[coreboot] Free BIOS for personal computers and laptops - you will explode!

Ward Vandewege ward at gnu.org
Mon Feb 11 22:07:27 CET 2008

The FSF would like to prepare some PR around this response an FSF supporter
got from Intel customer care representative asking them about support for
free BIOS on Intel hardware. Any thoughts from the coreboot community on

Thanks for your email.  

Writing BIOS code is not like writing an OS device driver.  Chipset
specifications can vary not just between chipset models, but between
steppings of the same chipset.  Problems in chipset hardware and
problems in BIOS code are hard to distinguish without specific hardware
instrumentation.  End user BIOS replacement with a third- party BIOS
(whether free or not) on a commercial motherboard is not allowed by
nearly all hardware vendors because of the potential for BIOS viruses
and the risk of rendering the hardware useless through ill-advised
modifications.  For example, a laptop battery could explode if incorrect
power management algorithms were applied.  

BIOS is a part of the reliability and performance promise of the
hardware.  Chipset specifications at the level being discussed are
commonly considered proprietary by all silicon vendors, not just Intel.

The open source firmware work that Intel *is* sponsoring could lead to a
solution where proprietary low-level chipset initialization code from
silicon vendors is made compatible with open source higher-level
platform initialization and pre-boot management.  If you are interested,
we invite you to participate at www.tianocore.org.

Thanks once again for your interest in Intel.

Intel Customer Support


Ward Vandewege <ward at fsf.org>
Free Software Foundation - Senior System Administrator

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