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In-Depth Look At LinuxBIOS

timothy posted about 10 years ago | from the quickly-quickly dept.

Operating Systems 284

DrSkwid writes "With PhoenixBIOS reading your email because of such inordinate boot up times for Windows and other OSs, it was remarked in #plan9 about our 5s boot times using LinuxBIOS. My friend f2f pasted an article from Linux Journal which looks at the basic structure of LinuxBIOS, the origins of LinuxBIOS and how it evolved to its current state. It also covers the platforms supported and the lessons they have learned about trying to marry a GPL project to some of the lowest-level, most heavily guarded secrets that vendors possess."

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284 comments

Obligatory (3, Funny)

slash-tard (689130) | about 10 years ago | (#8662616)

Does it run linux?

On the bright side (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662656)

This might actually result in a higher quality BIOS in the next few years

Re:On the bright side (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662701)

And if I ran windows I might be able to appreciate it from the daily bounces...

And now they are low quality? (1)

cbreaker (561297) | about 10 years ago | (#8662928)

All I do is set a few things in there when I build a box and forget it. My BIOS seems to work just fine on all the many hundreds of ASUS/Abit/Whatever boards I've touched.

Re:And now they are low quality? (1)

cbreaker (561297) | about 10 years ago | (#8663048)

I should add that I'm coming from a non-cluster non-big datacenter viewpoint here. For my needs, the standard BIOS's have more then enough quality for what they do.

Christopher Lowell (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662681)

Is anyone else getting the Google adsense banner ad with a guy who looks like Christopher Lowell? Creeps me out every time.

Re:Christopher Lowell (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662845)

...heh heh

no.

just you...

-cl

Re:Obligatory (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662687)

*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_
g_______________________________________________g_ _
o_/_____\_____________\____________/____\_______o_ _
a|_______|_____________\__________|______|______a_ _
t|_______`._____________|_________|_______:_____t_ _
s`________|_____________|________\|_______|_____s_ _
e_\_______|_/_______/__\\\___--___\\_______:____e_ _
x__\______\/____--~~__________~--__|_\_____|____x_ _
*___\______\_-~____________________~-_\____|____*_ _
g____\______\_________.--------.______\|___|____g_ _
o______\_____\______//_________(_(__>__\___|____o_ _
a_______\___.__C____)_________(_(____>__|__/____a_ _
t_______/\_|___C_____)/______\_(_____>__|_/_____t_ _
s______/_/\|___C_____)_LINUX_|__(___>___/__\____s_ _
e_____|___(____C_____)\______/__//__/_/_____\___e_ _
x_____|____\__|_____\\_________//_(__/_______|__x_ _
*____|_\____\____)___`----___--'_____________|__*_ _
g____|__\______________\_______/____________/_|_g_ _
o___|______________/____|_____|__\____________|_o_ _
a___|_____________|____/_______\__\___________|_a_ _
t___|__________/_/____|_________|__\___________|t_ _
s___|_________/_/______\__/\___/____|__________|s_ _
e__|_________/_/________|____|_______|_________|e_ _
x__|__________|_________|____|_______|_________|x_ _
*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_


Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account.

Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account.

Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account.

Re:Obligatory (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662704)

Only if you pay SCO a fee!

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662793)

Nope, only Microsoft Bob, sorry. ;)

or not? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662617)

fp!

I always knew Linux was Bi (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662620)

This proves it

Already tried...? (4, Interesting)

xeon4life (668430) | about 10 years ago | (#8662621)

Didn't Microsoft want to do the same thing? Only Linux advocates started to become angry... -Xeon

Re:Already tried...? (4, Insightful)

Lane.exe (672783) | about 10 years ago | (#8662657)

Yeah, but in this case, we'd have the source code and could see what was going on, modify it if we needed to, and because of this, it couldn't be used to lock other OS's out.

Re:Already tried...? (2, Informative)

garcia (6573) | about 10 years ago | (#8662809)

but the problem is that MS is currently the leader (and will likely remain to be). Their joining evil forces with Phoenix will cause all computers to be locked down.

Windows is not going to run on LinuxBIOS and Linux isn't going to run on Phoenix/MS BIOS.

While it's all well and good for the majority of us it's not good for the consumer.

