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More Power To The Firmware

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the press-f2-to-enter-setup dept.

Operating Systems 226

An anonymous reader writes "In More Power To The Firmware Amit Singh talks about technical details of EFI, the next-gen BIOS replacement standard Intel, Microsoft and others are pushing. This is a very informative piece where he talks of issues with legacy BIOS, how it affects those who develop in the firmware environment and how EFI plans to solve these problems. EFI usage examples are included, including a programming example. He contrasts EFI with Open Firmware as well. IMO the second half of the article is even more interesting, where sample FORTH code is provided for displaying a window/mouse pointer GUI inside the Apple/Mac firmware! And of course, there's code for a new 'Towers of Hanoi' animation using the Mac firmware (remember Hanoimania?). Aspiring Mac Firmware Hackers could also check out the suggested projects ;-)"

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I'm not a tech guru type... (3, Interesting)

Dagny Taggert (785517) | more than 10 years ago | (#9452972)

...but can you imagine any sort of Windows-dependent BIOS? Is this in our future? Is it even possible? Or, worse yet, a Windows-based BIOS of some type where the OS actually IS the BIOS?

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (4, Informative)

Oddly_Drac (625066) | more than 10 years ago | (#9452982)

"but can you imagine any sort of Windows-dependent BIOS?"

No. Luckily, the article didn't mention one.

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (4, Informative)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453033)

...but can you imagine [...] a Windows-based BIOS of some type where the OS actually IS the BIOS?

Well, given that there's LinuxBIOS [linuxbios.org] ...

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9453078)

Ans what about Amiga OS. THe OS was the BIOS. at least for A1200 and before

just wait until the 1st BIOS virus

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (4, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453277)

AFAIK all legacy Amiga computers (Up to the Amiga 4000) have half of the OS in ROM BIOS, allowing you to put just a bootblock and a program on a disk and still have the benefit of the basic GUI functionality. This is less goofy than it seems because AmigaDOS has a feature called "patchlists" that allows you to patch functions in an OS-supported fashion without any kludges. Well, without any kludges that aren't part of the OS anyway. This in turn is made reasonable by the utter lack of memory protection, which is not a feature in a modern operating system, it's a serious liability.

I don't know of any BIOS-based viruses but there certainly have been some viruses which will damage your BIOS on systems which keep it in flash/eeprom.

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9453572)

And classic Macs worked the same way, although they eventually virutalized the ROM.

Rom Based OS != BIOS (3, Informative)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453712)

While the OS may have been in ROM, Like the Atari ST's, that doesnt make it the actual BIOS.

By its very definition, the BIOS is a much lower level block of code. the true hardware abstraction layer, that the OS rides on top of..

Sure its also in a ROM of some sort, perhaps even the same chips.. but that still doesnt really make a ROM based OS a 'BIOS'..

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (1)

Fred Or Alive (738779) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453788)

The same goes for Acorn[1]'s RISC OS on the Archimedes series, at least early version, I'm not really sure about 3.5 and 4, they might be reliant on stuff on a hard disk. You could also count most 8 bit micros of course, like BBC BASIC and the DFS (a DOS) on the BBC Micro were in ROM, although they weren't GUI OSes.

[1] The A in ARM, the Acorn RISC Machine.

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (4, Interesting)

garcia (6573) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453063)

I have mentioned this plenty of times before. In order for Windows DRM to *really* work the OS has to require a BIOS that is tied directly to it.

The only way for this to happen is for MSFT to cut deals w/the BIOS manufactorers (which they have done already w/Phoenix).

*MOST* people are not going to care one way or the other (ie "free" hardware while paying for the software) as long as their computer runs without problems, they have no work lost because of viruses, etc.

It's actually pretty scary when you think about it. You want to buy a piece of hardware? You are going to be buying it w/a MSFT approved DRM BIOS and their OS. Nothing else will install w/that BIOS because that would allow for software that isn't approved to be running (OS included). Take the BIOS out or flash it? None of the rest of the hardware will work either.

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (4, Insightful)

Psiren (6145) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453107)

Then there will be a nice market for people to build non DRM machines, so that people can run their non Windows OS. I don't think it's time to panic just yet.

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (5, Insightful)

Mr. Neutron (3115) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453241)

I don't think it's time to panic just yet.

You do realize that once this is in place, the **AA will convince Congress that only pirates, criminals, and terrorists would possibly want a computer without a "trusted" BIOS, don't you? Non-trusted hardware will go the way of Macrovision-free VCRs and Broadcast-flag-free HDTV tuners. When all of the Linux users and OS hackers raise holy hell, the response will be:

Jack Valenti: "These people are just a fringe nitch. Why should we threaten our precious content just to cater to the whims of a few people?"

Bill Gates: "The 'Trusted Computing Consotium' has made available [closed, blackboxed, and encrypted] APIs to the 'trusted hardware' industry spec. Why can't Linux use them just like any other OS?"

