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Foxconn Releases Test BIOS Fixing Linux Crashes 196

Ryan1984 writes "Only a week after the bad press coverage regarding the Linux-related bugs in a number of motherboards released by Foxconn (which turned out to be the AMI BIOS that several board makers use), Foxconn is the first vendor out with a publicly released test patch that fixes the bulk of the problems, allowing kernel 2.6.26 to run well on the afflicted boards. The remaining issues appear to either be kernel bugs in builds earlier than 2.6.26, issues with the Intel chipset itself, or minor annoyances that Foxconn is still working to resolve. Foxconn representative Heart Zhang has posted on the Ubuntu forums (where the situation began), apologizing for the issues, thanking Foxconn customers and the community at-large for their feedback, and promising that Foxconn will take Linux support and testing seriously, going forward."
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Foxconn Releases Test BIOS Fixing Linux Crashes

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  • But... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <[enderandrew] [at] []> on Saturday August 02, 2008 @01:55PM (#24449171) Homepage Journal

    Will it run Linux?

    Seriously, kudos to them for taking ownership and addressing this so quickly. I've seen some vendors ignore hardware issues if they hear the world Linux.

    • Hm, but why does it take a storm of negative publicity to make them change their attitude? Why can't they just build stuff that works? Or would that be too much to ask...

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Enderandrew ( 866215 )

        It looks like they licensed a BIOS, and the issue was actually with the BIOS-maker, but they made a fix for it regardless.

      • by Wolfrider ( 856 )

        If you read the original article, the way the guy who discovered the issue approached them was completely arrogant.

        Not a troll, seriously. This guy was talking to obvious foreigners who either didn't care or had no power to change things in Foxconn-land.

        " Dear Sir, PLEASE STOP SENDING US THESE!! " Pretty much straight to the point, no?

        So he goes and makes a huge media deal about it, and nobody really comments on (or sees) how much of an arrogant prick he was.

        Good that the issue was fixed, but he could hav

        • by init100 ( 915886 )

          If you read the original article, the way the guy who discovered the issue approached them was completely arrogant.

          Well, if I had discovered something that looked like someone deliberately broke something in the product, I would be pretty upset. It is unlikely that I would approach the perpetrator with any significant amount of diplomacy. Bugs are one thing, deliberately breaking stuff is quite another matter.

          Foxconn deserved what they got.

  • by VirusEqualsVeryYes ( 981719 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @01:56PM (#24449177)

    Wait, Slashdot told me that Foxconn was in the hole for Microsoft, purposely sabotaging Linux so Windows can live on! But now they're releasing a fix? That's not sabotage!

    Help me out here, Slashdot!

    • by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <[enderandrew] [at] []> on Saturday August 02, 2008 @02:05PM (#24449291) Homepage Journal

      This is very clever sabotage. Now Foxconn is trying to convince Linux users that we should rush out and buy from them.

      Once we build all our rigs with Foxconn motherboards, they trigger the new dormant BIOS bug that destroys all Linux systems.

      The only way to repair the BIOS at that point will be a patch that can only be installed from Microsoft BOB, and will come shipped in a shrink-wrapped CD case that can only be opened by throwing a chair at it.

      • Think about it, its like all the other conspiracies we have uncovered and commented on here on /. "Quick they know about our shenanigans, let's issue a quick fix and try to sweep it under the rug!!"

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Missing_dc ( 1074809 )

          Sorry to reply to myself....

          [ by the way, I prefer (Admantium)plate-steel helmets to tinfoil, they block more than radio waves... (Juggernaut is my mentor, Captains Britain and America look out!!)]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Damn, beat me to it.

      I bet your comment either gets ignored entirely (as is usually the case with insightful meta-commentary) or down-modded ruthlessly with little explanation as to why. Occasionally someone comes along and says "Slashdot is not one person, so there!" while completely ignoring the fact that the consensus is usually denoted via mod points, which are seen as a Good Thing, so therefore its Good to go along with the consensus whenever possible if you want to maintain e-respect.

