10 July 2022
Article published by: Leah Rowe
Date of publication: 10 July 2022
Libreboot is free (as in freedom) boot firmware, which initializes the hardware (e.g. memory controller, CPU, peripherals) in your computer so that software can run. Libreboot then starts a bootloader to load your operating system. It replaces the proprietary BIOS/UEFI firmware typically found on a computer. Libreboot is compatible with specifical computer models that use the Intel/AMD x86 architecture. Libreboot works well with GNU+Linux and BSD operating systems.
The last Libreboot release, version 20211122, was released on November 22nd in 2021. This new release, Libreboot 20220710, is released today on July 10th, 2022. This is intended to be a stable release, with some caveats.
This is a bug fix release, relative to 20211122. No new boards or major features have been added, but several problems that existed in the previous release have now been fixed.
This release was build-tested on Debian 11. Your mileage may vary, with other distros. Portability is very much a goal for a future release; in particular, I want to port the Libreboot build system and everything it uses to build properly on OpenBSD, but I’m also interested in non-GNU Linux distros such as Alpine Linux.
Much of the Libreboot build system relies on GNU-specific features, in the BASH implementation of
Lots and lots of improvements to the documentation. Previous 2021 testing releases did not include snapshots of the documentation (which is actually the Markdown source files for the website), but this release does include now a snapshot of the current Libreboot documentation, as per the time of release.
grub.cfg: Many performance improvements, improving the boot speeds when using the GNU GRUB payload (courtesy Ferass ‘Vitali64’ EL HAFIDI with additional improvements made by Leah Rowe)
GM45/ICH9M laptops: Disable PECI in coreboot, to work around a microcode bug causing SpeedStep (and possibly other CPU features) to fail.
Do not treat warnings as errors when building flashrom (fixes building on newer versions of GCC).
Macbook2,1: 16MB configurations now available (you must first upgrade the SPI flash)
Build system improvement: automated scripts for modifying coreboot configs.
Disable (by default) serial output on all boards, to prevent boot speed issues.
grub.cfg: Actually enable USB keyboards, explicitly (works around bug seen on some laptops, when using the GRUB payload).
Coreboot configs: Do not enable wifi during early init (security liability)
Preliminary u-boot integration; not used in any boards yet, but future full integration is planned, for several ARM platforms. U-boot is not included in the release archives, but logic does exist in the build system. Courtesy of Denis ‘GNUtoo’ Carikli.
Scripts in lbmk: improved help output, courtesy of Denis ‘GNUtoo’ Carikli.
scripts: process git versions when lbmk is a worktree or submodule. Courtesy John Doe (cool guy)
Updated to newer flashrom, in the build system
Perform silentoldconfig in seabios before full make. This fixes a race condition when rebuilding SeaBIOS with a high CPU count, resulting in failure with the error message (fix courtesy of John Doe):
cc1: fatal error: can’t open ‘out/src/asm-offsets.s’ for writing: No such file or directory
lbmk: Specifically call python3, when python3 is to be used instead of 2.
lbmk: Preliminary fix for git credentials check. Set a placeholder name/email if one is not set.
Due to reported issues by users, these boards do not have ROM images available in the Libreboot 20220710 release:
GA-G41M-ES2L works for me but jxself on FSF IRC reported video init issues. If you have this board, and the 2021 releases don’t work either, you might consider using upstream coreboot or the September 2016 Libreboot release. I will investigate this, and re-include ROMs for this board on the next release of Libreboot.
The boards listed above can still be compiled, from the source code archive in this release and from the Libreboot git repository; additionally, ROM images are provided for these in the previous release. D8/D16 continue to have raminit issues; for now, use the 2021 releases. The next Libreboot release will merge newer patches that are available for this board, improving raminit reliability (among other things); that new release will, when available, have D16 ROMs included.
All other boards are reasonably stable, and shouldn’t provide any issues (no major issues reported, and/or non-blocking issues only).
In general, you should also check the issue tracker to find other notes. There is always more work to do, to improve Libreboot.
This is still on hold, but will be done as part of a future release. The coreboot firmware does support other platforms.
This is another project that has been on hold for a while. The issue has been that I need a decent userland project. I’ve looked at many different userlands and recently (as of late June) decided to make my own. I want a BusyBox-like solution, but based on code from OpenBSD, ported to run under Linux with musl libc.