Re:Already tried...? (4, Informative)

sflory (2747) | about 10 years ago | (#8662862)

Actually Linuxbios already boots windows;-)
http://www.linuxbios.org/news/index.ht ml#NT

Re:Already tried...? (1)

garcia (6573) | about 10 years ago | (#8663030)

that's not what I was talking about... I am talking about when DRM is entrenched in the OS and the BIOS.

Re:Already tried...? (3, Insightful)

7-Vodka (195504) | about 10 years ago | (#8662865)

Come on! we all know that if Microsoft wrote the bios for your computer it would be:
  1. Dependant upon the OS, ie. windows
  2. Closed source. Non-Free Software.
  3. EULA'd up the ass-crack
  4. Bloated. At least a million lines of code. Getting worse with each compulsory release, a fact they would gloat about instead of hang their heads in shame
  5. Secure through obscurity; lots of exploits, fingers crossed no one ever sees the code *wink wink*
    'our code is secure' ; 'Oh wait you want us to show our competitors! Nooo it's a risk to national security'.
  6. Fairly expensive
  7. Followed bi-yearly by new versions which broke compatibility slightly, were fairly expensive to upgrade to, brought little new functionality
  8. Make use of cryptic, messy, secret, patent-encumbered file formats and interfaces.
  9. Hard to fit into multi-OS environment
  10. Prone to spitting out cryptic error messages as it bluescreened and hard locked
  11. Somewhat likely to phone home with private user information
  12. Fully Palladium(tm) compliant, locking the user out of every action not fully approved by corporate america regardless of the law.

Why would we not want to be subjected to all these wonderful qualities without the wait to get into windows?
"Get everything listed and MORE in less than 20 seconds!"

A bootloader? (4, Interesting)

ObviousGuy (578567) | about 10 years ago | (#8662641)

Initializes the CPU, initializes the bus, initializes the hardware, dumps to OS.

Isn't that a bootloader? Is it special because it is burned into the ROM?

Re:A bootloader? (4, Informative)

ciroknight (601098) | about 10 years ago | (#8662678)

Not from how I understand it. This is actually saving a Kernel-Image onto the bios chip itself, therefore booting straight to the kernel from the chip, basically skipping the step of "BIOS tells HD to find MBR, then read the data from MBR to ram, execute MBR instruction". Or at least, that's how I understand it?

Re:A bootloader? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662693)

Can someone explain how this would be different from XIP?

OG

Re:A bootloader? (5, Informative)

ciroknight (601098) | about 10 years ago | (#8662743)

Well, for starters if my understanding of eXecute In Place is holding, it's completely different. The ROM chip holds a compressed kernel, that's decompressed on the fly and used to start the system. The only thing this skips is the need to do a startup seek for harddrives, and that whole step of initalizing slow hardware (ie, Hard Disk platters). eXecute In Place is intented to simply run the program natively, ie uncompressed kernel image sitting in ram, so it can just be thrown straight into the processor and executed. The difference is slight, but none-the-less important.

Re:A bootloader? (3, Informative)

ciroknight (601098) | about 10 years ago | (#8662824)

Errr... I really need to re-read what I write. It's a different THEORY, but similar execution.. eXecution In Place is speed via giving the computer EXACTLY what it needs to run, whereas LinuxBIOS is simply skiping the step of harddrive start. Completely different in the fact they're starting from opposite ends of the same problem, but slight in the fact that they've reached an almost common ground.

Re:A bootloader? (5, Informative)

AxelTorvalds (544851) | about 10 years ago | (#8663068)

I have developed a commercial set-top box that used ideas from LinuxBIOS. It's kind of a bootloader, like there are on non-x86 machines.

How it typically works is you develop a kernel with a small foot print. The LinuxBIOS guys are really sane about things, there is a few lines of assembly which is just about enough code to start running C code. After that the gist of it is C with some assembly macros. There isn't anything too complex, we're talking about outp mostly. There isn't anything too secret here, it's just that booting a PC is not documented really well. Some BIOS vendors have software that does runtime function with system managment interrupts. DRM will be something like that. Supposedly and there have been discussions about it on the LinuxBIOS list, Phoenix and company do some hardware error checking and such and that's why they are so slow but some of the LinuxBIOS folks think that they don't do that and that the code is so complex and has so much legacy that it does a bunch of extra crap that it doesn't need to.

