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Google Tech Talks: coreboot (aka LinuxBIOS): The Free/Open-Source x86 Firmware

coreboot Google Tech Talk 2

Here's a nice opportunity for everyone to learn more about coreboot, a Free Software / Open Source firmware/BIOS for x86 PCs.

Ron Minnich, founder of the LinuxBIOS (now called coreboot) project, Peter Stuge of Stuge Konsult, and Stefan Reinauer of coresystems GmbH have given a presentation for the Google Tech Talks series recently. The topic was (of course) coreboot, its history, goals, features and technical details, surrounding tools and libraries such as flashrom and libpayload, as well as an automated test system for running a hardware test-suite upon every checkin in the coreboot repository.

coreboot Google Tech Talk 1

A video of the talk, aptly named coreboot (aka LinuxBIOS): The Free/Open-Source x86 Firmware (134 MB), is available from Youtube, get it for instance via:

  $ apt-get install youtube-dl
  $ youtube-dl http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X72LgcMpM9k

The talk includes various demos of coreboot and various payloads you can use with coreboot. One nice example is the TINT payload, a Tetris-like game for Linux (apt-get install tint for the curious), which has been reworked to be usable as a coreboot payload.

coreboot Google Tech Talk 3

So, yes, you can now put Tetris in your BIOS ROM chip and play it from there (no hard drive required).

Other demos included some cluster nodes with coreboot, and a "normal" x86 desktop board booting coreboot + Linux in a very few seconds (much room left for optimizing there though, if you really want to get into fast booting).

Check out the full talk for more infos, and if you're willing to give it a try (see the list of currently supported boards), contact us on the mailing list or join the #coreboot IRC channel on Freenode.

Once again QEMU saved the day...

Suppose you want to try out Xen for the first time, and you're a bit paranoid careful because, well, you don't want to break your system. No problem, just download the Xen 3.0 Demo CD Image (a live CD). Or so I thought; it took me a loong time to even find a download link for that beast. There seems to be no ISO image for 3.0.4, but only for 3.0.3 (gah!).

Anyways, the live CD seems to try to mount /dev/sda as my CDROM drive, which is... um... stupid, as that's a harddrive. A SATA harddrive to be more specific. A dm-crypt'ed hard drive to be even more specific. So there's no way the live CD can ever mount that. I was dropped into a minimalist shell, but couldn't figure out how to fix anything from there, and a quick look at the docs didn't reveal anything either.

So here's my fix:

  • Boot the normal OS, insert the live CD.
  • Start the live CD in QEMU: qemu -cdrom /dev/cdrom -boot d
  • Done. I had some problems with graphics in QEMU, so I chose the command line boot option of the live CD...

Nice huh? QEMU's hard drive is an IDE drive, it's called /dev/hda (instead of /dev/sda), thus the live CD works fine.

(Yes, I'm sure this could be fixed "the right way" too, but this is a nice way to get quick results, i.e. a working Xen test setup)

Freiheit statt Angst - Demo against the current Surveillance and Data Retention madness, October 20, Bielefeld, Germany



This demo is initiated and backed by a number of organizations in Germany, among others the Arbeitskreis Vorratsdatenspeicherung, Chaos Computer Club e.V., FoeBuD e.V., STOP1984, Attac AG Wissensallmende, Indymedia Germany, and the German Pirate Party.

Place: Bielefeld, Germany (exact meeting place)
Time: 15:00 o'clock on Friday, October 20, 2006
Motto: Freiheit statt Angst (Freedom instead of fear)

Goals and Demands

  • Reduce the pervasive surveillance in Germany!
    No public video surveillance, no automatical face-recognition, no data retention, no RFID and biometry in passports, no "Lauschangriff" etc.
  • In-depth investigations of current surveillance laws by independant organizations/experts!
    Find out how effective (or rather not!) currently implemented surveillance laws have been, and what their downsides, problems, and dangers are for democracy in Germany.
  • Stop all plans for further surveillance laws!
    Any further surveillance laws, "anti-terror"- or "security"-laws must be halted immediately! Their implications are extremely dangerous for privacy and democracy in Germany!

Materials: Banners, flyers, mottos for transparents and more are available in the wiki of the site. Donations are possible and welcome, too.

Demo participants can visit the Big Brother Awards 2006 right after the demo (for free).

If you value your privacy and democracy in this country, now is the time to speak up and let the whole world (and especially the German politicians) know! This surveillance-madness has to stop!

bb Update

bb screenshot
bb screenshotI uploaded an updated bb Debian package today, which fixes a few bugs:

  • The first one is an FTBFS bug (Fails To Build From Source) with gcc 3.4 and gcc 4.0. Thanks to Karl Chen for the patch.
  • The next one fixes the build dependencies of the package, as the aalib library used by bb was renamed to libaa in Debian.
  • Finally, I moved bb from /usr/bin to /usr/games, where it fits in better in my and other people's opinion.

For those of you who don't know bb: It is a pure text-mode demo (think demoscene) with fancy visual effects and music. Although quite old (ca. 1997) it is still quite impressive and well worth watching.

Stop Software Patents!

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Software patents are to be introduced in the European Union, soon. Software patents suck.
Spread the word. Stop software patents before it's too late.

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Software patents were stopped in India. We can prevent them in Europe, too. But we need to act. Now.

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