[LinuxBIOS] Welcome to coreboot.

ron minnich rminnich at gmail.com
Sat Jan 12 02:43:41 CET 2008

Welcome to coreboot!

It's been 10 years (in octal anyway!) since the first successful LinuxBIOS boot.

In those days, by design, LinuxBIOS looked like this:

LinuxBIOS = (core boot code) + (Linux kernel)

We did not consider LinuxBIOS to be separable in any way from Linux,
and in fact the name LinuxBIOS really meant just that -- Linux as the BIOS.
In the early config tool, there was no 'payload' keyword: there was a 'linux'
keyword, since only linux payloads were supported.

Several things happened in the following years. While this:
LinuxBIOS = (core boot code) + (Linux 2.2 kernel)
fit easily in 512 Kbytes, this:
LinuxBIOS = (core boot code) + (Linux 2.4 kernel)
required 1 Mbyte.

At about the same time we moved to 2.4, vendors moved the flash sizes ...
down. In 1999, 1 Mbyte flash sizes were common on the cluster nodes
we intended to use LinuxBIOS on; by 2001, 256KB was the limit, and it
was physically impossible to put anything larger than 512KB on the
systems.The result was that LinuxBIOS could no longer use Linux
on these systems!

At that point, people started to change to this:
LinuxBIOS = (core boot code) + (Etherboot)

But, that was a little confusing. LinuxBIOS did not really mean "Etherboot".
So we actually did this with the name:
BIOS ROM = (LinuxBIOS) + (Etherboot)

In other words, we shrunk the scope of LinuxBIOS to mean 'the core boot code'.

So, what we really meant was "core boot code" but we called it "LinuxBIOS".

Of course, people did not stop there. By now, we have seen:
BIOS ROM = (LinuxBIOS) + (Open Firmware)
BIOS ROM = (LinuxBIOS) + (Slim Line Open Firmware)
BIOS ROM = (LinuxBIOS) + (GRUB 2)
BIOS ROM = (LinuxBIOS) + (Plan 9 loader)
BIOS ROM = (LinuxBIOS) + (Plan 9 kernel)
BIOS ROM = (LinuxBIOS) + (WIN CE loader)
BIOS ROM = (LinuxBIOS) + (Open BIOS)
BIOS ROM = (LinuxBIOS) + (Linux kernel)
BIOS ROM = (LinuxBIOS) + (ADLO) (which lets us boot Windows)
BIOS ROM = (LinuxBIOS) + (Tiano Core)

And many other uses we don't even know about!
It may well be that a larger variety of BIOSes have been supported on the
LinuxBIOS core boot code than any other software.

As you can see, what LinuxBIOS has really meant for the past few years
is "the core boot code".

In almost every case, when a system has shipped with "LinuxBIOS", what
it has really shipped with is the "core boot code" + "a boot loader
such as FILO".
There has been no Linux in the ROM on these systems.

At the same time, the use of the name "Linux" in "LinuxBIOS" has led to
lots of confusion. Many companies had trouble thinking about the name,
as they assumed (not unreasonably) that we were requiring Linux in ROM.

As a result, starting last year, we decided to look at a new name. We
had lots of
candidates, and discussed the name with many companies. In the end, the name
that seemed to stick was "coreboot". It makes a lot of sense: the code we are
working on is the "core boot code".

So, starting this year, the 10th (base 8!) anniversary of the first
LinuxBIOS boot,
we are transitioning to the name coreboot. As you can see from the above,
coreboot can support all kinds of software, still including Linux.

What of the name LinuxBIOS? It still has meaning. When a company ships
a system that looks like this:

BIOS ROM = (coreboot) + (Linux 2.6 kernel)

What do we call it?

Well, that system is LinuxBIOS in the original sense of the term --
Linux as the BIOS. And, as it happens, more and
more companies are shipping systems configured this way.

This name change was a lot of work. A great deal of behind-the-scenes
work has been
done by Stefan Reinauer, so I hope you will join me in thanking Stefan
for a job well done.

We will make the changes slowly and with a lot of preparation. You
have already seen
the IRC channel change, and host names change over to coreboot.org. At
some point in
the next three months you will see a change in the svn repository
name. We're going to
be very careful to ensure nothing breaks.

As always, thanks for all your help and support.
I look forward to the next 10  (base 10!) years.

Ron Minnich

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