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Frequenty Asked Questions about Dasharo

What is Dasharo?

Dasharo is registered trademark and product developed by 3mdeb.

Dasharo is an open-source firmware distribution focusing on:

Dasharo consists of productized services, set of open-source repositories, and quality control which help to provide scalable, modular, easy to combine open-source BIOS, UEFI, and firmware solutions. It offers the components that are needed to develop and maintain a high quality, and modular firmware, for the stability and security of your platform.

For individuals Dasharo provides optional features in subscription model called Dasharo Entry Subscription.

Why 3mdeb created Dasharo?

3mdeb created Dasharo to establish a recognized brand with a proven history of successful firmware integrations. Dasharo aims to deliver added value to customers and the community as an open-source firmware distribution, such as transparent validation, long-term maintenance, bleeding-edge integration for modern hardware, and other products requested by the community and customers.

3mdeb has been providing services related to open-source firmware for years and has been asked multiple times by various parties to create a recognized brand. Therefore, the creation of Dasharo was a move to fulfill that need and establish a marketing vehicle to deliver value to customers.

In addition, 3mdeb plans to provide a camp for all coreboot refugees, including platforms moved to branches due to the need for code evolution, such as Intel Intel Quark SoC deprecation and LEGACY_SMP_INIT & RESOURCE_ALLOCATOR_V3. We want to provide solutions for those requiring long-term maintenance and firmware support. More elaborate explanation of our position you can find below.

Dasharo typically supports fully open platforms like Raptor Computing Systems Talos II family, ASUS KGPE-D16, and other which are not as open but provide modern computing experience, such as MSI PRO Z690-A DDR4/DDR5. The goal is to provide a reliable, secure, and scalable firmware solution for a wide range of platforms and applications, aligning with the vision of a new golden age of computing advocated by experts in computer architecture.

What Dasharo provides?

Dasharo has 10 rules that govern the production and release of firmware within its ecosystem. Dasharo rules define what we deliver with every release. These rules are:

  1. Every release of firmware produced by Dasharo Ecosystem must contain source code, binary, SHA256 hash, and Dasharo cryptographic signature of that hash.
  2. Dasharo Universe contains structured documentation for key activities related to open-source firmware life-cycle: initial deployment, update and recovery.
  3. Cryptographic keys hierarchy should be followed:

    Keys can be found in 3mdeb-secpack repository.

  4. Every release of firmware produced by Dasharo Ecosystem must have an attached test report according to requirements. Every test should be described by test specification documentation.

  5. Customer-specific Dasharo validation procedures are delivered with the release notes directly to the customer and does not have to be publicly available.
  6. Every firmware produced by Dasharo Ecosystem use Semantic Versioning 2.0.0 compatible versioning scheme. For details please check description.
  7. Every firmware produced by Dasharo Ecosystem should use Keep A Changelog 1.0.0 compatible scheme as changelog format.
  8. Every Dasharo firmware release should be delivered with integrity and signature verification procedures.
  9. Every Dasharo firmware release must contain a detailed description of components and links to the range of code changes since the last release.
  10. Dasharo Ecosystem uses open-source software to create and maintain its firmware solutions, and the company strives to maintain transparency in its processes and procedures.

These 10 rules are designed to ensure that every release of firmware produced by Dasharo Ecosystem is reliable, secure, and meets the needs of customers and the community. By following these rules, Dasharo Ecosystem provides a consistent and high-quality firmware solution for a wide range of platforms and applications.

What is Dasharo binary blob policy?

Modern x86 platforms' firmware requires closed source blobs to be integrated into the image to properly initialize the silicon. The ecosystem is shifting towards designs and technologies with a lot of small microcontrollers and intellectual property (IP) blocks specialized in a very thin range of tasks. Those microcontrollers and IP blocks typically require firmware blobs as well. Some of the blobs are clearly visible, some may be obfuscated and hidden inside the silicon or other firmware blobs (e.g. Intel Management Engine region contains multiple other blobs besides the ME firmware - more about Intel ME blob).

So Dasharo's binary blob policy is as follows:

Integrate only the necessary amount of blobs required for proper platform operation and minimize the amount of blobs that are optional whenever possible by providing open equivalent implementations or removing them if there is no functional impact on the platform operation. Ultimately the blobs should be attested and properly documented. Dasharo Team is trying to achieve it by working on firmware SBOMs.

Dasharo also works without blobs on platforms that allow that. For example, ASUS KGPE-D16 can run without any blobs (officially there is no PSP on that hardware, and Opteron 6200 series CPUs can run without microcode patches). There is also a libre, POWER9-based server/workstation Talos II by Raptor Computing Systems, which also do not use any binary blobs, however it is more expensive than x86 platforms.

Why Dasharo?

Open-source firmware ecosystem problems

Every open-source project has its own internal dynamics, history and politics. We are always looking for a solution that endorse non-aggression principle and peaceful coexistence, which hopefully will allow everyone to compete based on the same rules. We believe that market is big enough for all players and, if not we should make market bigger, not fight for every possible piece causing collateral damage.

Eventually, in the community, we are all human beings, including all our good and bad features. In some cases, sympathy and antipathy cause unexpected dynamics. This impacts every community.

We also should be aware that the open-source ecosystem is a place of OPSEC and PSYWAR techniques use, which leads to redirecting energy and resources into directions that make open-source community activity less competitive.

