Phoenix makes a compelling case for the Open Source BIOS
Mad Geek Boot from USB 2.0, if you can!
By Fernando Cassia: Tuesday 28 February 2006, 14:28
BIOS GIANT Phoenix, the company responsible for the pieces of code saved on flash memory and which initialize our computers and interfaces to the hardware at the low level -even before the OS loads, is giving us plenty of reasons to support the case of an open source BIOS.
It all started when I reviewed the Simpledrive Mini, a four gigabytes, USB 2.0 microdrive. The drive is capable of booting, if the system supports "USB 2.0 mass storage" devices. My Athlon 64 notebook was manufactured in early 2005 so that makes it about one year old. Yet, it wouldn't boot from USB 2.0 devices.
Booting from a USB microdrive. Phoenix touts that feature in their NoteBIOS...
These Gateway / eMachines notebook systems use Phoenix Bios and are based on an Arima K8 platform. The BIOS in these machines doesn't even show "USB ZIP", "USB Floppy" much less the generic "USB MASS STORAGE" option when configuring boot order. On the contrary, my Supermicro P4SCA which will soon be three years old, and uses AwardBIOS, a product of... what company? Yes, the same as Phoenix Bios, that is, Phoenix - and boots from it just fine. The AwardBIOS has no problem booting from the microdrive and in fact identifies itself as "Cornice" on the BIOS "boot-ordering" screen. On the contrary, in the Gateway notebook with Phoenix BIOS, even if the device is plugged-in before power up, it does not appear in the list of hard disks as happens on the Award BIOS.
After much pushing on my side, the nice and responsive folks at Gateway Computer gave me a BIOS update dated 09/2005 and which was newer than the one available on their web site. Updating the notebook with the new Bios worked just fine, and to my surprise this new bios added LAN booting support, which is very nice, but nothing about USB Mass-Storage. I have to wonder how the system is supposed to work with regards to BIOS updates... the web site lists an old version while the manufacturer has a new one with improved functionality but they also don't release it unless the customer complains?.