NEO Z83-4U bricked by update and BIOS doesn’t see most USB drives

#1
Even before I ordered this PC, I had read about the problem of a Ubuntu update bricking the device. So the first thing I did when I got into Ubuntu was to disable updates. And then, just a couple of days later, while I was still working on general configuration, I got a popup: « The update requires that you restart this computer. » (Or something to that effect.) There were two buttons: “Restart later” and “Restart now”. I tried to click on “Restart later” but it didn’t react and, a few seconds later it started to reboot and eventually reached the Ubuntu login screen. I logged in and... it came back to the login screen after about 10 seconds. The classic bootloop. :eek:

I happened to have five USB devices (flash drives and HDDs) with various versions of the Linux Mint installation “Live CD” and one with a “frugal” Puppy Linux bootable setup. I tried all of them. The first four are not detected by the BIOS. The “Boot Option Priorities” entries remain [USB Key] or [USB Hard Disk]. On other computers (I have a few laptops and one desktop), all these USB devices are detected properly and the machines boot as expected.

I also downloaded the latest Z83-4U iso and replaced one of my Linux Mint HDDs with it, using mkusb. The Z83-4U doesn’t see it either. And I re-did one of the LM 19.3 (equivalent to Ubuntu 18.04) using balena Etcher. Still not detected. Tried again with mintstick. Not detected either.

The only one that is detected is the one with Linux Mint 18.3 (equivalent to Ubuntu 16.04), which I had put on a Kingston 32GB flash drive using mkusb and with the “persistence” option. It shows up in the BIOS as [USB Key:UEFI: Kings...] [sic] and it boots and runs perfectly fine. I don’t know why the persistence option would make a difference to the detectability of the storage device, but I tried anyway to re-do the LM 19.3 again, this time using mkusb with persistence. It didn’t make any difference with regard to the Z83-4U detecting it. :confused:

So...

At this point, I can’t re-install Ubuntu, nor install Linux Mint 19.3, nor update the BIOS itself. All I could do is install Linux Mint 18.3 and keep that for the life of the computer. Not ideal. (That version has less than one year of support left.)

If anyone has a suggestion, it will be most welcome.
 

ArcticWolf

Trusted Helper
#2
Even before I ordered this PC, I had read about the problem of a Ubuntu update bricking the device. So the first thing I did when I got into Ubuntu was to disable updates. And then, just a couple of days later, while I was still working on general configuration, I got a popup: « The update requires that you restart this computer. » (Or something to that effect.) There were two buttons: “Restart later” and “Restart now”. I tried to click on “Restart later” but it didn’t react and, a few seconds later it started to reboot and eventually reached the Ubuntu login screen. I logged in and... it came back to the login screen after about 10 seconds. The classic bootloop. :eek:

I happened to have five USB devices (flash drives and HDDs) with various versions of the Linux Mint installation “Live CD” and one with a “frugal” Puppy Linux bootable setup. I tried all of them. The first four are not detected by the BIOS. The “Boot Option Priorities” entries remain [USB Key] or [USB Hard Disk]. On other computers (I have a few laptops and one desktop), all these USB devices are detected properly and the machines boot as expected.

I also downloaded the latest Z83-4U iso and replaced one of my Linux Mint HDDs with it, using mkusb. The Z83-4U doesn’t see it either. And I re-did one of the LM 19.3 (equivalent to Ubuntu 18.04) using balena Etcher. Still not detected. Tried again with mintstick. Not detected either.

The only one that is detected is the one with Linux Mint 18.3 (equivalent to Ubuntu 16.04), which I had put on a Kingston 32GB flash drive using mkusb and with the “persistence” option. It shows up in the BIOS as [USB Key:UEFI: Kings...] [sic] and it boots and runs perfectly fine. I don’t know why the persistence option would make a difference to the detectability of the storage device, but I tried anyway to re-do the LM 19.3 again, this time using mkusb with persistence. It didn’t make any difference with regard to the Z83-4U detecting it. :confused:

So...

At this point, I can’t re-install Ubuntu, nor install Linux Mint 19.3, nor update the BIOS itself. All I could do is install Linux Mint 18.3 and keep that for the life of the computer. Not ideal. (That version has less than one year of support left.)

If anyone has a suggestion, it will be most welcome.
Have you downloaded the MINIX Ubuntu image directly from this forum or are you repeatedly attempting to fresh install other 3rd party options?

Are you having the same problem with the copy available from this forum?
 
#3
Have you downloaded the MINIX Ubuntu image directly from this forum [...] ?
Yes.

or are you repeatedly attempting to fresh install other 3rd party options?
I can’t even attempt to fresh install anything from most USB drives since they don’t show up. As mentioned before, there was one that was detected, so I finally went ahead and installed that one (LM 18.3). It works, but the main problem remains: most USB drives are not detected at the BIOS level. So I am unable to fresh install anything else: not Ubuntu, not a more recent version of LM, not Puppy.

