what about creating a faq ?
when i told people about the openbios project they had many questions.
-how can i write the bios in C ?
are there libs, which are used, etc.pp....
-do you know, when u are finished with the first working bios ?....
i would maintain the FAQ, but i think that somebody has to mail me questions
and answers...or just questions..so that i can ask here at the mailinglist or
that i can ask Stefan directly ;).
is there somone against this idea ?
Sorry for the delay, but I haven't found any time to answer the 169 messages
in my inbox yet... :-/
Stefan Reinauer wrote:
> I thought about building something like an eprom simulator which can be
> plugged into the bios socket of a board and to the parallel port of
> another computer which just holds a file with the bios image. This would
> make defelopment and testing *quite* faster. Has anyone experiences with
> this or does anyone know whether there are ready, cheap solutions for
Well, I also thought about this, but I would even go as far as to build a VGA
card "simulator", which would be a real VGA card, but with some kind of magic
logic that would allow to read the video ram over the net.
For the EPROM simulator: It will cost about 450,- DEM (~ $290) to build,
according to a friend of mine who has enough electronics skills (for I have
not... :-) ). If everything works out, the simulator will be ready in about
two weeks' time. :-)
> Should we go the way linux goes and write our own drivers or should we try
> to use other bioses (i.e. scsi bios on host adapter) for that?
Well, write a own driver, but support BIOS extensions as well. This way the
new hardware at least works until there is a OpenBIOS driver for it.
Stefan Reinauer wrote:
> Dear OpenBIOS readers,
> well, I tried to register the domain openbios.org two days ago and I
> noticed that this domain is already registered to someone else. As there's
> no contact email neither on www.openbios.org nor on www.openbios.com, I
Contact person for openbios.org is
johnfoster(a)SOFTFARM.COM (this is what internic says)
> registered using the registration form on the openbios.org webpage.
> It seems to me that the "other" openbios project, which is registered
> since august 1998, is semi-commercial. Does anyone know anything about it?
> I will try to email the postmaster(a)openbios.org now to find out more about
> the other project.
> If there is interest in someone in the group becoming a webmaster
> and site maintainer - I heartily invite hearing from you.
I'm a professional UNIX sysadmin, consulting for investment banks in
NY and London. I'm excited about OpenBIOS, and this seems to be a good
opportunity for me to contribute. I can donate a 486 running Linux, and
the time to administer it. And a friend has just agreed to host it on
his underutilized T1 in Silicon Valley.
I should be able to get it up within a week.
Dear OpenBIOS readers,
here's the answer from openbios.org.
I'd say this is really fine :)
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 21 Nov 1998 12:34:52 -0600
From: John Foster <john(a)tsf.net>
To: Stefan Reinauer <stepan(a)wesley.informatik.uni-freiburg.de>
Subject: Re: OpenBIOS Project.
A little history on myself:
I began writing bios' for clone PC's about 15 years ago as a consultant.
Since I had been involved in embedded and process control systems for years,
these were aimed at low-volume desktop and embedded applications which
usually required a lot of flexibility. About 10 years ago, I created the XT
BiosKit book, which included source code in C for an embedded bios. Later
that year I wrote the AT BiosKit. The books were priced at $99 and $199
respectively, which was inrtended to allow small embedded developers to
create their own bios. A per-unit production fee was also stipulated.
I moved from San Diego back to the Midwest in 1991 and got involved in
building an ISP business and that has taken most of my time since. We soon
found that our Windows NT platforms (which worked well as bios development
platforms) did not solve the typical ISP problems and we tried RedHat Linux
a few years ago. Obviously this awakened us to two things! - Linux is the
wave of the future and that the Open Source idea that we had with our
original BiosKits was really relevant.
I had also written some real-time operating systems for micro and mini
computers back about 30 years ago and always had intended to pursue this
area just because of the enjoyment of doing it.
There are two basic bios needs - support for 16-bit versions to support the
traditional functionality of a bios, and a clean approach to 32-bit versions
to support Linux (and similar operating systems).
