Roda RK886EX (Rocky III+) first laptop/notebook being supported by coreboot

coreboot logo

Only few days ago a long-standing bug in coreboot, the Free Software x86 BIOS/fimware project, has been fixed: Adding support for a laptop/notebook.

The code was developed by coresystems GmbH (thanks a lot!). Quoting from the announcement:

coreboot® is running on a multitude of different computers, ranging from tiny embedded systems as small as the palm of your hand over desktop and server systems to super computers with thousands of nodes. However, one might say that in the area of mobile computers coreboot has to catch up, compared to its support of other devices.

Thus, I am especially glad to announce that coresystems GmbH is releasing coreboot® for the Roda RK886EX a.k.a Rocky III+ notebook today. It's a rugged notebook, protected against shock, vibration, dust and humidity:
http://www.roda-computer.com/en/products/notebooks/rocky-iii-rk886ex.html

We have been testing various Linux distributions as well as Windows XP and Windows 7 booting on this nice notebook.

I want to sincerely thank those who made this project possible with their funding:

  • secunet Security Networks AG
  • Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnologie (Federal Office for Information Security, BSI)

A big thank you also goes to everyone who worked with coresystems on this project.

The committed patch series includes improved support for the Intel i945 / ICH7 chipset (which was also written by coresystems), the SMSC LPC47N227 Super I/O, the Texas Instruments Cardbus+Firewire bridge TI PCI7420, and finally the Renesas M3885x Embedded Controller (EC).

Btw, the latter, the so-called embedded controller (sometimes integrated in the Super I/O, sometimes it's an extra chip) is one of the major problems for coreboot support on laptops. They are almost always undocumented (i.e., no public datasheets are available), but they have low-level control over power/battery management, early power-up sequence, and often include keyboard controller functionality and other important stuff. Luckily, for this notebook an EC datasheet is available. Checkout the coreboot EC support code for the Renesas M3885x for an impression of what this stuff is all about.

Anyway, there is hope that this laptop will only be the first in a row of multiple supported ones in the future. Interested developers and contributors are of course always welcome on the coreboot mailing list :-)

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That's definitely a very

That's definitely a very rugged laptop! It looks like the small version of the laptop that's used by the Russian president! Will CoreBoot also be available for the more home-use laptops? The Coreboot pictogram is really great.

Is there any automated way

Is there any automated way to get the data needed for coreboot to support a new motherboard/laptop? Like getting data from the BIOS image or similar? Perhaps you could blog about the process of supporting a new machine with coreboot.

Automated coreboot support

No, unfortunately adding coreboot support for a new board (let alone a new laptop) is highly non-trivial and cannot be easily automated. The problem becomes worse the newer your hardware is. Supporting older Pentium-III era systems is sort of generic in the sense that output from some tools often suffices to get a first coreboot image for testing, but that's about it. Lots of work needs to be done afterwards still, even if that worked. And with modern hardware the complexity has increased a lot, thus automation is not really possible. In addition you often don't even have (detailed enough) datasheets for some components...

Uwe.

free-EC firmware next?

Heh, next we need a project to develop free firmware for the ECs, right? I would really like to be able to swap Fn and Ctrl on my acer aspire one but as far as I know this can only be done by modifying the EC firmware.

Free EC firmware

Yes, open-source EC firmware (at least for some models) might be possible in the future, but it's highly non-trivial, even if you do have a datasheet. There's already an OpenEC project from the OLPC folks which goes in that direction (though they only focused on the one EC in the OLPC so far, I think).

Uwe.