      Also, Linux users

      • Quite so, as a FreeBSD user, I'd prefer to be Linux style oppressed, I mean a lot of official drivers and commercial support, damn that's tough.

        Conspiracies ultimately take far more money than just ignoring the platform, and frequently yield similar results, I'm not really sure why Foxconn or any for profit entity would waste money to sabotage a platform that they could just not support.

      • Just because you express an opinion that you perceive to be contrary, doesn't mean you're particularly insightful. And even worse, it's often hard to tell the difference between a genuine contrary viewpoint and simple flamebait (and no - every troll is not Thomas Swift).

        Sure - moderation does its own damage. Theres some indistinct, tenuous balance needed for interesting conversation to happen. But keep in mind that there are plenty of these "Slashdot is wearing no clothes" comments that get modded up.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Also, Linux users need to lose the whole chip on the shoulder attitude. You're not being oppressed, you're just using an operating system with a minority market share.

        1. Buy a piece of hardware that's ambiguous on, though optimistically biased towards, supporting Linux.
        2. Find out it doesn't work and bitch to the manfuacturer, with the promise that if no satisfaction is reached, you'll make it well known that said hardware doesn't work with Linux.
        3. When you're told, "When we said it supports X, we meant it was cer
      • ...if that's what you believe (not necessarily directed at you). Screw Mod Points, Karma, and whatever else. State your piece!
    • by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <> on Saturday August 02, 2008 @02:07PM (#24449311) Journal

      Wait, Slashdot told me that Foxconn was in the hole for Microsoft, purposely sabotaging Linux so Windows can live on! But now they're releasing a fix?

      Finish reading the summary:

      (which turned out to be the AMI BIOS that several board makers use)

      It looks like the AMI BIOS manufacturer is the one who's really purposely sabotaging Linux.
      "} // I've had it with XML jokes -- this one's JSON. []

    • Clearly people (including me, even though I didn't comment) were being somewhat alarmist. I don't apologize for being alarmist about something like that. It's very typical of the kind of thing Microsoft has had a tendency to do in the past.

      Though, in retrospect Microsoft largely no longer has to be so sneaky about stuff like this. The easiest way for them to play this game now is to convince a majority of motherboard manufacturers to not give the keys to their trusted computing hardware to the users of t

    • by StormReaver ( 59959 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @02:23PM (#24449443)

      "But now they're releasing a fix? That's not sabotage!"

      Foxconn got caught and was called front-and-center over it. The evidence is overwhelmingly against them (the sabotage is plainly visible in their own code), so they realize the jig is up. The only rational response, after all the denials failed, is to provide a fix and hope the exposure fades away.

      The sabotage doesn't necessarily have to be an explicit agreement between Foxconn and Microsoft, but it was certainly intentional on Foxconn's part. The code that said, essentially, "If Windows, do things right; if Linux, do things wrong" was not an accident. The question of who at Foxconn made the decision to perform the sabotage may never be known, but it was done consciously by someone at Foxconn (for whatever reason).

      • by karnal ( 22275 )

        Got links? I'd be curious to see exactly where in the code this was. I've got a 3 year old foxconn mobo running windows xp for my home theater, but if I transition it to Linux sometime I'd love to have the heads up.

      • by Drantin ( 569921 ) *

        I'd like to see the evidence you have for sabatoge.

        As another poster has already said, it could have been as simple as them fixing a bug in the windows ACPI table, but neglecting to update the code in the linux case.

        --Never ascribe to malice, that which can be explained by incompetence.

        • by SpaceLifeForm ( 228190 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @04:45PM (#24450529)
          for that which can be explained by incompetence.

          It wasn't just that the table was wrong, there was specific code in the BIOS to point to a a bad table.

          This phrase, 'Never ascribe to malice, that which can be explained by incompetence', is absolutely a darkside distraction.

          You've heard it so much over the years, that you start to believe it.

          It's a *great* cover for darkside machinations.

