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Hardware Specifications

Boot Firmware

Boot firmware in this case has a meaning equivalent to BIOS, but this last is a x86-specific technical term.

Freedom details

  • All software running on the main CPU can be free, like all software distributing with the operating system.
  • There is an EC (Embedded Controller) with nonfree firmware, probably there aren't updates for it published/recommended.
    • There is a (mostly inactive) project to write a free replacement, OpenEC.
  • Hard disk firmware is also nonfree. There are commands to update it.
    • Unkonwn projects related to replacing it.

Some ideas for thinking about freedom at a lower level

  • The BIOS [in the past] was impossible to replace because it was stored in ROM: the only way to to put in a different BIOS was by replacing part of the hardware. In effect, the BIOS was itself hardware [...] [It was like] your watch or your microwave oven: since you can't install software on it, it may as well be circuits, not a computer at all. [...] Since that time, the situation has changed. Today the BIOS is no longer burned in ROM; it is stored in nonvolatile writable memory that users can rewrite. [...] As the unethical practice of installing another BIOS executable becomes common, the version delivered inside the computer starts to raise an ethical problem issue as well. -- Free Software Foundation's Campaign for Free BIOS
  • Wireless firmware, e.g., is also not usually thought to be updated by end users, and it resides on a individual device and has its own CPU, not running in the main CPU of the machine.
    • But it can be upgraded, for example, for removing a bug, including a feature or even a malevolent behavior. So, it has the same issues that other software.
  • That applies to any kind of firmware.