Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Operating Systems Software

Bypass Windows With Fast-Boot Technology 348

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the what-the-hell-does-this-even-mean dept.
thatnerdguy writes "Phoenix Technologies, a developer of BIOS software, is working on a new technology called Hyperspace that will allow you to instantly load certain applications like email, web browser and media player, without loading windows. It could even lead to tailoring of computers to even more specific demographics, like a student laptop preloaded with word processor, email and an IM all available at the press of a button." Why is this story setting off alarms in my brain?
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Bypass Windows With Fast-Boot Technology

Comments Filter:
  • Whoah (Score:4, Funny)

    by somersault (912633) on Monday November 05, 2007 @12:26PM (#21242209) Homepage Journal
    It's like travelling back in time 40 years!
    • Re:Whoah (Score:5, Informative)

      by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday November 05, 2007 @12:37PM (#21242405) Homepage Journal
      Asus already offers this.
      http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=885&num=1 [phoronix.com]
      It does use Linux BTW and the Motherboard is very Linux Friendly.
      • Re:Whoah (Score:5, Interesting)

        by somersault (912633) on Monday November 05, 2007 @12:46PM (#21242553) Homepage Journal
        That's excellent, thanks for the link even if you were just trying to hijack me thread ;)

        I was thinking that building apps directly into the BIOS is just like having single purpose Word Processors back in the day, but the technology in the article does sound excellent, and for example talks about running an antivirus scanner in the BIOS to save on overhead even while you're using another OS for your applications, so it could actually be very handy. I think it makes use of virtualisation to help get around the whole driver thing, not very sure at this point though, as I dont know much about virtualisation, especially on the hardware side.
      • your sig (Score:5, Informative)

        by CrazedWalrus (901897) on Monday November 05, 2007 @01:02PM (#21242769) Journal

        As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.


        Wild turkeys can fly. Domestic turkeys are too fat.

        http://www.kidzone.ws/animals/turkey.htm [kidzone.ws]
        (search for "unable to fly")

        As someone who's had flocks of wild turkeys fly over his head, I can attest to their ability to fly first hand. I've also seen them fly away after being shot. That's why you always aim for the head; their feathers are too tough for shotgun pellets.

        • by mikael (484)
          That's why you always aim for the head; their feathers are too tough for shotgun pellets.

          Wow! A new material to replace Kevlar - turkey feathered body armor.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by operagost (62405)

          That's why you always aim for the head; their feathers are too tough for shotgun pellets.
          Turkey meat is also tastier without the lead.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          That's why you always aim for the head; their feathers are too tough for shotgun pellets.

          Not really, pellets will penerate their feather just fine. The problem is that their vital organs are both well padded by non-vital tissue and they are fairly small. Their head and neck offer much more direct routes to inflict fatal damage. A gut shot wild turkey can run for miles before expiring and bleed very little in the process, rendering it untrackable.

          As for their ability to fly it is limited. In the sig joke you
  • Would this be like some kind of non-malicious root kit?
  • "Technology" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Monday November 05, 2007 @12:27PM (#21242225) Journal
    That's not "fast-boot technology". It's "just another software program". One with a great purpose, but not worth distinguishing as "technology".
    • A combination of persistent RAM with a firmware-based OS/app suite could get us there. By the time the OS gets big enough to be very useful, though, we will begin to see the cracks with this approach too.
      • by peragrin (659227)
        It's been something I have dreamed of. the OS stores itself on a compact flash card, leaving the Hard drive for applications and data only. In fact updating said card should be a royal pain by default as the OS should load it only read only.

        advantages you get are speed in loading, and increased security. software hacking it becomes difficult as a reboot would wipe the memory.

        OS X, linux, and other *nixes can do this today with little to no modification.
    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      That's not "fast-boot technology". It's "just another software program". One with a great purpose, but not worth distinguishing as "technology".

      Not to mention it's not even new technology.

