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VCS BIOS Password

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Is there a way to boot into the Atari OS without connecting to the internet?

 

I have a a new VCS in the box and was hoping to never go online so I don't get the new update. But does this mean I won't be able to sign in to the Atari OS? I was hoping to play some of the games from the Atari Vault that should already be installed and then switch back to booting from a USB later on and then go back and forth.

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On 1/15/2021 at 10:30 PM, Charles Darwin said:

It's not about jumpers...you have to connect the pins of the bios chip. If you connect the wrong pins, you might kill your VCS. I warned you...it's a brute force method!!! I am no expert just a hobbyist!

 

Took me several hours, but finally I found a way:

Locate the BIOS chip on the motherboard (photo attached). The two pins you have to connect with e.g. a paper clip are marked with red dots.

Connect a keyboard to the VCS.

Switch it on.

Press the ESC button until the (limited) front page of the BIOS appears. Go to the line, where it says setup-utility. Dont press enter yet.

Now shorten the two pins of the bios chip

Next...press the Enter key on your keyboard...and continue shortening the two pins...for about 10 seconds. Stop connecing the pins.

After a few seconds the original BIOS opens...without a password.

It always displays the standard VCS BIOS settings regardless of what you changed the last time. But if you change a setting (e.g. UEFI boot to legacy boot) and press F10 afterwards and restart...the changes are persistent.

You cannot change the password though. It would need some more hacking...but as long as you just want to adjust a few settings once...the solution is good enough.

 

Again...dont do it...it can destroy your VCS ;-)

 

Bios-Chip connect red dots.jpg

Hello Charles,

 

I wanted to thank you enormously for sharing your knowledge, I am stunned by what you have discovered! You are the "McGyver" of my childhood.

 

I confirm that I have access to the settings utility, that I can navigate in the different tabs, permanently activate or deactivate certain options like Enforce Secure Boot.
However, the list of the boot loader order has disappeared from Boot tab on v20 :( So I have for the moment temporarily remove the Atari system from eMMC to start rEFind on boot from it. 

 

MANY MANY THANKS AGAIN

 

 

BR

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Question.  Would it not be better to just solder up some pins so you could just jumper it on the future?

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38 minutes ago, leech said:

Question.  Would it not be better to just solder up some pins so you could just jumper it on the future?

 

Would be the first thing.

 

BTW, this is just an SPI flash chip, you should be able to read this easily.  I know I can.

 

What he is doing is kind of strange, as he is connecting the clock line to SIO1.

 

 

Screen Shot 2021-02-23 at 4.27.25 PM.png

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Thinking about it some more, if SIO1 is an input (But it is normally call MISO, which is an output), it gets strobed by the clock signal.  But if it is an output, it should completely mess up the chips logic.

 

EDIT: Would be interesting to look at the contents of that chip.  I have chip probes for this kind of chip, if anyone wants to borrow one.  Or get one for super cheap from Amazon, given of course, that you have a device programmer.  Or you could get a small MCU and go directly at the SPI bus, probably the easiest way.

 

These could also be used to simply extend the flash to the outside of the case, for instance.

 

51ukT1g0BDL._AC_SL1000_.jpg

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@0_obeWAN

I also removed AtariOS on the eMMC. It seems they implemented additional checks (BIOS).

I did not deactivate secure boot and my boot list is still there.

It seems one has to decide, which way to go:

I) using the VCS as a PC (streaming etc)

II) using it as designed by Atari

Thanks for the flowers, but I am just a hobbyist, who was upset with the current software supplied by Atari ;-)

 

 

Edited by Charles Darwin
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@CPUWIZ

Well...I was looking for the output pin. The labeling was kind of different. I assumed that this one is most likely the output.

The idea is that once you hit enter, the chip cannot supply the password info and after a timeout the system loads some backup bios config. After you change settings you can save them permanently. Unfortunately, once you open the Bios you always see the backup standard configuration, regardless what you changed last time. So you always have to repeat all changes and save...

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9 hours ago, leech said:

Question.  Would it not be better to just solder up some pins so you could just jumper it on the future?


I have soldered a micro switch from the beginning, so it works perfectly. You can later close the housing again and you don't run the risk of creating a short-circuit.

 

Cheers,

andY

 

1610798785249.JPEG

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On 23/2/2021 at 0:16, Jack Burton 1 said:

¿Hay alguna forma de iniciar el sistema operativo Atari sin conectarse a Internet?

 

Tengo un nuevo VCS en la caja y esperaba no conectarme nunca para no recibir la nueva actualización. Pero, ¿significa esto que no podré iniciar sesión en Atari OS? Esperaba poder jugar algunos de los juegos de Atari Vault que ya deberían estar instalados y luego volver a arrancar desde un USB y luego ir y venir.

When starting for the first time, do not select the network, so you will not have access to the Internet, only that the OS itself will lose all its charm.

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So is there anyway now to boot frmo USB into something like Batocera?  After the update it says it's blocked by the current security policy, and can't get into the BIOS to change that.

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I don't think there is a way to boot into Batocera from a USB. I'd love to be able to do so, but I've not been able to and I haven't seen anyone come up with a solution. This really sucks because booting into something like Batocera was a huge reason I bought the VCS in the first place. If it was clear from the beginning this wasn't going to be allowed that is one thing, but it was implied that this sort of tinkering would be encouraged, and to change the rules after the fact seems fraudulent.

