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Intel Upgrades Hardware

Swedes Show Intel Sandy Bridge Running BIOS-Successor UEFI 216

Posted by timothy
from the oofi-is-swedish-anyhow-isn't-it? dept.
An anonymous reader writes "SweClockers.com has gotten it hands on a Intel Sandy Bridge motherboard running Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, the long awaited successor of age-old BIOS. Among the differences is a significantly more user-friendly interface, the ability to boot from drives larger than 2 TB and faster boot times. Check it out, on video, in Swedish." Here's an Google's translation of the article.
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Swedes Show Intel Sandy Bridge Running BIOS-Successor UEFI

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  • by Anonymous Freak (16973) <<moc.cam> <ta> <revird.suirp>> on Thursday November 04, 2010 @06:13PM (#34130526) Journal

    I have a three year old "Intel Desktop Board" that can boot via UEFI, boot to 2TB+ drives, etc.

    It's not exactly new. (And I have a server from 2001

  • by Fackamato (913248) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @06:16PM (#34130546)

    Not new, but not very common. I suppose that it's mainly the large harddrives that push for this to get out to the mainboards..

  • by gilesjuk (604902) <giles.jones@nospAm.zen.co.uk> on Thursday November 04, 2010 @06:18PM (#34130588)

    EFI has been in Macs ever since they went Intel. Pretty common.

    Of course, you don't get to play with it, but then why would you need to?

  • by marcansoft (727665) <hector@@@marcansoft...com> on Thursday November 04, 2010 @06:24PM (#34130640) Homepage

    UEFI is extremely common. Modern laptop makers use it as a way to have a modern BIOS (e.g. InsydeH2O) instead of the horrible cesspool of 16-bit code that are traditional BIOSes. At least Acer and Sony seem to be using this kind of setup for all of their recent laptops for a few years now, and I'm pretty sure quite a few other manufacturers are doing the same.

    Unfortunately, most of the time the EFI features are completely inaccessible to the user and OS. They just add in the usual BIOS emulation layer, the boot process is designed to resemble a ye olde BIOS, the Setup menu is modeled after a ye olde BIOS, EFI services are unavailable, there's no EFI console or boot from EFI media. Sadly, the goal seems to make it easier for them to make the BIOS, not to make it more useful to end users.

  • by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @06:37PM (#34130780)

    I think you need to re-read the title of his post. I'll even highlight the relevant part for you:

    drivers larger than 2 TB

    Make sure to read that emphasized words a few times for the joke to finally sink in.

  • Eufi is not a BIOS, (Score:4, Informative)

    by Snufu (1049644) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @06:40PM (#34130824)

    It's just a Swedish cooking term.

    "Eufi deufi, peurfi dur." means "Add meatballs and simmer for 20 minutes."

    Proof: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sY_Yf4zz-yo [youtube.com]

  • by techmuse (160085) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @06:43PM (#34130850)

    OS X will tell you all of this stuff in the system profiler. In fact, if you install RAM in a non-optimal configuration in a Mac Pro, it will automatically detect it and tell you how to correct the problem for best performance. In the laptops, there is no "wrong" configuration, unless you put the wrong type of RAM in, in which case that RAM slot is disabled or, in the worst case, the system won't boot (in which case UEFI wouldn't help you anyway).

  • by mikael_j (106439) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @06:53PM (#34130904)

    Actually, "Add meatballs and simmer for 20 minutes" would translate to something like "Lägg i köttbullar och låt sjuda i 20 minuter.".

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @07:01PM (#34130972)

    If you've never encountered a system with OS troubles all that means if you've not diagnosed many systems. We have a host of tools, including info in the BIOS, to diagnose systems that don't boot when checking things like hardware errors. Like in the case of a disk that won't boot. Is the data messed up, or is it a disk failure? If so how bad? Well one thing the BIOS can tell you is if it can see the disk. If it shows no data, or corrupted data, you know it is really bad. On the other hand if it shows up fine, then it is time to move on to bootable diagnostics.

    As I said I'm sure for normal users, access is not necessary. That doesn't mean it is never useful. To me it is like saying "Weld the breaker box shut, why would you need to get at that?" Well true, most people don't, I think a great many people never open a breaker box. Doesn't mean you shouldn't have it accessible should it be needed.

  • by Snorbert Xangox (10583) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @07:19PM (#34131110)

    More than a decade after hard drives stopped internally using a fixed cylinder/head/sector geometry, we finally get mass market deployment of a partitioning scheme that completely gets rid of this big, dumb lie.

    All the hoo-haa over new drives with 4kB sectors and the way that DOS-compatible operating systems partitioning tools want you to lay out your disk has actually already been experienced by sysadmins for years, when they attempt to come up with partitioning schemes for those operating systems that align filesystem blocks with the underlying geometry of SSD write blocks or RAID 5 stripe segments.

