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Writing an End to the Bio of BIOS? 511

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the ami-phoenix-award-oh-my dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Intel and Microsoft are gearing up to move toward the first major overhaul of the innermost workings of the personal computer. The companies will begin promoting a technology specification called EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface) as a new system for starting up a PC's hardware before its operating system begins loading."
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Writing an End to the Bio of BIOS?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @10:51AM (#7834797)
    ...it HAS to be bad, and an attempt to kill Linux.

    That pretty much sums up the rest of the posts on this. Thanks, let's move on to the next story.
    • ...it HAS to be bad, and an attempt to kill Linux.

      There is no mention that this will be tailored to Windows in the article, but MS's hearty endorsement is a suspicious indicator of such. If so, would this simply become a matter of the BIOS not allowing anything but "acceptable" OSes to boot? That's where my nickel gets bet.

    • by t0ny (590331) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:32AM (#7835141)
      So in other words, since its not specifically good for Linux it shouldnt be done? Everybody needs to understand a few things about PCs and the BIOS as well-

      This stuff runs essentially the same as it did in the 80s. Sure, it uses more memory, bigger hard drives, etc, but its all just built from the same thing. Which leads into #2-

      The solutions which were created to deal with things (such as the BIOS) were only intended, by their creators, to be temporary solutions until somebody designed something better. However, the IBM PC became a standard, and everything since then been built upon that foundation.

      So, for the first time in decades, people are looking at the PC and trying to make it better. Why cant we have computers which boot up in seconds, rather than minutes? Why cant we have power saving which actually works? Those features, and many more, will only be possible with a redesign. The old way of doing things carries too much baggage.

      Its sad, because I had always thought computer people always look for the best way to do things. Unfortunately, computer people are just like everyone else, and all too willing to accept the status quo.

      • by jejones (115979) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:51AM (#7835292) Journal
        So in other words, since its not specifically good for Linux it shouldnt be done?

        That's an inaccurate paraphrase. The concern, and a valid one, IMHO, is that MS will attempt to use this to lock out competition. IOW, the question is whether this is going to be designed to be specifically bad for Linux.
      • Why doesn't the computer boot in seconds? Well, my latest Windows PC gets past the BIOS in a couple seconds. It then starts loading the OS. With Windows, the hard drive grinds and grinds and grinds, and then grinds some more, as it loads who knows what. It takes much, much longer to get Windows into memory and operating than the BIOS. Seems Windows might be the candidate for the complete re-write if fast bootup is your goal.

        What I would like to see in the default standard PC BIOS is remote control via ethe
      • by khasim (1285)
        If it is not good for Linux, then it shouldn't be done.
        After all, Linux runs on just about EVERY platform out there. From wrist watches to mainframes.
        So, if there is something about this solution that RESTRICTS Linux's access, then isn't that sufficient warning that there are problems in this "solution"?
        Is it possible to get the benefits proposed by this solution WITHOUT those restrictions?

        Its sad, because I had always thought computer people always look for the best way to do things. Unfort

    • by bizcoach (640439)
      Well if Microsoft's involved ...it HAS to be bad, and an attempt to kill Linux.

      Even if it's not directly an intentional attempt to "kill Linux" (why would the Intel engineers who designed it be interested in that!?), there can be no doubt that Microsoft is trying to do what they can to make sure that the next generation of pre-boot software for PCs will contain whatever is needed to make DRM work.

      This will not stop you from running GNU/Linux or some other Free Software OS, but if a significant percentag

  • OF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ChristTrekker (91442) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @10:51AM (#7834802)

    Why not just use Open Firmware?

    • Microsoft Logic (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Alien54 (180860) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:00AM (#7834896) Journal
      Because then Microsoft could not get it's Digital Rights management technology implemented into the hardware, and thereby lock out Open Source systems to one degree or another.

      There's been lots of worry about this sort of thing, given MS busines practices in the past.

      Freedom is a hard concept for some folks to deal with

      I hope that this turns into a financial disaster for them.

      • Re:Microsoft Logic (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Abjifyicious (696433)
        Well it's not like the Linux community is completely helpless in the legal department.

        If MS did try and bully hardware manufacturers into altering hardware to lock out Open Source systems, I would think that Red Hat, Suse, Mandrake, etc. would all be after them with lawsuits, and if MS tried to get a law passed requiring DRM in the hardware or whatever, I'm guessing there would be at least several thousand letters sent to politicians from Angry Linux Users protesting such a law. And then there are all those

        • Re:Microsoft Logic (Score:3, Insightful)

          by diakka (2281)

          Seriously folks, we're not just gonna wake up one day and find that all our favorite OS's have been outlawed.

