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BIOS Will Be Dead In Three Years 532

Posted by kdawson
from the legacy-notwithstanding dept.
Stoobalou writes with news that MSI is planning a big shift towards UEFI (universal extensible firmware interface) at the end of 2010, possibly spelling the beginning of the end of the BIOS as we know it. "It's the one major part of the computer that's still reminiscent of the PC's primordial, text-based beginnings, but the familiarly clunky BIOS could soon be on its deathbed, according to MSI. The motherboard maker says it's now making a big shift towards point-and-click UEFI systems, and it's all going to kick off at the end of this year. Speaking to Thinq, a spokesperson for the company in Taiwan who wished to remain anonymous said, 'MSI will start to phase in UEFI starting from the end of this year, and we expect it will be widely adopted after three years.'"
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BIOS Will Be Dead In Three Years

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  • OhNo! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rwiggers (1206310) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @01:42PM (#32498884)

    Am I the first to say that dumbing down low level config is a bad idea?

    --
    big idiot operating the system

  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @01:44PM (#32498912) Homepage Journal

    Very uninformative. It sounds like UEFI is a BIOS (basic input-output system), only it's mouse/graphics based rather than text based. What am I missing here?

  • MSI, huh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by daemonenwind (178848) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @01:46PM (#32498956)

    As soon as I have a good-to-great experience with an MSI motherboard, this will be relevant to me.

    They've been nothing but finicky to me.

    Now, if ASUS, Intel or Gigabyte pick this up, or at least a few other mainstream manufacturers, let me know.

  • about time (Score:2, Insightful)

    by v1 (525388) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @01:47PM (#32498970) Homepage Journal

    Macs went to EFI [wikipedia.org] over four years ago. Hard to believe it took the windows machines this long to take the leap?

    BIOS is the bane of the PC service tech. That's where manufacturers lock up the hardware and prevent you from being able to fix it or work on it. Good bye, and good riddance.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @01:48PM (#32498996)

    EFI is the end of your OS controlling the hardware, the DRM-trolls will love it.

    So, where can we find motherboards with OpenBIOS [wikipedia.org] or Coreboot [wikipedia.org]?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @01:48PM (#32499008)

    AMI WinBIOS, circa 1995. I don't see the point of it Moving from a text-based interface to a gui isn't really going to make it friendlier if the user doesn't understand what any of the parameters mean.

  • Re:about time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Microlith (54737) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @01:50PM (#32499026)

    They'll do the same with EFI.

  • by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @01:52PM (#32499100) Homepage Journal

    What am I missing here?

    So far as I can tell, it just means that now the BIOS is going to consist of a complicated, semi-unintelligible set of menus (and/or icons) and point and click options rather than a simple tree of text-based menus with descriptive names. Don't worry though, by fixing something that isn't broken, things will get better.

  • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @02:00PM (#32499266) Homepage

    I think they're just wrong to put the stress on EFI being "a point and click interface". I was under the impression (correct me if I'm wrong) that the deal with EFI is that it was a design of firmware for the system that ditches a lot of old legacy stuff. Incidentally, by upgrading the design, it will allow manufacturers to create a GUI to configure this stuff. But the GUI isn't really the point.

  • by dlenmn (145080) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @02:02PM (#32499308) Homepage

    It may be _a_ basic input output system, but it is not the BIOS, which -- if I understand correctly -- was originally how all [wikipedia.org] input/output was done through PCs. Nowadays, your computer only uses the BIOS for input/output during startup, and then switches to something more advanced for your actual interface. In short, it's a holdover from the early days of PCs, is now only used for this niche role, and has required backwards compatibility all the way back to the original PC. I don't think that's wasted a huge amount of resources or anything, but I've always thought of it as old cruft ready to be replaced.

  • Re:Oh, I hope not (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tepples (727027) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [selppet]> on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @02:04PM (#32499354) Homepage Journal

    It's not even the right way to go about it! That would be to load Linux in the simplest way possible (for which BIOS is enough)

    Even BIOS is overkill to load Linux if your chipset supports coreboot.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @02:05PM (#32499380) Journal
    TFA is largely worthless; but EFI is actually a pretty big deal. In essence, it keeps the really hair and complex bits of the BIOS(y hello thar, ACPI, I am talking to you) and adds a giant heap of further complexity. Haven't you always wanted a BIOS that needs its own FAT32(or HFS+ in Apple's freaky nonconformant implementation) partition in order to store its own device drivers?
  • Re:about time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Angst Badger (8636) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @02:11PM (#32499484)

    Macs went to EFI over four years ago. Hard to believe it took the windows machines this long to take the leap?