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (4, Insightful)

operagost (62405) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453351)

This is why it's good that IBM is in the Linux fold. If they want to keep selling Linux servers, they'll need to support a "trusted" BIOS. In order to abide by the GPL, they will have to release the source. This will allow support across the board, even on cheap consumer DRM-enabled devices.

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9453409)

Not to mention that Intel is also a huge Linux-backer, and is basically paying Linus Torvolds' salary now days. You can be sure that any Intel-based inititive is not going to be hostile to Linux.

(After fighting with grub's perverse view of the universe for a week, the conclusion is that better firmware can only help Linux adoption...)

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (2, Insightful)

perlchild (582235) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453747)

Now, IANAL but what I read on this topic seemed to indicate that only binaries would be signed, so even if you had the source, you'd be running untrusted binaries without any capacity to get them signed. This would of course be ok for IBM, but would cancel the benefit of having the source(you can't build a working binary from it). Maybe GPL4 can say that the source you get from a developer has to "be usable to generate a working binary equivalent to the binary you receive from vendor" next time...

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453435)

convince was a typo for bribe, right?

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (2, Insightful)

flinxmeister (601654) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453520)

Yeah, if non DRM machines become difficult to aquire...it'd be a shame to be relegated to a fringe niche who build our computers from kits, use obscure operating systems, share code and knowlege via informal and uncommercial channels, and generally operate in communities of geeky friends under the radar of multi-billion dollar companies.

Sometimes going back to such things seems like a really, really good idea.

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (3, Insightful)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453555)

All that this will mean is that the Hardware Of The Future will be built in fabs all over Asia, Africa, the Pacific, etc for non-US customers, developing inovative and new software/hardware products. Meanwhile, the Gnomes of Redmond will insure that inovation in no way enters the American equation. First the third world gets a boost in communication by not needing to amortize any legacy geer, now, if such nonsense goes forward it will boost them on the hardware front. Is Senegal going to be the new Silicon Valley?

Para para para noia (3, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453607)

The one thing people always forget is that, in truth, Microsoft/Adobe/Autodesk need people to have pirated versions of their software. Have you ever noticed how quickly major pieces of software are cracked after release? My guess is that they unofficially provide people with information to make this possible.

If everyone absolutely and without an option had to pay for their version of Office/Autocad/Photoshop, free software would become ten times more popular in no time at all. Right now, software companies can keep their prices artificially high for the businesses that have to pay for it, and keep the "installed user base" artifically high without having to provide tech support.

It's sort of the same thing with laws in the States. If every law was enforced every time, then people would be pissed and they would go away. Instead, laws that aren't enforced 100% of the time can be used against people the government doesn't like.

If DRM ever hits 100% of the market, prices will go down because people will refuse to pay.

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (4, Interesting)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453139)

I don't see how DRM can be solved at the BIOS level. Unless the media player and file system are completely controlled by hardware with no OS intervention, there will always be a piece of software asking "Is this file OK to play/copy?" As long as this query exists, there is an opportunity for a programmer to fake the response and play the file anyways.

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (4, Insightful)

Tryfen (216209) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453267)

What if the response is signed with a private key?

eg
Re your request 1010 @ 12:34 5/6/2004 to do XYZ - ok. HASH DSFJ$K%GDFG%%E$


Sure, you'd possibly be able to hack it. But if your DVD player's BIOS has non-changable firmware and talks to the systme BIOS over an encrypted channel - what chance would you have?

This is about having secure communication between everything. DVD -> Soundcard -> Speakers. All requiring authentication before they'll do anything.

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (1)

mpe (36238) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453449)

What if the response is signed with a private key?

Then key management becomes a big issue. Either you have keys which are fixed or you require require reliable network access for any device.

Sure, you'd possibly be able to hack it. But if your DVD player's BIOS has non-changable firmware and talks to the systme BIOS over an encrypted channel - what chance would you have?

You have much the same cryptoanalysis problem as the people at Station X in WWII.

This is about having secure communication between everything. DVD -> Soundcard -> Speakers. All requiring authentication before they'll do anything.

You don't even need to break any encryption to "pirate" content with such a system in the first place. A system is only as secure as it's weakest part.

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (1)

RickHunter (103108) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453618)

Actually, you have to have some kind of secure key distribution channel or storage location. Which becomes absolutely and completely impossible as soon as the device lands in the owner's hands. Any fixed keys (or key generation program) can be extracted, any keys transmitted over the network intercepted. What they're trying to do is technically impossible, which is why they're trying to get Fritz Hollings and the other whores... Er... Representatives to legislate it as mandatory and make atteming to crack it a criminal offense.

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (1)

ThisNukes4u (752508) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453149)

Thats ok. If that happens, then the free software movement will change most of its activity from being on x86 to ppc or sparc or *if it survives) alpha, which are all better to begin with in my opinion. All is not lost.

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9453764)

Actually, if any company can pull off a "Fritz Chip", it's going to be Apple, not Intel or AMD.

