Difference between revisions of "Fallback mechanism"

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(Using it with systemd)
(OS configuration examples)
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The most simple way to do it is to run some nvramtool commands, they are described in the scripts below.
The most simple way to do it is to run some nvramtool commands, they are described in the scripts below.
==== set-fallback-1.sh ====
===== set-fallback-1.sh =====
  nvramtool -w boot_option=Fallback
  nvramtool -w boot_option=Fallback
  nvramtool -w last_boot=Fallback
  nvramtool -w last_boot=Fallback
  nvramtool -w reboot_bits=1
  nvramtool -w reboot_bits=1
==== set-normal-0.sh ====
===== set-normal-0.sh =====
  nvramtool -w boot_option=Normal
  nvramtool -w boot_option=Normal
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  nvramtool -w reboot_bits=0
  nvramtool -w reboot_bits=0
==== get-nvram.sh ====
===== get-nvram.sh =====
  nvramtool -a | grep -e boot_option -e last_boot -e reboot_bits
  nvramtool -a | grep -e boot_option -e last_boot -e reboot_bits

Revision as of 18:20, 17 August 2014


The fallback mecanism permits to be able to use two different prefixes (normal/ and fallback/) for the romstage, ramstage and payload, in the same coreboot image.

The switch between the two prefixes can be governed by an nvram configuration parameter.


fallback/ is expected to hold the good known working image.

normal/ is expected to hold the image under test

Uses cases

  • Test new images way faster: if the image doesn't boot it will fallback on the old known-working image and save a long reflashing procedure
  • Test new images more safely: Despite of the recommendations of having a way to externally reflash, many new user don't. Assuming that the user don't screw up the fallback/ procedure (which adds a layer of complexity) he can test new images more safely because it will fallback on the known good image.
  • More compact testing setup: Since reflashing tools are not mandatory anymore, the tests can be done with less voluminous hardware, which means that the test setup is easier to bring with you while travelling.

Enabling the fallback switch

The Fallback switch behaviour is governed by the BOOTBLOCK_SIMPLE and BOOTBLOCK_NORMAL compilation options.

They are selectable in "Bootblock behaviour" in make menuconfig.

Currently only two choices are available:

  • BOOTBLOCK_SIMPLE: "(X) Always load fallback"
  • BOOTBLOCK_NORMAL: "(X) Switch to normal if CMOS says so"

If BOOTBLOCK_SIMPLE is chosen, then fallback/ , then no siwtch will ever be done and fallback/ will always be chosen, since this is the default we have to change it to get it to work. If BOOTBLOCK_NORMAL is chosen, then the switch will be able to work.

If the BOOTBLOCK_NORMAL is chosen, the functionality is disabled but can be enabled later if needed.

Make sure that in "General setup --->" you have:

(fallback) CBFS prefix to use

How it works (summary)

Coreboot will switch to fallback/ if the boot count is higher than CONFIG_MAX_REBOOT_CNT (or if normal/ isn't present).

Coreboot increments the reboot count at each boot.

Here, clearing the boot count is delegated to what is run after coreboot.

To get the maximum safety out of it, clearing the boot count after the last step of the boot is advised.

Example of use

For instance once the system is fully booted, a systemd unit can reset the boot count.

That way if the coreboot changes makes it impossible to boot a linux kernel or even if GNU/Linux can't fully boot, the boot count won't be reset.

Then the user will power off the computer, and at the next boot CONFIG_MAX_REBOOT_CNT will hopefully be reached. Then coreboot will boot on the good known working image and the boot will complete.

At that point the user is expected to reflash a good image in order not to go in normal/ again at the next boot.

Current limitations

  • scripts exist only for the systemd init system, but they are easy to adapt to other init systems
  • suspend/resume systemd scripts not written yet
  • some issues can arrise when the nvram layout is not the same between normal/ and fallback/
  • The number of failed boot is 3 by default (for all boards that don't set CONFIG_MAX_REBOOT_CNT)
  • In order to fully boot, some boards do reboot once during the boot procedure. The issue is that it reboot conditionally, and no code has been written yet to take that into account.
  • Payloads can have non-configurable default locations when loading things from cbfs:
    • When using grub as a payload, grub.cfg is at etc/grub.cfg by default, so if you want to test grub as a payload, remember to change grub.cfg's path not to interfer with the fallback's grub configuration.
    • Changing the path of what SeaBIOS loads from cbfs is probably configurable with SeaBIOS cbfs symlinks but not yet tested/documented with the use of the fallback mecanism

Using it


Building the normal/ image


You need to set the following in "make menuconfig", before building a normal/ image:

[*] Update existing coreboot.rom image

And also set the prefix to normal/ in "General setup --->":

(normal) CBFS prefix to use

Then you will have to use a build script because of the shortcommings of coreboot's Kconfig build system.

build script

The build scrpit takes an existing coreboot image as argument.

That image is expected To have the fallback switch already enabled

# In the cases where this work is copyrightable, it falls under the GPLv2
# or later license that is available here:
# https://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-2.0.txt

if [ $# -ne 1 ] ; then
	echo "Usage $0 <image>"
	exit 1

die() {
  echo "Failed"
  exit 1

cbfs_remove() {
  ./util/cbfstool/cbfstool ./build/coreboot.rom remove -n ${file} 

cbfs_reuse_payload() {
  ./util/cbfstool/cbfstool ./build/coreboot.rom extract -f ./build/payload.elf -n fallback/payload
  ./util/cbfstool/cbfstool ./build/coreboot.rom add -f ./build/payload.elf -n normal/payload -t payload

make oldconfig || die
make clean || die
mkdir build/ || die

cp ${image} ./build/coreboot.rom || die

cbfs_remove normal/romstage
cbfs_remove normal/ramstage
cbfs_remove normal/coreboot_ram
cbfs_remove normal/payload
cbfs_remove config

# it now adds it automatically
cbfs_remove etc/ps2-keyboard-spinup
make || die

# uncomment if you want to reuse fallback's payload
# cbfs_reuse_payload

./util/cbfstool/cbfstool ./build/coreboot.rom print

OS configuration examples

Example scripts

The most simple way to do it is to run some nvramtool commands, they are described in the scripts below.

nvramtool -w boot_option=Fallback
nvramtool -w last_boot=Fallback
nvramtool -w reboot_bits=1
nvramtool -w boot_option=Normal
nvramtool -w last_boot=Normal
nvramtool -w reboot_bits=0
nvramtool -a | grep -e boot_option -e last_boot -e reboot_bits

Systemd units


#  This file is not part of systemd.
#  this file is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it
#  under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License as published by
#  the Free Software Foundation; either version 2.1 of the License, or
#  (at your option) any later version.

Description=Tell coreboot that the computer booted fine.

ExecStart=/usr/local/sbin/nvramtool -w boot_option=Normal
ExecStart=/usr/local/sbin/nvramtool -w last_boot=Normal
ExecStart=/usr/local/sbin/nvramtool -w reboot_bits=0