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Intel Software

Intel To Release Next-Gen BIOS Code Under CPL 224

Posted by timothy
from the old-texas-town-of-el-paso dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Intel said today that it plans to release the 'Foundation code' of its next-generation firmware technology -- a successor to the PC BIOS -- under the Common Public License (CPL), an open source license, later this year. More than 20 years old, the BIOS (Basic Input-Output System) is the oldest software technology in PC platforms. Intel says its firmware Foundation code, a result of a project codenamed Tiano, 'provides that the successor to the BIOS will be based on up-to-date software technology.' The Foundation code is designed to be extended with new features and services, such as improved platform manageability, serviceability, and administrative interfaces which are too complex to implement in the old BIOS environment, according to Intel."
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Intel To Release Next-Gen BIOS Code Under CPL

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  • An ode to DRM FUD (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stecoop (759508) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @09:13PM (#9311068) Journal
    Will this end the fear of DRM'd BIOS? With the source available then any additions added to the bios can be reversed. I wonder if Intel is countering something in regards to statements made by Microsoft and Sun saying that hardware will be free?
  • by SeanTobin (138474) * <byrdhuntr AT hotmail DOT com> on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @09:15PM (#9311084)
    Intel has been slowly losing credibility in my (and possibly others) eyes for some time now. Processor ID's sucked. However, they 'did the right thing' and got rid of them. Their implimentation of 64-bit computing sucked (or was ahead of its time) but they 'did the right thing' and swiped AMD's :). I used to be a Intel fanatic (yes, I owned several bunny people) and dismissed AMD's processors because of thier floating point performance. AMD wised up and finally gave chase to Intel on all performance matters to the point where I'm now running a AMD processor. I've always been concerened that Microsoft and Intel are a little too friendly, especially in regards to 64-bit windows versions and Microsoft/Intel's chip/release timing.

    Anyway, the BIG concern for me on the horizon is the upcoming DRM-from-the-bios-to-the-speaker-cone mentality that some unnamed people [microsoft.com] are trying to push. If Intel wants to score major bonus points in my book, opening up the bios (or whatever they feel like calling it) could definately do it.

    If I know that I can always depend on my computer to do what I tell it to and not what Intel/Microsoft/Belken tell it to do, I will go that route.

    Also, to Intel... I'm buying a new server next month. I had decided on AMD. I'm now considering Intel as an option. Now everyone in the marketing department go tell the engineering department to go impliment this!
  • Not really (Score:5, Interesting)

    by autopr0n (534291) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @09:20PM (#9311110) Homepage Journal
    While the source may be available, that won't mean it can't contain DRM. After all, any good secure system should be secure wether or not the source is visible or not.

    Think about it, the fact that you can see the source code to Linux doesn't mean that a regular user has any greater ability to gain root. That's exactly how these new DRM systems work, by taking a way a user's right to be root on their own machine.

    Flash your own Tiano BIOS, and on DRM certified mobo's it simply won't run unless its signed by Microsoft or someone.

    So this wont help with DRM, but it's still a good thing :P
  • Not again... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by vwjeff (709903) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @09:21PM (#9311113)
    Processor ID's sucked

    I never had a problem with Intel's processor ID. Every networked computer already has a unique MAC address. What is the difference?
  • by ErichTheWebGuy (745925) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @09:25PM (#9311133) Homepage
    the LinuxBios [linuxbios.org] project? I would think little, if at all, since the core goals of the LinuxBios project are so specific (providing instant control of a cluster node), but maybe I am wrong? Perhaps some innovations can flow both ways.

    Either way, kudos to Intel.
  • Great! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by autopr0n (534291) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @09:26PM (#9311145) Homepage Journal
    wow, this is actually pretty cool. Imagine being able to download a bios patch off the 'net that would let you boot the machine directly into Linux, or hell... put a webserver right into the bios chip.

    In the future I can see the ultimate "geek" motherboard having a memory-stick or CF card slot for the bios, rather then using chips that aren't often used by consumers. You'd be able to walk down to best buy or Wal-Mart and buy a new bios chip to play around with.
  • Re:Not really (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @09:48PM (#9311267) Homepage
    But it CAN be. Because you have the source, you can build a version in which you've stripped out the DRM stuff that you don't want. And THAT would remove the DRM worries.

    Of course, as you mentioned, all they have to do is require that the BIOS is signed to prevent the end user from doing that, which would be unfortunate. This also assumes that the open source part is functionally complete (i.e. not a layer ontop of the layer that drives the hardware, which could be closed source so nothing you made could be booted because you lacked that part).