Are you having the same problem with the copy available from this forum?
Yes. The source of the image file doesn’t make a difference if the drive that contains it is not seen by the computer. The method used to make the image into a bootable USB drive doesn’t seem to make a difference either, since I’ve tried five by now: minstick, mkusb (with and without persistence), balena Etcher and even Ubuntu 18.04’s own Startup Disk Creator. (The latter was before I replaced Ubuntu with LM, of course).
 

ArcticWolf

Trusted Helper
#4
Yes.



I can’t even attempt to fresh install anything from most USB drives since they don’t show up. As mentioned before, there was one that was detected, so I finally went ahead and installed that one (LM 18.3). It works, but the main problem remains: most USB drives are not detected at the BIOS level. So I am unable to fresh install anything else: not Ubuntu, not a more recent version of LM, not Puppy.



Yes. The source of the image file doesn’t make a difference if the drive that contains it is not seen by the computer. The method used to make the image into a bootable USB drive doesn’t seem to make a difference either, since I’ve tried five by now: minstick, mkusb (with and without persistence), balena Etcher and even Ubuntu 18.04’s own Startup Disk Creator. (The latter was before I replaced Ubuntu with LM, of course).
OK, understood & apologies for what may seem like silly/basic questions. However, it's difficult for others to troubleshoot as it is so the more info to work with the better for all obviously.

You seem to have an issue with the BIOS only detecting one or two of your available USB flash drives etc...... Have you tried putting the official MINIX image onto one of the drives that the BIOS can see?

Or, do these drives essentially become unavailable in the BIOS depending on the image you subsequently place upon them?

The point I'm getting at is, are some of your flash drives just universally unavailable in the BIOS regardless of the image/data upon them, or do they become available/unavailable depending on the image/data upon them? Have you tried swapping them around with the different images placed upon those that the BIOS can see too?

I have a feeling I already know what the answer will be but determining that much first may be beneficial.
 
#6
@yellowfinch: Just to clarify you now have Linux Mint 18.3 installed? So you can use 'dd' to write the ISO from https://theminixforum.com/index.php...buntu-ubuntu-20-04-lts-image.3111/#post-25696 to a USB. Then after inserting this USB and then booting into BIOS and going to the 'Save & Exit' screen, you don't see an entry under 'Boot Override' for the USB?
Yes, LM 18.3 is installed and working. (Except maybe for Bluetooth, but I can live without it on this machine.)

I had not thought of the 'dd' command. I’ve tried it now, using the Ubuntu 18.04 image I already had. (It will be a while before I can download the 20.04. Besides, given the results of my numerous tests, I doubt very much that there would be a difference between those two versions with regard to the discoverability of the device.) The result of this latest test was the same: the USB drive is not seen by the BIOS. And you described it perfectly: With this newly bootable USB, as with all the others but one, when booting into BIOS and going to the 'Save & Exit' screen, I don’t see an entry under 'Boot Override' for the USB; those remain the original four. (When I boot up with the LM 18.3 iso plugged-in, it gets added in the second position of the 'Boot Override' list, after ‘UEFI: Built-in EFI Shell’ and before ‘ubuntu’, for a total of five entries. But it then boots from the USB, not from the built-in EFI shell. So it seems that the order is not important in this list.)

To be absolutely certain that the USB drive is not at fault and that the 'dd' operation had been successful, I’ve just plugged it into another machine and it booted all the way into Ubuntu flawlessly. (This is a test I’ve done with all my various combinations of USB devices and OS installers.)

But I had one more test to do. Please see my reply to ArcticWolf. (Coming up in a minute.)
 
#7
You seem to have an issue with the BIOS only detecting one or two of your available USB flash drives etc...... Have you tried putting the official MINIX image onto one of the drives that the BIOS can see?
It detects only one of my four USB drives. So I’m not ready to wipe that one unless I manage to clone its current content onto another drive and the resulting copy also does work in this machine. I have now tried that, using ‘dd’. (It took a long time since this drive also contains a casper-rw partition and a usbdata partition.) The result is the same: it is not seen by the MINIX. Just as important: unlike all my other trials so far, this one is not usable on another machine; it boots into GRUB, but then stops with:
Code:
error: disk `hd0,4’ not found.
error: you need to load the kernel first.
Press any key to continue.
So I still have only one bootable drive that works on the MINIX, which is why I’m not willing to give it up – yet – for a test that feels like a long shot.

However...

