[LinuxBIOS] Recommendations on Fully Free Workstation hardware

Segher Boessenkool segher at kernel.crashing.org
Sun Nov 26 23:05:27 CET 2006

>>> Yeah, I _so_ hope you are or will be wrong :) I don't know of any 
>>> such
>>> firmwares at the moment (I didn't search a lot, though). But that 
>>> would
>>> sure be a great thing to have (and support).
>> What good would it do to replace the known-good firmware
>> of a hard drive with something home grown?  What's the
>> point?
> Well - sometimes it's not known-good. I remember having a high-end 
> server a
> couple of years back that *required a firmware upgrade* for the hard 
> drives
> because re-syncing software raid partitions would just crash the 
> machines.

So, did you get a (small) update from the vendor, or did you
pull off the semi-impossible task of rewriting the thing from
scratch :-)

> Also, we might find that lower end drives that are 'slower' might only 
> be
> artificially so, because the firmware is not as good as the higher end
> drives.

This doesn't solve a _problem_.  Oh, and there are plenty of
binary patches you can find around the web that do such things.
They typically void your warranty *for a good reason* though.

> And there is the whole Free as in Freedom aspect of course. I think 
> 'because
> we want Free software' is a really good reason.

It would be nice to have, yes, but I think right now we have
much bigger problems to solve first.

> Even if having Free firmware
> for things like hard drives seems somewhat far fetched and difficult to
> achieve now, think of how the whole concept of a Free OS sounded back 
> in the
> 80s.

Huh, there were plenty of free OSes back then.  OSes were simpler
of course.

> Or a Free BIOS 10 years ago.

Same thing.  But point taken (on x86 hardware).

> On top of that, think DRM.

Yes, that thing again.  With properly implemented DRM, you
*cannot* replace the firmware, there is just *no way* to
do that.  Also, DRM is not a technical problem, and so cannot
be fixed with a technical solution.  It's a political and
economical thing.

> Say LinuxBIOS becomes really successful, and we
> basically kill EFI (and therefore, DRM in the bios).

EFI is not the only thing with DRM in the firmware -- not by
a long shot.

> Also, just look at those Linksys wireless routers (WRT54G). There's a 
> whole
> ecosystem out there - people are doing things with them that were 
> *never*
> anticipated by Linksys.

Yes.  And none of those new things have anything to do
(directly) with firmware changes.

> Basically, having Free firmware for things like
> hard drives could allow some amazing innovation.

...and will lead to *lots* of bricked drives ;-)

> And finally, 'because we can' is one heck of a good reason too.

I'm not convinced you can really; esp. not legally.  But yeah,
that "geek factor" would make me want to do it, sure -- except
I see a HDD as 100% a black box with no internals that I care
about (or want to care about).  I also don't feel like reprogramming
the ucode on CPUs, or even the ucode on a flash chip's internal
controller, etc.


More information about the coreboot mailing list