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You are here: Home Bulletins Bulletins from 2009 Spring 2009 Free BIOS: Coreboot

Free BIOS: Coreboot

by root Contributions Published on Dec 18, 2009 02:29 PM
by Ward Vandewege, FSF Systems Team

A lot has happened in coreboot development in the past six months. Some major progress has been made on an ACPI framework for the code, which makes it a lot easier to add ACPI support to supported mainboards. On the payload front, an emulation layer called Seabios now works very well with coreboot. It makes coreboot behave more like a traditional BIOS, in the sense that it provides the BIOS services that some legacy bootloaders and kernels still require (the kernel Linux and grub2 bootloaders do not, but the GRUB bootloader does, for instance). Seabios gives users an easier upgrade path from the proprietary BIOS.

What Seabios does not have yet is complete USB support. However, coreboot got four students allocated in Google's 2009 Summer of Code. Two of them are working on adding full USB support to Seabios. This will make it possible to use a USB keyboard during boot, and to boot from USB drives. Another student is working on putting coreboot plus a minimal virtualization hypervisor in ROM. The last student is developing a free software VGA BIOS for Geode hardware, based on the work already done as part of the vgabios project -- a codebase which emulates a VGA bios for use in Bochs and Qemu.

Ultimately, the FSF would like to see a free software VGA BIOS that supports many different graphics adapters, and this is a good first step. Incidentally, a couple of coreboot developers have been working on a similar VGA rom replacement for VIA's K8M890 chipset.

The FSF recently worked with Marc Jones, a freelance coreboot consultant and developer, to add a coreboot port for the supermicro H8DME motherboard. This board is a server board that can take up to two AMD Opteron CPUs and up to 64GB of ram. We have purchased and deployed one H8DME-based system with coreboot and Xen, and more will be deployed in the future as we continue our efforts to retire old hardware and replace it with systems that run coreboot.

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