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intel 540s SSD fail

My intel SSD failed. Hard. As in: its content got wiped. But before getting way too theatrical, let’s stick to the facts first.

I upgraded my Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon with a bigger SSD in the late summer this year — a 1TB intel 540s (M.2).

The BIOS of ThinkPads (and probably other brands as well) offer to secure your drive with an ATA password. This feature is part of the ATA specification and was already implemented and used back in the old IDE times (remember the X-BOX 1?).

With such an ATA password set, all read/write commands to the drive will be ignored until the drive gets unlocked. There’s some discussion about whether ATA passwords should or shouldn’t be used — personally I like the idea of $person not being able to just pull out my drive, modify its unencrypted boot record and put it back into my computer without me noticing.

In regard of current SSDs the ATA password doesn’t just lock access to the drive but also plays part in the FDE (full disk encryption) featured by modern SSDs — but back to what actually happened…

As people say, it’s good practice to frequently(TM) change passwords. So I did with my ATA password.

And then it happened. My data was gone. All of it. I could still access the SSD with the newly set password but it only contained random data. Even the first couple of KB, which were supposed to contain the partition table as well as unencrypted boot code, magically seem to have been replaced with random data. Perfectly random data.

So, what happened? Back to FDE of recent SSDs: They perform encryption on data written to the drive (decryption on reads, respectively) — no matter if you want it or not.
Encrypted with a key stored on the device — with no easy way of reading it out (hence no backup). This is happening totally transparently; the computer the device is connected to doesn’t have to care about that at all.

And the ATA password is used to encrypt the key the actual data on the drive is encrypted with. Password encrypts key encrypts data.

Back to my case: No data, just garbage. Perfectly random garbage. First idea on what happened, as obvious as devastating: the data on the drive gets read and decrypted with a different key than it initially got written and encrypted with. If that’s indeed the case, my data is gone.

This behaviour is actually advertised as a feature. intel calls it “Secure Erase“. No need to override your drive dozens of times like in the old days — therewith ensuring the data is irreversible vanished in the end. No, just wipe the key your data is encrypted with and done. And exactly this seems to have happened to me. I am done.

Fortunately I made backups. Some time ago. Quite some time ago. Of a few directories. Very few. Swearing. Tears. I know, I know, I don’t deserve your sympathies (but I’d still appreciate!).

Anger! Whose fault is it?! Who to blame?!

Let’s check the docs on ATA passwords, which appear to be very clear — from the official Lenovo FAQ:

“Will changing the Master or User hard drive password change the FDE key?”
– “No. The hard drive passwords have no effect on the encryption key. The passwords can safely be changed without risking loss of data.”

Not my fault! Yes! Wait, another FAQ entry says:

“Can the encryption key be changed?”
– “The encryption key can be regenerated within the BIOS, however, doing so will make all data inaccessible, effectively wiping the drive. To generate a new key, use the option listed under Security -> Disk Encryption HDD in the system BIOS.”

Double-checking the BIOS if I unintentionally told my BIOS to change the FDE key. No, I wasn’t even able to find such a setting.

Okay — intermediate result: either buggy BIOS telling my SSD to (re)generate the encryption key (and therewith “Secure Erase” everything on it) or buggy SSD controller, deciding to alter the key at will.

Google! Nothing. Frightening reports about the disastrous “8MB”-bug on the earlier series 320 devices popped up. But nothing on series 540s.

If nothing helps and/or there’s nobody to blame: go on Twitter!

Some Ping-Pong:


Wait, what?! That’s a known issue? I didn’t find a damn thing in the whole internets! Tell me more!

And to my surprise – they did. For a minute. Shortly before having respected tweets deleted.

Let’s take a look on what my phone cached:

The deleted tweets contain a link which resolves to which is an advisory seemingly describing exactly what happened to me:

“In systems with the SATA devsleep feature enabled, setting or resetting the user or master password by the ATA security feature set may cause data corruption.”

Later on:

“Intel became aware of this issue during early customer validation.”

I guess I just became aware of being part of the “early customer validation”-program. This issue: Personally validated. Check.

Ok, short recap:

  • intel has a severe bug causing data loss on 540s SSD and – according to the advisory – other series as well
  • intel knows about it (advisory dates to 1st of August)
  • intel doesn’t seem to be eager to spread the word about it
  • affected intel SSDs are sold with the vulnerable firmware version
  • nobody knows a damn thing about it (recall the series 320 issue which was big)

Meanwhile, I could try to follow up on @lenovo’s tips:

Sounds good! Maybe, just maybe, that could bring my data back.

