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Phoenix to embed bootup ads in BIOS 333

quonsar writes "According to ZDNet, Phoenix today announced plans to embed bootup ads in BIOS by 4Q 1999. Take a look at the story: Phoenix to sell Windows launch ads. Phoenix has formed a subsidiary, ebetween,to sell the ads. "
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Phoenix to embed bootup ads in BIOS

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  • Possibly the most stupid idea I've heard of. And of course, as we can anticipate Gates and Co. buying the ads, everyone building for other OSes will use Award or AMI.
  • This has been done on a card before. Novell had one, so did Digital Research.

    You put the card in, it simulates a hard drive during boot, but can't be "altered". Usually, it'd go after a specially-configured Novell server to load apps.

    Now that you mention it I remember a similar project in the Etherboot distribution - you can build a "FlashCard" which resides in an ISA slot, and contains an EEPROM that can be flashed with a BootROM. It's meant for testing Etherboot before you burn it onto 20 EPROM chips but it'll work for anything that wants to take control after the motherboard BIOS, in the same manner as IDE controllers and so on get called to do their thing. My knowledge of prioritization and contention is sketchy here, tho... whoever goes first wins the privelege of booting or what?

  • They don't make money if you don't buy anything. You seem to think that they make money simply by forcing you to watch their mindless drivel of a marketing scheme. If you don't buy anything they don't make money. Anyway, it's only one manufacturer, so buy a different one. The power of the people. If no one buys it, it dies. Like someone said earlier. --R.I.P. DivX.
    It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion. set my mind in motion.
    It is by the beans of Java that thoughts acquire speed.
  • The ads that get to me, are the movie ads. I pay my good money and get to wait through 15 minutes of crap about things I care little about... And then I see a movie. Yah.

    Same thing.

    I have no problems with advertising open standards.. APM (Advanced Power Management's an open standard isn't it?) etc...

    Will it be one beep to signafy no errors and 20 beeps + 1 for every day you haven't visited yahoo!...

  • My toshiba DVD player has a big (ugly) TOSHIBA DVD Video logo that shows a powerup, and the LCD panel scrolls "Welcome to Toshiba DVD". Close.
  • According to the article Phoenix is looking for some way to increase their profits.

    Translation: They will still charge the same price _and_ get money from spamming you. (Gee... glad both of my machines have AMI)

    I can't wait for the first computer virus (via outlook express?) to make the rounds fucking with BIOS settings and putting script kiddie messages in the bootup screen.

  • Two decades of PC has shown that the BIOS is one of the more common show-stoppers that one can run into, so the goal of future designs should be to minimize the BIOS to a high extent. I can't think of anything wrong with sticking the kernel right into the BIOS. How much does 8 megs of flash cost these days? That's plenty for the foreseeable future, including modules and OS bloat.

    BIOS needs to be divided in half, both parts flashable. The first part is responsible for bringing the motherboard up into a sane state, and the second part loads the kernel from flash. We don't care about PCI and everything else since it's assumed that the kernel will take care of those devices. At least they've been brought into minimal sanity by the BIOS, which probably only needs to make sure that RAM is okay and a few other things.

    So, BIOS1 runs and sanitizes the motherboard. BIOS2 copies a kernel from flash into RAM. If either of them fails, we fall back to a simple public-domain or copyleft BIOS that is smart enough to boot from a floppy or IDE HD. I'm not naive enough to suggest that the machine will be in any state to load a protected-mode OS with the memory controller in some kind of crazy acid trip and everything else, but we have BIOS1 to worry about the strange PC stuff.

    BIOS2 might as well be 32-bit (i.e. BIOS1 does the dirty work and leaves with the system in nice, clean protected mode), and serves only to copy the next image from flash (into the flat memory we now have), which is either a kernel or BIOS3, a smart BIOS that runs in RAM from the start and acts like Open Firmware or whatever. This is completely optional and would be at the level of LILO on the usual PC. I'm thinking along the lines of sun* bootprompt (I'm fond of sun3's bootprompt, sick isn't it... =)

    A couple of poorly thought-out things that just came to me.. I know the kernel-in-flash idea isn't new but maybe arranging it this way is.
  • Not surprising that there is no feedback path on the Phoenix website....
  • All of a sudden, in a reprogrammable flash (pun!) of inspiration, I see a new project just waiting to happen...

    Open-source, free, Linux-enhanced (perhaps), user-supported, bla bla bla BIOS, flashable and usable on just about any motherboard.

    If the OS is so important, why is the BIOS neglected? I make a point of updating mine every time I see a new patch on ASUS's site, but I'm convinced most people don't.

    With new kernel features and add-ons like fan speed sensing support, various USB chipsets, boot devices ranging from A-first, C/D/E-first, SCSI-first, CDRom, etc. etc. etc., the BIOS should mesh with the OS at LEAST as much as the direct hardware drivers mesh the hardware to the OS. (am I rambling?)

    With tight enough code, a Linux-enhanced BIOS could leave enough room for various bits of the kernel to be flashed in, additional plug-and-play support, security, or any number of features.

    Who's to say that in a year, with a project like this, Linux distributions won't come with an rpm (or whatever dist. method) that updates your BIOS for you, based on what motherboard you select? I personally think it's a GREAT idea, but that's just me.

