In 2013, Samsung released the Galaxy NX (EK-GN100, EK-GN120, internal name "Galaxy U"), half Android smartphone, half interchangeable lens camera with a 20.3MP APS-C sensor, as part of the NX lineup that I analyzed last year.

Samsung Galaxy NX (*)

A decade later, the Galaxy NX is an expensive rarity on the used market. Luckily, I was able to obtain one of these Android+Linux-SoC hybrids, and will find out what makes it tick in this post.

Hardware Overview

The Android part can probably be called a "phablet" by 2013's standards, given its 4.8" screen and lack of a speaker / microphone. It's powered by the 1.6GHz quad-core Exynos 4412 SoC, featuring LTE connectivity and dual-band WiFi. Back then, there was no VoLTE, so the lack of audio is understandable, and anyway it might look a bit weird to hold a rather large mirrorless camera with an even larger lens to your head.

Due to the large touchscreen, there is not much space for physical camera controls. Just the mode dial, shutter and video recording buttons. Most NX lenses have an additional i-Fn button to cycle through manual camera settings.

Photo of the Galaxy NX top side with the few physical controls

From the outside, it's not clear how the Android SoC and the DRIMeIV camera SoC interact with each other. They seem to live in an open relationship, anyway: from time to time, the camera SoC will crash, only showing a black live view, and the Android will eventually find that out and try to restart it (without much success):

Screenshot: black live view

Screenshot: Warning, auto-recovering!

Shutting down the camera, removing the battery and restarting everything will calm the evil ghosts... for a while.

Of the 2GB of physical RAM, Android can see 1.5GB, probably meaning that the remaining 512MB are assigned to the DRIMeIV SoC, matching the NX300. We'll do the flash and firmware analysis further below.

Android 4.2 is dead

The latest (and only) Android firmware released by Samsung is Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean from 2012. There are no official or unofficial ports of later Android releases. The UI is snappy, but the decade of age shows, despite Samsung's customizing.

The dated Android is especially painful due to three issues: lack of apps, outdated encryption, and outdated root certificates:

Issue 1: No apps compatible with Android 4.2

Keeping an app backward-compatible is work. Much work. Especially with Google moving the goalposts every year. Therefore, most developers abandon old Android versions whenever adding a new feature in a backward-compatible fashion would be non-trivial.

Therefore, we need to scrape decade-old APK files from the shady corners of the Internet.

Free & Open Source apps

Google Play is of no help here, but luckily the F-Droid community cares about old devices. Less luckily, the old version of F-Droid will OOM-crash under the weight of the archive repository, so packages have to be hunted down and installed manually with adb after enabling developer settings.

I had to look up the package name for each app I was interested in, then manually search for the latest compatible MinVer: 4. build in the view-source of the respective archive browser page:

In the end, the official Mastodon client wasn't available, and the other ones were so old and buggy (and/or suffered from issues 2 and 3 below) that I went back to using the mastodon web interface from Firefox.

Proprietary Apps

As everywhere on the Internet, there is a large number of shady, malware-pushing, SEO-optimized, easy to fall for websites that offer APK files scraped from Google Play. Most of them will try to push their own "installer" app to you, or even disguise their installer as the app you try to get.

Again, knowing the internal package name helps finding the right page. Searching multiple portals might help you get the latest APK that still supports your device.

  • apkmonk - scroll down to "All Versions", clicking on an individual version will start the APK download (no way to know the required Android release without trial and error).
  • APKPure - don't click on "Use APKPure App", don't install the browser extension. Click on "Old versions of ..." or on "All Versions". Clicking an individual version in the table will show the required Android release.
  • APKMirror - has a listing of old versions ("See more uploads..."), but only shows the actual Android release compatibility on the respective app version's page.

Issue 1b: limited RAW editing

TL;DR: Snapseed fails, but Lightroom works with some quirks on the Galaxy NX. Long version:

The Galaxy NX is a camera first, and a smartphone phablet second. It has very decent interchangeable lenses, a 20MP sensor, and can record RAW photos in Samsung's SRW format.

Snapseed: error messages galore

Given that it's also an Android device, the free Snapseed tool is the most obvious choice to process the RAW images. It supports the industry standard Adobe patented openly-documented "digital negative" DNG format.

To convert from RAW to DNG, there is a convenient tool named raw2dng that supports quite a bunch of formats, including SRW. The latest version running on Android 4.2 is raw2dng 2.4.2.

The app's UI is a bit cumbersome, but it will successfully convert SRW to DNG on the Galaxy NX! Unfortunately, it will not add them to the Android media index, so we also need to run SD Scanner after each conversion.

Yay! We have completed step 1 out of 3! Now, we only need to open the newly-converted DNG in Snapseed.

The latest Snapseed version still running on Android 4.2 is Snapseed 2.17.0.

That version won't register as a file handler for DNG files, and you can't choose them from the "Open..." dialog in Snapseed, but you can "Send to..." a DNG from your file manager:

Screenshot: an error occured during loading the photo

Okay, so you can't. Well, but the "Open..." dialog shows each image twice, the JPG and the SRW, so we probably can open the latter and do our RAW editing anyway:

Screenshot: RAW photo editing is not supported on this device

Bummer. Apparently, this feature relies on DNG support that was only added in Android 5. But the error message means that it was deliberately blocked, so let's downgrade Snapseed... The error was added in 2.3; versions 2.1 and 2.0 opened the SRW but treated it like a JPG (no raw development, probably an implicit conversion implemented by Samsung's firmware; you can also use raw images with other apps, and then they run out of memory and crash). Snapseed 2.0 finally doesn't have this error message... but instead another one:

Screenshot: Unfortunately, Snapseed has stopped.

So we can't process our raw photos with Snapseed on Android 4.2. What a pity.

Lightroom: one picture a time

Luckily, there is a commercial alternative: Adobe Lightroom. The last version for our old Android is Lightroom 3.5.2.

As part of the overall enshittification, it will ask you all the time to login / register with your Adobe account, and will refuse editing SRW pictures (because they "were not created on the device"). However, it will actually accept (and process!) DNG files converted with raw2dng and indexed with SD Scanner, and will allow basic development including full resolution JPEG exports.

Screenshot: Adobe Lightroom on mobile

However, you may only ever "import" a single DNG file at a time (it takes roughly 3-4 seconds). If you try to import multiple files, Lightroom will hang forever:

Screenshot: Lightroom import hangs for half an hour

It will also remember the pending imports on next app start, and immediately hang up again. The only way out is from Android Settings ➡ Applications ➡ Lightroom ➡ Clear data; then import each image individually into Lightroom.

Issue 2: No TLS 1.3, deactivated TLS 1.2

In 2018, TLS 1.3 happened, and pushed many sites and their API endpoints to remove TLS 1.0 and 1.1.

However, Android's SSLSocket poses a problem here. Support for TLS 1.1 and 1.2 was introduced in Android 4.1, but only enabled by default in Android 5. Apps that didn't explicitly enable it on older devices are stuck on TLS 1.0, and are out of luck when accessing securely-configured modern API endpoints. Given that most apps abandoned Android 4.x compatibility before TLS 1.2 became omnipresent, the old APKs we can use won't work with today's Internet.

There is another aspect to TLS 1.2, and that's the introduction of elliptic-curve certificates (ECDSA ciphers). Sites that switch from RSA to DSA certificates will not work if TLS 1.2 isn't explicitly enabled in the app. Now, hypothetically, you can decompile the APK, patch in TLS 1.2 support, and reassemble a self-signed app, but that would be real work.

Note: TLS 1.3 was only added (and activated) in Android 10, so we are completely out of luck with any services requiring that.

Of course, the TLS compatibility is only an issue for apps that use Android's native network stack, which is 99.99% of all apps. Firefox is one of the few exceptions as it comes with its own SSL/TLS implementation and actually supports TLS 1.0 to 1.3 on Android 4!

Issue 3: Let's Encrypt Root CA

Now even if the service you want to talk to still supports TLS 1.0 (or the respective app from back when Android 4.x was still en vogue activated TLS 1.2), there is another problem. Most websites are using the free Let's Encrypt certificates, especially for API endpoints. Luckily, Let's Encrypt identified and solved the Android compatibility problem in 2020!

All that a website operator (each website operator) needs to do is to ensure that they add the DST Root CA X3 signed ISRG Root X1 certificate in addition to the Let's Encrypt R3 certificate to their server's certificate chain! 🤯

Otherwise, their server will not be trusted by old Android:

Screenshot: certificate error

Such a dialog will only be shown by apps which allow the user to override an "untrusted" Root CA (e.g. using the MemorizingTrustManager). Other apps will just abort with obscure error messages, saying that the server is not reachable and please-check-your-internet-connection.

Alternatively, it's possible to patch the respective app (real work!), or to add the LE Root CA to the user's certificate store. The last approach requires setting an Android-wide password or unlock pattern, because, you know, security!

The lock screen requirement can be worked around on a rooted device by adding the certificate to the /system partition, using apps like the Root Certificate Manager(ROOT) (it requires root permissions to install Root Certificatfes to the root filesystem!), or following an easy 12-step adb-shell-bouncycastle-keytool tutorial.

Getting Root

There is a handful of Android 4.x rooting apps that use one of the many well-documented exploits to obtain temporary permissions, or to install some old version of SuperSU. All of them fail due to the aforementioned TLS issues.

In the end, the only one that worked was the Galaxy NX (EK-GN120) Root from XDA-Dev, which needs to be installed through Samsung's ODIN, and will place a su binary and the SuperSU app on the root filesystem.

Now, ODIN is not only illegal to distribute, but also still causes PTSD flashbacks years after the last time I used it. Luckily, Heimdall is a FOSS replacement that is easy and robust, and all we need to do is to extract the tar file and run:

heimdall flash --BOOT boot.img

On the next start, su and SuperSu will be added to the /system partition.

Firmware structure

This is a slightly more detailed recap of the earlier Galaxy NX firmware analysis.

Android firmware

The EK-GN120 firmware is a Matryoshka doll of containers. It is provided as a ZIP that contains a .tar.md5 file (and a DLL?! Maybe for Odin?):

 Length   Method    Size  Cmpr    Date    Time   CRC-32   Name
--------  ------  ------- ---- ---------- ----- --------  ----
1756416082  Defl:N 1144688906  35% 2014-06-06 09:53 4efae9c7  GN120XXUAND3_GN120DBTANE1_GN120XXUAND3_HOME.tar.md5
 1675776  Defl:N   797975  52% 2014-06-06 09:58 34b56b1d  SS_DL.dll
--------          -------  ---                            -------
1758091858         1145486881  35%                            2 files

The .tar.md5 is an actual tar archive with an appended MD5 checksum. They didn't even bother with a newline:

$ tail -1 GN120XXUAND3_GN120DBTANE1_GN120XXUAND3_HOME.tar.md5
[snip garbage]056c3570e489a8a5c84d6d59da3c5dee  GN120XXUAND3_GN120DBTANE1_GN120XXUAND3_HOME.tar

The tar itself contains a bunch more containers:

-rwxr-xr-x dpi/dpi    79211348 2014-04-16 13:46 camera.bin
-rw-r--r-- dpi/dpi     5507328 2014-04-16 13:49 boot.img
-rw-r--r-- dpi/dpi     6942976 2014-04-16 13:49 recovery.img
-rw-r--r-- dpi/dpi  1564016712 2014-04-16 13:48 system.img
-rwxr-xr-x dpi/dpi    52370176 2014-04-16 13:46 modem.bin
-rw-r--r-- dpi/dpi    40648912 2014-05-20 21:27 cache.img
-rw-r--r-- dpi/dpi     7704808 2014-05-20 21:27 hidden.img

These img and bin files contain different parts of the firmware and are flashed into respective partitions of the phone/camera:

  • camera.bin: SLP container with five partitions for the DRIMeIV Tizen Linux SoC
  • boot.img: (Android) Linux kernel and initramfs
  • recovery.img: Android recovery kernel and initrams
  • system.img: Android (sparse) root filesystem image
  • modem.bin: a 50 MByte FAT16 image... with Qualcomm modem files
  • cache.img: Android cache partition image
  • hidden.img: Android hidden partition image (contains a few watermark pictures and Over_the_horizon.mp3 in a folder INTERNAL_SDCARD)

DRIMeIV firmware

The camera.bin is 77MB and features the SLP\x00 header known from the Samsung NX300. It's also mentioning the internal model name as "GALAXYU":

camera.bin: GALAXYU firmware 0.01 (D20D0LAHB01) with 5 partitions
           144    5523488   f68a86 ffffffff  vImage
       5523632       7356 ad4b0983 7fffffff  D4_IPL.bin
       5530988      63768 3d31ae89 65ffffff  D4_PNLBL.bin
       5594756    2051280 b8966d27 543fffff  uImage
       7646036   71565312 4c5a14bc 4321ffff  platform.img

The platform.img file contains a UBIFS root partition, and presumably vImage is used for upgrading the DRIMeIV firmware, and uImage is the standard kernel running on the camera SoC. The rootfs features "squeeze/sid" in /etc/debian_version, even though it's Tizen / Samsung Linux Platform. There is a 500KB /usr/bin/di-galaxyu-app that's probably responsible for camera operation as well as for talking to the Android CPU (The NX300 di-camera-app that actually implements the camera UI is 3.1MB).

Camera API

To actually use the camera, it needs to be exposed to the Android UI, which talks to the Linux kernel on the Android SoC, which probably talks to the Linux kernel on the DRIMeIV SoC, which runs di-galaxyu-app. There is probably some communication mechanism like SPI or I2C for configuration and signalling, and also a shared memory area to transmit high-bandwidth data (images and video streams).

Here we only get a brief overview of the components involved, further source reading and reverse engineering needs to be done to actually understand how the pieces fit together.

The Android side

On Android, the app is responsible for camera handling. When it's started or switches to gallery mode, the screen briefly goes black, indicating that maybe the UI control is handed over to the DRIMeIV SoC?

The code for the camera app can be found in /system/app/SamsungCamera2_GalaxyNX.apk and /system/app/SamsungCamera2_GalaxyNX.odex and it needs to be deodexed in order to decompile the Java code.

There is an Exynos 4412 Linux source drop that also contains a DRIMeIV video driver. That driver references a set of resolutions going up to 20MP, which matches the Galaxy NX sensor specs. It is exposing a Video4Linux camera, and seems to be using SPI or I2C (based on an #ifdef) to talk to the actual DRIMeIV processor.

The DRIMeIV side

On the other end, the Galaxy NX source code dump contains the Linux kernel running on the DRIMeIV SoC, with a drivers/i2c/si2c_drime4.c file that registers a "Samsung Drime IV Slave I2C Driver", which also allocates a memory region for MMIO.

The closed-source di-galaxyu-app is referencing both SPI and I2C, and needs to be reverse-engineered.

(*) Galaxy NX photo (C) Samsung marketing material

Posted 2024-07-15 18:18 Tags:

From 2009 to 2014, Samsung released dozens of camera models and even some camcorders with built-in WiFi and a feature to upload photos and videos to social media, using Samsung's Social Network Services (SNS). That service was discontinued in 2021, leaving the cameras disconnected.

We are bringing a reverse-engineered API implementation of the SNS to a 20$ LTE modem stick in order to email or publish our photos to Mastodon on the go.

Photo of a Samsung camera upload a photo

Social Network Services (SNS) API

The SNS API is a set of HTTP endpoints consuming and returning XML-like messages (the sent XML is malformed, and the received data is not syntax-checked by the strstr() based parser). It is used by all Samsung WiFi cameras created between 2011 and 2014, and allows to proxy-upload photos and videos to a series of social media services (Facebook, Picasa, Flickr, YouTube, ...).

It is built on plain-text HTTP, and uses either OAuth or a broken, hand-rolled encryption scheme to "protect" the user's social media credentials.

As the original servers have been shutdown, the only way to re-create the API is to reverse engineer the client code located in various cameras' firmware (NX300, WB850F, HMX-QF30) and old packet traces.

Luckily, the lack of HTTPS and the vulnerable encryption mean that we can easily redirect the camera's traffic to our re-implementation API. On the other hand, we do not want to force the user to send their credentials over the insecure channel, and therefore will store them in the API bridge instead.

The re-implementation is written in Python on top of Flask, and needs to work around a few protocol-violating bugs on the camera side.


The SNS bridge needs to be reachable by the camera, and we need to DNS-redirect the original Samsung API hostnames to it. It can be hosted on a free VPS, but then we still need to do the DNS trickery on the WiFi side.