Let’s skip the second link, as it contains a dedicated Windows software I’d love to run, but my Windows installation just got wiped (and I’m not really keen of reinstalling and therewith overriding my precious maybe-still-not-yet-permamently-lost data).

The first link points to an ISO file. Works for me! Until it crashes. Reproducibly. This ISO reproducibly crashes my Lenovo X1 Carbon 3rd generation. Booting from USB thumb-drive (officially supported it says), as well as from CD. Hm.

For now I seem to have to conclude with the following questions:

  • Why there’s not I can’t find a damn thing about this bug in the media?
  • Why did intel delete its tweets referencing this bug?
  • Why does the firmware-updater doesn’t do much despite crashing my computer?
  • Why didn’t I do proper backups?!
  • How do I get my data back?!?1ß11


PS: Before I clicked the Publish button I again set up a few search queries. Found my tweets.

Bali (Indonesia) English articles misc My life Trips


Being back home for almost two month now, I finally find some time to close this category, my trip to Bali.

I’ve been in Tanah Lot – an area where a rather famous temple of the same denominator is located. It’s kind of an island during high tide but accessible when tide is low.

Because of it’s formation, location and a spring of freshwater inside, a priest declared it as an holy place in the 15th century.

Seriously, it’s an amazing place (however flooded by tourists and locals trying to sell stuff).

After Tanah Lot I got back to Sanur, wanted to stay there just a few days and then move to the so called Gili islands…

…however unfortunately I got ill, got the Dengue fever.

I don’t want to elaborate my almost last 10 days on Bali, however it was everything but nice and I do not wish anyone getting this bloody fever – seriously…

Closing statement:

It was great (apart from the fever I got)!

Seriously, Bali is no place where you’re going to struggle in any way… the Balinese economy is based on tourism, so you can get there almost every (western) stuff – it’s everything but a survival training (assumed you’re not getting ill).

Bali is a perfect mix of paradise-like beach and sea (have a look at the photos posted a few posts below) and cultural experiences (despite the tourism the Balinese people try hard to keep and practise their culture) like their huge amount of temples, sacrificial offerings several times a day, performances, etc.

There is lot’s of tourism, and partially too much of it for sure (for example Kuta and surroundings) – however the locals are really lovely and open-minded, it’s quite easy to socialise and get in touch with them…

Sharing some time of their everyday life is a definite recommendation if you’re not just there for beach, sea and sun but interested as well in their daily grind and culture.

They are more than pleased to show you around, quiet interested in western politics, habits, views, etc. – answering your questions in exchange for yours 🙂

To those Balinese / Indonesian I met there, reading this:

Thanks you so much for the great time !!

Bali (Indonesia) Brussels (Belgium) Dalian (china) embedded systems English articles fun German articles misc My life Openmoko OpenWrt qi-hardware Taipei (Taiwan) Tech Trips Windows Mobile

comments, twitter…

I recognized just a few hours ago, there were comments written, which needed to be approved…

Did so now and tried to respond to them – sorry for the delay and thanks a lot for your input/contributions!

As most people reading my blog do know already anyway and I no longer feel ashamed of using it…

My twitter username: foobarbablub – respectively the twitter page:

Polluting the twitter cloud with statements / impressions I don’t think they’re worth a whole blog post… most tweets are not related to technical / computer stuff by the way – used language is mostly English…

Bali (Indonesia) English articles My life Trips


I moved from Sanur to Ubud today, which is located in the center of Bali – staying here for at least three days.

Actually I wanted to go there by taxi, however in the morning I met three really nice local guys in my age, who offered to drive me there for free after I told them I’m going to go to Ubud today… (however) by motorcycle.

Considering the traffic conditions on Bali I really was not sure about whether taking this offer would be a good idea… however I agreed – no risk no fun… – it was an awesome experience!

So I collected all my stuff, threw it in my backpack and met with these guys – four people on two motorcycles, lurching through the traffic about 40 minutes from Sanur to Ubud having all my stuff on my back.
Watching the traffic from this point of view it seems much more and less scary at the same time. You’re now part of this chaos, praying the guy in front of you driving the motorcycle is doing everything right.
However it just works – what seems to be the worst chaos ever from the outside, from the inside everything seems to be smooth, everybody is seems to be relaxed, just trying to find out whether this gap is big enough to get through…

The accomodation is really simple, but quite nice – just a room with a bed in and a kind of open-air shower and WC. Tea and coffee the whole day and breakfast included for about 10USD / night.