    Sun has such tight support for its hardware, because it runs it's own chips, it's own os, and it's own BIOS.

    Same thing with Macintosh (no OS/platform arguments, *please*, that's off-topic).

    There are a number of BIOSes out there in the public or semi-public domain already. I remember having an old IBM PC/XT manual with the BIOS source code actually in it!!! (Talk about wonderful programming reference!)

    What say everyone? Is this a worthy project? I'm not a programmer, (although I play one on TV) and I've barely even become familiar with CVS (I admit), but I'm sure someone is willing to pick up the ball and run with it.

    Perhaps we should have a Slashdot Poll on the topic, with a lot of useful feedback?

  • Forth is a tiny language. I mean, really tiny. We're talking 16K for an interactive interpreter/compiler here. Yeah. 16K. And it beats the everloving stuffins out of programming in assembly.

    Hey, Postscript is based on Forth. It can't be that bad.

  • OK, you don't seem to have read what I wrote, so I wonder why this is labelled a response.

    Your level of materialism, like you say, is your own to choose and more power to you.

    Maybe my entire message could be summed up, 'Deceptive advertising is not redundant.'

    Speaking is OK, lying is not.

  • As for the ad spae itself, Intel does that now with Intel logos (on Intel motherboards, of course) that the VAR can replace with their own logo. I'm sure we'll only see AOL and similar ads shipping on "Free PCs". It's a logical connection.

  • I think his point is this: you don't pay to watch national stations like ABC and NBC, etc. So you would expect those to have many ads. But a motherboard is something you pay for so as long as A-trend intel and the rest have to sell mobos, if the customer wont buy them at reduced rates with ads, then they wont sell them. I expect if anything, it will be an option. Remember, bad technology can be thwarted: R.I.P. Divx

  • and hitting escape just as the screen comes in will let you see the phoenix bios messages as well.
  • check that it doenst have a phoenix bios. dead simple.
  • actually just run hdparm -S 20 or the equiv for SCSI to power down your drives and set apmd to sleep at 12:00 or whatever..console blaking is enabled by default anyway,
  • .. I will ditch PCs and buy a G3 PowerMac
  • I just got a new Dell system with Phoenix BIOS, and it displays the Dell logo and "www.dell.com" in the top-right corner of the screen every time I boot. In fact, the shipped configuration displays a full-screen Dell logo instead of the usual self-test and hardware detection information. Fortunately, there's an option to turn that off.

    Anyone know how to replace that logo with the bitmap of my choice? The BIOS is flashable, so I imagine that it's not too hard.
  • Ads are fine, in their place.

    1. I will not accept any telemarketing.
    2. I will not pay people to flash ads in my face.

    Telemarketers who get through to me get a minimally polite negative response, unless they try to insist. I pay for my phone service, and I do not pay to facilitate intrusive selling.

    I pay for computers to do what I want them to do, not to see ads when I boot. And especially as Windoze requires reboot at the drop of a hat.

    I will make plain to the companies with whom I do business that BIOS ads are a non-starter. Moreover, the company for which I work will not ship a PC which contains ads.

    This smacks of MS and Compaq as the motivators. I have never bought Compaq, and never will. And I will shortly be a former Windoze user.

    Hell will freeze over before I tolerate this kind of BS on my desktop.
  • I'm not sure this is a big deal. It's not like you are doing anything important on your screen during startup. And if enough people don't like it, some company will give you the option of a non-ad BIOS.

    I would be more worried about how the content is delivered. Is it hard-wired into some kind of flash ROM? Is it stored on the hard drive? If it is going to be delivered over the 'net, that means that either the BIOS has to do built in TCP-IP, which I doubt, or that you have to run a client-side app to download the new images. If the latter is true, it should be easy to disable.

    In any event, this is yet another reason to get a Mac. The "Mac OS" startup screen is a whole lot more attractive than a stupid flying window anyway :)
  • ahh..but you forget that ppl can stop buying from the motherboard manufacturers who buy bioses from phoenix in bulk. THAT will certainly toast phoenix if their OEMs quit buying from them and switch to a more popular bios i.e. ami.
  • by timur ( 2029 ) on Monday June 21, 1999 @01:26PM (#1840106)
    Ok, it looks like I need to chime in here. For the record, I am a BIOS developer for Dell Computer. Here's how things work in the BIOS land:

    A BIOS is specific to a particular motherboard. It's not possible to create a generic BIOS, because the job of the BIOS is primarily to initialize the motherboard hardware. Many of the chips on a modern motherboard are very compex, such as Rambus memory controllers and SuperIO IC's. These devices take thousands of lines of assembly code to initialize.

    The OpenBIOS FAQ has some errors in it:

    1. The FAQ says that the primary job is to boot the OS - this is false. Booting the OS is the last thing the BIOS does at startup, and this feature hasn't really changed in 15 years, with the exception the modern BIOS's can now boot CD-ROM drives and Zip drives. Only 1% of the BIOS code is allocated to this function.

