[coreboot] building a coreboot (and 100% free software) compatible box

"Kristóf, Csillag" csillag.kristof at gmail.com
Thu Feb 7 02:58:57 CET 2013


I am looking to build a new computer very soon, and I would like to ask 
for your advice about it, especially about software supports.

My requirements are the following:

1. Absolutely necessary:

1.1. It must be able to run 100% free software. No closed BIOS. No 
binary firmware loaded to any part of the system with meaningful access 
to my data. (CPU, GPU, network card, etc.) Open display drivers. (Don't 
care about 3D.) I don't need UEFI, thank you very much.

1.2. It must have hardware support for AES. (For hw crypto acceleration.)

1.4. It must have hardware support for virtualization.

1.5. It must be able to drive 3 independent display outputs, at least in 
1920x1200 resolution.
     (Preferably all digital, but that's not necessary.)

1.6. I must _use_ this, in a production environment, therefore it must 
work. Reliably. Now. I have ~15 yrs Linux programming experience, have 
modified stuff inside the kernel and X drivers, and I am not afraid to 
have my hands dirty, but now I am not here to run a hobby project, I 
want to to buy something that works, so that I can do my job using it.

2. Would be nice:

2.1. It should only use integrated graphics. (Both Intel and AMD can do 
3 displays from integrated graphics now.) If I must, I could add 
discrete card[s], but that increases power consumption and system size...

2.2. Size small enough to be portable. Not planning to use in on the 
move; I mean portable in a (potentially huge) backpack, between several 
sites, where I intend to use them.
     - size of Intel NUC or Thin Mini-ITX mainboard are very cool,
     - Mini ITX is great, too,
     - MicroATX is acceptable
     - ATX seems to be too big, unless you can recommend me a really, 
really small case (with acceptable cooling)

2.3. Modern tech and High CPU performance. Of course :) Whatever is 

2.4. Low TDP, for the possibility of quite/silent cooling.
     - definitely under 100W,
     - probably at most 65W,
     - ideally only 45W.

2.5. It should be built from standard components, with standard 
interfaces. (So that I can replace anything later.) Notebook/Laptop 
stuff is hard, there is too much diversity, not enough standards. 
Desktop technology seems to be easiest. x86 is not a must (as long as 
the given arch is supported by Debian), but would be nice, since it has 
the most support.

    * * *

Obviously, given the requirements, I am aware that I will need to forgo 
some of the "would be nice" bits.

If it was not for the software situation, I would go with a MoBo like 
Gigabyte GA-Z77MX-D3H TH (MicroATX, has 2x thunderbolt + DVI + HDMI), 
and with a CPU like Intel Xeon E3-1265L V2 (Quad-core with HT, 45W TDP, 
scores ~8800 on cpubenchmark I would not need to add a discrete video card.

If I went the AMD way, I would go with ASUS F2A85-M PRO motherboard 
(eyefinity enabled, with DP + DVI + HDMI + D-SUB), and AMD A10-5700 APU. 
(65W TDP, scores ~4500 on cpubenchmark.)

    * * *

Now, if I understand correctly, the both GPU's (intel HD 4000 and Radeon 
HD 7660D) runs on binary firmware blobs.
I have read about attempts to replace the Intel firmware with an open 
version, but I am not sure where it stands now.

What are my options here?

Thank you for your help:


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