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Hardware Hacking

LinuxBIOS Gets GUI 171

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the well-isn't-that-pretty dept.
LWATCDR writes "Has a great write up on combining LinuxBios a Linux kernel, busybox, X, a window manager, and rxvt into a two meg flash chip. So what does get you? A six second boot time for one. All sorts of uses come to mind. Terminals to use with the Linux Terminal server. A very fast booting embedded system like a Car computer. With every one pushing for multi-core cpus, mega gigabyte drives and many gigabytes of ram it is interesting to see how small you can go."
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LinuxBIOS Gets GUI

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  • Slashdotted (Score:3, Funny)

    by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Friday March 09, 2007 @09:31AM (#18288400)
    I hope they weren't running their webserver with it.
  • by ArcherB (796902) * on Friday March 09, 2007 @09:37AM (#18288444) Journal
    While the X server was quite cool, I don't see what functionality it can bring at this stage of the game. I want to see a Linux BIOS that works for my hardware that allows me all the features of my existing BIOS. If you can do that with X, great! But right now, I want function over form. A text base menu like what I have now would be fine.

    • by Dielectric (266217) on Friday March 09, 2007 @10:17AM (#18288820)
      I think you missed the point. It's running a fully graphical Linux in 2MB of solid-state memory. It just happens to be residing in the BIOS chip, which means no other hardware is necessary to get a functioning system. I think it's awfully cool.
      • I wonder what would happen if they could work with these guys [picotux.com].
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Yes, though I'd be interested in some HOWTO regarding putting bootable Linux in a BIOS chip that doesn't include X11, but basic SVGAlib or even headless and the ability to insert some custom applications. I'd like to turn some old diskless PC hardware and a vid capture card into an IP cam with some custom security functions...

        The OP leads me to believe it's possible.

        I've got an old PROM/PIC burner that I could dust off, now I wonder if that could be used to burn some BIOS chips with this sort of thing.
    • Given that is for a BIOS project, the primary goal is to load another OS off larger storage medium. So why an GUI? Easy, what do you do when your main OS fails? You reach for a bootable recovery CD or USB drive. Oh, but you aren't at home and didn't bring it with you! Gah! Oh wait, you can boot the BIOS in GUI mode and get on the internet and use a web browser and all sorts of stuff!

      Even better, what happens when your grandmothers primary OS fails? Think she can use CLI tools and fsck the disk and ot
      • by swillden (191260) *

        Given that is for a BIOS project, the primary goal is to load another OS off larger storage medium. So why an GUI? Easy, what do you do when your main OS fails? You reach for a bootable recovery CD or USB drive. Oh, but you aren't at home and didn't bring it with you! Gah! Oh wait, you can boot the BIOS in GUI mode and get on the internet and use a web browser and all sorts of stuff!

        Not only that, but consider that for many purposes, given this BIOS, you don't *need* any other OS. I think that's the real point here.

  • by bubbl07 (777082) on Friday March 09, 2007 @09:40AM (#18288472) Homepage

    [...] it is interesting to see how small you can go."
    Apparently, it's normal and happens to lots of computers. It's not the size of the hard drive, it's how fast you can boot up.
    • In 2004, Gavin Barraclough wrote an OS (from scratch) in only 3721 bytes:

      "This is a 32-bit multitasking operating system for x86 computers, with GUI and filesystem, support for loading and executing user applications in elf binary format, with ps2 mouse and keyboard drivers, and vesa graphics. And a command shell. And an application - a simple text-file viewer."

      Granted, it may not be the must useful (or maintainable!) OS ...

      http://www.de.ioccc.org/years.html#2004_gavin [ioccc.org]
    • "It's not the size of the hard drive, it's how fast you can boot up."

      Guys have been saying this for years.

      Women, however, disagree...

    • by iamacat (583406)
      Yeah, you can get by with a small hard disk. However, if you only have a floppy disk, you are in trouble no matter how you use it.
  • If only I could just plug one of these into my PlayStation and boot Linux in 6 seconds, instead of the hours, reboots, and disc swaps [ubuntuforums.org] to install Ubuntu on it.

