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Raspberry Pi Firmware closed source?

Thu May 07, 2015 9:28 pm

Firmware is the software programmed onto your laptop’s hardware at a deep, foundational level. In basic terms, firmware provides instructions for how parts of your laptop should communicate with each other. Firmware is another possible attack point, as highly sophisticated hackers (likely state-level) may be able to remotely access it and gain privileged control over your machine. … replacing closed source firmware (whereby the code is privately owned and not publicly available or auditable) with open source firmware (called ‘coreboot’, which is free to all and has publicly available and auditable code).

Information Security for Journalists – November 2014: Version 1.1 – page 15
Does the Raspberry Pi have proprietary closed source firmware for the BIOS?
If it does is it possible to replace this with something like Coreboot.


W. H. Heydt
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Joined: Fri Mar 09, 2012 7:36 pm
Location: Vallejo, CA (US)

Re: Raspberry Pi Firmware closed source?

Thu May 07, 2015 11:10 pm

This is one of those questions that doesn't have a conventional answer. The Pi doesn't have firmware in the conventional sense, and it doesn't have a BIOS at all. The GPU just barely knows how to read a little bit of data from the bus the SD card is on. The "firmware" (aka "blob") that is read in at that point is proprietary. If it were in a fixed storage medium as part of the Pis hardware, the Pi would meet the criteria for an "open source system". Because it actually resides on the SD card, and (therefore) can be replaced by anyone, the Pi *isn't* classed as "open source". It's an arbitrary distinction.

Note that the blob is to boot the *GPU*. Once the GPU is up and running, code in the blob reads in the Linux kernel and turns control over to the CPU. This is the reverse of the situation with x86 systems where the CPU boots (from the BIOS and then the OS kernel) and later in the process starts the GPU.

So...the base question doesn't really apply to the Pi very well at all.

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Re: Raspberry Pi Firmware closed source?

Fri May 08, 2015 5:15 am

Take what I advise as advice not the utopian holy grail, and it is gratis !!

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