Aapo Rantalainen's blog

Experiences with Information Technology and Open source

I want my BIOS open

Posted by Aapo Rantalainen on September 26, 2011

My very first laptop from somewhere 2000 was not used very much on last years. It is Compaq Presario 700 with 384M memory. This autumn I got work for it.

Compaq Presario 700, running Ubuntu 10.04 (long term support) with LXDE desktop. Everything works even laptop is older than 10 years. Did I say everything? Actually there is one fault. There are no working battery any more. This is not issue. But laptop’s internal CMOS battery (used for clock) is empty. Why this is issue? Now computer doesn’t know clock until it checks it over Internet. This is not issue at all. But before Operating System starts there are one player called BIOS, who ‘checks everything is OK’ and that realized there are no power in clock’s battery and thinks it is so critical that user must read error message and press F1 to continue booting. Every boot.

Funny (or not-funny) thing is that BIOS is only closed source part of my computer and it is only/last part causing troubles. (And for records: even every other part is open source, I haven’t modify the code. Somebody before me have fixed every issues relating using old laptop without any batteries).

6 Responses to “I want my BIOS open”

  1. rhk said

    How about.. OpenBIOS?! http://www.openfirmware.info/Welcome_to_OpenBIOS

  2. rhk said

    Another option would be to replace the CMOS battery so it’d remember the time. I googled and it looks like that on a certain geocities site there has been nice instruction how to do it – but it’s gone now. However you’ll find links to it when googling for presario 700 cmos battery but it doesn’t help much. And be prepared to have a day or two of downtime if you start to change the battery :)

  3. Aapo said

    “Do not try to put OpenBIOS in a real boot ROM, it will not work and may damage your hardware!” From status of OpenBIOS (used only under QEMU).

    I’m not planning to change CMOS battery. I have also option to dump whole computer and use newer one. These solutions are not saving the world (=helping anybody else).

    Coreboot (formerly know as LinuxBOOT) [ http://www.coreboot.org/ ] doesn’t support Presario. Maybe next time I buy laptop I first check Coreboot support list.

  4. I’d theoretically have Coreboot support for all the chips my motherboard has, but there’s is (not surpisingly) no Coreboot for dummies that would tell me how to extract the needed interrupt tables etc. that need modifying with chip-identical motherboard from another vendor that _has_ Coreboot support.

  5. Jani said

    Incidentally, I’ve been looking into open alternatives to BIOS the last couple of days due to the fact that very few desktop systems’ BIOSes support setting a hard disk password. This seemed to me like the perfect niche for the free DIY solutions: something that BIOS/mobo manufacturers most likely will not fix due to limitedness of the target market, where said market consists of die hard nerds like me who like weird things such as (gasp!) encrypting their data.

    I was disappointed to find that, although Coreboot should work on my setup, none of the open source payload solutions seem to support ATA security either.

    So I ended up patching my BIOS with another proprietary blob to achieve what I wanted.

    (Was there a point to this? Maybe just that the open solutions that are out there are not only limited in compatibility but, even when compatible, still not the end-all to limits imposed by a proprietary BIOS. Of course, they do have the benefit of being more easily modifiable, so if you know your low-level languages, you can build a custom solution yourself. I just wish I was that competent.)

  6. Riku said

    In the ARM world there is no bios :) If you have an open source firmware/bootloader (like u-boot), you have open source booting from the start to end.

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