When on the go, you also need to have a mobile-backed WiFi hotspot. Unfortunately, redirecting DNS for individual hostnames on stock Android is hard, you can merely change the DNS server to one under your control. But then you need to add a VPN tunnel or host a public DNS resolver, and those will become DDoS reflectors very fast.

The 20$ LTE stick

Luckily, there is an exciting dongle that will give us all three features: a configurable WiFi hotspot, an LTE uplink, and enough power to run the samsung-nx-emailservice right on it: Hackable $20 modem combines LTE and PI Zero W2 power.

It also has the bonus of limiting access to the insecure SNS API to the local WiFi hotspot network.

Initial Configuration

There is an excellent step-by-step guide to install Debian that I will not repeat here.

On some devices, the original ADB-enabling trick does not work, but you can directly open the unauthenticated page in the browser, and within a minute the stick will reboot with ADB enabled.

If you have the hardware revision UZ801 v3.x of the stick, you need to use a custom kernel + base image.

Please follow the above instructions to complete the Debian installation. You should be logged in as root@openstick now for the next steps.

The openstick will support adb shell, USB RNDIS and WiFi to access it, but for the cameras it needs to expose a WiFi hotspot. You can create a NetworkManager-based hotspot using nmcli or by other means as appropriate for you.

Installing samsung-nx-emailservice

We need git, Python 3 and its venv module to get started, install the source, and patch werkzeug to compensate for Samsung's broken client implementation:

apt install --no-install-recommends git python3-venv virtualenv
git clone
cd samsung-nx-emailservice
python3 -m venv venv
source ./venv/bin/activate
pip3 install -r requirements.txt
# the patch is for python 3.8, we have python 3.9
cd venv/lib/python3.9/
patch -p4 < ../../../flask-3.diff
cd -

By default, this will open an HTTP server on port :8080 on all IP addresses of the openstick. You can verify that by connecting to on the USB interface. You should see this page:

Screenshot of the API bridge index page

We need to change the port to 80, and ideally we should not expose the service to the LTE side of things, so we have to obtain the WiFi hotspot's IP address using ip addr show wlan0:

11: wlan0: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1500 qdisc mq state UP group default qlen 1000
    link/ether 02:00:a1:61:c7:3a brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff
    inet brd scope global noprefixroute wlan0
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
    inet6 fe80::a1ff:fe61:c73a/64 scope link 
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever

Accordingly, we edit and change the code at the end of the file to bind to on port 80:

if __name__ == '__main__': = True, host='', port=80)

We need to change config.toml and enter our "whitelisted" sender addresses, as well as the email and Mastodon credentials there. To obtain a Mastodon access token from your instance, you need to register a new application.

Automatic startup with systemd

We also create a systemd service file called samsung-nx-email.service in /etc/systemd/system/ so that the service will be started automatically:

Description=Samsung NX API

ExecStart=/root/samsung-nx-emailservice/venv/bin/python3 /root/samsung-nx-emailservice/


After that, we load, start, and activate it for auto-start:

systemctl daemon-reload
systemctl enable samsung-nx-email.service
systemctl start samsung-nx-email.service

Using journalctl -fu samsung-nx-email we can verify that everything is working:

Jul 05 10:01:38 openstick systemd[1]: Started Samsung NX API.
Jul 05 10:01:38 openstick python3[2229382]:  * Serving Flask app 'samsungserver'
Jul 05 10:01:38 openstick python3[2229382]:  * Debug mode: on
Jul 05 10:01:38 openstick python3[2229382]: WARNING: This is a development server. Do not use it in a production deployment. Use a production WSGI server instead.
Jul 05 10:01:38 openstick python3[2229382]:  * Running on
Jul 05 10:01:38 openstick python3[2229382]: Press CTRL+C to quit
Jul 05 10:01:38 openstick python3[2229382]:  * Restarting with stat
Jul 05 10:01:39 openstick python3[2229388]:  * Debugger is active!
Jul 05 10:01:39 openstick python3[2229388]:  * Debugger PIN: 123-456-789

Security warning: this is not secure!

WARNING: This is a development server. [...]

Yes, this straight-forward deployment relying on python's built-in WSGI is not meant for production, which is why we limit it to our private WiFi.

Furthermore, the API implementation is not performing authentication beyond checking the address againts the SENDERS variable. Given that transmissions are in plain-text, enforcing passwords could backfire on the user.

Redirecting DNS

By default, the Samsung cameras will attempt to connect a few servers via HTTP to find out if they are on a captive portal hotspot and to interact with the social media. The full list of hosts can be found in the project README.

As we are using NetworkManager for the hotspot, and it uses dnsmasq internally, we can use dnsmasq's config syntax and create an additional config file /etc/NetworkManager/dnsmasq-shared.d/00-samsung-nx.conf that will map all relevant addresses to the hotspot's IP address:


After a reboot, we should be up and running, and can connect from the camera to the WiFi hotspot to send our pictures.

Hotspot detection strikes again

The really old models (ST1000/CL65, SH100) will mis-detect a private IP for the Samsung service as a captive hotspot portal and give you this cryptic error message:

Certification is needed from the Access Point. Connection cannot be made at this time. Call ISP for further details

Camera error message: Certification is needed from the Access Point. Connection cannot be made at this time. Call ISP for further details

If you see this message, you need to trick the camera to use a non-private IP address, which is by Samsung's standard one that doesn't begin with 192.168.

You can change the hotspot config in /etc/NetworkManager/system-connections to use a different RFC 1918 range from or, or you can band-aid around the issue by dice-rolling a random IP from those ranges that you don't need to access (e.g., to return it from 00-samsung-nx.conf and to use iptables to redirect HTTP traffic going to that address to the local SNS API instead:

iptables -t nat -A PREROUTING -p tcp -d --dport 80 -j DNAT --to-destination

This will prevent you from accessing on your ISP's network via HTTP, which is probably not a huge loss.

You can persist that rule over reboots by storing it in /etc/iptables/rules.v4.


This is how the finished pipeline looks in practice (the whole sequence is 3 minutes, shortened and accelerated for brevity):

And here's the resulting post:

Posted 2024-07-05 18:46 Tags:

Samsung's WB850F compact camera was the first model to combine the DRIMeIII SoC with WiFi. Together with the EX2F it features an uncompressed firmware binary where Samsung helpfully added a file with a full linker dump and all symbol names into the firmware ZIP. We are using this gift to reverse-engineer the main SoC firmware, so that we can make it pass the WiFi hotspot detection and use samsung-nx-emailservice.

This is a follow-up to the Samsung WiFi cameras article and part of the Samsung NX series. - the outer container

The WB850F is one of the few models where Samsung still publishes firmware and support files after discontinuing the iLauncher application.

The archive we can get there contains quite a few files (as identified by file):

GPS_FW/BASEBAND_FW_Flash.mbin: data
GPS_FW/BASEBAND_FW_Ram.mbin:   data
GPS_FW/Config.BIN:             data
GPS_FW/flashBurner.mbin:       data
FWUP:                          ASCII text, with CRLF line terminators            ASCII text
WB850-FW-SR-210086.bin:        data
wb850f_adj.txt:                ASCII text, with CRLF line terminators

The FWUP file just contains the string upgrade all which is a script for the firmware testing/automation module. The wb850f_adj.txt file is a similar but more complex script to upgrade the GPS firmware and delete the respective files. Let's skip the GPS-related script and GPS_FW folder for now. - the linker dump

The is a text file with >300k lines, containing the linker output for partialImage.o, including a full memory map of the linked file:

output          input           virtual
section         section         address         size     file

.text                           00000000        01301444
                .text           00000000        000001a4 sysALib.o
                             $a 00000000        00000000
                        sysInit 00000000        00000000
                   L$_Good_Boot 00000090        00000000
                    archPwrDown 00000094   00000000
           DevHTTPResponseStart 00321a84        000002a4
            DevHTTPResponseData 00321d28        00000100
             DevHTTPResponseEnd 00321e28        00000170
.data                           00000000        004ed40c
                .data           00000000        00000874 sysLib.o
                         sysBus 00000000        00000004
                         sysCpu 00000004        00000004 
                    sysBootLine 00000008        00000004

This goes on and on and on, and it's a real treasure map! Now we just need to find the island that it belongs to.

WB850-FW-SR-210086.bin - header analysis

Looking into WB850-FW-SR-210086.bin with binwalk yields a long list of file headers (HTML, PNG, JPEG, ...), a VxWorks header, quite a number of Unix paths, but nothing that looks like partitions or filesystems.

Let's hex-dump the first kilobyte instead:

00000000: 3231 3030 3836 0006 4657 5f55 502f 4f4e  210086..FW_UP/ON
00000010: 424c 312e 6269 6e00 0000 0000 0000 0000  BL1.bin.........
00000020: 0000 0000 0000 0000 c400 0000 0008 0000  ................
00000030: 4f4e 424c 3100 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000  ONBL1...........
00000040: 0000 0000 4657 5f55 502f 4f4e 424c 322e  ....FW_UP/ONBL2.
00000050: 6269 6e00 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000  bin.............
00000060: 0000 0000 30b6 0000 c408 0000 4f4e 424c  ....0.......ONBL
00000070: 3200 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000  2...............
00000080: 5b57 4238 3530 5d44 5343 5f35 4b45 595f  [WB850]DSC_5KEY_
00000090: 5742 3835 3000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000  WB850...........
000000a0: 38f4 d101 f4be 0000 4d61 696e 5f49 6d61  8.......Main_Ima
000000b0: 6765 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 526f 6d46  ge..........RomF
000000c0: 532f 5350 4944 2e52 6f6d 0000 0000 0000  S/SPID.Rom......
000000d0: 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 00ac f402  ................
000000e0: 2cb3 d201 5265 736f 7572 6365 0000 0000  ,...Resource....
000000f0: 0000 0000 0000 0000 4657 5f55 502f 5742  ........FW_UP/WB
00000100: 3835 302e 4845 5800 0000 0000 0000 0000  850.HEX.........
00000110: 0000 0000 0000 0000 864d 0000 2c5f c704  .........M..,_..
00000120: 4f49 5300 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000  OIS.............
00000130: 0000 0000 4657 5f55 502f 736b 696e 2e62  ....FW_UP/skin.b
00000140: 696e 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000  in..............
00000150: 0000 0000 48d0 2f02 b2ac c704 534b 494e  ....H./.....SKIN
00000160: 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000  ................
000003f0: 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 5041 5254  ............PART

This looks very interesting. It starts with the firmware version, 210086, then 0x00 0x06, directly followed by FW_UP/ONBL1.bin at the offset 0x008, which very much looks like a file name. The next file name, FW_UP/ONBL2.bin comes at 0x044, so this is probably a 60-byte "partition" record:

00000008: 4657 5f55 502f 4f4e 424c 312e 6269 6e00  FW_UP/ONBL1.bin.
00000018: 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000  ................
00000028: c400 0000 0008 0000 4f4e 424c 3100 0000  ........ONBL1...
00000038: 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000            ............

After the file name, there is quite a bunch of zeroes (making up a 32-byte zero-padded string), followed by two little-endian integers 0xc4 and 0x800, followed by a 20-byte zero-padded string ONBL1, which is probably the respective partition name. After that, the next records of the same structure follow. The integers in the second record (ONBL2) are 0xb630 and 0x8c4, so we can assume the first number is the length, and the second one is the offset in the file (the offset of one record is always offset+length of the previous one).

In total, there are six records, so the 0x00 0x06 between the version string and the first record is probably a termination or pading byte for the firmware version and a one-byte number of partitions.

With this knowledge, we can reconstruct the partition table as follows:

File name size offset partition name
FW_UP/ONBL1.bin 196 (0xc4) 0x0000800 ONBL1
FW_UP/ONBL2.bin 46 KB (0xb630) 0x00008c4 ONBL2
[WB850]DSC_5KEY_WB850 30 MB (0x1d1f438) 0x000bef4 Main_Image
RomFS/SPID.Rom 48 MB (0x2f4ac00) 0x1d2b32c Resource
FW_UP/WB850.HEX 19 KB (0x4d86) 0x4c75f2c OIS
FW_UP/skin.bin 36 MB (0x22fd048) 0x4c7acb2 SKIN

Let's write a tool to extract DRIMeIII firmware partitions, and use it!

WB850-FW-SR-210086.bin - code and data partitions

The tool is extracting partitions based on their partition names, appending ".bin" respectively. Running file on the output is not very helpful:

ONBL1.bin:      data
ONBL2.bin:      data
Main_Image.bin: OpenPGP Secret Key
Resource.bin:   MIPSEB-LE MIPS-III ECOFF executable stripped - version 0.0
OIS.bin:        data
SKIN.bin:       data
  • ONBL1 and ONBL2 are probably the stages 1 and 2 of the bootloader (as confirmed by a string in Main_Image: "BootLoader(ONBL1, ONBL2) Update Done").

  • Main_Image is the actual firmware: the OpenPGP Secret Key is a false positive, binwalk -A reports quite a number of ARM function prologues in this file.

  • Resource and SKIN are pretty large containers, maybe provided by the SoC manufacturer to "skin" the camera UI?

  • OIS is not really hex as claimed by its file name, but it might be the firmware for a dedicated optical image stabilizer.

Of all these, Main_Image is the most interesting one.

Loading the code in Ghidra

The three partitions ONBL1, ONBL2 and Main_Image contain actual ARM code. A typical ARM firmware will contain the reset vector table at address 0x0000000 (usually the beginning of flash / ROM), which is a series of jump instructions. All three binaries however contain actual linear code at their respective beginning, so most probably they need to be re-mapped to some yet unknown address.

To find out how and why the camera is mis-detecting a hotspot, we need to:

  1. Find the right memory address to map Main_Image to
  2. Load the symbol names from into Ghidra
  3. Find and analyze the function that is mis-firing the hotspot login

Loading and mapping Main_Image

By default, Ghidra will assume that the binary loads to address 0x0000000 and try to analyze it this way. To get the correct memory address, we need to find a function that accesses some known value from the binary using an absolute address. Given that there are 77k functions, we can start with something that's close to task #3, and search in the "Defined Strings" tab of Ghidra for "yahoo":

Screenshot of Ghidra with some Yahoo!  strings

Excellent! Ghidra identified a few strings that look like an annoyed developer's printf debugging, probably from a function called DevHTTPResponseStart(), and it seems to be the function that checks whether the camera can properly access Yahoo, Google or Samsung:

0139f574    DevHTTPResponseStart: url=%s, handle=%x, status=%d\n, headers=%s\r\n
0139f5b8    DevHTTPResponseStart: This is YAHOO check !!!\r\n
0139f5f4    DevHTTPResponseStart: THIS IS GOOGLE/YAHOO/SAMSUNG PAGE!!!! 111\n\n\n
0139f638    DevHTTPResponseStart: 301/302/307! cannot find yahoo!  safapi_is_browser_framebuffer_on : %d , safapi_is_browser_authed(): %d  \r\n

According to, a function with that name actually exists at address 0x321a84, and Ghidra also found a function at 0x321a84. There are some more matching function offsets between the map and the binary, so we can assume that the .text addresses from the map file actually correspond 1:1 to Main_Image! We found the right island for our map!

Here's the beginning of that function:

bool FUN_00321a84(undefined4 param_1,ushort param_2,int param_3,int param_4) {
  /* snip variable declarations */
  FUN_0031daec(*(DAT_00321fd4 + 0x2c),DAT_00322034,param_3,param_1,param_2,param_4);
  FUN_0031daec(*(DAT_00321fd4 + 0x2c),DAT_00322038);

It starts with two calls to FUN_0031daec() with different numbers of parameters - this smells very much of printf debugging again. According to the memory map, it's called opd_printf()! The first parameter is some sort of context / destination, and the second one must be a reference to the format string. The two DAT_ values are detected by Ghidra as 32-bit undefined values:

    74 35 3a c1     undefined4 C13A3574h
    b8 35 3a c1     undefined4 C13A35B8h

However, the respective last three digits match the "DevHTTPResponseStart: " debug strings encountered earlier:

  • 0xc13a3574 - 0x0139f574 = 0xc0004000 (first format string with four parameters)
  • 0xc13a35b8 - 0x0139f5b8 = 0xc0004000 (second format strings without parameters)

From that we can reasonably conclude that Main_Image needs to be loaded to the memory address 0xc0004000. This cannot be changed after the fact in Ghidra, so we need to remove the binary from the project, re-import it, and set the base address accordingly:

Screenshot of Ghidra import options dialog

Loading function names from

Ghidra has a script to bulk-import data labels and function names from a text table, It expects each line to contain three variables, separated by arbitrary amounts of whitespace (as determined by python's string.split()):

  1. symbol name
  2. (hexadecimal) address
  3. "f" for "function" or "l" for "label"

Our symbol map contains multiple sections, but we are only interested in the functions defined in .text (for now), which are mapped 1:1 to addresses in Main_Image. Besides of function names, it also contains empty lines, object file offsets (with .text as the label), labels (prefixed with "L$_") and local symbols (prefixed with "$").

