Does this mean easier hackintoshes perhaps?
Not that I'll be doing that, my non-laptop buying days are over.
Although the MSI P45D3 Platinum looks like a regular Core 2 motherboard, it breaks new ground. Out goes long-standing PC technology the Bios and in comes UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) in its place. UEFI is the successor to the Bios and seeks to take us away from the antiquated method of changing core computer …
Am I the only one to remember the AMI WinBios which was popular in the late 1990s? Although lacking all the EFI cleverness, this did implement a pseudo-windowing interface to the bios, complete with mouse support. It drove the screen in graphics mode and lots of nice icons for all the various options. I always liked it and it was disappointing when it suddenly disappeared from AMI motherboards.
Or perhaps there was some reason for this that I'm not aware of?
..but what exactly was wrong with the way BIOS worked? It was not aimed at your nan or typical PC World punter, it just did what it had to with minimal bells & whistles and little chance of getting itself all in a twist. And I doubt a mouse could get me round an Award BIOS quicker than I already can with keyboard.
Add a 'tasteful' GUI, localisations and a few thousand extra lines of code and what have you got? Something that hopefully does *exactly* the same as before, but is more likely to break...or be broken.
And anyway, in these 2.0 days of nannyish wizards, GPU-accelerated animated cursors and alpha-blending on everything, mucking about in the BIOS is one of the few ways we can still feel like real men, dammit!
that a bios was simplistic on purpose. You have no graphics drivers, so it can't look that fancy. you really don't want to find that after installing your shiny new graphics cards that you can't alter any settings, as your EFI doesn't support it.
changing it in windows/linux etc can't be the only option, as you might not have installed it yet, or it might not boot.
"...moves away from the 25-year-old or more Assembly-based design into a new, very user friendly interface where you can even use a mouse"
Lovely. How does all this work over a serial console then? :-)
Sounds very much like we are in danger of entering the MS Windows world where you can't do ANYTHING without a high end graphics card in the machine (and some means of displaying it). Which (a) is pretty silly on a server that otherwise doesn't need a GUI at all and (b) is completely bloody useless if you are on a remote connection to said server.
... tis only tinkerin' wit the ting! The trusty ol' CMOS bios is right there on the MB. This is only window dressing. More to do with LAZINESS! as is the vast majority of modern computing. Best to always understand what's afoot under the bonnet. Yes it takes time, and it's not much fun or glitzy, but you knows wot is a gooin on in there and understand the Mac Hinery.
Have a good'n everyone (readers and staff alike) and watch the sherry!
This seems a very positive reading of what EFI sets out to do. Surely of similar importance (but not nearly as positive) is the fact that it effectively shuts out the user. The kind of customisation available in the BIOS, without ever booting an operating system can be sealed off in EFI, so you can *only* boot into the OS your PC supplier wants you too. Yet again, we end up losing control of our own PCs and hand it instead to Wintel and their computer-building partners.
Is there really a benefit to a mouse driven interface over the old BIOS screens driven by keyboards? Certainly whilst the screens look more user friendly, they're still not really meant for the casual user to tinker with. And the extra time, space and effort required to run what essentially does the same job less efitiently.
Granted some bios screens could be a little confusing, but surely that's just down to user interface design. The mere presence of a mouse doesn't automatically mean user interfaces will be well designed and easy to understand.
But then who am I to stand in the way of progress. Change for the sake of change has never backfired on anyone before .... has it?
At first I thought like the previous posters. And then I recalled the problem of trying to change ANY BIOS settings on a machine via remote access - you can't!
Sure HP, Dell, IBM, et al have their RACs and ILOs for the servers, but for us lowly plebs with simpler systems being able to tweak stuff like for instance the boot order or the CPU and memory settings via a Terminal Services login would be a godsend!
Well, if it's anything like the EFI that goes into Itanium, then it also includes a boot loader which allows you to very easily switch between OSs. It also keeps the OS at arms length from the hardware more than the old BIOS did, which means low level virtualisation will be easier. The big difference is the old EFI was very much CLI and very small, whereas this looks like it has masses of graphics content and will subsequently take longer to load.
