In the LinuxBIOS tree there are currently ports to 13 different mainboards. LinuxBIOS has been ported to both x86 and the Alpha hardware architectures. It has run on the AMD Athlon, AMD Duron, Pentium II, Pentium III, Alpha 211264 CPUs, ALI m1631, Digital Tsunami, AMD 760, AMD 760MP, Intel 440BX, Intel 440GX, VIA VT8601, SiS540, SiS550, SiS630 and SiS730 chipsets. And this is just the code that has been finished and placed in the main LinuxBIOS tree. Other ports are still in progress and haven't been committed as of this writing. So while the hardware support is limited, the list is growing. LinuxBIOS currently is not tied to any specific chipset, vendor or processor architecture.
The quality of the hardware support varies. On the chipset front, support for SiS chipsets is very good. Both Intel and AMD have a standard policy of documenting their chipsets so the support at both is pretty good. Via does not publicly document their newer chipsets, making support here a challenge.
On the processor front, Compaq has made the important details public, so supporting Alpha processors is doable. Development for the Alpha has not been a high priority, however, because the Alpha is an expensive processor with a dubious future.
The Pentium II and Pentium III are fairly well documented in Intel manuals, except for the L2 cache initialization of their slot processors (the L2 cache initialization is now supported). The AMD Athlon and Duron are not well supported because AMD hasn't publicly documented everything that needs to be set up for their processors.
Support from the board manufacturer isn't necessary because, most of the time, components on a motherboard can be identified by just looking at it.
Board manufacturers generally are interested in supporting only one firmware for their motherboards. As LinuxBIOS currently does not provide a compatibility layer for booting other operating systems besides Linux (notably Windows), there hasn't been much interest from board manufacturers in deploying LinuxBIOS in its current form.
LinuxBIOS provides an innovative look at the job of firmware, how it is structured, written and licensed. As machines become increasingly integrated, LinuxBIOS is rising to meet the demand for greater code reuse and flexibility. If the snowballing interest in the technology is any indication, it looks to have a bright future.
Eric Biederman (email@example.com) is a software engineer for Linux NetworX, focusing on LinuxBIOS and helping with cluster management tool development. When not deeply involved in LinuxBIOS, Eric reads science fiction, plays with DOSEMU and hikes around the Wasatch Mountains just outside of Salt Lake City.
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