We need to limit our symbols to the .text section (everything after .text and before .debug_frame), get rid of the empty lines and non-functions, then add 0xc0004000 to each address so that we match up with the base address in Ghidra. We can do this very obscurely with an awk one-liner:

awk '/^\.text /{t=1;next}/^\.debug_frame /{t=0} ; !/[$.]/ { if (t && $1) { printf "%s %x f\n", $1, (strtonum("0x"$2)+0xc0004000) } }'

Or slightly less obscurely with a much slower shell loop:

sed '1,/^\.text /d;/^\.debug_frame /,$d' | grep -v '^$' | grep -v '[.$]' | \
while read sym addr f ; do
    printf "%s %x f\n"  $sym $((0xc0004000 + 0x$addr))

Both will generate the same output that can be loaded into Ghidra via "Window" / "Script Manager" / "":

sysInit c0004000 f
archPwrDown c0004094 f
MMU_WriteControlReg c00040a4 f
MMU_WritePageTableBaseReg c00040b8 f
MMU_WriteDomainAccessReg c00040d0 f

Reverse engineering DevHTTPResponseStart

Now that we have the function names in place, we need to manually set the type of quite a few DAT_ fields to "pointer", rename the parameters according to the debug string, and we get a reasonably usable decompiler output.

The following is a commented version, edited for better readability (inlined the string references, rewrote some conditionals):

bool DevHTTPResponseStart(undefined4 handle,ushort status,char *url,char *headers) {
  bool result;
  opd_printf(ctx,"DevHTTPResponseStart: url=%s, handle=%x, status=%d\n, headers=%s\r\n",
  opd_printf(ctx,"DevHTTPResponseStart: This is YAHOO check !!!\r\n");
  if ((url == NULL) || (status != 301 && status != 302 && status != 307)) {
    /* this is not a HTTP redirect */
    if (status == 200) {
      /* HTTP 200 means OK */
      if (headers == NULL ||
          (strstr(headers,"") == NULL &&
           strstr(headers,"") == NULL &&
           strstr(headers,"") == NULL &&
           strstr(headers,"") == NULL)) {
        /* no response headers or no yahoo cookie --> check fails! */
        result = true;
      } else {
        /* we found a yahoo cookie bit in the headers */
        opd_printf(ctx,"DevHTTPResponseData: THIS IS GOOGLE/YAHOO PAGE!!!! 3333\n\n\n");
        *p_request_ongoing = 0;
        if (!safapi_is_browser_authed())
        result = false;
    } else if (status < 0) {
      /* negative status = aborted? */
      result = false;
    } else {
      /* positive status, not a redirect, not "OK" */
      result = !safapi_is_browser_framebuffer_on();
  } else {
    /* this is a HTTP redirect */
    char *match = strstr(url,"yahoo.");
    if (match == NULL || match > (url+11)) {
      opd_printf(ctx, "DevHTTPResponseStart: 301/302/307! cannot find yahoo! safapi_is_browser_framebuffer_on : %d , safapi_is_browser_authed(): %d  \r\n",
          safapi_is_browser_framebuffer_on(), safapi_is_browser_authed());
      if (!safapi_is_browser_framebuffer_on() && !safapi_is_browser_authed()) {
        opd_printf(ctx,"DevHTTPResponseStart: 302 auth failed!!! kSAFAPIAuthErrNotAuth!! \r\n");
      result = false;
    } else {
      /* found "yahoo." in url */
      opd_printf(ctx, "DevHTTPResponseStart: THIS IS GOOGLE/YAHOO/SAMSUNG PAGE!!!! 111\n\n\n");
      *p_request_ongoing = 0;
      if (!safapi_is_browser_authed())
      result = false;
  return result;

Interpreting the hotspot detection

So to summarize, the code in DevHTTPResponseStart will check for one of two conditions and call safnotify_auth_ap(0) to mark the WiFi access point as authenticated:

  1. on a HTTP 200 OK response, the server must set a cookie on the domain ".yahoo.something" or ""

  2. on a HTTP 301/302/307 redirect, the URL (presumably the redirect location?) must contain "yahoo." close to its beginning.

If we manually contact the queried URL,, it will redirect us to, so everything is fine?

GET / HTTP/1.1

HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently

Well, the substring "yahoo." is on position 12 in the url "", but the code is requiring it to be in one of the first 11 positions. This check has been killed by TLS!

To pass the hotspot check, we must unwind ten years of HTTPS-everywhere, or point the DNS record to a different server that will either HTTP-redirect to a different, more yahooey name, or set a cookie on the yahoo domain.

After patching samsung-nx-emailservice accordingly, the camera will actually connect and upload photos:

WB850F sending a photo

Summary: the real treasure

This deep-dive allowed to understand and circumvent the hotspot detection in Samsung's WB850F WiFi camera based on one reverse-engineered function. The resulting patch was tiny, but guessing the workaround just from the packet traces was impossible due to the "detection method" implemented by Samsung's engineers. Once knowing what to look for, the same workaround was applied to cameras asking for, thus also adding EX2F, ST200F, WB3xF and WB1100F to the supported cameras list.

However, the real treasure is still waiting! Main_Image contains over 77k functions, so there is more than enough for a curious treasure hunter to explore in order to better understand how digital cameras work.

Discuss on Mastodon

Posted 2024-05-24 17:30 Tags:

Starting in 2009, Samsung has created a wide range of compact cameras with built-in WiFi support, spread over multiple product lines. This is a reference and data collection of those cameras, with the goal to understand their WiFi functionality, and to support them in samsung-nx-emailservice.

This is a follow-up to the Samsung NX mirrorless archaeology article, which also covers the Android-based compact cameras.

If you are in Europe and can donate one of the "untested" models, please let me know!

Model Line Overview

Samsung created a mind-boggling number of different compact cameras over the years, apparently with different teams working on different form factors and specification targets. They were grouped into product lines, of which only a few were officially explained:

  • DV: DualView (with a second LCD on the front side for selfies)
  • ES: unknown, no WiFi
  • EX: high-end compact (maybe "expert"?)
  • NV: New Vision, no WiFi
  • MV: MultiView
  • PL: unknown, no WiFi
  • SH: unknown
  • ST: Style feature
  • WB: long-zoom models

Samsung compact cameras on a shelf

Quite a few of those model ranges also featured cameras with a WiFi controller, allowing to upload pictures to social media or send them via email. For the WiFi-enabled cameras, Samsung has been using two different SoC brands, with multiple generations each:

  1. Zoran COACH ("Camera On A CHip") based on a MIPS CPU.

  2. DRIM engine ("Digital Real Image & Movie Engine") ARM CPU, based on the Milbeaut (later Fujitsu) SoC.

WiFi Cameras

This table should contain all Samsung compacts with WiFi (I did quite a comprehensive search of everything they released since 2009). It is ordered by SoC type and release date:

Camera Release SoC Firmware Upload Working
ST1000 2009-09 COACH 10 N/A unknown serviceproviders API endpoint
SH100 2011-01 COACH ?? 1107201 ✔️ (fw. 1103021)
ST200F 2012-01 COACH 12: ZR364249NCCG 1303204 ✔️ Yahoo (fw. 1303204(*))
DV300F 2012-01 COACH 12 1211084 ✔️ (fw. 1211084)
WB150F 2012-01 COACH 12 ML? 1208074 ✔️ (fw. 1210238)
WB35F, WB36F, WB37F 2014-01 COACH 12: ZR364249BGCG N/A ✔️ MSN (WB37F fw. 1.60?)
WB50F 2014-01 COACH ?? N/A untested
WB1100F 2014-01 COACH 12: ZR364249BGCG N/A ✔️ MSN (fw. 1.72?)
WB2200F 2014-01 COACH ??: ZR364302BGCG N/A untested
Milbeaut / DRIM engine (ARM)
WB850F 2012-01 DRIM engine III? 210086 ✔️ Yahoo (fw. 210086)
EX2F 2012-07 DRIM engine III 1301144 ✔️ Yahoo (fw. 303194)
WB200F 2013-01 Milbeaut MB91696 N/A ❌ hotspot (fw. 1411171)
WB250F 2013-01 Milbeaut MB91696 1302211 ✔️ (fw. 1302181)
WB800F 2013-01 Milbeaut MB91696 1311061 untested
DV150F 2013-01 Milbeaut MB91696 N/A untested
ST150F 2013-01 Milbeaut MB91696 N/A untested
WB30F, WB31F, WB32F 2013-01 Milbeaut M6M2 (MB91696?) 1310151 ❌ hotspot (WB31F fw. 1411221)
WB350F 2014-01 Milbeaut MB865254? N/A untested
Unknown / unconfirmed SoC
MV900F 2012-07 Zoran??? N/A untested
DV180F 2015? same Milbeaut as DV150F? N/A untested
WB380F 2015? Milbeaut ??? N/A untested


  • ✔️ = works with samsung-nx-emailservice.
  • ✔️ Yahoo/MSN = works with a respective cookie response.
  • ❌ hotspot = camera mis-detects a hotspot with a login requirement, opens browser.
  • untested = I wasn't (yet) able to obtain this model. Donations are highly welcome.
  • pending = I'm hopefully going to receive this model soon.
  • (*) the ST200F failed with the 1203294 firmware but worked after the upgrade to 1303204.
  • "N/A" for firmware means, there are no known downloads / mirrors since Samsung disabled iLauncher.
  • "fw. ???" means that the firmware version could not be found out due to lack of a service manual.

There are also quite a few similarly named cameras that do not have WiFi:

  • DV300/DV305 (without the F)
  • ST200 (no F)
  • WB100, WB150, WB210, WB500, WB600, WB650, WB700, WB750, WB1000 and WB2100 (again, no F)

Hotspot Detection Mode

Most of the cameras only do a HTTP GET request for (shut down in 2021) before failing into a browser. This is supposed to help you login in a WiFi hotspot so that you can proceed to the upload.

Redirecting the DNS for to my own server and feeding back a HTTP 200 with the body "200 OK", as documented in 2013 doesn't help to make it pass the detection.

There is nothing obvious in the PCAP that would indicate what is going wrong there, and blindly providing different HTTP responses only goes this far.

Brief Firmware Analysis

Samsung used to provide firmware through the iLauncher PC application, which downloaded them from The download service was discontinued in 2021 as well. Most camera models never had alternative firmware download locations, so suddenly it's impossible to get firmware files for them. Thanks, Samsung.

The alternative download locations that I could find are documented in the firmware table above.

Obviously, the ZORAN and the DRIMe models have different firmware structure. The ZORAN firmware files are called <model>-DSP-<version>-full.elf but are not actually ELF files. Luckily, @jam1garner already analyzed the WB35F firmware and created tools to dissect the ELFs. Unfortunately, none of the inner ELFs seem to contain any strings matching the social media upload APIs known from reverse-engineering the upload API. Also the MIPS disassembler seems to be misbehaving for some reason, detecting all addresses as 0x0:

int DevHTTPResponseData(int param_1,int param_2,int param_3)
  /* snip variables */
  if (uRam00000000 != 0) {
    (*(code *)0x0)(0,param_1);
  (*(code *)0x0)(0,param_1,param_3);
  if (uRam00000000 != 1) {
    (*(code *)0x0)(param_2,param_3);

The DRIMe firmware files follow different conventions. WB850F and EX2F images are uncompressed multi-partition files that are analyzed in the WB850F reverse engineering blog post.

All other DRIMe models have compressed DATA<model>.bin files like the NX mini, where an anlysis of the bootloader / compression mechanism needs to be performed prior to analyzing the actual network stack.

Yahoo! Hotspot Detection

Some models (at least the ST200F and the WB850F) will try to connect to instead of the Samsung server. The WB1100F will load Today, these sites will redirect to HTTPS, but the 2012 cameras won't manage modern TLS Root CAs and encryption, so they will fail instead:

WB850F showing an SSL error

Redirecting the Yahoo hostname via DNS will also make them connect to our magic server, but it won't be detected as proper Yahoo!, showing the hotspot detector. Preliminary reverse engineering of the uncompressed WB850F firmware shows that the code checks for the presence of the string in the response (headers). This is normally a part of a cookie set by the server, which we can emulate to pass the hotspot check. Similarly, it's possible to send back a cookie for to pass the WB1100F check.

Screw the CORK

The Zoran models have a very fragile TCP stack. It's so fragile that it won't process an HTTP response served in two separate TCP segments (TCP is a byte stream, fragmentation into segments should be fully abstracted from the application). To find that out, the author had to compare the 2014 PCAP with the PCAPs from samsung-nx-emailservice line by line, and see that the latter will send the headers and the body in two TCP segments.

Luckily, TCP stacks offer an "optimization" where small payloads will be delayed by the sender's operating system, hoping that the application will add more data. On Linux, this is called TCP_CORK and can be activated on any connection. Testing it out of pure despair suddenly made at least the ST200F and the WB1100F work. Other cameras were only tested with this patch applied.

GPS Cameras

Of the WiFi enabled models, two cameras are also equipped with built-in GPS.

The ST1000 (also called CL65 in the USA), Samsung's first WiFi model, comes with GPS. It also contains a location database with the names of relevant towns / cities in its firmware, so it will show your current location on screen. Looks like places with more than ~10'000 inhabitants are listed. Obviously, the data is from 2009 as well.

The WB850F, a 2012 super-zoom, goes even further. You can download map files from Samsung for different parts of the world and install the maps on the SD card. It will show the location of taken photos as well, but not from the ones shot with the ST1000.

WB850F showing a geo-tagged photo

And it has a map renderer, and might even navigate you to POIs!

WB850F showing a map

WiFi Camcorders

Yes, those are a thing as well. It's exceptionally hard to find any info on them. Samsung also created a large number of camcorders, but it looks like only three models came with WiFi.

From a glance at the available firmware files, they also have Linux SoCs inside, but they are not built around the known ZORAN or DRIMe chips.

The HMX-S10/S15/S16 firmware contains a number of S5PC110 string references, indicating that it's the Exynos 3110 1GHz smartphone CPU that also powered a number of Android phones.

The QF20 and QF30 again are based on the well-researched Ambarella A5s. The internet is full of reverse-engineering info on action cameras and drones based on Ambarella SoCs of all generations, including tools to disassemble and reassemble firmware images.

The QF30 is using a similar (but different!) API as the still cameras, but over SSL and without encrypting the sensitive XML elements, and does not accept the <Response> element yet.

Camera Release SoC Firmware Working
HMX-S10, HMX-S15, HMX-S16 2010-01 Samsung S5PC110/Exynos 3110(??) 2011-11-14 untested
HMX-QF20 2012-01 Ambarella A5s 1203160 untested
HMX-QF30 2013-01 Ambarella A5s 14070801 ✔️ SSLv2 (fw. 201212200)


  • ✔️ SSLv2 = sends request via SSLv2 to port 443, needs something like socat23

Discuss on Mastodon

Posted 2024-05-22 18:04 Tags:

The goal of this post is to make an easily accessible (anonymous) webchat for any chatrooms hosted on a prosody XMPP server, using the web client converse.js.

Motivation and prerequisites

There are two use cases:

  1. Have an easily accessible default support room for users having trouble with the server or their accounts.

  2. Have a working "Join using browser" button on

This setup will require:

  • A running prosody 0.12+ instance with a muc component ( in our example)

  • The willingness to operate an anomyous login and to handle abuse coming from it (

  • A web-server to host the static HTML and JavaScript for the webchat (

There are other places that describe how to set up a prosody server and a web server, so our focus is on configuring anonymous access and the webchat.