That code does enough to turn on memory, it may do some checking now, when I looked at it last there wasn't a ton of integrity checking code. Light up a few other components, like VGA. Then copy a kernel from flash in to memory (think of it as a slightly tweaked bzImage) At that point you can pretty much jump to the start of the kernel and execute it. The kernel doesn't use BIOS for most device IO so it knows how to spin up drives and light up the rest of the hardware.

Now how we did it and understood the goal of LinuxBIOS to be was we had an initrd that the kernel from flash would load and execute. Said initrd would look at the drives, look at some other variables, authenticate the system, possibly do a fsck on the disks if needed and then locate a kernel on the disk. After locating that kernel it would use kexec, now called fastboot, and replace the kernel in memory. The idea was that we could upgrade kernels on disks without changing flash.

It works very well and has been incredibly reliable. We can get in to kernel space in a few seconds. Subsequently, if it's a settop box type device, it could download a brain from cable or satellite. It could rebuild itself if needed. You could have diagnostic code in there for manufacturing, etc, whatever you want. Pretty much only limited by flash size and memory.

I know that they now and do other things like boot windows and such, at which point LinuxBIOS is potentially a serious threat to Phoenix and company, the BIOS is an expensive piece of the computer.

I've been toying around with some linuxbios type projects. Since disk space is so insanely cheap and disks are so big anymore, you could set aside a backup partition, easily do a really quick backup daily and then weekly do a backup of that to long term media from "BIOS land" regardless of the operating system. Or you could have something like snapshots of your system, maybe a clean install, a configured system, a backup, a different OS or something like that and then all from "BIOS Space" pick them at boot time and have it restore them. Something like that, I have always wanted backup support at the BIOS level.

FP? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662642)

fragrant pussy?

Motherboard support (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662648)


Will this have any chance of being taken up by a motherboard manuafacturer by default or is this a aftermarket project ? in which case without being installed by a manufacturer no-one is going to even contemplate wiping their "working" bios for an unknown 3rd party of no significant benefit to them

boot time of no benefit? (5, Insightful)

abscondment (672321) | about 10 years ago | (#8662683)

if it increased boot time significantly, it could be of great benefit--think of a webhosting company that guarantees less than a certain number of minutes of downtime each year. shaving off seconds on each reboot could save them $$$.

Re:boot time of no benefit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662710)

so i can cut bios boot time from 5secs to 3 wheee!

Re:boot time of no benefit? (1)

mandolin (7248) | about 10 years ago | (#8662911)

if it increased boot time significantly, it could be of great benefit

Hope you meant "decreased". Ontopic, one useful place I could see LinuxBIOS going would be custom embedded boards. Of course, they probably have that in a FAQ somewhere.

Re:Motherboard support (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662717)

Well, the article says you can get it on MBs from Tyan.

Re:Motherboard support (2, Interesting)

zakezuke (229119) | about 10 years ago | (#8662901)

in which case without being installed by a manufacturer no-one is going to even contemplate wiping their "working" bios for an unknown 3rd party of no significant benefit to them

I'm not sure the current license fee for a bios... but this would be of some great benifit to the lowest bid type computer makers like e-machines. I could also see someone re-branding other motherboards purchaced in bulk, like we see with PC chips motherboards, and saving money using a free-bios. Not like I haven't seen pirated bios's before... this way it would be legit.

Poll Troll Toll (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662653)

Which is better?

a href="http://impoll.calcgames.org/cgi-bin/v.

huh? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662676)

But without a "Windows BIOS," how does LinuxBIOS know what to copy?

Linux already has a BSOD screensaver (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662943)

So there's really nothing left to copy...

Clustering (4, Interesting)

Neo-Rio-101 (700494) | about 10 years ago | (#8662680)

The reason why Things like LinuxBIOS are important is because having a PC boot with the Linux kernel is not only a cool trick, but it saves people who build clusters a heck of a lot of money on Hard Drives and CD-ROM drives, when a cluster node only really needs a mainboard, CPU, and RAM.

Maybe with faster, bootable USB on motherboards in future, and cheaper flash RAM, flashing the BIOS to run Linux will seem a little less necessary.

Maybe there's some other use for Linux in the BIOS, but someone will have to teach me as to what that is.

Troll troll troll (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662708)

Parent is blatantly trolling

Use lots of flashy words, and some idiot mod is bound to mod it up as Insightful or Interesting.

