I had not thought I would (ever?) say this, but I’ve got a warm fuzzy feeling for Dell right now. They have done something no other computer manufacturer has done before: they’ve released a 100% GPL’ed solution for upgrading the BIOS on their systems, pretty much across the entire product line. Yes, that includes laptops, workstations and servers.
I’ve tried it on a PE600SC thousands of miles away, and it worked, just like that. No rebooting with dos floppies, no crappy proprietary tools, just a plain in-band upgrade & reboot. Very, very nice.
The way the upgrade is done is actually pretty clever. You need 2 kernel modules (included in 2.6.14 and higher), and some userspace tools downloadable from the link above. The userspace tools essentially load the rom image into RAM, and then flip a bit in the CMOS of the computer to tell it to reload its BIOS upon reboot.
Simple, elegant, and 100% free software. Of course, as it is, one would still use these tools to load a proprietary bios, but presumably this makes the work of the Linuxbios people somewhat easier. Linuxbios apparently focusses mostly on AMD these days, but since Forbes seems to think we’ve got Dells with AMD inside coming our way…