Sunday, 02 August 2015
We've just started a new team in Debian for maintaining our UEFI packages together, with git repositories in a shared project on alioth etc. We're just working out the exact details of how we're going to manage things, but for now we've moved the following packages under the team's umbrella:
and in the future we'll clearly end up adding more. We've also started a new IRC channel (#debian-efi) on irc.debian.org aka irc.oftc.net. New members always welcome to help with the work here!
There can be issues with shipping installer images including UEFI. But they're mainly due to crappy UEFI implementations that vendors have shipped. It's fairly well-known that Apple have shipped some really shoddy firmware over the years, and to allow people to install Debian on older Apple x86 machines we've now added the workaround of a non-UEFI 32-bit installer image too. But Apple aren't the only folks shipping systems with horrendously buggy UEFI, and a lot of Linux folks have had to deal with this over the last few years.
I've been talking to a number of other UEFI developers lately, and we've agreed to start a cross-distro resource to help here - a list of known-broken UEFI implementations so that we can share our experiences. The place for this in in the OSDev wiki at http://wiki.osdev.org/Broken_UEFI_implementations. We're going to be adding new information here as we find it. If you've got a particular UEFI horror story on your own broken system, then please either add details there or let me know and I'll try to do it for you.
You might have seen some of the posts I've written in the last few months about adding support in Debian for so-called Mixed-EFI systems like the Intel Bay Trail: a 64-bit processor shipped with a 32-bit EFI implementation.
I've finally seen a public justification from Intel evangelist Brian Richardson as to why these systems are crippled^Wconfigured this way, and it's nice to see our guesses confirmed. The reason is simply cost - like most consumer PCs shipped today, they come with Windows. In terms of system design, it's cheaper to just include the limited memory and storage needed for 32-bit Windows. 64-bit Windows takes a lot more storage in particular. And on modern systems 32-bit Windows can only boot using 32-bit UEFI. Fair enough...
However, Brian goes on to state some more things that are simply out of date, saying that "Linux support for UEFI IA32 is still an unanswered question". Ummm, Brian: we've got working 32-bit x86 UEFI support in our standard Jessie (and newer) installation images already, and they work just fine on CD/DVD or USB stick. We've even gone one stage further than anybody else (thus far!) in adding easy support for running a full 64-bit Linux system on top of those 32-bit UEFI implementations.
I say "thus far" here because all the work here here is Free Software. Other folks added the support in Linux for making a 64-bit kernel work with a 32-bit UEFI; I added code in Linux to expose some of the details to userspace, and code in Grub to work with it. My changes have gone upstream already, so I'd expect to see other distros like Fedora or Ubuntu also using them soon.