    2. The FAQ says that "proprietary BIOSes have usually been written with one operating system formost in mind." This is also false. For instance, when you shut down the computer, Windows will send a call to the BIOS to power down the machine. Windows itself can't do this, because each machine is different, but the BIOS provides an API which Windows can call. AFAIK, all of these specs are 100% open, so that any OS can call them. However, Windows is usually the first OS to use these API's as they come out, mostly because Microsoft cares a lot about this issue. I can tell you in at least one instance, an "enhancement" to the BIOS that Microsoft recommended was immediately dismissed because it would be incompatible with Linux.

    In my opinion, OpenBIOS is doomed to failure. The rate at which new systems are created is way too rapid for any one team to keep up. There are only a handful of people with the skills necessary to write a BIOS, and none of them can afford (as individuals) the hardware necessary to debug their code - the ICE sitting next to me costs over $10K and it's the low-end model. Not only that, but most of the information needed is not publically available and would be impossible for me to get if I didn't work for a major OEM already. Look at the hardware that OpenBIOS currently supports: a 386 and a 486 system!! Talk about outdated!

    Because the BIOS is specific to a motherboard, any OEM which makes its own motherboards (like Dell does for some of our systems) must have a customized BIOS. I can't speak for all Dell systems (I only work on the high-end desktop machines), but in our case we do our own customizations. The alternative is to ask the BIOS vendor (e.g. Phoeniz or AMI) to make the customizations. Your guess is as good as mine as to how often this happens.

    Timur Tabi
    Remove "nospam_" from email address

  • Speaking of which... have you noticed those little plastic inserts in men's urinals, usually from the Swisher corporation, that say "Just say no to drugs" on them? Don't you find it rather ironic that you can't avoid doing a number 1 on that slogan?
  • In Neal Stephenson's "The Diamond Age," a character is mentioned who commits suicide after getting infected with a rogue nanomachine that played commercials for roach motels, in Hindi, in the lower right corner of his visual field, 24-7. I'd rather have BIOS ads....
  • Of all the ideas to slap ads on something this one disturbs me the most. I wonder how big (if any) of a backlash there will be from the motherboard manufacturers.

  • "Two years after it's introduction, the iShirt(tm) Internet Enabled Shirt and it's many clones have become a natural part of everyday apparel. The ability to spontaneously change the design on the front of the shirt has appealed to young and old alike. Now, iShirt manufacterer Apple Corp. has decided to include a small advertisement on the breast pocket of the shirt to increase revenue.

    Some users have had concerns that this defeats the purpose of the shirt, saying that chosing the design is half the reason for owning the shirt. When questioned about this, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said, "I'm confident that the advertisement will not interfere with the use of the shirt. The back of the shirt remains the territory of the user, as well as most of the front. Our advertising space is entirely limited to the breast pocket".

    In other news, Microsoft is teamed-up with Honda to bring us the world's first internet-powered car. Microsoft says their new technology, Visual Highway, will improve fuel effeciency through it's new iEngine which is powered by 20% of the net profits taken from the ads displayed on the bumper. Honda's new Microsoft Accord will be unveiled in the third quarter of '06."

    Granted, I think Phoenix's "idea" isn't gonna work, but it's still a sign of the times. This whole "every single thing in existance must become a part of the internet in some way, shape, or form" attitude annoys me enough. It makes no sense-- even Linus (as I recall, might've been someone else...) made some comment about giving your toaster an IP address. Am I the only one that things this ridiculous amount of internet integration seems like the perfect way to put an ad in the line of sight of every single person on the planet no matter where they look? Can't wait to see the iCondom...
  • I have a '93 486 mobo with a bios from them. I don't remember the specifics, since I rarely reboot it (it's my IP masquerading firewall now, video card-less, and it's a loooong time since it last had a monitor attached, for configuration purposes :), but there were a lot of cool things inside: choice of up to 8 IDE devices and 4 FDDs, the resources of which could be allocated in the bios, etc. It's a Hippo DCA2 from Octek.
  • It seems like we're getting to the point that one cannot do anything without being bombarded by a sickening load of advertising BS.

    Would it even be possible to disable this junk?

  • Come on, people. Stop whining. Ads are not so bad. Just look up at the top of this page. Slashdot.com does ad. I don't see you whine the ads here. You bunch of hypocrites.

    Actually, to me the fact that it's yet more advertising isn't the big deal. The fact that it's going to add unnecessary bloat to their BIOS is what I'm worried about.

    On a more vicseral level, the concept is so damned annoying! How would you like to have your dash display showing ads for Pennzoil or Texaco every time you started your car?

    Life is not about being some "buying profile" or data statistic. Just because corporations and ad agencies want to be able to save a few bucks "by more effectively targetting our advertising" or "building brand recognition" doesn't mean I have to sit around like a sheep and take it.

    (As for your comments about banner ads, they're a joke. There's a column at UseIT [useit.com] that says that clickthrough rates hover around 0.7% at this point, and other such articles say they decline by 25% every year. Slashdot might as well be getting free money from those companies for all of the benefit they're having...)

    Jay (=
  • I think I caught wind of a project to create a free GPL'ed BIOS. Of course you'd have to have the equipment to burn the chip. Anyone know anything more about that?
  • by Wee ( 17189 ) on Monday June 21, 1999 @01:34PM (#1840118)
    Your friend's Compaq is completely useable as a Linux box, and you can add whatever hardware you want. Go to Compaq's support web site. I don't know where you are coming from, but the U.S. support site [compaq.com] might be a good choice.