The options available in this new EFI are identical to the traditional BIOS options, including cryptically-worded Northbridge options, RAM latency and so on. So this hasn't made it any more accessible to your average user, all it's done is annoy techies and geeks by making the BIOS slower to access. And no doubt now it's in 16 million colours each BIOS update will be a 2Gb download too. Why fiddle with it unless it was for revolutionary reasons?
And why can't any electronics manufacturers make pretty interfaces? Raytraced glass spheres are so 1990s!
Why? Why do we need this? I need a BIOS that does the basics, and has a minimal set of failure points. A gui is an unnecessary failure point, and now you're asking hardware manufacturers to add further failure points in their firmware too.
If it's fully usable with a keyboard, why do I need a load of garish headache inducing colours splattered all over it? It's a pretty safe bet that if I'm diving through BIOS settings, I've already got a damn headache.
Ok, some people need to fiddle with their BIOS, fine, and the current interfaces aren't exactly brilliant, but they don't need to be "improved" this way.
IM, games... so it's an operating system, then? I can see the advantage of an OS-on-a-chip in terms of rapid start times, but it's going to be interesting to square with recent OS development (Linux included). No-one's about to try squeezing the fat American of the OS world (you all know what I'm referring to) onto a chip...
The only people ever likely to monkey with motherboard settings really don't need a fancy GUI, in fact it'll almost certainly slow them down. And as Rocco pointed out, more code means more risk of bugs and security holes, and I'd rather not being having to install BIOS/EFI updates every month or so. Keep it lean, efficient and secure.
I'm struggling to see the market for these - the only people who will even know what a BIOS is won't have any use for them, so who's going to pay the premium? Or is there a genuine technical benefit the article didn't cover?
Well that is handy, I happen to own the Platinum. Not sure why we need a GUI BIOS, it just means people who don't know what they are doing will get lulled in to a false sense of Windows esq security instead of scared away from a serious looking BIOS which should only be used by people who know what they are doing!
Wont be long before they start cramming it full of additional features, hardware acceleration drivers, full driver support, games (oh, thats already in?), file browser, web browser, email client, office suite.... and hey! Bye bye operating systems.... to be replaced by the EFI... erm, not an operating system.
Let's face it, newbies are hardly likely to go dipping into the BIOS. Having a DOS-like interface helps, as it reinforces the message that should should only go playing with it if you know what you are doing (a newbie is unlikely to know the trick of opening up the case and removing the battery or flipping the CMOS reset jumper).
What would be more welcome is a help system that actually did help - at least as far as explaining what some of the more obscure settings (like PCI-E Spread Spectrum) do without you needing to fire up a web browser and Google 3rd party sites...
...there goes my evenings and weekends. The BIOS will be accessible to World+Dog. The day my father gets his grubby little hands on this his machine will die a horrible death. BIOS is hard for a reason - don't tinker unless you understand what you're doing. Kinda like the engine of a car - don't use a tool on it unless you know what you're using it on and why.
I prefer things to be simple. The only reason to change the computer's basic settings is something has gone wrong (only once in a blue moon have I ever had to reconfigure it otherwise). When that happens, you *really* don't want a fancy GUI interface, or even the mouse getting in the way. You want it simple. Get in, get it done, and get out again. No stopping to look at the pretty pictures.
In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with the current BIOS interface, which requires few resources, and little effort, to use properly. The *last* thing we need is for someone to screw it up the way Microsoft did Windows, when they came up with that *horrible* AERO. Somehow, they managed to out-ugly XP's Fischer Price interface (I guess that's what they mean by "innovation"). Leave the pretty toys to the kiddies, while the rest of us get our work done.
From the screenshots, all the keyboard shortcuts still seem there, the lines of text and options are still in a fixed-width font, and there is still hardly any description of what the settings are about - the "help" for the option to "Enable ACPI Auto Configuration" says "Enables or Disables BIOS ACPI Auto Configuration", for example.