Unlike the PC world, Apple is a single company with complete control of the hardware, firmware, OS, and the entire boot process. Macs have never been able to run legacy OSes on new hardware. Plus they've got the motivation as the only hardware company with a direct stake in digital media sales.

(Of course, anything Intel/MS does will be proceeded with 3 years of vaporware announcements. But with Apple, you'd never find out about it until the machines had been shipping for a while and they silently turned it on in some itunes update.)

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (1)

MuMart (537836) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453322)

Hopefully the motherboard and bios manufacturers have their wits about them.

Locking your business into MS products is asking for a quick death. MS already has a hardware and bios division cranking out XBOXes.

sounds like Apple (0, Troll)

NineNine (235196) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453558)

Kinda' like what Apple has been doing for 20 years... You run their software on their hardware, and that's it. No software will readily run on their hardware, and their software won't run on other hardware. Not so scary.

Re:sounds like Apple (1)

GiMP (10923) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453677)

Linux [penguinppc.org] won't run on Apple's hardware [terrasoftsolutions.com] ?

MacOS won't run on other PPC systems? [maconlinux.org] I guess it won't run on non-PPC systems [sourceforge.net] either?

I suppose I won't even ask about Darwin [apple.com] .

Re:sounds like Apple (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453755)

Oh, there will always be hacks, I have no doubt about it. I've got my PS2 modded, and it does all kinds of things it wasn't designed for. But as far as buying something over the counter, out of the box? Again, it's the same thing that Apple has been doing for many, many years, and they're beyond popular with their legions of fanatics. Again, the hacks are cute, but nothing that you want to rely on if you're say, paying your bills with said computer. But lock-in, schmock-in. As soon as this happens, there might even be a manufacturer making Linux-friendly motherboards (if there's enough volume to support it).

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453600)

Nothing else will install w/that BIOS because that would allow for software that isn't approved to be running (OS included).

It isn't in MS's best interest to create BIOSes that only run signed software.

At worst, we'll have BIOSes that limit access to parts of a disk to signed only software, or have a function to allow only signed software to run.

Allowing only signed software to run on EVERY BIOS would make software development either impossible or make it require overly expensive workstations.

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (1)

Seth Finklestein (582901) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453073)

Six years ago, I bought an inexpensive Compaq PC that would not work with Linux due to Windows dependencies in the BIOS.

After I threatened a nationwide boycott of Compaq, they relented and reverted to industry-standard BIOS conventions.

You're welcome, by the way.

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (1)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453459)

Sounds fishy. I can't imagine Compaq caring what a customer would say on any topic. Their hardware used to be non-standard to lock out cheap competition. Now that they are part of HP, they are of course, completely customer-focused **cough**.

Model? Link? Was this an iPaq? Why would you buy one?

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9453537)

He probably just deleted the configuration partition in an fdisk newb maneuver, and then got bitten by Linux's formerly crappy plug-n-play support.

Old compaq servers used to come with a CD that booted Win95 for things like RAID configuration.

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (4, Informative)

x0n (120596) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453126)

The OS is the BIOS? Either you're trolling [but given your subject disclaimer, perhaps not], or you misunderstand the concept of abstraction layers, and their ordering. The BIOS cannot be dependent on Windows, it sits beneath the OS. The OS is dependent on it. Drivers, in effect, are mini-BIOSs in themselves. They abstract out the different hardware devices to a standard windows API. The BIOS that comes with your machine abstracts out the out-of-the-box components of your motherboard among other things. Sometimes windows drivers talk to the bios, but mostly they skip it altogether.

- Oisin

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453658)

Actually, it's perfectly possible to have mutual dependency between components in an OS environment. The VM system in Mac OS X, since it writes VM data into a file, depends on the file systems. They, in turn, depend on the unified buffer cache (UBC), which is, in turn, dependent upon the VM system.

The obvious model would involve the BIOS having just enough drivers to do polled I/O from the hard drive to read additional drivers into memory to support basic I/O like the keyboard and the video card. I'm not saying this makes any sense, since it doesn't offer any real advantages over the current model, and would cause bad experiences if you had to rebuild your system with a clean hard drive... but that wouldn't prevent someone from doing it if they wanted to create an artificial dependency.

Re:I'm not a tech guru type... (1)

mikael (484) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453154)

In the article, there is no mention of DRM, but they do mention that Linux would be considered as one of the possible 64-bit operating systems (Linux IA-64?).

The mention of UGA took me by surprise, even though it's three years old, I've never heard it mentioned before.

Stability? (5, Interesting)

ThisNukes4u (752508) | more than 10 years ago | (#9452974)

I'm not in favor of increasing the complexity of the bios. They can barely get them stable after a few updates now, how will it be when they are doing alot more? Yeah I know that Sun Sparc's have a complicated bios, but they did it right. I don't trust Microsoft and Intel to do it right.

