Don't sit on your Kindle

19.09.2012 18:56

A few days ago Jure brought me his 3rd generation Amazon Kindle. Someone sat on it and the results weren't encouraging. While the plastic frame and the display appeared undamaged from the outside, only a small portion of the screen in the lower left corner showed any signs of life when the device was turned on. The rest kept showing the screensaver image that was displayed when the Kindle was last turned off.

Kindle 3 with a broken screen

Opening it up was a bit time consuming, but pretty straightforward. I used an old credit card to carefully pry open the plastic latches around the edge. There are many tear down descriptions and around the net, so I wont bore you with details here.

Kindle 3 without back cover

There appears to be a RFID chip taped to the back cover.

RFID tag on Kindle 3 back cover

After removing the battery, circuit board and the central support frame it was quite apparent what is the cause of the malfunction. Since Amazon just released new Kindle models recently, replacing the display panel isn't really worth the hassle, even though supposedly you can get replacement panels.

Cracked back screen panel on a Kindle 3

So, this Kindle is now basically useless as a book reader, but it still contains a perfectly usable ARM-based embedded computer that is capable of running Linux. Since it consumes very little power it might be quite useful as a small always-on system to have at home. The motherboard alone doesn't seem to boot without the (smart) battery and the display connected to it, so that is a bit unfortunate. But even in the original frame it doesn't take much space and I might simply hang it on a wall somewhere.

Last Saturday was a Software Freedom Day in Kiberpipa, so went with the spirit and jailbroken it and installed a chrooted Debian system. Installing the jailbreak and usbnet took some trial and error since I was not sure which firmware version was last installed and it's hard to navigate the menus without the feedback from the display. In the end I resorted to doing the same procedure on my own kindle in parallel, so that I could see where in the menu the cursor was. Without that I'm not sure how I would be able to type in ";" and "~" characters using the on-screen keyboard. These are required when enabling the usbnet hack.

The built-in software from Amazon takes quite a big chunk of 256 MB of available RAM, so running a chrooted Debian is not really optimal. I'm looking into replacing the built-in firmware with Debian altogether, but for that I first have to find a RS232 adapter so that I can see the serial console from the Linux kernel. Otherwise I'm pretty sure I'll brick the device on the first try.

Posted by Tomaž | Categories: Life


If it helps, you can stop Amazon's framework using /etc/init.d/framework stop

Thanks, never thought it might be that simple. I tried killing the processes directly, but they kept restarting.

Posted by Tomaž

This is amazing, and just what I was looking for, since my Kindle display has had the same fate... Thank you for all the juicy stuff! Please make sure it won't just disappear from the web any time soon, as I'll need to follow your footsteps, as soon as I can get hold of a double for repeating the blind bootstrap proc., as you did. :)

Posted by Szabolcs Szasz

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