          Incompetence definitely exists, but to let yourself be deluded into thinking that bad things are due to incompetence is to show your own incompetence as a sentient lifeform.

          Assume malice first, and search for proof of incompetence.

          In this case, specific code was in the BIOS that was malicious.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by xenocide2 ( 231786 )

            May I offer you a simple suggestion? If you don't want people to think you're the kind of person who sees conspiracies everywhere, examine your language. "Darkside" suggests there's a large group of people out to conspire against you. It also reeks of internet conspiracy theorist jargon.

            Moreover, assuming bad faith [] from everyone is paranoid, unconstructive and completely anti "open source."

          • Or rather, assume innocence until you can be sure they are guilty, but err on the side of caution.

            You don't want to jump to the conclusion that someone or some corporation is evil and start hating them and setting bad blood when all that happened was just an honest mistake. You gain little by pissing people off. If it really was a mistake, they might actually be willing to fix it. If you start a hate campaign against you, they might decide that if you want to hate them, they can as well give up trying to he

      • The evidence is overwhelmingly against them (the sabotage is plainly visible in their own code)

        I pretty thoroughly debunked this in the original discussion, but it seems once people have decided someone's out to get them they're immune to all forms of logic and reason.

        The short version is, you can't assume that the presence of a table for Linux is evidence of malice. It probably came from AMI that way (dummy tables for Windows and Linux), and they just put their hardware info into the Windows section. Being lazy they didn't bother to fix the Linux section since hey, the boss says they don't support

    • Now it will be interesting to see if all the people condemning Foxconn a short while ago, has the guts and hearts to take Foxconn into their grace again.
      • by init100 ( 915886 )

        To tell you the truth, I had never heard of Foxconn before the incident a week ago, and I don't think they have any products available in any local computer stores. But even if they had, this debacle puts them in the last position on my list of usable brands. Them now trying to cover up their previous malice won't work with me.

    • "But now they're releasing a fix? That's not sabotage!
      Help me out here, Slashdot!"

      Not saying this is the truth of it, but *if* the previous behaviour of the motherboard was in fact sabotage payed by Microsoft then the explanation for the current behaviour it's quite easy:

      Foxconn sabotaged Linux because of Microsoft's money, now that the issue hitted the fan, it turns out there were not enough money to pay for the bad press and/or it even might be that other contenders entered the scene (just last week I had

  • Though I will admit I was just as much in on it as anyone else []. Perhaps instead of malice or stupidity, it was simply "taking care of the biggest customer pool first."
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hitmark ( 640295 )

      something i would say would be best served by building a standard compliant bios first, and then add fixes for windows idiosyncrasies.

      the way it seems to go these days is, build for microsoft products, then try and re-patch for everything else...

    • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @03:33PM (#24450081) Homepage

      Perhaps instead of malice or stupidity, it was simply "taking care of the biggest customer pool first."

      Yeah. This also seems to be an example of a more general phenomenon with Linux support, which is that the same company will make completely contradictory statements about their own Linux support. In the earlier slashdot story [], someone from Foxconn is directly quoted as saying 'it doesn't support Linux;' now they say they always intended to support Linux. The truth is probably that they never even thought about Linux support, and then when the issue was brought to their attention random representatives started saying random things off the cuff.

      I've had a similar experience with Amazon's MP3 store. If you want to buy entire albums (as opposed to individual tracks), you have to use special downloading software that they supply. The software was initially only available in Windows and Mac versions, but pretty quickly they brought out Linux versions as well. Nowadays when you use your Linux box to shop for albumbs on their site, if you don't have the software installed your browser will detect that, and detect your OS as linux, and they'll generate a page for you offering links to download a linux version of the downloader. In fact, they even have it available in multiple versions for different linux distros. However, the linux downloader has been pretty buggy for me (and was also hard to get working properly on x64). I've had it working, then it broke, etc. I've done two calls to Amazon's tech support about this, and in both cases, the initial reaction was to tell me to do a bunch of stuff (with the usual confusion because the Indian tech support person gives Windows+IE instructions, and has never heard of Linux), and then when that didn't help they checked with someone else, who told them Linux wasn't supported. Never mind that they've had Linux versions of the software up on the site for months now.