Re:Stability? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9453008)

What I've kept telling people is that 64-bit computing came relatively late to the PC world. With the advent of 64-bit PCs (those based on the Itanium Processor Family, for example), a better solution to the "BIOS problem" was sought, although the x86 real mode can be emulated in IA-64.

Re:Stability? (4, Insightful)

Oddly_Drac (625066) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453034)

"I'm not in favor of increasing the complexity of the bios."

Tough, it's happening.

"They can barely get them stable after a few updates now, how will it be when they are doing alot more?"

Modern BIOS is a lot more capacious that the days of the XT and AT, and it's usually really low level stuff that goes on. Given the separation between the people that do the hardware and people that have to handle the low level drivers, it's no surprise that hardware leaves the warehouse with unfinished drivers; couple to that the dizzying array of hardware that can attach to a motherboard, and you are going to have some patching. EFI look a lot more flexible in what it can do.

"I don't trust Microsoft and Intel to do it right."

And they speak so highly of you. Despite crappy business practices, they actually have some talented people that produce some good solid work. If you want to be paranoid, why don't you look up EFI and cross reference with DRM?

Re:Stability? (-1, Troll)

WarriorPoet42 (762455) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453135)

"Tough, it's happening."

Look pal, I'm not sure what you think is going on here, but this is a discussion. In a typical discussion, people post opinions. Yes, it may be inevitable (may be), but that does not mean we should accept it like complacent sheep. When large groups of people say they don't like the war, should Bush say "Tough, it's happening." No, obviously not.

Despite crappy business practices, they actually have some talented people that produce some good solid work.

Yes ... good solid work. Which is why you never hear of successful exploits or virii on Microsoft products.

If you want to be paranoid, why don't you look up EFI and cross reference with DRM?

Just remember, paranoia is not the false belief that everyone is out to get you, just the belief. Even if everyone IS out to get you.

Re:Stability? (1)

urmensch (314385) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453236)

Actually [reference.com] ...

\Par`a*noi"a\, n. (Med.) A chronic form of insanity characterized by very gradual impairment of the intellect, systematized delusion, and usually by delusious of persecution or mandatory delusions producing homicidal tendency. In its mild form paranoia may consist in the well-marked crotchetiness exhibited in persons commonly called ``cranks.'' Paranoiacs usually show evidences of bodily and nervous degeneration, and many have hallucinations, esp. of sight and hearing.

Re:Stability? (3, Insightful)

starseeker (141897) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453177)

"'I don't trust Microsoft and Intel to do it right.'

And they speak so highly of you. Despite crappy business practices, they actually have some talented people that produce some good solid work. If you want to be paranoid, why don't you look up EFI and cross reference with DRM?"

It could be argued that the DRM tendancies of Microsoft/Intel are a reason not to trust them to do it right. As far as DRM goes, I would tend to define a BIOS with that in it as NOT doing it right.

Re:Stability? (0, Offtopic)

strictnein (318940) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453506)

Use italics when quoting...

here's an example:
<I>I am a quote</I>
Results in:

I am a quote


Easy, you see?

Re:Stability? (2, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453278)

*And they speak so highly of you. Despite crappy business practices, they actually have some talented people that produce some good solid work. If you want to be paranoid, why don't you look up EFI and cross reference with DRM?*

what does talented people have to do with trusting them to do it 'right' for our viewpoint? in fact, why do you think that they would do it 'right' when even you accept the fact that they have 'crappy business practices' which is ultimately what chooses how they'll execute it, NOT if they have talented people or not!

Intel versus Planet Earth (4, Funny)

Alan Cox (27532) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453336)

I found the assertion that 64bit PC's don't use the BIOS rather amusing. Evidently bits of Intel still haven't managed to bring themselves to admit the existance of Athlon64 just yet.

Pre-boot vulnerabilities (1)

delcielo (217760) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453626)

How long before we start seeing poorly written pre-boot applications causing vulnerabilities?

For instance, with efi's networking capabilities, I can imagine hackers letting efi grab that 1 dhcp address that the user has allocated, and reporting it back to them. While the user spends time on tech support trying to figure out why ipconfig doesn't show anything, the hacker is rooting around their disk through efi.

That may be far-fetched; but from the concepts offered in the article, it sounds feasible.

Would any firmware-saavy slashdotter give us a hint as to how likely that scenario is?

I'd prefer an Open Bios... (5, Insightful)

cbreaker (561297) | more than 10 years ago | (#9452987)

We don't need DRM built into the BIOS, and that's exactly what would happen if Microsoft had a say in it.

I agree that we don't need more complexity. Let the OS handle the hardware as much as possible.

Re:I'd prefer an Open Bios... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9453059)

Complexity is a non-issue when it's broken down, which is what this is all about. These firmwares will still configure the hardware and then go on and do something else, just like today's BIOSs do. It will just be more transparent how they do it, so the extra "complexity" will actually be less error prone because of the way it is handled.