    In fact, what would be great would be a 2GB (maybe 4GB) Flash drive with minimal linux and gcc running on many different architectures, which loads the Linux source and recompiles for the host into which it's plugged. Maybe caching the last few, including the most popular PPC/x86/MIPS versions, which could of course be precompiled. There's probably a r
  • Better video (Score:5, Informative)

    by oneandoneis2 (777721) * on Friday March 09, 2007 @09:46AM (#18288552) Homepage
    There's a better quality video (i.e. a non-YouTube one) available at http://downloads.sourceforge.net/fornix/linuxbios. ogg [sourceforge.net]
  • FBUI (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 09, 2007 @09:47AM (#18288562)
    Ahh...but then there's also FBUI, which is a full blown GUI system that runs as an in kernel module (~50k). Has some light weight libraries for interfacing with it. Would save tons more room than kdrive with all this other stuff. No networkable hooks though
  • Good to see (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cruise_WD (410599) on Friday March 09, 2007 @09:56AM (#18288624) Homepage
    Between this, and the Linux support for SIM cards, how long until we can make our own linux phone? A completely DIY phone might even tempt me to get one...
    • Re:Good to see (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ThogScully (589935) <neilsd@neilschelly.com> on Friday March 09, 2007 @10:14AM (#18288796) Homepage
      The initial OpenMokos have just shipped to developers. They'll hopefully be more generally available toward the end of this year. I'm excited to get one as soon as I can, and no I'm not affiliated with them - I just think they are doing some awesome work.
      -N

      http://www.openmoko.com/ [openmoko.com]
      • by drinkypoo (153816)
        Get back to me when they get EDGE GPRS. And, you know, announce a price. The lack of EDGE GPRS is an absolute dealbreaker.
        • by zsau (266209)
          And, you know, announce a price.

          350 USD. Been well-known since, you know, January. They've even announced prices for the car and hackers kits (75 and 200 USD IIRC).

          The lack of EDGE GPRS is an absolute dealbreaker.

          This phone wasn't meant to be perfect for everyone. The iPhone doesn't do GPS, so I won't be buying it;[*] otoh a fast network connection is not something I really need on a screen that small. Other OpenMoko phones might be released if the Neo1973 does well enough that might be more suited to your
      • by illumin8 (148082)
        Looks like a nice phone, but no EDGE? Also, no SD card slot and only 128MB of memory built in? And no USB 2.0? Only 1.1? For a phone that isn't even released yet their specs are about 3 years behind the rest of the industry.
  • The article does mention other applications like carr PC's, etc. but this could have lots of household PC uses. I would LOVE to have something like this, but for "consumer use", it would need to automatically boot, connect to the network using either presets or DHCP, and then present a menu (text or graphical--doesn't matter) displaying a list of available VNC and rdp servers to connect to (I use Windows primarily, so that's MY need, but Linux (aka X) connections could be useful too.) Then launch the graphi
    • by Bert64 (520050)
      What you want is a dumb terminal, and these already exist and are widely available.
      Most support X11/XDMCP or RDP.
      • by jbarr (2233)

        What you want is a dumb terminal, and these already exist and are widely available.
        Most support X11/XDMCP or RDP.
        While that's certainly true, wouldn't simply replacing a BIOS chip be much cheaper? I'd gladly pay a reasonably priced (something like $25-$50) for a replacement BIOS chip for use in existing PC's as opposed to ponying up for the much higher cost of terminals.
        • by couchslug (175151)
          For that price you can get CF/IDE adapters and CF cards that will work nicely. Damn Small Linux and some other distros will install to CF easily.
  • by guy-in-corner (614138) on Friday March 09, 2007 @10:11AM (#18288750)

    ...does it run Windows?

    Sorry.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mr_mischief (456295)
      You're being humorous, and it's pretty fuinny. There's a point here just waiting to be made, though.

