Etherboot in the BIOS?

Jeff Noxon jeff at
Sat Aug 16 17:05:01 CEST 2003

Would you please elaborate on this a little?

I still don't have my Tyan board working properly, but I can tell you
this -- my fallback image doesn't have any payload at all.  I thought
it just ran the payload from the other image.  (Which puzzled me.)

I was just burning the linuxbios.rom into top 64KB of flash.

Now that I'm clued in, I'm not sure how it's supposed to work.  

The fallback file "linuxbios" is 48884 bytes in size.  For some reason
when it is run through objdump to create linuxbios.strip, it ends up
being 65536 bytes.  That doesn't leave room for any payload.  Is this
another binutils problem?

Here you can see how make dies:

objcopy -O binary linuxbios linuxbios.strip
export size=`ls -l linuxbios.strip | (read p c u g size r ; echo $size)` ; \
echo $size ; \
dd if=linuxbios.strip of=linuxbios.rom bs=1 seek=`expr 65536 - $size`
65536+0 records in
65536+0 records out
dd conv=sync bs=0 if=/usr/src/linuxbios/3c90x.elf of=payload.block
dd: invalid number `0'
make: *** [payload.block] Error 1

Of course, dd fails because PAYLOAD_SIZE is not set.

I can't use my working EPIA board as an example, because that board
doesn't have "normal" and "fallback" images -- it just has one image.

It would be very helpful for me to have your diffs against CVS, or the
config files you're actually using to build these ROM images.


(Trying not to look like a total idiot)

On Sat, Aug 16, 2003 at 02:27:07PM -0400, steven james wrote:
> Greetings,
> It IS possible to render a board unbootable with a bad flash, but there
> are a few protections in place.
> The trickiest part is the initial loading where a fallback image is
> flashed into the top of the BIOS. The fallback block can (should) be set
> up as a completely independant boot image with a copy of Etherboot built
> in.
> Most of the boards have a socketed flash so that the worst case scenerio
> for a mis-flashed fallback is that you'll have to boot from a spare
> chip, hot swap in the mis-flashed chip, and try again.
> Unfortunatly, a few boards do have a soldered down flash. In those cases,
> the only way to recover is to de-solder the chip (which may not be worth
> the cost vs. a new board)
> Once in place and functioning, the fallback should never be changed. Many
> mainboards (all of the i7501 based boards for example) have a jumper that
> can be set to prevent accidental flashing of the top block.
> The rest of the flash contains the primary LinuxBIOS image and the
> preferred boot payload (often another copy of Etherboot), and can then be
> flashed at will. The worst case will be that you'll have to hit reset a
> few times to cause the fallback image to boot the system.
> G'day,
> sjames

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