Doing More Research

A project log for Hacking an Iris 3000 Videophone

This project is centered around repurposing the ACN Iris 3000 videophone, with an aim to unlock its full capabilities.

the-sycoraxThe Sycorax 12/17/2020 at 21:360 Comments

[Continued from previous log entry]

After obtaining root shell access to the device, the objective was to repurpose it into a standard Linux machine. As documented in my previous log entry, this process involved a sequence of operations that were to be executed in a specific order: Firstly, an ARM version of Debian Linux was to be installed onto an SD card, given that the ACN Iris 3000 utilizes an ARM processor; following this, the SD card was to be inserted into the ACN Iris 3000; subsequently, SSH was used to gain access to the phone; and finally, the "pivot_root" command was executed to transition from the device's internal root filesystem to the one housed on the SD card. This would essentially get Debian Linux running on the ACN Iris 3000.

I embarked on further research and discovered AUTUIN's personal blog, dedicated to his array of electronics projects. Despite the blog's inactivity since 2018, it provided some crucial information. In a post from 2013 specifically about his "Phonetendo" project, while a full explanation of how to install Debian Linux on an SD card was not present, he had indeed provided commands in the comment section necessary to switch from the phone's root filesystem to the one located on an SD card. This revelation was particularly valuable as it significantly reduced the need for further extensive research.

However, the challenge remained to install an ARM version of Debian Linux onto an SD card. Revisiting AUTUIN's Blogspot article, a section titled "A Better Operating System" provided a link to instructions on how to install Debian Etch onto a QCOW image using QEMU, a virtualization technology that allows one to run an operating system within another one. This was crucial, as QEMU can be used for emulating ARM machines on non-ARM hardware.

This piece of information was a significant leap forward. Befor proceeding, I would like to explain what QCOW images are. QCOW images are a type of disk file format used by QEMU. These images represent a method of storing disk data in a format consumed by QEMU. A unique feature of QCOW images ion-demand allocation of disk space, which means the image file grows only as data is added. This efficient use of storage is beneficial when dealing with large virtual disk files. QCOW images also support the creation of snapshots, which can be incredibly useful in a variety of use-cases. Furthermore, QCOW images can be converted to various other formats, allowing transfer to a physical storage device such as an SD card. This functionality was exactly what I was searching for.

However, a significant roadblock appeared when I discovered that the links to the Debian Etch installer were no longer hosted and hence, could not be downloaded. This required an alternative approach to install Debian onto a QCOW image using QEMU.

Further research and after a series of Google searches, I came across a blog post from September 2015, authored by a GitHub user named "lovelaced." Remarkably, this individual had successfully navigated the process of getting Debian Linux running on the ACN Iris 3000. The blog post contained a thorough guide on installing the ARM version of Debian Squeeze onto a QCOW image using QEMU, converting this image to a raw format, and subsequently transferring it to an SD card. Crucially, this guide provided active links for downloading the ARM versions of the Debian Squeeze installer and kernel.

Following this guide, I was successful in launching the Debian Squeeze Installer within QEMU. However, this installer required an active internet connection to download the necessary files for Debian Squeeze's installation onto the QCOW image, which I ensured beforehand. These installation files would typically be sourced from a server/mirror chosen by the user from a list provided within the installer. However, due to Debian Squeeze's outdated status and subsequent lack of support, the necessary files for its installation are no longer hosted on any of the listed servers/mirrors. This problem prevented the successful installation of Debian using this method.

Indeed, the potential exists for installing a more recent version of Debian using this methodology. However, this approach would prove to be incompatible with the ACN Iris 3000 due to a mismatch in kernel versions. The linux kernel is the core component of the operating system, bridging the communication between the software and hardware of a computer. For software to operate effectively and efficiently, it needs to be matched with an appropriate kernel version. Specifically for the ACN Iris 3000, the device operates using kernel version Consequently, the Debian version installed should closely correspond with this kernel version to ensure optimal compatibility and performance. Debian Squeeze, with its kernel version of, aligns most closely with the ACN Iris 3000's kernel.

However, more recent versions of Debian operate with kernel versions of 3.2 or higher. This discrepancy in kernel versions makes these newer Debian distributions unsuitable for the ACN Iris 3000. The intricacies of software dependencies, drivers, and system calls, which depend on the kernel version, would result in a host of compatibility issues, making the newer versions of Debian unsuitable for the device.

[To be continued...]