    The average user doesn't know and wouldn't give a shit if they did. Ergo, this kind of change in the PC market is driven by the interests of the vendors, as the consumer essentially has none. That said, it's worth noting that some consumer PCs have used EFI since 2003 and Itanium workstations were using EFI back in 2000, and x64 versions of Windows added support for EFI in 2008.

    BIOS is the bane of the PC service tech. That's where manufacturers lock up the hardware and prevent you from being able to fix it or work on it.

    It's worth noting that one advantage of EFI to vendors is precisely that it better enables them to lock down a system than BIOS does. While it doesn't have to be used that way, you can safely bet that many vendors will use it that way to the detriment of the consumer. It's also not without (in my opinion, valid) criticism for adding additional complexity to the system without actually resolving the problems of BIOS.

    The main advantage appears lie in offering a GUI for end users to manipulate system settings that they lack the knowledge or inclination to tinker with. To be fair, it does add some convenience features and better support for large drives, but I haven't seen anything about EFI to get terribly excited about.

  • by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @02:12PM (#32499504) Homepage Journal
    If phrases like, "CMOS Settings," and, "IDE Controller," aren't descriptive enough for you, or they seem complicated and semi-unintelligible then you have no business dicking around with the low-level settings of your motherboard.
  • Re:about time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by daveime (1253762) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @02:15PM (#32499552)

    It is far more locked down and proprietary than the BIOS has ever been

    Why do you think Apple has been using it for years ?

    It's just another for hardware vendors to bundle their own software (ala USB keydisks that insist on loading their own crapware services) together with the hardware.

    And we'll end up having to write BIOS emulators to lay on top of all the proprietary UEFI versions just to get our bootloaders' INT13h calls to work.

  • Re:UEFI == BIOS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by man_of_mr_e (217855) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @02:19PM (#32499618)

    I suggestion you spend some time here [wikipedia.org]. While you can say "it's just a bios" with a very loose definition of "bios", it's really not. Saying so means you don't really understand what a bios is, nor what EFI is. BIOS is very specific.. it has a specific set of interrupt vectors it services with a specific set of commands. Whether or not it has a GUI is irrelevant, because there are already GUI based BIOS's and there are text based EFI's.

    EFI, on the other hand, is extensible in that you can plug in different modules (such as a BIOS compatibility module), or a MacOS module. Apple use EFI, and part of bootcamp is to include a BIOS module for it's EFI.

    BIOS is written in assembly. pretty much as to be. UEFI (other than the bootstrapper) can be written in almost any language, including C.. it's possible to use Java or C# or whatever, but it would require implementing a runtime that could work in EFI which I don't think exists right now.

    In short, the BIOS has been holding PC's back for decades. Moving to EFI will allow a lot of new functionality.

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @02:20PM (#32499634)

    The current names are very specific and meaningful on most of the boards I deal with. This will not stay that way in a lowest common denominator GUI.

  • by xianthax (963773) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @02:22PM (#32499670)

    yea sounds great. Flashing my BIOS/EFI every time theres a driver update, can't wait.

  • Re:BIOS vs. EFI (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @02:27PM (#32499726)

    Yo Dawg. I heard you liked using a basic input output system to boot your computer.
    So we put a basic IO system to boot your basic IO system for your system.

    BIOS is dead. Long Live BIOS?

    I've moved all my machines to GPT. I understand the need to keep around some legacy stuff, but BIOS and the MS-DOS partition table really need to step aside for some new technology. They lasted us ~30 years, but the hoops you have to jump through to boot some newer stuff is getting annoying.

  • by alexborges (313924) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @02:38PM (#32499926)

    The BIOS in intel has been an ugly piece of shit for YEARS, even DECADES now. It was about fucking time.

  • Re:Security (Score:2, Insightful)

    by alexborges (313924) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @02:41PM (#32499996)

    SPARCs, PARISCs and virtually anything non-intel have this kind of thing. Believe me, security is MUCH worse on intel's BIOS than on those architectures. Thank god BIOS is to die.

  • Re:about time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jd (1658) <imipak@yaCOLAhoo.com minus caffeine> on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @02:42PM (#32500014) Homepage Journal

    Well, MIPS-based machines like the Broadcom BCM91250E use a BIOS called the Common Firmware Environment (CFE). Sun machines use a BIOS called OpenBOOT. The OpenBIOS [openbois.org] pages are a little... old, but still informative about non-PC BIOSes as well as the platform-independent standards and their own open-source replacement.

    Let's see. Claim 1 of the GP: The BIOS is where manufacturers lock up the hardware. Well, use OpenBIOS, Coreboot, Intel's Open Source TianoCore [sourceforge.net] or any other replacement for that defective closed-source product you're using. Don't blame BIOSes, blame the implementation. Just because one BIOS developer was high on substances of questionable legality does not make all BIOSes equal.