    I worry it won't happen, but I would LOVE to be able to tweek my own BIOS code. Imagine if you could do that with the computers you own now. Be able to go back to that old PII and add the ability to boot off of USB, or add LBA to an old PC, or just rearrage that horrid BIOS user interface on that no-name PC in the corner. Or you could disable more stuff you're not using to speed up the boot processor. And there are always patches to the Linux kernel and such to work around buggy BIOSes, think if you could fix that yourself. And corporations wouldn't have to worry about the support nightmare, thanks to that classic phrase in the computer industry "We don't support what we didn't ship". You touch it, YOU'RE responsible, good or bad. And if you change something and they like it, it's open source so they can check it out and implement it and make everyone's life better.

    I hope the industry sees the light and allows what I suggested above (something that Linux BIOS is working towards too, in many ways). But even if things end up like they are now, I'll be happy as long as I can flash my own BIOS and it doesn't have to be MS DRMed. Because I'm not buying a computer that is programed to not let me use it.

    After all, would you buy a car that you're not allowed to drive? (As a car for everyday use, I'm not talking buying the Bonne & Clyde car or something like that).

  • Re:Not again... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by afidel (530433) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @09:52PM (#9311285)
    Actually they could NEVER be turned off all the way. The BIOS patches just disabled them during startup, and Windows didn't turn it back on. But if you knew the correct sequence and a little assembly you could reactivate the PID 'feature' and query the number. I don't think there was ever a real program that did this but there were a few demo pieces that were enough proof of concept to show that it was possible.
  • by LuxuryYacht (229372) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @09:52PM (#9311286) Homepage


    Ron on the LinuxBIOS list put this best earlier today:

    You are not going to get the hardware startup code in Tiano. You're going to get the code that runs on top of the hardware startup code, and gives you a DOS-like startup system.

    Don't expect to suddenly see northbridge code on the intel web site. Part of the goal of Tiano/EFI is to make the release of such information unneeded. There is a silver lining. Supposedly, the interfaces from the hidden hardware code to Tiano will be public. This means you can conceivably chuck Tiano and put your own thing in its place, which could be ... a Linux kernel! You might need a small shim from the hidden hardware code to Linux, which could in turn be ... LinuxBIOS!

    This is how Linux NetWorx built the Alpha LinuxBIOS:

    - hidden hardware
    code (Alpha SROM) [ not changed, left in place]

    - LinuxBIOS [with Alpha support, minus memory setup code]

    - Linux
    Worked fine, should work for Tiano platforms. In other words, the binary support code for Tiano could solve some problems for us:

    - if we don't get the specs for the Intel chips (likely), then we can just leave the "hidden hardware code" in place, and flash over Tiano,
    replacing Tiano with LinuxBIOS. I believe Linux Labs did something like this for their ClearWater port 2 years or so ago.

    - Makes porting to other Intel mobos easier.

    Why the CPL, not the GPL?
    So that 3rd party vendors can add incompatibilities -- err, value --
    and charge you for it.

    Put another way, Tiano could be a linuxbios payload. I don't have much
    use for a Tiano/EFI payload, however. Tiano/EFI is very complex and if
    I'm going to put a complex thing like that into flash I'd much rather
    it be linux. I don't want something that's most of the work of an OS
    but not much of the capability, which pretty much describes Tiano/EFI.

    I'm intrigued that they are open sourcing it. I had for years only
    heard that it would be available under a type of NDA. I think LinuxBIOS
    is part of the push for open sourcing this type of software. But I
    doubt you're going to see Phoenix et. al. open source their
    'value-added' Tiano, which means a source fork is built into the model.
    That's trouble for us as customers -- we already suffer daily with all
    these BIOS extensions and undocumented, hidden gotchas. We already say
    this once: there was supposed to be a standard "hand off" on IA64 for
    startup. I found out that this "standard" handoff was modified by
    several vendors: it was no longer standard.

    Let's hope the "hidden
    hardware code" to Tiano interface remains standard. Also, if this code
    is anything like the EFI code, it won't build under Linux, only builds
    under Windows. It won't "just work" for us.

    All that said, I think Intel is doing a good thing by open sourcing the Tiano system, and I congratulate them on doing so.

  • Re:OpenBoot? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by afidel (530433) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @09:55PM (#9311311)
    That's EXACTLY what I was thinking when I read about this project several years ago. OpenBoot is Free/free and proven. Not only that but it's hard to imagine a more flexible system since it includes a Turing Complete programming language at its heart =) After you've used OpenBoot the PC BIOS seems so limiting and mundane.
  • Re:Not really (Score:5, Interesting)

    by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @10:06PM (#9311369)
    Would you buy a car you're not allowed to fix yourself and still retain the warranty? You can drive it all you want, just don't screw with it.

    And that's what most people do with their PC. Drive it. Not muck around under the hood and tweak the fuel injectors, or adjust the slope of the ABS initiation.
  • Re:OpenFirmware (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @10:15PM (#9311402) Homepage Journal
    OpenFirmware is a real standard, while Intel just wants us to believe it has an 'open architecture standard' and an 'SIG' instead of conforming to an already existing, real open standard.