It looks to me as though all they have done is taken the BIOS as it was, and wrapped it in some fancy paper. A bit like putting tinsel round your telly at Christmas....
Also, it looks suitably arcane that (a) your run-of-the-mill user won't try to touch it, and (b) you get some "oohs" and "aahs" from people who can't get their head around someone using a PC without a mouse.
My brother once remarked that a PC without a mouse was the future as everything seemed to happen much faster... And looking at this EFI thing I kinda hope he's right...
"I see EFI as a go-between. It’s not really meant to totally replace the Bios, just replace the functions that have been crammed into the Bios over time. So the Bios can revert to its original job"
together with the fact that it allows you to run games and (probably, in a while) quite a few other apps, I see EFI as an OS... if it's not what they mean to do, it's just a GUI wizzard stuck on top of the BIOS, and we need that like a hard kick in the balls.
Also, from the same quote we can say that your title is obviously wrong. Nothing has been ditched, it's just hidden behind shiny colors.
So if you can run games, etc. on it... Does this not suggest a lot more root kit hacks. Basically, if you can load a game on it, can't you load a more nefarious purpose on it and take control of the computer. Especially if you now have network access, etc. prior to OS boot. Sounds like a much more exploitable machine. Or did I miss something? Paris cause she misses a lot.
It looks nice, sure but heck I'd rather bounce around in the bios using a keyboard anyday, one with a PS/2 connection on it as how many actually have the USB legacy keyboard option enabled in the bios so you can actually boot into the bios using a USB keyboard, that's quite funny actually
"I can't get it to boot into the BIOS to change anything, I'm pressing the right key but it doesn't do anything....."
If I need into the BIOS it's generally to check something real fast like WTF just happened, what's the CPU / NB / Sys Temp..
Sure it's old, but it WORKS, why change something if it works Change for Change sake never works in the end, all I will say to this is "PISTA" i can't bring my self to write out the proper name of that accursed OS.
I don't need "shiny", I want functional, anyone that can't easily navigate around in there, probably shouldn't be in there in the 1st place, I always read the mobo manual so I know where most things are that I'd need to change / check..
Bios updates from inside Windows - good idea, a GUI Biox not so good
"Intel developed the original EFI in a bid to drag the PC out of the 1980s"
I was always under the impression that Intel developed EFI because the Itanic processors couldn't do the x86 real mode that BIOS requires. I really can't see them messing around with it just because BIOS is old. Yes, it is old, but it works, so why change it? Unless you've just developed a retarded processor that can't handle it, of course...
The GUI interface for the BIOS setup screen has been done before. OEMs dropped it as it increased implementation cost for no actual benefit. A GUI version of setup is not UEFI, it is merely easier to implement as a side effect of implementing UEFI. The BIOS/UEFI is far more than just the setup screens, GUI or text based.
UEFI is an attempt to replace the BIOS (not the setup screens which are merely a means of changing settings) which is written mostly in assembler with code written in 'C', thus simplifying implementation and allowing untrained code monkeys to be able to work on the firmware. It is completely failing to do this as UEFI is being implemented as a layer above the traditional BIOS, so the BIOS is still there and has to be developed as usual. UEFI then becomes an extra step in a motherboard development and increases firmware size and cost of deployment which is the main reason for its slow uptake.
The advantages in UEFI lie in the ability to write more complex code in a richer environment and provide an easier interface to the OS. This is not something that most users will ever have to get involved with, even geeks unless they are writing a new bootloader or their own OS.
Loading games from a CD is just pointless showing off the possibilities that UEFI provides. After they have gone to the trouble of providing all the extra functionality (don't forget I am not talking about the GUI setup screens here but programming interfaces etc) they feel they need to have something to use it even if it is mere fluff. Until more OSes start to require UEFI in order to provide extra features during boot then UEFI will always be dismissed as irrelevant set dressing.
