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Lorin Thwaits A geek says what?

If you haven't seen the Toshiba HD-A1 tear-down, you should start there.

New this time is a quick one-minute video which shows my quest to get the M-Systems USB flash drive recognized under XP.  This was filmed before my last post which talks about some initial findings inside the firmware.

Now that I had a few more minutes to dig a little deeper, I found a great freeware ext2fs Installable File System Driver that was able to recognize the USB flash disk under XP.

After looking at the size of various files and folders, I found that there is one specific file named pstorage under /usr that is pretty large: exactly 129.5 megs.  This consumes a little over half of the entire space on the firmware flash disk.  Messages in other parts of the firmware indicate that "pstorage" refers to "Persistent Storage", and apparently there are some menu features to manage what gets stored inside this file.  Inside it's organized as a mountable virtual disk.

Looking at the start of the pstorage file, it looks like a FAT16 partition created with mkdosfs.  The first 512 bytes are the boot sector with the standard messages "FAT16", and "This is not a bootable disk.  Please insert a bootable floppy and press any key to try again".  Also the common hex signature at the end of any boot sector: 55 AA.  The next sector has the common signature for the start of a FAT table: F8 FF FF FF, which indicates a FAT16 table.  The FAT table is filled with zeroes, so nothing allocated.  There is the second FAT is at offset 0x10600, and of course has the same signature and no entries.  It ends at 0x20A00, and the rest of the virtualized disk is all zeroes.  No directory entries whatsoever.  So it's formatted and ready, but just not used for anything out of the box.

There are four configuration files found in /usr/local, one called "capability.conf" with some interesting settings:

PerformanceLevel
EnableHDMIOutput
SupportofHDMI
DirectOutputtoSPDIFofDolbyDigital
DirectOutputtoSPDIFofDTS
ResolutionofSubVideo
SupportofSlowForward
SupportofSlowReverse
SupportofStepForward
SupportofStepReverse

Also in this file are 32 System Parameter Registers (SPRM). These settings are the default parameters for the player, and were around with the original DVD format.  With the old DVD format modifying them allows for things like configuring a player to be region-free.  As far as I'm aware there were only 24 settings available before, so what's interesting now is that here the settings range from 0 to 31, meaning there's now 8 more to learn about.  They've already got values in them, so there's something there.

In terms of testing the actual HD-DVD IDE drive, I installed Vista Beta 1 on a machine and got the same kind of results as with XP.  It can recognize any DVD or CD, but not the HD-DVD movie I tried with it.  Perhaps when Beta 2 is released it will recognize the high def media.  I haven't tried to look sector by sector.

I wish I had more time to dig in further, but work and preparation for the Desert Code Camp are keeping me pretty busy these days.  Plus my curiosity quota is now fully satisfied for this week!  Maybe next week I'll put the unit back together again and actually power it up for once.

 

Posted on Friday, May 5, 2006 12:48 AM Video | Back to top


Comments on this post: More interesting discoveries inside the HD-A1

# re: More interesting discoveries inside the HD-A1
Requesting Gravatar...
You should use GNU/Linux on your computer.

Surely it will be more easy to investigate this kind of hardware!
Left by John Doe on May 05, 2006 6:58 AM

# Serial Port
Requesting Gravatar...
I believe the serial port doesn't do much, really.

If you look at Toshiba's page, there are two HD-DVD player models - the HD-A1, and the HD-XA1. The latter has among it's features, an RS232 control port, "motorized door", and "anti-vibration feet".

Left by Worf on May 18, 2006 4:54 AM

# re: More interesting discoveries inside the HD-A1
Requesting Gravatar...
I can read with my Nec HD DVD drive the entire structure of any HD DVD and i can also copy every files, including the AACS dir. :P

Left by Deux on May 23, 2006 3:59 AM

# re: More interesting discoveries inside the HD-A1
Requesting Gravatar...
Deux - Would you give us more details?

OS, programs used, steps to get it working, etc.

I have the drive out of the HD-A1 and mounted it in a Firewire/USB enclosure. I can see the size of the HD-DVD but can't see the stucture/folders, etc.

It reads regular DVD's, etc. just fine.

Thanks!
Left by Bill W on Aug 16, 2006 2:00 PM

# re: More interesting discoveries inside the HD-A1
Requesting Gravatar...
re. the firmware... any change to the firmware will involve balancing of the checksum, there could also be a smart protection routine which has been used in some dvd players before. Any changes to bytes may result in the player running a matching routine and could freeze if detected. I would expect that further work will be needed to implement new routines within the existing firmware to get around things like pal disc recognition in addition to changing the region code. We are working on the A1 in our workshop, so will keep you updated.
thanks
Alan at HD-DVD UK
Left by Alan at HD-DVD UK on Sep 27, 2006 11:56 PM

# re: More interesting discoveries inside the HD-A1
Requesting Gravatar...
Perhaps you can use the same approach as with the Xbox hd-dvd drive:

http://www.dailytech.com/article.aspx?newsid=4920

Just a thought ..

