bios

LinuxBIOS is now called coreboot

Public Service Announcement: The LinuxBIOS project, a Free Software project which intends to replace the proprietary BIOS found in most computers these days, has been renamed to coreboot.

The old name has become quite a misnomer in recent years; the name LinuxBIOS created the impression that it's a drop-in BIOS-replacement and that it's using Linux or is Linux-specific in any way. Neither is the case.

  • coreboot is not a BIOS in the sense that it provides the legacy BIOS callbacks / interrupt routines. Instead, coreboot is just a small hardware initialization firmware. It does some basic hardware init, then hands over control to one of many possible payloads. This can be a boot loader such as FILO (or GRUB2, which shall ultimately replace FILO) if you want to boot from disk, or Plan 9, or memtest86, or a Linux kernel, or OpenBIOS/OpenFirmware/SmartFirmware, or...
  • coreboot is not Linux or Linux-specific. Yes, it can indeed use Linux kernels as payload (i.e., you put the Linux kernel in your flash ROM chip together with coreboot) or boot a Linux kernel indirectly using FILO/GRUB2. But as mentioned above it can also be used (together with the fitting payload) to boot other OSes or systems such as Plan 9, Windows, FreeBSD, and others.

The initial author and project leader of LinuxBIOS/coreboot, Ron Minnich, explains in more detail why the renaming was done in his original announcement on the coreboot mailing list.

Recent LinuxBIOS progress

LinuxBIOS ROM Chip Logo

Since the "World's First Motherboard Using LinuxBIOS Released" hype at the beginning of this year (which was incorrect btw; it was not the first supported desktop board, there were many others before), LinuxBIOS hasn't been in the news very much. That doesn't mean that there was no progress, however. We've been working hard behind the scenes to improve the LinuxBIOS code, add support for new chipsets and boards, and advance the upcoming next-generation LinuxBIOSv3 version which will brings lots of great improvements in various areas.

Here's a random collection of stuff that happened in the last few months.

New chipsets:

  • AMD K8 / NVIDIA MCP55, contributed by Yinghai Lu of AMD
  • VIA VT82C686A/B southbridge, contributed by Corey Osgood
  • AMD Geode LX / CS5536, contributed by Marc Jones and Jordan Crouse of AMD
  • Intel 810 northbridge, contributed by Corey Osgood
  • AMD K8 / VIA K8T890 / VT8237R, contributed by Rudolf Marek / Corey Osgood
  • AMD K8 / SiS761GX / SiS966(L), contributed by Morgan Tsai of SiS

New mainboards:

  • Sun Ultra40, contributed by Ronald G. Minnich (LinuxBIOS project founder)
  • K9SD Master-S2R (MS-9185), contributed by Bingxun Shi of MSI
  • K9SD Master Series (MS-9282), contributed by Bingxun Shi of MSI
  • GIGABYTE GA-M57SLI-S4, contributed by Yinghai Lu of AMD
  • NVIDIA l1_2pvv, contributed by Yinghai Lu of AMD
  • Supermicro H8DMR, contributed by Yinghai Lu of AMD
  • Tyan S2912, contributed by Yinghai Lu of AMD
  • Tyan S1846, contributed by myself
  • AMD Norwich (AMD Geode LX reference platform), contributed by Marc Jones and Jordan Crouse of AMD
  • IGEL Winnet III thin client, contributed by myself
  • ASUS A8N-E, contributed by Phillip Degler
  • IEI JUKI-511P, contributed by Nikolay Petukhov
  • IEI ROCKY-512, contributed by Nikolay Petukhov
  • AMD DB800 (a.k.a. Salsa), contributed by Marc Jones and Jordan Crouse of AMD
  • ASUS MEW-VM, contributed by Corey Osgood
  • Artec Group DBE61, contributed by Marc Jones and Jordan Crouse of AMD
  • PC Engines ALIX.1C, contributed by Ronald G. Minnich
  • MSI MS-6178, contributed by myself
  • MSI MS-7260 (K9N Neo), contributed by myself
  • IGEL-316 thin client, contributed by Jürgen Beisert
  • AXUS TC320 thin client, contributed by Jürgen Beisert
  • GIGABYTE GA-2761GXDK (Churchill), contributed by Morgan Tsai of SiS
  • And a bunch of older Intel 440BX based boards, contributed by myself with some help by testers via IRC: ASUS P2B/P2B-F/P3B-F, A-Trend ATC-6220, AZZA PT-6IBD, Biostar M6TBA, Compaq Deskpro EN SFF P600, GIGABYTE GA-6BXC
  • ASUS A8V-E SE, contributed by Rudolf Marek

Note that not all of these may be 100% supported, some may still be work in progress with some TODO items left... Check the LinuxBIOS wiki or ask on the mailing list for details.

