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Intel Announces a BIOS Implementation Test Suite

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the gnu-way-to-look-at-things dept.

GNU is Not Unix 66

Josh Triplett writes "Intel announced the release of a BIOS Implementation Test Suite (BITS), a bootable pre-OS environment based on GNU GRUB2 that tests how well (or how badly) your BIOS has configured your platform hardware. BITS also includes Intel's official power management reference code, so you can override your BIOS's initialization with a known-good configuration. 'In addition to those changes to GRUB2 itself, BITS includes configuration files which build a menu exposing the various BITS functionality, including the test suites, hardware configuration, and exploratory tools. These scripts detect your system's CPU, and provide menu entries for all the available functionality on your hardware platform. You can also access all of the new commands we've added directly via the command line.'"

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66 comments

Sandy bridge (0)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 3 years ago | (#35310522)

I wonder if Intel released this due to the embarrassing and expensive Sandy Bridge chipset recall?

Re:Sandy bridge (4, Informative)

thue (121682) | more than 3 years ago | (#35310630)

Why would there be any connection? The Sandy Bridge chipset recall had nothing to do with the BIOS, as far as I am aware.

Re:Sandy bridge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35311050)

Wow, you're as technologically impaired as the real Bill Gates.

Re:Sandy bridge (1)

djdanlib (732853) | more than 3 years ago | (#35312482)

Obligatory pedantry: The Cougar Point chipset was the one subject to recall. The Sandy Bridge processors were fine.

Many motherboards with Marvell controllers had sufficient numbers of SATA ports for most users, making a lot of recalls logically unnecessary but still ethically correct. I think doing the right thing and doing it so quickly after discovering the problem counteracts the embarrassment factor.

Nice one Intel (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35310550)

I don't often praise Intel (as their business practices seem overly shady on occasion) but I can definitely see this as being of use. Nice one guys.

Now to try and integrate it into my pxe environment...

That's not gonna fly too well with overclockers (4, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 3 years ago | (#35310638)

a bootable pre-OS environment based on GNU GRUB2 that tests how well (or how badly) your BIOS has configured your platform hardware.


!!INTEL BIOS WARNING!!

We have just detect that you've configured your CPU in egg frying mode. Reverting to pansy mode. If you want a fast processor in pansy mode, please contact your nearest Intel dealer and open your wallet.

Re:That's not gonna fly too well with overclockers (4, Insightful)

SpazmodeusG (1334705) | more than 3 years ago | (#35310700)

Actually simply add a CPU and memory stress test and this would be great for overclocking!

It's already got all the CPU identification stuff that overclockers need. It boots quick and off a USB drive too!

The only thing it's missing is a CPU and memory stress tester. With that you'd be able to quickly change settings, reboot and test them without having to stuff around loading a full OS.

Re:That's not gonna fly too well with overclockers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35311794)

IntelBurnTest rewritten for prebootable OS! Yeah!

+1

Re:That's not gonna fly too well with overclockers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35313380)

There is a stress tester available for some hundred dollars more. It's called Windows.

Re:That's not gonna fly too well with overclockers (2)

Lazareth (1756336) | more than 3 years ago | (#35311106)

I fail to see in what way this wouldn't "fly too well" with overclockers. As far as I can see, there is nothing forcing you to use it. It is a tool that you can choose to use to investigate (and correct) how your BIOS initializes your hardware. Regardless, if you're such a daredevil 1337 tinkerer it should be fairly easy for you to remove this toolset if it somehow came preinstalled on your computer with a configuration that completely bypassed your interaction.

Re:That's not gonna fly too well with overclockers (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35311398)

It's open source, so it would be trivial to remove that.

Re:That's not gonna fly too well with overclockers (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 3 years ago | (#35312096)

Why would they bother? Overclockers are the same people who buy Intel chips twice as often as everyone else.

Awesome (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35310646)

Can we finally go to EFI or at least something that's not 20 years old now?