      I think part of the problem is that so many people in the hardware and software industries live in a 100%-Windows environment. It honestly never even occurs to them that anyone is running any other OS. (In the case of Foxconn, they're not making mac-compatible boards, so it's probably true that 99% of their boards are being used with Windows.) Then when the issue comes up, they just deal with it off the cuff. It's like asking them what their policy is on recycling cardboard -- they probably don't have one, and they don't see why it's important.

      Another problem may be that in a Windows monoculture environment, many people don't understand what a standard really is. They think Windows and Word and IE are standards. Instead of developing for the relevant standard, some PHB makes the decision that they're going to target something proprietary, calling that a "standard," and they think of it as extra work to add support for anything else -- when in fact, it would have made more sense just to support the standard properly in the first place.

  • by nawcom ( 941663 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @02:04PM (#24449283) Homepage

    "Hey Michael Dell, when are you gonna fix all the disabled HPETs in your laptops? Hell, when I checked for syntax errors in the DSDT code I found 26 of them! And it's only set up to work with different Windows models, nothing else!!! This is unacceptable! ... Hey.... Hey come back here - don't walk away when I'm talking to you!!!!"

    Sadly, this is the truth, and if I could make one wish, it would be that computer makers not make their BIOS code such a damn secret. Dell uses a Phoenix BIOS with an unknown compression set up, and they seem to be extremely secretive about it. (Anyone here of the "delldeco" app? That's gone now, because Dell said so.) I'm also glad that EFI is starting to be used in some motherboard manufacturers.

  • Good sign (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Keyper7 ( 1160079 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @02:11PM (#24449343)

    This whole soap opera, which probably had more to do with copy and paste laziness than conspiracy theories, blew up out of proportions and gave Foxconn a lot of reasons to believe that Linux users are crazy zealots. Yes, I know that the users who actually harassed Foxconn with "OMG microsoft payed you!!!" emails are just a small part of the Linux userbase, but I'd kinda understand if Foxconn took Linux less seriously after that.

    The fact that they're now going as far as writing about the patch in the Ubuntu Forums shows that they consider the Linux userbase large and important enough to be worried about the bad press, even though most of the "bad press" was grossly exaggerated. Not-so-many years ago, a company could dismiss the complaints as "nonsense zealotry" with no worries and no financial negative impact whatsoever. Foxcoon seems to believe that this is not the case now.

    So, from a "relevance of Linux nowadays" point of view, I consider this to be a very good sign.

    • and gave Foxconn a lot of reasons to believe that Linux users are crazy zealots.

      You say that like it's a bad thing. :)

      On a serious note...good job Foxconn. The correct response that will be quickly settle the turbulent waters and turn a negative into a positive. And you raise a good point that Linux support has become an issue hardware vendors take seriously. Good for all of us.

    • Re:Good sign (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ratboy666 ( 104074 ) <fred_weigel@hotmail . c om> on Saturday August 02, 2008 @02:44PM (#24449657) Journal

      So, you think it would have been fixed if there had not been angry, almost rabid, users? You know, the ones you refer to as "crazy zealots"?

      I don't believe so. I believe the issue would have been ignored, and Linux would have been patched in some obscene manner to "work around" the issue. Giving a bad reputation to Linux; "it doesn't work -- what kind of fucking shit is THIS?". Hurting the reputations of many developers.

      Sometimes, the only sane response is to be angry and rabid.

      Was it a bug? Was it deliberate? Who knows. That debate is still open. What IS important is that there is at least ONE open source OS with the clout to keep vendors honest.

      • Eh no, "angry, almost rabid" users are not the ones I refer to as crazy zealots. The crazy zealots are the ones who emailed Foxconn saying things like "u r OBVIOUSLY bing birbed b mIcro$hit!!!1!!" without any real evidence of it.