How can I flash my AwardBIos to run this? (0, Flamebait)

Adolph_Hitler (713286) | about 10 years ago | (#8662725)



Ok, first why should I switch from the current BIOS I have to this one, make the case. Saying the word Linux is not making the case and neither is saying Open source. Is it better technology? Second, ok say I want to do this, how do I go about doing it? That site needs better instructions, it needs to explain the technology better. Simply put, their website SUCKS.

It sounds like a good idea but how does it work in practice? How about pictures? Benchmarks, test results.

Heres a picture (5, Funny)

sinkywinky (756160) | about 10 years ago | (#8662807)

It sounds like a good idea but how does it work in practice? How about pictures?

Heres a picture of linuxbios:
0001001010001000000100101001001000100100100100101
0010101001001000100100000100100101000100100100100
1001000100100100010000001001000100010000100110010
0101001001000100100100100101100100010000001010101
1000100100000100100000100101010010010010001001001

Re:Clustering (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662801)

You can do basically the same thing if your mobo has a PXE BIOS. One of the boot options is "network".

Re:Clustering (4, Informative)

Hiro Antagonist (310179) | about 10 years ago | (#8662837)

On top of that, it can make life easier for admins, because a LinuxBIOS could be configured to allow a serial console with full hardware control, just like a Sun box does.

Re:Clustering (1)

DA-MAN (17442) | about 10 years ago | (#8662965)

I run six large clusters, only one of them was benchmarked and is on the top500 (under 200) but all are relatively the same size and processing power. We change a great many things from build to build. Kernel tweaks, updates, etc. This is for optimizing the system to the code that we run. And although typically our clusters are on a physically separate network, the worst enemy is the one within, thus our machines tend to be patched for severe security holes.

I've not looked much into LinuxBIOS as of yet aside from the Linux Journal article. It doesn't really give much information on what it really does. I mean does LinuxBIOS initialize hardware and then load my kernel for regular operations? Does it load an nfs exported root partition and use that as the system disk? How are kernel updates done if it is the latter.

In addition our clusters all have at least some local storage, using the network for everything means that you have a cluster with a big point of failure. It also means that there is no swap space.

Cluster nodes, in my experience, do need more than just a mainboard, cpu's and ram.

Re:Clustering (3, Interesting)

Steffan (126616) | about 10 years ago | (#8662967)

  • "it saves people who build clusters a heck of a lot of money on Hard Drives and CD-ROM drives, when a cluster node only really needs a mainboard, CPU, and RAM."

  • "Maybe with faster, bootable USB on motherboards in future, and cheaper flash RAM, flashing the BIOS to run Linux will seem a little less necessary."


You can do this now. I have multiple machines booting over the network, none of which have any local storage whatsoever. Just use a PXE based bootloader, or a motherboard with a BIOS you can flash and you can boot the kernel over the net and NFS-mount root.

It's great for tying a media box to a raid array without having all those pesky hard drives near your TV.

Re:Clustering (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8663075)

Yes. That's the same reason the people running the project think it's important. That's why they started the project. In fact, the entire front page of the site is about clustering.

Linux is the BIOS (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662682)

I'm posting anonymously for obvious reasons.

I'm a Teaching Fellow (TF) at Harvard, and I've been involved in placing students in work placements to get them to think about the real world before they leave these hallowed halls.

One student of mine put quite a bit of the debian linux system into the Basic Input Operating System (BIOS), only to find that the finished result of his placement was never used. The reason they gave him was security.

The BIOS company looked at the code he imported and said "riddled with security holes". They sent him packing. I felt really sorry for him, because he did not write any of the security riddled code.

Perhaps the BIOS should be kept as simple as possible, as we do not want the ability for worms to reprogram the BIOS and make the computer unbootable.

Re:Linux is the BIOS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662808)

This sounds kind of like Bull Shit (BS) from an Anonymous Coward (AC) persepctive.

Oh well, this is Slashdot (/.) and to be expected. Your mileage may vary (YMMV).

Re:Linux is the BIOS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662993)

Not to mention the fact that accessing the BIOS/BIOS flashing etc isn't exactly a guarded secret. I've yet to read the article but I'd assume after execution the code from a relative perspective wouldn't even reference the BIOS. The BIOS doesn't exactly function as a replacement hard disk. Vulnerabilities, as with anything in life, require a context. Sounds like BS

Re:Linux is the BIOS (1)

cubic6 (650758) | about 10 years ago | (#8663062)

MODS! This is a form-letter troll. Every story, he claims "I'm posting anonymously for obvious reasons. I'm a Teaching Fellow (TF) at Harvard, and... " and proceeds to give some example from one of the (apparently dozens) of classes that he's taught as to why something is true. He almost always uses concepts that make no sense, such as putting "quite a bit" of a linux system into a BIOS chip.