      PCs (especially laptops) have long had special "media boot options" for years now. All it does is tell the BIOS to boot into a different partition to run the media player. My palmtop (Toshiba Libretto) has a button on its DVD dock. If it's off, it'll turn on and boot into a special locked partition on the disk that runs th

  • Wait! Wait! We're still relevant. x86 BIOS is still useful for some things!

    • Wait! Wait! We're still relevant. x86 BIOS is still useful for some things!

      The Sun 4[c,m,u] workstations had a very useful OpenBoot PROM. I've not seen the same sort of functionality in an X86 BIOS, even in machines from the last year or two. I haven't tried any of the X86 Apple hardware, though.

    • NO ROM BASIC - SYSTEM HALTED
  • by Linker3000 (626634) on Monday November 05, 2007 @12:27PM (#21242233) Journal
    "Phoenix is currently in talks with most major PC manufacturers, with the notable exception of Apple."

    Because (at the risk of being accused of Trolling), Apple will eventually bring out iRightNow which will pretty much do the same thing but in White only and at three times the price?
    • by Sfing_ter (99478)
      already did, it's called the iPhone :)
    • That is utterly ridiculous!!11!! We can get them in black now too.
    • by mabhatter654 (561290) on Monday November 05, 2007 @12:49PM (#21242589)
      Apple just makes systems that properly wake up from hibernation/sleep quickly. My Macbook is the first machine that simply just works.. close the lid when you're done, stash the machine.. open the lid and unpause the still open itunes in under 15 seconds! I'd say Apple has already done one better.. implementing a bios CORRECTLY in the first place!
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        "My Macbook is the first machine that simply just works.. close the lid when you're done, stash the machine."

        Just make sure you don't do this with your iPhone if you're outside the US [slashdot.org].
      • I'd say Apple has already done one better.. implementing a bios CORRECTLY in the first place!


        MacIntels don't use OpenBIOS, do they?
      • by MrNemesis (587188)
        I'm quite surprised in my new laptop, and HP nx7300 running Kubuntu - it responds spectacularly well to suspend and hibernate; suspending takes about three seconds after closing the lid, and about 2 seconds to resume (not counting the time it takes me to type in my password). Hibernating takes alot longer (compressing and writing 2GB RAM = slow) but still works flawlessly. The machine came with Vista which, surprise surprise, takes longer to do the same thing and occasionally hangs.

        Still though, it'd be nic
        • Is there some inherent limitation in UNIX's runlevel system that makes booting markedly slower than other systems?

          No. The latest openSuSE's have gotten much, much faster (comparable to OS X or Windows).

          The real issue, however, is not having to boot at all. Linux is getting there, but OS X has it spot-on. The new Intel mac's simultaneously suspend to ram and disk, so even if your battery dies, the resume only takes 10 or so seconds, at most (compared to 1-2 seconds for a ram resume).

          10 seconds is not bad to
    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday November 05, 2007 @12:51PM (#21242619) Journal
      There are a few reasons why Apple wouldn't be interested in this technology:
      • They use EFI with only a BIOS-compat mode for people who want windows.
      • Mac users don't want a second, inconsistent UI experience.
      • Mac laptops have had 'instant on' for years. Mac laptop users don't shut their machines down, they just close the lid and let it sleep then open the lid and have it resume in a couple of seconds. The problem this solves doesn't exist in the Mac world.
      • by p0tat03 (985078)
        Oh 'tis a beauty. On my old Windows laptop, un-hibernating takes an ungodly amount of time - it's about equivalent to a normal boot, except the added bonus of not losing my work. On a Mac the sleep mode rules - a slight amount of battery usage, but my machine is on (and totally interactive, as opposed to un-hibernation, where between "Desktop displayed" and "machine usable" is a good full minute), within 2-3 seconds of flipping open the lid.
        • by Yetihehe (971185)
          Well, how is it new? My asus laptop with xp can do this too. I just close lid and it goes to sleep. I open lid, press any key and 3 seconds later I'm using windows again. I can hibernate too, if I don't want this slight amount of battery usage to happen.
          • by p0tat03 (985078) on Monday November 05, 2007 @01:17PM (#21243021)

            Ah yes, eventually I figured out how to do it with my old Toshiba, considering how the default mode was hibernate, and nowhere does it recommend or even mention that an alternate, faster sleep mode was available, and indeed the option was hidden deep within the guts of the OS.