          If everyone had your attitude, then I feel confident that day would come to pass.

          It's the paranoid and vigilant who will work to protect freedom. The fact that this discussion is taking place should be a warning to MS that we will not take any such lock out attempt lying down. Should it be the case that EFI is not used for lock out purposes, you'll surely say, "See, you were just paranoid". B

        • Re:Microsoft Logic (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Billly Gates (198444) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:13PM (#7838869) Journal
          "Seriously folks, we're not just gonna wake up one day and find that all our favorite OS's have been outlawed."

          You know, back in 99 I heard a similiar argument by the vast majority of slashdotters in regards to a new propossed law called the DMCA.

          I myself called RMS and the EFF, lunitics and mentioned it here in regards to it. I got modded +4 informitive. My responses were on the line of ya, like they are going to sue innocent software developers who want to watch DVD's or those who bad mouth a company.

          Come on get real. The dmca will never be used to cancel free speech.....

          Well, I was shocked to find out not only was RMS and the EFF right but it was far far more worse then imagined.

          Why can't I watch my own dvd's?

          You know what? What would MS and the MPAA do if I wrote a patch for Lilo or grub that uses the ultra secret boot signature? I would get thrown in the federal "slam me in the ass" prison!

          I just posted another post mentioning how Linux will be still supported for some time like OS/2 is from many bios's. But still I am extremely cautous.

          ALso look at soyo with the ACPI installed by default on some of their motherboards due to a bug. Linux and FreeBSD at the time could not use ACPI properly with it and it caused a major headache. The same could happen if pallidium is on by default so manufactors could avoid headaches with Linux support. I doubt this but its certainly possible.

    • Oh sure. Like all the high paid engineers at Intel and Microsoft are going to tell their bosses, "No let's not reinvent the wheel, people on the internet have already got a solution." They're going to discount it as much as possible...and their bosses will agree. The whole crux of the Microsoft fight against Linux and Open Source is that it invalidates one of the essential marketing idioms the software giant relies on: that market share alone is enough reason to trust the expertise of a software company.
      • Besides, if they went with an Open Firmware solution, ANYBODY could write one. Which means vendors would go with the cheapest solution. Which, if Phoenix Bios is any indication, would be complete crap.

        Yeah, but at least we could brag that our crap system, which we took the trouble to assemble ourselves after hours of research and ordering from dozens of different part sources, cost a few bucks less than a Mac. Keep sight of what's important here!

        • Re:OF? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dasmegabyte (267018)
          Hey, I know how important bragging rights are. I've sunk several thousand dollars into restoring a 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle. There's nothing like a slow, loud, underpowered, kind-of-gay rolling coffin that you built yourself!

          I support hobby computing. But I don't fool myself into thinking that what works for us nerds will work for the majority of the population. Most people are better off having Microsoft make their decisions for them. Hell, my PC runs windows...because in the time it would have
    • by Alien54 (180860) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:08AM (#7834974) Journal
      Seriously, the more complex you make the code in the bios, the more chance for security flaws built into the hardware itself.

      Imagine the horror of having to patch a system by swapping out chips. I think I recall some old time viruses that basically screwed up the bios royally, and which were not easily cleanable, to one degree or another.

      Remember, this design is supposed to be a feature, not a flaw.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:11AM (#7835006)
      Take ACPI, for example. If you take out the P of ACPI, and stick to the configuration features, you end up with something very similar to (some parts of) OF. A device name tree? OF has it. An intermediate language for device initialization? OF has it.

      OF has only one difference to ACPI: OF works. Devices are made with valid machine-language drivers, so that the OS doesn't have to patch it upon boot, etc, etc, etc. Don't take me wrong, I really believed that ACPI would be great, but when people started implementing it, we saw what mess it became. It was one of the reasons I moved away of the x86 platform. It is just a bunch of hacks.

      So why Intel created ACPI? Because while ACPI is also "open", Intel can control it. And Intel knows that while it keeps the power of defining standards, it will be the leading chip manufacturer: it helps to keep it top of mind in terms of consumer ICs.

      For those who don't know what OF is, take a look at this [firmworks.com].
      • by Burnon (19653) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @12:42PM (#7835749)
        So, earlier someone posted a link [kerneltraffic.org] to a summrary of a discussion on the Linux kernel list. An Intel guy pointed out some issues with the Openfirmware model that make some sense.

