Libreboot 20240225 released!

Leah Rowe

25 February 2024

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Article published by: Leah Rowe

Date of publication: 25 February 2024


Libreboot is a free/open source BIOS/UEFI replacement on x86 and ARM, providing boot firmware that initialises the hardware in your computer, to then load an operating system (e.g. Linux/BSD). It is specifically a coreboot distribution, in the same way that Debian is a Linux distribution. It provides an automated build system to produce coreboot ROM images with a variety of payloads such as GNU GRUB or SeaBIOS, with regular well-tested releases to make coreboot as easy to use as possible for non-technical users.

Libreboot provides many additional benefits such as fast boot speeds, greater security and greater customisation, but the primary benefit is software freedom.

This new release, Libreboot 20240225, released today 25 February 2024, is a new testing release of Libreboot. The previous release was Libreboot 20240126, released on 26 January 2024. The most careful and iterative approach is being taken in current development, because a new stable release is to be made available by the summer of 2024. Much of Libreboot’s current focus is purely on hardware support, since the build system is more or less stable at this point (owing to all of last year’s major code audits).

Today’s release has had some testing already, on most of the boards, and should run just fine. If you spot any issues, please report them on Libreboot’s bug tracker.

Hardware supported in this release

This release supports the following hardware:

Servers (AMD, x86)

Desktops (AMD, Intel, x86)

Laptops (Intel, x86)

Laptops (ARM, with U-Boot payload)

Work done since last release

With the exception of pico-serprog and replacing flashrom with flashprog (more on this later), the current upstream revisions remain unchanged, but this release has fixed a few issues and added more mainboards, relative to last month’s release.

New mainboards

SeaBIOS MXM INT15H interrupt

For Libreboot’s new HP EliteBook 8560w support, MXM handling was added to SeaBIOS. This was performed by Riku Viitanen, who also wrote this tool:

These laptops use upgradeable graphics cards in an MXM slot. The MXM specification states that the MXM config can be provided in an i2c ROM (and Libreboot would not have to handle that) or, in some cases, may be provided in the main boot flash, and loaded using an INT15H interrupt.

The MXM config is used by the VGA Option ROM on the card, for configuring things like ports / power management. Without it, running the option ROM would result in an error on the screen, telling you that the MXM configuration was not loaded. In some cases, you may be able to modify the ROM to bypass it, or it would just “work” anyway - but with undefined behaviour.

With Riku’s addition, this EliteBook 8560w now works perfectly. Coreboot has had a port for some time, but without the MXM support - for now, it is only available in SeaBIOS, so you must use SeaBIOS to run the VGA Option ROM (it cannot yet be done directly from coreboot).

U-Boot release script

The script at script/update/release now supports generating standalone U-Boot source archives, like so:

./update release -m u-boot

The usual -d option also works, for specifying a directory other than release/. Libreboot still provides U-Boot embedded within the larger source release archive, and does not yet actually provide U-Boot as a standalone project, but some people may find this useful.

Pico-serprog updates

Riku Viitanen added support for controlling multiple chip-selects. With the new functionality, you can set unused chipselects high. This is useful when flashing externally on an Intel IFD-based system where the two flashes are connected, but without resistors between the shared data lines - on these systems, the other flash’s chipselect is electrically floating which means it’s in an undefined state; the new version allows you to control all of them, turning off the other chip. This is useful when flashing the ThinkPad W541.

Documentation is provided for this, in the pico-serprog README. Riku also fixed this issue:

Riku also increased the default drive strength to 12mA on all RP2024 boards, increasing reliabily when externally flashing certain mainboards (e.g. PCH having low/no resistance on connections to the data lines for the flash).

Flashprog now used, instead of flashrom

Nico Huber was unfairly banned from participation in the flashrom project, and went on to create a new project called flashprog. The purpose of flashprog is to provide stable releases, with incremental development over time, maintaining support for newer chips/devices, while being careful not to break old ones. The new leadership of flashrom takes a far less conservative approach; flashprog was initially released as a project called flashrom-stable, and Nico was permitted to use the coreboot gerrit infrastructure - permission which was later revoked, leading to flashprog.

The new leader of flashrom accused Nico of foul behaviour, while not providing any evidence; this, at the same time that the two of them had seemingly incompatible assumptions about the future of the project. It’s pretty clear what the real reason was for his dismissal, though the Libreboot project is not taking Nico’s side simply for personal reasons - no, it is because Nico has a much better vision for the flashrom project, which he is now implementing in the new flashprog project.

Several developers have already jumped ship and went to work on flashprog. Nico’s vision is a far more sensible one, and he has been invaluable to the Libreboot project over many years. He has personally provided me with help and advise on numerous occasions. He is also the author of the Roda RK9 port in coreboot, upon which Vladimir Serbinenko’s ThinkPad X200 port was based - work which defined Libreboot in its early days, contributions for which I remain eternally grateful. I know Nico and trust him as a project leader. As a result, Libreboot withdraws its support and endorsement of flashrom - it will only promote flashprog from now on.

It’s quite possible that flashrom has a future, but there’s no reason why their changes cannot also be included in flashprog, if they are good changes, moving forward. Libreboot supports Nico’s work out of principle, both on a social (community-led, anyone can participate in it) and technological perspective. This was done because, firstly Nico Huber is a better leader, and flashprog is very likely to become the dominant project in the future.