Prosody: BOSH / websockets

The web client needs to access the prosody instance over HTTPS. This can be accomplished either by using Bidirectional-streams Over Synchronous HTTP (BOSH) or the more modern WebSocket. We enable both mechanisms in prosody.cfg by adding the following two lines to the gloabl modules_enabled list, they can also be used by regular clients:

modules_enabled = {
    -- add HTTP modules:
    "bosh"; -- Enable BOSH access, aka "Jabber over HTTP"
    "websocket"; -- Modern XMPP over HTTP stream support

You can check if the BOSH endpoint works by visiting the /http-bind/ endpoint on your prosody's HTTPS port (5281 by default). The server is using mod_net_multiplex to allow both XMPP with Direct TLS and HTTPS on port 443, so the resulting URL is

Prosody: allowing anonymous logins

We need to add a new anonymous virtual host to the server configuration. By default, anonymous domains are only allowed to connect to services running on the same prosody instance, so they can join rooms on your server, but not connect out to other servers.

Add the new virtualhost at the end of prosody.cfg.lua:

-- add at the end, after the other VirtualHost sections, add:
VirtualHost ""
    authentication = "anonymous"

    -- to allow file uploads for anonymous users, uncomment the following
    -- two lines (THIS IS NOT RECOMMENDED!)
    -- modules_enabled = { "discoitems"; }
    -- disco_items = { {""}; }

This is a new domain that needs to be made accessible to clients, so you also need to create an SRV record and ensure that your TLS certificate covers the new hostname as well, e.g. by updating the parameter list to certbot.  3600 IN SRV 5 1 5222 3600 IN SRV 5 1  443

Converse.js webchat

Converse.js is a full XMPP client written in JavaScript. The default mode is to embed Converse into a website where you have a small overlay window with the chat, that you can use while navigating the site.

However, we want to have a full-screen chat under the /chat/ URL and use that to join only one room at a time (either the support room or a room address that was explicitly passed) instead. For this, Converse has the fullscreen and singleton modes that we need to enable.

Furthermore, Converse does not (properly) support parsing room addresses from the URL, so we are using custom JavaScript to identify whether an address was passed as an anchor, and fall back to the support room otherwise.

The following is based on release 10.1.6 of Converse.

  1. Download the converse tarball (not converse-headless) and copy the dist folder into your document root.

  2. Create a folder chat/ or webchat/ in the document root, where the static HTML will be placed

  3. Create an index.html with the following content (minimal example):

<html lang="en">
    <title> webchat</title>
    <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0" />
    <meta name="description" content="browser-based access to the xmpp/jabber chatrooms on" />
    <link type="text/css" rel="stylesheet" media="screen" href="/dist/converse.min.css" />
    <script src="/dist/converse.min.js"></script>

<body style="width: 100vw; height: 100vh; margin:0">
<div id="conversejs">
<noscript><h1>This chat only works with JavaScript enabled!</h1></noscript>
let room = || window.location.hash;
room = decodeURIComponent(room.substring(room.indexOf('#') + 1, room.length));
if (!room) {
        room = "";
   "allow_muc_invitations" : false,
   "authentication" : "anonymous",
   "auto_join_on_invite" : true,
   "auto_join_rooms" : [
   "auto_login" : true,
   "auto_reconnect" : false,
   "blacklisted_plugins" : [
   "jid" : "",
   "keepalive" : true,
   "message_carbons" : true,
   "use_emojione" : true,
   "view_mode" : "fullscreen",
   "singleton": true,
   "websocket_url" : "wss://"
Posted 2024-01-10 11:01 Tags:

Back in 2009, Samsung introduced cameras with Wi-Fi that could upload images and videos to your social media account. The cameras talked to an (unencrypted) HTTP endpoint at Samsung's Social Network Services (SNS), probably to quickly adapt to changing upstream APIs without having to deploy new camera firmware.

This post is about reverse engineering the API based on a few old PCAPs and the binary code running on the NX300. We are finding a fractal of spectacular encryption fails created by Samsung, and creating a PoC reference server implementation in python/flask.

Before Samsung discontinued the SNS service in 2021, their faulty implementation allowed a passive attacker to decrypt the users social media credentials (there is no need to decrypt the media, as they are uploaded in the clear). And there were quite some buffer overflows along the way.

Skip right to the encryption fails!

Show me the code!


The social media upload feature was introduced with the ST1000 / CL65 model, and soon added to the compact WB150F/WB850F/ST200F and the NX series ILCs with the NX20/NX210/NX1000 introduction.

Ironically, Wi-Fi support was implemented inconsistently over the different models and generations. There is a feature matrix for the NX models with a bit of an overview of the different Wi-Fi modes, and this post only focuses on the (also inconsistently implemented) cloud-based email and social network features.

Some models like the NX mini support sending emails as well as uploading (photos only) to four different social media platforms, other models like the NX30 came with 2GB of free Dropbox storage, while the high-end NX1 and NX500 only supported sending emails through SNS, but no social media. The binary code from the NX300 reveals 16 different platforms, whereas its UI only offers 5, and it allows uploading of photos as well as videos (but only to Facebook and YouTube). In 2015, Samsung left the camera market, and in 2021 they shut down the API servers. However, these cameras are still used in the wild, and some people complained about the termination.

Given that there is no HTTPS, a private or community-driven service could be implemented by using a custom DNS server and redirecting the camera's traffic.

Back then, I took that as a chance to reverse engineer the more straight-forward SNS email API and postponed the more complex looking social media API until now.

Email API

The easy part about the email API was that the camera sent a single HTTP POST request with an XML form containing the sender, recipient and body text, and the pictures attached. To succeed, the API server merely had to return 200 OK. Also the camera I was using (the NX500) didn't have support for any of the other services.

POST /social/columbus/email?DUID=123456789033  HTTP/1.0
Authorization:OAuth oauth_consumer_key="censored",oauth_nonce="censored",oauth_signature="censored=",oauth_signature_method="HmacSHA1",oauth_timestamp="9717886885",oauth_version="1.0"
User-Agent: sdeClient
Content-Type: multipart/form-data; boundary=---------------------------7d93b9550d4a
Accept: image/gif, image/x-xbitmap, image/jpeg, image/pjpeg, application/x-shockwave-flash, application/, application/, application/msword, */*
Pragma: no-cache
Accept-Language: ko
User-Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1; Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1) ; .NET CLR 1.1.4322; InfoPath.2; .NET CLR 2.0.50727)
Content-Length: 1321295

content-disposition: form-data; name="message"; fileName="sample.txt"
content-Type: multipart/form-data;

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<email><sender></sender><receiverList><receiver></receiver></receiverList><title><![CDATA[[Samsung Smart Camera] sent you files.]]></title><body><![CDATA[Sent from Samsung Camera.

content-disposition: form-data; name="binary"; fileName="SAM_4371.JPG"
content-Type: image/jpeg;



The syntax is almost valid, except there is no epilogue (----foo--) after the image, but just a boundary (----foo), so unpatched HTTP servers will not consider this as a valid request.

Social media login

The challenge with the social media posting was that the camera is sending multiple XML requests, and parsing the answer from XML documents in an unknown format, which cannot be obtained from the wire after Samsung terminated the official servers. Another challenge was that the credentials are transmitted in an encrypted way, so the encryption needed to be analyzed (and possibly broken) as well. Here is the first request from the camera when logging into Facebook:


<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<Request Method="login" Timeout="3000" CameraCryptKey="58a4c8161c8aa7b1287bc4934a2d89fa952da1cddc5b8f3d84d3406713a7be05f67862903b8f28f54272657432036b78e695afbe604a6ed69349ced7cf46c3e4ce587e1d56d301c544bdc2d476ac5451ceb217c2d71a2a35ce9ac1b9819e7f09475bbd493ac7700dd2e8a9a7f1ba8c601b247a70095a0b4cc3baa396eaa96648">
<UserName Value="uFK%2Fz%2BkEchpulalnJr1rBw%3D%3D"/>
<Password Value="ob7Ue7q%2BkUSZFffy3%2BVfiQ%3D%3D"/>
<PersistKey Use="true"/>
<SessionKey Type="APIF"/>
<CryptSessionKey Use="true" Type="SHA1" Value="//////S3mbZSAQAA/LOitv////9IIgS2UgEAAAAQBLY="/>
<ApplicationKey Value="6a563c3967f147d3adfa454ef913535d0d109ba4b4584914"/>

For the other social media platforms, the /facebook/ part of the URL is replaced with the respective service name, except that some apparently use OAuth instead of sending encrypted credentials directly.

Locating the code to reverse-engineer

Of the different models supporting the feature, the Tizen-based NX300 seemed to be the best candidate, given that it's running Linux under the hood. Even though Samsung never provided source code for the camera UI and its components, reverse-engineering an ELF binary running on a Linux host where you are root is a totally different game than trying to pierce a proprietary ARM SoC running an unknown OS from the outside.

When requesting an image upload, the camera starts a dedicated program, smart-wifi-app-nx300. Luckily, the NX300 FOSS dump contains three copies of it, two of which are not stripped:

~/TIZEN/project/NX300/$ find . -type f -name smart-wifi-app-nx300 -exec ls -alh {} \;
-rwxr-xr-x 1  5.2M Oct 16  2013 ./imagedev/usr/bin/smart-wifi-app-nx300
-rwxr-xr-x 1  519K Oct 16  2013 ./image/rootdir/usr/bin/smart-wifi-app-nx300
-rwxr-xr-x 1  5.2M Oct 16  2013 ./image/rootdir_3-5/usr/bin/smart-wifi-app-nx300

Unfortunately, the actual logic is happening in, of which all copies are stripped. There is a header file libwifi-sns/client_predefined.h provided (by accident) as part of the dev image, but it only contains the string values from which the requests are constructed:

#define WEB_XML_LOGIN_REQUEST_PREFIX "<Request Method=\"login\" Timeout=\"3000\" CameraCryptKey=\""
#define WEB_XML_USER_PREFIX          "<UserName Value=\""
#define WEB_XML_PW_PREFIX            "<Password Value=\""

The program is also doing extensive debugging through /dev/log_main, including the error messages that we cause when re-creating the API.

We will load both smart-wifi-app-nx300 and in Ghidra and use its pretty good decompiler to get an understanding of the code. The following code snippets are based on the decompiler output, edited for better understanding and brevity (error checks and debug outputs are stripped).

Processing the login credentials

When trying the upload for the first time, the camera will pop up a credentials dialog to get the username and password for the specific service:

Screenshot of the NX login dialog

Internally, the plain-text credentials and social network name are stored for later processing in a global struct gWeb, the layout of which is not known. The field names and sizes of gWeb fields in the following code blocks are based on correlating debug prints and memset() size arguments, and need to be taken with a grain of salt.

The actual auth request is prepared by the WebLogin function, which will resolve the numeric site ID into the site name (e.g. "facebook" or "kakaostory"), get the appropriate server name ("" or a regional endpoint like for North America), and call into WebMakeLoginData() to encrypt the login credentials and eventually to create a HTTP POST payload:

bool WebMakeLoginData(char *out_http_request,int site_idx) {
    /* snip quite a bunch of boring code */
    switch (WebCheckSNSGatewayLocation(site_idx)) {
    case /*0*/ LOCATION_EUROPE:
        host = ""; break;
    case /*1*/ LOCATION_USA:
        host = ""; break;
    case /*2*/ LOCATION_CHINA:
        host = ""; break;
    case /*3*/ LOCATION_SINGAPORE:
        host = ""; break;
    case 4 /* unsure, maybe staging? */:
        host = ""; break;
    default: /* Asia? */
        host = ""; break;
    Web_Get_Duid(); /* calculate device unique identifier into gWeb.duid */
    Web_Get_Encrypted_Id(); /* encrypt user id into gWeb.enc_id */
    Web_Get_Encrypted_Pw(); /* encrypt password into gWeb.enc_pw */
    Web_Get_Camera_CryptKey(); /* encrypt keyspec into gWeb.encrypted_session_key */
    if (site_idx == /*5*/ SITE_SAMSUNGIMAGING || site_idx == /*6*/ SITE_CYWORLD) {
    } else if (site_idx == /*14*/ SITE_KAKAOSTORY) {
        /* snip HTTP POST with unencrypted credentials to */
    } else {
        /* snip and postpone HTTP POST with XML payload to */

From there, Web_Encrypt_Init() is called to reset the gWeb fields, to obtain a new (symmetric) encryption key, and to encrypt the application_key:

bool Web_Encrypt_Init(void) {
    char buffer[128];


We remember the very interesting generateKeySpec() and dataEncrypt() functions for later analysis.

WebMakeLoginData() also calls Web_Get_Encrypted_Id() and Web_Get_Encrypted_Pw() to obtain the encrypted (and base64-encoded) username and password. Those follow the same logic of dataEncrypt() plus URLEncode() to store the encrypted values in respective fields in gWeb as well.

bool Web_Get_Encrypted_Pw() {
    char buffer[128];

Interestingly, we are using a 128-byte intermediate buffer for the encryption result, and URL-encoding it into a 64-byte destination field. However, gWeb.password is only 32 bytes, so we are hopefully safe here. Nevertheless, there are no range checks in the code.

Finally, it calls Web_Get_Camera_CryptKey() to RSA-encrypt the generated keyspec and to store it in gWeb.encrypted_session_key. The actual encryption is done by encryptSessionKey(&gWeb.encrypted_session_key,gWeb.keyspec) which we should also look into.

Generating the secret key: generateKeySpec()

That function is as straight-forward as can be, it requests two blocks of random data into a 32-byte array and returns the base-64 encoded result:

int generateKeySpec(char **out_keyspec) {
    char rnd_buffer[32];
    int result;
    char *rnd1 = _secureRandom(&result);
    char *rnd2 = _secureRandom(&result);
    memcpy(rnd_buffer, rnd1, 16);
    memcpy(rnd_buffer+16, rnd2, 16);
    char *b64_buf = String_base64Encode(rnd_buffer,32,&result);
    *out_keyspec = b64_buf;

(In)secure random number generation: _secureRandom()

It's still worth looking into the source of randomness that we are using, which hopefully should be /dev/random or at least /dev/urandom, even on an ancient Linux system:

char *_secureRandom(int *result)
    char *target = String_new(20,result);
    target = _sha1_byte(target,result);
    return target;

WAIT WHAT?! Say that again, slowly! You are initializing the libc pseudo-random number generator with the current time, with one-second granularity, then getting a "random" number from it somewhere between 0 and RAND_MAX = 2147483647, then printing it into a string and calculating a 20-byte SHA1 sum of it?!?!?!

Apparently, the Samsung engineers never heard of the Debian OpenSSL random number generator, or they considered imitating it a good idea?

The entropy of this function depends only on how badly the user maintains the camera's clock, and can be expected to be about six bits (you can only set minutes, not seconds, in the camera), instead of the 128 bits required.

Calling this function twice in a row will almost always produce the same insecure block of data.

The function name _sha1_byte() is confusing as well, why is it a singular byte, and why is there no length parameter?

char *_sha1_byte(char *buffer, int *result) {
    int len = strlen(buffer);
    char *shabuf = malloc(20);
    int hash_len = 20;
    return shabuf;

That looks plausible, right? We just assume that buffer is a NUL-terminated string (the string we pass from _secureRandom() is one), and then we... don't pass it into the SecCrHash() function? We only pass the virgin 20-byte target array to write the hash into? The hash of what?

int SecCrHash(void *dst, int *out_len) {
    char buf [20];
    *out_len = 20;
    memcpy(dst, buf, *out_len);
    return 0;

It turns out, the SecCrHash function (secure cryptographic hash?) is not hashing anything, and it's not processing any input, it's just copying 20 bytes of uninitialized data from the stack to the destination buffer. So instead of returning an obfuscated timestamp, we are returning some (even more deterministic) data that previous function calls worked with.

Well, from an attacker point of view, this actually makes cracking the key (slightly) harder, as we can't just fuzz around the current time, we need to actually get an understanding of the calls happening before that and see what kind of data they can leave on the stack.

SPOILER: No, we don't have to. Samsung helpfully leaked the symmetric encryption key for us. But let's still finish this arc and see what else we can find. Skip to the encryption key leak.

Encrypting values: dataEncrypt()

The secure key material in gWeb.keyspec is passed to dataEncrypt() to actually encrypt strings:

int dataEncrypt(char **out_enc_b64, char *message, char *key_b64) {
    int result;
    char *keyspec;
    char key[16];
    char iv[16];
    memcpy(key, keyspec, 16);
    memcpy(iv, keyspec+16, 16);
    return _aesEncrypt(message, key, iv, &result);

char *_aesEncrypt(char *message, char *key, char *iv, int *result) {
    int bufsize = (strlen(message) + 15) & ~15; /* round up to block size */
    char *enc_data = malloc(bufsize);
    char *ret_buf = String_base64Encode(enc_data,bufsize,result);
    return ret_buf;

The _aesEncrypt() function is calling SecCrEncryptBlock() and base-64-encoding the result. From SecCrEncryptBlock() we have calls into NAT_CipherInit() and NAT_CipherUpdate() that are initializing a cipher context, copying key material, and passing all calls through function pointers in the cipher context, but it all boils down to doing standard AES-CBC, with the first half of keyspec used as the encryption key, and the second half as the IV, and the (initial) IV being the same for all dataEncrypt() calls.