Re:I'd prefer an Open Bios... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9453114)

On the contrary, it could be interesting if the BIOS were to handle as much of the hardware as possible. Drivers could be written for the BIOS, and then that would solve our *n[ui]x problems since every operating would be accessing these routines the same way. Wouldn't something like this level the field?

Re:I'd prefer an Open Bios... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9453274)

Kind of like the old fast bios screen writes setting?

Re:I'd prefer an Open Bios... (2, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453318)

The complexity has to be somewhere. If the BIOS gets simpler the devices have to be more complicated to take up the slack. You can't rely on the OS handling the hardware until it boots, after all, so you have to get there somehow. The BIOS doesn't need to talk to the sound card or anything like that, because autoconfiguration of the basic parameters of devices are handled by plug and play, which is an integral part of the PCI specification (though perhaps not by that name, I've never actually read the specification.) Adapter cards and onboard peripherals get IRQs, IOports, and memory ranges from the PCI system controlled by the BIOS. But, what do you do after that? Currently in the PC world the BIOS jumps (JMPs, even) into the adapter BIOS and executes some of its code from ROM, optionally caching that ROM into "shadow" memory and executing it from there for speed, but once the OS loads the driver takes over and the BIOS isn't really used. AFAIK Linux only communicates with the BIOS at boot time, while loading assorted drivers, to find out what kind of parameters they should use, but many drivers go straight to the hardware and don't even bother with it.

Anyone know how often Windows currently jumps into the BIOS today? However often it is, it will become moreso when DRM becomes a BIOS function...

Ya, shure (3, Funny)

YellowElf (445681) | more than 10 years ago | (#9452994)

We don't need no stinkin' software, firmware will do it for us.

Re:Ya, shure (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453576)

You jest, but Usenet's comp.sys.amiga hierarchy used to be infested by a guy named Steve Giovanella who insisted that Amigas are at least 1000 times faster (yes, literally) than modern PCs (comparing a '94-vintage Amiga to a '01 model Athlon) because drivers were commonly in firmware instead of RAM, so they were "hardware based" instead of "software based".

I can't explain his entire argument because, well, it didn't make a whole lot of sense even then. Google has the whole mess [google.com] archived.

I had just switched from Amigas to Unix a couple of years earlier and still like and respected my old platform of choice. Man, it was embarrassing to be associated with his ilk.

BIOS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9453012)

A BIOS out to be enough for anyone.

... sorry, I'll get my hat.

mouse control in bios is nothing new (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9453013)

i had an amd 486dx4/100 motherboard back in the mid 90s that had a full gui windowing system to configure the bios that relied on the mouse (tabs were used, too). i think it was 640x480 or something very similar.

Re:mouse control in bios is nothing new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9453323)

Compaq also shipped GUI BIOSes in the Pentium era. It was still Real Mode, however.

Retroactive bios (3, Interesting)

IamGarageGuy 2 (687655) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453020)

Apple has been doing this since the beginning, since they control all hardware (or has to be approved by them). Having MS or Intel do it on a box that will have an immeasurable amount of peripherals by different manufacturers is only looking for problems. It may be possible but I fear it will be at the expense of creativity and thinking differently will not be an option.

leapfrogging. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9453021)

great. so step down the drm one level. When do we get the BIOS's bios then? And then when do we get the work-around for that? And so on and so forth..i'll not be buying from Intel or Microsoft anytime soon, if ever again.

Gmail... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9453030)

...sucks. I want to read my email, not:

"Oops... the system was unable to perform your operation. Please try again in a few seconds."

Please can I read my urgent email Google, please.

hm (0, Flamebait)

Further82 (720625) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453042)

I'm sure it won't be long until this thread degrades into "Bill Gates is taking over my BIOS and I won't be able to install Linux anymore!!! M$ is EVIL!!!11 Linux is t3h 1337!!11".

However I'm sure by the time I actully press submit it will have done just that, but then again that is basicly the theme of every other thread on /.

Re:hm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9453070)

And your problem with that is...?

Re:hm (1)

QuijiboIsAWord (715586) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453105)

Slashdot really needs a +5 Prophetic mod.

Re:hm (4, Funny)

IamGarageGuy 2 (687655) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453119)

Now, now - that's enough of the negative thoughts. I think you should go to the M$ retraining centre for re-education right now.

Re:hm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9453142)

It's TRUE!!

Only a Microsoft shill would make fun of that possibility!

Re:hm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9453223)

No, no, no! It will simply ensure that the system only runs trusted worms and viruses.

Re:hm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9453438)

The other inevitability is the appearance of messages like yours bitching about the Evil Microsoft posts. Guess what? It's equally boring. Kudos to the moderator who had the sense to mark your post as Flamebait; dock a point for Redundancy as well.

Of course, now I've extended the problem by bitching about the post bitching about the Evil Microsoft posts...

Dude, like, what if the bitching is infinite? Whoa.

Why is that moded FlameBait? (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453554)

Its anti-flamebait. There are far too many people on /. that think that way. I call them "Stupid".