Re:Awesome (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35311092)

What the hell for? All you are going to do is use a microprocessor that's 40 years old with it.

Re:Awesome (2)

rekenner (849871) | more than 3 years ago | (#35312060)

A lot of mobos do use UEFI, switching when Sandy Bridge came out.

Re:Awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35313772)

My pre-SB i5 has UEFI, and it's crap. It takes something like 10 seconds to go from power-on to GRUB.

Re:Awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35314088)

I'm 20 years old, you insensitive clod!

Re:Awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35315048)

IMO EFI is horrible, it drives up the boot time a lot on the IBM X series servers

Re:Awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35316858)

Can we finally go to EFI or at least something that's not 20 years old now?

Right, another layer to stuff DRM in is so much what we need!

Re:Awesome (1)

mpfife (655916) | more than 2 years ago | (#35317042)

I'm using UEFI on my new Sandybridge system right now - and MAN is it nicer. Booting on partitions larger than 2TB is probably one of the biggest wins now that 3TB drives are shipping (CMOS is limited to 2TB boot partitions). The GUI display with ability to use keyboard+mouse right away is very nice. It's also SO overdue that looking at older bios' makes me cringe. Really? Text setup with what looks like old BBS color schemes? Am I setting up by modem still? Sure they had the degrading SATA controller bug, but it's fixed and now and my board hasn't shown any signs of the problem anyway since I'm using the 6gb/s ports (my free cross-shipped replacement board is due any day now anyway).

FUD :-) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35310650)

That's not gonna work. One doesn't need info on how bad BIOS did its job. More accurate info is how to configure BIOS properly, which is not a subject of this program :)

Re:FUD :-) (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#35315194)

One doesn't need info on how bad BIOS did its job.

Then perhaps this tool isn't targeted at you as much as system builders and the press.

Virtualization extensions (1)

lala (28594) | more than 3 years ago | (#35310658)

Anybody knows if this can be used to enable VT-x on a cpu that the BIOS has disabled it on?
I have HP machine with a Intel Core2 Duo E4400 and the BIOS does not have a switch to enable it for some reason.

Re:Virtualization extensions (3, Interesting)

nabil2199 (1142085) | more than 3 years ago | (#35310674)

It doesn't have intel VT
http://ark.intel.com/Product.aspx?id=29753 [intel.com]

Re:Virtualization extensions (1)

lala (28594) | more than 3 years ago | (#35310932)

Weird, I looked it up a couple of months ago and found a similar table listing that it had Intel virtualization technology.
Must have misread it, thanks for the info.

Re:Virtualization extensions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35315994)

I was able to enable VT a while ago on the vaio i'm using right now.

I can't remember the exact method but it involved "symcmos" in a way similar to this freshly googled post:
http://forum.notebookreview.com/sony/189228-how-enable-intel-vt-ahci-napa-santa-rosa-platform-phoenix-bios-vaio-laptop.html

For this kind of trick to work, your computer should be like this:
  - the CPU does have VT
  - the BIOS does have VT initialization code
  - the BIOS setup does NOT provide a menu entry to enable VT

Then symcmos allows you to manually enable that missing option, providing you know the corresponding internal address.
To find that you can either reverse the BIOS code or find someone how already did it for your model.
I did it by experimenting with some values for roughly similar models, after a panic-like crash i got the right one...

Direct boot to Linux (1)

qmaqdk (522323) | more than 3 years ago | (#35310668)

Looks like it allows you to skip the BIOS and load a Linux kernel directly. Sort of like coreboot [coreboot.org] .

Re:Direct boot to Linux (1)

qmaqdk (522323) | more than 3 years ago | (#35310686)

My bad. It's only pre-OS, not pre-BIOS. Looks like we'll have to waste 30 seconds on the BIOS after all.

