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IBV Sage Engineering

A while ago, the web site for Sage Electronic Engineering LLC went down.

I notice in recent Phoronix post it mentions that Sage went out of business:

https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=AMD-Zen-Will-It-Coreboot

I’m unclear when they stopped operations, perhaps last July, when Jeff left?

https://firmwaresecurity.com/2015/07/31/jeff-thomas-leaves-sage-engineering/

This is a damn shame, they were a very open source-friendly IBV, now there are none. I had the chance to meet their CTO when they were at the Intel Minnowboard booth at LinuxFestNorthWest.org. I hope they re-emerge and continue providing open source-friendly IBV services.

https://www.linkedin.com/company/sage-electronic-engineering

http://iotsolutionsalliance.intel.com/member-roster/sage-electronic-engineering-llc

http://wiki.minnowboard.org/SageBIOS

http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.se-eng.com/

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AMD AGESA

I’m learning about AMD firmware solutions, and AGESA is first acronym on the list. According to Wikipedia:

“AMD Generic Encapsulated Software Architecture (AGESA), is a bootstrap protocol by which system devices on AMD64-architecture mainboards are initialized. The AGESA software in the BIOS of such mainboards is responsible for the initialization of the processor cores, memory, and the HyperTransport controller. AGESA documentation was previously available only to AMD partners that had signed an NDA. AGESA source code was open sourced in early 2011 to gain track in coreboot.”

There are two firmware ecosystems, coreboot and UEFI, where the former has a lot of Chrome OEMs, and the latter has a lot of Windows OEMs. UEFI and coreboot work on Intel and AMD (and ARM) systems. AMD makes both x86 and ARM systems, but I’m focusing on their x86 systems here.

For coreboot, Sage Engineering is main coreboot IBVs (Independent BIOS Vendors), AFAICT. Sage currently supports AMD systems, offering coreboot with AGESA.

https://www.se-eng.com/products/sagebios-bsp-for-amd-processors/

Sage supports many modern x86 platforms from AMD. In early BSP releases,our source code license allowed us to directly modify and include AGESA source code. Later versions include the AGESA binary PI from AMD to initialize the CPU. SageBIOS(TM) Custom BSPs deliver full-featured firmware designed for AMD platforms.

https://www.se-eng.com/firmware-solutions-for-intel-and-amd-x86-processor-systems/

AMD was the first […] to support an open source boot solution with its support of the One Laptop Per Child program, which was immersed in the Linux open source community, and the Linux firmware boot solutions that would ultimately become coreboot. Sage Electronic Engineering founder Scott Hoot was heavily involved in that the children’s laptop project, as a firmware designer for AMD, and would soon embrace open source firmware solution as a foundation for his startup company. Sage would have distinct advantages over other open source firmware development companies in that Hoot already had a insight into AMD’s proprietary architecture, which he would cement with a agreements with AMD to help forge the way into expanded open source BIOS and firmware coding. Sage would continue to forge a trail in the community with its support of the coreboot(R) solution and the proprietary hybrid that Sage developed for more rapid deployment, SageBIOS. Open source development as a whole continue to progress with AMD’s AGESA  and Intel’s Firmware Support Package, essentially giving open source firmware designers a better look at the architecture than was previously allowed.

Over in the UEFI Forum ecosystem, it appears that most of the ‘mainstream’ IBVs also support ARM via AGESA in their products as well. I see support from Insyde Software and AMI, at least.

http://www.insyde.com/press_news/press-releases/insyde-software-provides-framework-support-amd-processors

http://www.ami.com/news/press-releases/?PressReleaseID=135&/American%20Megatrends%20Extends%20Aptio%C2%AE%20Firmware%20Support%20for%20AMD%20AGESA%E2%84%A2/

I’m still not clear if TianoCore can use AGESA directly, or if an IBV is still needed to integrate the two.

More Information:

http://review.coreboot.org/gitweb?p=coreboot.git;a=tree;f=src/vendorcode/amd
https://chromium.googlesource.com/chromiumos/third_party/coreboot/+/a46a712610c130cdadfe1ebf6bec9ad22e474dac/src/cpu/amd/agesa
http://amd-dev.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wordpress/media/2012/10/AGESA_Interface_specification_for_Arch2008.pdf

[I just realized that I’ve not written a blog on Intel Firmware Support Package (FSP) yet…. I’ll do one in a few days.]