This post has a sly attack on Debian, claiming that a completely unrelated company could look at Debian's source code and find enough problems to call it "riddled with security holes", and casting a sad picture of a student who used open source code for something and got brutally shot down because of it.

Please don't mod these posts up. Even if he has a good point in the end, the ends just don't justify the means.

How do I try it? (-1, Flamebait)

Adolph_Hitler (713286) | about 10 years ago | (#8662699)


I have an Athlon64 based motherboard, I'd like to try this. So? How do I try it?

How about some instructions, can I flash my bios with this? or is this some type of special motherboard I'll have to buy because if I can't flash my current bios with this, this is a piece of crap I'm sorry.

Re:How do I try it? (2, Informative)

kundor (757951) | about 10 years ago | (#8662870)

They have a list of supported/vaguely working motherboards.

No athlon64 mobos are on the list, sorry.

Re:How do I try it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662890)

RTFA .. moron

Come on! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662733)

Really, the LinuxBIOS is as unnecessary as the Phoenix email reading BIOS. In modern computing, all you need is for the BIOS to initialize a few things, then pass of control to the OS. Who cares about all that other crap that your OS ignores anyway?

Grub (4, Interesting)

Trashman (3003) | about 10 years ago | (#8662750)

aside from grub being "just a boot loader", Wouldn't it make sense if grub was somehow moved into the bios?

Re:Grub (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662790)

grub is not a boot loader, grub is an unfunny karma whore.

Re:Grub (5, Interesting)

ciroknight (601098) | about 10 years ago | (#8662792)

Fuck grub, this is moving the whole kernel into flash-ram. This is to save the step of having to connect to the hard drive until when it's actually needed to run software, which can be done WHILE the system is booting the kernel, instead of before-hand. And as we know, in the computer world, multitasking is a good way of speeding up things.

;)

Chipset Support (1)

Fiz Ocelot (642698) | about 10 years ago | (#8662751)

Certainly sounds like this is something to look into, support sounds rather good and expanding at a nice pace. If it works very well with things like overclocking too, it could really hit mainstream hardware enthusiasts and more rapid growth.

Fifty supported motherboards are in the source tree, but we have found that many motherboards are so similar that a LinuxBIOS for one motherboard can work on another. Companies build code for one motherboard, run it on another motherboard and do not always get around to telling us.

In Soviet Russia.... (-1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662755)

Linux runs BIOS!

Re:In Soviet Russia.... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662872)

I can see why you posted as an Anonymous Coward, That joke sucked.

It really is amazing... (5, Interesting)

ZuperDee (161571) | about 10 years ago | (#8662762)

I think it is really amazing how many people here on Slashdot are just so eager to post comments that they obviously don't even bother to read the actual article.

If some of you people had read the article, for example, you'd notice some important points being made, such as, "From what we can see, the two factors in our success were competition and the creation of a market. Competition gave us a wide variety of choices as to motherboard, chipset and CPU. Once there was a reasonable market, vendors were concerned about being left out."

I don't know about any of you, but I think the creation of an open source "market" is EXACTLY what has enabled the success of open source products like Linux in the first place.

It was also what enabled the success of the Wintel architecture, if you think about it. At the time the original IBM PC was released, it was virtually a foreign idea to IBM--many people at the time were asking the question, "how on EARTH could IBM possibly release a machine based on open specifications and parts with a straight face?" Let us not forget that at the time, IBM desperately needed to get ANY kind of microcomputer on the market ASAP, for fear that Apple and others might get firmly entrenched. Once that thinking took hold, IBM practically had no choice but to hope and pray that their Big Name would keep them at the forefront. As we know, companies like Compaq came along and proved them wrong, and the rest is history.

The point is, I wonder why things like chipsets are still so closely guarded secrets. Can you people imagine what the world would be like if Intel had made the x86 CPUs with a proprietary, closely-guarded SECRET ISA, that you could only program for if you signed an NDA? If Intel had done that, Linux probably wouldn't even exist!!