        The way I read it is, hardware manufacturers want cheap products, and nobody wants to get locked in to supporting just one system architecture for an expansion card.

        With something like openfirmware, apparently you have to have a ROM big enough to contain valid code that can run on both IA-32 and IA-64 and PPC, etc., or you end up with things like PC-only and Mac-only cards, which isn't cheap, either. So as nasty as ACPI has been from an implementation point of view, it seems like it does some stuff that open firmware can't do. Same can be said for EFI. Seems like a hell of a problem to me - damned if you do, damned if you don't.

        Now, that said, no arguments about the other fringe benefits Intel gets from pushing the standard.

        P.S. To my mind, Linus' post on the issue in the thread seems like something that your average software dude (self included) might come up with. Come up with simple hardware specs that don't need ROM code, and standardize on THAT. I'd kill for that kind of utopia in my line of work. I don't work in PCs, I work in embedded systems. All the hardware guys talk about gaining a competitive edge by locking people into their proprietary hardware via a software interface that they control. Same thing going on here - it's not the software dudes in the industry that need convincing - it's the hardware and business dudes who aren't looking to the future, but to the next product.
        • by Kymermosst (33885) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @03:27PM (#7837701) Journal
          With something like openfirmware, apparently you have to have a ROM big enough to contain valid code that can run on both IA-32 and IA-64 and PPC, etc., or you end up with things like PC-only and Mac-only cards...

          Nope, plug-in drivers [firmworks.com] on Open Firmware compatible cards are written in FCODE, which is a Forth bytecode language.

          Completely machine independent.

          The article says that Open Firmware was considered, but they didn't want to drop ACPI.

          Frankly, Open Firmware has a lot of features you are just never going to see on home machines/cheap server boxes as long as Intel and MS are in charge. I'd rather have OF on my server boxes, hence why I chose a Sun machine.
    • Re:OF? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by squiggleslash (241428) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:14AM (#7835018) Homepage Journal
      My guess is that OpenFirmware is seen as cryptic. The deal with current BIOSes is that you hold down DEL and up comes a nice, friendly, menu where you can configure anything in the BIOS you want.

      Whereas most people used to OpenFirmware know the default interface involves writing things like:

      1 1 + dup dup + dup + + base !

      ...and that's just to get it to give you numbers in decimal.

      Not that there aren't ways around this, obviously. For starters, there's no reason why DEL can't just bring up a GUI (or arrow-keys/ESC/Enter text interface), it doesn't have to bring up a command line. The point though is that OpenFirmware is seen as hard, it has a serious image problem.

      • Re:OF? (Score:3, Informative)

        by MarcQuadra (129430) *
        Well if you think about it OF really makes needing that GUI unnescessary. On an OF machine the BIOS is a lot smarter, it can 'make decisions' better than an 8-bit PC BIOS can, decisions like memory timings, disk configurations, network booting, etc. I've got both kinds of machines right here (OF Macs and PC-BIOS PCs) and I can tell you it's a LOT nicer to just trust your machine than to have to go in dicking with memory timings and FSB multipliers, etc. when you install new hardware. Also, the number one fu
    • Re:OF? (Score:5, Funny)

      by cloudmaster (10662) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:18AM (#7835054) Homepage Journal
      That's a mature, existing standard. If consumer PCs were meant to have OF, they would've gotten it a long time ago. Therefore, a new "standard" should be developed and left undocumented.
  • So? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @10:51AM (#7834804)
    So what happens when Intel and Microsoft decide they don't want anymore competition?
    • by Markvs (17298) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:06AM (#7834951) Journal
      What do you mean when? I thought that decision was made back in 1994!

    • Re:So? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by fitten (521191)
      Intel's main concern is selling chips. If the chip runs MS Windows, fine... that's a sold chip. If the chip runs Linux, fine... that's a sold chip. No matter the OS you run on the Intel chip, you *still bought an Intel chip*.

      Why would Intel *not* want another OS to run on an Intel platform? There is no amount of tinfoil that can justify it.
      • Re:So? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by whereiswaldo (459052)
        Why would Intel *not* want another OS to run on an Intel platform?

        You forgot the other side of the equation pretty quickly.