      Since it's LinuxBIOS we're talking about, it could be a thin client which also has the option to boot off any drive the system is capable of using for boot. So while you can't fit the Windows installation into the BIOS flash, you could have a well-featured small Linux in the BIOS which then boots into Windows, OS/2, FreeBSD, NetBSD, other BSDs, Darwin, Solaris, a full Linux installation, or anything else that
      • by nuzak (959558)
        > PCs used to come with DOS in ROM

        I've never heard of this. Granted, DOS existed largely to call BIOS routines, and much of BIOS existed largely to serve DOS, but I've never seen a PC that had DOS completely in the BIOS. Maybe you're thinking of cartridge BASIC, which was burned in on some machines.
    • by idiot900 (166952) *

      ...does it run Windows?
      You were joking, but the device apparently actually can run Windows [linuxdevices.com].
  • First if you are shutting down your car PC then you are doing it wrong. You use hibernate or sleep modes, shutting the thing down completely is the WRONG way to do it. What that I hear you say? your motherboard does not support linux hibernate? Your fault for using the wrong hardware.

    You CAN get hardware thatdoes what you want, you CAN get hibernate to work EVEN on unsupported hardware, Software hibernate exists out there and is a patch for the linux kernel, works quite well and is fast.

    6 second boot
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      6 second boot from bios is great, you are NOT getting the OS to boot to useability in 6 seconds with how most people have their Car PC install. I dont care what kind of voo-doo is going on in the bios. You have to roll your own embedded OS to get the incredibly boot times or use a stripped down slackware to get it done.

      If you don't need a bunch of services, you can just set init to a script that runs your GUI.

      It's actually not very hard to set up your own self-booting system.

  • Motherboard support is the most important thing to be working on. I have wanted to use LinuxBIOS for > 5 years now, but the supported hardware list is laughably small.
    • You could be the idiot working on this project. You want additional hardware support? Join up and help produce it. People aren't idiots simply because they're not providing what you want. Alternatively you could also hire a developer for the period of time it takes to support your chosen hardware...
    • Whenever I update the Freshmeat record, I'm noting the addition of two or three FLASH chips, probably the same number of support chips, and usually one or two motherboards. The web pages are hopelessly out-of-date when it comes to what LinuxBIOS supports. My suggestion is to print out the web page then add everything I've noted in the updates since the page was last changed. My guess would be that you would give LinuxBIOS a great deal more credibility.
    • by vdboor (827057)

      Motherboard support is the most important thing to be working on. (..) the supported hardware list is laughably small.
      How about showing the world first why a LinuxBIOS is actually really cool? Why it should get better. You get more developers on the board, and fix hardware support much sooner.. :-)
  • It reminds me of my old DOS days when I tried to map DOS into 1024 MBs of very fast level-2 cache on a Tyan Pentium-1 Motherboard. I never succeeded, but it booted quick and crashed faster!

    I still run DOS (triple-booting with Mepis and Fedora) from time-to-time for WordPerfect and custom macros and it's right spritely on a Sempron-2800. DRDos 7.03 takes about 3 Mb.
    • by chgros (690878)
      1024 MBs of very fast level-2 cache on a Tyan Pentium-1 Motherboard
      I wish I had 1GB of very fast level-2 cache, even now!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The title of the Slashdot article is completely incorrect and misleading.

    The GUI shown is just a normal Linux GUI which runs after Linux has booted. The fact that its code is stored in the same flash device as the LinuxBIOS is just simple aggregation, and totally irrelevant.

    It has nothing to do with the LinuxBIOS code at all, and it is certainly not a GUI for LinuxBIOS.

    Great work in making it fit into 2 meg, but really bad Slashdot title.
  • by nmos (25822)
    So where's the Basic interpreter?
  • Apple once embedded System 6.0.3 in the Macintosh Classic ROM. This was in 512K and allowed the user to boot when their boot media was corrupted.

    So fitting Linux into 2 meg is hardly surprising. Being flash it can be updated, obviously, highlighting the limited usefulness of the Mac solution.

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