    You need to download the SoftPaq for your machine. Then run it, and it will make four floppies for you (you probably ought to have four good, formatted floppies ready to go, because if one step fails, you get to do the whole thing over again). When you get the disks done, boot from the first one.

    Now here is where my memory fails me slightly. At some point, you'll have to do an inventory-ish thing. The choice should be obvious, but if not, see Compaq's site for a FAQ (they have it somewhere, but I don't ahve the URL bookmarked). The deal will run, and you'll throw another of the disks in. When it's finished, you'll have what amounts to a complete, editable "snapshot" of the system. From this snapshot, you can change whatever setting you want. You just select the hardware and choose the resources you want. You also get to see a list of what's free, so it's pretty easy.

    I have an old Compaq Deskpro PPro 150 that I figured would make a good gateway machine. The only problem is that I needed to put in an additional NIC (incidentally, Bay/Netgear makes a 10/100 card called the FA310TX which has the Dec Tulip chipset; it's a great card, low CPU utilization, lot's of status indicators, and only costs about $25.00). The machine already has an onboard AMD ethernet interface, but both cards wanted IRQ 5. So I ran the SoftPaq, told it where to stick its IRQ, and everything is happy behind my gateway/firewall now. If I want to add more hardware, I just run the disks again.

    I agree that the floppies are a pain, and aren't as handy as a plain ROM BIOS in some cases (my battery goes dead and I'm covered). But that doesn't mean that the old Compaq sitting in the corner is useless.

    Now, booting from a floppy I don't know about. I've never bothered with that before. I'm sure it's doable, but I don't recall the SoftPaq's screen menus/features that well. It's been a while.


  • by PD ( 9577 )
    Maybe this will be just what that Free BIOS project needs as a kick start. Does anyone know about that project? Did it die?
  • Yes, they better be free, and there will probably be ways to change the ads too, like changing the damn cloud screen in windows. I would hope though that there are other alternatives, and that this is not the "wave of the future" where every company will follow. God damn, they always find a way to screw things up!!!
  • Hopefully an end-user will hack this so we can display custom images as boot time. I kind of like the penguin image I see in the virtual console boot. :) Imagine seeing that as you boot to Windows!

    Now, if only I could get the virtual console to work with 2.2.9 (vs. 2.3.6)...

  • There will be no way to change it.

    No company will pay money for an add that any idiot can change. Changing to boot/shutdown screens doesn't make you an 3L33T HaXoR, it means you can follow directions.

    If companies are willing to pay to put adds on BIOS (Flash EEPROMs), though there are ways of changing it, few people will really want to write their own flash utilities, and you know that Phoenix certainly wont help you.

  • Well, most current BIOSes are software based, rather than actually burned in to the ROM chip. and if you clear the BIOS, you only clear what's in the temporary section of the chip. I personally think that the whole idea is bullsh*t anyways.
  • What happens if this actually makes it to market and AOL puts their clickable ad on your "desktop." Then the average M$ user clicks on the ad and signs up for AOL service, giving the BIOS manufacturer a kick-back for the reference.

    Does the BIOS also have some kind of datafile that will tell AOL the type of hardware that you have on your system so they can accurately target you for return advertising?

    This is a giant snow-ball effect and I don't like it. I will do it (pay extra), but I do not think we (/.ers) should have to pay extra for a normal "white box" mobo.

  • So, you see, there's no hope but AMI. But for how long?
  • Typical flash which I use at work is about
    10k write. This is probably a moronic idea
    from some graduate from a Dogbert management
    They'd have to put the message on the hard disk
    but it'd be interesting to see how they'd write
    on an hopfs or ext2 partition since those morons
    probably think that winblows is the only thing
    that exists.
  • Actually, at the core of a p3 is the Pentium Pro, which was a RISC based core with additional (read: useless) instructions that slowed the whole load down. I think that all of that extra MMX crap could (should) be offloaded to a DSP.
  • ooopppsss! It was supposed to be hpfs not hopfs
    the o doesn't belong ...
  • Because its true? $1000 doesn't really put a dent in the TCO of a server...
  • Actually it's pretty slow. And the email to join is


    The list goes in spurts, but unfortunately gets caught up in planning. Everyone wants to do something different and nothing gets done. I'm working on a version of my own which I'll just put up and leave be, implementing ideas from the list and whatnot, but time is limited with the new family. :-)

    As for Mr. Timur's posts, I don't quite believe him. Yes there are a dozen different chipsets but a BX-supporting BIOS should support a BX chipset. an LX-supporting BIOS should support an LX chipset. Chip revs can be detected through testing for the faults. That's how Linux finds out about buggy controllers and the like. Also you can put the #IFDEFs in the source and have menu options, like how Linux works.

    It won't be a mainstream project but for what I do it will be a worthwhile diversion. Lowlevel code, system init, et al, is my bag, baby! :-)
  • No kidding. The "help" is always such a joke. You're not the only one who'd like to see this.


  • But it's worse than that- you need a BIOS to run your computer. You don't need a TV. It's like a captive audience.

    Well, you don't really need a computer, either, unless it's the controller for your iron lung or kidney dialysis machine...

