MSI claims the BIOS has its days numbered, this time for real

By on June 10, 2010, 6:56 AM
Depending on your background you may hate the BIOS, you may completely disregard its existence, or perhaps you have grown accustomed to it and learned how to tweak it. The motherboard BIOS has evolved over the last decade to accommodate many enthusiast-oriented settings, while at the same time it has changed very little.

This is certainly not the first time someone claims the BIOS as we know it is going the way of the dodo, and then nothing happens. Back in 2003 I wrote a short piece titled "Writing an end to the bio of BIOS," describing Intel and Microsoft’s work on a replacement called EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface) that was set to become the new industry standard. Except for Itanium-based machines, Linux and Intel Macs, you know how that went for the average Windows computer.


Now MSI is claiming that a new revision of the same initiative (UEFI) will start to appear on motherboards before the end of the year, bringing a point-and-click interface to newer platforms beginning with Intel's upcoming Sandy Bridge chipset. UEFI is supposed to bring more flexibility compared to the aging BIOS, the former is developed in the C language while the legacy BIOS uses Assembly. But perhaps most importantly, storage giant Seagate has hinted that the adoption of UEFI will be "essential" for using hard drives larger than 2TB, a kind of limitation not seen before by the BIOS. Considering that 1TB hard drives are going for as low as $40 these days, it won't be long until multiple terabyte drives become mainstream.

Manufacturers have often claimed that EFI adds an unnecessary layer of complexity given the little improvements it brings, but in the era of 32nm transistors that can switch on and off over 300 billion times in one second, how difficult can this truly be? Without meaning to open the boot time floodgates, I'll just say I wish we already had an instant booting computer that welcomed you with a full resolution splash screen and not the legacy VGA-res boot screen we've been looking at for over two decades.




User Comments: 20

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Guest said:

the more important question is

will it just be a UI update or better options/ease of use?

KG363 KG363 said:

Didn't people hate EFI on the few board it was on? I don't know because I wasn't an "enthusiast" at the time.

I hope the changes are many. I HATE the bios

Richy2k9 said:

hello ...

the BIOS being visited only once in while didn't cause me any problem, for when i used to build systems for my former customers, it was a 1st time configuration & backup then after only a few tweaks or temporary modifications for troubleshooting purposes.

If it is to be replaced to be more efficient & to meet new requirements fine but like 'Guest' said, it must not be ONLY a UI update.

cheers!

techtonic techtonic said:

i mean whats the point in changing the bios.......No one is gonna compute or do gaming with it.......

Docnoq said:

I see no real need to change the BIOS either. The only 'problems' I have with the current BIOS is you have to restart your system to access it, and some of the options have vague descriptions. I usually have no need to change most or any of the settings in the BIOS anyhow, so the aforementioned aren't exactly problems.

If the UEFI will allow quicker boot-ups and be accessible from inside Windows then it will be useful. Otherwise, I think their efforts could be better spent elsewhere.

CMH, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

If it aint broke, don't fix it.

As far as I'm concerned, if it doesn't lead to any sort of improvement other than GUI, I don't really care. These improvements can be in the form of faster bootup, safer flashing (although this seems moot with backup BIOSes), lots of other USEFUL features, etc.

Although, if a need to update the BIOS to this to support >2TB HDDs, I'm reluctantly up for it.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

From what I remember when this whole UEFI program got underway, it's supposed to provide an easier alternative to BIOS, that is more accessible and configurable... With all of the new technology hitting at a rapid pace, the average (or below average) consumer can see a required BIOS update as a rather daunting task... As I recall, the UEFI is supposed to be easier to implement and update.

PanicX PanicX, TechSpot Ambassador, said:

It'd be awesome if they added accessibility via network, like the interfaces for routers and networked printers, and included some options like forced restart.

Timonius Timonius said:

My concern is the switch from Assembly languange to C. As far as I can remember, from my good old computer science days, anything written in Assembly is far more efficient even if the language looks more complex. Introducing C will open the path to a BIOS/UEFI that has more code behind it and, yes, a more easily expandable program. But introducing more 'stuff' into it kind of defeats the purpose of the BIOS/UEFI. It should be the most 'basic' confiigurations to boot up as fast as possible into your OS. An update to the GUI is neat but not necessary.