PS. Now this post, on the other hand, will also probley be modded down. Thats a good thing. I think That getting modded down every now and then is a good thing. If everyone agrees with what you are saying, then you must not be saying anything important.

PS PS I think its clear to me that slashdot's moderation system is a failure. The signal to noise ratio is far too low. The insightful comments aren't, the average poster has the maturity level of a 13 year old, ect, gripe, ect. I don't know how much longer I'll be here.

pocket pc (2, Informative)

minus_273 (174041) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453111)

heh reminds me of a pocket pc where the Windows OS is in the ROM

Re:pocket pc (1)

areve (724106) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453170)

My pocket PC an iPAQ 3850 is not like this, perhaps others are, I changed my bootloader. And operating system. I've never seen any bios settings but the OS is certainly not in ROM.

Firmware (5, Insightful)

starseeker (141897) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453123)

Glad to see there is attention being paid to the firmware end of things both commercially and as open source - that's one area your average geek is a little leary of toying with, due to Inoperative Hardware potential.

What I always worry about is the non-techical end of these things. BIOS level control on what software a computer can run is a much harder obstruction to overcome than things like driver issues. I wonder if they won't use the "Next Generation" mantra to say this is the perfect time to pass legislation that requires DRM control be built into all computational devices. OpenBIOS wouldn't be of much use if DRM laws require a closed system.

Also, if firmware gets too smart, you might get things like a DVD drive refusing to play a movie unless your operating system can guarantee it that you computer doesn't have the ability to copy content illegally.

When you can program games in BIOS level systems, I start to get a little wary. Keep my BIOS to the minimum please - configuration options needed to handle my hardware (things like boot order, low level configuration options the OS shouldn't know about, etc.) should be all the capability needed. A BIOS should be simple, efficient, and stick precisely to its job. I've got an OS for the rest. If the new system is good for that type of work, excellent. But if the hardware starts getting too smart for its own good, then I might wind up hauling out those two Sun Ultra 1s I bought - they should run more or less forever and I'll live with slower speeds in order to stick with a consumer friendly machine.

Re:Firmware (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9453250)

> When you can program games in BIOS level systems

Yeah, nobody's ever written a 86 real mode game. The original BIOS came with a BASIC intepreter, you know.

Fact is that the PC BIOS is 15 years past due for replacement. Whether or not DRM is included doesn't change that -- not to mention DRM can be and has been implemented for classic real mode BIOSes.

Re:Firmware (4, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453254)

The reason you can program games in OpenFirmware is that it is versatile. In spite of its flexibility, because it is based on Forth, it is still simple and efficient.

Ironically, your Sun Ultra 1's firmware is pretty much the same. It's OpenFirmware, and it uses a Forth interpreter to execute on-adapter code which is used until the kernel is loaded and a system-level driver can be used. This is why text displays faster in the X Window System than on Sun consoles - the console is using a video driver written in Forth and interpreting it on the fly! Hence this is true for all Sparcs back into antiquity. (I used to have a 3/260 which I later upgraded to a 4/260, that's one of the first generation of SPARC-based Sun systems.)

Re:Firmware (1)

4lex (648184) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453468)

OpenBIOS wouldn't be of much use if DRM laws require a closed system.

Maybe it won't for you... If USA's DRM laws don't aply here in Spain, I will be glad to swap a crippled BIOS by a shiny Openfirmware... if there is one that works for my computer, of course. So, I say to developers: keep coding and don't worry for local laws. I will happily buy some T-shirts, if that improves your confort, as long as you improve mine :)

(writing this from an Openfirmware-powered Debian Sarge iBook ;)

EFI meet my PAL SAL (1)

grunt107 (739510) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453147)

This would definitely help Intel and its 'Not'tanium. Then AMD would have to make something similar or pay to use the same design. I am more interested in the System Abstraction layer. Would this simplify direct access to sys devices?

Needs to be a community effort (0, Redundant)

Brain Stew (225524) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453166)

While I think that the current x86 BIOS methods are outdated, I do not support a leap to total OS integration, yet.

I think that if a community effort were mounted through a system of standards, a satisfactory next-gen BIOS could be acheived.

Of course, this raises the question of who comprises the community, businesses or enthusiasts?

Wierd sentence on Open Firmware (5, Interesting)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453198)

Let me add something that I find remarkable: I have not seen a single reference to Open Firmware in any EFI specification, presentation, whitepaper, or related document. Perhaps I did not look hard enough. This is not a criticism though. Some might argue that EFI's pathbreaking-ness is valid in the context of PCs, so it is appropriate not to mention prior similar ideas.

I'm not quite sure what that last part means - how can you say it's not appropriate to mention when the technology is so similar? Just because it hasn't been used on PC's before is no reason not to learn from what has been used before.

I would have liked to see more of a comparison of exactly whe EFI gives you over Open Firmware of today - I gathered it was the custom pre-boot programs and network connectivity, but I would have liked to see more examples of new things that make use of these features that you can't do in Open Firmware.

