coreboot on the Vault

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coreboot is an open source project focused on the boot and BIOS process for initializing hardware (HW) and booting an operating system (OS). coreboot has roots in the Linux community and can be found on the internet at https://www.coreboot.org/.

coreboot describes itself as: “…an extended firmware platform that delivers a lightning fast and secure boot experience on modern computers and embedded systems.” It is an open source alternative to legacy BIOS options with the following properties:

  • Fast Boot – Minimal image, removes legacy bloat
  • Open Source – The source code is available and can be built without any cost or license
  • Secure – Common backdoors of legacy BIOS can be disabled or not even included in the build
  • Support for modern HW and Intel CPUs

The coreboot philosophy is to do the absolute bare minimum to discover and initialize hardware (HW), then pass the control to another program called a “payload”. The payload then takes care of user interfaces, drivers, policies, etc. Protectli has implemented coreboot with the SeaBIOS payload.

coreboot is available on the FW2B, FW4B and FW6 series Protectli platforms as an alternative to traditional BIOS.

coreboot has been tested on the FW2B, FW4B and FW6 series with the following OS:

  • FreeBSD 11.2
  • OPNsense 19.1
  • pfSense 2.4.4
  • Ubuntu 18.10

coreboot can be selected at the time of ordering. It can also be installed in the field. See instructions below for FW2B and FW4B. The FW6 installation is more involved and requires recompiling the default version of the “flashrom” utility. Contact Protectli directly for instructions for the FW6 series.

Boot Menu

When coreboot is installed and the system boots, it will first attempt to boot from the internal mSATA. If there is no bootable OS on the mSATA, it will then attempt to boot from any USB that it discovers. If it is desired to boot from a USB to rather than mSATA, the boot menu can be accessed by pressing the “F11” key when the splash screen is displayed then selecting the desired boot device.

Installation Instructions

Note: Flashing new firmware onto any hardware is potentially dangerous in that if the procedure is interrupted or otherwise not able to complete, your hardware may be rendered useless. Please proceed with caution only after fully understanding each step of the following instructions. If there are any questions, please contact Protectli support BEFORE proceeding.

Note: Coreboot utilizes Legacy BIOS. If the operating system was previously installed under UEFI BIOS, coreboot may no longer recognize that drive.

coreboot is installed using a program called ‘flashrom’ which is available for many linux distributions. Protectli validated the installation of coreboot using flashrom on Ubuntu 18.10 (see this link for guidance on installing Ubuntu on the Vault). While flashrom works under other operating systems, this has not been tested by Protectli. As such, we recommend using Ubuntu to upgrade your Vault to coreboot.

In the instructions below, “#” indicates a command line instruction in an Ubuntu Terminal window. “filename” refers to the actual name of the file.

  • If not using Ubuntu on the Vault, remove the existing mSATA and replace it with the dedicated mSATA for the coreboot installation process
  • Install Ubuntu desktop version on the Vault to the dedicated mSATA per the link above
  • Verify that Ubuntu desktop version is installed and reboot the system
  • Verify that Ubuntu boots up to the desktop version and the Firefox browser is installed, or install the browser of your choice
  • Browse to the appropriate coreboot “filename.rom” file and download it to the Ubuntu system. See the table below for links to the coreboot .rom files.
  • Open a terminal window in Ubuntu. (Applications->Terminal)
  • Verify the terminal opens and change directory to “Downloads” using the following command:
#cd Downloads

Verify the “filename.rom” file has been downloaded to the “Downloads” directory using the following command:

#ls -la
  • Download the appropriate SHA256 checksum file per the table below
  • Verify the “filename.rom.sha” file has been downloaded to the “Downloads” directory using the following command:
#ls -la

If the files are compressed, with a suffix of “.zip”, uncompress them with the following commands:

#unzip filename.rom.zip
#unzip filename.rom.sha256.zip

Run the SHA256 program on the filename.rom file using the following command:

#sha256sum filename.rom

Verify the SHA256 output is the same as the contents of the filename.rom.sha file

#cat filename.rom.sha

Verify the “flashrom” program is present in Ubuntu

#which flashrom

If flashrom is not present, get it from the network and install it in Ubuntu

#sudo apt install flashrom

Verify flashrom is installed on the system

Flash the coreboot image to the system with the the following command:

 #sudo flashrom -p internal -w filename.rom -V -o output-file 
  • where -V indicates verbose and output-file is the name of an output file that is saved with the contents of the flashrom output
  • Reboot the system
  • Verify the system boots and displays the coreboot version string on the screen, then the splash screen
  • Verify the system boots up to Ubuntu desktop
  • If not using Ubuntu as the OS, power off the system and replace the dedicated Ubuntu mSATA with the mSATA for the desired OS
  • Reboot the system and verify that it boots to the desired OS

At this point coreboot should be installed. However, as always, feel free to contact us at: support@protectli.com.

Flash from Coreboot to Original(AMI) BIOS

In case you would like to go to back the OEM BIOS, the steps are relatively straightforward. Following the same procedure as flashing Coreboot. Be sure to use the correct BIOS for your Vault.

Using the same Ubuntu install as the instructions above;

  • Verify the correct BIOS is downloaded from here
  • Unzip the BIOS in the Downloads folder
  • Open Terminal and change directory to BIOS folder. Examples below.

For the FW4B

#cd Downloads/4B180727

For the FW2B

#cd Downloads/2B180727
  • Now run the flashrom command, instead of ‘filename.rom’, use ‘filename.bin’.

Example below would be for the FW4B BIOS file.

 #sudo flashrom -p internal -w YLBWL412.bin -V -o output-file 

And for the FW2B

 #sudo flashrom -p internal -w YLBWL212.bin -V -o output-file 
  • After the flash is complete the terminal should output a “VERIFIED” message along with “Restoring MMIO space at…” message
  • Now Reboot and verify the OEM BIOS is loaded along with booting into the desired OS

coreboot File Table

Modelcoreboot .rom fileSHA256 file
FW2Bfw2b_v4.9.0.1.romfw2b_v4.9.0.1.rom.sha
FW4Bfw4b_v4.9.0.1.romfw4b_v4.9.0.1.rom.sha