The prefixes SecCr and NAT imply that some crypto library is in use, but there are no obvious results on google or github, and the function names are mostly self-explanatory.

Encrypting the secret key: encryptSessionKey()

This function will decode the base64-encoded 32-byte keyspec, and encrypt it with a hard-coded RSA key:

int encryptSessionKey(char **out_rsa_enc,char *keyspec)

  int result;
  char *keyspec_raw;
  int keyspec_raw_len = String_base64Decode(keyspec,&keyspec_raw,&result);
  char *dst = _rsaEncrypt(keyspec_raw,keyspec_raw_len,
  *out_rsa_enc = dst;

The _rsaEncrypt() function is using the BigDigits multiple-precision arithmetic library to add PCKS#1 v1.5 padding to the keyspec, encrypt it with the supplied m and e values, and return the encrypted value. The result is a long hex number string like the one we can see in the <Request/> PCAP above.

Completing the HTTP POST: WebMakeLoginData() contd.

Now that we have all the cryptographic ingredients together, we can return to actually crafting the HTTP request.

There are three different code paths taken by WebMakeLoginData(). One into WebMakeDataWithOAuth() for the samsungimaging and cyworld sites, one creating a x-www-form-urlencoded HTTP POST to, and one creating the XML <Request/> we've seen in the packet trace for all other social networks. Given the obscurity of the first three networks, we'll focus on the last code path:

WebString_Add_fmt(body,"%s%s","<?xml version=\"1.0\" encoding=\"UTF-8\"?>","\r\n");
                "<Request Method=\"login\" Timeout=\"3000\" CameraCryptKey=\"",
if (site_idx != /*34*/ SITE_SKYDRIVE) {
    WebString_Add_fmt(body,"%s%s%s","<UserName Value=\"",gWeb.enc_id,"\"/>\r\n");
    WebString_Add_fmt(body,"%s%s%s","<Password Value=\"",gWeb.enc_pw,"\"/>\r\n");
WebString_Add_fmt(body,"%s%s%s","<PersistKey Use=\"true\"/>\r\n",duid,"\"/>\r\n");
WebString_Add_fmt(body,"%s%s","<SessionKey Type=\"APIF\"/>","\r\n");
WebString_Add_fmt(body,"%s%s%s","<CryptSessionKey Use=\"true\" Type=\"SHA1\" Value=\"",
WebString_Add_fmt(body,"%s%s%s","<ApplicationKey Value=\"",gWeb.application_key,
body_len = strlen(body);
WebString_Add_fmt(header,"%s%s%s%s","POST /",,"/auth HTTP/1.1","\r\n");
WebString_Add_fmt(header,"%s%s%s","Host: ",host,"\r\n");
WebString_Add_fmt(header,"%s%s","Content-Type: text/xml;charset=utf-8","\r\n");
WebString_Add_fmt(header,"%s%s%s","User-Agent: ","DI-NX300","\r\n");
WebString_Add_fmt(header,"%s%d%s","Content-Length: ",body_len,"\r\n\r\n");
WebAddString(out_http_request, header);
WebAddString(out_http_request, body);

Okay, so generating XML via a fancy sprintf() has been frowned upon for a long time. However, if done correctly, and if there is no attacker-controlled input with escape characters, this can be an acceptable approach.

In our case, the duid is surrounded by closing tags due to an obvious programmer error, but beyond that, all parameters are properly controlled by encoding them in hex, in base64, or in URL-encoded base64.

We are transmitting the RSA-encrypted session key (as CameraCryptKey), the AES-encrypted username and password (except when uploading to SkyDrive), the duid (outside of a valid XML element), the application_key that we encrypted earlier (but we are sending the unencrypted variable) and the keyspec in the CryptSessionKey element.

The keyspec? Isn't that the secret AES key? Well yes it is. All that RSA code turns out to be a red herring, we get the encryption key on a silver plate!

Decrypting the sniffed login credentials

Can it be that easy? Here's a minimal proof-of-concept in python:

#!/usr/bin/env python3

from cryptography.hazmat.primitives.ciphers import Cipher, algorithms, modes
from base64 import b64decode
from urllib.parse import unquote
import xml.etree.ElementTree as ET
import sys

def decrypt_string(key, s):
    d = Cipher(algorithms.AES(key[0:16]), modes.CBC(key[16:])).decryptor()
    plaintext = d.update(s)
    return plaintext.decode('utf-8').rstrip('\0')

def decrypt_credentials(xml):
    x_csk = xml.find("CryptSessionKey")
    x_user = xml.find("UserName")
    x_pw = xml.find("Password")

    key = b64decode(x_csk.attrib['Value'])
    enc_user = b64decode(unquote(x_user.attrib['Value']))
    enc_pw = b64decode(unquote(x_pw.attrib['Value']))

    return (key, decrypt_string(key, enc_user), decrypt_string(key, enc_pw))

def decrypt_file(fn):
    key, user, pw = decrypt_credentials(ET.parse(fn).getroot())
    print('User:', user, 'Password:', pw)

for fn in sys.argv[1:]:

If we pass the earlier <Request/> XML to this script, we get this:

User: x Password: z

Looks like somebody couldn't be bothered to touch-tap-type long values.

Now we also can see what kind of garbage stack data is used as the encryption keys.

On the NX300, the results confirm our analysis, this looks very much like stack garbage, with minor variations between _secureRandom() calls:

00000000: ffff ffff f407 a5b6 5201 0000 fc03 aeb6  ........R.......
00000010: ffff ffff 4872 0fb6 5201 0000 0060 0fb6  ....Hr..R....`..

00000000: ffff ffff f487 9ab6 5201 0000 fc83 a3b6  ........R.......
00000010: ffff ffff 48f2 04b6 5201 0000 00e0 04b6  ....H...R.......

00000000: ffff ffff 48a2 04b6 5201 0000 0090 04b6  ....H...R.......
00000010: ffff ffff 48a2 04b6 5201 0000 0090 04b6  ....H...R.......

00000000: ffff ffff f4a7 9ab6 5201 0000 fca3 a3b6  ........R.......
00000010: ffff ffff 4812 05b6 5201 0000 0000 05b6  ....H...R.......

00000000: ffff ffff f4b7 99b6 5201 0000 fcb3 a2b6  ........R.......
00000010: ffff ffff 4822 04b6 5201 0000 0010 04b6  ....H"..R.......

00000000: ffff ffff 48f2 04b6 5201 0000 00e0 04b6  ....H...R.......
00000010: ffff ffff 48f2 04b6 5201 0000 00e0 04b6  ....H...R.......

On the NX mini, the data looks much more random, but consistently key==iv - suggesting that it is actually a sort of sha1(rand()):

00000000: 00e0 fdcd e5ae ea50 a359 8204 03da f992  .......P.Y......
00000010: 00e0 fdcd e5ae ea50 a359 8204 03da f992  .......P.Y......

00000000: 0924 ea0e 9a5c e6ef f26f 75a9 3e97 ced7  .$...\...ou.>...
00000010: 0924 ea0e 9a5c e6ef f26f 75a9 3e97 ced7  .$...\...ou.>...

00000000: 98b8 d78f 5ccc 89a9 2c0f 0736 d5df f412  ....\...,..6....
00000010: 98b8 d78f 5ccc 89a9 2c0f 0736 d5df f412  ....\...,..6....

00000000: d1df 767e eb51 bd40 96d0 3c89 1524 a61c  ..v~.Q.@..<..$..
00000010: d1df 767e eb51 bd40 96d0 3c89 1524 a61c  ..v~.Q.@..<..$..

00000000: d757 4c46 d96d 262f a986 3587 7d29 7429  .WLF.m&/..5.})t)
00000010: d757 4c46 d96d 262f a986 3587 7d29 7429  .WLF.m&/..5.})t)

00000000: dd56 9b41 e2f9 ac11 12b7 1b8c af56 187a  .V.A.........V.z
00000010: dd56 9b41 e2f9 ac11 12b7 1b8c af56 187a  .V.A.........V.z

Social media login response

The HTTP POST request is passed to WebOperateLogin() which will create a TCP socket to port 80 of the target host, send the request and receive the response into a 2KB buffer:

bool WebOperateLogin(int sock_idx,char *buf,ulong site_idx) {
    int buflen = strlen(buf);
    rx_buf = malloc(2048);
    int rx_size = ReceiveTCPProcess(sock_idx,rx_buf,300);
    bool login_result = WebCheckLogin(rx_buf,site_idx);

The TCP process (actually just a pthread) will clear the buffer and read up to 2047 bytes, ensuring a NUL-terminated result. The response is then "parsed" to extract success / failure flags.

Parsing the login response: WebCheckLogin()

The HTTP response (header plus body) is then searched for certain "XML" "fields" to parse out relevant data:

bool WebCheckLogin(char *buf,int site_idx) {
    char value[512];
    if (GetXmlString(buf,"ErrCode",value)) {
        strcpy(gWeb.ErrCode,value); /* gWeb.ErrCode is 16 bytes */
        if (!GetXmlString(buf, "ErrSubCode",value))
            return false;
        strcpy(gWeb.SubErrCode,value); /* gWeb.SubErrCode is also 16 bytes */
        return false;
    if (!GetXmlString(buf,"Response SessionKey",value))
        return false;
    strcpy(gWeb.response_session_key,value); /* ... 64 bytes */
    if (!GetXmlString(buf,"PersistKey Value",value))
        return false;
    strcpy(gWeb.persist_key,value); /* ... 64 bytes */
    if (!GetXmlString(buf,"CryptSessionKey Value",value))
        return false;
    strcpy(gWeb.keyspec,value); /* ... 64 bytes */
    if (site_idx == /*34*/ SITE_SKYDRIVE) {
        strcpy(gWeb.LoginPeopleID, "owner");
    } else {
        if (!GetXmlString(buf,"LoginPeopleID",value)) {
            return false;
    strcpy(gWeb.LoginPeopleID,value); /* ... 128 bytes */
    if (site_idx == /*34*/ SITE_SKYDRIVE) {
        if (!GetXmlString(buf,"OAuth URL",value))
            return false;
    return true;

The GetXmlString() function is actually quite a euphemism. It does not actually parse XML. Instead, it's searching for the first verbatim occurence of the passed field name, including the verbatim whitespace, checking that it's followed by a colon or an equal sign, and then copying everything from the quotes behind that into out_value. It does not check the buffer bounds, and doesn't ensure NUL-termination, so the caller has to clear the buffer each time (which it doesn't do consistently):

bool GetXmlString(char *xml,char *field,char *out_value) {
    char *position = strstr(xml, field);
    if (!position)
        return false;
    int field_len = strlen(field);
    char *field_end = position + field_len;
    /* snip some decompile that _probably_ checks for a '="' or ':"' postfix at field_end */
    char *value_begin = position + fieldlen + 2;
    char *value_end = strstr(value_begin,"\"");
    if (!value_end)
        return false;
    memcpy(out_value, value_begin, value_end - value_begin);
    return true;

Given that the XML buffer is 2047 bytes controlled by the attacker server operator, and value is a 512-byte buffer on the stack, this calls for some happy smashing!

The ErrCode and ErrSubCode are passed to the UI application, and probably processed according to some look-up tables / error code tables, which are subject to reverse engineering by somebody else. Valid error codes seem to be: 4019 ("invalid grant" from kakaostory), 8001, 9001, 9104.

Logging out

The auth endpoint is also used for logging out from the camera (this feature is well-hidden, you need to switch the camera to "Wi-Fi" mode, enter the respective social network, and then press the 🗑 trash-bin key):

<Request Method="logout" SessionKey="pmlyFu8MJfAVs8ijyMli" CryptKey="ca02890e42c48943acdba4e782f8ac1f20caa249">

Writing a minimal auth handler

For the positive case, a few elements need to be present in the response XML. A valid example for that is response-login.xml:

<Response SessionKey="{{ sessionkey }}">
<PersistKey Value="{{ persistkey }}"/>
<CryptSessionKey Value="{{ cryptsessionkey }}"/>
<LoginPeopleID="{{ screenname }}"/>
<OAuth URL=""/>

The camera will persist the SessionKey value and pass it to later requests. Also it will remember the user as "logged in" and skip the /auth/ endpoint in the future. It is unclear yet how to reset that state from the API side to allow a new login (maybe it needs the right ErrCode value?)

A negative response would go along these lines:

<Response ErrCode="{{ errcode }}" ErrSubCode="{{ errsubcode }}" />

And here is the respective Flask handler PoC:

@app.route('/<string:site>/auth',methods = ['POST'])
def auth(site):
    xml = ET.fromstring(request.get_data())
    method = xml.attrib["Method"]
    if method == 'logout':
        return "Logged out for real!"
    keyspec, user, password = decrypt_credentials(xml)
    # TODO: check credentials
    return render_template('response-login.xml',
        screenname="Samsung NX Lover")

Uploading pictures

After a successful login, the camera will actually start uploading files with WebUploadImage(). For each file, either the /facebook/photo or the /facebook/video endpoint is called with another XML request, followed by a HTTP PUT of the actual content.

bool WebUploadImage(int ui_ctx,int site_idx,int picType) {
    if (site_idx == /*14*/ SITE_KAKAOSTORY) {
        /* snip very long block handling kakaostory */
        return true;
    /* iterate over all files selected for upload */
    for (int i = 0; i < gWeb.selected_count; i++) {
        gWeb.file_path = upload_file_names[i];
        gWeb.index = i+1;
        char *buf = malloc(2048);
    return true;

Upload request: WebOperateMetaDataUpload()

The image matadata is prepared by WebMakeUploadingMetaData() and sent by WebOperateMetaDataUpload(). The (user-editable) facebook folder name is properly XML-escaped:

bool WebMakeUploadingMetaData(char *out_http_request,int site_idx) {
    /* snip hostname selection similar to WebMakeLoginData */
    if (strstr(gWeb.file_path, "JPG") != NULL) {
        /* "authenticate" the request by SHA1'ing some static secrets */
        char header_for_sig[256];
        char *crypt_key = sha1str(header_for_sig);
        body = WebMalloc(2048);
        WebString_Add_fmt(body,"%s%s","<?xml version=\"1.0\" encoding=\"UTF-8\"?>","\r\n");
                "<Request Method=\"upload\" Timeout=\"3000\" SessionKey=\"",
                gWeb.response_session_key,"\" CryptKey=\"",crypt_key,"\">\r\n");
        if (site_idx == /*1*/ SITE_FACEBOOK) {
            char *folder = xml_escape(gWeb.facebook_folder);
            WebString_Add_fmt(body,"%s%s%s","<Album ID=\"\" Name=\"",folder,"\"/>\r\n");
        } else
            WebString_Add_fmt(body,"%s%s%s","<Album ID=\"\" Name=\"","Samsung Smart Camera","\"/>\r\n");
        WebString_Add_fmt(body,"%s%s%s%s","<File Name=\"",gWeb.file_name,"\"/>","\r\n")
        if (site_idx != /*9*/ SITE_WEIBO) {

        body_len = strlen(body);
        WebString_Add_fmt(header,"%s%s%s%s","POST /",,"/photo HTTP/1.1","\r\n");
        WebString_Add_fmt(header,"%s%s%s","Host: ",hostname,"\r\n");
        WebString_Add_fmt(header,"%s%s","Content-Type: text/xml;charset=utf-8","\r\n");
        WebString_Add_fmt(header,"%s%s%s","User-Agent: ","DI-NX300","\r\n");
        WebString_Add_fmt(header,"%s%d%s","Content-Length: ",body_len,"\r\n\r\n");
        return true;
    if (strstr(gWeb.file_path, "MP4") != NULL) {
        /* analogous to picture upload, but for video */
    } else
        return false; /* wrong file type */

bool WebOperateMetaDataUpload(int site_idx,int sock_idx,char *buf) {
    /* snip hostname selection similar to WebMakeLoginData */
    bool result = WebSocketConnect(sock_idx,hostname,80);
    if (result) {
        response = malloc(2048);
        return WebCheckRequest(response);
    return false;

The generated XML looks like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<Request Method="upload" Timeout="3000" SessionKey="deadbeef" CryptKey="4f69e3590858b5026508b241612a140e2e60042b">
<Album ID="" Name="Samsung Smart Camera"/>
<File Name="SAM_9838.JPG"/>
<Content><![CDATA[Upload test message.]]></Content>

Upload response: WebCheckRequest()

The server response is checked by WebCheckRequest():

bool WebCheckRequest(char *xml) {
    /* check for HTTP 200 OK, populate ErrCode and ErrSubCode on error */
    if (!GetXmlResult(xml))
        return false;
    memset(web->HostAddr,0,64); /* 64 byte buffer */
    memset(web->ResourceID,0,128); /* 128 byte buffer */
    return true;

Thus the server needs to return an (arbitrary) XML element that has the two attributes HostAddr and ResourceID, which are stored in the gWeb struct for later use. As always, there are no range checks (but those fields are in the middle of the struct, so maybe not the best place to smash.