        Microsoft, the largest software manufacturer in the world, conviced monopolist, and vendor of the OS which runs on over 90% of the desktop computers in the world, could stipulate to Intel that they do not allow 'other' operating systems to run on their chips. Or, that they require a certain technology in the software for the chip to function, which Microsoft conveniently protects us
  • EFI sucks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuperQ (431) * on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @10:52AM (#7834813) Homepage
    I have several IA-64 systems at work. IA-64 requires EFI (part of the intel spec). It's a major pain in the ass.. you have to have a dos fat formated filesystem to store bootloaders, and other utilities as a primary partition.. besides the fact that they changed the normal dos partition format for EFI. I wish they would have just ported OpenBoot.
    • Re:EFI sucks (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Licensing issues straight up then FAT = paid license nowdays :D

    • Just from reading the specs, it sounds like MCA (MicroChannel Architecture) on the old IBM PS/2's. They had to have driver discs for hardware to work, IIRC they drivers were stored on a special partition as well. Good precursor to Plug&Play, but a PITA.

    • Re:EFI sucks (Score:5, Interesting)

      by zdzichu (100333) <zdzichu @ i r c . pl> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:09AM (#7834984) Homepage Journal
      EFI sucks. Even Linus says so [kerneltraffic.org].
    • That really sounds like what I have to do to boot linux on my mac. It's not that much of a pain in the ass, unless of course you have to do the whole "reformat after filling 80 GB" thing.
      From the way I understood what this was trying to accomplish, it seems that openfirmware has a couple of years jump on them.
      Perhaps it's just a difference between you and me, but I find that making specific partitions on a cleanly formatted drive not so much of a pain in the ass, considering that I have to wipe the drive
  • by Hej (626547) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @10:53AM (#7834817)
    I wonder if this new BIOS replacement will be designed based on the assumption that everybody is running the most current version of Windows.
    • by swordboy (472941) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @12:15PM (#7835497) Journal
      Check out the link in my sig. If I am speculating correctly, then Intel will be manufacturing processors that will come with oodles of NVRAM. Oddly, Microsoft is launching a version of Windows called Elements [technobabble.com.au] to go along with Intel's upcoming "stackable" Pentium 5. While the market believes that the stacking design is for the addition of 64-bit expansion, I believe it is for NVRAM expansion.

      Elements will reside completely in NVRAM. Not only will this allow for great enhancements to power consumption, it also eliminates the need for a BIOS.
  • by cybermancer (99420) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @10:53AM (#7834824) Homepage
    When I see Microsoft and Intel working together I think of the platform lock-in of WinTel. This makes me wonder if they plan to have secret hooks offering advantages to their products. It will of course only be a matter of time for the likes of AMD and Linux to get up to speed, but sometimes a little time is all it takes to improve a market advantage through unfair practices.
    • Seems it's what's happening now. http://www.x86-64.org/ [x86-64.org]
    • Hmm, I am not too sure. Intel is not the problem, Microsoft is. If they give AMD an choice between complete compliance or no Windows support for their hardwares, what would AMD choose?
    • by nycsubway (79012) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:16AM (#7835039) Homepage
      I think Windows and Linux should form a joint platform. Windows OS with Linux firmware, called Windex!
    • Not to step outside the Slashdot standard but remember, we do live in an open market. If Microsoft and intel try to pull this kind of stunt, even the most basic computer user is going to notice. ("Why can't I download my mp3's of the net etc.") Then along comes a company that sells a board that's compatible with the newer processors but lacks the DRM and guess what all the computer manufacturers will chose. Before you put on your tin hats remember that we still control what we purchase, and we only put up w
      • by the_mad_poster (640772) <shattoc@adelphia.com> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @12:48PM (#7835811) Homepage Journal

        That works great in market situations where people have a tiny clue as to what they're buying. The PC industry is, for the most part, clueless from stem to stern.

        Joe Schmoe goes to buy a new car. He gets in a Ford Focus and the fast talking lipman tries to sell it. But Joe Schmoe doesn't like it, it's too slow.

        The Lipman puts Joe in a Focus SVT. Okay, not as slow, but Joe's not very comfortable.

        Lipman puts Joe in a Mustang, but that's not comfortable either, so he puts him in a Taurus. The Taurus isn't much Joe's style, but it's not too terribly sluggish and it's comfy, so he takes an SeS. Joe has made an intelligent buying decision by weighing his desires against his wallet and picked a reasonable compromise between all of the things that are important to him. Joe's car will work everywhere, and if someone tries to interfere with that, he'll notice. Joe is reasonably clued about this market.