It's funny to have a whole article about EFI then show all the cool things you can do with an advanaced BIOS by giving Open Firmware demos. Sort of like watching a Longhorn demo of transparency in UI while working on a Mac.

Re:Wierd sentence on Open Firmware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9453357)

Well, the biggest difference seems to be that EFI is designed for backward compatibility with PC-BIOS, which is essential as long as people are running NetWare, OS/2, and Windows 98. Don't know how possible that would be with OpenFirmware.

I find it funny that some people find this EFI/OF thing worthy of Zealous Advocacy(tm). Yeah, Intel invented their own firmware, big deal.

Re:Wierd sentence on Open Firmware (4, Interesting)

Matthias Wiesmann (221411) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453606)

Actually, Apple also had to do a transition between machines without open-firmware to the one with it, so there was some backward compatibility. On the other hand, I suspect the newer macs could not boot older oses (I don't know if EFI machines would seriously boot Windows 95, and why anybody would try that...)

The sad thing about intel doing their own stuff is that Open-firmware is here and standard. One of the most interesting ideas of having the F-code engine was to have processor independent drivers on the card. I.e you plug-in the card and it works, regardless of the fact the processor is PPC, sparc, or i686.

One funny trivia fact about Apple's open-firmware is that the firmware understands certain file-systems (HFS+,Ext2) and executable formats (PEF,ELF). The funning thing is the firmware does not understand OS X's executable format (Mach-O) so on every OS X machine, there is an ELF format bootloader.

Re:Wierd sentence on Open Firmware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9453711)

Obviously Intel is staying as far away from OpenFirmware as possible, because it is in their (anti-competitive) business interest to promote a BIOS which is tied to their proprietary instruction set, and which therefor ties the BIOS ROMs for add-in cards to their proprietary instruction set.

If the FTC had any balls, they'd be down on this like a ton of bricks.

Wow, mouse in Open Firmware (1)

AcornWeb (770294) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453211)

Golly, the amount of time Amit seems to spend messing around with the very low levels of Open Firmware seems insane! Imagine figuring out how to get a mouse to work solely to get his 'Tower of Hanoi' program to work nicer! :-)

Still, more power to him.

What's the problem with "real mode"? (0, Redundant)

ahg (134088) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453230)

640K ought to be enough for any BIOS :)

Re:What's the problem with "real mode"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9453399)

Note to moderators...Learn What Redundant Means!!!

Where's the DRM? (1)

serutan (259622) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453261)

I just skimmed through the article looking for information about the Palladium-like DRM stuff that was supposed to be embedded down to the hardware level within the next few years. I couldn't find anything. Not being a hardware/firmware person, a lot of the stuff in the article is over my head, but I expected something about DRM to shine through, if not to be the overriding theme.

DRM has already been mentioned in a few comments in this thread (perhaps by people who didn't RTFA). But where is it???

Blur the line... (1)

mratitude (782540) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453265)

As long as the direction appears to be open standards, "blurring" the line between core hardware and the OS at this basic level isn't that dangerous a concept.

A Graphical Config Utility for Open Firmware (1)

CharAznable (702598) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453269)

You can do a lot of stuff in Open Firmware by changing environment variables. A good project would be to create a graphical configuration utility that lets you do just that in addition to browsing the device tree.

Any EFI motherboards available? (4, Interesting)

jared_hanson (514797) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453270)

So I glaned over the article, and while it mainly focused on EFI being done for IA-64, it also hinted that EFI was available for x86. Does anyone know of any reasonable priced motherboards that use this as opposed to an older BIOS? I'm looking for the hinted at x86 support, as I don't feel like buying an Itanium. Also, while we are on the subject, is this an Intel only thing or does AMD have a say in the matter?

This isn't firmware, this is an operating system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9453271)

It does hardware abstraction, draws windows, bytecode interpreters, etc.

EFI is actually OS independent and quite useful (5, Interesting)

jayslambast (519228) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453298)

I've been using EFI (on Itanium) for quite some time, and have had zero issues with it. I really like the fact there are DCHP modules that allow networking to be started without the OS running. They have ftp servers, disk drivers and you can boot your machine from a remote image using bootp services. If your OS is dead on your disk, you can restart to efi and download a previous image on to your harddisk (or remote boot/install). Heck, you can run your code without even booting the OS. Imagine dedicated distributed.net clients that run straight from EFI without the overhead of an OS.
While I understand people have concerns that Microsoft is using this as a DRM delivery mechanism, there is nothing that is stopping Microsoft from working with Phoniex to add DRM to today's bios's. EFI (and non-legacy bios environments like openBios) make it easier for non-windows OSes to run on new Hardware. This isn't in microsoft's best interests. Microsoft wants a bios that only runs signed code (like their XBOX), so that you have to ask them nicely for a key to your equipment.

HOW DOES THIS BASH MICRO$LOTH OR WORSHIP APPLE? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9453316)

in other words, WHO CARES?