Actual media upload: WebOperateUpload()

The code is pretty straight-forward, it creates a buffer with the (downscaled or original) media file, makes a HTTP PUT request to the host and resource obtained earlier, and submits that to the server:

bool WebOperateUpload(int sock_idx,ulong picType) {
    char hostname[128];
    WebParseIP(gWeb.HostAddr,hostname); /* not required to be an IP */
    int port = WebParsePort(web->HostAddr);
    if (!WebSocketConnect(sock_idx,hostname,port))
        return false;
    char *file_buffer;
    int file_size;
    char *request = WebMalloc(2048);
    if (WebUploadingData(sock_idx,request,file_buffer_ptr,file_size)) {
        if (strstr(gWeb.file_path,"JPG") || strstr(gWeb.file_path, "MP4"))

bool WebMakeUploadingData(char *out_http_request,char **file_buffer_ptr,int *file_size_ptr,ulong picType) {
    request = WebMalloc(512);
    if (strstr(gWeb.file_path,"JPG")) {
        /* scale down or send original image */
        if (picType == 0) {
            int megapixels = 2;
            if (strcmp(, "facebook") == 0)
                megapixels = 1;
        } else
    } else if (strstr(gWeb.file_path,"MP4")) {
    WebString_Add_fmt(request,"%s%s%s%s","PUT /",gWeb.ResourceID," HTTP/1.1","\r\n");
    if (strstr(gWeb.file_path,"JPG")) {
        WebString_Add_fmt(request,"%s%s","Content-Type: image/jpeg","\r\n");
    } else if (strstr(gWeb.file_path,"MP4")) {
        /* copy-paste-fail? should be video... */
        WebString_Add_fmt(request,"%s%s","Content-Type: image/jpeg","\r\n");
    WebString_Add_fmt(request,"%s%d%s","Content-Length: ",*file_size_ptr,"\r\n");
    WebString_Add_fmt(request,"%s%s%s","User-Agent: ","DI-NX300","\r\n");
    WebString_Add_fmt(request,"%s%d/%d%s","Content-Range: bytes 0-",*file_size_ptr - 1,
    WebString_Add_fmt(request,"%s%s%s","Host: ",gWeb.HostAddr,"\r\n\r\n");

The actual upload function WebUploadingData() is operating in a straight-forward way, it will send the request buffer and the file buffer, and check for a HTTP 200 OK response or for the presence of ErrCode and ErrSubCode.

Writing an upload handler

We need to implement a /<site>/photo handler that returns an (arbitrary) upload path and a PUT handler that will process files on that path.

The upload path will be served using this XML (the hostname is hardcoded because we already had to hijack the snsgw hostname anyway):

<Response HostAddr="" ResourceID="upload/{{ sessionkey }}/{{ filename }}" />

Then we have the two API endpoints:

@app.route('/<string:site>/photo',methods = ['POST'])
def photo(site):
    xml = ET.fromstring(request.get_data())
    # TODO: check session key
    sessionkey = xml.attrib["SessionKey"]
    photo = xml.find("Photo")
    filename = photo.find("File").attrib["Name"]
    # we just pass the sessionkey into the upload URL
    return render_template('response-upload.xml', sessionkey, filename)

@app.route('/upload/<string:sessionkey>/<string:filename>', methods = ['PUT'])
def upload(sessionkey, filename):
    d = request.get_data()
    # TODO: check session key
    store = os.path.join(app.config['UPLOAD_FOLDER'], secure_filename(sessionkey))
    os.makedirs(store, exist_ok = True)
    fn = os.path.join(store, secure_filename(filename))
    with open(fn, "wb") as f:
    return "Success!"


Samsung implemented this service back in 2009, when mandatory SSL (or TLS) wasn't a thing yet. They showed intent of properly securing users' credentials by applying state-of-the-art symmetric and asymmetric encryption instead. However, the insecure (commented out?) random key generation algorithm was not suitable for the task, and even if it were, the secret key was provided as part of the message anyway. A passive attacker listening on the traffic between Samsung cameras and their API servers was able to obtain the AES key and thus decrypt the user credentials.

In this post, we have analyzed the client-side code of the NX300 camera, and re-created the APIs as part of the samsung-nx-emailservice project.

Discuss on Mastodon

Posted 2023-12-01 17:02 Tags:

This post is about shooting 16-color EGA (1984) styled retro photos right on the 4$ ESP32-CAM board and storing them to µSD in the arcane TGA (1984) file format.

For that, we need to read RGB images, convert them to 16 colors, apply dithering, and store a TGA image file.

ESP32-EGA16-TGA source code on GitHub.

Test-photo Bayer-dithered to EGA colors, with shifted matrices


This year's Shitty Camera Challenge has some space for digital cameras, and so the author experimented with different devices. The last one, the ESP32-CAM, was obtained after the HomeAssistant setup wizard promised an easy way to monitor analog utility meters with camera and AI, and what could be shittier than a 4$ camera PCB?


The ESP32-CAM turned out to be even shittier than anticipated. Of the four sensors ordered, three had visible defects. The image quality is green. The board pinout is ridiculous, with the LED flash wired to the SD data line, the PCB LED blocking WiFi, and no fully usable GPIOs.

Still, the ESP32 is quite a beefy beast for an embedded SoC, with a 240MHz 32-bit core and ~500KB of SRAM on die, plus some 4MB of PSRAM on the board to store camera pictures. The pictures can be streamed over WiFi or stored to a µSD card, giving us some flexibility.

The CPU and memory specs are far beyond 1980s desktop computers, so we are not limited in the choice of algorithms to perform our task, and we can easily cheat where needed.

The platform is supported by Arduino IDE and by PlatformIO, typically programmed in C/C++, and there are example projects to implement a webcam or to take pictures to µSD.

Reading RGB data from the sensor into memory

The camera API supports various streaming formats, from pre-compressed JPEG to RAW:

typedef enum {
    PIXFORMAT_RGB565,    // 2BPP/RGB565
    PIXFORMAT_YUV422,    // 2BPP/YUV422
    PIXFORMAT_YUV420,    // 1.5BPP/YUV420
    PIXFORMAT_RGB888,    // 3BPP/RGB888
    PIXFORMAT_RAW,       // RAW
    PIXFORMAT_RGB444,    // 3BP2P/RGB444
    PIXFORMAT_RGB555,    // 3BP2P/RGB555
} pixformat_t;

The easiest format for us to process is RGB888, with one byte for each of the three colors, stored in a two-dimensional pixel array. Except when the API is a lie:

E (1195) esp32 ll_cam: Requested format is not supported

Luckily, the github-actions bot closed the issue as completed, so it's solved, right? RIGHT??? The error message comes from ll_cam_set_sample_mode() and its source code reveals that the actually implemented options are:


Greyscale gives us one brightness byte per pixel, but we want to have colors. YUV422 stores two pixels in four bytes and requires a color space conversion. JPEG requires that as well, but only after parsing and uncompressing the JPEG file. RGB565 stores one pixel in two bytes, with five bits for red and blue, respectively, and six bits for green. That gives us enough headroom to do some dithering for a 16-color palette and spares us from non-linear luminance and chrominance formulas.

Furthermore, RGB565 can be converted to RGB888 with just a bit of bit shifting, so there we go. We configure the camera to take images in QVGA (320x240, close enough to the EGA 320x200 original) into PSRAM:

camera_config_t config;
/* ... snip boilerplate ... */
config.pixel_format = PIXFORMAT_RGB565;
config.frame_size = FRAMESIZE_QVGA;
config.fb_location = CAMERA_FB_IN_PSRAM;

However, after firing up the image sensor and taking a shot, we realize that everything is green. Not monochrome green, but bad-white-balance green. The suggested workaround is to give the camera some time to calibrate after enabling auto white balance, by taking and discarding a few shots:

sensor_t *s = esp_camera_sensor_get();
/* Enable AWB and AWB gain in auto mode */
s->set_whitebal(s, 1);
s->set_awb_gain(s, 1);
s->set_wb_mode(s, 0);
/* DO NOT DO COPY THIS! Set contrast and saturation to max for the EGA effect */
s->set_contrast(s, 2);
s->set_saturation(s, 2);
/* Take and discard a few pictures */
for (int i= 0 ; i < WARMUP_PICS; i++) {
  camera_fb_t *fb = esp_camera_fb_get();
  if (fb)

After that (with WARMUP_PICS=10), the image is less green. Not quite true-color, but acceptable. The raw RGB565 image bytes (320*240*2 = 153600 of them) can be found in fb->buf:

Test photo in RGB565 colors

As noted above, the image is 320*240 and not 320*200, as the EGA card didn't have square pixels. We can compensate that by just skipping one of each six rows when converting. Then we just can fix the aspect ratio in post-production for modern PC displays, by scaling up to 200%x240%.

Interlude: viewing RGB565 images

An obvious intermediate step when developing a camera application is storing the "raw" or "intermediate" pixel arrays right to "disk", i.e. the µSD card.

RGB888 images can be trivially converted (and scaled up for modern displays) by ImageMagick, the author's favorite image processing CLI:

convert -depth 8 -size 320x240 input.rgb -scale 200% output.png

There is no direct driver for RGB565, but there is this RGB565 parser pattern and it leaves the author speechless. WTF. ImageMagick is the Swiss army knife of image processing, but is this Turing complete?!?

So maybe the second favorite image processing tool has something in the pipeline? Oh yes indeed:

ffmpeg -vcodec rawvideo -f rawvideo -pix_fmt rgb565be -s 320x240 -i input.rgb565 -f image2 -vcodec png output.png

Et voila! We can store intermediate pictures, test individual phases of the pipeline and see where things go wrong. The ESP32 µSD interface is quite slow, so storing the "huge" 150KiB and 225KiB images takes a second or so of intensive flash LED blinking. And that LED gets rather hot, so watch out for your fingers!

EGA 16-color palette

The EGA color palette was a natural choice for this experiment, because its 16 colors are well known and still in use today in terminal mode applications (including most things you can access through SSH), and while they don't go back to roman horse asses or 1920's punch cards, they were created by IBM in 1981 for the IBM CGA adapter based on a simple one bit per color plus one intensity bit scheme, and an analog hardware hack to replace the ugly yellow ocher with a slightly less unpleasant brown.

The result are the following natural colors beloved by retro pixel artists, perfectly suited for photography:

0 #000000 1 #0000AA 2 #00AA00 3 #00AAAA 4 #AA0000 5 #AA00AA 6 #AA5500 7 #AAAAAA
8 #555555 9 #5555FF 10 #55FF55 11 #55FFFF 12 #FF5555 13 #FF55FF 14 #FFFF55 15 #FFFFFF

Technically, the full EGA color palette has two bits per color, resulting in 64 total colors, but you can only ever choose 16 of them, and as the defaults are well-known, we are sticking to them.

To provide the best resulting image quality, for each pixel we will pick the closest EGA color, by minimizing the Euclidean distance in three-dimensional space, or in different words, we'll calculate the squared differences for each color channel and pick the smallest one:

for (int i = 0; i < 16; i++) {
  int delta_r = abs(EGA_PALETTE[i][0]-r);
  int delta_g = abs(EGA_PALETTE[i][1]-g);
  int delta_b = abs(EGA_PALETTE[i][2]-b);
  int match = delta_r*delta_r + delta_g*delta_g + delta_b*delta_b;
  if (match < best_match) {
      best_match = match;
      best_color = i;

We could implement a fancy look-up-table for each of the 65536 possible RGB565 values, but we have plenty of CPU cycles and not so much RAM, and only 64000 pixels, so we just do the look-up for each of them.

Test-photo mapped directly to EGA colors

The results look surprisingly monochrome, with just a few colored areas. It turns out that the low saturation of the ESP camera sensor maps most real-world motives onto the four shades of grey when using the "closest color" approach. To increase the saturation, we'd have to convert our pixels into another colorspace, so let's look for a different approach.

Dithering of photos to 16 colors

The standard (old-school) technique to map natural colors to a limited palette is color dithering. There are different algorithms, with different trade-offs, resulting in different image quality.

The simplest one, average dithering, assigns the closest palette color to each pixel, and we've seen it in action above.

Floyd-Steinberg from 1975 is the most sophisticated one, giving the most natural results and having a nice natural and irregular pixel distribution. It works by taking the error (difference between the original color and the mapped palette color) of each pixel, and spreading ("propagating") that error out to the neighbor pixels below and to the right. This creates a statistical distribution of colored pixels proportional to the level of the respective color in the image. The algorithm is clever by only applying the propagation to pixels right and below of the current one, allowing to process an image in a single linear pass.

However, it means that we need to change pixel values one row ahead in our buffer, and adding something to a pixel's color might overflow it, so we need to clip values to the (0, 31) or (0, 63) range. However, we can get a very good approximation by only propagating the error to the next pixel in the current row, with much less work:

Test-photo error-dithered to EGA colors

There are slightly noticeable vertical line artifacts at the left edge, as we reset the error variables at the beginning of the column (otherwise, colors from the right edge would "bleed over"), that wouldn't be there with the two-dimensional approach of Floyd-Steinberg. Beyond that, this is already too good and almost too true-color to really count as a shitty image.

There is one approach that was easier to implement on 1980s hardware (and that allowed better compression of the images), and that is ordered (or Bayes) dithering. It's using a (most often square) threshold table that is applied repeatedly to the image, changing the respective colors and resulting in a visible cross-hatch pattern.

By simply taking a bayer pattern table from StackOverflow, and doubling the threshold values to compensate for the pale camera colors, we get this:

Test-photo Bayer-dithered to EGA colors

Now why is this so monochrome again? Well, the Bayer pattern is applied individually to each of the three color channels, and we are using the same pattern position for the three channels of a pixel, so effectively we always apply a greyscale threshold. By simply shifting the pattern one pixel to the right for green and one pixel down for blue, we get a much better result:

Test-photo Bayer-dithered to EGA colors, with shifted matrices

Perfect! That's exactly the desired image quality to compete in the Shitty Camera Challenge!

Saving as TGA

Actually, TGA wasn't the first choice format for this project. The author's favorite is PCX (1985), which is only slightly younger than TGA, but was supported by the author's favorite image editing tool, that also featured the most creative versioning scheme: Deluxe Paint II Enhanced 2.0.

However, the author's favorite image viewer, Geeqie, fails to properly display PCX files, and fixing that was way out-of-scope for this project, or so the author thought. So we stick to TGA, which seems to be properly supported based on throwing a few test files at it.

The file format is simple when compression is disabled, coming with a small 18-byte header followed by the palette (in BGR order, not RGB), and then the packed raw pixel data, from bottom to top.

Well. In theory, TGA supports various color depths and palette types from 1 bit per pixel to RGBA. What we have is a 16-color 4bpp (4 bits per pixels; not to be confused with the "BPP" bytes-per-pixel used in the ESP32 headers) image with a 16*3 byte palette. However, the image processing tools that claim to "support" TGA don't actually accept arbitrary variants.

Screenshot of a GIMP error message not accepting my TarGA format

So we have to artificially inflate our pixel data from 4bpp to 8bpp, and because the tools will also ignore the "number of colors in the palette" field and instead use the "number of colors in the image" field, we need to store a full 256-color palette in the file, of which we will only use the first 16 entries:

memcpy(tga, &header, sizeof(TgaHeader));
for (int i = 0; i < STORE_COLORS; i++) {
  tga[sizeof(TgaHeader) + i*3 + 0] = EGA_PALETTE[i % COLORS][2];
  tga[sizeof(TgaHeader) + i*3 + 1] = EGA_PALETTE[i % COLORS][1];
  tga[sizeof(TgaHeader) + i*3 + 2] = EGA_PALETTE[i % COLORS][0];
for (y = 0; y < HEIGHT; y++) {
  src_pos = y*WIDTH;
  dst_pos = (HEIGHT - y - 1)*WIDTH;
  memcpy(tga + sizeof(TgaHeader) + 3*256 + dst_pos, framebuffer + src_pos, WIDTH);

The remaining code of the project is based on existing examples. Find the full ESP32-EGA16-TGA source code on GitHub. Beware, it's as shitty as everything shown above, to fit into the project. This is not production-quality C code.