        Now, Joe needs a computer. Joe don't know electronics, so Joe goes to Circuit City and starts looking at computers. Joe knew what "200 hp" meant and even had a reasonable understanding of how the torque came into play in his new Taurus. But, Joe doesn't know how the combination of an "onboard video card" and the processor and the "memory" and the speed of the hard drive all come into play. Joe knows he wants to watch DVDs and he wants to surf for porn. The Lipman in Circuit City tells him that this new Compaq has everything he needs. Joe pretends to know what he's looking at, then buys it because it has a soundcard and a DVD-ROM. Joe doesn't know what DRM is, nobody mentioned it, and since he has a DRM'ed system, he'll almost never notice things not working because it always silently grants him access because he's "trusted". Anything that doesn't work will be written off as "broken".

        The geeks, on the other hand, being a horribly underwhelming minority, are screaming bloody murder because they can't access half the sites on the net. Google sucks now and we can no longer listen to mp3 samples or watch movie trailers.

        Tens of millions of Joes never know anything about the troubles of a couple hundred thousand geeks. DRM has been slipped into everything because the target market has no clue what it is, nobody tells them, and they don't think to ask.

        So yes, it's an open market. But, it's an open market controlled by idiots.

    • by NineNine (235196) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:19AM (#7835056)
      I agree. I see the same thing with Apple. Every time I buy a Macintosh, I have the hardest time getting W2K to run on them. Damn lock in.
  • Of course... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SharpFang (651121) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @10:54AM (#7834834) Homepage Journal
    Of course that woukld include obligatory, non-overridable DRM chip driver?
    Big Brother Has You!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @10:54AM (#7834836)
    One thing I've always hated about the standard PC BIOS is that you need a keyboard, video and mouse (kvm) to configure the thing.

    It'd be great if EFI initialised a serial console if detected that there was no KVM attached to the system. It'd be great for custom-made PC routers and servers on generic hardware running Linux or xBSD.
  • by Channard (693317) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @10:55AM (#7834846) Journal
    Particularly Microsoft themselves - if X-Box reaches a third iteration - I doubt this'll make X-Box 2. It may well allow them to put a stop to the old trick of soldering in a new bios chip that takes precedence over the onboard bios, thereby allowing the user to run all sorts of software, legal oses and programs and illegal pirate copies.
    • It may well allow them to put a stop to the old trick of soldering in a new bios chip that takes precedence over the onboard bios,

      Uh, no. You put code in the chip to load the EFI code from disk and then, before executing it, patch out the anti-pirate functions and self checksums.

      If you can control what gets executed first, you win. Now if they move the EFI framework inside the CPU silicon then they've pretty much won, but at the cost of flexibility of the CPU and nightmare EFI code updates.
  • DRM, here we come! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cozziewozzie (344246)
    Not really surprising. Microsoft will need some support from the BIOS to implement their DRM 'features'. I wonder how much this will impact Linux and other free systems. After all, MS now have enough XBox experience to ensure that only their operating system can be run.

    I have a bad feeling that one day we might have 'consumer-oriented' windows computers which will be cheaper and will only run Windows...
    • cheaper? i bet the price will creep up over a few years (when older machines start dying).

      If MicroSoft has total control over the hardware also, seems like happy days for Apple and OSX.
    • After all, MS now have enough XBox experience to ensure that only their operating system can be run.

      Oh yes...they have a GREAT [sourceforge.net] track record for that...
  • OF (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    It's been on the cards for some years. Anything has to be better than a chunk of 16bit Real Mode code providing a whole bunch of functions that no one uses any more.

    What I'd like to see is a more intelligent system. We still have to load the boot manager as a 512 byte chunk from sector 0 of the "first" hard drive for crying out loud! If Intel get this right, we should have intelligence right at the start. Something like GRUB or XOSL running right from ROM would be great. The ability to control hardwar
  • We already have a perfectly good standard, it's called Open Firmware [openfirmware.org].
  • OpenFirmware (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @10:56AM (#7834866) Homepage Journal
    OpenFirmware [openfirmware.com] is older than the hills, well tested, loved by all, and used on just about every machine EXCEPT Intel. Is anyone getting a sense of NIH syndrome?

    • Forth?

      Wasn't Postscript good enough for them?

      No wonder it's not hit mainstream.

      • Forth?

        Wasn't Postscript good enough for them?


        Do you have any idea WTF you're talking about? Postscript is a document display language. Forth is a general purpose, turing complete, mathematics language. Quite a difference there.

        Besides, it's not like you actually have to be able to code Forth to use OpenFirmware. It's just a feature.

        No wonder it's not hit mainstream.

