[coreboot] ROMFS

Jordan Crouse jordan at cosmicpenguin.net
Fri Dec 19 23:11:46 CET 2008

Greetings.  I apologize for the incompleteness of what I am about to 
discuss.  I was planning on working on it leisurely, but my employment 
circumstances changed and I've been trying to get it completed in a 
hurry before I had to leave it behind.

I've been thinking a lot about LAR lately, and ways to make it more 
extensible and robust.  Marc and I have been trading ideas back and 
forth for a number of months, and over time a clear idea of what I 
wanted to do started to take shape.

My goal was to add small things to LAR while retaining the overall 
scheme.  Over time, the scheme evolved slightly, but I think you'll find 
that it remains true to the original idea.  Below is the beginnings of 
an architecture document - I did it in text form, but if met with 
aclaim, it should be wikified.  This presents what I call ROMFS - the 
next generation LAR for next generation Coreboot.  Its easier to 
describe what it is by describing what changed:

A header has been added somewhere in the bootblock similar to Carl 
Daniel's scheme.  In addition to the coreboot information, the header 
reports the size of the ROM, the alignment of the blocks, and the offset 
of the first component in the ROMFS.   The master header provides all 
the information LAR needs plus the magic number information flashrom needs.

Each "file" (or component, as I style them) now has a type associated 
with it. The type is used by coreboot to identify the type of file that 
it is loading, and it can also be used by payloads to group items in the 
ROMFS by type (i.e - bayou can ask for all components that are payloads).

The header on each "file" (or component, as I like to style them) has 
been simplified - We now only store the length, the type, the checksum, 
and the offset to the data.  The name scheme remains the same.  The 
addtional information, which is component specific, has been moved to 
the component itself (see below).

The components are arranged in the ROM aligned along the specified 
alignment from the master header - this is to facilitate partial re-write.

Other then that, the LAR ideas remain pretty much the same.

The plan for moving the metadata to the components is to allow many 
different kinds of components, not all of which are groked by coreboot. 
  However, there are three essential component types that are groked by 
coreboot, and they are defined:

stage - the stage is being parsed from the original ELF, and stored in 
the ROM as a single blob of binary data.  The load address, start 
address, compression type and length are stored in the component sub-header.

payload - this is essentially SELF in different clothing - same idea as 
SELF, with the sub-header as above.

optionrom - This is in flux - right now, the optionrom is stored 
unadulterated and uncompressed, but that is likely to be changed.

Following this email are two replies containing the v3 code and a new 
ROM tool to implement this respectively.  I told you that I was trying 
to get this out before I disappear, and I'm not kidding - the code is 
compile tested and not run-tested.  I hope that somebody will embrace 
this code and take it the rest of the way, otherwise it will die a 
pretty short death.

I realize that this will start an awesome flamewar, and I'm looking 
forward to it.  Thanks for listening to me over the years - and good 
luck with coreboot.  When you all make a million dollars, send me a few 
bucks, will you?


Coreboot ROMFS Specification
Jordan Crouse <jordan at cosmicpenguin.net>

= Introduction =

This document describes the coreboot ROMFS specification (from here 
to as ROMFS).  ROMFS is a scheme for managing independent chunks of data in
a system ROM.  Though not a true filesystem, the style and concepts are

= Architecture =

The ROMFS architecture looks like the following:

/---------------\ <-- Start of ROM
| /-----------\ | --|
| | Header    | |   |
| |-----------| |   |
| | Name      | |   |-- Component
| |-----------| |   |
| |Data       | |   |
| |..         | |   |
| \-----------/ | --|
|               |
| /-----------\ |
| | Header    | |
| |-----------| |
| | Name      | |
| |-----------| |
| |Data       | |
| |..         | |
| \-----------/ |
|               |
| ...           |
| /-----------\ |
| |           | |
| | Bootblock | |
| | --------- | |
| | Reset     | | <- 0xFFFFFFF0
| \-----------/ |

The ROMFS architecture consists of a binary associated with a physical
ROM disk referred hereafter as the ROM. A number of independent of
components, each with a  header prepended on to data are located within
the ROM.  The components are nominally arranged sequentially, though they
are aligned along a pre-defined boundary.

