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The Binary Blobs Making Up Coreboot

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  • The Binary Blobs Making Up Coreboot

    Phoronix: The Binary Blobs Making Up Coreboot

    While recently modern Intel hardware is negatively talked about the most when it comes to needing binary blobs / binary-only microcode to work with the open-source Coreboot, other hardware can be problematic too...

    http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?pag...t-Binary-Blobs

  • #2
    AGESA etc

    methinks AMD's AGESA and equivalent counterparts are also a problem.

    AFAIK AMD offfers AGESA as prepackaged module that initializes HW in right order so that rest of the BIOS can carry it from there.

    I understand that they use binary as a way to control environmnent, but there should be open sauce alternativ for those that want to invest some time in it.

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    • #3
      AMD Geode LX

      Minor correction to the Geode LX situation: We keep the binary in the 3rdparty repository because that code is ancient and originally written for MASM (that's Microsoft assembler). It's accompanied with the GPL'd source code, but nobody bothered to translate that into a form that we can integrate in the build. we'd do so in an instant and stop using (or shipping) the binary.

      So it's mostly convenience / unavailability of the toolchain on many platforms that are popular with coreboot developers.

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      • #4
        It's worth pointing out that installing LibreBoot on the ThinkPad X200 involves some physical flashing of chips with a special BeagleBoard setup:

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        • #5
          I think it is actually a bit hilarious that a MacBook is one of the few libreboot compatible ones. I mean, this is a bit like advertising old nvidia chips because somebody has reverse engineered the firmware. Either way I would not buy Apple hardware and support this company. Sadly all the others are quite old.

          But yes, the binary blob situation is far from being pleasant. But we had lots of discussion in other threads about that already.

          I still do have some Geode LX machines, but sadly I am not a hacker to freshen up and polish the Geode sources. I wonder if PC Engines did anything regarding that? I thought they were shipping a lot of these machines, also with coreboot.


          Is that really a Beagle Board in the photo? Okay I can spot the TI logo somewhat but I thought it was larger. Also: All the TI's had ImgTec stuff on them. So one must use a horribly unfree hardware to install Libre Boot onto a different hardware. Crazy times, ne?
          Stop TCPA, stupid software patents and corrupt politicians!

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Adarion View Post
            Either way I would not buy Apple hardware and support this company. Sadly all the others are quite old.
            I don't think supporting a first-gen Macbook still "supports" Apple. And all the other libreboot candidates start out just as non-free, too.

            Originally posted by Adarion View Post
            I wonder if PC Engines did anything regarding that? I thought they were shipping a lot of these machines, also with coreboot.
            Short answer: No. Long answer: No.

            Originally posted by Adarion View Post
            Is that really a Beagle Board in the photo? Okay I can spot the TI logo somewhat but I thought it was larger. Also: All the TI's had ImgTec stuff on them. So one must use a horribly unfree hardware to install Libre Boot onto a different hardware. Crazy times, ne?
            Or use a BusPirate, which should be Free[tm] enough, or any other device that is supported by flashrom as an external flasher (see http://www.flashrom.org/Supported_programmers).

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Adarion View Post
              Is that really a Beagle Board in the photo? Okay I can spot the TI logo somewhat but I thought it was larger. Also: All the TI's had ImgTec stuff on them. So one must use a horribly unfree hardware to install Libre Boot onto a different hardware. Crazy times, ne?
              It's a version called BeagleBone Black:



              Description: "BeagleBone Black is a low-cost, community-supported development platform for developers and hobbyists. Boot Linux in under 10 seconds and get started on development in less than 5 minutes with just a single USB cable."

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              • #8
                Originally posted by andyprough View Post
                It's a version called BeagleBone Black:


                Description: "BeagleBone Black is a low-cost, community-supported development platform for developers and hobbyists. Boot Linux in under 10 seconds and get started on development in less than 5 minutes with just a single USB cable."
                Just my own SWAG (scientific wild A guess) is that rig may rely on the onboard PRU microcontrollers to mediate the flash process.


                On second guess... just looks like it's leverage the linux spi protocol off of those headers.
                Last edited by WorBlux; 01 March 2015, 11:16 PM.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Brane215 View Post
                  methinks AMD's AGESA and equivalent counterparts are also a problem.

                  AFAIK AMD offfers AGESA as prepackaged module that initializes HW in right order so that rest of the BIOS can carry it from there.

                  I understand that they use binary as a way to control environmnent, but there should be open sauce alternativ for those that want to invest some time in it.
                  Since I happen to have a coreboot clone due to looking at the IMB180 at one point, the binaries seemed to be VGA, XHCI and IMC, which I assume are really optional for bootup. (But I imagine the fan controller, vga and usb 3.0 won't work)

                  I'm not really sure what you expect of AGESA. The only binaries in the AGESA sources (aside from the device firmwares mentioned above) in coreboot I found from a quick look was some CPU microcode tables. (I don't know if these are optional or not). But as I said, a quick look, someone who's worked on the AMD platforms would probably know better.

                  I've been meaning to try it out and play around with it, I even have a stack of bios chips for a board (and programming tools), but too little time, too many computer games.
                  Last edited by maligor; 02 March 2015, 06:32 AM. Reason: typo in board model

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Adarion View Post
                    I still do have some Geode LX machines, but sadly I am not a hacker to freshen up and polish the Geode sources.
                    This seems like a fairly easy task to start with. You don't have to know assembler to be able to translate between syntaxes, and you can likely expect a byte-identical result too once finished. The usual disclaimers, everything pulled out of ass, etc etc.

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