Central Scrutinizer -- a minimal, fully open-source serial adapter and reboot controller for Apple M1/M2Designed by aaafnraa in United Kingdom
Now shipping version 3.2! What is it? The Central Scrutinizer connects to an Apple M1 or M2 machine over USB-C, and exposes the integrated low-level serial lines that are accessible from the DFU port…Read More…
The Central Scrutinizer connects to an Apple M1 or M2 machine over USB-C, and exposes the integrated low-level serial lines that are accessible from the DFU port over a convenient USB connection (USB CDC -- no special driver needed). It is also capable of performing a hard-reset of the machine if you've crashed it by talking to the Mac's PD controller. Finally, it offers a USB2.0 pass-through that can be used to boot the machine over USB using the m1n1 bootloader that is part of the Asahi project.
It provides a low-level debugging port to operating system developers, which is useful when you cannot count on a display to be available, or need to log information but can't use any local storage. If you're using MacOS on your Apple Silicon machine, you probably don't need the serial console aspect, but the reboot feature could prove useful if you crash the machine and need to remotely reset it.
Note that the Central Scrutinizer board is not a stand-alone device. You will need to solder a Raspberry-Pi Pico to it, build and flash some firmware to make it usable. If you want a fully built device, please select the "with a Pico" option. Each and every board gets tested before shipping (yes, this takes some time), even those without a soldered Pico, so there should not be any surprise at assembly time.
It shouldn't be too hard to port the firmware to another type of micro-controller, or even to a high-level OS such as Linux, but you'd lose the pretty tight physical matching with the Pico board. However this is all open-source code and HW, feel free to hack on it and contribute your changes!
The USB-C cable between the board and the Mac conditions the feature set:
Cables with an e-marker get the VCONN supply (5v), but the firmware doesn't take any advantage of it at this stage.
Here's a laundry list of what the board contains:
The Pico is in charge of the PD negotiation, USB-C orientation, and of bridging the serial lines with USB.
I'm a Linux kernel developer, mostly working on the arm64 port. Having such a low-level tool helps debugging in situation where I can't rely on anything else to be working (it fits my personal flow, but that's not necessary everyone's). It also mean that I can stack these machines without having any screen or keyboard attached to them (or closed on a shelf in the case of a laptop)!
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