Bali (Indonesia) German articles My life Trips

some impressions

This post is derived from an email to some of my German relatives and friends – maybe I’m going to translate it to English later…

so langsam fĂŒhl ich mich wohl hier… gestern war irgendwie der erste Tag an dem ich richtig am Meer und Pool ausspannen konnte – Beweis:

Man (ich) benötigt scheinbar doch wirklich mehr Zeit als man sich eingestehen möchte – Überwindung des Jetlags, Anpassung an die KlimaverhĂ€ltnisse, Verstehen und Erwidern können der balinesischen Art im Alltag…

HĂ€ngt wohl auch damit zusammen, dass ich so langsam glaube rauszuhaben, wie man mit all den ReizĂŒberflutungen – vor Allem der an jeder Ecke und nicht-Ecke stehenden VerkĂ€ufern, die einem alles Mögliche andrehen möchten – umzugehen hat.

Die vorherige Grundlage “die wollen doch alle nur Touristen abzocken” bot nicht viel Spieraum fĂŒr ernstzunehmende GesprĂ€che. Es beginnt aber Spaß zu machen auf eben jene einzugehen, mit den Leuten einfach nur zu reden, ggf. zu Handeln, feixen, etc – vor Allem wenn man merkt, dass noch immer Interesse seitens der VerkĂ€ufer – trotz klarem Nein zu angeboteten Waren und Dienstleistungen – an ein wenig Smalltalk besteht.

Zudem – was mir vorher auch nicht deutlich wurde – wahren sie, trotz ihrer exzessiven Versuche Dienstleistungen / Produkte an den Mann zu bringen – ihre Prizipien und Kultur. Vor jedem Stand und Laden legen die Balinesen kleine Opfergaben auf die Straße, beten und ĂŒberschreiten bestimmte Grenzen einfach nicht (klare Neins werden auch als solche akzeptiert).

Ich habe mir gestern Abend/Nacht Kura angeschaut – dem Ballermann Mallorcas auf Bali – wenn man da lebend rauskommt, ist man fĂŒr alles andere gewappnet.

Eigentlich wollte ich mich auch dort ein paar Tage lang aufhalten, jedoch war der Rat seitens meines englischen Gastgebers – sich den Ort ggf. vorher einfach mal anzuschauen (~30 min. mit dem Taxi von Sanur aus) – eine sehr gute Idee; dort Ruhe und Schlaf zu finden dĂŒrfte nicht einfach werden.

Zudem wurde ich nun wirklich hĂ€ufig vor den Australiern gewarnt – am Treffensten wurde es so formuliert: “Well, you’re German… I guess the Australians in Bali are like the Germans on Mallorca”… Kuta, eine perfekte Symbiose.

Sich in Kuta einzuquartieren ist also vorerst keine Option.

Allerdings ist der kilometerlange Strand dort trotz angrenzender Partymeile extrem ruhig, nicht ĂŒberlaufen und wirklich schön und ich habe eine Menge echt netter dort lebender Leute kennengelernt die sich hier hĂ€ufig zum allabendlichen Sonnenuntergang einfinden.

Darunter unter Anderem eine Gruppe von Japanern die teils auf Bali, teils auf Java wohnen – einer von ihnen arbeitet in Kuta als Friseur und will mir, weil ich der doch schon gut angetrunkenen und kettenrauchenden Truppe, die knapp bei Kasse war, ne Packung Kippen spendierte, irgendwann demnĂ€chst einen neuen Haarschnitt verpassen – bin da aber noch ein wenig skeptisch :)).

Ich habe gerade eine Unterkunft in Ubud, im Zentrum Balis, gebucht – fĂŒr von morgen plus zwei NĂ€chte. Steht im Guide als Low-Budget (8USD/Nacht) Unterkunft folgendermaßen beschrieben: “Charmante kleine Bambusbungalows mit wunderschön begrĂŒntem Open-Air-Du/WC, in der das kalte Wasser schnell zur Nebensache wird” – man darf gespannt sein 🙂

Sanur, der Ort in welchem ich mich die ganze Zeit hauptsÀchlich aufhalte, gefÀllt mir so langsam wirklich gut.
Sonne, Strand, Meer, luxuriöse Hotelanlagen deren Bars und Pools ich trotz nicht-dort-Gast einfach mitbenutze, was los, aber doch nicht zuviel – ein prima Ort zum akklimatisieren und einfĂŒhlen.