  • It is a stunning comment that PC reboots have become so acceptable that Phoenix sees an opportunity to see ad space during POST Well, if you are running linux that shouldn't be nearly as often as the folks running M$ products. But I don't need to tell you that. d9
  • Nah, hell; let's just download a super optimized subset of the kernel into a chunk of the onbaord cache in our PPro+ chips... What were the 1MB cache PPro's going for again? $10k or so?
  • Actually, putting an icon on the desktop is a rather trivial task, given that you can figure out the format of a shortcut file. This can get quite interesting; I've personally placed executables into the network neighborhood by copying them into the appropriate directory.
  • Nobody's mentioned that you don't see the ad unless you reboot.

    This means even *more* incentive to write buggy code...

  • A while back (last summer I think), I had heard/read about an effort to show ads in the
    blank edges around the monitor image.

    I'm not sure about the technical details here.
    I had presumed that the limits of the monitor
    image define the range of the electron guns
    and that this could only be changed by the physical monitor controls. This scheme probably needs a software-changeable range or something like that.

  • Can you hardwire a link onto a windows desktop wihtout knowing how the software will be installed, where it might be located, what options will be turned on? I don't know that much about chips, but it doesn't seem possible.
  • Can you envision the day when PORN will be hardwired into chips so there will be no delay between clicking on pam&tom.avi and seeing pam&tom.avi? I mean... man! I just can't wait. I can't wait to get my Houston 500 chip.
  • It figures they'd find a way to do advertising,
    but not to give us a real system monitor in the
    With a system monitor, we would not need lilo
    for instance.
    Digital workstations, Sun workstations, all kinds
    of other equipment has a monitor ROM, and this is
    one thing that has always been lacking in Intel
  • Any suggestions on where I'd get my hands on a good FORTH turorial? You've intrigued me. :-)
  • I'm sitting in front of a compaq presario 2256 right now, running linux. everything worked except the modem, and I just replaced that. I've booted of floppies plenty of times, and all the linux distros will boot of the cd
  • "I never got the F10 thing."

    This is because the special Compaq partition was not present.

    You have to install this (from the Compaq floppy) before you setup your hard disk.

    However, you can always use the floppy to get into the BIOS setup. Don't expect much though...


  • Doesn't matter much to me. I'm so sick of seeing billboards, ads everywhere. I don't define myself as a pure consumer, I'd rather just not see all that stuff plastered everywhere. Some things in the world actually can exist without advertising attached, and I'm quite happy to pay to keep advertising out of my house.
  • It makes me laugh to see people buying things like brand-name aspirins, where on the shelf below is a bottle of aspirin sold at half the price. I can't understand why anyone thinks that aspirin is chemically different when sold by a company they've seen on the telly. Ditto almost every other product.

    Actually I like to support those who developed the drugs. The cheap knock-offs do the same thing, but they are certainly not the ones dumping money into development of new drugs.

    ... Not that I take a lot of drugs. My total drug consumption for last year was six or seven pills. I tend to suffer through a headache than pop a pill at the slightest twinge.
  • I'm sure they're working on it as we speak.
  • It's at http://f-cpu.tux.org/ [tux.org].
  • Anyone got an url for this open cpu project?
  • As you just pointed out, the BIOS "handles the initial bootstrap (loading the boot sector from the boot media)". Regardless of the OS the BIOS gets first control of the system. Unless you've invented a magic computer which can be boot-strapped from a disk without any knowledge of the underlying architecture of the system, including what kind of disk it is and where it is located, something will always get control of the system before the OS.

    This means that they can inflict ads on you before the OS has any control of the system. Your only options, as I see it, would be to buy non Phoenix BIOS m/b or to write your own BIOS.

    The other option is to /. Phoenix with our politely worded opions. They may listen; but face it, their after the millions of people that buy PCs from the neighborhood clone builder.

  • "Advertisements create revenue for businesses..." blah blah blah

    Yeah, it also tells them "Hey, advertisements work really really well!!" next thing you know cars will come with ads all over them when you buy them etc etc.. Woohoo that sure sounds fun doesn't it?

    "This is no different from any piece of merchandise you purchase that has the logo of the company on it...."

    The company's logo is bad enough much less everybody else's logo, and yes that IS a big difference regardless of what you think.

    "One big happy family right?" no.

    "Everyone's so concerned about the boot-up time wasted with advertisements. Get a grip. It's 5 extra seconds.........."

    5 seconds is too much, I want my computer booted up 10 seconds ago. Faster is good, I won't except slower it's just not one of the things I look for in a computer when I go out and buy one, get it?

    Mind if I re-direct all my spam to you? You seem to love it so much. You wouldn't mind would you? It's only what? 10-30 spam's a day? Nah no big deal.. Spam is good isn't it? bah.

  • "World Class BIOS Since 1989"? That's hardly new, is it?
  • I don't watch TV either, but I'm willig to sed TV ads because that's the only way public TV can be FREE.

    PS: free as in "free beer" of course :D
  • Here's the text of the note I sent to the nimrods at Phoenix:

    To whomever it may concern at Phoenix:

    I would just like you to know that I personally will ensure that not one dollar of our multi-million-dollar hardware budget (for which I make acquisition recommendations) pays for a machine with a Phoenix BIOS if your ebetween debacle sees the light of day.