With this latest test, I noticed something strange: when I booted a laptop from it, it showed up in the BIOS as only ST980815A 3.AL. I don’t know what that refers to, but I then noticed that, in the MINIX’s BIOS, while this USB HDD doesn’t get labelled in the “Boot Option Priorities” of the “Boot” page, it shows up in the “Boot Override” section of the “Save & Exit” page as Android-IA (ST980815A 3.AL). 😲 Is this BIOS screwy, or what?

The point I'm getting at is, are some of your flash drives just universally unavailable in the BIOS regardless of the image/data upon them, or do they become available/unavailable depending on the image/data upon them?
Until a few minutes ago, I would have said that, yes, it appears that three USB drives (one flash drive and two HDDs) are universally unavailable in the MINIX’s BIOS regardless of the image they contain. But the very last test I described above (having cloned the only detectable flash drive onto a HDD), I have to change my answer, since something from that same HDD is now clearly detected by the MINIX’s BIOS even though it won’t boot from it.

Also, please remember that, so far, all my combinations of USB drives and OS images (except for the very last test mentioned) are bootable on at least two other machines; an oldish laptop and a mini desktop that is less than two years old and is almost the same as a laptop, i.e. not a single-board computer.

I have a feeling I already know what the answer
Please don’t keep it to yourself. 😉
 
#8
@yellowfinch: Is this a newly purchased Z83-4U from an official distributor? I'm just wondering what BIOS it is running as a new BIOS might explain the behaviour. What does it say on the first screen of the BIOS for

Project Version:
Build Date and Time:
MINIX Firmware Version:

Can you also try plugging in the newly 'dd' created Ubuntu 18.04 USB you've just made and boot into BIOS and select ‘UEFI: Built-in EFI Shell’ from the 'Boot Override' list? Press 'ESC' immediately so you get the 'Shell>' prompt. If you type 'map' you should see some 'fs0' and/or 'fs1' entries (or more starting with 'fs'). Asumming one of these entries says 'Removable' against it (e.g. fs1) then enter the device followed by a colon (e.g. 'fs1:'). The prompt should now change and you can enter 'dir'. If you then see 'efi' enter 'cd efi'. Repeat the 'dir' and you hopefully see 'boot' and if so enter 'cd boot'. If a final 'dir' shows files like 'BOOTx64.EFI' and 'grubx64.efi' then just type 'BOOTx64.EFI' and see if you get the GRUB menu. It is a bit hard to explain this (both from memory and not knowing what your system will show) however this should give you the gist of what to try.
 
#9
@yellowfinch: Is this a newly purchased Z83-4U from an official distributor? What does it say on the first screen of the BIOS for Project Version, Build Date and Time, and MINIX Firmware Version?
Yes, I bought it 10 days ago through amazon.ca but the seller was « MINIX Technology Limited, Kowloon, HK ».

BIOS details:
Code:
Project Version:        CHT0C04-000
Build Date and Time:    06/26/2018 17:34:03
MINIX Firmware Version: CHT-T3 2017-03-20 0.5
I thought of updating it but... That requires booting from a USB drive, right? Or can it be done from a micro-SD card?

@yellowfinch:
Can you also try plugging in the newly 'dd' created Ubuntu 18.04 USB you've just made and boot into BIOS and select ‘UEFI: Built-in EFI Shell'?
The map command is useless because the top of the list quickly rolls off the screen. I found the booter anyway: fs2:\EFI\boot\bootx64.efi. Invoking it does bring up GRUB and then LM 18.3 loads and works fine from this cloned HDD.
 
#11
I’ll take that as a “Yes”, i.e. the TF card reader is part of the USB system. :unsure:

But I tried and the TF card doesn’t show up among the filesystems when running the EFI shell, nor is it mounted when running Linux Mint.

I ran the “map” command about 10 times in order to scrutinize the quickly-scrolling list: the UUID of the TF card is definitely not there. Besides, it would have been under fs2:, right? (Because that’s how my USB HDD showed up in the previous test, and this time I had not plugged-in anything in the USB ports, so the TF card should have taken its place, right?) Aside from other prefixes, there are only two that start with fs: fs0 (presumably the boot partition) and fs1 (labelled “ubuntu”).

So, it looks like I won’t be able to update the BIOS either. :(
 

Villa

Administrator
#12
I’ll take that as a “Yes”, i.e. the TF card reader is part of the USB system. :unsure:

But I tried and the TF card doesn’t show up among the filesystems when running the EFI shell, nor is it mounted when running Linux Mint.
The instructions say USB drive not TF card!

You can not boot from a TF card with this device.
 
#13
The instructions say USB drive not TF card!

You can not boot from a TF card with this device.
I know! I had read everyting. But my question (which you cited!) ended with « Or can it be done from a micro-SD card? » and you replied by only sending me those instructions! How else was I supposed to interpret that?

Besides, at this stage, I only wanted to flash the BIOS, so that does not amount to “booting from the TF card”.