Ich werde auf jeden Fall – spĂ€testens am Ende meines ungeplanten geplanten Rundtrips – hier in Sanur nochmal aufschlagen, zumal ich dort und Unbegung einen Haufen wirklich netter Leute kennengelernt habe, die ich auf jeden Fall nochmal wiedersehen möchte. Die weitere spĂ€tere Unterkunft hier bei der balinesisch-/englischen Familie steht mir weiterhin zur VerfĂŒgung.

Zum Schluss noch ein paar EindrĂŒcke des Ortes Sanur in Form von ungephotoshoppten Fotos:

Bali (Indonesia) English articles My life Trips

successfully arrived on Bali

I successfully arrived in Bali yesterday in the evening. Flight was (as always) not quite enojoyable (Amsterdam -> Singapore more than 12 hours) – however it was bearable.
I was surprised actually by the service offered by KLM and Singapore Airlines in a positive way (food was surprisingly great: both offered fish – first time I got fish offered on an airplane as regular meal within economy class; Singapore Airlines additionally had real metal cutlery and a big portion of awesome ice-cream afterwards, for a flight of just two hours).

Met a German couple on the plane going to do professional diving somewhere in the south of Bali for three weeks. They offered me to visit them there and taking a deep look into the water with professional diving equipment. From what they told it has to be really incredible and if any way possible, I’m going to take that offer whenever I’ll be in this area.

On the final flight from Singapore to Bali I met an English guy, who is living on Bali with his Balinese wife and daugther for quite some time now and offered me to stay with them in their place for a couple of days which offer I thankfully took, as I had no clue anyway what to do after dropping out of the airplane (I in case of doubt I would have aimed a hostel near the airport mentioned in my guide).
These three people (actually four, there is an attendant living with them who is treated as part of the family) are really lovely, doing everything to make my stay enjoyable – well, I got in touch with the guy just two hours ago on the plane!

Their place – they call it “simple” – is wonderful; the whole kind-of 2nd floor is mine, within an own (bed)room, bathroom and an area with chairs and table which is opened to the inside of the whole area which in fact is a little garden – if I want to just “relax” they said…

Just take a look by yourself:

When writing this text it’s about 4 ‘o clock local time – bloody jetlag… _right now_ I just did see Bali at night (arrived at 9 ‘o clock); I’m really curious about how this all looks by day.

I took a walk in the area nearby at about 11PM and have to admit – I don’t really feel comfortable just walking around alone… Overall people offering you every kind of services in a very aggressive way, trying to rip off tourists.
However walking around in this area, tired and a little bit agitated because of the long flight, just wanna have everybody shut-up, might not have been the appropriate preconditions facing the situation in an open-minded way.

UPDATE: That was really just the first impression… the people are nice and kind, seriously. Yes, they want to sell their stuff quite often and quite everywhere, however you get used to it… just saying no, starting ignoring them or taking with them about all the world and his wife or whatever elese  🙂

So much for now – as there are lot of things I’d like to see/visit very close by the place I’m currently staying, I think I’ll keep staying here for a couple of days – trying to figure out where to go and what to do next.

Bali (Indonesia) embedded systems English articles My life OpenWrt qi-hardware Tech Trips

trip trip – hurra!

Long time no news…

some things happened which weren’t worth a particular post (or I was just too lazy), so I’ll try to summarize of a few things which happen(ed):

== tech stuff

OpenWrt is still my focus – the qt4 package now got libX11 support (besides DirectFB / linuxfb, both accessed by the QWS-part) – thanks a lot to Michael BĂŒsch at this point!

I’m also very interested in the new features of qt4.7 – especially the declarative UI part of qt4.7 called QML – an approach of designing UIs in a declarative way, means, from the UI’s point of view (more in the mentioned links above).

I’m curious about how/whether it can/will be used/accepted by “native” designers to write fully functional GUI applications.

It’s approach is looking quite promising to me – the language style as well as the implementation – really curious about how it’ll do on embedded devices without graphics acceleration. After some talks to qt developers GL support is not required; a number of animations, effects and transitions were optimized for software processing and should be even smoother than rendered via GL.

First usecase is going to be a picture frame, which has the same SoC built in (Ingenic JZ4740) as the NanoNote and therewith is pretty well supported.

The picture-frame is an ID800WT manufactured by Sungale.