        That is, if you don't consider Apple, Sun, IBM, HP OR JUST ABOUT EVERY FREAKING COMPUTER MAKER OTHER THAN INTEL mainstream.
  • I remember when we had to flash our BIOS off a 5 1/4 inch magnetic storage media and if there was a brown out like there so often were back before we had nuclear fission, you'd have to replace your EPROM! You kids have it so good these days.
  • Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mekkab (133181) * on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @10:57AM (#7834875) Homepage Journal
    The excuse "WEll, current BIOS systems is just patch written upon patch written upon patch. ITs a mess."

    But it works. Is an EFI system going to be markedly faster? When you tell me you are loading device drivers at the BIOS level, that tells me "No"- you are creeping the OS lower.

    So whats the deal?
    from Intel's EFI web site [intel.com]: Together, these provide a standard environment for booting an operating system and running pre-boot applications.

    AHhhh! Running PRE-BOOT operations! This sounds like a lame way to shoe-horn in DRM or something similar onto my machine before it loads up.

    Maybe I'm acting paranoid, but the slowest thing on my windows computer is WINDOWS, not the bios- that runs pretty fast.
    • I'm sorry, that should be "More" device drivers at the BIOS level. Of COURSE you are loading device drivers at the BIOS level- (boot devices, keyboard, video, ram) Its the frickin' BIOS!

  • Figures. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alecto (42429) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:01AM (#7834914) Homepage
    No mention at all in the article of what has to be one of the biggest reasons for the push to change the boot process: Digital Restrictions Management/Trusted Computing/Palladium/Next Generation Secure Computing Base. (Notice how the name gets changed every time it becomes obvious what it really is.)
  • ... the BIOS theoretical loophole to Treacherous Computing.

    One better start stockpiling computers that still work...
  • by cybermancer (99420) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:01AM (#7834923) Homepage
    I noticed that the first PC to use EFI was a Gateway "Media Center" desktop. For those who do not know, Media Center is Microsoft's first attempt at highly integration of DRM (Digital Rights Management) into the core functionality of the OS. Knowing the agenda for Palladiam and so called "Trusted Computing" (Who do you trust today?) I would really think twice before letting the likes of Microsoft and Intel (remember the P4 CPU ID?) rewrite my PC at the BIOS level.

    The "competition" between Pheonix BIOS and EFI could be the beginning of the split between closed platform "Trusted" PC's and open platform PC's. I would not be surprised if EFI has provisions (at some future point) to require the OS is signed. That rules out Linux, BSD, etc.

    Naturally they are doing all this for our best interests.
    • Quoting the Phoenix article linked to in the body of the main article

      "Future versions will take aim at servers, blades, desktops and embedded systems such as consumer electronics, with plans to introduce digital rights management (DRM) and more closely integrate the BIOS with Windows."

      Gonna end up between a rock and a hard place as far as DRM is concerned.

      Those media co.s have to try and squeeze every penny.
    • remember the P4 CPU ID?

      Yes, I remember the P3's CPU ID. I remember turning it off in the BIOS on first boot of my (then) brand new P3 700, and I remember it staying off and having absolutely no effect on me at all.

      I also remember not reading about any invasions of privacy involving the CPU ID. To be honest, I'm surprised that you mentioned it, given that nothing much really came of it. Sure, perhaps they had designs on something nefarious or underhand - but it came to nothing. That may well be a good ind
    • by poot_rootbeer (188613) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @12:37PM (#7835686)
      For those who do not know, Media Center is Microsoft's first attempt at highly integration of DRM (Digital Rights Management) into the core functionality of the OS.

      ???

      The DRM hooks may be present in XP Media Center Edition, but that doesn't mean you have to use them. I've been running the OS for weeks, and haven't even had to sign up for a Passport.

      My HP Media Center PC even came with software to convert video files captured by MS'S PVR codec into free-and-clear MPEG's.
  • by dido (9125) <dido@NOsPAm.imperium.ph> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:04AM (#7834942)

    The original PC BIOS has incredibly remained basically unchanged since the days of the IBM PC, more than twenty years ago. We have all that legacy stuff in our PC's firmware that harks back to the days of MS-DOS and its limitations are being stretched to the breaking point by hacks and kluges (e.g. the disk size limits imposed by the real-mode BIOS calls). It would be nice to see it all go away for good.

    On the other hand, it's Microsoft and Intel working together on this. This could very well be the next step towards the groundwork for Palladium, and more ugly DRM embedded into the lowest levels of PC hardware, that may well prevent anyone from running any operating system on commodity PC hardware besides that of Microsoft, among other baneful things. I'm not willing to bet that this new specification doesn't lay this type of groundwork in any way.