Comments on HN

Posted 2023-08-04 18:07 Tags:

Many years ago, in the summer of 2014, I fell into the rabbit hole of the Samsung NX(300) mirrorless APS-C camera, found out it runs Tizen Linux, analyzed its WiFi connection, got a root shell and looked at adding features.

Next year, Samsung "quickly adapted to market demands" and abandoned the whole NX ecosystem, but I'm still an active user of the NX500 and the NX mini (for infrared photography). A few months ago, I was triggered to find out which respective framework is powering which of the 19(!!!) NX models that Samsung released between 2010 and 2015. The TL;DR results are documented in the Samsung NX model table, and this post contains more than you ever wanted to know, unless you are a Samsung camera engineer.

Hardware Overview

There is a Wikipedia list of all the released NX models that I took as my starting point. The main product line is centered around the NX mount, and the cameras have a "NXnnnn" numbering scheme, with "nnnn" being a number between one and four digits.

In addition, there is the Galaxy NX, which is an Android phone, but also has the NX mount and a DRIM engine DSP. This fascinating half-smartphone half-camera line began in 2012 with the Galaxy Camera and featured a few Android models with zoom lenses and different camera DSPs.

In 2014, Samsung introduced the NX mini with a 1" sensor and the "NX-M" lens mount, sharing much of the architecture with the larger NX models. In 2015, they announced accidentally leaked the NX mini 2, based on the DRIMeV SoC and running Linux, and even submitted it to the FCC, but it never materialized on the market after Samsung "shifted priorities". If you are the janitor in Samsung's R&D offices, and you know where all the NX mini 2 prototypes are locked up, or if you were involved in making them, I'd die to get my hands onto one of them!

Most of the NX cameras are built around different generations of the "DRIM engine" image processor, so it's worth looking at that as well.

The Ukrainian company photo-parts has a rather extensive list of NX model boards, even featuring a few well-made PCB photographs. While their page is quirky, the documentation is excellent and matches my findings. They have documented the DRIMe CPU generation for many, but not for all, NX cameras.

Origins of the DRIM engine

Samsung NV100 (*)

Apparently the first cameras introducing the DRIM engine ("Digital Real Image & Movie Engine") were the NV30/NV40 in 2008. Going through the service manuals of the NV cameras reveals the following:

  • NV30 (the Samsung camera, not the Samsung laptop with the same model number): using the Milbeaut MB91686 image processor introduced in 2006
  • NV40: also using the MB91686
  • NV24: "TWE (MB91043)"
  • NV100 (also called TL34HD in some regions): "DRIM II (MB91043)"

There are also some WB* camera models built around Milbeaut SoCs:

  • WB200, WB250F, WB30F, WB800F: MB91696 (the SoC has "MB91696B" on it, the service manual claims "MB91696AM / M6M2-J"), firmware strings confirm "M6M2J"

This looks like the DRIM engine is a re-branded Milbeaut MB91686, and the DRIM engine II is a MB91043. Unfortunately, nothing public is known about the latter, and it doesn't look like anybody ever talked about this processor model.

Even more unfortunately, I wasn't able to find a (still working) firmware download for any of those cameras.

Firmware Downloads

Luckily, the firmware situation is better for the NX cameras. To find out more about each of them, I visited the respective Samsung support page and downloaded the latest firmware release. For the Android-based cameras however, firmware images are only available through shady "Samsung fan club" sites.

The first classification was provided by the firmware size, as there were distinct buckets. The first generation, NX5, NX10, and NX11 had (unzipped) sizes of ~15MB, the last generation NX1 and NX500 were beyond 350MB.

Googling for respective NX and "DRIM engine" press releases, PCB photos and other related materials helped identifying the specific generation. Sometimes, there were no press releases mentioning the SoC and I had to resort to PCB photos found online or made by myself or other NX enthusiasts.

Further information was obtained by checking the firmware files with strings and binwalk, with the details documented below.

Note: most firmware files contain debug strings and file paths, often mentioning the account name of the respective developer. Personal names of Samsung developers are masked out in this blog post to protect the guilty innocent.

Mirrorless Cameras

DRIMeII: NX10, NX5, NX11, NX100

Samsung NX10 (*)

The first NX camera released by Samsung was the NX10, so let's look into its firmware. The ZIP contains an nx10.bin, and running that through strings -n 20 still yields some 11K unique entries.

There are no matches for "DRIM", but searching for "version", "revision", and "copyright" yields a few red herrings:

* Powered by [redacted] in DSLR team *
* This version apadpter for NX10 (16MB NOR) *
* Ice Updater v 0.025 (Base on FW Updater) *
* Hermes Firmware Version 0.00.001 (hit Enter for debugger prompt)       *
*                COPYRIGHT(c) 2008 SYRI                                  *

It's barely possible to find out the details of those names after over a decade, and we still don't know which OS is powering the CPU.

One hint is provided by the source code reference in the binary: D:\070628_view\NX10_DEV_MAIN\DSLR_PRODUCT\DSP\Project\CSP\..\..\Source\System\CSP\CSP_1.1_Gender\CSP_1.1\uITRON\Include\PCAlarm.h

This seems to be based on a "CSP", and feature "uITRON". The former might be the Samsung Core Software Platform, as identified by the following copyright notice in the firmware file:

Copyright (C) SAMSUNG Electronics Co.,Ltd.
SAMSUNG (R) Core SW Platform 2.0 for CSP 1.1

The latter is µITRON, a Japanese real-time OS specification going back to 1984. So let's assume the first camera generation (everything released in 2010) is powered by µITRON, as NX5, NX10 and NX11 have the same strings in their firmware files.

Samsung NX100 (*)

The NX100 is very similar to the above devices, but its firmware is roughly twice the size, given that it has a 32MB NOR flash (according to the bootloader strings). However, there are only 19MB of non-0x00, non-0xff data, and from comparing the extracted strings no significant new modules could be identified.

None of them identify the DRIM engine generation, but the NX10 service manual labels the CPU as "DSP (DRIMeII Pro)", so probably related to but slightly better than NV100's "DRIM II MB91043". Furthermore, all of these models are documented as "DRIM II" by photo-parts, and there is a well-readable PCB shot of the NX100 saying "DRIM engine IIP".

DRIMeIII: NX200, NX20, NX210, NX1000, NX1100

Samsung NX200 (*)

One year later, in 2011, Samsung released the NX200 powered by DRIM (engine) III. It is followed in 2012 by NX20, NX210, and NX1000/NX1100 (the only difference between the last two is a bundled Adobe Lightroom). The NX20 emphasizes professionalism, and the NX1x00 and NX2x0 stand for compact mobility.

The NX200 firmware also makes a significant leap to 77MB uncompressed, and the following models clock in at around 102MB uncompressed.

Each of the firwmare ZIPs contains two files respectively, named after the model, e.g. nx200.Rom and nx200.bin. Binwalking the Rom doesn't yield anything of value, except roughly a dozen of artistic collage background pictures. strings confirms that it is some sort of filesystem not identified by binwalk (and it contains a classical music compilation, with tracks titled "01_Flohwalzer.mp3" to "20_Spring.mp3", each roughly a minute long, sounding like ringtones from the 2000s)! The pictures and music files can be extracted using PhotoRec.

The bin binwalk yields a few interesting strings though:

8738896       0x855850        Unix path: /opt/windRiver6.6/vxworks-6.6/target/config/comps/src/edrStub.c
10172580      0x9B38A4        Copyright string: "Copyright (C) 2011, Arcsoft Inc."
10275754      0x9CCBAA        Copyright string: "Copyright (c) 2000-2009 by FotoNation. All rights reserved."
10485554      0x9FFF32        Copyright string: "Copyright Wind River Systems, Inc., 1984-2007"
10495200      0xA024E0        VxWorks WIND kernel version "2.11"

So we have identified the OS as Wind River's VwWorks.

A strings inspection of the bin also gives us "ARM DRIMeIII - ARM926E (ARM)" and "DRIMeIII H.264/AVC Encoder", confirming the SoC generation, weird network stuff ("ftp password (pw) (blank = use rsh)"), and even some fancy ASCII art:

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]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]       Development System
]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]       KERNEL: 
]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]       Copyright Wind River Systems, Inc., 1984-2007

The 2012 models (NX20, NX210, NX1000, NX1100) contain the same copyright and CPU identification strings after a cursory look, confirming the same info about the third DRIMe generation.

Side note: there is also a compact camera from early 2010, the WB2000/TL350 (EU/US name), also built around the DRIMeIII and also running VxWorks. It looks like it was developed in parallel to the DRIMeII based NX10!

Another camera based on DRIMeIII and VxWorks is the EX2F from 2012.

DRIMeIV, Tizen Linux: NX300(M), NX310, NX2000, NX30

Samsung NX300 (*)

In early 2013, Samsung gave a CES press conference announcing the DRIMe IV based NX300. Linux was not mentioned, but we got a novelty single-lens 3D feature and an AMOLED screen. Samsung also published a design overview of the NX300 evolution.

I've looked into the NX300 root filesystem back in 2014, and the CPU generation was also confirmed from /proc/cpuinfo:

Hardware    : Samsung-DRIMeIV-NX300

The NX310 is just an NX300 with additional bundled gimmicks, sharing the same firmware. The actual successor to the NX300 is the NX2000, featuring a large AMOLED and almost no physical buttons (why would anybody buy a camera without knobs and dials?). It's followed by the NX300M (a variant of the NX300 with a 180° tilting screen), and the NX30 (released 2014, a larger variant with eVF and built-in flash).

All of them have similarly sized and named firmware (nx300.bin), and the respective OSS downloads feature a TIZEN folder. All are running Linux kernel 3.5.0. There is a nice description of the firmware file structure by Douglas J. Hickok. The bin files begin with SLP\x00, probably for "Samsung Linux Platform", and thus I documented them as SLP Firmware Format and created an SLP firmware dumper.

Fujitsu M7MU: NX mini, NX3000, NX3300

Samsung NX mini (*)

In the first half of 2014, the NX mini was announced. It also features WiFi and NFC, and with its NX-M mount it is one of the smallest digital interchangeable-lens cameras out there! The editor notes reveal that it's based on the "M7MU" DSP, which unfortunately is impossible to google for.

The firmware archive contains a file called DATANXmini.bin (which is not the SLP format and also a break with the old-school 8.3 filename convention), and it seems to use some sort of data compression, as most strings are garbled after 16 bytes or earlier (C:\colomia\Gui^@^@Lib\Sources\Core^@^PAllocator.H, here using Vim's binary escape notation).

There are a few string matches for "M7MU", but nothing that would reveal details about its manufacturer or operating system. The (garbled) copyright strings give a mixed picture, with mentions of:

Copyright (c) 2<80>^@^@5-2011, Jouni Ma^@^@linen <*@**.**>
^@^@and contributors^@^B^@This program ^@^Kf^@^@ree software. Yo!
u ^@q dis^C4e it^AF/^@<9c>m^D^@odify^@^Q
under theA^@ P+ms of^B^MGNU Gene^A^@ral Pub^@<bc> License^D^E versPy 2.

Samsung NX3000 (*)

This doesn't give us any hints on what is powering this nice curiosity of ILC. The few PCB photos available on the internet have the CPU covered with a sticker, so no dice there either. All of the above similarly applies to the NX3000, which is running very similar code but has the larger NX mount, and the NX3300, which is a slightly modified NX3000 with more selfie shooting and less Adobe Lightroom.

It took me quite a while of fruitless guessing, until I was able to obtain a (broken) NX3000 and disassemble it, just to remove the CPU sticker.

The sticker revealed that the CPU is actually an "MB86S22A", another Fujitsu Milbeaut Image Processor, with M-7M being the seventh generation (not sure about "MU", but there is "MO" for mobile devices), built around the ARM Cortex-A5MP core!

Github code search reveals that there is actually an M7MU driver in the forked Exynos Linux kernel, and it defines the firmware header structure. Let's hack together a header reader in python real quick now, and run that over the NX mini firmware:

Header Value
block_size 0x400 (1024)
writer_load_size 0x4fc00 (326656)
write_code_entry 0x40000400 (1073742848)
sdram_param_size 0x90 (144)
nand_param_size 0xe1 (225)
sdram_data *stripped 144 bytes*
nand_data *stripped 225 bytes*
code_size 0xafee12 (11529746)
offset_code 0x50000 (327680)
version1 "01.10"
log "201501162119"
version2 "GLUAOA2"
model "NXMINI"
section_info 00000007 00000001
0050e66c 00000002
001a5985 00000003
00000010 00000004
00061d14 00000005
003e89d6 00000006
00000010 00000007
00000010 00000000
9x 00000000
pdr ""
ddr 00 b3 3f db 26 02 08 00 d7 31 08 29 01 80 00 7c 8c 07
epcr 00 00 3c db 00 00 08 30 26 00 f8 38 00 00 00 3c 0c 07

That was less than informative. At least it's a good hint for loading the firmware into a decompiler, if anybody gets interested enough.

But why should the Linux kernel have a module to talk to an M7MU? One of the kernel trees containing that code is called kernel_samsung_exynos5260 and the Exynos 5260 is the SoC powering the Galaxy K Zoom. So the K Zoom does have a regular Exynos SoC running Android, and a second Milbeaut SoC running the image processing. Let's postpone this Android hybrid for now.

DRIMeV, Tizen Linux: NX1, NX500, Gear360

Samsung NX1 (*)

In late 2014, Samsung released the high-end DRIMeV-based NX1, featuring a backside-illuminated 28 MP sensor and 4K H.256 video in addition to all the features of previous NX models. There was also an interview with a very excited Samsung Senior Marketing Manager that contains PCB shots and technical details. Once again, Linux is only mentioned in third-party coverage, e.g. in the EOSHD review.

Samsung NX500 (*)

In February 2015, the NX1 was followed by the more compact NX500 based around a slightly reduced DRIMeVs SoC. Apparently, the DRIMeVs also powers the Gear 360 camera, and indeed, there is a teardown with PCB shots confirming that and showing an additional MachXO3 FPGA, but also some firmware reverse-engineering as well as firmware mirroring efforts. The Gear360 is running Tizen 2.2.0 "Magnolia" and requires a companion app for most of its functions.

The NX1 is using the same modified version of the SLP firmware format as the Gear360. In versions before 1.21, the ext4 partitions were uncompressed, leading to significantly larger bin file sizes. They still contain Linux 3.5.0 but ext4 is a significant change over the UBIFS on the DRIMeIV cameras, and allows in-place modification from a telnet shell.

Android phones with dedicated photo co-processor

Samsung has also experimented with hybrid devices that are neither smartphone nor camera. The first such device seems to be the Galaxy Camera from 2012.

Samsung Galaxy K4 Zoom (*)

The Android firmware ZIP files (obtained from a Samsung "fan club" website) contain one or multiple tar.md5 files (which are tar archives with appended MD5 checksums to be flashed by Odin).

Galaxy Camera (EK-GC100, EK-GC120)

For the Galaxy Camera EK-GC100, there is a CODE_GC100XXBLL7_751817_REV00_user_low_ship.tar.md5 in the ZIP, that contains multiple .img files:

-rw-r--r-- se.infra/se.infra     887040 2012-12-26 12:12 sboot.bin
-rw-r--r-- se.infra/se.infra     768000 2012-12-26 11:41 param.bin
-rw-r--r-- se.infra/se.infra     159744 2012-12-26 12:12 tz.img
-rw-r--r-- se.infra/se.infra    4980992 2012-12-26 12:12 boot.img
-rw-r--r-- se.infra/se.infra    5691648 2012-12-26 12:12 recovery.img
-rw------- se.infra/se.infra 1125697212 2012-12-26 12:11 system.img

None of these look like camera firmware, but system.img is the Android rootfs (A sparse image convertible with simg2img to obtain an ext4 image). In the rootfs, /vendor/firmware/ contains a few files, including one fimc_is_fw.bin with 1.2MB.