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10 hours ago, Jack Burton 1 said:

I don't think there is a way to boot into Batocera from a USB. I'd love to be able to do so, but I've not been able to and I haven't seen anyone come up with a solution. This really sucks because booting into something like Batocera was a huge reason I bought the VCS in the first place. If it was clear from the beginning this wasn't going to be allowed that is one thing, but it was implied that this sort of tinkering would be encouraged, and to change the rules after the fact seems fraudulent.

Exactly.  All along Atari kept saying how this would be such an open machine, and we could do whatever we wanted in sandbox mode, etc.  I really hope that they reverse this decision, whether it's by giving us full access to the BIOS again, or changing the security policy (at a minimum), or perhaps some other tweak to the BIOS where we can access more functions.  I know there is at least one post to this effect in Discord, not sure if there's another, or better way to get this feedback to Atari?

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Today's reply from the Atari VCS Team via discord:

Our goal is to provide access to the BIOS. We know the community wants that access, and we are working on some solutions that give more experienced users the access they need ... also trying to come up with a solution that keeps less experienced users away from things that could brick the VCS ... or at least give them clear warnings that they are off piste and could do damage that is outside their warranty.(edited)
And yes, we do hear the community on this issue and it has been an active discussion within our team. Changing the BIOS password was something we felt we needed to do, but did not really want to do, and we see it as a temporary step.

Our warranty has language in it re: hardware upgrades ... upgrading the RAM or adding an SSD does not void the warranty, but any damage you might do by accident while performing the upgrades is not covered by warranty. We just need to add similar language around the BIOS ... the goal is to allow folks back in soon ...

we want to make the PC experience as open as possible and this has been an active discussion within our team. We have a long-term solution in mind, but are also working to get a short term solution in your hands so you can get back into the BIOS. Just want everyone to know that this is on our radar and we are taking the request seriously ...

Edited by livingonwheels
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Good to hear.  I haven't been keeping up with Discord, had to search to find it, odd to me that it was in #issues-booting-to-atari-os.  Hopefully they will get something figured out soon.

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Update : Atari has apparently said on discord that the new password is temporary and :

 

"Our goal is to provide access to the BIOS. We know the community wants that access, and we are working on some solutions that give more experienced users the access they need ... also trying to come up with a solution that keeps less experienced users away from things that could brick the VCS."

 

"Changing the BIOS password was something we felt we needed to do, but did not really want to do, and we see it as a temporary step.

Our warranty has language in it re: hardware upgrades ... upgrading the RAM or adding an SSD does not void the warranty, but any damage you might do by accident while performing the upgrades is not covered by warranty. We just need to add similar language around the BIOS ... the goal is to allow folks back in soon ...

we want to make the PC experience as open as possible and this has been an active discussion within our team. We have a long-term solution in mind, but are also working to get a short term solution in your hands so you can get back into the BIOS. Just want everyone to know that this is on our radar and we are taking the request seriously."

 

So, good news it seems!

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Awesome.  As weird as it sounds to all the people that keep refusing to believe the VCS is a thing that exists and somehow even managed to be a bit better than what I thought it would be, Atari does seem to be making things 'right' or at least very much attempting to.

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Congrats to Atari for promising to eventually do the right thing here, but can anyone think of another computer manufacturer who doesn't give you access to the BIOS settings?

 

And sure, it's possible to brick a computer by putting out of range values into some of the overclock settings. However, when the entirety of the consumer laptop market seems to be able to live with this possibility, I'm not sure why it's a big deal.

 

 

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58 minutes ago, Matt_B said:

Congrats to Atari for promising to eventually do the right thing here, but can anyone think of another computer manufacturer who doesn't give you access to the BIOS settings?

 

And sure, it's possible to brick a computer by putting out of range values into some of the overclock settings. However, when the entirety of the consumer laptop market seems to be able to live with this possibility, I'm not sure why it's a big deal.

 

 

Flip that, can anyone think of a console maker that allows you into the BIOS?

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2 minutes ago, leech said:

Flip that, can anyone think of a console maker that allows you into the BIOS?

Pretty much all of the ones that'll let you install Windows on them. Alienware Alpha, Steam Machines, GPD Win, Aya Neo, etc.

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9 minutes ago, Matt_B said:

Pretty much all of the ones that'll let you install Windows on them. Alienware Alpha, Steam Machines, GPD Win, Aya Neo, etc.

Sure.  If you look at the majority of those they are usually stripped down bioses like laptops.  I am honestly shocked the VCS has as many opinions as it does.  Only other motherboards that have that many are usually really old, or the eXtreme Gaming with RGB and overclock all the things! ones.  Though for sure they tend to have pretty interfaces for them.

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2 hours ago, Matt_B said:

promising to eventually

 

 

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Posted (edited)

My guess is they’ll put a logged “acceptance” disclaimer in the main OS. If you accept the disclaimer it will log your acceptance of it indicating you take responsibility for damaging the system via the BIOS settings if it should happen. Then if you agree you’ll be allowed to proceed as you had before.

Edited by yrly

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Yeah i'm sure their customer service was getting overloaded with people dicking around in the bios and bricking the machines because they don't know what they are doing.  They probably got sick of dealing with it but realistically locking people out of the BIOS isn't a realistic long term solution since this is supposed to be an open machine that people are going to want to tinker with.   

 

Hopefully they will re-open access soon and make the password available ASAP. 

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As a professional EET, I will point out that the problem in shorting pin 2 to pin 6 is this shorts outputs to outputs. This causes invalid voltage levels therefore invalid data (and therefore no password available)...

The question is not will you make a mistake in shorting the right pins but how long before the over-powered chip(s) quit working and you lose normal functionality after removing the short.

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