Tedster Tedster, Techspot old timer....., said:

there comes a point when so many changes, even in computing land, yield to customer confusion and consequently consumer avoidance. I agree with cmh - if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Without a significant and noticeable improvement by consumers, this will be a loser. The improvement should be radical in order to be even considered successful.

Guest said:

(different guest to first one)

totally agree, if its not broke dont fix it.

Why would anyone want a full resolution splash screen, its the first thing you have to turn off so you get to see the useful things its covering up.

Having a mouse in the BIOS seems completely unnecessary to me, means one more thing to plug in when your trying to diagnose problems and stuff.

Afterall I despise AMIBIOS because it "feels oemish" but I guess we will see what happens.

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

well if you get a full resolution splash screen...I'm in! <<<< sarcasm

Guest said:

What most people don't seem to get is, this is not an update to your current BIOS. This is a new architectural design, meaning you will need hardware for this, you cannot just flash your BIOS and upgrade it with this new one.

Furthermore, if you want to be using HDD's that are bigger than 2TB, your current BIOS will not support it. This is a design limitation which cannot be fixed, except by redesigning the BIOS from scratch.

9Nails, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I'm with Timonius on this one. I thought that, Assembly > C

And I took C in college!

My belief on this is that its harder to write in Assembly, so it might be harder to find and train new help for writing BIOS code.

Improving BIOS with Assembly might seem like the natural was yo go - "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." That's so true cmh! But if it wont work, and I can't see why at this point, with 2TB hard drives then I guess change is needed and C is a good alternative. At first moving to C seems inefficient, but as Julio points out, transistors are so dang fast that you need micro seconds many numbers deep behind the decimal point to measure the performance gains. Yet another case where faster hardware gives a luxury to write large sloppy code!

Guest said:

i dont know what kind of bios i got but this asus mobo came with funny options when i boot up including skype and games ???

wierd

Guest said:

My concern, I don't want something easily "hacked" and loaded with some lower level keystroke logger, hooked to a NIC. It needs to be properly isolated or some form of secure BIOS integrity check built-in. Yes if change will make it better, why not. But not if it'll add yet another attack vector.

jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

My concern is the switch from Assembly languange to C. As far as I can remember, from my good old computer science days, anything written in Assembly is far more efficient even if the language looks more complex.
[just as background] Having worked in this area for a decade, that is just not true. Disassembling C into the asm equivalent shows that C code is very good and could have been better by less than 2% but even that would have required an exceptional program - joe average would never come up with the better source code.

Night Hacker Night Hacker said:

If it needs to be updated for practical reasons, like for supporting larger hard drives, good, do it, but I don't see why there is a need for flashy graphics and a mouse interface. This is something you won't be seeing at all except to tweek / install new hardware. The current system has been in place so long because it works, period.

I can just picture new users... "oooh, this is pretty... point...click... crash..." heads to computer tech "my computer stopped working and I don't know why".... right now, as things are, newbies are too scared to go anywhere near the bios, this is a good thing.

Night Hacker Night Hacker said:

Just a note on the asm vs C debate, I honestly don't see a difference these days. If a programmer is talented enough to write a BIOS than I doubt there will be any noticable difference in speed between the two these days. C is a very low level language, it's very fast, that's why it was so popular. It's easy to write and compiles to very fast code. In the hands of a talented programmer you won't see a difference in speed. Perhaps back in the days of 286 CPUs you might consider ASM but not anymore. There's nothing "sloppy" about C, it's just easier to read and would be easier to catch any errors. In C for example, to increment that value of a variable you could write:

A++;

That's easy to read, easy to understand and it compiles down to the exact same code as assembly.

Guest said:

Personally i would welcome a change. Who cares if you need new hardware. It's not like you're going to be able to keep your current hardware much longer if it stayed bios.

Plus UEFI is much faster then bios. 1-2 seconds until os takes over. I think any user can appreciate faster start up times.

I think the graphical interface looks really cool.

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