I sometimes have this feeling Microsoft would do ANYTHING to go back in history and try to get all the laws of our country re-written and the market changed so this kind of all-secret world I speak of could exist.

In the end, the markets for products, be it open OR closed, occur because someone created that market. I think it is high time someone created an "open source" chipset, myself. But that's just me. If you people want all things to be open, stop talking about it and complaining about closed-source, proprietary things, and DO SOMETHING about it.

Re:It really is amazing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662829)

"Can you people imagine what the world would be like if Intel had made the x86 CPUs with a proprietary, closely-guarded SECRET ISA, that you could only program for if you signed an NDA?"

Yeah, other systems would have been adopted more readily, and we'd be using machine architectures that aren't 20 year old hack-upon-hack.

Re:It really is amazing... (2, Informative)

WarWizard (549306) | about 10 years ago | (#8662886)

Try http://www.opencores.org/ they have many open source hardware projects that you could program an FPGA with.

Re:It really is amazing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662931)

The comments from people who have read the article are all down there at the end of the page with low moderation scores.

Re:It really is amazing... (2, Insightful)

StateOfTheUnion (762194) | about 10 years ago | (#8663023)

The point is, I wonder why things like chipsets are still so closely guarded secrets. Can you people imagine what the world would be like if Intel had made the x86 CPUs with a proprietary, closely-guarded SECRET ISA, that you could only program for if you signed an NDA? If Intel had done that, Linux probably wouldn't even exist!!

Not that surprising really . . . I think that instead of open source "market" one might say open standard.

IBM's PC was an open standard and that's a large part of the reason why it dominated the market . . .

It's similar to the VHS VCR. Betamax had better quality but VHS was an open standard, Betamax disappeared as the market became dominated by VHS VCR's. Sony (the creator of Betamax) gave up and joined the VHS crowd. Similar arguments against closed standards can be made against zip drives and microchannel and a host of other things. (Note that zip licensed their technology to others . . . but at that point it was too little to late, the CD rom crushed them from a storage capacity side and they never became mainstream enough to replace the floppy)

It took years for competitors to copy the PC, and now, perhaps the BIOS will soon be commoditized much to the chagrin of the closed standard folks. To stay ahead of the game we may see the BIOS companies try to put more general features (good) in their BIOS's or partner with an 800 pound gorilla (like Microsoft) and try to tie future releases and features of their BIOS to a Microsoft operating system (bad). If the technology can be copied or duplicated with "relative" ease (relative = an amount of effort less than the potential upside) it probably doesn't make sense to create a closed standard . . . unless you're an 800 pound gorilla (Microsoft) . . . and even then, you have to stand on your toes (Linux-piranha).

What is the bios for? (4, Insightful)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | about 10 years ago | (#8662821)

Are we looking for a bios to run straight to unix or a bios to load an operating system? Should we have a windows bios too?


If we start pushing linux bios, would we be pushing linux as Microsloth pushes Windows?

Re:What is the bios for? (1)

ciroknight (601098) | about 10 years ago | (#8663057)

The minute Microsoft pushes their crap into a bios chip is the minute I move to Apple computers. Mac's are better anyways [/flameoff]

LinuxBIOS really isn't for everyone. It's not as hardware agnostic as a typical harddrive based bootloader is, simply because a bios chip has a tiny amount of eeprom (256k). While this is suffiecient for an optimized system (cluster node, web server, invariant hardware, etc), it's really not good for a home user who'd love to throw his/her new radeon in and not have to insmod their driver everytime they bootup. It's also hell to recompile the kernel, as one false move and your bios is history.

One thing that may be beautiful: flash ram being used instead of current bios archetecture. Flash ram is cheap, and spacious, and can hold quite a large kernel-image. But this gets into more of what XIP is trying to do....

I understand your concerns of Linux becoming Microsoft-ish, and locking in people, but come on, it's just a BIOS image. Don't want it, go to the vendor's website, download the newest one, write it on. Of course this is more dangerous, but for that same reason, I don't believe we'll be seeing a huge push for LinuxBIOS any time soon.

