[coreboot] Coreboot Purism BIOS is free? open?

Youness Alaoui kakaroto at kakaroto.homelinux.net
Tue Dec 19 21:41:32 CET 2017

On Tue, Dec 19, 2017 at 2:07 PM, Timothy Pearson
<tpearson at raptorengineering.com> wrote:
> Hash: SHA1
> On 12/19/2017 11:51 AM, Dame Más wrote:
>> I finished the University and I have free time to do things. And this
>> seems like an interesting project to which I dedicate many hours.
>> The truth is that I read a lot these days. The work you do kakaroto is
>> impressive.
>> In general Purism is doing something big, and I spoke ahead of time.
>> I saw that in the directory
>> coreboot/3rdparty/blobs/mainboard/purism/
>> there is no content, it is right?
>> Thanks
> The main question I have, and this is an honest question, is why Purism
> chose to use the x86 platform as a base for libre hardware, when it has
> been known for some time that said hardware could never be made fully
> blob-free?
> There were (and are) other good ways to make a system that could be
> fully blob-free, for instance ARM, and given the engineering effort that
> is said to have been put into the Purism machines I wonder what we could
> have had if said effort had been put into an aarch64 system instead of
> an x86 system?

That's a very good question and you're not the first one to ask it.

I think it's a combination of quite a few things. First, the fact that
I don't think there were any realistically powerfuly/competing
ARM/PPC/risc systems available at the time (or if there were, the
price would have been too high to make it a "security focused laptop
for everyone"). The purpose of Purism is not to satisfy a niche
market, but rather to be something everyone will want whether or not
they care about the security like we do, but which would still provide
them with that security that they need. I think even now, you can't
have an ARM device that could compete with an i7 in terms of

The second reason is that Todd (CEO) was in talks with Intel and was
unfortunately lead to believe that they were open to release an
ME-less design CPU for his needs, it ended up not being the case.

The last reason is because I think that through this discussion
Todd thought that it would be possible to get a binary blob free
coreboot/CPU with a few months of work. He didn't realize that it was
a much harder thing to achieve because the FSP takes a lot of time to
reverse engineer (remember, he thought he would have an ME-less CPU
from Intel), but from what I read in one of his answers, he had
already decided on x86 by the time he wrote that mail to the mailing
list, so I'm not sure if it really answers your question.

I think those that provide non-x86 (or pre-2008 x86) machines are
already there to fill the blob-free need, and it's not healthy to just
compete with them. A good summary is that we want to "bring blob-free
to the hardware that people want", rather than "bring blob-free
hardware to the people who want it".

Finally, I'll paste you one of my explanations from an email I sent
here last May, which kind of summarizes it all (from

"[...], You ask why Purism doesn't just create laptops using FX2 or ARM or
whatever... Well, because that's not what most people want, out there. If
you want a RYF laptop using old or underpowered hardware or non-x86
architectures, that's a problem that has already been solved, there are
various resellers of such devices. The idea here is not to "Use what we can
find to make RYF" but rather "Bring RYF to the hardware that people want".
What I believe Purism is trying to do is to create a modern laptop for
*everyone* with the extra value of security and privacy, and in the process
make FLOSS appealing to mainstream instead of letting it be confined in a
niche. I think everyone will be better off with tools to protect their
privacy/security without asking them to throw the baby with the bathwater
by requiring them to use hardware that does not interest them (otherwise,
if old or non-x86 architectures were so appealing, you would have seen that
become the norm rather than the exception)."

I hope that fully answers your question.


> - --
> Timothy Pearson
> Raptor Engineering
> +1 (415) 727-8645 (direct line)
> +1 (512) 690-0200 (switchboard)
> https://www.raptorengineering.com
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