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#1 2010-02-04 22:58:05

wbahn
Contributor
Registered: 2010-02-03
Posts: 23

Observations on the website from a new member

Greetings! I am a new member to the community and have experienced some difficulties and frustrations with the site. Some of the problems might be bugs, some might be unimplemented sections or broken links, some might be just because I am missing something obvious and doing things wrongs (please correct me where this is the case!).

I thought I would offer my observations so far so that perhaps those things that can get fixed will get fixed.

Perhaps the most confusing thing right off the bat for a new user is that it is not at all obvious what the various pieces of the website are and how they relate. A short description on the Home Page might go a long way.

Speaking of the Home Page, I see the following links there:
> Proxmark
> Community
> Files
> Manual
> Order
> Contact

The ones that are causing me some grief and confusion are "Files" and "Manual".

When I click on "Files", I am taken to a page that says, "Please register yourself to the community and login". Fine. I click the link and log in, but then cannot find a way to get back to the "Files" page. If I use the back button, I can only go back as far as the page telling me to register and log in. If I explicitly go back to the Home Page and try again, I get the same message, even if I go there from the same browser window in which I am logged in to the community from.

However, I discovered that if I manually change the URL in the "Files" link from:

http://proxmark.org/files/index.php

to

http://www.proxmark.org/files/index.php

then I can get to the "Files" Directory whether I am logged in or not. I suspect that the link needs to be updated. If the intent is to restrict access to those that are logged in, then the problems are more severe.

When I click on the "Manual" link I am taken to a Wiki. But it is not clear what the Wiki is for (what it does and does not cover regarding the Proxmark). Is it only for the Proxmark firmware? If I go to the "Project Home" tab, this is explicitly what it states. So what about the other pieces of software (that run on Host platform)? What about files such as the PCB artwork?

Which files are people supposed to get from the Wiki Downloads tab and which are they supposed to get from the "Files" page? Is there duplication (the same file available from both places)? If so, are they actually the same file, or just two copies in two different places? If so, which is the one to use if they aren't actually the same.

Finally, I've built the Proxmark3 board myself, meaning that it has no firmware loaded into it at all. It was a real struggle to find a reference on the site that even hinted that flashing a virgin board is even discussed on the site. In fact, just now I went to find where I found that reference and I can't. It seems like this should be the very first thing in the "Running the PM3" page.

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#2 2010-02-05 00:16:45

d18c7db
Contributor
Registered: 2008-08-19
Posts: 292

Re: Observations on the website from a new member

Thank you for your feedback. You are correct in most all respects, things could be improved across the board, however this entire project relies on vounteer effort. For example the wiki manual should be updated every time there is new source code commited that adds or changes functionality otherwise the reference manual becomes out of date.

Specifically on flashing a new board, most people buy a pre-made board that has already had the firmware loaded. There is an unspoken assumption that someone who builds their own board from scratch understands that a blank microcontroller can only be programmed via SAM-BA (which this project's hardware doesn't support) of via flashing it through the JTAG interface. I recall there was a PDF in the files section that explained specifically how to flash a blank board for the first time. It's in the folder appropriately named Flash and called <date>flash-howto.pdf and for some reason seems to also be duplicated under Documents/HOWTO/<date>proxmark_JTAG_flashing_first_time.pdf in case some misses the other location smile

If anyone has the time and inclination to help improve things, like update the wiki with new useful information, please come forward and request access.

Last edited by d18c7db (2010-02-05 00:21:35)

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#3 2010-02-05 02:43:24

wbahn
Contributor
Registered: 2010-02-03
Posts: 23

Re: Observations on the website from a new member

Thanks for the response. I definitely do realize the limitations of an all-volunteer effort, so everything I said was definitely intended as suggestions and constructive criticism and not a complaint.

I am more than happy to contribute to updating things or enhancing things. However (and I suspect I am far from alone in this), as a newbie to both the site and the product, I am very hesitent to make changes for fear of adding incorrect or misleading content or creating even more confusion by putting duplicate information someplace because I am just not aware that it is already someplace else. Perhaps that is the wrong attitude for me to have and I should be more aggressive about participating in a Wiki-type environment under the assumption that anything I do that is too wrong will likely get addressed by someone else in short order.

As for the unspoken assumption regarding what from-scratch builders do (or should) know, I don't think that it is a very reasonable assumption. I do understand what you are saying and where you are coming from - though I had assumed that a larger share of people built their own boards (assuming that kits are available, are they?). I've never worked with the ARM microcontrollers, so I have no idea what the programming options are there. I read somewhere that some ARMs have a built in USB bootloader and that Westhues simply opted not to use it for some reason. My experience with JTAG has been limited to configuring Xilinx FPGAs and CPLDs, for which I use the Xilinx software and interface cables. So I had no idea if special software for the ARM was required in order to configure it via JTAG.

I would be more than willing to supplement the "Running the PM3" page to walk people through this process (even if turns out to be little more than pointing them do the document that is already in the "Files" area).

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#4 2010-02-05 03:07:59

XEROEFFECT
Contributor
From: Sydney Australia
Registered: 2009-07-20
Posts: 132

Re: Observations on the website from a new member

Welcome wbahn, quick question, What os system are you working on?

Last edited by XEROEFFECT (2010-02-05 03:08:16)


If ya don't know, ask!

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#5 2010-02-05 06:40:39

wbahn
Contributor
Registered: 2010-02-03
Posts: 23

Re: Observations on the website from a new member

Thanks!

As for which OS, that hasn't been established, yet. I actually built these boards for some cadets at the Air Force Academy that are doing RFID projects as part of their Information Warfare course. Another faculty member is the actual mentor for the groups and he is planning on using Linux. I am hoping to play around with them this weekend and the easiest OS for me to work with is WinXP since I don't have any machines at home that are running Linux right now. If I have too much trouble getting something going under WinXP, then I will byte the bullet and install Linux on something.

This is probably as good a point as any to mention that we have directed the cadets to this website. Now, whether or not any of them utilize this resource is an open question. But, if they do, please feel free to offer as much or as little help as you would like. In particular, there is no need to be concerned about giving them too much help -- they are expected to document any help, from any source, they receive and Academy cadets are pretty darn good about taking that expectation very seriously. Even more to the point, these projects are intended to be fairly open-ended and treated as mini research projects where they are encouraged to seek out and utilize outside sources of information. These projects, in particular, will benefit from that because neither I nor the mentor have more than a superficial understanding of RFID -- we will be learning as much (more, I'm sure) than the cadets.

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#6 2010-02-20 11:27:37

wbahn
Contributor
Registered: 2010-02-03
Posts: 23

Re: Observations on the website from a new member

Suggestion: When a person chooses one of the options from the www.proxmark.org homepage, either the new page should open in the present browser or a new browser instance should be launched. Presently, if another browser window is open the new page is launched in that window (or one of them, if several are open). This is very annoying. It frequently looks like nothing happened and you have to walk through all your browser windows looking for the one it decided to take over. Worse, you may have had something open in those other windows for a reason and taking over one of them can cause all sorts of problems.

Thanks.

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