Re:Direct boot to Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35310786)

Looks more like the Firmware Developers Kit, but automagic.
http://linuxfirmwarekit.org/

http://berita-indonesia-hari-ini.blogspot.com/ (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35310682)

tanks your info.
berita indonesia hari ini [blogspot.com]

So why need a BIOS in the first place? (3, Interesting)

tropophobia (867619) | more than 3 years ago | (#35310688)

BIOS does actually very little these days. The OS re-initializes most devices anyway on boot, using BIOS values only for reference. From first look, this release kind of makes BIOS obsolete. If it knows how to fix BIOS misconfiguration, then it can also configure it in the first place. The rest can be taken care by the OS.

Re:So why need a BIOS in the first place? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35310882)

Because some of us old-timers still run DOS (be it MS-DOS or FreeDOS) that relies solely on the BIOS for interfacing with the hardware so we can that ancient software that runs $$$$ worth of industrial equipment. Now get off my lawn.

Re:So why need a BIOS in the first place? (1)

Combatso (1793216) | more than 3 years ago | (#35311266)

so everyones computer should be designed with your legacy equipment in mind?

Re:So why need a BIOS in the first place? (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 3 years ago | (#35311356)

Ok, so we'll leave the BIOS as a standard item in PCs that come equipped with ISA or MFM drive controller cards. :)

Re:So why need a BIOS in the first place? (1)

JonySuede (1908576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35311412)

Commission some legacy stuff and leave us alone!
We do not have to pay for your obsolescence.

Re:So why need a BIOS in the first place? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35312568)

>Implying DOS can't be virtualized.

Driver layer latency (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#35315242)

A lot of industrial equiment uses DOS because it allows bit banging on hardware without going through several layers of driver abstractions that add unpredictable latency. In these cases, DOS can't necessarily be virtualized without changing the latency that the peripherals see.

Re:So why need a BIOS in the first place? (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 3 years ago | (#35312914)

ooh! I see a business opportunity that'll require you to splash out $$$$ for a new version of exactly the same thing.

ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching.

sure, you'll be pissed, but you know, someone's got to stimulate the economy and the rest of us have been playing this legacy upgrade dance for years.

Re:So why need a BIOS in the first place? (2)

Bruce Cran (743059) | more than 3 years ago | (#35311036)

As far as I know the BIOS is unfortunately still involved with anything related to power management through ACPI - suspend/resume etc.

Re:So why need a BIOS in the first place? (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | more than 3 years ago | (#35311094)

To make my Aspire One hang once in a while :( Not even the Linux SysReq keys work anymore, so I expect it is the BIOS that does it.

Re:So why need a BIOS in the first place? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35311856)

The BIOS still places hardware in a somewhat known state so the OS can take over.

Re:So why need a BIOS in the first place? (4, Insightful)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 3 years ago | (#35311864)

BIOS does actually very little these days.

Then why does it take so frigging long to load?

Re:So why need a BIOS in the first place? (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 3 years ago | (#35313344)

It's waiting for you to press the 'Any' key to continue.

Hard disk spinup and RAM testing (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#35315270)

Then why does it take so frigging long to load?

BIOS does very little, but one of the things it does is a basic test of all the memory in a machine. That takes a while to work. Besides, if it were much faster, your hard disk wouldn't have a chance to spin up.

Re:So why need a BIOS in the first place? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35379272)

The BIOS was the OS of the day. The OS being the software interface to the hardware. Not to be confused to other software parts like a web browser, or like a file system or like a Window manager. All of the above are called OS by Microsoft. But in many versions of MS-Windows the only OS was the BIOS.

Why is it slow. Vender's had you locked in and did not care. As long as the computer worked and the money rolled in was all that mattered. Perhaps of there was competition the BIOS would have gotten better.

Re:So why need a BIOS in the first place? (5, Interesting)

Cyrano de Maniac (60961) | more than 3 years ago | (#35313262)

BIOS does actually very little these days. The OS re-initializes most devices anyway on boot

Well, actually being a BIOS developer, I can state with absolute confidence that you're wrong about BIOS doing very little these days.