I want this distro to provide a kexec bootloader in flash, similar to Heads, and I also want it to use apk-tools, pointing at Alpine Linux repositories so as to allow any number of packages to be downloaded. It could also provide lots of utils in general, to be a live rescue system of sorts. Linux system in flash, that can bootstrap other systems.
GRUB is full of unused bloat that almost nobody uses, yet is in the current Libreboot builds. It’s been on TODO for some time, but work has not yet begun on this project. My efforts are currently focused on the Linux distro.
What I want is a fork of GRUB, optimized to run on bare metal as a coreboot payload, on x86 and ARM platforms.
NOTE: As of November 2022, osboot has merged with and become part of Libreboot, but the old repos at https://notabug.org/osboot/ still exist and shall be preserved.
The plans below are a guiding principle, but the details may change, when or if (most likely when) this decision is implemented.
In general, more hardware support is always a focus of the Libreboot project. With this in mind, a fundamental policy change in planned in the next release.
Read the policies of Libreboot and osboot. They differ, but the guiding philosophy behind them is exactly the same:
The differences are clear, but they are not entirely irreconcilable. I had initially started osboot to be its own project, but I have concluded for some time now that this level of separation is inefficient. I’ve thought of a better way to run both projects. I initially planned to do an osboot release at the same time as a new Libreboot release, but this will no longer be done.
This is the last Libreboot release, under the current policy. The next Libreboot release will be conducted under a new policy, that accomodates both the current Libreboot policy and current osboot policy.
Basically, the differences between lbmk and osbmk are quite minor and osboot merely adds a few new features for platforms it supports that Libreboot does (can)not under current policy. This is not to say that the differences are not substantial, for those parts of osboot that do differ, but the overall structure and design of both build systems (libreboot and osboot) is exactly the same, and they’re both easily adaptable.
What I want to do is refactor parts of the osboot build system so that you can pass an option (e.g. environmental variable) at build-time, which will dictate that any modules downloaded/built, and any ROMs built, will be created under current Libreboot policy.
Example, Libreboot-style, blobless:
FSDG= ./build boot roms all
./build boot roms all
An option in
board.cfg for each board would specify whether the given board can actually be built and booted this way, per current Libreboot policy. Therefore, a version of the current guidelines will still be made available. The new osboot-derived guidelines would be a separate document.
board.cfg does specify that FSDG is possible, non-FSDG configs can still be made available (for example: include microcode updates and don’t provide microcode-related mitigations), while also providing FSDG compliant configs (no microcode updates, and related issues mitigated via patches if possible, e.g. PECI disable patch to fix SpeedStep on GM45/ICH9M machines).
This would then become the Libreboot build system, and the documentation on libreboot would integrate everything from osboot too, accomodating this new policy change. The Libreboot project would therefore have two policies:
FSDG is the FSF guideline that Libreboot currently complies with, and which this release (Libreboot 20220710) adheres to.
Under this planned change, two sets of ROM images would be provided in the next Libreboot release:
Under that next release, with the change made, both sets of ROM images would be built from the same source archive.
When this merger is conducted, the https://osboot.org/ site will shut down and redirect (HTTP 301) to https://libreboot.org/. A new fusion of Libreboot and osboot will be born, continuing on libreboot.org.
This would then open up the Libreboot project to support more hardware, far more than it currently supports. The documentation would also be greatly improved, to more thoroughly specify what issues exist (if any) on a given board, as per current Libreboot blob policy and from an OSHW perspective.
The reason for this planned merger is pragmatic: I want to help more people to increase the amount of freedom they have, and most hardware currently supported by Libreboot is nearly impossible to find these days. In other words, it’s a choice between abandoning Libreboot and focusing only on osboot, which itself is a new project that has to completely establish itself again, or to instead continue using the Libreboot name, and implementing this newly pragmatic decision as a means of continuity.
Even if more hardware is added to Libreboot under the current policy, I think this new change of direction is fundamentally good, because Libreboot is mainly about making coreboot as easy to use as possible. My feelings about this are already written in the current osboot policy.
I believe the Libreboot project is in a position to help people regardless, by focusing on the wider set of supported coreboot hardware while still catering to the existing Libreboot users (precisely the reason why the merger is planned, in exactly the manner as described above).
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