My previous 16-bit version is based on using Microsoft 1.52 compiler and
MASM - I really want to find suitable public domain tools to update this -
make it a total package by being able to include the toolset (like we have
in the 32 bit world).
A new 32 bit version can use GCC and NASM so with tool support readily
available, the next fascinating question is architecture - which your group
So much to do, so little time.........
With the Open Source movement gaining speed, I see that companies like
RedHat and SendMail are able to produce income by providing convenience,
support, packaging, etc., by building on an open source structure. In order
to return to my spending full time creating software, I am attempting to
figure out how to combine Openness with Income. A thorny question!! I hope
a solution can be found.
Additionally, the Open approach seems to provide an exciting opportunity to
create a new reat-time system aimed at embedded applications. I have a lot
of ideas based on doing and thinking about this for the last 30 years.
Regarding the OpenBios.org domain, I registered this really to protect it, I
intend for this to preserve the intent of opennesss and want it to be
available not only for myself, but for anyone interested in this idea. So I
invite you and your group to use this domain. It presently is hosted on an
NT server, but forgive us, we are still learning Linux, Apache and all the
rest! - our intention is to move this as well as all our other websites to
Apache. If there is interest in someone in the group becoming a webmaster
and site maintainer - I heartily invite hearing from you.
It is good to hear from you and I invite you to convey this info to the
others in the group...
Best Regards to all,
John O. Foster - john(a)tsf.net
From: Stefan Reinauer <stepan(a)wesley.informatik.uni-freiburg.de>
To: postmaster(a)openbios.org <postmaster(a)openbios.org>
Date: Saturday, November 21, 1998 10:53 AM
Subject: OpenBIOS Project.
>I didn't find any contact adress on the webpages neither of openbios.com
>nor of openbios.org, so I decided to mail you.
>We, too, have an upcoming project since about one year, which we called
>OpenBIOS and it's going to be a completely 32bit enhanced, GNU licenced
>firmware for intel and other hardware platforms.
>You may want to check out
>Maybe it could be interesting to stay in contact with each other. What are
>your approaches? You don't have a lot of information on your site.
On 21 Nov, Stefan Reinauer wrote:
> Hi Daniel,
> first, I think, we should discuss this on the list. I'd like to forward
> the postings if you haven't anything against this (without the binaries,
> they will go to the webserver...
Ok, openbios CC:ed
>> > Ok. that's pretty good. Did you use the version including my try to
>> > include the menuconfig stuff?
>> No, I though about it but I decided that having one CONFIG_ variable
>> per chip set is wrong, it should be one variable which have the chip
>> set name as a value (have more than one chip set configured make no
> I don't see this. I've looked at the pci chipset stuff and it's really
> possible to access and probe the pci bus on newer boards without even
> havinng setup the memory controller.
Yep, but have you tried to program without working RAM? No stack, only
8 registers to keep stuff in? - Believe me the first thing you wanna do
is get at least the first 1MB of RAM working...
> I've talked with this about many people and having support for more than
> one intel chipset in one, for example, would be a knockout fact for award
> bios in large compuyter pools.
And there are MB specific issues such as how the SIMM/DIMM sockets are
wired, how the AUX chip-select signals found on most super I/O and South
Bridges are used, how the super I/O is implemented, which way to ROM is
mapped after reset (do we look at the top 64k or the bottom in a 128k
So I'll tell you - a BIOS image is not only chip set specific, but it is
mother board specific. It might be possible to make a BIOS which works
for several configurations, but that will not be as simple as putting
support for several SCSI HA's or NIC's in a Unix/Linux kernel.
> Ok, so I included another project I used to work on a year ago. It aimed
> towards loading a linux kernel from a ISA board iwht loats of flash. I
> never got it working though (kernel hangs during uncompress) but some of
> the folks that are requesting kernel-in-rom features might find fixing
> this a faster path than waiting for our project...
> It was written for a now-discontinued Ampro board, but Sealevel
> (http://www.sealevel.com) and Advantech (http://www.adavantech-usa.com)
> have similar products available, porting should be trivial.