Anyway...

Unless someone has another idea, this device will remain essentially a dud.
 
#15
@yellowfinch: Actually I don't understand your response 'I found the booter anyway: fs2:\EFI\boot\bootx64.efi. Invoking it does bring up GRUB and then LM 18.3 loads and works fine from this cloned HDD'. If 'fs2:' was marked as a 'removable' drive then it should boot Ubuntu 18.04 as that is what your 'dd' to USB wrote. If it boots LM 18.3 then it looks like you are merely booting the currently installed Linux.

The fact that you appear to have a BIOS that creates problems for later Linux kernels is also adding to the confusion although this should not manifest in a bootable USB being undertected by the BIOS.

Eitherway it is best to upgrade the BIOS next and then see what happens. Use one of the USBs that is currently 'undetected' and follow the instructions in https://theminixforum.com/index.php?threads/neo-z83-4u-bios-cht0c04-001.3434. For step 5, and as mentioned earlier, your USB may show up as fs0, fs1, fs2 etc. So start with entering 'fs0:' and then doing a 'dir' to see if the files you wrote to the USB show up (i.e. you can see the file 'fpt64bsw.efi'). If not enter 'fs1:' and repeat the search and so on.

Once you have successfully upgraded the BIOS and verified this by visually checking the 'Project Version' after a reboot, try booting from the 'dd' USB with Ubuntu 18.04 and post the results.
 
#17
🤦
@yellowfinch: So before you upgrade the BIOS run the command 'sudo dmidecode -t 1' on your installed LM 18.3 and make a note of the output. Next upgrade the BIOS. Finally reboot into your installed LM 18.3 and again run the 'sudo dmidecode -t 1' command and confirm the output has changed and post here.
 
#19
@yellowfinch: If 'fs2:' was marked as a 'removable' drive then it should boot Ubuntu 18.04 as that is what your 'dd' to USB wrote. If it boots LM 18.3 then it looks like you are merely booting the currently installed Linux.
No. That is not what is happening. There is no possible confusion in this scenario. The GRUB menu that comes up is different, the HDD’s indicator blinks heavily (but normally) while loading LM, and the desktop that comes up is the one with the “Install Linux Mint” icon/shortcut and the mounted casper-rw and usbdata partitions. So this is definitely not the currently installed Linux. I don’t know for sure whether fs2 is marked as ‘removable’ (because it goes by too fast, because of all those other aliases that come after) but I don’t think so.

Eitherway it is best to upgrade the BIOS next and then see what happens.
OK, I’ve managed to do that by putting the TF card in a USB adapter which then showed up as fs2: in the EFI shell. (Also had to hunt for keys, since the keyboard is then set as en-US, which doesn’t match my physical keyboard. Overall, this is not a noob-friendly intervention, to say the least.)

BIOS details according to dmidecode are identical to what they were before the update:
Code:
# dmidecode 3.0
Getting SMBIOS data from sysfs.
SMBIOS 3.0.0 present.

Handle 0x0001, DMI type 1, 27 bytes
System Information
    Manufacturer: MINIX
    Product Name: Z83-4
    Version:  
    Serial Number: Default string
    UUID: 03000200-0400-0500-0006-000700080009
    Wake-up Type: Power Switch
    SKU Number: 4G64G
    Family: NEO
But it did make a difference. Upon exiting from the shell, it loaded the installed OS and the two partitions of the TF card were automatically mounted! Other USB drives that I plugged in were also mounted. So this constitutes major progress.

However, discovery of USB devices at the BIOS level is still abnormal. Devices that were not detected according to the “Boot Options Priorities” or “Boot Override” sections are still not detected.

And there seems to be a new bug in the BIOS manager: the “Boot Override” section of the “Save & Exit” page was stuck on what it last had before the BIOS update, which is UEFI: Built-in EFI Shell first and ubuntu second, no matter what permutation I set in the “Boot Options Priorities” of the “Boot” page. It finally changed when I plugged in one of my two detectable USB drives: that not only made the “Boot Override” list into a 3-entry list, but it also bumped up the ubuntu to first position.

And I still haven’t found a way to boot into Puppy Linux with this machine. That entire “drive” remains invisible even to the EFI shell. (Whereas the flash drive in question works on all other machines I’ve tried.) I really like the idea of Puppy Linux, especially for a machine like this (destined to be mostly a media player), because it runs entirely in RAM and you write everything to storage only when you want, saving a lot of wear on the SSD.

Nevertheless, now that I have the recipe (using the EFI shell), I expected that I will be able to install Ubuntu 20.04, or LM 19.3, or LM 20. So I now have to decide which one I want. They all have pros and cons. I might even wait for LM 20.3.

Many thanks to @linuxium! 👍
 
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