USENIX 2005 Annual Technical Conference, FREENIX Track Abstract
Pp. 141150 of the Proceedings
FreeVGA: Architecture Independent Video Graphics Initialization for
Li-Ta Lo, Gregory R. Watson, and Ronald G. Minnich, Los Alamos National Laboratory
LinuxBIOS is fast becoming a widely accepted alternative to the
traditional PC BIOS for cluster computing applications. However, in the
process it is gaining attention from developers of Internet appliance,
desktop and visualization applications, who also wish to take advantage
of the features provided by LinuxBIOS, such as minimizing user
interaction, increasing system reliability, and faster boot times.
Unlike cluster computing, these applications tend to rely heavily on
graphical user interfaces, so it is important that the VGA hardware is
correctly initialized early in the boot process in additional to the
hardware initialization currently performed by LinuxBIOS.
Unfortunately, the open-source nature of LinuxBIOS means that many
graphic card vendors are reluctant to expose code relating to the
initialization of their hardware in the fear that this might allow
competitors access to proprietary chipset information. As a
consequence, in many cases the only way to initialize the VGA hardware
is to use the vendor provided, proprietary, VGA BIOS. To achieve this
it is necessary to provide a compatibility layer that operates between
the VGA BIOS and LinuxBIOS in order to simulate the environment that
the VGA BIOS assumes is available. In this paper we present our
preliminary results on FreeVGA, an x86 emulator based on x86emu that
can be used as such a compatibility layer. We will show how we have
successfully used FreeVGA to initialize VGA cards from both ATI and
Nvidia on a Tyan S2885 platform.
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