Left by dennis_hs on Nov 16, 2006 3:40 AM

# re: Inside the HD-E1
Requesting Gravatar...
HD-E1 uncovered, our workshop has removed the lid of the Toshiba HD-E1 to reveal some interesting findings. See the comparison between the HD-E1 and A1 and view the component layout at www.dvdlibrary.co.uk
Left by Alan at hd-dvd uk on Jan 19, 2007 1:51 AM

# re: More interesting discoveries inside the HD-A1
Requesting Gravatar...
BTW, thanks go to Lorin for his original hard work and sharing his discoveries of the HDA1 article.
Left by Alan at hd-dvd uk on Jan 19, 2007 1:58 AM

# re: Update on the HD-A1
Requesting Gravatar...
Update on HD-A1... the m-Systems usb uDOC chip is write protected... does anyone have the knowledge on how to deprotect it? or some software that will allow editing of the uDOC saved file. I beleive I can remove the region coding for standard dvd, but cannot write my program to the chip. Any help appreciated. Contact me here or via the dvd library.
thanks, Chipmaster
Left by Alan at HD DVD UK on Feb 08, 2007 6:47 AM

# re: Update on the HD-A1
Requesting Gravatar...
I would download and read the uDOC datasheet. See if it can enlighten you further. Here's the link:

http://www.m-systems.com/NR/rdonlyres/1E31358E-3E13-48DB-960E-61FC37F731EA/0/uDOC_DS_rev23.pdf|uDOC_DS_rev2.0.pdf
Left by Ken on Feb 15, 2007 8:32 PM

# re: More interesting discoveries inside the HD-A1
Requesting Gravatar...
Alan, I have a few idea exactically how to unprotect it, and why units are bricking w/ the update, however I need another flash to compare it to.

Let me know how I can contact you!
Left by Me! on Feb 17, 2007 9:08 PM

# re: More interesting discoveries inside the HD-A1
Requesting Gravatar...
Any update about unprotect operative system?
My player freezes and i'm in italy unable to repair it.
Regards
Luigi
Left by luigi on Apr 11, 2007 7:37 AM

# re: More interesting discoveries inside the HD-A1
Requesting Gravatar...
Hi me,
sorry for late.. been busy with other pioneer firmware mods.
Contact me by email at mailto:tech@dvdlibrary.co.uk
Left by Alan aka Chipmaster on May 03, 2007 6:20 AM

# re: More interesting discoveries inside the HD-A1
Requesting Gravatar...
Has there been any more findings on this? Do you have to get new firmware? or take the USB Flash device out and use it in your computer to get the HD-DVD drive to get recognized?
Left by Tony on Nov 01, 2007 4:06 PM

# re: Update on HD DVD Players
Requesting Gravatar...
Hi all,
just a quick update, haven't had much time to spare on these what with launching bluray upgrades, overflow of repairs etc.
Re. the HD-A1 crashing during firmware update... you can get the drive working again by putting the drive in from another identical working player with your players usb chip. You may have to install the other usb chip from the donor machine, then desolder the cmos battery on the main board, then once the player is booted hot swap the drive for the corrupted one, then attempt a firmware update.
Later
Left by Chipmaster on Mar 11, 2008 12:17 AM

# re: More interesting discoveries inside the HD-A1
Requesting Gravatar...
thank good info
Left by generic haldo on Jul 20, 2009 5:09 AM

# re: More interesting discoveries inside the HD-A1
Requesting Gravatar...
Good to have the determination to get that to happen. What are the pioneer firmware mods?
Left by Online Driver Scan on Aug 13, 2009 11:42 AM

# re: More interesting discoveries inside the HD-A1
Requesting Gravatar...
But in this example we have none of that, and testing with this method made absolutely no difference in the performance.
Left by DDos Protection on Nov 06, 2009 11:31 PM

# Mohan Tarneja
Requesting Gravatar...
Does the Toshiba HD-A1 output RCA sound and HDMI video at the same time?
I tried to watch a movie with HDMI video and get the sound over RCA. (red & white cables) The sound did not play, but the video did. Is the player incapable of this? If not, how can I get it to work?
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# re: More interesting discoveries inside the HD-A1
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