            Apple's "it just works" mantra isn't rocket science, among other things it's about being non-stupid with your default settings, and exposing features in a usable, easy to find manner.

            Joe user isn't going to know the difference between hibernate and sleep, he just wants his machine to be snappy and work. So while the underlying technology is no different, one machine gets a much more favorable impression.

          • It's not new. As I said, Mac laptops have done this for a decade or more. One of the differences is that it's a 'safe sleep.' It effectively hibernates in the background, but only writes out a copy of memory. If the battery goes flat, you can still resume from the state on disk, it just takes a little longer (not too much though, since it demand-pages it back in, rather than loading the whole thing at once, which takes a long time on a laptop with 2GB of RAM and a disk that peaks at 30MB/s).

            The big d

      • by Khuffie (818093)
        I love ignorant Apple fanboys...this has also been available in Windows laptops for years.
        • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Monday November 05, 2007 @01:28PM (#21243189)
          It's been available but it hasn't "Just Worked". Half the time I try to hibernate with XP I get some driver error message. It'll go through all the steps to hibernate and then within a few seconds after wake itself back up.

          If I close the lid and put it away, it's dumb enough to run its battery completely dead. I even have "Critical Battery Alarm" set to Hibernate at 3%. But if I close my lid and put it in my desk drawer, the next morning the battery is completely dead. Even after I plug it back in I have to go through the 'reboot' sequence all over again.

          My Macbook pro is the exact opposite. If I forget about it it'll hibernate itself. I don't see why this isn't part of any OS as is. If my battery runs low enough it'll hibernate itself. Next time I plug it in, it automatically comes back from where it was. XP allows me that extra 30 seconds of run time but then again when I do find power I have to start from scratch. My Macbook Pro has an "uptime" of a little over a week (Since the Leopard install) even though I've run the battery 'dead' twice because the OS is smart enough to shut itself down properly

          I would be willing to bet that Linux has all of these features too. But I would also be willing to bet that they don't work as seamlessly as OS X.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Myopic (18616)
      Because (at the risk of being accused of Trolling), Apple will eventually bring out iRightNow which will pretty much do the same thing but in White only and at three times the price?

      Close, but not quite. It won't be called iRightNow, it will have a stupid French name. Also, you didn't mention that unlike the competition, Apple's implementation will be useful.
    • by neo (4625)
      Four times the price and the name is 'kNow'. It actually jumps ahead loading aps *before* you know you want them. Apples been working on psychic computers for years, but this will be the first implementation.

      "k" will be the new "i"
  • Sweet. Now I'll be able to brag that my computer has a 256MB BIOS!
    • by KillerBob (217953)
      It can probably be squeezed into less than 10mb... Especially if you don't include things like the ability to write/execute macros or scripts into it. Interpreters like that add a lot of overhead to something that's pretty basic.

      Think Pine with a GUI and AbiWord, rather than Outlook/Thunderbird and MS Word/OpenOffice. AbiWord can be installed in 5mb if you don't choose any options, and it's bloated compared to some of the options out there. Pine comes in *well* under 1mb. Add in a couple of MB for the actua
  • Um.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by user24 (854467) on Monday November 05, 2007 @12:28PM (#21242245) Homepage
    Load applications quickly without loading windows?

    Isn't this called Linux?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ortholattice (175065)
      You mean like LinuxBIOS [linuxbios.org]? Boots to a Linux console in 3 seconds.
    • by MrShaggy (683273)
      No its called OSX!
      I love my MAC, I need my windows box for school.

      There is no version of Multi-Sim, Not to mention one of my project servers at school suck donkey-nuts, it only allows IE. Grumble.

