[coreboot] [Fwd: Re: Contact Intel]

Carl-Daniel Hailfinger c-d.hailfinger.devel.2006 at gmx.net
Thu May 1 22:46:10 CEST 2008

Hi Richard,

I normally do not reply to threads started by someone (arc at gnu.org) who
is unwilling to state his/her real name and announces that he has
blacklisted the e-mail address of the founder of coreboot.

Then again, this reply is directed to you, Richard, because you made
some very good points and I wish to supply you with quotable statements
to justify a free firmware/BIOS.

On 01.05.2008 12:11, Richard M Stallman wrote:
> It could be that the Coreboot developers can find statements which are
> misleading or false, and publish an article which would put pressure
> on Intel. 
> Some of the points are simply distractions or illogical.  For
> instance:
>     BIOS is a part of the reliability and performance promise of the
>     hardware.
> Is that true?  If so, so what?  That is no reason not to let us run
> our own BIOS.

Yes, it is true. The BIOS is responsible to fix up (work around) all the
soft-fixable bugs in the hardware so the OS won't see them.
Initialization of the various buses and memory has to be done correctly
and in an efficient way. Setting up things the wrong way or without
efficiency/performance considerations has serious effects on benchmarks
and reliablity.

However, that's exactly the reason why we MUST have a free/open
- It allows us to get the best possible performance. AMD has stated that
the coreboot Hypertransport setup is the most efficient one available.
(I can probably dig up who made that statement.)
- We get the ablity to fix hardware bugs even at times when the vendor
doesn't care anymore (and that happens faster than most people like).
- We also can add new features for old mainboards as long as the
hardware can do it. The IDE LBA48 hard drive support in proprietary BIOS
versions was one such example. Vendors simply didn't care about older
boards and didn't release BIOS updates which could have added LBA48
support for IDE hard drives with sizes over 127 GB (a pure software
thing) and people were forced to upgrade to newer boards. With coreboot,
people would have recompiled a new BIOS version for their board, using
the generic LBA48 support without any problems.

> If the "proprietary low-level chipset initialization code" is in ROM
> on the chips that it initializes, then it is tolerable.  (It might as
> well be circuits on that chip.)  Otherwise, it is insufficient unless
> made complete.

None of the current mainstream x86 board manufacturers uses real ROMs
anymore. There are simply too many bugs in the hardware and firmware to
be able to afford a no-upgrade solution. Besides that, EEPROMs are very
cheap nowadays and the firmware for the board and the separate firmware
for the onboard NIC can be stored in the same EEPROM which saves board


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