Before somebody is going to think, whether I want to promote/support/recommend this brand/product:

From the board layout’s point of view it is the worst product sold in Germany I’ve ever seen! And it’s too expensive! And the company violates the GPL!

Take a look at the board by yourself:

Sungale pictureframe ID800WT board
Sungale pictureframe ID800WT board

The USB Wifi-stick got hot-glued onto the board, it seems they even unsoldered the USB-socket manually (because it looks really charred all around) and connected it with some random wires to a SMD-chip which in fact is an USB-hub. Around there’s hot-glue all around, partially charred, partially way too much. This is really the worst in Germany sold product ever!

However it serves the purpose – has supported wifi (atheros), an 800×600-display, a touchscreen, USB-host, etc.

After my holidays I’ll try to evaluate and play around with qt4.7-features on that device on top of OpenWrt.

== trips

After almost one week spent in Croatia, Split, participating at the “nothing will happen” conference – which was really amazing and organized by very nice people – I’m going to travel to Bali for one month, leaving in two days.

Actually I wanted to go to Burma (Myanmar), however I mixed them up and booked my flight to Bali, Indonesia… anyway – more beach and sea this time…

This is going to be my third trip to Asia and I’m really looking forward to it – this time for holiday, backpacking without any fixed plans.

Actually I also didn’t want to take a computer with me – still I bought an EeePC 1015. Resolution is disappointing, however price, weight, battery life (about 8 fucking hours!) and site serve the purpose of just having a terminal perfectly.

See you there 🙂

Brussels (Belgium) English articles fun My life

nerds ‘r cookin’…

Still at fosdem, still hearing really good talks and still meeting nice people.

So right now just a little insight (how we’re surviving) 😉 :

Dalian (china) German articles My life Trips

back home (last post in “china”-category)

Raus aus der Mitte und rein ins triste Deutschland 😐

Hatte sehr kurzfristig (den Abend zuvor) erfahren, dass auf der Warteliste fĂŒr den 4. Sept. ein Platz frei geworden ist.

An besagtem Datum von Dalian nach Beijing/Peking und von da aus einen Tag spĂ€ter nach Frankfurt (kurz nach den vereitelten TerroranschlĂ€gen (warum ich das erwĂ€hne? das können die Leute erlĂ€utern, die schon einmal das VergnĂŒgen hatten mit mir am Flughafen einzuchecken)) und dann direkt nach Berlin.

In Beijing bin ich erst spĂ€t angekommen und musste frĂŒh raus, weshalb ich leider absolut nichts von der Hauptstadt sehen konnte.

Ich muss gestehen, Dalian (leider die einzige Stadt die ich wirklich sehen konnte) ist mir am Ende sehr vertraut gewesen…

…habe die Zeit genossen und möchte irgendwann unbedingt zurĂŒck und u.A. auch Tibet, Beijing und Shanghai besuchen.

Damit wird die Kategorie “China” mit Bedauern vorerst bis auf Weiteres geschlossen…

Dalian (china) German articles My life Trips

return journey back to Germany delayed

Meine RĂŒckreise nach Deutschland wird sich wohl um ein paar Tage verzögern. Insgesamt wurden Hin- und RĂŒckflug mit einem Abstand von 1 Monat gebucht, jedoch mit der Versicherung den RĂŒckflug nach Belieben umzubuchen.

Da ich eigentlich 2, allerhöchstens 3 Wochen fĂŒr meinen China-Aufenthalt geplant hatte, wollte ich dementsprechend dann auch zurĂŒck nach Deutschland fliegen.

Jedoch waren – eine knappe Woche vor meinem geplanten RĂŒckflug (welchem nach ich bereits 3 Wochen hier sein werde) – keine FlugplĂ€tze fĂŒr entsprechende FlĂŒge mehr frei -.-

Somit muss ich wohl oder ĂŒbel (nicht, dass ich nicht möchte, jedoch sind in Berlin ein paar Sachen zu erledigen und zu klĂ€ren) ein paar Tage lĂ€nger bleiben.

Ich habe soeben einen (auf Grund von notwendigen Reperaturarbeiten an der Fassade veranlassten) Zimmerwechsel hinter mir und blicke nun aus dem Fenster auf den anderen Teil Dalians – inkl. des Hafens und einen Teil des Meeres.

An Arbeit mangelt es derzeit ĂŒberhaupt nicht, uns wird sogar reichlich Druck gemacht, dennoch genieß ich die Zeit und die hier gesammelten Erfahrungen immens.

Bis dann!