      See the above posts for that whole sleep mode. It rocks. The only time that I was frustrated was because, the wireless needed a moment to re-acquire. I can probably wake up my Imac, do check Slashdot and put it back to sleep in the time it takes for windows to wake.
  • by DaveWick79 (939388) on Monday November 05, 2007 @12:30PM (#21242303)
    This sounds very similar to virtualization technologies being developed that allow an application, say a database, to run in a virtual environment on a server without having an underlying OS. Why not virtualize a desktop as well? Why not run a simple OS with networking capabilities?

    My concern would be data security, as if you wanted to run a word processor or any app that needs access to your hard drive or thumb drive, you would have to have appropriate security built into the miniOS to handle reading and writing. An option would be to provide some onboard flash storage for Hyperspace to use. How much can you enable the end user to customize the user experience without opening up the system to security risks?
  • Why is this story setting off alarms in my brain?

    Didn't they sell a device like this years ago? It had a stylish design, and a below-cost price with monthly subscriptions, it got hacked almost instantly to run Linux, it prompted a few hundred "Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these!" comments and then disappeared...?

  • No brainer. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <[Satanicpuppy] [at] [gmail.com]> on Monday November 05, 2007 @12:31PM (#21242319) Journal
    Why boot up a bloated OS just to check your mail or run instant messenger? Sandbox every application that boots this way, and you increase your security, raise your battery life, whiten your teeth, etc.

    People always say, "Well all this person does is check email! Why do they need a fancy computer/operating system/office suite." The real question should be, why do they need an OS at all?

    I love my desktop, and I'll probably keep one until they get something that I can wear that does all the same stuff, but I'm fricking sick to death of dealing with people's computer issues, when they only really need a web browser. Handing out knoppix disks works well enough, as a stopgap, but reducing things to a more simple state is highly desirable.
    • Re:No brainer. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by div_2n (525075) on Monday November 05, 2007 @12:43PM (#21242505)
      In all the years I've been helping people with their home computers, I've only encountered one person that actually "just checked email". The rest _say_ they only check email. Then watch their computer boot. Some random instant messaging client pops up and I get, "oh yeah, I use that to message my friends/book club/church group/whatever". They have a solitaire shortcut on their desktop that they use when they're bored. They have some program they use to edit photos of their grandchildren they receive in the email.

      By the time all is said and done, they do a heck of a lot more than just email and more than what probably makes sense for some trimmed down applications.
      • by TheLink (130905)
        Even more so if the computer is shared by more than one person. One person just uses email, and Acrobat reader to read pdfs in the email, then one of the kiddies uses it to play bejewelled 2. Another uses it to play some word scramble thingy. Next thing you know yet another person actually needs to do some word processing, printing and also needs the spreadsheet/powerpoint stuff around to view other things they get emailed from their broker/boss or whoever.

        But I suppose if the O/S is not capable enough to s
      • by vertinox (846076)
        All you need would be an ASUS Eee [asus.com].

        I'm tempted to get one myself.
      • by westlake (615356)
        they do a heck of a lot more than just email

        and this is why whenever the geek's "net appliance" re-enters the market it sinks like a rock.

    • I guess you could set up a version of Firefox that runs with no OS. Then you can do email, web browsing, maybe even IMs with it. Basically your operating system would BE Firefox, and everything you do would be on Google (email, documents, photos, etc). However, I don't see much advantage to this unless you provide a machine that only runs Firefox...once you try to make Firefox work with a billion different hardware configurations, or set up some kind of virtualization environment, you're right back to the c
    • by eth1 (94901)
      Well, if this thing loads applications, doesn't that MAKE it an OS in some respects?

      Your "real question" should be why do we need a *bloated* OS? The answer, of course, is that we've never needed it, and would probably be better off without it...
  • by onion2k (203094) on Monday November 05, 2007 @12:31PM (#21242323) Homepage
    Windows is an OS (I'm being kind), that means there's all sorts of things that run on top of it behind the scenes most users neither know nor care about. Things like a firewall and anti-virus. Quite necessary if Phoenix are suggesting you might run an email client on this thing.

