osboot project

The osboot project provides freedom-respecting boot firmware that initializes the hardware (e.g. memory controller, CPU, peripherals) on specific Intel/AMD x86 computers and starts a bootloader for your operating system. GNU+Linux and BSD are well-supported. It replaces proprietary BIOS/UEFI firmware. Help is available via #osboot on Libera IRC.

Why should you use osboot?

You have rights. The right to privacy, freedom of thought, freedom of speech and the right to read. Free software gives you these rights. Your freedom matters. Right to repair matters. Many people use proprietary boot firmware, even if they use GNU+Linux. Non-free firmware often contains backdoors, and can be buggy. The osboot project was founded in in December 2020, with the express purpose of making Free Software accessible for non-technical users at the firmware level. It’s true that osboot can be called Open Source, but you should call it Free Software.

The osboot project uses coreboot for hardware initialization. Coreboot is notoriously difficult to install for most non-technical users; it handles only basic initialization and jumps to a separate payload program (e.g. GRUB, Tianocore), which must also be configured. The osboot software solves this problem; it is a coreboot distribution with an automated build system that builds complete ROM images, for more robust installation. Documentation is provided.

How does osboot differ from regular coreboot?

In the same way that Debian is a GNU+Linux distribution, osboot is a coreboot distribution. If you want to build a ROM image from scratch, you otherwise have to perform expert-level configuration of coreboot, GRUB and whatever other software you need, to prepare the ROM image. With osboot, you can literally download from Git or a source archive, and run make, and it will build entire ROM images. An automated build system, named osbmk (OSBoot MaKe), builds these ROM images automatically, without any user input or intervention required. Configuration has already been performed in advance.

If you were to build regular coreboot, without using osboot’s automated build system, it would require a lot more intervention and decent technical knowledge to produce a working configuration.

Reguar binary releases of osboot provide these ROM images pre-compiled, and you can simply install them, with no special knowledge or skill except the ability to follow simplified instructions, written for non-technical users.

How does osboot differ from Libreboot?

Libreboot and osboot are both developed in parallel. Both projects were founded by Leah Rowe, who leads both projects.

The osboot project is a fork of Libreboot, but it has scrapped the Libreboot zero-blob policy. It comes with CPU microcode updates turned on by default, even on libreboot-compatible hardware (on libreboot-compatible hardware, that is the only difference). The osboot build system automatically downloads the entire set of 3rdparty submodules from coreboot. The coreboot software is nominally free, but does require some binary blobs on certain machines, and those are included in the 3rdparty submodules.

CPU microcode updates do not hurt your freedom, because your CPU already has older, buggier microcode in mask ROM anyway. You should choose osboot, not Libreboot, even on Libreboot-compatible hardware, because the microcode updates improve system stability and reliability. Out of principle, osboot will always enable microcode updates. Libreboot is inferior to osboot, in every way, but it will continue to be developed and polished, alongside osboot development.

The purpose of osboot is to provide as much freedom as possible, to those who wish to move away from their otherwise fully proprietary firmware. The osboot build system does not delete binary blobs like Libreboot’s one does, because it wants to provide help for all those who wish to have some freedoms over their hardware, even if that hardware isn’t supported by Libreboot yet. Libreboot compatibility is still very much desirable, on all hardware, and work to this end is highly encouraged!

You can learn more by reading osboot’s enlightened binary blobs policy which is in stark contrast to Libreboot’s policy. The osboot project removes all restrictions in its fork of the Libreboot build system, allowing any board from coreboot to be supported (the goal is literally to support all of them).

How to help

You can check bugs listed on the bug tracker.

If you spot a bug and have a fix, here are instructions for how to send patches, and you can also report it. Also, this entire website is written in Markdown and hosted in a separate repository where you can send patches.

Any and all development discussion and user support are all done on the IRC channel. More information is on the contact page.

Markdown file for this page: https://osboot.org/index.md

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