[coreboot] Potential development funding.

mailinglists mailinglists at fnoss.com
Tue Jun 5 11:50:43 CEST 2012

Hi Patrick,

Sorry, I was hopping to have the time to reply sooner.

On Monday 04 Jun 2012 16:12:50 Patrick Georgi wrote:
> Am 04.06.2012 14:42, schrieb mailinglists:
> > 1.      What do you all think the requirements will be for replacing UEFI
> > on future mobos.  Will it likely be a case of switching out the bios chip
> > or just flashing it?
> We generally reuse the chips. If you're doing business, you should be
> able to afford an external flasher, so getting rid of the original BIOS
> is no problem, even if vendor BIOS locks down the chip on boot.
> Some chip types are easier to flash externally than others, but that's
> from a hobbyist perspective. As a business, investing some money in the
> right adapter for a large number of boards isn't too bad, it's just hard
> to justify spending $50 (to pick some upper bound) on a single-use item
> when it's just a hobby.

Unfortunately, as you might have guessed, I’m fairly technical but my 
experience is at the OS level.  I found this


I'm guessing that's the type of equipment you're referring to?  no problem to 
invest in one or a few of those.

> > 2.      What % of flashes resulted in bricked mobos? Do most new boards
> > come with a backup chip which can restore life after a failure?
> With external flashing you can recover by just writing again. "bricked"
> means wrong content and thus unable to boot, not destroyed chip (usually
> - I've seen the latter case, but it's very rare).


> > 3.      Can anyone recommend a possible target ivy bridge or Trinity itx
> > mobo for coreboot development?  Perhaps one that's already being worked
> > on?
> As yet, Trinity is only released for notebooks, at least that's what I
> gathered from the tech media. Desktop and server Trinity are scheduled
> for summer and fall releases (AFAIK).

Unfortunately it seems you're right, I must not have paid close enough 
attention.  Though, I did find the link below. The name of the site doesn't 
inspire confidence however;)

At the bottom of the article 
"Updated: June 4th, 2012 9am.  AMD has responded with the following.  So we’re 
confirming that we’ll have OEM Trinity desktops on shelves this week."


> As for Ivybridge, please note that it requires a couple of binary-only
> components (beyond those we usually need, see below): RAM init is done
> with the Intel reference code, and to turn on the system in the first
> place, the Management Engine (some embedded controller in the chipset)
> requires a binary-only component as well.
> It's remotely feasible to replace the RAM init with source (multimonth
> effort, after obtaining access to the documentation), but the ME code
> will remain a requirement (if only because it's said to be signed by
> Intel, so replacing it requires cracking their signature scheme - good
> luck).

If there is no hope of replacing these bits then a FOSS-almost computer will 
suffice.  Thankfully, the only real concern at the moment is to sidestep 
Microsoft's influence on OEMs.  You guys have already done a fantastic job of 
that, we just need to get that work onto some hardware that people will be 
buying in future.  If we can do that, it will inspire others to follow suit.  

> > 4.      If we can identify a good itx mobo for the desktop line-up,  would
> > someone here be able to asses how much time a fairly full featured and
> > reliable implementation of coreboot would take to develop?
> > 
> >         note: to me "fairly full featured would be to have all the
> > 
> > fundamentals  up and avaliable for the OS to pick up, such as pci-e usb
> > 3.0, hdmi, sata 3, wifi, and working reliably.
> This depends (among other things) on the kind of OS support you desire.
> OSS systems are generally more forgiving for incomplete configuration
> than Windows - but with "FOSS-only computers" Windows might not be a
> priority.

Windows is definitely not a priority.  In an ideal world, I’d be looking to 
offer Linux distributions without binary blobs, but that is probably out of the 
question for now.  Never mind though, getting close is a very good first step.   

> > 5.      Is there any special requirement for getting AMD/nvidia gfx cards
> > working with coreboot?
> Minor hacks might be necessary to get the IGD/GFX switch to work right.
> On systems with integrated graphics we generally expect IGD to manage
> the primary display.
> Details on that vary by chipset and/or vendor.

Sounds promising.

> > 6.      Which hardware have you found to be the simplist to fully
> > implement
> > coreboot on, and which hardware (if any) should be considered a no go?
> nVidia chipsets are no-go (there was a lucky strike once that gave us
> the nVidia support we have - I don't expect that to happen again). Intel
> chipsets are complicated. AMD is the best choice for coreboot support
> these days.

Ok, AMD it is then.  I only hope the semiaccurate.com article above has some 
merit.  FM1 chips don't really compete with the new intel offerings.  I'll 
contact someone at AMD to get a status on the trinity chips. 

Are Intel chipsets complicated due to lack of documentation?  If so, can I 
contact/badger the right people on your behalf?

> We don't have to care about many other things (eg. the Wifi card - we
> don't handle Wifi, we just have to make sure the card is found on the bus)

Good to know, thank you.

> > 8.	What do you think about the viability of a kickstarter campaign to
> > raise
> > development funds.  Has anyone tried this yet?
> Last I heard Kickstarter has a backlog of several thousand projects.
> Kickstarter seems to be first and foremost a social media popularity
> contest at the moment, for which coreboot is probably not a fancy enough
> topic. I'd assume the same for "FOSS Hardware", but feel free to try, if
> you feel like it.

Yes it does seem to be like that.  Though If I can make the case for UEFI-less 
computers compelling enough, and market it through foss type news and review 
sites,  a crowd sourced project, what ever site it is posted on, might just 
capture enough of the right audience to fund the initial requirements. I can 
but try... 

> Make clear that you're not collecting funds for the coreboot project -
> our situation is that we can't accept donations of any kind (nor take
> money with any other designation).

No problem, it would of course be deceptive of me to use a name I'm not 
affiliated with.  

I would imagine the best way to fund development (initially) would be 
to put the chosen mobo into interested developers hands (Acting on their own 
behalf of course). 

> > I would truely love to distribute computers which run entirely on free
> > software. Unfortunately, I'm no developer so If funding some development
> > is
> > the only way I can achieve this, I will find a way to do it.
> "run entirely on free software":
> We usually reuse the VGABIOS image delivered by the hardware vendor,
> which comes in binary-only form. There are a couple of ways around it,
> but they're only appropriate for systems where you control the OS that's
> used (eg. not doing VGA init at all and defer things to Linux KMS), or
> they're still experimental (see i915tool - it's an attempt to create a
> coreboot-level driver from KMS sources).
> This means that for a "generic" box you're still bound to the VGABIOS to
> some degree (you can't rely on KMS being available in the OS when using
> a bootloader menu).
> The other aspect is that you generally have an embedded controller on
> notebooks (in addition to the management engine on newer Intel
> chipsets). It usually runs its own firmware, which is also not availabe
> in source form. If you're lucky, it's part of the EC chip as read-only
> memory - in this case, you can safely consider it part of the hardware
> (even under FSF's strict definition, as far as I understand it).
As long as implementing coreboot removes anything to do with secure boot, I 
and most others concerned about it will remain fairly satisfied. 

My ultimate aim will remain a FOSS-only computer business, but the timeframe  
requires some sacrifice for now.
> Regards,
> Patrick

Thank you very much for your thoughtful reply.  You have given me many things 
to research.

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