    Similarly I don't think there's ever a time when I want to run just a word processor. I want an MP3 player for some tunes. I want a web browser for fact checking. I want Freecell because I'm lazy and rarely do any actual word processing.

    Basically what I'm saying is that I want a proper OS, not something that runs one app at a time. I doubt I'm alone in that. Now, give me a decent OS that runs lots of things loaded into an area of Flash memory so it starts up quickly and I'm yours.
    • by Endo13 (1000782)

      Things like a firewall and anti-virus. Quite necessary if Phoenix are suggesting you might run an email client on this thing.

      Really? Why? The article doesn't give many specifics. It's possible that this "new technology" won't even have access to the hard drive. If it's limited to ROM and RAM, is there really anything a hacker or a virus could do, even if they somehow managed to get in? Reboot and you're back to normal.

      Similarly I don't think there's ever a time when I want to run just a word processor. I want an MP3 player for some tunes. I want a web browser for fact checking. I want Freecell because I'm lazy and rarely do any actual word processing.

      Basically what I'm saying is that I want a proper OS, not something that runs one app at a time. I doubt I'm alone in that. Now, give me a decent OS that runs lots of things loaded into an area of Flash memory so it starts up quickly and I'm yours.

      Then clearly this stuff is not for you. I'd gladly take it, until we get a full-blown OS that loads quickly or instantly. Remember, this is being designed with portable laptops in mind. The kind of thing they expe

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Mr.Intel (165870)

      Basically what I'm saying is that I want a proper OS, not something that runs one app at a time. I doubt I'm alone in that. Now, give me a decent OS that runs lots of things loaded into an area of Flash memory so it starts up quickly and I'm yours.

      It's things listed in your post that popular OS vendors have forgotten about... We need to be pandered to. There's a reason that Vista sales are in the toilet, Linux hasn't been able to break into the market in a decade and why Apple is a cool, but small niche

      • by Myopic (18616)
        close case to open case

        What does this mean?
      • by dedazo (737510)

        There's a reason that Vista sales are in the toilet

        Ah-HAH! So that's why Microsoft had it's best Q1 in eight years and the stock is up 10%. It all makes sense now.

        Let me guess - you get your news about Microsoft from Slashdot?

    • Things like a firewall and anti-virus. Quite necessary if Phoenix are suggesting you might run an email client on this thing.

      Actually... If I understand what this thing is doing correctly... I don't think you'd really need a firewall. The idea is that it would run just the email client, nothing else. Not even the OS. There would be literally nothing listening for incoming connections. Just the occasional outgoing connection on 110 or 25 to send/receive mail. This could actually dramatically increase

  • But the problem is that application would need to talk to the hardware and they don't know how to do that, so we should bundle it with a piece of software that provides an abstraction... and actually that piece of software could be used to launch other applications without the need for rebooting, it could even manage to juggle multiple application at the same time, while protecting memory and and and we'd call it an OS !!!111
  • ...and get to the BSOD a lot quicker!
  • I'm so sick of all this OS stuff.

    Really, all we users want are day to day applications.

    It's high time we got rid of all of this unnecessary bloat, like VM systems and network protocols. What did they ever do for us anyway?
  • Sleep works for me (Score:2, Interesting)

    by End Us3r (1003142)
    "There's absolutely no reason you should be waiting the three-plus minutes it takes your computer to boot up Windows, says Woody Hobbs, CEO of Phoenix Technologies."

    Sleep mode takes care of this while preserving the full functionality of your setup. Why have a hobbled OS?
  • That is from a complete shutdown. From hibernate it boots in under 25 (under 20 sometimes, depends on how much crap I was doing before I went away ;) ), and restores from standby almost instantly.

    3+ minutes to boot a computer? What sort of mandatory crap-ware does that guy's company require? Granted I have seen companies get overzealous with security (or rather "over-stupid" in some instances...) and install 10+ background apps, but it isn't any given OSs fault if a company's IT department stinks!
  • "!generalpurpose"

    In BIOS? What the...?