    Not to mention that it's much cooler. You've got to love how easy it is to tell a Solaris machine to boot from ANYTHING without even an OS on the system! Boot from network? Never have to touch the machine. Boot from USB? A two line command? CDROM? Same! Boot from next years wizzigig? Done.

    It's also great for saving a system. Mislink the superblock? Write a Fortran program to fix it! Need a quick calcuation done while writing your program? Write a bit of Fortran to calculate it for you! Face it, OpenFirmware is simply cooler than anything on the Intel platform, present or future.

    (BTW, keep an eye out for CmdrTaco. He always shows up with his OpenBoot troll [slashdot.org] ten hours after the story has been posted. Come on Taco! You've got to get moving! ;-))

  • by monkeymanatwork (653088) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @10:22PM (#9311430) Homepage
    I remember in the late 80's seeing a bound, printed version of the IBM XT BIOS source code (ASM of course). It belonged to a friend and probably dated from the early 80's. IIRC, he sent IBM a check for $50 and they sent it to him.

    Not Open Source, but invaluable when we were developing device drivers, TSRs, and other low-level software.
  • OpenFirmware rules (Score:5, Interesting)

    by n1ywb (555767) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @10:24PM (#9311440) Homepage Journal
    OpenFirmware is the most amazingly awsome BIOS ever. Mostly because it's written in Forth which is one of the most amazingly awsome languages ever. I learned Forth specifically so I could hack on my PowerMac 7500's OpenFirmware. It's too bad Apple's old OF implementations were a bit buggy, but the newer PowerMacs' OF is super.

    For those who aren't familiar with Forth: Forth is a very powerful and easy to learn language. It's hardware requirements are very light and it is completely portable. Except for the most fundamental procedures, Forth is written in Forth and is completely modifiable and extensable. Forth programs are written as extensions of Forth itself. Forth is an interpreted language, and can be used from a Forth shell, much like BASIC. However, it is almost as fast as C, and equally powerful. Forth is an ideal language for embedded computer systems.

    For those of you that aren't familiar with OpenFirmware: OF is written in Forth and is very powerful because it can be manipulated from the Forth shell. This makes it very straightforward for an intelligent user to modify his BIOS as he sees fit, write BIOS scripts, modify settings, etc. The OF Forth shell gives you all the power of a normal PC BIOS and GRUB and then some. It even has a rudimentary edlin like text editor. Anyway if you own a Mac, look up some info on OF and play around with it a bit, it's pretty freakin cool.
  • Re:CPL (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Whyzzi (319263) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @10:45PM (#9311543)
    Ok. So then, what is the big difference between the CPL and the BSD license?
  • Re:An ode to DRM FUD (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cybersk4nk (727689) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @10:51PM (#9311566)
    I'm really not that sure about that. If you want to make sure your iTunes, or other DRMed music downloads still work, granted, it might be a problem. But open formats are open and always will be. Swapping the OS or BIOS to a non drmed one will still let you transfer files in an open and free way. JPGs for instance, should still transfer between DRMed and non-DRMed PCs through FTP for example. I just don't see how a DRM bios could affect this functionality. TCP/IP itself is designed to be platform independant connections and transfers. I believed the MS/DRMed BIOS strategy is to encrypt the files at the filesystem layer. So if you can log on and get the unencrypted version of the file, you can transfer it to someone without a DRM machine and the DRM info will be stripped. If new file formats are created in the future with built in DRM, this might be an issue. But as readers know, even iTunes was crackable. Ever since commercial software came out, publishers have tried to prevent copying. It's never worked in 30 years and I predict it never will. Every commercial game ever realeased has been cracked. I'm willing to bet on it. Copying will continue forever, and if big co's implement the scary DRM schemes that everyone is talking about, I'm going to hand design my own PCs without DRM and become a billionare. I'm sure many ./ers and other would pay good money to have a properly designed system with modern components that is DRM free. Heck, I would rather use my current computers for 10 years than to succumb to newer, faster machines that are completely locked down. I really hope Intel gets it right this time when they update the BIOS. I hope they implement what sun machines and other workstations have had for years, like serial consoles, better universal, standard booting support from any device etc. Also, I really hope they dump the old crappy VGA text mode once and for all and make the computer boot in SVGA framebuffer by default.
  • by Muggins the Mad (27719) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @10:57PM (#9311595)
    > DRM does not prevent data sharing.
    > It prevents you from sharing data which you don't have the authority to share. ..or using something you have legally purchased without paying lots of extra money to the local monopolist. ..or forwarding DRMed spam to the senders ISPs. ..or watching that cool DVD your mum bought you while on holiday in the UK... ..or sending a copy of a fraudulent copy of your *own* media to the police...

    Ok, hardly essential functions of society,

    But still very annoying.