The BIOS these days takes care of an incredible amount of work, such as detecting, training, testing, and configuring RAM, initializing the CPU state on many cores, configuring the interconnect between processors (QPI on some recent Intel processors, HT on AMD), setting up system memory maps, probing and setting up the entire IO fabric, building tables (e.g. ACPI) that fully describe every nitty-gritty aspect of the system to the OS, make your USB keyboard and mouse functional for ancient OSes, work around problems in hardware, have small drivers for accessing myriad devices for reading blocks from boot devices, in the case of EFI/UEFI manage options for boot ordering as well as bazillions of basic system settings, actually implementing each and every one of those bazillion settings, handle all sorts of hardware abstractions in the form of BIOS/EFI calls, manage and configure IO BARs, provide code to handle all sorts of potential correctable (and sadly sometimes uncorrectable) hardware errors, in some cases provide disaster fallback paths if you manage to corrupt the main BIOS image, in the case of EFI provide a runtime environment for pre-OS applications, etc. -- and do all of this with absolutely nothing underneath it other than hardware. If you think this is "very little", I'd encourage you to find a job developing BIOS code, and I think you'd be overwhelmed by the sheer bulk of the codebase in a modern BIOS. Just the source code trees these days push a fair bit over the 100MB level. Seriously.

Having also worked on OSes and kernel-level device drivers, it is true that the OS re-initializes a fair bit of the hardware, but not nearly the level of hardware the BIOS initializes (have fun trying to re-train RAM or reconfigure the CPU interconnect, for example). If anything the trend has been toward the BIOS taking on greater and greater responsibility for device initialization and provision of runtime services to make the OS less aware of "quirks" in the hardware. That's not to say there isn't a ton of work the OS still has to do, but your statement vastly over-trivializes the role of the BIOS in modern machines.

Re:So why need a BIOS in the first place? (1)

Nick Ives (317) | more than 2 years ago | (#35316262)

It's surprising how common the idea that "BIOS does very little" is, even amongst developers.

The coreboot guys did a Google tech talk [youtube.com] about all the fun they had during their initial LinuxBIOS days as they began to discover just how much work a BIOS does. It's an hour long but quite fascinating!

Re:So why need a BIOS in the first place? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35316316)

Quite right. Also, even though an OS may change many of the configuration made by BIOS, those configurations are needed for the OS to even start to run and to figure out what it has to reconfigure. Take away the BIOS, take away the starting environment for the OS.

I've also done a bit of BIOS and just-above-BIOS work for Intel, and there's no way anybody would get any work done without firmware to initialize the system to a usable state. The first thing we'd have to do is re-write the BIOS!

He's a PHB in Training (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#35316968)

but your statement vastly over-trivializes the role of the BIOS in modern machines.

Hey, he doesn't understand it so he assigns it minimal value. There's a Dilbert where the PHB assigns Dilbert 3 minutes to design a world-wide client server architecture.

Re:So why does memory need retraining? (1)

lpq (583377) | more than 3 years ago | (#35322370)

This may sound ignorant, but what exactly what type of re-training does
RAM need with every boot?

Sounds a bit odd to have to retrain memory at all, let alone with each boot....

Re:So why does memory need retraining? (2)

Agripa (139780) | more than 3 years ago | (#35325732)

DDR2, DDR3, and GDDR5 require skew compensation (and perhaps equalization) for various signals because of manufacturing variations in the signal environment (motherboard, sockets, DIMMs, Number of occupied sockets, DIMM or chip loading, etc.) and in some cases because of the design (DDR3 chains some signals from chip to chip) in order to meet setup and hold requirements. GDDR5 is sensitive enough to require retraining even with temperature variations.

unprecedented evile exposed, reacting as expected (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35310710)

we (US), appear to have lost whatever made us seem human (strong spine, integrity etc...) to the rest of the wwworld. as for the disposition of the many millions of displaced/damaged/still alive babies & their parents at the hands of one of our hired goons.....? we used to care?