    Implicit Claim of the GP: All BIOSes are One BIOS. There Can Be Only One! Muahahahahaha!

    Reality: There's so many fully or partially Open Source BIOSes out there it's not funny. There are plenty of alternative Closed Source BIOSes you can use as drop-in replacements as well. If you don't like the BIOS, don't blame the concept, blame yourself for not replacing it with something you DO like.

    (Me? Suffer fools gladly? There may be suffering involved, yes. I'd make a great Grand Inquisitor.)

  • Re:So .... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vlm (69642) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @02:43PM (#32500032)

    IIRC EFI also defines a standard way for the OS to update settings

    That's "Enhanced Rootkit and Virii Support (tm)" not for the OS.

  • Re:BIOS vs. EFI (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Korin43 (881732) * on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @02:56PM (#32500262) Homepage

    It's to be expected that the Mac version of Steam would be slower than the Windows version, but not because Macs are slower. Games are generally heavily optimized in order to get decent frame rates, and those optimizations may be platform dependent. I expect that as time goes on, the different between the Mac and Windows version of games on Steam will become smaller.

    More to the point, the person you were responding to was talking about hardware, as in "If you took that fastest Apple laptop vs the fastest non-Apple laptop and installed Windows on both, the Apple one would be faster." I doubt this is true anymore, but it's plausible that it was at some point.

  • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <`ten.suomafni' `ta' `smt'> on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @02:56PM (#32500264) Homepage

    The only brand is USSR and all of the products suck but there is no alternative because they are the alternative

    So, you're talking about Apple here, right?

    Certainly your remarks make no sense if applied to free software. Free software OSes are available for a multitude of hardware, and free software users enjoy a variety of software choices. For kernels there's Linux, NetBSD, FreeBSD; for system level stuff there's the GNU and BSD tools; for GUIs there are many options built around Gnome, KDE, and Xfce. For the stuff I use my computers for -- e-mail, web browsing, text editing and word processing, music creation and playback, image manipulation, and video playback -- I find many alternatives available.

    Have fun not using your computer for fun but to make a point.

    I find freedom to be much more fun than its absence. If you don't, you have my pity.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @03:13PM (#32500506)

    Perhaps Symantec needs to update its Ghost to run on Linux, for example, as Ghost currently runs on DOS which uses BIOS hooks for I/O.

    Did you write this in 2004? Ghost has been running fine on Linux for a while now. In fact, Symantec's Linux boot disks have better driver support and more functionality than both the DOS and WinPE boot disks.
    I'm stepping on your lawn.

  • by gyrogeerloose (849181) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @03:25PM (#32500686) Journal

    Don't worry, tomorrow I'll be playing the role of McBeth so all my posts will be in Elizabethan.

    We will proceed no further in this business:
    He hath honour'd me of late; and I have bought
    Golden opinions from all sorts of people,
    Which would be worn now in their newest gloss,
    Not cast aside so soon.

  • Exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Benfea (1365845) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @03:43PM (#32500978)

    Making the BIOS settings accessible to more stupid people will not make computer maintenance easier. Anyone too dumb to figure out how to use BIOS as it exists now has no business being there in the first place.

  • Re:Oh, I hope not (Score:3, Insightful)

    by evilviper (135110) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @03:59PM (#32501190) Journal

    Despite all this, there is an upper bound to the number of partitions you can have (512 I think), which is not the case in DOS tables.

    WTF are you smoking? For someone whose supposedly writing a boot-loader, you sure don't sound like you have a clue...

    DOS partition tables have an upper limit of FOUR (4) partitions!!! Got that? Not unlimited. Not 512. FOUR (4)!

    The hack to get around that limit is an EXTENDED partition, which then contains "logical" partitions. I doubt 512 partitions is going to start looking too limited any time soon, but when it does, someone will no doubt come up with a hacky cludge to work around that limit as well...

  • Re:about time (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @04:36PM (#32501672)

    Wait, What? Wait you just mentioned that Apple moved to EFI and you're concerned with vendor lockout coming with the use of a traditional BIOS? Apple is the ubermeister of hardware lockout!!!

  • Re:about time (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @04:59PM (#32502032)

    I can't wait for Windows to die a horrible death...

    There, fixed that for you.

    I can't wait for fanboys to die a horrible death.

    There, fixed that for you.

  • Yeah, I've had a little bit of a longstanding beef with drivers. I don't frequently have problems any more (Mac user) but it's always kind of stupid when you install a new OS and then realize you don't have a driver for your networking interface. Nice little catch-22.

    Of course I've always imagined that there was something better that could be done. Your idea of including some sort of flash memory onboard had occurred to me and is actually feasible these days. Years ago, I was thinking about ROM chips with the most basic drivers possible. Even if they've have to be updated later, it'd be nice to have something to get you going.