    This is a way to undermine the most useful feature of todays PCs that is, they can be used for almost anything.
  • Toy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zlogic (892404) on Monday November 05, 2007 @12:41PM (#21242477) Homepage
    I think this will be no more than toy - BIOS manufacturers often introduce neat features that are dropped and forgotten.
    For example:
    - Ancient versions of AMIBIOS had a Windows 3.11-like mouse-operated GUI (I had one on a 486 PC purchased in 1995). It was a lot easier to use than "modern" text-based BIOSes in 2007. And if the computer had no mouse, you could use the keyboard for navigation.
    - I bought an ASUS motherboard about six years ago and it had a feature that spoke about any failures, e.g. no video card or bad memory, instead cryptic beeps that are common today.

    Besides, phones and PDAs are "boot" faster not because the initialization procedure is faster (my PDA boots in about 30 seconds) but because they sleep instead of powering off.
    • Here's a screenshot of AMI's WinBios: http://www.pucpr.edu/facultad/apagan/images/BIOS8.GIF [pucpr.edu]
      And besides, it seems that BIOS is going to be replaced with EFI.
    • by KillerBob (217953)

      Besides, phones and PDAs are "boot" faster not because the initialization procedure is faster (my PDA boots in about 30 seconds) but because they sleep instead of powering off.

      My laptop boots from cold in about 25 seconds. It's running Vista Home Premium edition on it. (yah, yah, I know. call me when the ALSA driver supports my sound card. I have tried repeatedly, with multiple distros and multiple kernel versions. Every time it identifies/loads the driver, then the driver crashes claiming there's no codec

    • by B3ryllium (571199)
      I've used that particular AMIBIOS. In my opinion, it is *NOT* easier to use than today's text only BIOS standards.

      The verbal POST sounds both amusing and useful, though :)
  • by victim (30647) on Monday November 05, 2007 @12:42PM (#21242493)
    Oh right, the thing you do when you buy the computer and then after each OS upgrade. I never shut off a laptop from the day I buy it until I dispose of it so boot time is irrelevant. I think if boot time is a problem for some machines then the hardware vendors should address sleep time power consumption instead of creating a new user environment.

    Nasty issues to be handled in embedded BIOS applications:
    1. Enter all my wifi access data again.
    2. Configure all my email accounts again.
    3. Can it get to my authentication keychain?
    4. Can it sync my browser bookmarks?
    5. Can it get to my address book?
    6. If my wifi world uses MAC filtering or the BIOS remembers wap/wep keys, does it take authentication to get these apps up or can Bob the cleaning guy activate them?
    7. Can I securely disable it?
    8. The user interface is identical to my existing apps so I don't have to learn one more damn environment, right?


    I guess you can cram this in 4M of flash if you are top notch programmer, 128M if you are not. Either way the hardware won't add more than $20 to the cost of the laptop, so I suppose it is a good thing, as long as you can disable it.

    It does open an interesting option: If a user only needs email and web access, they don't need to install an OS at all.

    • 'I never shut off a laptop from the day I buy it until I dispose of it'

      Do you mind informing the rest of the IT world as to what secret sause you use, an OS that never requires a reboot during the lifetime of the laptop. The world would beat a path to your door .. :)

      '# Enter all my wifi access data again' etc ...

      Well if the app runs identically to a version running on the harddrive then that should be no problem. All the harddrive would be used for is storing data and none of those nasty virus type
  • Already being done on some level with servers, this is similar to putting a minimal OS and VM in BIOS and booting an application image. With a little effort this can be simulated with a USB key. Put a minimal bootable OS (Linux) with virtualization built (Xen or KVM) on a USB key. Create VM's with single applications that start automatically. The base OS boots to a menu of VMed applications. Phoenix sees the writing on the wall in the server market. We are not that far away from having OS/VM combinati
  • No OS? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WPIDalamar (122110) on Monday November 05, 2007 @12:44PM (#21242531) Homepage

