Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Google Chromebook Root (Dev Mode)

Developer-mode BIOS switch location on Samsung 

Written by: Dietrich T. Schmitz

There seems to be a kerfuffle in the works with this post and I might add some confusion regarding Google's Chromebook BIOS.

The problem begins with the title: "Don't like Secure Boot?, Don't buy a Chromebook."

First off, Google have seen fit to aggressively pursue adoption of an open bios specification.  The Chromebook uses Coreboot, formerly known as LinuxBIOS.

The article's title by itself is a bit sensationalistic and might raise some concern triggered by the implied message that Chromebooks use Secure Boot.  They don't.

The difference is that while Coreboot has similar CRC checkpoints in the bootstrap process called Verified Boot, Google's documentation for unlocking (rooting) your Chromebook is quite clear.

Add to that, Google has designed into the hardware a side panel switch (or under the battery if you are using an original Cr-48) which let's anyone override the Verified boot process.

[Edit: A comment on the G+ side from +Shawn W Dunn drew my attention to the fact that Samsung's ARM Chromebook uses a 'virtual switch' in place of a physical switch.  More info here.]

From the Coreboot website:

coreboot is a Free Software project aimed at replacing the proprietaryBIOS (firmware) found in most computers. coreboot performs a little bit of hardware initialization and then executes additional boot logic, called a payload.
With the separation of hardware initialization and later boot logic, coreboot can scale from specialized applications that run directly from firmware, run operating systems in flash, load custom bootloaders, or implement firmware standards, like PC BIOS services or UEFI. This allows for systems to only include the features necessary in the target application, reducing the amount of code and flash space required.
coreboot currently supports over 230 different mainboards. Check theSupport page to see if your system is supported.
coreboot was formerly known as LinuxBIOS.

And that is a big difference when comparing Windows certified equipment to Google Chromebooks from any of the current four OEMs, Samsung, Acer, Lenovo, and HP.

(You may or may not have luck obtaining technical support from the retail concern where you purchased your Windows certified Windows 8 PC on unlocking Secure Boot.)

Dietrich T. Schmitz, Your Linux Advocate
Good Luck. --Dietrich

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