[coreboot] building a coreboot (and 100% free software) compatible box

"Kristóf, Csillag" csillag.kristof at gmail.com
Thu Feb 7 09:45:55 CET 2013

Hi Hubbard,

Thank you for your answer!

At 2013-02-07 08:05, David Hubbard wrote:
> Hi Csillag,
> [...]
> I don't have experience with Intel motherboards.
> If this sounds like I'm pushing one specific motherboard, I apologize. 
> Rudolf Marek did a great job porting coreboot to the Asus F2A85-M board,
Yeah, I am reading the thread. Congrats there.

> and I bought one. I simply know the most about this board.
> The open source radeon driver performs just fine for this board (as 
> you mention below, yes, there is a binary blob).
... and as such, it does not fit the requirements (when used with 
on-board graphics.)

>     1.2. It must have hardware support for AES. (For hw crypto
>     acceleration.)
> For AMD that means you want a Bulldozer or Piledriver:
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AES_instruction_set#Supporting_CPUs_2
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piledriver_%28processor%29#2012_platforms
>     1.4. It must have hardware support for virtualization.
> Which specific virtualization features are you interested in?
Everything that is available. What's AMD's equivalent of VT-d called 

> AMD CPUs should all have some virtualization capability. Coreboot + 
> virtualization has not been tested on the F2A85-M.
Could you please test it?
>     1.5. It must be able to drive 3 independent display outputs, at
>     least in 1920x1200 resolution.
>         (Preferably all digital, but that's not necessary.)
> The F2A85-M board has HDMI, DVI-D, and VGA sockets, but only works 
> with up to 2 displays. I can confirm that all three sockets work fine 
> with the open source radeon driver, and that dual-display works fine.
That's fine, however, since the integrated GPU requires a binary 
firmware, it does not fit the requirements.
> ASUS does do 3-display motherboards, just not this one.
Yep. There is a board with the same name & Pro prefix that is like that. 
(F2A85-M Pro.)
However, that would sill require a binary firmware, so it would not fit 
the requirements, therefore, irrelevant.

> I think this means you'll need a discrete graphics card, as you 
> mention in 2.1 below. Bitcoin just got ASICs so if you're the type to 
> risk a scammer on fleabay, you could score a great deal.
OK, but what graphics card? Both AMD and Nvidia require binary firmwares...
Is there something that does not? (And does 3 displays...)

>     1.6. I must _use_ this, in a production environment, therefore it
>     must work. Reliably. Now. I have ~15 yrs Linux programming
>     experience, have modified stuff inside the kernel and X drivers,
>     and I am not afraid to have my hands dirty, but now I am not here
>     to run a hobby project, I want to to buy something that works, so
>     that I can do my job using it.
> Great! I understand that completely. The F2A85-M has some linux bugs:
Thank you for the listing!
> 1.6.1. The motherboard realtek r8169 gigabit NIC will lock up the 
> system as it gets fully loaded (tested up to kernel 3.7.1). Consider 
> picking up a cheap PCI-E NIC and ignore the on-board NIC until the 
> bugs are well and truly fixed.
OK, not a problem.
> 1.6.2. The hwmon sensors driver is still a work-in-progress with 
> significant bugs. The stock linux kernel doesn't do anything to hwmon, 
> which is fine for production use.
Does not care.
> 1.6.3. I'll mention that there is almost no overclocking ability just 
> to be complete. The only thing coreboot supports is selecting the 
> proper voltage for DDR3 RAM at compile time.
Does not care.
>     2. Would be nice:
>     2.1. It should only use integrated graphics. (Both Intel and AMD
>     can do 3 displays from integrated graphics now.) If I must, I
>     could add discrete card[s], but that increases power consumption
>     and system size...
> Yep, integrated graphics can drive 1920x1200 but only 2 displays.
(With binary firmware -> out of the question.)
>     2.2. Size small enough to be portable. Not planning to use in on
>     the move; I mean portable in a (potentially huge) backpack,
>     between several sites, where I intend to use them.
>         - size of Intel NUC or Thin Mini-ITX mainboard are very cool,
>         - Mini ITX is great, too,
>         - MicroATX is acceptable
>         - ATX seems to be too big, unless you can recommend me a
>     really, really small case (with acceptable cooling)
> The F2A85-M is a MicroATX board, for what it's worth.
That's fine.
>     2.3. Modern tech and High CPU performance. Of course :) Whatever
>     is available...
> AMD really doesn't have anything that competes with high-end Intel CPUs.
Indeed, this seems to be the case.
>     2.4. Low TDP, for the possibility of quite/silent cooling.
>         - definitely under 100W,
>         - probably at most 65W,
>         - ideally only 45W.
> TDP for a high performance AMD CPU is ~100W.
You mean something like the FX-8300, right?

> I use an aftermarket heatsink and 120mm fan, and if you're willing to 
> get a high-end heatsink this board can be silent, even when the CPU 
> and GPU are running at 100%.
I could do that, but that would about kill my chances to build this in a 
portable size. Oh well.

>  [...]

>     Now, if I understand correctly, the both GPU's (intel HD 4000 and
>     Radeon HD 7660D) runs on binary firmware blobs.
>     I have read about attempts to replace the Intel firmware with an
>     open version, but I am not sure where it stands now.
>     What are my options here?
> I didn't realize Intel HD 4000 uses a binary blob. That's interesting, 
> I'm going to go research that.
I am not exactly sure how the binary part is used; it might be uploaded, 
or it might go into the BIOS.
This is the part I was talking about:


Thank you for your help:


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