    Next time you buy an SD card or thumb drive, stick it into a box with a decent formatting tool and look at the actual start sector for the partitions. You will find that the manufacturers have quietly been using sane partition start sector values (i.e., power of two, not "first sector of second track of cylinder 0") because they know that the performance of the device would be horrible if almost every VFAT cluster write spanned multiple flash write blocks.

    And all this stuffing around has been forced upon us because Microsoft never had the balls to say, "you want to rock out with Borland Sidekick or Netware 3.0? Sure, use a frickin' VM, or use a new version of DOS that speaks native LBA to the BIOS. Those are your choices."

    All the brainpower and effort that has been wasted on workarounds for the effects of the brain damaged MBR partitioning table could have been much better used actually improving how computers worked, rather than treading water.

  • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Thursday November 04, 2010 @07:29PM (#34131198) Journal
    You may be joking but you'd be surprised how many times I have had to tweak BIOS because the defaults are frankly lame. I've seen them with Speedstep/Cool&Quiet disabled, RAM timings on the absolute lowest the RAM is rated for, all the legacy ports nobody uses turned on, etc. Personally I don't think I'd want a machine where I had no ability to ensure the defaults were sane, because in nearly every BIOS I've seen (haven't dealt with EFI yet) the defaults are ultra conservative. I didn't pay all this money to have a quad and 8Gb of RAM just to have the performance hobbled by bad BIOS settings. I have yet to see a BIOS that gives you decent defaults for most hardware.
  • by Hazelfield (1557317) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @08:01PM (#34131490)
    Hello and welcome to Sweclockers! Today we're looking at UEFI, the boot software that is the successor of the old but still very popular BIOS. UEFI has become a hot topic recently as it's going to be used extensively in the next generation of Intel processors, codenamed Sandy Bridge. So let us have a look at what it has to offer.

    The biggest difference between UEFI and BIOS is that UEFI gives motherboard manufacturers much better possibilities of implementing their own software. Our test motherboard comes from Asus, and the Taiwanese manufacturer has put in several exciting new features. To begin with you can use your mouse, which wasn't possible in BIOS, and there's also the possibility of running in several different modes. For example, there's this simplified mode that greets you when you enter UEFI. Here you can choose between power saving, normal setting or some kind of optimal setting. All settings are then adjusted automatically and you don't have to worry about it. Then there's this simple drag-and-drop system to choose boot order and some panels are available that show fan speeds and the like. Very simple and absolutely enough for anyone without any desire to dig into it.

    There's also a more advanced mode available through the menu here, and now it looks more familiar compared to BIOS. It works more or less the same way except the graphics are updated and there are more options. There are several menus available where you can change language, security settings, and there's this "AI Tweaker" where you can overclock the processor, just as you're used to from BIOS. The usual advanced settings for integrated components such as the processor etc. are there, and they work just as usual. The monitor settings where you can see temperature, fan speeds, set fan profiles and so on, also work just as in BIOS except it looks better and you can use your mouse which makes it easier to navigate. The boot settings contain some new features, for example you can just click one of the alternatives and the computer boots from that device, you don't have to enter a special menu or anything. Finally in the last menu, there are some tools, Asus' flash tool to update the BIOS, which itself is also updated with new features. You can easily use your mouse to pick a BIOS version from hard disks or USB storage that you want to use on your motherboard.

    Well, that's just a quick look on an implementation of UEFI for the next generation Intel platform. With the possibilities offered by this new system we will likely see new interesting solutions in the near future. We at Sweclockers will of course cover this development and report as much as we can until the final release.
  • by SteeldrivingJon (842919) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @09:03PM (#34131902) Homepage Journal

    You can get some information by booting verbose, by holding down the V key, which causes the computer to boot with a text console. That may give you some information about what's going on.

    If the boot process is failing partway, you might be able to boot into single-user mode by holding down the S key, which gives you a root console. From there you can use unix tools to look around and/or fix things.

    There are other keys you can use, like the option key to choose between boot devices, or 'n' to boot from a netboot server. Insert the computer's installation DVD, and hold down the 'd' key during boot, and the computer will boot from a diagnostic partition on the disk, which I assume would be useful.

    You can also set an EFI password, and lock down these things.

  • by SteeldrivingJon (842919) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @09:07PM (#34131916) Homepage Journal

    I believe Mac Pros also have LEDs near the RAM slots that will indicate problems.

  • by Hadlock (143607) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @09:29PM (#34132060) Homepage Journal

    Every Intel brand motherboard since 2007 has had EFI. From what I can tell, this motherboard is an Intel brand, too.

  • by Princeofcups (150855) <john@princeofcups.com> on Thursday November 04, 2010 @09:39PM (#34132104) Homepage

    There are plenty of reasons to want BIOS/UEFI access. The problem with having a totally inaccessible one like Apple does is that if anything goes wrong or you need to change something, well then you are fucked.

    Actually, you take it to the nearest Apple store, and they usually fix for the cost of parts. I've never seen the need to tinker with a PC myself. And yet my jobs usually have me in the guts of a Sun Enterprise or an IBM P series server.

