Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

BIOS Flash update under linux.

Filed under
Linux

I figured it was finally time to do a BIOS update on one of my main Linux boxes. The MSI NF 980-G65 AMD motherboard came with an AMI BIOS dated September 2009. This MSI motherboard is based on the NVidia NForce 980a chipset, and has built-in NVidia GeForce 8300 video (which I do not use).

Powering up this system has always been a little flaky, requiring a couple of reset-button presses before it would boot into Linux (it would hang at the BIOS splash screen). After boot-up, the system always ran great.

Alright, so on to the BIOS update. MSI has the live update online program which requires, of course, Microsoft Windows, and the Internet Explorer browser. Well, I don't have these on this system, and don't want to put them on it.

In the AMI BIOS setup program, I see the M-Flash option. I try this, but can't get it to work. Some research on the Internet indicates that it's very likely you'll wreck your BIOS using M-Flash anyway, so that's out.

After googling about, I finally go to this site to see how to flash a motherboard bios from linux with no DOS, no MS Windows, and no floppy-drive.

This technique involves getting a freedos DOS floppy boot image, mounting this floppy image temporarily using mount loop, copying the flash exe and rom files to the mouted floppy image, and burning this to a CD. So you end up with a bootable DOS CD with your two flashing files on it. You then boot your computer from the CD and flash your motherboard.

This all works fine, and I flash the motherboard with the new BIOS version.

Upon reboot, the system seems sluggish, and I can't boot into a GUI. After reading the error messages when I try startx, I see that the nvidia blob driver is trying to use the built-in NVidia card rather than my slotted PCI-E NVidia GeForce 460 card.

Back into the BIOS setup--set the PCI-E as primary, and disable the SLI hybrid setting.

OK, reboot, and I now have a GUI. But it's incredibly sloooooow. It's so slow, I can't re-size a konsole terminal. Turning off desktop effects compositing helps a little, but I finally see what everyone is complaining about with slow NVidia-KDE4 performance. But come on! After all, this is an NVidia GeForce GTX 460 256-bit memory 1024 GDDR5 ram card here. I spent over $200 on this card because I use the system for video editing.

I go to the KDE NVidia performance tuning site and read all the info. I copy and paste this stuff into the device section of my /etc/X11/xorg.conf file:
------------------------------------------------
Option "RenderAccel" "true"
Option "UseEvents" "false"
Option "TripleBuffer" "1"
Option "DamageEvents" "1"
Option "BackingStore" "1"
Option "PixmapCacheSize" "70000"
Option "OnDemandVBlankInterrupts" "true"
-------------------------------------------------

Reboot, and this does the trick! My system performance is back to normal. But, remembering back when I built this box, I bought very fast rated memory, so I went back into the BIOS setup and optimized the RAM timings. Now, I have a system faster than I ever had before. And the icing on the cake is, it's very, very stable. Boot problems are gone. No freezes or lockups.

It is a mystery to me why the BIOS update initially screwed-up the NVidia video performance.

More in Tux Machines

In wake of Anonabox, more crowdsourced Tor router projects make their pitch

Last week, Ars reported on the story of Anonabox, an effort by a California developer to create an affordable privacy-protecting device based on the open source OpenWRT wireless router software and the Tor Project’s eponymous Internet traffic encryption and anonymization software. Anonabox was pulled from Kickstarter after accusations that the project misrepresented its product and failed to meet some basic security concerns—though its developers still plan to release their project for sale through their own website. But Anonabox’s brief campaign on Kickstarter has demonstrated demand for a simple, inexpensive way to hide Internet traffic from prying eyes. And there are a number of other projects attempting to do what Anonabox promised. On Kickstarter competitor Indiegogo there’s a project called Invizbox that looks almost identical to Anonabox—except for the approach its team is taking to building and marketing the device. Read more

Debian Now Defaults To Xfce On Non-x86 Desktops

Back in September Debian switched back to the GNOME desktop by default in place of Xfce for the upcoming Debian 8.0 "Jessie" release. However, as of today, the non-x86 versions of Debian have flip-flopped once again back to Xfce. Debian switched back to GNOME in September over reasons dealing with accessibility, systemd integration, and other factors when seeing what was the best fit to be the default for Debian 8 Jessie. However, now for platforms aside from x86 and x86_64, Xfce has returned to the default over poor experiences in using the GNOME Shell. Read more

Phoenix Is Trying To Be An Open Version Of Apple's Swift

Apple unveiled the Swift programming language at this year's WWDC event but sadly it's still not clear whether Apple will "open up" the language to let it appear on non-Apple platforms. Swift is built atop LLVM and designed to be Apple's successor to Objective-C in many regards while suppoorting C/Obj-C/Obj-C++ all within a single program. With non-Apple folks being interested in the language, it didn't take long before an open-source project started up around it. Ind.ie has today announced their Phoenix project that aims to be a free and open version of Apple's Swift programming language. The work is being led by Greg Casamento who is also the leader of GNUStep, the common open-source implementation of Apple's Cocoa frameworks. Read more

Google Chromebook quietly takes aim at the enterprise

Google's Chromebook is a cheap alternative to a more expensive Windows or Mac PC or laptop, but up until recently it lacked any specific administrative oversight tools for enterprise IT. While IT might have liked the price tag, they may have worried about the lack of an integrated tool suite for managing a fleet of Chromebooks. That's changed with release of Chromebook for Work, a new program designed to give IT that control they crave for Chromebooks. Read more