Showing posts from April, 2019

Broadcom BCM5719 libre firmware coming real soon

Posting from the Southern Hemisphere today, kudos to reader Mark J who sent in a heads-up on the progress the Ortega project has done on reverse-engineering the Broadcom BCM5719's firmware. If that number sounds familiar, it's because it's the very same NIC in the Talos II and Blackbird (see a photograph) and one of the few places left in the Talos family that binary blobs are required. Apparently, the reverse engineering effort is now believed sufficient to create a clean-room implementation.

And where is that implementation? Why, on Github, of course. As of this writing the current firmware is a work in progress, but now that the chip is much better understood it's very likely work will move much more quickly.

The BCM5719 is an interesting chip internally, implementing MIPS II (!) cores that apparently were once part of the receive and transmit machinery but are now mostly relegated to autoconfiguration-like tasks. A MIPS core exists for each port, but only a single application processor engine (APE) is present per chip. Hugo Landau's work on figuring out how to talk to the APE, the most essential component any open-source driver would need to interface with as it implements the sideband interface, is nothing short of heroic. A particularly noteworthy deficiency he discovered was that even though the firmware image for the APE's ARM Cortex-M3 has an RSA signature, nothing actually checks it! That would seem like a terrible rookie mistake on Broadcom's part but it's great news for us. A hearty congratulations to everyone's hard work on a very necessary project.

ArchLinux on POWER9

Another option is available for Linux on the Talos: Arch Linux. Although officially x86_64, alpha installation ISOs are now available which apparently "just work" on the Talos II. No word yet on available packages but if you like your Linux lean and mean on your machine that cost you much green, you'll like what we've seen. (I'll be here all week. Try the veal.) Update: The maintainer has a site up.

Blackbird delayed to May

On Twitter Raptor is reporting that due to supply chain disturbances from the USA-China trade spat, the lower-cost POWER9 Blackbird's ship date has been set back again, this time to around May 15. Raptor states the parts are finally in and logic board manufacturing is beginning, so we can assume this date is reasonably firm. However, functional Blackbird prototypes already exist on this side of the Pacific as evidenced by their additional offer of remote access for software testing, which Raptor says are "identical in all ways except HDMI DDC wiring," and sounds similar to the prototype we saw at SCaLE 17x. That bodes well for good operating system support at launch, which will be particularly critical for the lower-cost "tiny Talos" and hopefully its resulting larger audience. Ours is on order for review; with any luck we're near the first in line!