[coreboot] Doubts about necessity of propietary parts in the firmware

xdrudis xdrudis at tinet.cat
Tue Apr 13 23:51:48 CEST 2010

On Tue, Apr 13, 2010 at 09:44:02AM -0600, Marc Jones wrote:
> Hi Xavi,
> Thanks for your interest in coreboot. This is a long email! :)

I'm bad at summarizing. Sorry. 
> VGA BIOS is not required. You could have a headless system. Or a
> system with a framebuffer driver like Geode.

Headless would be last resort. If possible I would like to have a
monitor connected to the system (either mainboard or graphics card)
and have a desktop there. I don't need video while booting (but I
would appreciate it, of course). I understand this is possible
depending on the GPU.  When you say a system with a framebuffer you
mean any system with linux User Mode Setting should work without
propietary VGA BIOS ?
> >
> > Double graphics is a problem ?
> >
> > As far as I know the only modern desktop class chipsets supported by
> > the manufacturer, are AMD RS780/SB700 , am I wrong ? (thanks, AMD!). I
> > think all come with an ATI IGP , which requires blobs in the linux/X
> > driver (AtomBIOS).  I may be misinformed on AtomBIOS, but I think I
> > don't want to use it.  I've heard nouveau has just deblobed its
> > driver, so I might add an Nvidia graphics card to it (at least while
> > Open Graphics Project isn't ready for consumers). I'll try to buy one
> > second hand, as lesser evil, since I dislike buying directly from
> > vendors not supporting free software. Does having both the ATI IGP and
> > the Nvidia card give any additional complication ? (besides it's going
> > to be less tested than more usual setups). I wish Intel supported
> > coreboot or radeonhd didn't use AtomBIOS (like it once was).
> >
> This is a continued area of development, but yes, many drivers use the
> vbios too hold proprietary information. Again, not an issue if you are
> running a headless machine.

Do  you mean deblobing linux/X graphics drivers is a continued area of development
or supporting IGP + graphics card in coreboot (if it needs some speacial support
by corebbot) is a continued area of development ?

> There is no specific roadmap. This is usually driven by board
> availability. I think some boards will be ported during GSoC. If you
> have a preferred board, send an email to the list. Someone might be
> working on it.

I don't have a prefered board (yet). I was thinking of picking one 
of the few that people has shown some interest in here in the list.
That might be best for me as a newbie as I wouldn't be alone even 
if it is not currently supported yet. I'm not sure if it would be 
best for the project (having more that one test instance for the
same board ) or it would be best to have as many different boards
to test as possible.
> I think that DDR3 support will be critical for coreboot this year. I
> am optimistic that we will get some help from AMD this summer.

Ok, I can wait, I guess. I can start by the OS, test flashrom 
with the propietary bios, etc. and handle coreboot proper later.
> >
> > How to choose socketed boards ?
> >
> > How can one know whether a card has socketed or soldered BIOS ROMs besides
> > looking at it or some photos ? Should it be in the specs or manual ?
> > (I don't trust myself with a soldering iron).
> >
> This will usually be in the manual. Many boards are SPI flash now and
> you need an external programmer with a test clip to program them. This
> is an area we need to improve on the wiki.

I had read something (either in coreboot wiki or from some link there)
but I no longer find it. I thought SPI could be socketed or soldered.
> These are great goals. It sounds like you have a lot in common with
> the folks at the FSF. :)

In goals, we have a lot in common, I'm just less active pursuing them.
> There are a couple AMD and Intel platforms that might meet your needs.

Are there ? I've been looking at the supported mainboards and found
few that I could buy currently in a shop and are relatively
powerful. I'll look again.

> I expect more boards (like the 780/710) to be supported this summer if
> you are willing to wait. I am also hopeful that we see coreboot on
> systems available from vendors in the future.

I've already wited quite a lot, and my current laptop is falling
apart.  So I may buy soon, but I may install coreboot later (I
understand buying before getting support may be risky). I'd like to
buy something with coreboot preinstalled, but that may be the next
system I buy after whatever I get now. In your products page I've seen
a couple of servers with coreboot I might get, but they're a bit
expensive for what I was thinking.

Thanks for your help.

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