  • by pchan- (118053) on Friday November 05, 2010 @12:53AM (#34133020) Journal

    Every time Slashdot has a story of EFI, we get a thousand uninformed posts about what it is, isn't, what it should do and why it sucks. As someone who has worked on EFI for years, let me clear them up for you:

    1) EFI was designed by Intel as a replacement for BIOS. UEFI (edk2) is the second generation EFI, and is open source (see: http://tianocore.sourceforge.net [slashdot.org]). Intel delivers all of their boot support code as EFI drivers these days.

    2) EFI is NOT a graphical interface. Some Chinese motherboard makers created terrible graphical configuration applications for it. Apple created a pretty nice boot selector. It can just as easily "post" and give you a console-mode menu like you're used to.

    3) EFI is very common. All Apple computers use it. Most PC (Windows / Linux) laptops use it (your laptop probably does if it was made in the last 4 years). EFI drops into BIOS emulation mode after boot because Windows doesn't support it.

    4) EFI machines generally allocate a small EFI partition on the hard drive, particularly if they use GPT. All Intel-based machines boot from flash memory and would successfully boot without this partition. This partition is for additional EFI firmware volumes or drivers that can be dynamically loaded.

    5) EFI is much better than BIOS. It runs in full 32/64 bit mode. It can dynamically load drivers built into the ROM of your hardware (like a video card) and therefore doesn't have to rely on ancient backward-compatibility modes. It can run "apps", like a safe firmware updater so you don't have to boot your PC with a DOS boot disk to update the firmware. It can communicate a lot of configuration information to the OS and even provide hooks for some low level hardware-specific drivers. It can do things like boot from a network-shared CD-ROM drive or from a disk image stored on a USB stick (without resorting to making bootable partitions and jumping through a bunch of hoops like your average Linux USB stick). EFI can read FAT, NTFS, EXT2, HFS+ filesystems and boot the kernel directly from there (and the initrd image) without involving grub or other second stage boot loader. It can boot your GPT-tagged disks in your chosen order no matter what order you changed them around (take your boot drive, move it to a USB enclosure, boot from it).

    Booting Intel machines is really fucking complicated, and EFI makes it much simpler.

  • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Friday November 05, 2010 @02:03AM (#34133248)
    Most of the stuff you mentioned (at least the first half of your post) are reliant on having a functional OS to begin with. If you have a working OS, you wouldnt be tinkering with the BIOS at all (as tools from the OS tend to be more useful anyways).

    All the mac users here claiming that "youd never need that" probably either havent done much serious troubleshooting, or have a lot of disposable cash (and thus can replace the mac when something goes awry).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 05, 2010 @02:42AM (#34133394)

    Yes you write one,two etc up to seven, then you go 8,9,11 etc. I know you were trying to be funny though :-)

    Also, Swedish meatballs don't simmer in any sauce. I always find that a bit sad when I go to a restaurant when I'm on vacation and I see "Swedish meatballs" on the menu and realise that it's the intonational dish of "Swedish meatballs" which has similarities to real Swedish meatballs but are not the same thing.

    Swedish meatballs are fried in a pan and the sauce is is prepared separately (and shouldn't be a bland bechamel). Also you need to serve Lingon berries with the dish. ;-)
     

  • by Snorbert Xangox (10583) on Friday November 05, 2010 @06:12AM (#34133960)

    Linux fdisk or GNU parted - change the units to sectors and you can then print the partition table out in raw sector LBA offsets.

    There's another gotcha for FAT filesystems on SDHC, in that the filesystem metadata at the start of the partition has no natural power-of-two alignment. If you look into the FAT filesystem that a digital camera puts on an SD card when you format it, I suspect that you'll see a bunch of reserved sectors as padding before the FATs, to ensure that the first data sector lines up nicely with a flash write cell.

    Wikipedia gives this lovely formula in their description of the FAT filesystem [wikipedia.org]:

    Clusters are numbered beginning after the root directory with cluster 2. The following formula will convert the file start cluster (X) in 0x1a to the number of sectors from the beginning of the partition using the Boot Sector fields:

    For FAT32

    FileStartSector = ReservedSectors(0x0e) + (NumofFAT(0x10) * Sectors2FAT(0x24)) + ((X 2) * SectorsPerCluster(0x0d))

    For FAT16/12

    FileStartSector = ReservedSectors(0x0e) + (NumofFAT(0x10) * Sectors2FAT(0x16)) + (MaxRootEntry(0x11) * 32 / BytesPerSector(0x0b)) + ((X 2) * SectorsPerCluster(0x0d))

    The reserved sectors field is 2 bytes, which allows padding of the alignment of the start of the data clusters to NAND flash write blocks, or even possible an erase block if that would somehow help. (erase blocks on a cheaper Intel SSD are 512kB, not sure about the sizes on SDHC cards or thumb drives).

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