    But then of course in the current open-source atmosphere, it's disappointing that hardware vendors can't standardize a bit. Maybe I'm stupid, but does each ethernet card need totally different drivers from the other ethernet cards, or could we get them to present a standard interface to the OS in a way that made them essentially interchangeable? Or printers? Or, I don't know, monitors? Lots of these pieces of hardware seem pretty simple to me, and it doesn't seem like their functions are being revolutionized every 6 months.

    Can't this stuff be made simpler?

  • by NJRoadfan (1254248) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @05:55PM (#32502812)
    The only thing I really want from a BIOS setup screen is some detailed online help for some of the options. Who here hasn't had a BIOS that had some obscure acronym titled option thats either missing in the manual or has a vague engrish description along the lines of "Turns Foo On/Off".
  • Re:Finally! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by KonoWatakushi (910213) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @07:55PM (#32504322)

    I feel just as strongly about replacing the BIOS, and indeed just about anything would be better. UEFI is not though; it effectively transfers ownership of your hardware to some untrusted third party. It is effectively DRM on the bare metal, which can't be removed.

    If you want to advocate for something, try coreboot [coreboot.org].

    Just say no to "trusted computing" and "trusted platforms"; this is almost universally an indication that someone else can trust your hardware to enforce their restrictions.

  • Re:Finally! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Denis Lemire (27713) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @08:39PM (#32504714) Homepage

    I would be all for having a Linux based firmware like coreboot replace our current mess that is the BIOS! Wonder if that could actually gain ground or if it's just a pipe dream though?

    Must EFI by necessity bring "trusted computing" with it though? Maybe I need to take a closer look at the specs. Though Apple systems are EFI based, they haven't really used it to lock down the computer in any sort of way. Are you suggesting they simply haven't decided to do that but the capability is ready and waiting, not sure I follow how the two rela to each other. I keep bringing Aplle up in this discussion seeing as how I can't think of any other mainstream vendor that has ditched BIOS and/or adopted EFI.

    If a system was completely locked down beyond my personal threshold of tolerance, I simply wouldn't buy said motherboard or system. It should be possible to adopt EFI without implementing the closed systems you fear, no?

  • Re:Finally! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by KonoWatakushi (910213) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @12:13AM (#32506302)

    Actually, it is ironic that Apple hasn't moved to UEFI. They are using one of the older versions of EFI before they stuffed it with the various "trusted" crap.

    Unfortunately, coreboot continues to have very limited board support, as most vendors are not at all forthcoming with chipset documentation. It is surprising that the various board manufacturers haven't embraced it though; it would be one less thing to license. It may be that NDA issues prevent them from doing so.

    I'm not sure if anyone can say with certainty what the future will hold if we embrace UEFI, and we may not even have the choice in many cases. With all the anti-competitive behavior in the industry though, it is certain to be abused.

  • Re:But... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mlts (1038732) * on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @12:41AM (#32506438)

    This is something PCs need to standardize on. My server has F1, my desktop has F2, my laptop has F10, my old Thinkpad has something else.

    My suggestion:

    [ESC] -- boot menu (with the ability to be password protected)
    [F1] -- BIOS setup.
    [F2] -- Diagnostics.
    [F3] -- RAID setup.
    [F4] -- Boot into built in Linux or WinPE image.
    [F5] -- BIOS on the serial port. Standard 9600/8/n/1.
    [F6] -- BIOS on the network with some way of setting the IP with or without a DHCP server, and perhaps with a password. Preferably a ssh client.
    [F7] -- Reset all CPU overclocking info, and go back to a default standard.
    [F8] -- Turn on/off management tools and LOM. LOM is great for some uses, a BIG security hole for others. The reason this is separate from the regular BIOS is so businesses can turn it on and off and password protect it, while giving users the ability to set normal settings.
    [F9] -- Put a number on every monitor the machine sees, either onboard or other, and allow the user to select which one. AIX does this the first time it boots so it knows which monitor is the primary LFT (or HFT if running 3.2.5.x), and what are secondary.
    [F10] -- Recovery image access.
    [F11] -- Network booting access (password protected as an option.) This way, a machine can be told to boot from the network headless.
    [F12] -- DBAN/decommissioning mode. On consumer PCs, this would be made *very* hard to access. However, on company machines, having the ability to tell all hard disks to do a secure erase, erase the NVRAM, zero the BIOS out, zero the TPM out (and set it back to default disabled) and reflash to a known good version on a true ROM chip, and erase multiple times any other memory would be a big help. Even better would be to present an official note with a timestamp and some validation code that a machine with a certain BIOS ID was completely zeroed out for audit reasons, and offer to save it on a USB flash drive. This way, IT knows that when this command is run and a completion message is put on the screen, that the machine was completely wiped.

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