This whole story is not even news. There have been plenty of boards supporting UEFI before, mainly Intel motherboards. They haven't changed the world and I doubt MSI is about to either.
Well Intel also developed USB largely to try and kill of serial and parallel ports (and how many new mobos *still* have a frikkin' parallel port on them? Why??!!), so perhaps sometimes they ARE altruistically minded...
That or (like any business looking to make money) they see a BIG fat chunk of potential licensing revenue from any innovation they can get to take off ;-)
- The problem with the BIOS User Interface is not that it is Text-based (more complicated may be useful if you have to manage a RAID from the BIOS, end even then the icon stuff gets tired really fast, especially if the configurator actually does not work).
The problem is that manufacturers are just plain lazy. I want:
-- No more DOS. Anywhere. Ever. Even on a firmware floppy. Anyone coming at you with a DOS floppy just be reused for anti-cancer drug testing.
-- Firmware updates. Should be easy to do and not come in floppy-sized .exe files that you cannot actually use on a CD-ROM because A: must be writeable (hey, Fujitsu-Siemens, you listening? Cretins.)
-- Control and Interrogation of hardware from the OS through standard APIs. Which also work for a change and are documented How hard is this? Less than putting the flash jitz on the motherboards' website I reckon.
because their EFI implementation is fairly busted .... and only just about works? i.e. 64bit machines not being able to run 64bit EFI executables etc and so forth.
Anyhow, you shouldn't want EFI because you can add pretty menu's but because you no longer have to work around 1980's BIOS features, i.e you don't have to have 6 million incremental boot straps to get to a point at which you can load and jump into a kernel. It seems tech people are getting more and more "oh shinny things!" than actually being tech-savvy. *sigh*
Anything hidden in the BIOS cannot be changed remotely, and means I have to suffer from crappy vendor support that disappears completely when they decide I have to upgrade. This EFI enables vendors to extend the same problems to add-in cards while limiting my choice of add-in cards.
I only buy motherboards that are compatible with coreboot: http://www.coreboot.org/
This solves vendor problems too because they do not have to code new drivers for third party kit if the card already has an open source driver.
"It looks to me as though all they have done is taken the BIOS as it was, and wrapped it in some fancy paper. A bit like putting tinsel round your telly at Christmas...."
Dont make fun of my telly :-P
But if it runs games how can we forget to ask. . .
Can it run Crysis?
/Yes yes bad joke I'll be going now
I've never had a problem with a text-based BIOS, and I often configure a new motherboard before I've found a spare mouse to use with it.
What would be more use is if they took the ROM space needed for all the GUI crap and put in a more detailed explanation of what each BIOS setting actually meant. I'm still not sure about some of them.
I liked things like Alpha SRM and Openboot PROM. They gave you a simple command-line environment with the basic anemities of a shell and allowed you to perform low-level debugging or, in the case of OBP, play with the built-in Forth interpreter. They allowed serial consoles to be attached, and included basic networking support in order to facilitate network booting. Any additional functionality resulted entirely from there being a tiny, compact, and fast Forth interpreter that allowed the thing to be modified and extended however was needed.
BIOS is, to be fair, a nasty old system that needs to go. It makes the firmware on a VAX look futuristic. But EFI is the wrong way. EFI forgets that firmware should rely exclusively on the lowest-level services available--even necessarily relying on graphics and not allowing headless serial communication as an option is a mistake. Firmware is not meant to run general-purpose applications. It should be small, fast, and flexible, and serve to boot the computer, troubleshoot the hardware, and provide a last resort for fixing the machine if it gets so hosed up that it can't boot or even display graphics.
"i.e you don't have to have 6 million incremental boot straps to get to a point at which you can load and jump into a kernel"
That's right, you don't - you have to get through about 20 times as many bootstraps + loading of an inane environment before you can jump to a kernel. Or you think EFI has a smaller footprint than BIOS?