The bootblock occupies the last 20k of the ROM.  Within
the bootblock is a master header containing information about the ROM
including the size, alignment of the components, and the offset of the
start of the first ROMFS component within the ROM.

= Master Header =

The master header contains essential information about the ROM that is
used by both the ROMFS implementation within coreboot at runtime as well
as host based utilities to create and manage the ROM.  The master header
will be located somewhere within the bootblock (last 20k of the ROM).  A
pointer to the location of the header will be located at offset
-12 from the end of the ROM.  This translates to address 0xFFFFFFF4 on a
normal x86 system.  The pointer will be to physical memory somewhere
between - 0xFFFFB000 and 0xFFFFFFF0.  This makes it easier for coreboot
to locate the header at run time.  Build time utilities will
need to read the pointer and do the appropriate math to locate the header.

The following is the structure of the master header:

struct romfs_header {
	unsigned int magic;
	unsigned int size;
	unsigned int align;
	unsigned int offset;

The meaning of each member is as follows:

'magic' is a 32 bit number that identifies the ROM as a ROMFS type.  The 
number is 0x4F524243, which is 'ORBC' in ASCII.

'size' is the size of the ROM in bytes.  Coreboot will subtract 'size' from
0xFFFFFFFF to locate the beginning of the ROM in memory.

'align' is the number of bytes that each component is aligned to within the
ROM.  This is used to make sure that each component is aligned correctly 
regards to the erase block sizes on the ROM - allowing one to replace a
component at runtime without disturbing the others.

'offset' is the offset of the the first ROMFS component (from the start of
the ROM).  This is to allow for arbitrary space to be left at the beginning
of the ROM for things like embedded controller firmware.

= Bootblock =
The bootblock is a mandatory component in the ROM.  It is located in the 
20k of the ROM space, and contains, among other things, the location of the
master header and the entry point for the loader firmware.  The bootblock
does not have a component header attached to it.

= Components =

ROMFS components are placed in the ROM starting at 'offset' specified in
the master header and ending at the bootblock.  Thus the total size 
for components in the ROM is (ROM size - 20k - 'offset').  Each ROMFS
component is to be aligned according to the 'align' value in the header.
Thus, if a component of size 1052 is located at offset 0 with an 'align' 
of 1024, the next component will be located at offset 2048.

Each ROMFS component will be indexed with a unique ASCII string name of
unlimited size.

Each ROMFS component starts with a header:

struct ROMFS_file {
         char magic[8];
         unsigned int len;
         unsigned int type;
         unsigned int checksum;
         unsigned int offset;

'magic' is a magic value used to identify the header.  During runtime,
coreboot will scan the ROM looking for this value.  The default magic is
the string 'LARCHIVE'.

'len' is the length of the data, not including the size of the header and
the size of the name.

'type' is a 32 bit number indicating the type of data that is attached.
The data type is used in a number of ways, as detailed in the section

'checksum' is a 32bit checksum of the entire component, including the
header and name.

'offset' is the start of the component data, based off the start of the 
The difference between the size of the header and offset is the size of the
component name.

Immediately following the header will be the name of the component, 
which will
null terminated and 16 byte aligned.   The following picture shows the
structure of the header:

/--------\  <- start
| Header |
|--------|  <- sizeof(struct romfs_file)
| Name   |
|--------|  <- 'offset'
| Data   |
| ...    |
\--------/  <- start + 'offset' + 'len'

== Searching Alogrithm ==

To locate a specific component in the ROM, one starts at the 'offset'
specified in the ROMFS master header.  For this example, the offset will
be 0.

 From that offset, the code should search for the magic string on the
component, jumping 'align' bytes each time.  So, assuming that 'align' is
16, the code will search for the string 'LARCHIVE' at offset 0, 16, 32, etc.
If the offset ever exceeds the allowable range for ROMFS components, then no
component was found.

Upon recognizing a component, the software then has to search for the
specific name of the component.  This is accomplished by comparing the
desired name with the string on the component located at
offset + sizeof(struct romfs_file).  If the string matches, then the 
has been located, otherwise the software should add 'offset' + 'len' to
the offset and resume the search for the magic value.