Re:unprecedented evile exposed, reacting as expect (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35311368)

we (US), appear to have lost whatever made us seem human (strong spine, integrity etc...) to the rest of the wwworld. as for the disposition of the many millions of displaced/damaged/still alive babies & their parents at the hands of one of our hired goons.....? we used to care?

Speak for yourself, you weak willed, lilly-livered bitch. I hate foreigners, and babies, especially crying ones that are hungry and missing their terrorist mommies and daddies because they blew themselves up or got themselves shot dead or locked up for life for trying to bring "death to America".

I say get some hired goons to put a bullet through every single one of those whining babies in the name of national security before it grows up, starts worshipping some fucked up religion and then comes back to blow up America for freeing them from some nutjob that would have normally tortured them to death before their 20th birthday for being from the wrong tribe.

Soldier hating pussies like you make me sick.

**** GOD BLESS AMERICA ****
--GOD BLESS OUR TROOPS--

Re:unprecedented evile exposed, reacting as expect (1)

adam.dorsey (957024) | more than 3 years ago | (#35312670)

You know, if you translate your brainless hate speech into German, it kinda sounds like Hitler. (Imagine short angry guy with mustache screaming the following)

Sprich für dich, du schwach gewollt, lilly-livered Hündin. Ich hasse Ausländer und Kinder, insbesondere diejenigen, die weinen, sind hungrig und fehlende ihre terroristischen Mütter und Väter, weil sie selbst die Luft gesprengt oder habe sich erschossen oder dich für das Leben für den Versuch zu bringen "Tod Amerika" gesperrt.

Ich sage bekommen einige Schläger angeheuert, um eine Kugel durch jeden einzelnen dieser weinerliche Babys im Namen der nationalen Sicherheit bringen, bevor es aufwächst, beginnt verehren einige bis Religion gefickt und dann kommt wieder die Luft zu sprengen Amerika befreit sie von einigen Nutjob dass hätte normalerweise gefoltert sie ihren Tod vor 20. Geburtstag für sein von der falschen Stamm.

Soldier hassen Muschis wie du machst mich krank.

**** God Bless America ****
- Gott segne Unsere Truppen -

BITS rootkit (1)

Dhilung (1538519) | more than 3 years ago | (#35310824)

Sounds like BITS rootkit on the way.

GRUB in my bios, no thank you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35310956)

Yeah, that's just what I want. GRUB imbedded into my bios so I can get grub grub grub grub grub grub grub error before my bootloader.

Re:GRUB in my bios, no thank you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35311084)

Yeah, because it's going to install GRUB into your BIOS. Idiot.

Re:GRUB in my bios, no thank you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35312080)

well maybe I read it wrong then, but it kind of sounds like it's implemented similar to express gate. (pre-OS) which is in your bios. Or I suppose it could just be grub with some additional tools. either way, based on grub=uber fail imo. (personal preference) no need to flame.

So does this mean (1)

Compaqt (1758360) | more than 3 years ago | (#35311108)

the Year of HURD [gnu.org] Desktop is near?

Damn acronyms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35312760)

But I thought BITS stood for Background Intelligent Transfer Service. (the transport mechanism windows uses for windows updates among other things).
That gripe aside this could be useful.

Acronym clash (1)

Samuraid (824799) | more than 3 years ago | (#35314202)

Microsoft already snatched the "BITS" acronym to refer to the "background intelligent transfer service" used by Windows Update and other services. Hopefully there won't be any unnecessary confusion or ambiguity.

Re:Acronym clash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35321038)

Yeah, and they have a trademark on "Windows". As if that didn't cause any undue confusion, ambiguity, or just outright ridiculousness.

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