EFI is the firmware that says "NIH" (4, Interesting)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453334)

The author mentions that EFI is somehow better than Open Firmware, but I fail to see how. It all sounds like Intel decided to go their own way again (just like their Itanium had to be different and incompatible with any (RISC or CISC) CPU out there).

Why, for sanity's sake, can these companies never adopt a perfectly good standard, but do they always have to give everyone headaches by rolling their own? If Open Firmware has some deficiencies, surely they can be fixed with some incremental improvements?

The Intel Architecture is evolving...from the primitive, kludgy, underperforming, el cheapo to the overhyped, overheating, overexpensive and incompatible. Even IBM (Connector Conspiracy) and Apple (Think Different) are more open and standards-oriented these days.

PC's like the xbox (2, Informative)

Stevyn (691306) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453390)

I hope this doesn't mean that PCs will be sold like Xboxes. I don't want to have to intall a mod chip on my laptop to run linux. I like the idea of the BIOS having more function and power, but I want it to do more than just prevent code from being executed. This should definately be an open standard otherwise Microsoft or Intel will have too much control. It's one thing to boot into windows and have that muck up your computer, but it's different when microsoft code is running on a linux box.

Since microsoft doesn't seem to like to innovate anymore, I wonder why they are pushing for this. Linux has shown that you don't need security at the hardware level to prevent viruses from taking down your computer.

So far I don't see many benefits the user will notice and enjoy. I'm not trying to spread DRM FUD because this article doesn't talk about it, I'm just asking why Microsoft cares so much to push this.

hmm Innovatyion 10 years late? (1, Informative)

linuxislandsucks (461335) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453482)

You mean after ten years of proven success in both SUN AND APPLE SYSTEMS Intel finally gets PCI religon?

That is right folsk intle is finally enacting the last part of the PCI psec.. should we jump and cheer for it after ten years of foot dragging?

Open Source Firmware? (2, Interesting)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453497)

There are various system emulators that need ROM images to boot the virtual system. I have been wondering about open source projects to provide these images, unencumbered by copyright restrictions, trade secrets, what have you.

I am into operating system development, and I would like to play around with architectures that I don't have real hardware of. It can't be too hard to write a firmware implementation if the code for the emulator is already available.

If you are aware of any such projects that are not mentioned here, please post. Ones that I know of are OpenBIOS, FreeBIOS, and LinuxBIOS, which are also mentioned in the article, with links.

Mac Firmware (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Writer (746272) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453519)

It would be fun to see someone port one of those Apple ][ emulators to this thing, so you can actually boot a Mac into an Applesoft programming mode, just like in the old Apple ]['s. If it can handle a simple GUI like in the article, or if it could handle an implementation of System 1, I'm sure an Apple ][ emulation would be no problem.

From what I gather in the article, any of these Forth programs have to be loaded off of the hard drive in order to be executed. I didn't really understand if they could be stored in non-volatile memory, and if the computer could be configured to run them when it is turned on. I don't know how much space there is for non-volatile memory, but it would be interesting to be able to write a really basic OS that runs off of it without having to read from the hard drive at all.

I suppose it's possible since you can update the firmware, but does Apple keep information about how to program the firmware proprietary, or is it open for people to tinker with?

As any Apple //e user knows (2, Informative)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453657)

CALL -151

For a moment I thought it read... (1)

ctrlaltdestroy (750308) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453533)

"In More Power To The Firmware Agent Smith talks about..."

AIOS? (1)

apachetoolbox (456499) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453577)

It wouldn't be very Basic if it had DRM on it.

FORTH? I was hoping for PL/I (1)

sparkywonderchicken (759502) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453585)

Why not make plug and play operating systems on rom chips?

If BIOS is Going to be an OS, Then I Choose Linux! (2, Insightful)

LuxuryYacht (229372) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453599)

What's happening here with EFI is that the BIOS has now grown to become an OS. If all you want BIOS to do is init the hardware and then jump to an OS then that's all the BIOS should be, just some init code to set up memory, chipset registers and cache so that it can jump to an OS for all the rest. But if you want the BIOS to do a whole lot more than just call it an OS and use an OS with lots of support with drivers already written.
And for this BIOS that's really acting and grown to be an OS, I choose Linux!

More at : http://www.linuxbios.org/

EFI brings back bad memories. (1)

klevin (11545) | more than 10 years ago | (#9453765)

Back in the day, when I was a co-op student employee, I spent some time testing Linux drivers on Itanium systems. EFI was about as intuitive as a worm eaten apple (no docs, just a "hey, you're good at figuring things out, test this"). Plus, it kept forgetting changes to its configuration. Eventually, I became familiar with its obtuse ways, but it never exactly brought a smile to my face when I saw the EFI prompt.

That said, the PC BIOS should have been put out of its misery years ago. I'm just not sure EFI's really going to make developer's & users/admin's live that much easier.
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