    When I buy a PC, I do not grant rights to you to resell the facilities of that machine to advertisers. I fervently hope that when this fiasco turns into a backlash against your company from the corporate sector, the pea-brained marketing sludge that came up with this brain-turd will be LARTed into a lump-free paste.

  • I thought there were very few people who didn't watch TV...but we should start an online community....anyoune has a server to host it?

    freeoftv.org or something like it...I'm serious
  • would you really mind an ad on your odometer? I'd never thought about one going there, but if I could save $1000 on the price of a car by ocasionally finding a note from coke instead of 3 zeros (after an informative leading digit, that is!), then I'd be pleased with the deal.

    If Coke decided to pays $X toward my car purchase in exchange for getting to install a coke-ad-odometer, the one thing I can count on is that the Coca Cola Company is not $X in the hole. The money has to come from somewhere. The price of Coke will go up, and (assuming that the ad isn't a total waste) the total amount of Coke purchased will increase a bit.

    Does advertising really add to the the ultimate measure of the economy -- the Gross Universal Product? To some extent, it does, since it is genuinely useful for buyers to be informed about sellers. But let's face the facts: I have already heard about Coke. I am aware of the existence of that product. From this point onward, every single penny spent toward further informing/brainwashing me is net waste in the big economic picture. The Coca Cola Company may be able to increase its profits, but the amount of profit they make in the transaction is going to be a little bit less than the amount that I lose. In the long run, the waste just contributes to entropy.

    What makes an economy strong is production, not money flow. That is why some aspects of the economy, while appearing to be healthy to the naive, due to the volume of money flowing, are in fact useless or even harmful. Examples: over-advertising, Windows tech support, oil spill cleanups, and anything else resulting in (or from) the destruction of capital.


    If you read slashdot, you're benefitting from the fact that advertisers recognize slashdot's appeal. Would the nature of slashdot be different if it were sheerly a 'labor of (unpaid) love'? Maybe. But in that hypothetical world, how many of us would get to read it, and how much could Rob afford to spend on his hobby?

    I sincerely believe that if Rob solicited donations from Slashdot readers in exchange for dropping the ads, he would get the needed level of donations. Call me an optimist. :-)

  • This is a letter that I e-mailed to Phoenix Tech investor relations. I e-mail it to mary_ann_chirchill@phoenix.com. I think everyone against it should do the same, or else the other bios companies will get the same idea.

    I just thought I would take the time to tell you that I do not care for the idea of you selling advertisements on my computer when I boot it up. I will no longer buy any product that is associated with your company, and I will be contacting computer manufacturers telling them that I will not buy their product if it is in association with your company.
  • I agree, this is the kind of thing forth is for. Forth manages to keep close to the hardware and yet is a very high level language. Heck, CPU manufacturers use forth to test their chips. Forth has been used on bare chips.


  • BIOS is going the way of the dodo. It lags behind the capability of most modern ide devices. Most advanced computers don't use BIOS any more. ARC boot is already supported by many advanced platforms, it just hasn't trickled down to Intel based machines yet. Don't worry, we can break this BIOS habit soon enough. All we need is a little help from some friends . [sgi.com]
  • There is one problem with the internet download idea, if the computer is NOT connected to the internet at all then it is total worthless. (Yes, there still are some computers that are not connected. I own one of them). Also I kind of feel scared about my bios reflashing its self every so often. I kind of don't even like flashing it my self. I just wouldn't feel safe with it re-writing its self. Also, I don't really like the whole idea of wasting bandwith with a 53K modem for some add, when I can put it to better use. The motherboard should be free and come with a coupon for half off the chip if that is the case. Remember you're paying for the download time each time it does it.
  • What!?!?

    I was just at MR BIOS's website and there is no mention of ANY affiliation with Award/Phoenix. Also, there is no mention of affiliation between them on Phoenix or Awards site. Also, why would Award buy MR except for the old "buy out the competition" game plan.

  • Try www.forth.org [forth.org] for starters.

  • by cr0sh ( 43134 )
    Yeah, just what I want - a national government funded telivision system. Not only would the US Gov't be able to listen to everything you do or say (read: Echelon), but they could also show you everything you should say or do.

    Shades of Nazism?
  • No, there is no need for OpenBios, try learning what your talking about before you sound like a doult
  • While the idea of an advertising splash-screen at boot time is annoying, it might not be that bad. If there was some way to flash a new image into the BIOS, you could have (for example) a Tux splash screen at boot.

    However, the article implies that it could be more than that. According to the article, "an Internet-service provider such as America Online Inc. could theoretically put its sign up icon directly on the desktop of any PC that uses the Phoenix start-up software". Doesn't this imply that the BIOS would have Windows-specific code in it? I shudder at the implications for non-Windows users if the BIOS assumes that your OS is Windows, and tries to make system calls. Hell, I shudder a the implications for Windows lusers if this is true. The ultimate impossible-to-delete icon on your desktop. I think I see declining market share in Phoenix's future if this is true.
  • by Pasc ( 59 ) on Monday June 21, 1999 @02:47PM (#1840228)
    Contact the jerks to let 'em know what you think:

    Company Contact
    Toni Goodrich
    Phoenix Technologies Ltd.
    (408) 570-1000
    toni_goodrich@phoenix.com [mailto]

    Public Relations
    Kristin Jones
    Walt & Company Communications
    (408) 496-0900
    kjones@walt.com [mailto]

    Be nice, but let 'em know how you feel about this BS.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 21, 1999 @10:48AM (#1840230)
    Proof that Capitalism is the ultimate evil. Maybe next I can get advertisments on my car's odometer and possibly on toilet paper!! Joy!
  • While I am a lawyer this is not legal advice. If you need advice on this matter, see a lawyer in your own jurisdiction.

