Porting LinuxBIOS to the AMD SC520

Building a Linux system that will boot in seconds, not minutes, requires a custom BIOS. But thanks to a new compiler and development process, we can build a BIOS for a new motherboard with only C code—no assembly.
Shoot the Dice and Wear a Blindfold

Well, let's see how it goes. We have a script for this part, to save some typing:

cd src/targets

./buildtarget digitallogic/msm586seg

This step works. It builds, but we get errors, which is expected. The version covered above, by the way, is:


if you want to see what goes wrong. With a few modifications, we get a working version, which is stored at:


It builds! The next step is to see if we can get any serial output. Make sure, of course, that you place the Flash part you want to burn into the Flash socket or you're going to be pretty unhappy. Better yet, before you start burning, make a backup of your factory BIOS to cover for mistakes:

flash_rom -r /tmp/backup

Put in a new Flash part:

flash_rom /tmp/backup

and store the Flash part somewhere safe.

We're building on a laptop and using an SC520 running Linux as the burner node. So use:

scp linuxbios.rom root@burnnode:
ssh root@burnnode flash_rom linuxbios.rom

Did It Work?

Let's find out if it worked. Be sure to follow our progress on the Linux Journal Web site.

Next Steps

You can track our progress on the Web page or the LinuxBIOS Wiki (see the on-line Resources)—we have set up a status page there so you can see how it is going.

We have tried to show you a quick overview of how to do a LinuxBIOS port to a new system. If you really want to give it a go, join the mailing list and tell people what you are doing. There's a lot of expertise out there, and people are ready to help. For the record, it took one person totally unfamiliar with this system four hours to build a new BIOS port from scratch. That's not bad. Although it looks rather complex, once you see how to build a BIOS, you probably will find it to be pretty easy.

This research was funded in part by the Mathematical Information and Computer Sciences (MICS) Program of the DOE Office of Science and the Los Alamos Computer Science Institute (ASCI Institutes). Los Alamos National Laboratory is operated by the University of California for the National Nuclear Security Administration of the United States Department of Energy under contract W-7405-ENG-36. Los Alamos, NM 87545 LANL LA-UR-05-3336.

Resources for this article: /article/8327.

Ron Minnich is the team leader of the Cluster Research Team at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He has worked in cluster computing for longer than he would like to think about.



Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

just want to try this feature

MR Test's picture

Please remove this just want to see what it did and how?

One Click, Universal Protection: Implementing Centralized Security Policies on Linux Systems

As Linux continues to play an ever increasing role in corporate data centers and institutions, ensuring the integrity and protection of these systems must be a priority. With 60% of the world's websites and an increasing share of organization's mission-critical workloads running on Linux, failing to stop malware and other advanced threats on Linux can increasingly impact an organization's reputation and bottom line.

Learn More

Sponsored by Bit9

Linux Backup and Recovery Webinar

Most companies incorporate backup procedures for critical data, which can be restored quickly if a loss occurs. However, fewer companies are prepared for catastrophic system failures, in which they lose all data, the entire operating system, applications, settings, patches and more, reducing their system(s) to “bare metal.” After all, before data can be restored to a system, there must be a system to restore it to.

In this one hour webinar, learn how to enhance your existing backup strategies for better disaster recovery preparedness using Storix System Backup Administrator (SBAdmin), a highly flexible bare-metal recovery solution for UNIX and Linux systems.

Learn More

Sponsored by Storix