    I'm sorry, I can't use that word processor. It doesn't support my video card?
  • evolution (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    All programs evolve until they can send email.
    INCLUDING your BIOS!
  • like the game box that, if you hink around with a bootable CD long enough, you can boot into Linux
  • Properly configured, a Linux system can boot in a few seconds on reasonable hardware. The reason it takes so much longer right now is just because of all the configuration crap that gets read and servers that get started.
  • i did a clean install of Slackware-12 without debus, without HAL and without udev, and built a custom kernel (2.6.23) trimming the fat (removing unneeded features & removing unneeded hardware support) and built most of it as modules except for filesystem support (ext3) which was built in to the kernel itself making an initrd unnecessary, and my system boots up in about 10 to 12 seconds, i did not time it with a fancy chronograph but i did watch it boot while keeping a close eye on a large wallclock...
  • by WebCowboy (196209) on Monday November 05, 2007 @12:57PM (#21242715)
    It could even lead to tailoring of computers to even more specific demographics, like a student laptop preloaded with word processor, email and an IM all available at the press of a button.

    It was commonplace for early home computers to come with applications in firmware. BASIC programming was provided in ROM on all Commodore coputers except their IBM compatibles, Apple II series did as well as did many Radio Shack models and the Atari XL and XE 8-bit computers. Even the original IBM PC had BASIC in the firmware. Early 16-bits like the Atari ST had a highly modified variant of CP/M ported to the 68000 architecture upon which the GEM graphical interface resided--and on all but the earliest models it was all resident in ROM (can you imagine trying to get Vista on firmware cost-effectively?).

    The example you give is even more ironic because the Coleco ADAM our family bought in 1984 had--you guessed it--a word processor preloaded in ROM (it bank-switched between the BIOS it had called "EOS" and the "SmartWriter" word processor depending on whether a bootable cassette or floppy was found in any of the drives). The idea is not new at all--it is a very OLD idea being resurrected because for end users it WAS a good idea to put the software you used the most to get you going faster, especially given that hard drives were rare on home computers and slower floppies and even slowere cassettes were the only practical alternative.

    The biggest disadvantage was that firmware was not easily updatable. When software was simpler people just lived with the bugs until an updated hardware revision was out but with todays complex software (in some cases poorly written and poorly architectd at that) requires frequent updates as bugs are more numerous and more dangerous to your data (since we now have to deal with the internet). Now with flash memory technology having matured the updating problem is gone...the only thing left to contend with is cost (much more than a hard drive, plus software is so bloated).

    There is another factor too--hardware has become more intelligent, as have operating systems and over time the traditional BIOS in the PC platform has become almost irrelevant beyond reverse compatibility. New hardware and current OSes use next to nothing in the BIOS anymore. So, creating applications in the "BIOS" is the way these companies try to stay relevant. It's important to note, however, that BIOSes are mostly proprietary to the point that it could be difficult to write Free software on the platform, and in juristictions with DMCA-like copyright regulations even illegal (as the DMCA is often used to restrict the ability to reverse-engineer). That's why Free software BIOS projects are important, and why Free hardware is something that must get more attention, because the parts of the BIOS that remain relevant happen to be the parts that make the wide variety of motherboards out there software-compatible with each other.
  • ...to write a entire article about a technology while carefully sidestepping what it fudging actually is.
  • Yeah, but but does it not run Linux?
  • It's a good example of something that's gotten ingrained through familiarity. Any textbook will tell you what an OS is. Except... when you start to think about it, there aren't any terribly good reasons behind the structure and organization of traditional OSes.

    The name "operating system" was invented by IBM for a software system that would automate the tasks of the human operator that preceded it: loading programs, killing programs that got caught in loops, directing device 6 output to the printer if approp
  • What an innovation! (Score:3, Informative)

    by damburger (981828) on Monday November 05, 2007 @02:47PM (#21244365)

    A simple yet functional OS and applications on a chip! Why didn't someone think of doing this before!?

    OH WAIT, THEY DID AND MICROSOFT PUSHED THEM OUT OF THEIR MARKET AND SENT THEM OUT OF BUSINESS [wikipedia.org]

The person who's taking you to lunch has no intention of paying.

Working...