  • by morcheeba (260908) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:07AM (#7834964) Journal
    The download page [intel.com] requires a fake name and email, but you can skip that and get the latest version (1.10-001) here [intel.com]. (Total karma whore link: EFI homepage [intel.com])

    The license isn't actually too bad - it just says that if you provide them feedback, then you also grant them the right to implement your idea.
    1. Load the initial boot loader into the core memory using the front panel switches
    2. Load the proper boot loader from tape using the initial boot loader
    3. Change a couple of memory locations (too lazy to splice tape on bootstrap loader)
    4. Reset and boot
    What was so difficult about that we needed to change it?
  • At least on the new hardware a lot of legacy OS's wont function.

    Force upgrades.. fun fun...
  • The day that takes hold is the day I find a new platform, it's not like x86 is the only game in town.

    Heck, older SGI Octanes are going for peanuts (comapared to thier original price) on ebay, and they are mostly upgradeable to current spec. And Apple is over there just drooling for my cash.

    There really shouldn't be that much going on in BIOS, that's what the whole B part means, ya know.
    • And Apple is over there just drooling for my cash.

      Yeah, well, you would be too if you could successfully charge your customers 100% markup over comparable x86 hardware and have them lining up begging to pay it.
  • This sounds like what Apple/IBM/Motorola/Sun started doing a long time ago with Open Firmware:

    http://www.openfirmware.org/
    http://playground. sun.com/1275/
    http://developer.apple.com/technote s/tn/tn1061.htm l
    http://bananajr6000.apple.com/
  • This is definitely a scam by the suits to get back the personal computer thing they let slip away from them, that mutated in the internet monster that is now eating their lunch.

    Don't forget a lot of established businesses count on people's ignorance and lack of options. When they lose those things, profits go down and we cant have that!

  • EFI == DRM? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by AwesomeJT (525759)
    I don't trust anything Microsoft writes. I certainly don't want them writing BIOS level stuff before their buggy OS gets loaded.

    However, I'm wondering if this is how they will integrate digital rights management that the MPAA and RIAA want soo badly forced on to consumers computers? This could be it. Everyone's computer must authenticate with the Master Server in Redmond. :-)

    Beyond that, this just means we'll blue screen faster or on detection of a non-MS operating system.

    Personally I find fault with

  • This is PS/2 2.0 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RealProgrammer (723725) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:54AM (#7835313) Homepage Journal

    No, not PlayStation. "Personal System /2", IBM's attempt in 1985-86 to rewrite the PC Industry Standard Architecture into their own proprietary version. They charged a measely 5% licensing fee (in a market where margins were already in that range).

    I predict this will die because:

    1. Hardware incompatibility with somebody
    2. It will be slooow to boot
    3. It already makes my tin hat glow

    Oh, and Microsoft is drifting into irrelevance.

  • by salesgeek (263995) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @12:46PM (#7835790) Homepage
    Whats the big deal here? Everyone knows bios is obsolete. It doesn't start with the all powerful internet letters "e" or "i". It doesn't have an embedded web browser. It can't play downloadable games. It even sounds all 80's - logo, DOS, bios, ROM... Not sexy. So here's the marketing redesign:

    * Start with a leter "e" or "i". "e" is more powerful because it evokes environmentalist images of birds singing, clean water, air, beaches. I is too industrial... Let's go with E
    * No StudlyCaps - Too 90s
    * Avoid anything that sounds like a computer part from the movie Tron. To 80s.
    * Add features that journalists want: pre-os software load (we don't want the OPERATING SYSTEM RUNNING THE COMPUTER), DRM, Support for hard drive loaded modules, and OnStar w/GPS for convenient assistance for law enforcement.
  • EFI is useful (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dlapine (131282) <dlapine@ncsa.uiuc . e du> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @01:59PM (#7836678) Homepage
    If you run ia64 (all 5 of us :) ) you already run EFI. For some of you out there who may not have actually seen EFI in action, I'd thought I provide some small examples of what it looks like.

    EFI does a running check of the hardware that it understands, drivers for which were provided by the Motherboard maker.

