[coreboot] BBC EFI story

ron minnich rminnich at gmail.com
Fri Oct 1 22:52:57 CEST 2010

This story is full of errors. I thought I'd point out a few.

"New PCs could start in just seconds, thanks to an update to one of
the oldest parts of desktop computers."

I've got news for the UEFI forum: OLD computers, starting 10 years
ago, have been starting in seconds, thanks to the coreboot project. We
first showed a 12 second boot at the Atlanta Linux Symposium in Oct.
2000. It is hardly news that one can boot a computer quickly. The
project then was called LinuxBIOS; the project today is called
Coreboot. Coreboot works on embedded systems, desktops, laptops, and
supercomputers. It has run in the iRobot packbot for 10 years,
searching mines and saving lives. Some of the biggest supercomputers
in the world have run coreboot. Work on coreboot was, in fact, funded
first by the US Gov't (Dept. of Energy) and more recently by the
German Government (see, for example,

So why, might you ask, did vendors not pick this technology up 10
years ago? Technology that worked on x86, 64-bit x86, Power PC, and
DEC Alpha? The reason is simple: it's open source. And, while vendors
finally did decide that an open source operating system might be
acceptable, they have had a lot of trouble accepting an open source
BIOS. They feel that too much information is divulged if the BIOS is
open source. They make a lot of excuses, but in the end, they finally
admit that the issue is that they don't want the hardware to be that

"The upgrade will spell the end for the 25-year-old PC start-up
software known as Bios that initialises a machine so its operating
system can get going."

The BIOS could have been ended ten years ago, but for a simple fact:
many customers don't much like EFI. It's clumsy, slow, and closed. And
it's hard to work around, as it is designed to hide information.

"The code was not intended to live nearly this long, and adapting it
to modern PCs is one reason they take as long as they do to warm up."

There's a lot more to it than that. The closed nature of the BIOS
software made it very hard to replace. And, again, the vendors have
shown time and again that they prefer a closed, proprietary solution
to an open source solution. That's the real problem.

"Alternatives to UEFI, such as Open Firmware and Coreboot, do exist
and are typically used on computers that do not run chips based on
Intel's x86 architecture."

This statement is completely wrong. Coreboot has run on x86 systems
from the start and, in fact, only runs on x86 systems now. Open
Firmware also runs on x86 systems and is in fact the BIOS for the One
Laptop Per Child project -- an x86 system.

""At the moment it can be 25-30 seconds of boot time before you see
the first bit of OS sign-on," he said. "With UEFI we're getting it
under a handful of seconds.""

It's nice to see UEFI catching up only 10 years later; the first
versions took 10 minutes to boot. Automobile computers, using ARM
processors, and an open source BIOS called U-boot, boot Linux in 8/10
of a second. So, while UEFI is where coreboot was ten years ago, we've
all moved on; seconds is kind of slow nowadays.

"He said that 2011 would be the year that sales of UEFI machines start
to dominate."

Dominate what? Certainly not cell phones. Certainly not the ipad. In
fact, UEFI is going to dominate a segment that matters less and less
nowadays -- PC-compatible desktops and laptops.

I think you can do better than this article; the BBC is one of the
finest news organizations in the world. It seems you took a puff-piece
from the UEFI group and removed the quotes. I'm very disappointed in
the BBC.

Ron Minnich
Founder, LinuxBIOS, which is now coreboot.

More information about the coreboot mailing list