open source

Sim City, Micropolis, Lincity, Lincity-NG

Lincity-NG screenshot

Hm, time for some nostalgia. The original Sim City game is now GPL'd under the new name Micropolis, and currently being packaged for Debian. There goes my 3.7 minutes of spare time per day...

If you're into such games, the Lincity clone has been around for some time now, too. And, as I found out yesterday, there's also Lincity-NG, which is a more recent clone with better (3D/isometric) graphics, sound, etc.

$ apt-get install lincity-ng

(run it as lincity-ng --sdl if you don't have 3D-accelerated drivers)

Have fun!

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...

Tracking GPLv3 projects

GPLv3 logo

As you probably already heard, the GPL, version 3 has been released, together with the LGPL, version 3.

I haven't yet read the licenses in detail, so I cannot say much about them, but more information is available in the (updated) GPL FAQ. The compatibility table from the GPLv3 Discussion Draft FAQ can be pretty helpful, too. There's a Why Upgrade to GPLv3? text and even a video of Richard Stallman (Ogg Theora, transcript available) introducing the GPLv3, the rationale behind it and some of the changes in this new version.

(One nice advantage of the GPLv3 I like is that it's compatible with the Apache license now, btw.)

Probably the most interesting GPLv3 resource at the moment is Palamida's list of projects which already switched to the GPLv3, which includes a number of GNU tools (sed, tar, ed, bison, texinfo, cpio, coreutils) and some other major projects such as Samba. Currently the page lists ca. 140 projects which switched.

It'll be interesting to see how the adoption proceeeds. My guess is that in a few months it'll be hard to build distributions or embedded (GNU/Linux-based) hardware devices without GPLv3 code...

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!

LinuxBIOS talk video recording from FOSDEM 2007

LinuxBIOS logo

Highly recommended for anybody who might be even remotely interested in LinuxBIOS:

There's a video recording (OGG, 234 MB) of the LinuxBIOS talk at FOSDEM 2007 by LinuxBIOS-founder Ron Minnich.

The talk is about LinuxBIOS, its history, how it works, what the main challenges are, where it's used today and what the future will likely hold. Watch it, you won't regret it.

And if you want to know more, or maybe even consider contributing, head over to linuxbios.org or contact the mailing list.

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