This is the first Libreboot release to include flashprog sources, instead of flashrom. Moving forward, we will not be providing support for flashrom. Only flashprog. Libreboot’s distribution of flashprog also includes the macronix workaround (useful when externally flashing the ThinkPad X200).

Indeed, Nico’s mentality has already proven to have merit; newer revisions of flashrom break internal flashing on ThinkPad X60 and T60, last time it was tested (some time during Q4 2023, on the latest git revision). Nico’s flashprog is rock-solid on these older platforms, while having already added several major new features and hardware functionality - for instance, it has code for handling Riku Viitanen’s recent changes on the RP2040 serprog images, for pulling unused chipselects high (useful on machines like ThinkPad W541 for external flashing).

Context regarding flashprog vs flashrom

It was suggested by a reader, on 27 March 2024, that the lack of context made judging this situation very difficult. Therefore, the following links have been added, with explanation below.

More context can be gleaned from the following links:

The first link is the mailing list post, where the new flashrom leader unilaterally announced Nico’s banishment from the project, without giving actual evidence to back up her accusations (accusations which are made in the very same post). Several other flashrom developers weighed in, some taking the side of the new leadership, and several others taking Nico’s side. What happened to Nico was unfair. As already stated, Libreboot will promote flashprog, not flashrom, from now on.

Not only were such accusations made, but Nico was initially given his own repository on the coreboot project, for his project, which he then named flashrom-stable. See:

However, as you can see (at least on this date, 27 March 2024), this repo has been hidden from view. Nico was banned from even having flashrom-stable on the same infrastructure as flashrom, which uses the coreboot infrastructure. This later lead to Nico establishing the Flashprog project.

Libreboot stands with Nico and his Flashprog project. Anyone contributing to flashrom should consider working for flashprog, either in addition to or instead of flashrom. Libreboot will continue its boycott of Flashrom until its current leader, Anastasia Klimchuk, steps down from the leadership, and even then only after reparations/apologies are issued to the accused.

Exact git log

The following is an exact log of commits in the Git repository, on the master branch, relative to the previous January 2024 release:

* d4d25993 Libreboot 20240225 
* 35e5464a config/vendor: fix entry for 9020sff 
* 53544ff3 disable hiding peg from mrc on dell 9020 
*   7073ba3e Merge pull request 'config/ifd/dell_ivybridge: Add ifd_nogbe' (#188) from nic3-14159/lbmk:add-dell-ivb-ifd-nogbe into master 
| * 75c9a2b1 config/ifd/dell_ivybridge: Add ifd_nogbe 
* 4680d154 ./update trees -u coreboot 
* 0add5571 NEW BOARD: dell 9020 optiplex sff 
*   4641d996 Merge pull request 'Add HP EliteBook 8560w, MXM' (#187) from Riku_V/lbmk:hp8560w into master 
| * f9ed92e4 Add HP EliteBook 8560w 
| * 4a9fca57 Patch SeaBIOS: Add MXM support 
* | b7bc713b update pico-serprog to new revision 
* |   31849194 Merge pull request 'Add Dell Latitude E5520' (#184) from nic3-14159/lbmk:latitude-ports into master 
|\ \  
| * | aadfa6bb config: Add Dell Latitude E5520 
| * | 381cb119 config/coreboot/default/patches : Renumber E6420, E6520, E5530 patches 
|/ /  
* | 06933491 coreboot/dell9020mt: disable pcie rebar 
* | a8435c4f remove coreboot/dell9020mtvga_12mb 
* | 872e3b92 Merge pull request 'update revision: pico-serprog' (#185) from Riku_V/lbmk:master into master 
| * 0e3a5759 update revision: pico-serprog 
* 91792c0c update coreboot configs 
*   667854de Merge pull request 'Add Latitude E6420, E6520, and E5530' (#183) from nic3-14159/lbmk:latitude-ports into master 
| * eee22447 config: Add Dell Latitude E5530 
| * a5bfbe4d config: Add Dell Latitude E6520 
| * 617f2b88 config: Add Dell Latitude E6420 
* | abe33ce0 support making u-boot-only tarballs in releases 
* | 8e2e9735 add vga-only 9020 config 
* | dfad11f3 NEW BOARD: Dell OptiPlex 9020 MT (and 7020 MT) 
* | b2d8e118 import dell optiplex 7020/9020 patch from gerrit 
* 0c8fa201 update pico-serprog to Riku's new revision 
*   2ad52ed3 Merge pull request 'flashprog: apply the good old MX25 workaround' (#180) from Riku_V/lbmk:master into master 
| * 112d2a4e flashprog: apply the good old MX25 workaround 
* 77770f5a remove remaining flashrom remnants (use flashprog) 
* 36ddd6f6 update parabola dependencies for flashprog 
* 182a029f update arch dependencies for flashprog 
* e8523864 update trisquel dependencies for flashprog 
* 4131981c update debian dependencies for flashprog 
* af82d671 config/git: use flashprog instead of flashrom 

You may find archives of this release, by looking at the Libreboot download page. Support is available on IRC or Reddit if you need help.

NOTE: As in the previous release, HP 820 G2 images are not provided, because the inject scripts cannot currently produce a reliable checksum when inserting vendor files on these boards, due to the non-reproducible way in which the refcode file is compressed during insertion. Therefore, you must build it from source.

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