[LinuxBIOS] LinuxBIOS on Laptops.

Guido Fiala gfiala at s.netic.de
Tue Sep 5 19:55:19 CEST 2006

On Monday 04 September 2006 01:11, Bari Ari wrote:
> Look for laptops that have the firmware Flash write enable lines
> controlled only by the chipset and not also by the keyboard/system
> management controller. This will allow a developer to rewrite the Flash
> with LinuxBIOS. Most efforts to port LinuxBIOS on laptops in the past
> could not get past this hurdle.
> Designing and manufacturing for a laptop for mass market using LinuxBIOS
> is simple. The bill of material and hardware design are the same as a
> laptop using a closed source BIOS.  Laptop mainboards are typically
> manufactured in high volumes in single runs (much the same as
> desktop/platform mainboards). The LinuxBIOS would be developed for the
> mainboard during the design stage of the project and then programmed
> into the flash before manufacture or after the flash devices are
> installed on the boards.
> There hasn't been much demand for laptops to have LinuxBIOS yet. The
> first major project to demand LinuxBIOS on a laptop has probably been
> the OLPC project. I doubt if Quanta had much experience with or
> knowledge of LinuxBIOS before OLPC.

I was thinking more along the way, how hardware could be simplified on one 
side and at the same time enhanced by nice-to-have features.

Just some ideas:
+Large enough (partitioned) Flash(s) already on the board
+as low as possible number of parts
+get rid of stone-age hardware and replace with modern parts
+new concepts to replace error prone complex initialisation sequences
+combine just the best of the best (with options to scale on purpose)
+open, fully documented standards
=a more advanced PC/Laptop/Node...whatever (IMHO)

As my original post got accidently PM, here what i wrote before that mail:

> The chipset docs may all be available but not docs to the power
> management/keyboard scan controller firmware. The docs for the micros
> describe the general purpose micro itself, but that won't tell you how
> they are using all of its gpio pins and ports.

Isn't that a pity? Those parts are not the complex parts, it are the most 
simple parts and some of them are just to control hardware that is available 
for eons as a standard.

In the age of USB i wonder if we still need a keyboard/mouse controller for 
other than that. (i mean: why not just USB without PS2? Why COM,LPT? )

How would a (linux) mainboard look like? Is there a parts list, e.g. one for 
desktop, one for laptop that would be great?

Maybe, just maybe, one of the manufacturers takes a deep breath...

Or just maybe they notice, that the selection of parts is so carefully 
optimized, that it would be great to do it that way for a decent windows PC 
as well.

(As for the price of energy i would say, both should only use mobile-hardware)

I'am reading at that least for a while and i got the feeling, that most 
hardware is not support, only a few work fully - i liked to have it for my 
Centrino-Mini-itx but the memory controller is a problem, howe does it look 
now for turion based mini-itx-systems? (I use those as a desktop pc because 
they use so little energy to run and are fast anyway - beside such a tiny 
little box is not so intrusive in the living room ;-)

Part of the problem is certainly the very difficult installation and the risk 
of failure - i once fried a mainboard while updating the standard flash with 
an update from the manufacturer - it just stopped half way through.
I got a replacement part, let it flash somewhere else but it didn't help.
Though i work in embedded control area, flashing ECU's without trouble hundred 
times a day. Those ECU's are designed in a way, that they can even be 
reflashed when the flash-process interrupted __anywhere__ - despite the 
propability that this feature is actually required out there in the field is 
very low, maybe once in the lifetime of a car. The (missing) content of the 
flash can be delivered via certain serial line protocols during the flashing 
process from an external hardware/software (K-Line, CAN, ...) - wouldn't that 
be a nice thing to have for Linux as well?

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