1) Get your facts straight -- there HAVE been BIOSes in the past which were GUI-based and allowed the use of the mouse. This is not innovative, is not novel, and most certainly is not an improvement. The reason it wasn't used extensively is because it's a crap idea and because modifying the settings with a mouse is more difficult than using the keyboard. If you can't figure out how to use a keyboard, you almost certainly should not be touching your BIOS settings (unless you're physically disabled and literally cannot use the keyboard).
2) Allowing you to flash your BIOS from within Windows is the single worst idea the BIOS manufacturers have ever come up with. If malware writers actually wanted to cause damage instead of taking control of people's systems to form botnets, blasting the BIOS with bad data would be the perfect way. No way to fix that except to replace the chip (unless you're one of the few who have a motherboard with dual-BIOS). And no, I don't think there should be a DOS program to flash the BIOS, either. You should have to be in the BIOS screen already in order to flash the BIOS.
3) To the "Gee, look at Apple, they're light years ahead of their time!" idiots, if Apple is so smart, then why was it INTEL that created EFI? The ONLY reason Apple used it was to provide another barrier to people trying to use non-Apple hardware.
As a BIOS coder, being able to write almost all of the firmware for a new machine in C rather than assembly makes the process much faster. The modular nature of EFI means that work I do on platform A can often be easily reused on platform B, and means that I get to roll things out much faster. EFI's got a TCP/IP stack, too, so I can even change setup options over the network, even when the machine can't boot.
The graphics are irrelevant- in fact, the firmware I work on doesn't support it, working on serial console or telnet instead. (In fact, so does the Mac EFI implementation...)
Really? On my broken-EFI macbook .... Mac on, EFI firmware loads grub.efi, select kernel, kernel and initramfs load, bootloader exits. Thats a little bit nicer than relying on the MBR to load this part of the os loader, that then loads that part of the os loader, if that worked it loads the next part of the os loader blah blah blah. It's not as nice as maybe uboot that can load Linux directly but EFI isn't meant to be tied to one operating system is it.
I'm not sure where I said that EFI has a smaller footprint.... but does it really matter in this day and age when we have very large flash memory devices readily available? I'd rather have something bigger that is more robust.
"Really? On my broken-EFI macbook .... Mac on, EFI firmware loads grub.efi, select kernel, kernel and initramfs load, bootloader exits"
...What no radeon.efi, no NIc driver? no ....? Let's face it, it's hardly reductio ad absurdum to say that the push here is a forced paradigm shift that puts the OS largely out of the users control, whatever your particular current hardware implementation.
I've built/dumped a lot of stuff with tianocore in the course of researching hackintosh, and the edk is a solution looking for a problem - configuring OSX to boot from a standard darwin loader - without EFI - can be (and is) done in a couple of lines of "C".
I'm lucky to have a new core i7 on an Asus P6T Deluxe mobo.
First it displays Expressgate (default 30 seconds)
Then it displays the AMI BIOS screen
Then it displays drive info (So my 2nd optical is PATA, who cares?)
Then it displays the SAS controller
Then the PXE boot screen
And eventually I get the O/S boot loader.
I've turned off or reduced the display time for as many options as I can. Thanks Asus.
I thought modern PCs were meant to boot faster than a 286 doing a 640K memory check on POST?
Like fixing the loss of usb support between boot-order and confirm boot from CDROM.
Will I have to keep my old serial keyboard forever?
The good thing about the current BIOS changing is that you have to give it some thought just to get in there and navigate. You have to be doing this on purpose and with a purpose. Non-techies would probably only be doing it on the advice of someone else (not a guarantee but at least some thought will have gone into the process as opposed to randomly clicking on icons)
Anyhoo - this UEFI will probably get itself a bit restricted after a few punters burn out their GPUs.
And FFS will someone tell mobo manufacturers to stop letting their five year olds do the graphic design on their software
BIOS is old, but it works and has a smaller footprint than EFI.
It takes up more space on the board and therefore costs more......remove the over the top functionality...My God I can play a game crap.
Also I will not trust any manufacturer who cannot spell CONTROL (not Contorol - see page 4 second picture), how many typos are in the code then......?