    The repercussions from this could be interesting . . .

    MS has made a habit of pulling licenses for windows from companies that modify the windows startup screens, taking the (peculiar?) position that the companies are distributors for microsoft.

    This won't work with the bios for a couple of reasons. The first is the lack of a contractual relationship with microsoft--microsoft doesn't have any threats to make, or contracts to claim it will enforce. The more interesting variation is that it puts microsoft in the same position w.r.t. Phoenix as Compaq was in with regard to microsoft--if the MS arguments are accepted, windows cannot tamper with the bios ads.

    curioser & curioser . . .

    hawk, esq.
  • Nah, most motherboards use flash ram for the BIOS. Just gotta create the image, and use the mobo's flash utility to store it.

    You're hosed if it doesn't work though!

  • by timur ( 2029 ) on Tuesday June 22, 1999 @01:28AM (#1840275)
    The real reason that an OpenBIOS can't work IS because all of the proprietary features that are kept top secret.

    Unfortunately, that's not enough. There are literally thousands of combinations. In addition, many motherboards ship with revisions of particular chips that have bugs in them, and there's often no way to tell through software alone whether a particular chip has a particular bug. But since the OEM's BIOS is hard-coded to a particular motherboard, it's not a problem for the OEM, since a simple #ifdef can enable to disable the software work-around.

    Trust me on this - even with all the specs open, a generic BIOS is just never going to happen.

    Timur Tabi
    Remove "nospam_" from email address

  • by Stavr0 ( 35032 ) on Monday June 21, 1999 @11:00AM (#1840284) Homepage Journal
    131072kb OK

    Hard drive detection
    [80] MXT-10000 10.2GB
    [83] ATAPI CD-ROM

    Still booting Windows ???
    Get a REAL Operating System!
    Linux. It's free. What are you waiting for?

    Starting MS-DOS ...
    - - -

  • by Piquan ( 49943 ) on Monday June 21, 1999 @11:01AM (#1840289)

    The article states that they are targeting the "white box" computers (the ones you and I build, and the ones that the small retail outlets build), instead of the big OEMs (Dell, Compaq, etc).

    I've been out of the building biz for a little while now, but last I recall, nearly every white box MB used an AMD or Award BIOS. I generally only see Phoenix on the big OEMs.

    What's up with this?

    Fourth law of programming: Anything that can go wrong wi

  • The most popular and growing forms of advertisement and product placement is most evident in material and media that we cannot avoid. Take a look at the ads that come with you phone and cable bills. Look along the side of the interstate in many areas. You can't really close your eyes whil you drive or write a check for the bill. You can't even go bowling without running into tons of beer ads! I won't even go into junk mail (e- and realtime)....
    I've even seen roadmaps, that you pay money for, sport ads on top of the "less important" sections of a city. Whereas advertisements used to make things cheaper for the consumer, it's now become an "extra" source of revenue in many types of necessary-to-view media. Yes, even Austin Powers (the spy who shagged me) probably would have left a bit better tast in everyone's mouth without blatant product placement :).....
    So, unavoidable ads are the hottest property on the block, and why would corporations pass up selling that type of ad space if they can provide it?
    When it gets down to it, the last thing I want to see in the mornings when I turn on my computer is a fscking ad for depends undergarments. It is my personal property, and the only property I own that carries tangible, baltant ads are magazines. (I do not own t-shirts that advertise, nor do I watch TV). Just because Phoenix has a widely used BIOS doesn't mean they should exploit thier customers like that! They make enough money from motherboard manufacturers now. If they want to make the bios'es for free in exchange for ads, the motherboard manufacturers probably wont pass on the savings to us, the consumers, the people who matter most.
  • by ilkahn ( 6642 )
    Just a quick question... being that this particular BIOS implementation, according to the article, is updateable via the internet (for revolving ads, new advertiser space, whatever...) would this not juts be an amazing place for a virus/trojan/work/whatever! Imagine that... the one thing that people had always conceptualized would be safe on their computers, the BIOS, is now officially open to attack from crackers! These are trully great times we live in kids, take note!
  • Maybe I'm the only one here, but I'd like to see a REAL help system in a BIOS. Every BIOS I've seen that has a help feature just gives you a list of the possible options for a feature. What I want is a short descripion of what a feature is and what reason a person would have to enable or disable it. It is just not very helpful to get to an option menu on a BIOS and find something like PMAS and a "help menu" of "Yes/No".

    Of course that is just one example, there are gobs of things you could do with that extra space besides putting in Windows specific advertising (modifiying the filesystem from the BIOS?!? Yuck!).
  • Great, so now my BIOS is *regularly* flashed so I can see new ads next time I reboot. The virus writers will love this. They just have their virus patch the bios.bin file and take over your BIOS. Lovely.
  • by DonkPunch ( 30957 ) on Monday June 21, 1999 @11:10AM (#1840317) Homepage Journal
    Technically, I'm curious how they will pull off a working signup icon in the BIOS. A splash screen is one thing, but something that actually interacts with the OS?

