Red Hat's Mexican standoff: Job cuts? Yes, but we still need someone to boot Linux

Time for some fresh GRUB

Although it's not long after job cuts at Red Hat, the company's team in Mexico is looking for a developer to work on the Linux bootloader stack.

The role has been open for a couple of weeks, but if you fancy your chances, it's worth a go. Red Hat software engineer director Christan Schaller tweeted the role last week.

As we reported over a year ago, there was a proposal to drop legacy BIOS boot support from Fedora. It proved to be wildly controversial, and it did not in fact happen. Amid the many, many comments in various places, it emerged that many hypervisors still default to BIOS booting, with UEFI boot support a non-default option, including Reg FOSS desk favorite VirtualBox. Even in VirtualBox 7.0, the manual calls its EFI support "experimental":

Oracle VM VirtualBox includes experimental support for the Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI), which is an industry standard intended to replace the legacy BIOS as the primary interface for bootstrapping computers and certain system services later.

More significantly, though, many public cloud vendors also default to BIOS booting of their VM instances out there on someone else's computers… and for some of them, enabling UEFI boot is either still in beta or remains an extra-cost option.

More recently, a discussion on the Fedora-Devel mailing list proposed a remarkable workaround: using the existing U-Boot firmware, most often seen on Arm-based systems, to emulate UEFI on BIOS systems. U-Boot already has a native x86-64 version so that's not a problem. The idea is that if a machine defaults to "legacy boot," meaning a BIOS-style boot, then use that to load U-Boot, which then provides a software emulation of UEFI so that the startup process can be simplified by the removal of BIOS support.

One of the drivers for UEFI support, and thus the removal of legacy BIOS support in modern PCs, is that technologies such as Secure Boot require UEFI. As this 2017 Intel presentation [PDF] shows, Intel too would like to get rid of the legacy BIOS. It makes for an amusing read.

In turn, recent versions of Windows require that PCs are at least capable of Secure Boot, although a year ago we pointed at ways to work around that.

Red Hat's bootloader team currently maintains a large set of patches against the GRUB2 boot loader. The repository has a prominent notice:

This is not upstream; please send code upstream first

Which is followed by a link to the upstream GNU GRUB2 project. We also note that lead developer Daniel Kiper works at Oracle. A Red Hatter told us that the process of getting patches reviewed and accepted into upstream is painfully slow, but we are sure that that's not due to any rivalry between the companies. Even so, maybe a new full-time developer on the IBM Hat side of the fence could help to move things along. ®

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