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Updating Venice Firmware / Software

This page is all about updating / flashing firmware / software onto a Venice SBC.

The various components of the 'firmware' on a Venice board which you may want to update from time to time are (lowest level components listed first):

  • GSC firmware
  • SPL
  • Linux device-tree
  • U-Boot bootloader
  • Linux kernel
  • root filesystem

Some components above you can update individually in Linux using dd or in U-Boot using mmc write taking care to place them at the right offset.

Pre-Built Firmware

Venice Pre-Built Firmware / Software

Firmware Versioning

You can determine the firmware version of various portions of the firmware by looking for banners on the serial console. For example:

U-Boot SPL 2020.04-g0a0109fcfb (Oct 07 2020 - 19:30:09 +0000)
GSC     : v57 0x4d20 RST:VIN Thermal Protection Enabled
Model   : GW7301-00-B1B
U-Boot 2020.04-g0a0109fcfb (Oct 07 2020 - 19:30:09 +0000), Build: jenkins-venice-bsp-24
[    0.000000] Linux version 5.4.45-g43e409dc8906 (jenkins@bionic_builder) (gcc version 8.4.0 (Buildroot 2020.05.2-109-g32cec2af36)) #1 SMP Wed Oct 7 18:43:20 UTC 2020
Ubuntu 20.04.1 LTS focal-venice ttymxc1

Gateworks-Ubuntu-gateworks-g65dac90 Tue Oct  6 23:54:49 UTC 2020

The above output shows you:

  • Secondary Program Loader (SPL) GIT revision and build date
  • GSC firmware version
  • U-Boot GIT revision and build date
  • Linux kernel version, GIT revision, build date and build source
  • Ubuntu root filesystem version and GIT revision of the Gateworks that created it (use dpkg -l | grep "^ii" to see what packages and versions are installed

Updating Firmware

This section provides instructions for updating both GSC firmware as well as boot device firmware.

There are two methods for updating firmware:

  • on a live board using Serial Console and Ethernet
  • using a GW16099 JTAG dongle (see below)

The various items that can be easily updated:

  • GSC Firmware - Can be updated via JTAG or at runtime - see below)
  • Boot Firmware (Everything up to and including the Bootloader)
  • Root Filesystem (Operating System)

JTAG Programming

The Gateworks JTAG adapter (GW16099) is available in the Venice Dev Kit as well as on the Gateworks web store here

All Venice boards have a 10-pin JTAG header which provides:

  • JTAG Programming for embedded emmc flash - see here for instructions
  • Serial Console access via UART2 (/dev/ttymxc1)

Please Note:

  • Linux software is supported for programming Venice (jtag_usbv4 required). Windows is not supported. (serial console through Windows does work).
  • JTAG Programming of eMMC is supported by jtag_usbv4 - see here. Due to this being a slow process for large eMMC devices it is recommended to program boot firmware via JTAG if you brick your board and use the bootloader to install firmware when possible for speed (see #serial-ethernet below).
  • JTAG Programming of the GSC firmware is supported by jtag_usbv4 - see below

Update Firmware via Serial Console and Ethernet from Bootloader

The quickest and easiest way to update your firmware is via Serial Console and Ethernet. You can do this either in the U-Boot bootloader (recommended) or within a Linux OS.

If updating firmware via Bootloader/Serial/Ethernet (recommended for speed) you need to setup a TFTP server to host the files for transfer. Alternatively you could load firmware files from removable storage (microSD, or USB Mass Storage for example) however you will need to deviate from the examples below. For details on setting up a TFTP server see here.

The following instructions assume your board target IP address is and you have a TFTP server at Adjust environment according to your network via 'setenv ipaddr <ipaddr>' and 'setenv serverip <serverip>'.

The methods you use to update the firmware depends on what specifically you are trying to update.

Update entire firmware (recommended)

Update the entire device from a Compressed Disk Image. This image includes the ('boot firmware as well as entire OS and kernel):

Complete Compressed Disk Images are available for download here:


  • Setup environment for networking
    setenv ipaddr # sets device IP
    setenv serverip # sets TFTP LAN server IP
  • Choose which device you are going to update:
    setenv dev 2 # sets MMC device to be flashed - see mmc list
    setenv image focal-venice.img.gz # or whatever filename is used, with any tftp server directories in front of the filename
    run update_all # the update_all script expects a compressed image and will write to the beginning of flash

This is what the update_all script does:

update_all=tftpboot ${loadaddr} ${image} && gzwrite mmc ${dev} ${loadaddr} ${filesize}

Updating just the boot firmware

Updating the Boot firmware via this method includes the SPL, U-Boot, the device-tree, and the ATF. The method here specifically does not update the disk partition table at the beginning of the boot device as that really has nothing to do with the boot firmware.

Note that the IMX8 BOOT ROM fetches code starting at a 33K offset (in order to reserve everything below that for things like disk partition tables).

We will use the update_firmware script in the Venice U-Boot default environment which looks like this:

=> print update_firmware 
update_firmware=tftpboot $loadaddr $image && setexpr blkcnt $filesize + 0x1ff && setexpr blkcnt $blkcnt / 0x200 && mmc dev $dev && mmc write $loadaddr 0x42 $blkcnt
  • Note the flash offset is 0x42 blocks which is 33KiB
  • Note the dev and image env variables are used by this script

On a Venice booted to the bootloader:

=> mmc list
=> setenv dev 2 # eMMC
=> setenv image flash.bin
=> run update_firmware

Updating just the root filesystem

Updating the root filesystem from a 'compressed filesystem image' can easily be done by help of the update_rootfs script in the Venice U-Boot default environment which looks like this:

=> print update_rootfs 
update_rootfs=tftpboot $loadaddr $image && gzwrite mmc $dev $loadaddr $filesize 100000 1000000
  • Note gzwrite is used so the filesystem image must be compressed with 'gzip' (otherwise you could use mmc write manually). The data (ie type of filesystem or content ) does not matter here
  • Note the flash offset is 0x1000000 blocks which is 16MiB
  • Note the dev and image env variables are used by this script

On a Venice booted to the bootloader:

=> mmc list
=> setenv dev 2 # eMMC
=> setenv image rootfs.ext4.gz
=> run update_rootfs

TFTP Error Troubleshooting

There are many reasons why TFTP may fail including:

  • firewall issue keeping your TFTP server for being accessible (make sure you can ping it!)
  • invalid network configuration (netmask, gatewayip, ipaddr, serverip) - again make sure you can ping it!
  • 'TFTP error: trying to overwrite reserved memory...' - indicates you are trying to transfer a file that is larger than system memory. You will need to split the file into chunks and flash them individually at the right offsets

Updating GSC firmware

The GSC firmware is updated via the gsc_update application running under Linux as described at on the gsc wiki. While it takes only a few seconds to update there is no recovery for a failed update. Gateworks has ensured that this update is robust but can not survive a power-cut or kernel crash in the middle of the update. Updates to the GSC firmware are expected to be rare.

Update GSC Firmware via JTAG

To update the GSC firmware via JTAG download the jtag_usbv4 application on a Linux x86 host from here and execute as follows:

./jtag_usbv4 -m gsc_7000_v57.txt

Note that the ftdi_sio kernel module must not be loaded (sudo rmmod ftdi_sio) and you may need to run this command as root by pre-pending a sudo depending on the configuration of your linux host.

For more details please see:

Note: See TracWiki for help on using the wiki.