    - MugginsM
  • Re:OpenBoot? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by znu (31198) <znu.public@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @11:17PM (#9311682)
    Uh, it's an open standard, like TCP/IP or HTTP. Some implementations are open source, some are not. I don't see any conspiracy here.
  • Re:Free Programmers? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LordK3nn3th (715352) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @11:19PM (#9311693)
    Heh, most Linux people (including me) always argue that's one of the benefits of open source, so people can see the bugs and fix it, and then someone complains when Intel might be using it for that reason :)

    Let us not be too hasty to chastise intel for being smart...
  • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@b[ ].org ['eau' in gap]> on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @11:24PM (#9311714)
    Unless you are a motherboard maker you won't be using this source dump. All of the hardware level details will remain hidden away in vendor's source trees so an end user will never be able to link a complete copy.

    It might prove useful now and again to conpare documented behavior to actual, but that is about the extent of it.
  • Re:Great! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CableModemSniper (556285) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .odlapacnagol.> on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @11:27PM (#9311734) Homepage Journal
    Yes. [jwdt.com]
  • Re:Not really (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alsee (515537) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @11:27PM (#9311737) Homepage
    the point of the source code, anyone can rewrite/recompile/reinstall and remove any offending "features" while adding their own modifications

    Nope.

    The entire purpose of the new system is to prevent exactly that. Sure you can change the code, but then the firmware chip (trust chip)then reports a "currupted" boot value. The new trusted software will refuse to install. The new trusted files will be encrypted and unreadable. The new websites will give you error messages and be unviewable.

    With Trusted Computing the source code becomes useless. The system defeats the GPL.

    But to top it all off, Cisco has announced a line of Network Admission Control routers that will deny you any internet access at all. It is billed as "blocking viruses", but what it really does is refuse you a connection unless you are running a Trusted computer and approved software. If you try to use to source to make any chages the hardware reports a "currupted" boot value. As far as the ISP's router is concered you are either infected with a virus or at least vulnerable to a virus.

    All new computers sold computers will start shipping with Trust chips installed by default within a year. After 4 years or so essentially all PC's will have been routinely replaced as obsolete. I figure such routers could be generally deployed by ISPs in approximately 2008.

    -
  • by Brandybuck (704397) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:05AM (#9311957) Homepage Journal
    Having an open-source bios wont prevent DRM any more then having an open-source OS will prevent file permission restrictions.

    With an Open Source OS, I can hack away those file permissions while retaining full compatiblity with the orginal. Nothing difficult about it. The only reason it hasn't been done, is because file permissions are beneficial to the owner of the system.

    If there's DRM in the BIOS that isn't beneficial to the owner, he'll get rid of it if he can. He might not be able to do it himself, but someone else will. If it's possible, of course. It depends on the implementation.
  • Re:CPL (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:33AM (#9312063)
    So then, what is the big difference between the CPL and the BSD license?
    Copyleft, and a "we license our patents only if you don't sue us with yours" clause.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @01:43AM (#9312396)
    How does this affect the Amd 64 bit cpu's...I understand that they are a better design than intels future 64 bit machines?? and how does this affect these new bioses?? shouldn't we be demanding an open source bios standard (non-drm)?
  • by Tim C (15259) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @02:01AM (#9312466)
    Not open source in what sense? By the capitalsation, I assume that you're equating "Open Source" to be more than just "access to the source code", but that's adding more to the definition than is present in the words themselves.

    You had the source of the program; I'd say it was open source. No, it wasn't GPL licensed (or BSD, or whatever), but it certainly wasn't "closed" either.
  • by Domini (103836) <lailoken@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @02:50AM (#9312617) Journal
    The coolest thing about the OpenFirmware on my iBook is the fact that you can run a telnet server in it! (Google is your friend!)

    Great for when your Firmware stuffs up your display!

    Not to mention being able to solve towers of Hanoi problems! ;)
  • by Uzik2 (679490) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @08:56AM (#9314153)
    " The Foundation code is designed to be extended with new features and services, such as improved platform manageability, serviceability, and administrative interfaces which are too complex to implement in the old BIOS environment, according to Intel."

    Did you notice the part about 'administrative interfaces'? This means your PC will have a remote control interface built right into the BIOS. Now anything that's turned on and connected to the network will be remotely exploitable. Even your Linux box, or your toaster will be worm fodder.
  • Re:CPL (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HokieJP (741860) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @09:35AM (#9314511)
    If I understand the license correctly, there is a key difference that you're missing:

    In the first passage you cite, it need only be made available under the CPL if released in source code form. So, you could distribute binaries of the code under any license you want. The satement that the new license "complies with the terms and conditions of this Agreement" isn't the same as saying you have to release it under the same license. It just means you can't violate any of the conditions of that license (say, about warantees or whatever).

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