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Jeff Thomas leaves Sage Engineering

Hmm, I don’t understand what is happening at Sage Engineering, it looks like there are are multiple coreboot people who are looking for a job(?), see below bold sentences (emphasis mine):

http://www.se-eng.com/2015/07/so-long-and-thanks-for-all-the-fish/

I woke up this morning dreaming about different chipsets and boot solutions, though quickly realizing there was no longer a reason. Because today I’m writing my last blog for Sage Electronic Engineering. Along with myself, the change the technical to non-technical writer, there are a lot of fine coreboot engineers now looking for work. I’d like to thank everyone who followed this blog, notably Vincent Zimmer at Intel, as it has meant a lot to me, as well as my company. I’d also like to thank Sage CEO Scott Hoot and VP of Marketing Dennis Batchelor for having me along, as well as the numerous engineers and managers, Drew Jensen and Steve Goodrich come to mind, I’ve bothered with questions along the way. I enjoyed working here very much. Mostly, I’d like to note that I never did get around to writing about owner/engineer  Kimarie Hoot, who certainly deserves an award for both a woman in software and a woman in business. Some publicist I am. Kimarie is much more than a credit to her gender and electronic engineering. I’m not sure what’s going to happen to some very fine engineering here at Sage, especially the SageBIOS for Intel and AMD processors, but I’d like to believe it will be available in some form. Seems like an incredible waste otherwise. Everyone I’ve worked with here has been a credit to x86 embedded development. When they asked me what I knew about BIOS and firmware when I interviewed here, I said, “Well I’ve updated BIOS on my laptop, pretty much know what that does, and I’ve flashed a couple of routers — that’s about it.” Hopefully, I’ve found my way around a bit since then. Anyway, my last stab at humor, and there have been some outstanding failures in this department, comes from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. So long, and thanks for all the fish.

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Intel Skylake release dates leaked

Jeff Thomas at Sage Engineering wrote a blog post yesterday on the new Intel Skylake board.

(Sage is an open source-friendly IBV, they focus on coreboot and Chrome OS, and know a lot more about AMD platforms than I know. Jeff is an active blogger, and a good source of industry news.)

https://www.se-eng.com/2015/07/intel-skylake-comes-out-swinging-aug-5-with-core-i7-and-core-i5-processors/

On a somewhat related note, from an open source OS-level perspective, Skylake has graphics that require non-free firmware blobs, which is IMO unfortunate:
https://01.org/linuxgraphics/intel-linux-graphics-firmwares
https://lists.debian.org/debian-x/2015/06/msg00039.html
https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=Intel-SKL-BXT-Firmware-Blobs

 

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Sage Engineering updates Minnow firmware

Sage Engineering maintains a Coreboot-based, SeaBIOS payload-based firmware for the Intel MinnowBoard MAX.

Today, they’ve announced an updated release. This update allows for flashing the boot image without a hardware device.

The binary SageBIOS boot ROM image, which is flashed on the development board’s SPI Flash device, is based on the Intel Firmware Support Package (Intel FSP) and coreboot open source initialization. The SageBIOS OSP replaces UEFI firmware that comes installed on both versions of MinnowBoard MAX and will support booting a greater variety of operating systems, including FreeBSD and a variety of RTOS, as well as legacy operating systems such as older versions of Microsoft Windows and even DOS. The SageBIOS OSP will support all the operating systems supported by the native UEFI firmware, such as Windows and Linux. In addition, the SageBIOS OSP will boot both 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems with a single boot image.

The download of the “demo ROM” is free, but email registration is required.
More information:
http://lists.elinux.org/pipermail/elinux-minnowboard/Week-of-Mon-20150518/001523.html
http://www.se-eng.com/minnow/

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Book Review: Embedded Firmware Solutions

Embedded Firmware Solutions: Development Best Practices for the Internet of Things
APress Media
ISBN 978-4842-0071-1
February 2015
Jiming Sun, Marc Jones, Stefan Reinauer, Vincent Zimmer
http://www.apress.com/9781484200711

[I recently finished reading this book. Sadly, I didn’t know about it until the other day, after my LinuxFestNorthWest talk on firmware security tools, someone from Sage pointed out that I omitted this from my More Information slides.]

If you care about firmware development — or just understanding current firmware architecture — you should have this book. It is the only current book with information about modern firmware in use today. The authors are all experienced and well-known firmware developers, including members of the Coreboot and UEFI teams, and there is also an impressive list of tech reviewers. There are 4 areas that this book focuses on:
* Intel Firmware Support Package (FSP), and it’s use in Coreboot and UEFI.
* UEFI and it’s dev platform.
* Coreboot and Chrome use of it.
* Intel Quark and UEFI firmware.

Intel Press has a handful of other UEFI books, but they are years old, this book is only a few months old, and has fresher details on UEFI. I don’t know of any other book with this kind of information on Coreboot, or on Intel FSP. There are a variety of books on Intel’s Minnowboard and Quark/Galileo IoT hardware: most of those books talk about how to write user-level apps, this is the only book that talks about updating the firmware of Intel IoT devices.

I’m looking forward to a second edition in a year or so, once tech changes enough.

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