Retroboot

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Retroboot is freedom-respecting boot firmware that initializes the hardware in your computer and loads an operating system. It replaces the proprietary BIOS/UEFI firmware commonly loaded onto a computer. Retroboot is compatible with specific computer models that use the x86 architecture. User support is available at #retroboot on Freenode IRC.

Retroboot can boot all of the most popular operating systems such GNU+Linux, BSD and even Windows. We recommend free operating systems (e.g. GNU+Linux) that comply with GNU Free System Distribution Guidelines

Boot firmware is low-level software that executes when a computer is turned on. It brings the components (CPU, memory controller, peripherals etc) to a useful state enabling easy software development and/or usage. Boot firmware usually loads an operating system which provides a unified interface for application software.

Retroboot uses coreboot for hardware initialization. Coreboot does initialization, and jumps to a payload which provides the user interface. Retroboot provides these payload choices: GRUB (boots Linux kernels and BSD kernels directly, which then run on bare metal) and SeaBIOS (for legacy OS); Tianocore and Linuxboot are planned to be added. In the way Debian is a GNU+Linux distribution, Retroboot is a coreboot distribution! Retroboot provides a fully automated build system that auto-builds coreboot ROMs based on tested coreboot revisions. Retroboot then provides user-friendly documentation and support, along with pre-compiled coreboot ROMs and regular releases.

The name retroboot is short for retrofitted boot firmware, referring to the fact that it replaces what came installed and adds many new features.

Why use Retroboot?

Because you have rights. The right to privacy, freedom of thought, freedom of speech and the right to read. In the context of computing, that means anyone can use free software. Simply speaking, free software is software that is under the direct sovereignty of the user and, more importantly, the collective that is the community. Retroboot is dedicated to the Free Software community, with the aim of making free software at a low level more accessible to non-technical people.

Many people use proprietary boot firmware, even if they use GNU+Linux. Non-free boot firmware often contains backdoors, can be slow and have severe bugs. Development and support can be abandoned at any time. By contrast, Retroboot is a free software project, where anyone can contribute or inspect its code.

Retroboot is faster, more secure and more reliable than most non-free firmware. Retroboot provides many advanced features, like encrypted /boot/, GPG signature checking before booting a Linux kernel and more! Retroboot gives you control over your computing.

How is Retroboot different versus Libreboot?

Retroboot development started on December 11th, 2020, forked from the Libreboot 20160907 build system. Retroboot is similar philosophically to Libreboot, but with one difference: Libreboot only allows support for boards where the firmware can be 100% Free Software as per what is installed to the boot flash.

Retroboot merely prefers this, but allows binary blobs. Retroboot will accept any board that coreboot supports.

It was started in response to a growing trend in the community: lots of people are interested in Libreboot, but wish to use newer/faster hardware. Porting Libreboot to newer Intel/AMD hardware is very difficult. Meanwhile, there existed no user-friendly solution like Libreboot. Retroboot provides an easy, automated build system and installation process, with user-friendly documentation and professional user support backed up by years of experience dealing with coreboot systems.

The entire motivation behind this very liberal policy (in Retroboot) is that it will lead to many more coreboot users, on all coreboot systems, especially when more people join the Retroboot project as maintainers for various boards. By increasing the ease of use and accessibility for a given coreboot system, for non-technical users, it increases the amount of technical users because more people learn about coreboot. This increases the number of people that can provide testing for coreboot, and will very likely:

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Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License Version 1.3 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation with no Invariant Sections, no Front Cover Texts, and no Back Cover Texts. A copy of this license is found in /docs/fdl-1.3.html