        I applaud the users who emailed Foxconn about the issue, but only the ones who did in a appropriate way (and I'm not even going into the politeness discussion, you can even be a rude jerk without bringing up conspiracy theories).

        But this is irrelevant to my point. My point was that

        • So we agree - good. I guess I just wasn't clear on what a "crazy zealot" was. Thanks for clarifying.

          And I am glad that we can take the idea "Linux is good, because it is important enough to keep vendors honest" home. Maybe I'll make that my sig (I'll have to mull it over).

    • Well thankfully for the rest of the world, foxconn thought that breaking linux on their stuff was a bad idea.

      So im glad so many people didnt listen to you.

  • Complaining works (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sir Homer ( 549339 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @02:16PM (#24449371)
    I've said this before about ATI: When you get a bunch of angry people together and complain about a product, you typically get the results you want.

    No company wants to look bad, even to a minority of people. Because it often only takes a minority of people to completely trash a companies reputation, especially in such a competitive market like motherboards.

    So if you know of any other manufacturers who have poor Linux support, don't be scared to send them a letter about it and to tell other people who use Linux about your problems with the manufacturer. You might end up afflicting positive change in the long run.
  • Awesome (Score:3, Informative)

    by HalAtWork ( 926717 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @02:17PM (#24449383)
    Great news, that's fantastic. I wonder what caused the problem in the first place?

    Anyhow, I wonder what happened to that bitter person in Foxconn's tech support? Hopefully he will be taking things more seriously next time as well.
  • give them credit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ocularDeathRay ( 760450 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @02:33PM (#24449521) Journal
    these guys really didn't have to EVER fix this, much less a week later. if all hardware manufacturers were this responsive the world of technology would be a better place.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 02, 2008 @02:36PM (#24449557)
    Slashdot is essentially being trolled by Ryan1984, who is on a one-man crusade, convinced of wrongdoing that probably never took place.

    Foxconn is probably just doing this to avoid negative publicity, despite the fact that BIOSes shouldn't be running any code specific to Linux, due to specific decisions by the kernel developers.

    Quoting from an actual kernel developer: []

    In any case, it's highly unlikely that this is any attempt by Foxconn to prevent Linux from working. The majority of checks for Linux in ACPI tables are copy and pasted from reference tables that Intel (and other manufacturers) have provided at various points - even the Intel Macs attempt to check for Linux! Most vendors will never attempt to boot Linux on their boards or validate them appropriately, so it's entirely conceivable that they'll end up screwing things up in such a way that the only tested paths are the ones that are run by Windows. This is why we now attempt to ensure that Linux reports itself as Windows. If we're running Linux-specific code in the DSDT, then that's a bug in Linux.

    Anyway. Accusing companies of conspiring against us when the most likely explanation is simply that they don't care is a fucking ridiculous thing to do and does nothing to get rid of the impression that Linux users are a bunch of whining childish hatemongers. Next time, try talking to someone who actually understands this stuff first?

  • See, the open source community can pressure companies into releasing compatible Linux hardware.
  • by Erikderzweite ( 1146485 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @03:01PM (#24449855)
    Well, as most linux users are tech-savy, they are often being asked advice by less tech-savy people e.g.

    -- What do you think about this PC? Shall I buy it?
    *looks through the specs*
    Foxconn Mobo? Utter trash! Don't buy it!

    I do think that linux users are not many, but we are influential for sure.
    • You know there is a lot of truth to that remark. I'm a very tech savvy person and my family, friends, wife's friends, hell random people in stores I visit ask me for advice about computer parts. When they do I generally try to steer them towards products that have either open or at least very compatible drivers. So while I may only be one person I influence many people in their buying decisions. What's really interesting is that I've actually started to convert my wife's group of stay at home moms to li
      • You know there is a lot of truth to that remark. I'm a very tech savvy person and my family, friends, wife's friends, hell random people in stores I visit ask me for advice about computer parts. When they do I generally try to steer them towards products that have either open or at least very compatible drivers. So while I may only be one person I influence many people in their buying decisions. What's really interesting is that I've actually started to convert my wife's group of stay at home moms to linux,

        • That's interesting as I have a friend who is a 50 something civil engineer and he used slax back in the day, always liked it but could never get anything done since he was always spending his time keeping X running. I gave him a recent Ubuntu release and he loved it, he's been using it exclusively since the time I gave it to him. I'm really finding a trend here, some will not change because they cannot stand to have little things change in the world around them, a lot of people will though once they see t
  • Congratulations, foxconn, for listening to your market.