I can quite happily OC any mobo from good old text using a KEYBOARD.
WAIT...........I have just realised, I could make a fortune from private jobs from PEBKAC (Problem exists between Keyboard and Chair) errors cause they have clicked on something then clicking on YEs when it says 'Are you Sure' (All accientally of course).
EFI.....when can you start all is forgiven Kerching..........
Penguin because even they know how to use a computer
I'm surprised to say the least that nobody else has mentioned the AMI WinBIOS. When I saw this article, the WinBIOS was the first thing that came to mind. I actually kind of liked the concept of a GUI BIOS setup utility at the time, my only complaint was the slow mouse tracking speed and that most of the color schemes were awful.
However, graphical setup tools alone won't cut it. Motherboard manufacturers should try actually documenting what the settings do in either the BIOS or the motherboard manual. (Yes, I've found settings that were totally ignored in the manuals of more than a few motherboards.) There have been times that I've contacted chipset makers, blindly experimented or even read the datasheets for major motherboard components to figure out what some of the more obscure settings might do.
Newer HP laptops (such as 6730s) also have UEFI instead of BIOS, and let you use either a mouse or keyboard for configuration (though if you want to turn BIOS emulation off, you're warned that it's an experimental feature, aimed mostly at developers).
Then again, my 486 from 1995 had a mouse-driven BIOS in pseudo-graphical mode with windows, icons etc.
You have to read the article very closely to see what the promise of EFI is here. Booting into a GUI BIOS is, as most of the commenters state, pretty pointless: it doesn't provide a compelling advantage over text-mode configuration screens, it likely won't work over serial or remote consoles, and(in this particular incarnation) it's just cheesy.
So, not a great sales job on EFI then, dear Reg. Perhaps you should point out where the mobo makers can go with this technology. The mobo guy hinted at this. An IP stack in the bios? NSH-format scripting? Jolly useful for remote installs. Better disk support? Very handy when disks are getting bigger by the day. @Tb disks are only a few years away and the current BIOS technology won't cope.
I expect form Firmware that it loads my bootloader into RAM and executes it. It would also be nice if it would provide a little hardware abstraction for it.
Other than that, a little setup and update utility would be nice to have in ROM.
I guess the only possible advantage could be that it can still provide hardware abstraction services to the kernel. That would make kernels way simpler. But unfortunately that feature is completely useless unless the whole EFI stack is open source. Otherwise it's unlikely it will be usable.
"Bios and in comes UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) in its place."
Which just "happens" to be riddled with Intel & MS patents. How about killing competition in yet another sector?
It's totally irrelevant what's UEFI is at technical level, it's important who defines it (at will): Intel/MS. Easy way to kill indepedent mobo-manufacturers: You don't sell licence to them or ask a ridiculous price.
Yet another trick from dirty tricks department and most of the commenters buy it at face value. That's sad, tactics should be very easily seen with half brain.
"EFI’s major benefit is within its programming structure"
No, it's major benefit is money. For Intel, of course. I fail to see what are the benefits for MSI, unless Intel pays them to act as a sock puppet in this matter ... like some nice deep discount for bridge circuits, to a loyal customer, eh?
with support for pixel/vertex/whatever else shaders, with Clippy The EFI Assistant, with JavaEFI(TM) edition for 3rd party applets support, with EFI indexing service ("The one that is supposed to make finding [options in EFI BIOS] quicker, that is controlled by interaction with a cartoon dog that you thought you had turned off") and embedded audio/video player with DRM support for even richier, nicier, beefier luser sexperience...
Wow... this is the first article on any Register site I've started but could not finish. By page 2 I had to quit reading and ask what you problem with command line interfaces are? Did a keyboard beat you up when you were younger? Did a tab key kill your dog?
The hatred that you showed for the traditional BIOS interface, keyboard input and not capitalizing BIOS (it is an initialism you know?) makes me wonder if you have enough years under your belt to speak on this kind of topic.