== Data Types ==

The 'type' member of struct romfs_file is used to identify the content
of the component data, and is used by coreboot and other
run-time entities to make decisions about how to handle the data.

There are three component types that are essential to coreboot, and so
are defined here.

=== Stages ===

Stages are code loaded by coreboot during the boot process.  They are
essential to a successful boot.   Stages are comprised of a single blob
of binary data that is to be loaded into a particular location in memory
and executed.   The uncompressed header contains information about how
large the data is, and where it should be placed, and what additional memory
needs to be cleared.

Stages are assigned a component value of 0x10.  When coreboot sees this
component type, it knows that it should pass the data to a sub-function
that will process the stage.

The following is the format of a stage component:

| Header |
| Binary |
| ..     |

The header is defined as:

struct romfs_stage {
         unsigned int compression;
         unsigned long long entry;
         unsigned long long load;
         unsigned int len;
         unsigned int memlen;

'compression' is an integer defining how the data is compressed.  There
are three compression types defined by this version of the standard:
none (0x0), lzma (0x1), and nrv2b (0x02), though additional types may be
added assuming that coreboot understands how to handle the scheme.

'entry' is a 64 bit value indicating the location where  the program
counter should jump following the loading of the stage.  This should be
an absolute physical memory address.

'load' is a 64 bit value indicating where the subsequent data should be
loaded.  This should be an absolute physical memory address.

'len' is the length of the compressed data in the component.

'memlen' is the amount of memory that will be used by the component when
it is loaded.

The component data will start immediately following the header.

When coreboot loads a stage, it will first zero the memory from 'load' to
'memlen'.  It will then decompress the component data according to the
specified scheme and place it in memory starting at 'load'.  Following that,
it will jump execution to the address specified by 'entry'.
Some components are designed to execute directly from the ROM - coreboot
knows which components must do that and will act accordingly.

=== Payloads ===

Payloads are loaded by coreboot following the boot process.

Stages are assigned a component value of 0x20.  When coreboot sees this
component type, it knows that it should pass the data to a sub-function
that will process the payload.  Furthermore, other run time
applications such as 'bayou' may easily index all available payloads
on the system by searching for the payload type.

The following is the format of a stage component:

| Header    |
| Segment 1 |
| Segment 2 |
| ...       |
| Binary    |
| ..        |

The header is as follows:

struct romfs_payload {
         struct romfs_payload_segment segments;

The header contains a number of segments corresponding to the segments
that need to be loaded for the payload.

The following is the structure of each segment header:

struct romfs_payload_segment {
         unsigned int type;
         unsigned int compression;
         unsigned int offset;
         unsigned long long load_addr;
         unsigned int len;
         unsigned int mem_len;

'type' is the type of segment, one of the following:

PAYLOAD_SEGMENT_CODE   0x45444F43   The segment contains executable code
PAYLOAD_SEGMENT_DATA   0x41544144   The segment contains data
PAYLOAD_SEGMENT_BSS    0x20535342   The memory speicfied by the segment
                                     should be zeroed
PAYLOAD_SEGMENT_PARAMS 0x41524150   The segment contains information for
                                     the payload
PAYLOAD_SEGMENT_ENTRY  0x52544E45   The segment contains the entry point
		       		    for the payload

'compression' is the compression scheme for the segment.  Each segment can
be independently compressed. There are three compression types defined by
this version of the standard: none (0x0), lzma (0x1), and nrv2b (0x02),
though additional types may be added assuming that coreboot understands
how to handle the scheme.

'offset' is the address of the data within the component, starting from
the component header.

'load_addr' is a 64 bit value indicating where the segment should be placed
in memory.

'len' is a 32 bit value indicating the size of the segment within the

'mem_len' is the size of the data when it is placed into memory.

The data will located immediately following the last segment.

=== Option ROMS ===

The third specified component type will be Option ROMs.  Option ROMS will
have component type '0x30'.  They will have no additional header, the
uncompressed binary data will be located in the data portion of the

=== NULL ===

There is a 4th component type ,defined as NULL (0xFFFFFFFF).  This is
the "don't care" component type.  This can be used when the component
type is not necessary (such as when the name of the component is unique.
i.e. option_table).  It is recommended that all components be assigned a
unique type, but NULL can be used when the type does not matter.

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