Does it allow console access via serial port? (4, Insightful)

whoever57 (658626) | about 10 years ago | (#8662831)

If so, this is very valuable to data centers:

instead of hauling a monitor over to a machine that won't boot, they could remotely connect via a Portserver or similar. Much easier!

plug n play smp's (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662834)

I read the paper. Can't say I fully understand it all, but seems like this BIOS could lead to a form of personal computer that would be easily expandable as to adding processors. It was designed for clusters, yes,? Well... why not an upgradeable box that had slots that entire additional CPUs and & etc. built onto small cards would fit in? Just like adding more RAM when you need it/want it? Just was reading here the other day about the new nanoboards. Seems like a natural somehow...

zogger

Re:plug n play smp's (1)

mabinogi (74033) | about 10 years ago | (#8662954)

you can already hotplug CPUs on mainframe class machines - even Intel bassed ones.

But it's not a technology you're likely to see on the desktop anytime soon. Most people's PCs are not running anything so critical that they can't shut it down for a minute to add another CPU, and so no one would want to pay the extra for it.

Finally, an admission... (5, Insightful)

BeBoxer (14448) | about 10 years ago | (#8662835)

Finally, an admission that the hardware vendors claim of secret interfaces is often just BS:


One of the most common phrases we heard from chip vendors in the first few years was "we'll never tell you that." "That" being CPU information, chipset information, motherboard information or any combination of the three. The designs for these three systems constitute highly guarded secrets. It seems amazing, even now, that vendors are able to let us build a GPLed BIOS that by its nature exposes some of these secrets.

How was it possible for us to get this type of information? Simple, businesses are not charities. If there is no business case for releasing this information to us, they do not do it. If, however, there is a business case, then it happens?sometimes with astonishing speed.

Read that last paragraph again. The hardware vendors basically say "that's a secret" whether it really is or not. Unless you pay them, or show them that they are losing money, they won't even bother deciding if it's really something that has to be kept secret.

Re:Finally, an admission... (1)

bripeace (112526) | about 10 years ago | (#8662949)

how is it not secret?

if they keep it secret it's secret.. secret doesn't necesitate need

it's a secret until it's known to many...

Re:Finally, an admission... (1)

BeBoxer (14448) | about 10 years ago | (#8663032)

Yes, thank you for the english lesson. But it's obviously the [i]need[/i] for secrecy which is the whole issue. My point, which I thought was pretty clear, is that hardware companies often keep the documentation secret without bothering to determine if there is in fact any need for it. To the detriment of many of their customers I might add.

Beowulf... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662849)

Boy would I love to see a beowulf of those things! Oh wait...

Using x86 PCI adapters in the Macintosh? (2, Interesting)

leandrod (17766) | about 10 years ago | (#8662852)

What I'd like to know is if it would be possible to overwrite a, say, Apple Power Macintosh beige OldWorld G3 with LinuxBIOS or OpenBIOS and thus get to use x86 SCSI and VGA adapters.

Re:Using x86 PCI adapters in the Macintosh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662962)

Don't know about that, but for at least some of the VGA cards out there, you can re-flash the card and use in in a Mac w/o problems

Re:Using x86 PCI adapters in the Macintosh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8663038)

You've got that backwards. The real trick would be to use an x86 with LinuxBIOS and be able to boot into OS X. Now that would be cool...

Re:Using x86 PCI adapters in the Macintosh? (1)

BRTB (30272) | about 10 years ago | (#8663155)

Might be easier to find/dump Mac versions of the SCSI/VGA card BIOS and flash the card with it. Worked on an old Matrox Millennium I had...

White flash streaking by... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662853)


...Jack Valenti running to Lousiana to instruct successor to get this terrorist tool banned through the next anti-terror legislation, through international treaties, and getting all the lawyers phones working on contacting state legislators on the payroll.

If this Bios gives us a fighting chance against DRM and the DRM chips in the IBM laptops, great.

5 second boot times will be the icing on the cake.

Sheesh, that Plan 9 thing will never catch on ... (-1, Offtopic)

MGS Hartman (714482) | about 10 years ago | (#8662866)

No, never, nor will never work from go [insultant.net] to go-go [insultant.net].

What were those boys thinking?

Pheonix? What an rouge amature speller (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662873)

Sorry, that wasn't very freindly of me.

my 3yr old XP system is at the desktop in 45 sec! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662876)

long boot times??

what ever. please stop comparing 233 MHz pc loading 50 milion startup apps to a system that wasnt configured by a retard.

I've used 2.x Ghz P4 that can boot in less time than that!

