[OLPC-devel] Announcement: Conversion to LinuxBIOS must be complete
by August 26.
jg at laptop.org
Wed Aug 16 16:31:45 EDT 2006
Many on this list are already aware of the following, but to ensure
everyone sees this, I include what I just sent to the devel-boards list:
We discovered last week that the Insyde BIOS in the ATest board will
stop working August 26. We were not aware of this date when the boards
were made. Since last week, we have been working hard to finish the
pieces required to use LinuxBIOS on the OLPC hardware.
Note that there is a work around for this problem, by setting time back
on the board to the range of dates that the BIOS will allow; this may
require removing the battery from the clock circuitry.
We have always intended to convert over to LinuxBIOS, using Linux itself
as our boot loader (LinuxBIOS/LAB); LinuxBIOS itself has been running
reasonably stably for approaching 6 weeks. This allows us full control
of our system, and to make fast resume work, having complete control of
our BIOS may be absolutely essential.
But making this transition requires a related set of changes to the
system software, which we had expected to do one step at a time.
VESA is the "standard" very stupid graphics that IBM PC's have had for
over a decade that operating systems have used for console messages
while booting. On the Geode, VESA hardware is emulated in software. We
have chosen to *not* support VESA graphics emulation in LinuxBIOS.
This both saves space in the BIOS ROM that we will need, and removes the
module of AMD's Geode Virtual System Architecture (VSA), for which AMD
does not hold the copyright. We much prefer to be open source down to
the bare processor and AMD will be making the other parts of the VSA we
use available under an open source license.
Without VESA support in VSA, LinuxBIOS/LAB cannot boot systems that
depend on VESA graphics, such as DOS, or Linux systems, or other
operating systems that cannot initialize the Geode's graphics on their
We have always been planning to use an fbdev driver in preference to the
generic VESA driver, but we find that we must make both changes
(LinuxBIOS, and using the fbdev driver for the Linux console)
simultaneously as result of the Insyde BIOS timeout. So both your kernel
and your BIOS will need changes by that date.
You will need to also use the new X Window System EXA graphics driver
(called "amd") that Jordan Crouse of AMD has been working on, which
supports alpha blending and should have much higher performance than the
previous drivers we have been using. This removes any dependency on VESA
for console graphics initialization.
As of last night, Richard Smith succeeded at making a flash utility work
with the SPI (serial) flash found on your boards. Our thanks to
We hope to have all these pieces together in the OLPC Fedora
distribution and Fedora Rawhide and tested by Friday evening Boston time
with installation directions, so that you will have the coming weekend
and the following week to update your machines.
We will send another announcement to this list and to the devel list
when we have everything complete along with step-by-step directions for
updating your boards and system.
We are sorry for the inconvenience.
Jim Gettys, OLPC
One Laptop Per Child
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