April 28, 2014

Spring Fundraising Campaign – Funding Highlights

As we embark on our 15th year of serving the FreeBSD Project and community, we are proud of what we’ve done to help FreeBSD become the most innovative, reliable, and high-performance operation system. During our Spring Fundraising Campaign, we are going to highlight where some of our funds are going to show our commitment to helping FreeBSD.

The first project we are highlighting is the UEFI Boot Support. Please take a moment to read about the work going on in this area.

What is UEFI and why is the FreeBSD Foundation sponsoring this work?

UEFI is the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, a new standard for boot firmware — the software that runs from the time a computer powers on, until the main operating system is loaded. It was originally developed for Intel’s “Itanium” CPU many years ago, with x86 and ARM support arriving later.

Many desktops and servers sold today provide the option to choose between UEFI and legacy BIOS boot modes, but some support only UEFI. UEFI-only systems will become increasingly common in the future, so supporting UEFI boot is a requirement for FreeBSD to remain viable on contemporary hardware.

Why did we need a new boot firmware?

The PC BIOS is over three decades old, and was designed with different goals than are relevant today. It was responsible not only for booting, but for providing runtime services like reading files or printing characters on the screen. As operating systems evolved from 16-bit code to 32- and 64-bit, the BIOS was relegated to providing only the initial boot functionality, but limitations of 16-bit code from the 1980s persisted.BIOS boot does not inherently support features like large disks, multiple operating systems, or network booting that are now standard.

These issues have all been worked around with various add-ons, but often in a vendor-specific or inconsistent way.UEFI replaces the workarounds and layers of complexity with a consistent and powerful set of boot services.

What work is the Foundation sponsoring?

In 2013 the Foundation sponsored Benno Rice to perform some initial investigation and infrastructure work for amd64 UEFI booting, which resulted in a working proof of concept. Ed Maste later refined that work and brought it to the main FreeBSD development branch, giving FreeBSD-CURRENT the ability to boot via UEFI.

Ed and Foundation staff members Glen Barber and Konstantin Belousov will continue with work to build snapshot images, fix bugs, address hardware compatibility issues. We’re committed to finishing UEFI boot integration, documentation, and installer support, and appreciate the support of the FreeBSD community’s collaboration on some of these pieces.Initial UEFI support will appear in the FreeBSD 10.1 release, due later this year.

Donate today to help us continue and increase our support of the FreeBSD Project and community worldwide! To make a donation go to: http://freebsdfoundation.org/donate/.