  • by SalesEngineer ( 640818 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @03:06PM (#24449893)
    Ryan1984's post makes it sound like a generic AMI BIOS problem with Linux ... I don't think this is the case. AMIBIOS runs well on Linux generically (it's on Sun Microsystems servers, the Asus EeePC & EeeBox, which all work with Linux) so this is probably Foxconn introducing a problem when they ported the BIOS to their boards. Board manufacturers like Foxconn get a development kit from the BIOS manufacturer then port it to their platform. If Foxconn made a BIOS fix for Windows then didn't test it with Linux, this would cause the issue. A similar situation would be if a company made a variation of a Linux distro for their products but broke somethign that worked generically in the original distro. I think the community response worked great for getting Foxconn to pay attention to Linux. They saw their business & reputation threatened and are trying to fix the problem.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 02, 2008 @07:02PM (#24451377)
      That's right -- and AMI makes their money by intentionally NOT taking fixes from their customers and integrating them into their core (so that when problems crop up, they can offer their "services" to help fix them) -- it's like pulling teeth getting them to take a fix upstream, believe me. AMI sucks just as much as any other BIOS vendor.
  • AARD (Score:5, Interesting)

    by paradigm82 ( 959074 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @06:55PM (#24451341)
    I'm surprised noone is comparing this saga to the AARD scandal that ultimately resulted in Microsoft having to pay a settlement to Caldera. you can read about it here [] but the case was about encrypted & obfuscated code inserted in Windows 3.1 to detect DR-DOS and preventing Windows from running on it. Internal Microsoft memos revealed the intention of the code: At one point, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates sent a memo to a number of employees, reading "You never sent me a response on the question of what things an app would do that would make it run with MSDOS and not run with DR-DOS. Is there [sic] feature they have that might get in our way?"[1] Microsoft Senior Vice President Brad Silverberg later sent another memo, reading "What the [user] is supposed to do is feel uncomfortable, and when he has bugs, suspect that the problem is DR-DOS and then go out to buy MS-DOS"[1] Later, after DR-DOS had been purchased by Novell and renamed "Novell DOS", Co-President Jim Allchin stated in a memo, "If you're going to kill someone there isn't much reason to get all worked up about it and angry. Any discussions beforehand are a waste of time. We need to smile at Novell while we pull the trigger."[1] The lawsuit was later settled.[1][2] Compare this to: "One thing I find myself about is whether we shouldn't try and make the "ACPI" extensions somehow Windows specific. If seems unfortunate if we do this work and get our partners to do the work and the result is that Linux works great without having to do the work. Maybe there is no way Io avoid this problem but it does bother me. Maybe we couid define the APIs so that they work well with NT and not the others even if they are open. Or maybe we could patent something relaled to this." In both cases it was Bill Himself that suggested to employees that they threw a wrench into something to prevent competing o/s'es from interoperating properly. Many of you probably know about the AARD scandal for I wanted to post this for those who don't :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Renraku ( 518261 )

      Lets face it. Microsoft has a history of using underhanded and sometimes illegal tactics to out-compete their competitors. It would come as no surprise if it turned out Microsoft paid them to do this, but to be fair, there's no damning evidence that this has happened or even that it wasn't just a brainfart on the part of quality control.

      If you want to see some underhanded tactics, take a look at the way Microsoft treats their vendors, or what Wal-Mart does to get you those low low prices. Both of these t

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