The future

Most work will probably go into LinuxBIOSv3 in the future, in order to make it suitable for productive use.
Of course, work on new chipsets and boards will continue, too. For example the VIA CN700 chipset (plus Jetway J7F2WE board using it) is being worked on right now, probably also several others I don't know about.

Call for board testers

If you're interesting in trying out LinuxBIOS, please check the list of supported motherboards. If your board is not listed there, but the chipset is already supported we can probably add support for your board relatively easy with some testing help from you.

Please contact us on IRC or preferrably on the mailing list if you want to help get your board supported!

An (incomplete) list of good candidate boards for future support is available in the wiki.

Thanks!

We're very grateful for the many contributors who have helped us with testing and fixing existing code, or who even contributed code for new chipsets and motherboards. Thanks a lot!

Many thanks especially to all hardware vendors who have been supporting us or even actively contributed by submitting code for their chipsets or boards (recently or in the past), including AMD, SiS, VIA, MSI, Tyan, Artec Group, and many others. Your efforts are very appreciated. Thanks!

Flashing a BIOS the Linux Way (tm) using flashrom

There are a gazillion HOWTOs out there for flashing a BIOS image without having to resort to ugly "boot DOS from floppy" or "run Windows *.exe file from BIOS vendor" and other ugly stuff. Unfortunately, the proposed solutions are equally ugly (e.g. creating custom CD-ROMs which contain the "floppy" with DOS/Windows flash tools).

Folks, this is so much simpler than you think:

The flashrom tool (GPL'd, written for LinuxBIOS purposes, but works perfectly fine with proprietary BIOSes, too) will easily do what you want, on a running Linux system. No floppy crap, no CD-ROM crap, no DOS/Windows crap, no rebooting crap.

Install it:

  $ apt-get install flashrom

Detect whether flashrom knows about your chipset/mainboard/BIOS chip:

  $ flashrom

Read the BIOS image into a file:

  $ flashrom -r backup.bin

Write a BIOS image (proprietary or LinuxBIOS) on the ROM chip:

  $ flashrom -wv newbios.bin

WARNING: This will overwrite your current BIOS! Make sure you know what you're doing!

For the Debian-challenged, flashrom is available in source form too, of course:

  $ svn co svn://linuxbios.org/repos/trunk/util/flashrom
  $ cd flashrom
  $ make

The list of supported chipsets, mainboards, and ROM chips is limited of course, but it's constantly expanding. Contact us on the LinuxBIOS mailing list if you want other hardware supported (or even better: if you have patches!). In many cases adding support for new hardware is pretty easy...

LinuxBIOS at LinuxTag 2007

LinuxBIOS ROM Chip Logo

If you're coming to LinuxTag 2007 in Berlin (May 30 - June 2), you might want to also visit the LinuxBIOS booth (Hall 12, Stand 80).

We will be showing a couple of different systems all using LinuxBIOS to boot. There is a boot time competition in the booth (nice T-shirts to win!).

On Saturday there's a hands-on LinuxBIOS workshop by Peter Stuge titled "Bring your EPIA, EPIA-M or EPIA-MII board and make it run LinuxBIOS!". Please register in advance at LinuxBIOS booth (Hall 12, Stand 80).

If you always wanted to know what this LinuxBIOS stuff is all about — here's your chance to find out!

Google Summer of Code and LinuxBIOS

LinuxBIOS logo

We're happy to announce that the LinuxBIOS project will have the possibility to take part in this year's Google Summer of Code™ (GSoC) program. coresystems GmbH was accepted as a mentoring organization for the GSoC and will mentor all LinuxBIOS-related projects.

There is a GSoC page in the LinuxBIOS wiki which collects a few ideas for student projects, among others:

  • Booting Windows and other Operating Systems in LinuxBIOS
  • Port Grub2 to work in LinuxBIOS
  • SCSI booting in LinuxBIOS
  • CMOS Config / Device Tree Browser Payload
  • LinuxBIOS graphical port creator
  • Open Firmware payload for LinuxBIOS
  • GNUFI or TianoCore payloads
  • Boot OpenSolaris, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD or other free OSes
  • Improve Linux as a BIOS

Feel free to post more ideas and wishlist items to the LinuxBIOS mailing list.

If you're interested in applying for a project, you need to hurry up. The deadline is March 24, 2007!

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