Re:my 3yr old XP system is at the desktop in 45 se (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662995)

One of my desktop systems that run linux takes about 2 minutes to boot up to useable after a kernel compile with my retard configuration.

I don't compile a kernel that often.

Re:my 3yr old XP system is at the desktop in 45 se (1)

Hakubi_Washu (594267) | about 10 years ago | (#8663139)

Their record seems to be 3 sec from Power to Login... I guess that beats your "non-retarded configuration", doesn't t?

For the end consumer... (2, Interesting)

0x0d0a (568518) | about 10 years ago | (#8662882)

Where can I purchase a board preloaded with and known to work with LinuxBIOS? Does it cost significantly more than one running Award or one of the other conventional BIOSes?

Re:For the end consumer... (3, Informative)

Ryan C. (159039) | about 10 years ago | (#8662983)


Here's a list [linuxbios.org].

This isn't really aimed at Joe Linux, but that may change when DRM starts getting imbedded in the major BIOSes.

A BIOS is for weens! (4, Funny)

chris_sawtell (10326) | about 10 years ago | (#8662883)

Real men load the boot loader using 16 switches and a press-button.

Re:A BIOS is for weens! (2, Funny)

whoever57 (658626) | about 10 years ago | (#8662926)

Yes, and when you can remember the sequence without notes at 11:00pm (or later) Saturday night (because that's the only time you can get on the machine that week) then you are a real real man.

Been there, done that, glad I don't have to any more!

Re:A BIOS is for weens! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8663071)

Er, it's called a momentary contact switch.

("press-button" indeed...)

Handy tips... (5, Informative)

GoRK (10018) | about 10 years ago | (#8662938)

I was recently doing some research to get started working with LinuxBIOS. The first thing I have done is to order a BIOS Savior [ioss.com.tw].. This is a little gadget that runs about 15 bucks. It puts a switch on the outside of your case allowing you to switch to an alternate BIOS. With it, you can happily screw up your LinuxBIOS image all you want and still be able to boot your computer from the original BIOS.

Some motherboards have a dual BIOS or similar arrangement; however, there is not always a foolproof way to switch to your backup if the primary BIOS is hosed..

Keep these things in mind if you want to start playing with LinuxBIOS

Don't shoot the messenger... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8662942)


But I think one of the agencies in the US government is outlawing Linux' BiOS. Seems they don't like gay operating systems either.

Boot Time... (1)

MP3Chuck (652277) | about 10 years ago | (#8662979)

How, exactly, do the measure boot time? From power button to desktop? Power button to where Linux actually starts loading/initializing?

Re:Boot Time... (2, Informative)

Vaevictis666 (680137) | about 10 years ago | (#8663149)

For the clusters (which is what they were talking about) it's from powering on the first machine, to having every machine connected and registered with the Master, and able to start accepting code chunks to process.

At least, that's how I'd measure it.

linux bios faq (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8663000)

here. [linuxbios.org]

OpenFirmware (5, Interesting)

Quok (168201) | about 10 years ago | (#8663049)

I read this article a couple months ago when my issue of Linux Journal arrived. I had a couple questions about it then, guess this is a good time to ask them. :)

As I see it, half the point of LinuxBIOS is to provide a fast, open-sourced BIOS for x86 machines. It gets extra cool points for being Linux.

But I have to ask, why not just use OpenFirmware? Or at least, give LinuxBIOS some of the features of OpenFirmware. As far as I know, there is no such thing as OpenFirmware for the x86. It's got lots of neat benefits, like booting your machine off of another one on your network, or debugging a non-bootable machine remotely. Serial console, anyone? It has other benefits as well, that I can't remember; my brain is shot for the week.

For those of you that haven't heard of OpenFirmware, it's basically the "BIOS" on Macs.

What is a Pheonix? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8663066)

There is a mythical bird called a PhOEnix. There is no such thing as a PhEOnix.

If you can't find something, you didn't LOOSE it. Something that's loose is not tight or restrained. A zoo animal gets loose. A bolt gets loose. If you misplace something, you LOSE it.

And rouge is NOT a term meaning someone similar to a thief. You're looking for rogue. Rouge is the red MAKE-UP women put on their cheeks! Next person who talks about rouge without actually meaning makeup should be forced to go to work/school/LAN parties for the next month wearing the stuff!

And the only person who finds the term 'Micro$oft' funny is yourself. Everyone else knows you're busy trying to be a script kiddie.
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