Entries from February 2015 ↓

Reliable BIOS updates in Fedora

Some years ago I bought myself a new laptop, deleted the windows partition and installed Fedora on the system. Only to later realize that the system had a bug that required a BIOS update to fix and that the only tool for doing such updates was available for Windows only. And while some tools and methods have been available from a subset of vendors, BIOS updates on Linux has always been somewhat of hit and miss situation. Well luckily it seems that we will finally get a proper solution to this problem.
Peter Jones, who is Red Hat’s representative to the UEFI working group and who is working on making sure we got everything needed to support this on Linux, approached me some time ago to let me know of the latest incoming update to the UEFI standard which provides a mechanism for doing BIOS updates. Which means that any system that supports UEFI 2.5 will in theory be one where we can initiate the BIOS update from Linux. So systems supporting this version of the UEFI specs is expected to become available through the course of this year and if you are lucky your hardware vendor might even provide a BIOS update bringing UEFI 2.5 support to your existing hardware, although you would of course need to do that one BIOS update in the old way.

So with Peter’s help we got hold of some prototype hardware from our friends at Intel which already got UEFI 2.5 support. This hardware is currently in the hands of Richard Hughes. Richard will be working on incorporating the use of this functionality into GNOME Software, so that you can do any needed BIOS updates through GNOME Software along with all your other software update needs.

Peter and Richard will as part of this be working to define a specification/guideline for hardware vendors for how they can make their BIOS updates available in a manner we can consume and automatically check for updates. We will try to align ourselves with the requirements from Microsoft in this area to allow the vendors to either use the exact same package for both Windows and Linux or at least only need small changes to them. We can hopefully get this specification up on freedesktop.org for wider consumption once its done.

I am also already speaking with a couple of hardware vendors to see if we can pilot this functionality with them, to both encourage them to support UEFI 2.5 as quickly as possible and also work with them to figure out the finer details of how to make the updates available in a easily consumable fashion.

Our hope here is that you eventually can get almost any hardware and know that if you ever need a BIOS update you can just fire up Software and it will tell you what if any BIOS updates are available for your hardware, and then let you download and install them. For people running Fedora servers we have had some initial discussions about doing BIOS updates through Cockpit, in addition of course to the command line tools that Peter is writing for this.

I mentioned in an earlier blog post that one of our goals with the Fedora Workstation is to drain the swamp in terms of fixing the real issues making using a Linux desktop challenging, well this is another piece of that puzzle and I am really glad we had Peter working with the UEFI standards group to ensure the final specification was useful also for Linux users.

Anyway as soon as I got some data on concrete hardware that will support this I will make sure to let you know.