The Galaxy Camera Linux source has an Exynos FIMC-IS (Image Subsystem) driver working over I2C, and the firmware itself contains a few interesting strings:

* S5PC220-A5 - Solution F/W                    *
* since 2010.05.21 for ISP Team                  *
"isp_hardware_version" : "Fimc31"

Furthermore, the firmware bin file seems to start with a typical ARM v7 reset vector table, but other than that it looks like the image processsor is a built-in component of the Exynos4 SoC.

Galaxy S4 Zoom: SM-C1010, SM-C101, SM-C105

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom (*)

The next Android hybrid released by Samsung was the Galaxy S4 Zoom (SM-C1010, SM-C101, SM-C105) in 2013. In its CODE_[...].tar.md5 firmware, there is an additional 2MB camera.bin file that contains the camera processor firmware. Binwalk only reveals a few FotoNation copyright strings, but strings gives some more interesting hints, like:

AHFD Face Detection Library M9Mo v.
Copyright (c) 2005-2011 by FotoNation. All rights reserved.
LibFE M9Mo v.
Copyright (c) 2005-2011 by FotoNation. All rights reserved.
FCGK02 Fujitsu M9MO

Softune is an IDE used by Fujitsu and Infineon for embedded processors, featuring the REALOS µITRON real-time OS!

M9MO sounds like a 9th generation Milbeaut image processor, but again there is not much to see without the model number, and it's hard to find good PCB shots without stickers. There is a S4 Zoom disassembly guide featuring quite a few PCB shots, but the top side only shows the Exynos SoC, eMMC flash and an Intel baseband. There are uncovered bottom pics submtted to FCC which are too low-res to identify if there is a dedicated SoC.

As shown above, Samsung has a history of working with Milbeaut and µITRON, so it's probably not a stretch to conclude that this combination powers the S4 Zoom's camera, but it's hard to say if it's a logical core inside the Exynos 4212 or a dedicated chip.

Galaxy NX: EK-GN100, EK-GN120

Samsung Galaxy NX (*)

Just one week after the S4 Zoom, still in June 2013, Samsung announced the Galaxy NX (EK-GN100, EK-GN120) with interchangeable lenses, 20.3MP APS-C sensor, and DRIMeIV SoC - specs already known from January's NX300.

But the Galaxy NX is also an Android 4.2 smartphone (even if it lacks microphone and speakers, so technically just a micro-tablet?). How can it be a DRIMeIV Linux device and an Android phone at the same time? The firmware surely will enlighten us!

Similarly to the S4 Zoom, the firmware is a ZIP file containing a [...]_HOME.tar.md5. One of the files inside it is camera.bin, and this time it's 77MB! This file now features the SLP\x00 header known from the NX300:

camera.bin: GALAXYU firmware 0.01 (D20D0LAHB01) with 5 partitions
           144    5523488   f68a86 ffffffff  vImage
       5523632       7356 ad4b0983 7fffffff  D4_IPL.bin
       5530988      63768 3d31ae89 65ffffff  D4_PNLBL.bin
       5594756    2051280 b8966d27 543fffff  uImage
       7646036   71565312 4c5a14bc 4321ffff  platform.img

The platform.img file contains a UBIFS root partition, and presumably vImage is used for upgrading the DRIMeIV firmware, and uImage is the standard kernel running on the camera SoC. The rootfs is very similar to the NX300 as well, featuring the same "squeeze/sid" string in /etc/debian_version, even though it's again Tizen / Samsung Linux Platform. There is a 500KB /usr/bin/di-galaxyu-app that's probably responsible for camera operation as well as for talking to the Android CPU. Further reverse engineering is required to understand what kind of IPC mechanism is used between the cores.

The Galaxy NX got the CES 2014 award for the first fully-connected interchangeable lens camera, but probably not for fully-connecting a SoC running Android-flavored Linux with a SoC running Tizen-flavored Linux on the same board.

Galaxy Camera 2

Shortly after the Galaxy NX, the Galaxy Camera 2 (EK-GC200) was announced and presented at CES 2014.

Very similar to the first Galaxy Camera, it has a 1.2MB /vendor/firmware/fimc_is_fw.bin file, and also shares most of the strings with it. Apart from a few changed internal SVN URLs, this seems to be roughly the same module.

Galaxy K Zoom: SM-C115, SM-C111, SM-C115L

As already identified above, the Galaxy K Zoom (SM-C115, SM-C111, SM-C115L), released in June 2014, is using the M7M image processor. The respective firmware can be found inside the Android rootfs at /vendor/firmware/RS_M7MU.bin and is 6.2MB large. It also features the same compression mechanism as the NX mini firmware, making it harder to analyze, but the M7MU firmware header looks more consistent:

Header Value
code_size 0x5dee12 (6155794)
offset_code 0x40000 (262144)
version1 "00.01"
log "201405289234"
version2 "D20FSHE"
model "06DAGCM2"

Rumors of unreleased models

During (and after) Samsung's involvement in the camera market, there were many rumors of shiny new models that didn't materialize. Here is an attempt to classify the press coverage without any insider knowledge:

  • Samsung NX-R (concept design, R for retro?), September 2012 - most probably an early name of the NX2000 (the front is very similar, no pictures of the back).

  • Samsung NX400 / NX400-EVF, July 2014 - looks like the NX400 was renamed to NX500, and an EVF version never materialized.

  • Samsung NX2 prototype, February 2018 - might be a joke/troll or an engineer having some fun. Three years after closing the camera department, it's hard to imagine that somebody produced a 30MP APS-C sensor out of thin air, added a PCB with a modern SoC to read it out, and created (preliminary) firmware.

  • Samsung NX Ultra, April 1st 2020, 'nuff said.


In just five years, Samsung released eighteen cameras and one smartphone/camera hybrid under the NX label, plus a few more phones with zoom lenses, built around the Fujitsu Milbeaut SoC as well as multiple generations of Samsung's custom-engineered (or maybe initially licensed from Fujitsu?) DRIM engine.

The number of different platforms and overlapping release cycles is a strong indication that the devices were developed by two or three product teams in parallel, or maybe even independently of each other. This engineering effort could have proven a huge success with amateur and professional photographers, if it hadn't been stopped by Samsung management.

To this day, the Tizen-based NX models remain the best trade-off between picture quality and hackability (in the most positive meaning).

Comments on HN

(*) All pictures (C) Samsung marketing material

Posted 2023-03-31 17:27 Tags:

This post describes how to start "Intelligent Provisioning" or the "HP Smart Storage Administrator (ACU / SSA)" on a Gen8 server with a broken NAND, so that you can change the boot disk order. It has been successfully tested on the HPE MicroServer Gen8 as well as on a ProLiant ML310e Gen8, using either a USB drive or a µSD / SD card with at least 1GB of capacity.

Update 2021-05-17: to consistently boot from an SSD in port 5, switch to Legacy SATA mode. See below for details.

iLO self-test error and SSA not working

Changing the Boot Disk

HP Gen8 servers in AHCI mode will always try to boot from the first disk in the (non-)hot-swap drive bay, and completely ignore the other disks you have attached.

The absolutely non-obvious way to change the boot device, as outlined in a well-hidden comment on the HP forum, is:

  • Change the SATA mode from "AHCI" to "RAID" in BIOS
    • Ignore the nasty red and orange warning about losing all your data
  • Boot into HP "Smart" Storage Administrator
  • Create a single logical disk of type RAID0
  • Add the desired boot device (and only it!) to the RAID0
  • Profit!

The disks in the drive bay will become invisible as boot devices / to your GRUB, but they will keep working as before under your operating system, and there seems to be no negative impact on the boot device either.

This is great advice, provided that you are actually able to boot into SSA (by pressing F5 at the right moment during your bootup process).

WARNING / Update 2020-10-07: apparently, booting from an SSD on the ODD port (SATA port 5) is not supported by HPE, so it is a pure coincidence that it is possible to set up, and your server will eventually forget the RAID configuration of the ODD port, falling back to whatever boot device is in the first non-hot-plug bay. This has happened to me on the ML310e, but not on the MicroServer (as reported in the forum) yet.

Update 2021-05-17: after another reboot-induced RAID config loss, I have done some more research and found this suggestion to switch to Legacy SATA mode. Another source in German. I have followed it:

  1. Reboot into BIOS Setup (press F9), switch to Legacy SATA
    • System Options
      • SATA Controller Options
        • Embedded SATA Configuration
          • SATA Legacy Support
  2. Reboot into BIOS Setup (press F9), switch boot controller Order
    • Boot Controller Order
      • Ctlr:2
  3. Optional 😉: shut down the box and swap the cables on ports 5 and 6.
  4. Profit!

My initial fear that the "Legacy" mode would cause a performance downgrade so far didn't materialize. The devices are still operated in the fastest SATA mode supported on the respective port, and NCQ seems to work as well.

The Error Message

However, for some time now, my HP MicroServer Gen8 has been showing one of those nasty NAND / Flash / SD-Card / whatever error messages:

  • iLO Self-Test reports a problem with: Embedded Flash/SD-CARD. View details on Diagnostics page.
  • Controller firmware revision 2.10.00 Partition Table Read Error: Could not partition embedded media device
  • Embedded Flash/SD-CARD: Embedded media initialization failed due to media write-verify test failure.
  • Embedded Flash/SD-CARD: Failed restart..

..or a variation thereof. I have ignored it because I thought it referred to the SD card and it didn't impact the server in noticeable ways.

At least not until I wanted to make the shiny new SSD that I bought the default boot device for the server, which is when I realized that neither the F5 key to run HP's "Smart" Storage Administrator tool, nor the F10 key for the "Intelligent" Provisioning tool (do you notice a theme on their naming?) had any effect on the boot process.

The "Official" Solution

The general advice from the Internet to "fix" this error is to repeat the following steps in random order, multiple times:

  • Disconnect mains power for some minutes
  • "Format Embedded Flash and reset iLO" from the iLO web interface
  • "Reset iLO" from the iLO web interface
  • Reset the CMOS settings from the F9 menu
  • Reset the iLO settings via mainboard jumpers
  • Downgrade iLO to 2.54
  • Upgrade iLO to the latest version
  • Send a custom XML via HPQLOCFG.exe

And once the error is fixed, to boot the Install Provisioning Recovery Media to put back the right data onto the NAND.

I've tried the various suggestions (except for the iLO downgrade, because the HTML5 console introduced in 2.70 is the only one not requiring arcane legacy browsers), but the error remained.

So I tried to install the provisioning recovery media nevertheless, but it failed with the anticipated "Error flashing the NVRAM":

Intelligent Provisioning screenshot: Error flashing the NVRAM

(it will not boot the ISO if you just dd it to an USB flash drive, but you can put it on a DVD or use the "Virtual Media" gimmick on a licensed iLO)

If none of the above "fixes" work, then your NAND chip is probably faulty indeed and thus the final advice given is:

  • Contact HPE for a replacement motherboard

However, my MicroServer is out of warranty and I'm not keen on waiting for weeks or months for replacement and shelling out real money on top.

Booting directly into SSA / IP

But that fancy HPIP171.2019_0220.23.iso we downloaded to repair the NAND surely contains what we need, in some heavily obfuscated form?

Let's mount it as a loopback device and find out!

# mount HPIP171.2019_0220.23.iso -o loop /media/cdrom/
# cd /media/cdrom/
# ls -al
total 65
drwxrwxrwx 1 root root  2048 Feb 21  2019 ./
drwxr-xr-x 5 root root  4096 Sep 11 18:41 ../
-rw-rw-rw- 1 root root 34541 Feb 21  2019 back.jpg
drwxrwxrwx 1 root root  2048 Feb 21  2019 boot/
-r--r--r-- 1 root root  2048 Feb 21  2019 boot.catalog
drwxrwxrwx 1 root root  2048 Feb 21  2019 efi/
-rw-rw-rw- 1 root root  2913 Feb 21  2019 font_15.fnt
-rw-rw-rw- 1 root root  3843 Feb 21  2019 font_18.fnt
drwxrwxrwx 1 root root  2048 Feb 21  2019 ip/
drwxrwxrwx 1 root root  2048 Feb 21  2019 pxe/
drwxrwxrwx 1 root root  6144 Feb 21  2019 system/
drwxrwxrwx 1 root root  2048 Feb 21  2019 usb/
# du -sm */
2   boot/
5   efi/
916 ip/
67  pxe/
30  system/
4   usb/
# ls -al ip/
total 937236
drwxrwxrwx 1 root root      2048 Feb 21  2019 ./
drwxrwxrwx 1 root root      2048 Feb 21  2019 ../
-rw-r-xr-x 1 root root 125913644 Feb 21  2019 bigvid.img.gz*
-rw-r-xr-x 1 root root 706750514 Feb 21  2019 gaius.img.gz*
-rw-r-xr-x 1 root root       114 Feb 21  2019 manifest.json*
-rw-rw-rw- 1 root root       140 Feb 21  2019 md5s.txt
-rw-rw-rw- 1 root root       164 Feb 21  2019 sha1sums.txt
-rw-r-xr-x 1 root root 127058868 Feb 21  2019 vid.img.gz*
# zcat ip/gaius.img.gz | file -
/dev/stdin: DOS/MBR boot sector

The ip directory contains the largest payload of that ISO, and all three .img.gz files look like disk images, with exactly 256MB (vid), 512MB (bigvid) and 1024MB (gaius) extracted sizes.

Following the "bigger is better" slogan, let's write the biggest one, gaius.img.gz to an USB flash drive and see what happens!

# # replace /dev/sdc below with your flash drive device!
# zcat gaius.img.gz |dd of=/dev/sdc bs=1M status=progress
... wait a while ...
# reboot

Then, on boot-up, select the "USB DriveKey" option:

HP MicroServer Gen8 Boot Menu

And you will be greeted by a friendly black & white GRUB loader, offering you "Intelligent" Provisioning and "Smart" Storage Administrator, which you can promptly and successfully boot:

HP IP / SSA Boot Loader

HP IP / SSA Welcome Screen

From here, you can create a single logical volume of type RAID0, add just your boot disk into it, restart and be happy!

Posted 2020-09-14 12:15

The Bill-and-a-half-ennium

Tonight (2017-07-14), at or around 02:40:00 GMT, the Unix time will have a value of 1 500 000 000 seconds, counting from January 1st, 1970. The last event of this kind, when Unix time reached 1 000 000 000 seconds, has been on September 9th, 2001, when the world still was a nice and good place. Because that was a billion seconds, some people incorrectly called it the "Billennium". Yours truly actually stayed up late enough (01:46 GMT) to celebrate the event with a hacker friend.

If you want to celebrate this special decimal representation of an arcane time measure, there is a nice countdown page!

The next one of this kind, 2 000 000 000, will be in 2033, so you better party hard this time!

The Year 2038 Problem (Y2K38)

This is also a good reminder of the many systems that are still using Unix time internally, and the legacy and embedded ones that store it in a 32-bit signed integer. Because this kind of integer overflows at 2 147 483 647, which will happen in 2038, all kinds of problems are expected.

There is already a great writeup on the current state of affairs regarding Y2K38 support, so instead of an in-depth technical analysis I'm going to provide a personal anecdote.

My first encounter with Y2K38 was in 2002 - a phone call from a relative who had trouble logging into an SSH server using PuTTY. It took some time to figure out the root cause - a dead CMOS battery in the PC led to incorrect clock values, bringing the machine far into the future, some time into the 2040ies.

Being a good citizen, I reported the bug to the developers (with a detailed explanation of the setup and a stack trace), and got a rather laconic answer:

Date: 11 Feb 2002 22:54:52
Subject: putty crashing on time() overflow

Georg Lukas writes:

putty is crashin with an access violation when you try to connect to a host and it is after time() goes over 232 (i.e. after Tue, 19 Jan 2038 04:14:07 +0100).

Thanks for the timely bug report. With a bit of luck we'll fix this one before it becomes a problem for too many users.


I haven't quite followed up, but recent versions of PuTTY, on a recent 64-bit Windows, don't exhibit this problem any more, so it looks like we are safe!


While we still have a bit more than 20 years to fix Y2K38, I'm sure that there will be plenty of legacy 32-bit systems running when the date approaches. As with Y2K, there will be denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. And maybe a big boom that brings down the whole IT, however it might look in 20 years.

One way or the other, I will be a professional Y2K38 consultant with 36 years of working experience! Please contact me soon so I can ensure a timely retirement to some far-away island before day X! ;-)

Posted 2017-07-13 19:11