    Here's a snapshot of the EFI SCAN on my INTEL Tiger4 system.:

    EFI version 1.10 [14.61] Build flags: EFI64 Running on Intel(R) Itanium(R) 2 processor EFI_DEBUG
    EFI IA-64 SDV/FDK (BIOS CallBacks) [Wed Jan 1 23:33:30 2003] - INTEL
    Cache Enabled. This image MainEntry is at address 000000007FA02000
    Searching for EFI 1.1 SCSI driver....
    Scsi(Pun0,Lun0) MAXTOR ATLASU320_18_SCAB120 (320 MBytes/sec)
    Scsi(Pun1,Lun0) MAXTOR ATLASU320_73_SCAB120 (320 MBytes/sec)
    Scsi(Pun2,Lun0) MAXTOR ATLASU320_73_SCAB120 (320 MBytes/sec)
    Scsi(Pun6,Lun0) ESG-SHV
    Invoking PxeDhcp4 protocol to obtain IP address.

    At the end of this, I get a menu that I can manually select from (cursor up and down), or let it automatically try the options(which can be modified to suit the user's needs). Here's a snapsnot:

    EFI Boot Manager ver 1.10 [14.61]

    Please select a boot option

    Network Boot/Pci(1|0|0)/Mac(0007E9D8147A)
    Linux
    Floppy/Pci(1F|1)/Ata(Primary,Slave)
    CD/DVD ROM/Pci(1F|1)/Ata(Primary,Master)
    EFI Shell [Built-in]
    Boot option maintenance menu

    Use ^ and v to change option(s). Use Enter to select an option

    As you can see, EFI has detected the network card, a bootable linux partition, the floppy (LS240 in this case), and the cdrom drive. Anything you can detect, you can boot off from.

    The EFI shell option brings you into a shell. Once in the shell, you can easily switch to another filesystem by executing a changefilesystem command, similar to msdos:

    fs1:

    The shell prompt (for filesystem 0, which is the first filesystem EFI finds, whether its on a floppy, a cdrom, a harddrive, usb key, whatever)

    fs0:\>

    The shell looks like a dos shell, but runs commands that the motherboard manufacturer includes, such as "edit" "ls" "cat" "cp" "mount" and others. These commands live in ROM.

    EFI understands the FAT32 filesystem and can perform operations on files living there including editing. EFI can access any FAT32 on any device EFI has a built-in driver for, and any device that the user can obtain an EFI driver for.

    Another nice feature is that you can create a partition on the disk that efi will use to hold more commands, or updated commands, or drivers for newer hardware. These extra commands when then be available to you at boot time.

    To the user, EFI looks almost like an built-in mini OS that understands enough of the hardware to give you several boot options, as well as the ability to manipulate files on the devices it sees.

    I've seen no evidence of DRM support, or OS lock-in, but that certainly doesn't rule out the possibility. The thing is, EFI is enough of a standard that the user might have the possibility of replacing the stock EFI with some other version to meet their personal needs. This would certainly put us ahead of where we are with current vendor lockin on motherboard bios.

  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @02:59PM (#7837357) Homepage
    The basic question is this: will mainstream machines sold in retail channels still be able to run a non-Microsoft OS?

    There are several ways EFI could discourage Linux use:

    • The boot firmware might refuse to boot anything other than a signed operating system. The XBox is that way now. Microsoft would like that, but it's a bit too blatant and might attract unwanted antitrust attention, especially in the European Union.
    • Dual booting probably won't work for Microsoft operating systems. That's quite likely with Palladium-type DRM. Interposing a new boot loader breaks the chain of trust between the firmware and the OS. A Microsoft OS can tell that an unauthorized component has run before it loaded, and can refuse to run. Even if it runs, it won't let you access "protected content" (movies, music, etc.). This will discourage casual Linux use. You'll have to dedicate a machine to Linux.
    • The boot firmware might require some technology for which Microsoft has intellectual property rights. Microsoft's new push on enforcing their rights to long-name FAT file systems indicates a step in this direction. Does EFI require a long-name FAT file system? If it does, you won't be able to build a bootable Linux image without paying Microsoft. You'd probably have to build Linux images using a Microsoft machine. So the Linux-only user won't be able to build a bootable image from source.
    • There may be undocumented proprietary aspects to EFI that make it hard to write to. Watch for incorporation by reference of some Microsoft standard into the EFI standard. This is already a major problem with graphics cards.

    It's a subtle strategy. It's not going to be impossible to boot Linux, but it looks like it's about to become more difficult.

    It will still be possible to build machines that run Linux, and there will be companies that do so and preload Linux. But they'll make up their own distribution, like the Thiz Linux you find at Wal-Mart. End user installation of Linux will decrease. Red Hat's air supply will be cut off.

    Once you see the whole strategy, you realize just how clever Microsoft is being about this. It's not so blatant as to provoke screams from the industry, but it's enough to put a big dent in Linux installs.

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