Brussels / 4 & 5 February 2017


Interview with Leah Rowe
Libreboot. Free your BIOS today!

Photo of Leah Rowe

Leah Rowe will give a talk about Libreboot. Free your BIOS today! at FOSDEM 2017.

Q: Could you briefly introduce yourself?

I’m Leah. I run the Libreboot project. I work on free software in general, and on activism in other areas in my free time.

Q: What will your talk be about, exactly? Why this topic?

I will be talking about free software at the boot firmware level, something which is lacking in most systems that people use today. This is the root of trust in a system, and most people don’t think of it. It’s just there, and it boots their operating system. A lot of manufacturers these days put nasty malicious features in the boot firmware, so a project like Libreboot is very important, especially for security. More about this will be discussed in the talk.

More broadly, the talk will be about current issues that we face regarding hardware and software freedom, and what can be done about it.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish by giving this talk? What do you expect?

I aim to make more people aware of the dangers of non-free boot firmware, in terms of security and freedom. I also wish to attract developers to the Libreboot project, which seeks to implement free boot firmware so that people can use entirely libre systems.

Q: Is libreboot a fork of coreboot? Or how would you describe the project? And how do both projects collaborate?

Libreboot is not a fork of coreboot. It’s a distribution of coreboot. We take coreboot for various systems, and provide an automated build system around that, combining coreboot with payloads such as GRUB, SeaBIOS, petitboot (planned), depthcharge, etc. We integrate everything, with automated build and installation processes which we document on our website.

At present, we are seeking to abandon coreboot as an upstream, and switch to using librecore instead. More about this will be covered in the talk. Librecore is a fork of coreboot, formed in December 2016.

Q: You already talked about libreboot at FOSDEM last year. What are the most important developments that happened during this last year?

We attempted to create an OEM that preinstalls Libreboot as the factory. This was spearheaded by Raptor Engineering, with their TALOS workstation project. Unfortunately, that failed.

We’ve added support for several new systems, most notably RockChip ARM chromebooks. We’re working on adding more. We’re also working on some new Intel laptops in Libreboot.

Q: Libreboot has planned support for POWER8 and POWER9. What are the biggest challenges to support those platforms?

Consumer interest, mainly. The hardware is very expensive to produce, and the price is very high for people who want to buy it. This means that we face severe issues when competing against the likes of Intel, AMD etc. who sell cheaper, but non-free, systems.

We also need to make sure that IBM does not lock down the new POWER9 platforms.

There are existing POWER systems out there that can be freed through reverse engineering, from cheaper Chinese brands (they often don’t release source code, because in order to be cheap they take code from all kinds of places and they don’t want to risk going to prison for copyright violation so they withhold the source code, unfortunately). This is not our main focus, however.

Currently, it is unknown what will happen to POWER as an option in the future.

Q: What does libreboot’s community look like? How can interested people contribute and in which domains could you use some help?

We have an IRC channel at #libreboot on Freenode and a bug tracker on our website. We have other means of communication linked on the homepage of We also explain how to submit patches.

We need help currently, with:

Q: Which new features can we expect this year in libreboot?
Q: Have you enjoyed previous FOSDEM editions?

I enjoyed FOSDEM 2016.

Creative Commons License
Creative Commons License

This interview is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Belgium License.