    I wonder if the "icon" would kick in before the operating system. In order to work like this, the code for initializing the modem, dialing, connecting, etc. would have to be in the BIOS as well. I don't see that happening.

    Alternatively, forcibly putting an icon on the desktop in Windows requires specific Win32 calls. Putting that in the BIOS sounds like quite a task. Not to mention you run the risk of shipping computers that won't boot unless Windows is installed.

    I could be wrong, but I think the article may have taken some liberty with the notion of a working AOL Signup icon in the BIOS. I'm not saying it CAN'T be done, but that idea just sounds like a tremendous pain.
  • Don't know about a web page, but there's an active mailing list full of people working to write a free BIOS for most PC like motherboards. You can subscribe to this mailing list by sending the word "subscribe openbios" in the body of a mail message to:


    This is a worthy project. Please don't subscribe and immediately start asking stupid questions, just sit back and watch the flow. I've never posted a message there because I'm not a BIOS hacker... if you're not a BIOS hacker either, but are curious, you're probably welcome as a lurker. Serious BIOS hackers are probably most welcome contributors. Either way, please respect the users' of this list by helping to keep their S/N ratio down!
  • by tuffy ( 10202 ) on Monday June 21, 1999 @11:12AM (#1840323) Homepage Journal
    Store-bought cases and keyboards are already littered with stickers advertising websites, online services, and all sorts of assorted crap. With the margins on PCs being what they are, it's inevitable that someone is going to try and squeeze every last ounce of advertising space out of every new computer in order to make a buck.

    But I expect we'll find hacks to replace such images within a week of their appearance. Windows users will be paying $10 for shareware programs to flash the BIOS with their favorite picture, Word macro viruses will try to install offensive imagery in peoples' BIOSes, Linux users will see Tux at startup, BSD folks will be seeing the daemon, etc. etc.

    Welcome to the future :)

  • Check out Gigabyte's DualBIOS feature in at least one of their newer boards: http://www.giga-byte.com/gigabyte-web/dualb.htm Looks like a useful thing to have while playing with hacked BIOSes.
  • by Crag ( 18776 ) on Monday June 21, 1999 @11:18AM (#1840331)
    They seem to be moving from
    http://www.freiburg.linux.de/OpenBIOS/ [linux.de] to
    http://openbios.org/ [openbios.org].
  • ... so it's unclear whether switching to Award would save you from the demons. See this [phoenix.com] for proof of ownership, but there's no doubt other places as well.
  • by jandrese ( 485 ) <kensama@vt.edu> on Monday June 21, 1999 @11:23AM (#1840335) Homepage Journal
    Most BIOSes have ROM backup on the motherboard. You can reset it by setting a jumper or flipping a dip switch if something goes wrong, so you won't necessarily be hosed if your BIOS gets destroyed. However, there is a caveat: a hosed BIOS can do destructive things to your HD, fortunatly it is unlikely.
  • You watch TV, don't you? Aren't you plastered w/ ads every so few minutes?
    No, I don't, and no, I'm not.

    You shouldn't assume that everyone buys into the spamvert mentality. Not everyone is a prisoner of the American consumerist claptrap you're talking about, whether because of their geography or because they prefer something other than a lie-down-and-vege-out plug-in drug.

    In short, we do not all live in a Brave New World of pervasive mind-control through spamverts, and those of us who have willfully absented ourselves from that particular horror shall not be dragged kicking and screaming into it. We'll kick the face of the spamverts. Mark my words.

    ``Contempt, rather than celebration, is the proper response to advertising and the system that makes it possible.'' --Neil Postman
    And no, I'm not trying to stop people from making a living through honest commerce. It's the `oh boy let's torture the captive' thing I won't tolerate. It's like something out of A Clockwork Orange. I've written a bit more about adverts in my web diversity [perl.com] guidelines.
  • There have already been virus attacks which take out the Flash bios on motherboards. It takes out the motherboard permanently unless the chip is socketed.
  • We already can do this. There are programs that let you change the EPA logo the BIOS normally displays to something else. My system displays an "Evil Inside" logo when it boots, mocking Intel. It's cool.
  • Woops
    Award, Ami, and Mr. Bios are all on my good list now.

    Try looking at this page http://www.ptltd.com/pcuser/ [ptltd.com]

    It says "Phoenix Technologies Ltd., which has merged with Award Software..."

    Seems, your list just got shorter

  • Since you have on-board AMD ethernet, I'm guessing that you have a Deskpro XL, which is an EISA machine. Most EISA computers have the "four floppies" (aka the EISA Config program) on a small partition at the beginning of the disk. Just press F10 on a Compaq when the cursor flashes in the upper left corner.

    While you're at it, you might want to upgrade your BIOS. Newer EISA BIOSes allow you to config plug-n-play ISA cards right in the Config program.

    Some non-EISA Compaqs also have a 'system partition' which runs a different config program. Others run from the ROM in the traditional fashion. Either way, on a correctly set up Compaq, F10 is your friend.

The cost of feathers has risen, even down is up!