So.. there are two new files in http://www.freiburg.linux.de/OpenBIOS/bin/
Look at it and continue hacking...
I'd say that we should include the menuconfig stuff as fast as possible,
no matter whether we allow multiple chipsets or not....
It's no problem to have either method in the .config file
Sex is one of the nine reasons for reincarnation ...
the other eight are unimportant.
-- Henry Miller
On 20 Nov, Stefan Reinauer wrote:
> 1) Licence
> Is anything speaking against using GPL as licence for OpenBIOS? I am
> not really into that licencing stuff. Would it be better to use some
> kind of BSD licence or even the Netscape NPL? I want to make sure that
> this project will remain free forever and people can use it for free,
> no matter whether it is commercial use or not. And, of course, I think
> it would be best, if changes made by foreign contributors are included into
> the official project.
I thought a bit about that too. I think it should be GPL, no sane
person should consider the chip set registers or motherboard
interconnect trade secrets. And why use another license if you have no
> 3) Supported hardware
> Many people told me that they would like to see support for recent PCI
> hardware only. I think this makes sense, because it's easy to autoprobe
> chipset type and SuperIO type on the PCI bus. This allows us to have
> one generic firmware image that can be flashed to a couple of different
> machines that have different motherboards. This is especially nice for
> people with large computer pools (like admins of universitiy pools)
I'd say it is hard to probe the PCI bus before you're up and running
(DRAM working at least) and to come up and run you need to know which
chip set you're on... Besides in addition to what chip set and which
super I/O chip that is attached you might need to know hove some things
are wired on the mother board.
> 4) There have been many new wishes on the wishlist today, please check
> them out at
> and *DO* comment on them.
I have my own agenda quite clear... First get the thing runnig on one or
two chip sets, do FD and IDE read-only drivers, implement something like
syslinux that can boot a hacked Linux kernel in PM from disk.
After that we can start to take requests... :)
> 6) I thought about writing email to some chipset manufacturers to ask
> whether they want to participate in our project by writing free code
> for their hardware. Does anyone have an idea what to write?
Opti, SiS and Intel at least have docs available on the web, Ali doesn't
even have an email address to mail to on their web site... (Anyone who
knows an Ali sales rep?)
Dear OpenBIOS readers,
well, I tried to register the domain openbios.org two days ago and I
noticed that this domain is already registered to someone else. As there's
no contact email neither on www.openbios.org nor on www.openbios.com, I
registered using the registration form on the openbios.org webpage.
It seems to me that the "other" openbios project, which is registered
since august 1998, is semi-commercial. Does anyone know anything about it?
I will try to email the postmaster(a)openbios.org now to find out more about
the other project.
Just my 2 cents..
I recently found out about this project OpenBIOS.
I was also thinking of making a better BIOS for quite some time.
But haven't started yet to code anything or look for documentation.
But I did think about how such a state of the art BIOS should work.
Here are my ideas (any comments are welcome):
- Everything which is on the motherboard and needs to set up at
boat-time has to be done by the bios.
- the bios also has 'drivers' for on board chips (like serial, parallel,
perhaps sound and video if they are on the motherboard).
- bios on the motherboard should not have drivers for extension-cards
(like SCSI, video, sound, network, ...) So don't put every possible
driver in the bios because it would grow to big on the long term.
- bios should detect such extension cards and load the bioses on
those cards (as long as it's not possible to alter bios's on extension
cards the OS-kernel should load drivers for it).
- bios also needs an OS-Loader so you can choose at boot time which OS
you want to boot.
- there should be a good API which makes it possible fo an OS to use
the bios 'drivers' (whatever system or OS you have) instead of having
drivers for every possible extension card.
(Which means a generic SCSI-API, generic NIC-API, generic Sound-API,
generic Video-API, ...)
If this API is well-designed it should be possible to write kernels
without one line of assembler code in it (so it would be easy to port
to another architecture with a bios with the same API).
This is basically what's in my mind.
Please do comment about it.
Design is Dead
tel.: +32 3 231 48 56
fax: +32 3 231 44 83