: 4


2022/05/08

New Projects


2022/04/24

Firmware Write Protection for ThinkPad T530

Project Zerocat Flash Access advances to version v0.2.0 and ships a new how-to: See T530 SPI Flash Connector to learn about Hardware Protection Mode (HPM) for the firmware of the T530.

In addition, the T530 is now covered by the corresponding shop service:
SPI Flash Interface + Write Protection Jumper


2022/04/19

New Logotypes and Icons

Zerocat used to use the last letter of the latin alphabet for its icons, in conjunction with an emphasized exclamation mark. However, we have to face the fact that this letter has been hijacked. As a consequence, we now drop that letter and use different icons as a clear act of sympathy and empowerment for the ukrainian people and for peace.


Resurrection Sunday, 2022/04/17

New Chipflasher PCB

The chipflasher project comes with an updated printed circuit board (PCB). Version board-v1.3.0 brings new features:

The CAD files have not yet been used for production – a budget of €500,- is needed to place the order of PCBs and to start assemblage. Please help!
See Donate for bank account details. — Kai Mertens


2022/04/09

New Service

SPI Flash Interface + Write Protection Jumper

This service greatly improves the integrity of your ThinkPad, as it applies hardware write protection to the firmware. Selected ThinkPads are supported, according to elaborated how-tos of the Zerocat Flash Access project.


2022/03/30

New Laptops in Shop

First “Next Generation Zerocat Laptops“ are now available for purchase. They come with exciting key features at very affordable prices:

  1. encrypted Operating System preinstalled
  2. Chipflasher Interface below Keyboard
  3. Hardware Write Protected BIOS Chips
  4. Intel ME disabled/neutralized, firmware deleted/cleaned
  5. Zerocat Bootmenu and Branding

All tools required to create these laptops are freely licensed.
See shop’s product pages for references.

Note that Zerocat Coreboot Machines now ships an utility script that eases installation of Hyperbola GNU/Linux-libre – a young distribution that aims to improve reliability and integrity of the GNU System. See webpage for an example script run.


2022/02/27

Website Clean-up

This clean-up eases orientation and helps focussing on core activities.


2022/02/21

New Team Member

It’s always satisfying to modify and free yet another Thinkpad: digging deeper, finding tweaks, making firmware replacement even simpler. My T430 has been flashed without even touching the fan! Let’s elaborate clipless procedures for more models, come and join the Zerocat Flash Access project!

--- Jorgo Triantafilidis


2022/02/08

New Project

Zerocat Flash Access – Interfacing BIOS Chips in Hardware Protection Mode

This project demonstrates how your Free-Software Laptop security is further enhanced by activating the Hardware Protection Mode (HPM) of its BIOS chips. This feature is of special significance because it guarantees that your machine will always boot with the same code.

--- Kai Mertens


2022/01/24

Donation received

Dave Dlugaiczyk sends €500,- to support the Zerocat Label.


2022/01/16

Let’s start 2022 with some first, good news!

--- Kai Mertens


2022/01/12

Donation received

Stichting NLnet sends €1.250,- for Zerocat Chipflasher Flashrom Interface, Milestone #2(7).


2021/12/31

Hurray, the year is over!

It was a difficult year for me and many others, so we do not need to make a resumé! Let’s focus on the next steps instead – I can’t wait to make them all come true in 2022:

  1. Zerocat Chipflasher Flashrom Interface made great progress and continues to receive funding from the NLnet foundation! The project is now starting with core milestone #3(7).
  2. Boost production of the latest free software laptops. In 2022 we will continue to provide the best quality laptops and promote their use. Current trends in digital surveillance, social control and pressure, makes this more relevant than ever. We are all in urgent need of private, secure communication equipment and all-purpose computers.
  3. Launch of Zerocat’s crowd funding page. As we move into many new projects, we need funds to scale up!

I wish you all the very best for the new year and invite you to stop using compromised hardware and smartphones, throw them away! The sooner we liberate ourselves from that crap, the better we can save families, neighboorhoods and societies.

--- Kai Mertens


2021/12/27

Zerocat Chipflasher v0.6.1 released!

This is a major step! The interface to the project’s connect utility has greatly been improved. You have full access to chips’ configuration registers and their protection and lock bits.

As an exciting, special feature, it also lets you access and lock the Secured One-Time-Programmable Regions, often found on ThinkPads. Lock the regions, before someone else will do it!

Furthermore, end-of-write-cycle detection can be switched from polling to timeout – This eases flashing of ThinkPad models T530 and W530.

Please note that Zerocat Coreboot Machines has been advanced, too. It now ships version v0.16.2.

Last but not least, all project documentations support inline images – I very much hope you like that!

--- Kai Mertens


2021/10/26

Zerocat Coreboot Machines v0.16.0 released!

The project has been cleaned up, it should be very easy to use now. Special thanks to those hackers that have supplied hardware and that have tried the project on their own – you helped to improve it! See NEWS.

--- Kai Mertens


2021/10/11

Some Progress / Jour Fixe

--- Kai Mertens


2021/09/26

New Projects / New Versions / New Documentation

--- Kai Mertens


2021/06/28

Project Chipflasher “flashrom-interface” has been updated.

  1. Interface configuration has been put under user control.
  2. Firmware “kick2” comes with improved block read operations (byte, page, block, chip) for the “connect” utility.
  3. Next steps are tracked in project’s TODO file.

--- Kai Mertens


2021/06/26

Sad to say, Zerocat Store Corner is closed.

It is time to look for a new location, long-term or temporal, event-based.

--- Kai Mertens


2021/06/14

New Achievement!

Installation of an encrypted Parabola GNU/Linux-libre System is now supported per Zerocat’s alternate install script. See “Coreboot-Machines” dropdown menu.

--- Kai Mertens


2021/04/22

Donation received

Stichting NLnet sends €1.250,- for Zerocat Chipflasher Flashrom Interface, Milestone #1(7).


2020/12/23

Free designs become even more important these times, ...

... as we see that societies rely on solidarité rather than on commercial market in cases of emergency. The right way to go is to request free designs not only for software, hardware and seeds, but for immunology vaccine as well.

--- Kai Mertens