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[Libreboot] FOSDEM 2016 talk proposal

From: Paul Kocialkowski
Subject: [Libreboot] FOSDEM 2016 talk proposal
Date: Sat, 31 Oct 2015 10:47:19 +0100

I have submitted a talk proposal for FOSDEM 2016, mentioning various
bits related to freeing modern devices, including supporting Chromebooks
in Libreboot:

Liberating (modern) computers from the ground up: a tale of Libreboot,
Chromebooks and EC


Most of the computers we use daily are relying on proprietary software
at the lower levels. This includes the bootloader (previously known as
BIOS), firmwares running on various microcontrollers inside peripherals
and controllers and even microcodes inside processors. However, some
devices and platforms perform better than others when it comes to
software freedom at these levels: some are supported by free
bootloaders, such as U-Boot and Coreboot. Thus, it becomes less of a
stretch to liberate those devices, which is also crucial for privacy and

Chromebooks are such good targets, since they ship with Coreboot and a
free embedded controller firmware. While some models still require
proprietary pieces here and there, a few can actually boot up with only
free software and are now supported by Libreboot, the fully free
distribution of Coreboot. In addition, they implement a robust security
model that, for once, does not conflict with the user's interest.

On the other hand, a few recent AMD devices also show real potential for
free software, with possible areas of work for freeing them at the low
levels. In particular, freeing the software running on such an AMD
laptop's embedded controller is currently work in progress, with all the
tools needed in hands.


Starting from a personal use case, this talk will first draw a general
overview of the current status of free software support at the lower
levels of modern computers, especially bootloaders, firmwares running
inside chips and microcodes, with a particular emphasis on embedded
devices. The common limitations when freeing these devices will be
highlighted, along with the examples of recent Intel and AMD platforms
and how they compare to different kinds of embedded systems on a chip.

With the overall picture of the situation a mind, the rest of the talk
will focus on a few examples of modern computers that were picked up
based on a personal use case and show potential for running with free
software at the lower levels. This will highlight what was already
achieved at this point, what is work in progress and what would be
doable in the future.

The first interesting devices that will be mentioned are Chromebooks,
with mention of how they usually perform better that most other modern
computers when it comes to free software. While not all Chromebooks are
good candidates for running a fully free bootloader (depending on the
platform they're using), a few of them are, such as the C201 Chromebook
(by Asus) that is now supported by Libreboot. This talk will highlight
all the challenges encountered when adding support for this Chromebook
to Libreboot and what is next for liberating it. Other potential
Chromebooks that would be worth supporting in Libreboot will also be

Still guided by a personal incentive, two modern computers, the G505s
laptop (by Lenovo) and the F2A85-M (PRO) mainboard (by Asus) will be
highlighted as they use an AMD platform that shows some potential for
freedom, whereas modern Intel platforms appear to be fatally flawed.
While the road to running those computers in freedom appears to be long,
if not fatally obstructed, there are still some areas of work.

In particular, the road to freeing the G505s's KB9012 embedded
controller will be presented in details, with an emphasis on the
incentive behind it and security considerations regarding embedded
controllers. This last part will show how it was possible to gather
information on the platform, implement access to its internal flash
externally, grab an UART serial port, solder standalone boards for tests
and execute code on the device, up to blinking a LED!

Paul Kocialkowski, Replicant developer

Replicant is a fully free Android distribution running on several
devices, a free software mobile operating system putting the emphasis on
freedom and privacy/security.


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