In our opinion, massive energy is wasted in the open-source firmware community because of incorrect focus, like religious flame wars about philosophical principles, security paranoia without having an idea of threat modeling, or revolutionary ideas and plans for how to overthrow multibillion-dollar industry overlords. Although we may enjoy discussion during Dasharo open-source firmware vPubs during everyday job would like to focus on delivering value to those who can vote by choosing open-source firmware/hardware/ISA based product to help change the computer industry.

Overall there is no economy around open-source firmware, and nobody seems to care much about that. It impacts the upstreaming process, the number of contributors, and reviewers. There are huge players with their own interests, small open-source firmware vendors like 3mdeb and community members essentially working for free. Without middle-size companies standing behind open-source firmware-based products, not much will change. To fill the space between big players and small boutique dev companies, we have to have products with the volume on the market because the hardware market understands only sales volumes, nothing else.

We want to work on changing the above paradigms or at least improve the state-of-the-art relation in the community to the level where threats will have a reasonably small impact. We believe that open-source firmware is a critical tool, which should be used consciously to ensure privacy and liberty.

What is open-source firmware distribution?

Dasharo is 3mdeb's firmware distribution and all its components are open-source. We provide releases in binary form. As you know in most cases on x86 for firmware to be useful it has to cooperate with closed blobs. In all binary releases we are making sure we provide information where all components are coming from.

Dasharo works without blobs on platforms that allow that. When we are saying Dasharo open-source firmware distribution we mean code that is delivered by 3mdeb that is open-source. We have no influence on the code provided by 3rd parties (e.g. FSP, ME, GbE etc.).

In coreboot community there was some controversy about calling Dasharo open-source firmware distribution (for details please check gerrit review). We respect coreboot community opinion, so we agreed that in case of coreboot documentation it would be better to use open-source based firmware distribution. It doesn't mean we agree with that decision:

  • Definitions and rules used in coreboot documentation review are not clear.
  • Rules seem not to be applied equally to all contributors of coreboot distribution.

Why Dasharo is not called coreboot firmware distribution?

While the coreboot is now the default open-source framework for Dasharo, we do not want to limit Dasharo to one framework. We also expect another firmware frameworks to be a base for Dasharo, such as U-Boot, oreboot, Slim Bootloader, or pure EDK II.

Moreover, coreboot is not enough in most cases for booting modern computer. Most Dasharo flavors are currently based on coreboot with EDK II payload, but we also have coreboot with skiboot/heads payload, and we expect more flavors to appear in the future.

What value Dasharo provides in comparison to coreboot?

Dasharo Zero-Touch Initial Deployment

Documentation supported hardware provides information about initial deployment, updates and recovery procedures. Developed by Dasharo Team Dasharo Tools Suite (DTS) operating system supports users by automating the deployment process, which helps reducing errors and inconsistencies, and make sure the firmware can be further updated to new version without any problems. DTS also provides controlled and secure environment for initial deployment and update of firmware, reducing the risk of tampering or unauthorized changes.

Dasharo Zero-Touch Initial Deployment is smooth, effortless and user-friendly process, which reduces user frustration and improves satisfaction.

Use of DTS largely improves firmware adoption, hardware compatibility reporting and binary blobs transmission, as well as recovery.

For more details about zero-touch initial deployment please read relevant DTS documentation.

Dasharo Clean and Simple Code

Dasharo is an open-source distribution project with a simple code structure described in detail here. While the project benefits from the simplicity of the coreboot source code, it is continuously researching and improving its development process and tools to provide a superior experience for developers. One example of this ongoing work is the improvements made to fork maintenance, currently being tracked in this issue on the Dasharo GitHub repository. The project also explores the concept of a bootstrapable toolchain, discussed in the build process section of the project documentation.

Dasharo Long Term Maintenance

  • We provide long term maintenance - coreboot community for various reasons, do not merge some patches, because of understaffing, lack of reviewers. Some changes have long way to upstream, we maintain those patches and make them work before those will go upstrea. If ever, we are committed to maintain platforms which are moved to branch in coreboot.
  • Firmware update - we are registered consultants for fwupd/LVFS and enable customers and community platforms, so they can get seamless firmware update in Linux.

Dasharo Professional Support

Dasharo Support coming in form of three following packages:

  • Dasharo Community Support (DCP) - donation driven development.
  • Dasharo Support Package (DSP) - annual firmware support package.
  • Dasharo Enterprise Package (DEP) - custom SLA, corporate and open roadmap alignment advisroy.

The Dasharo Community Support Program is an open-source firmware support initiative that leverages the expertise of community members and developers to improve firmware solutions for a range of hardware models.

Platforms in scope of the program should comply with Dasharo quality criteria, which we slowly gather in Dasharo Certification Program.

3mdeb supports and maintains DCP-approved firmware through Dasharo Support Package (DSP) and Dasharo Enterprise Package (DEP). These packages offer essential services like porting to new platforms, developing device drivers, debugging, and fixing bugs. Companies can rely on 3mdeb's expertise to ensure their systems remain secure, up-to-date, and reliable.

If you are interested in our services please contact us here.

Dasharo Transparent Validation

  • We provide transparent validation results - coreboot in itself provide no guarantees around release quality and do not provide binary distribution (for reference please check coreboot project scope, we provide those in scope of validation we perform.

Dasharo Trustworthiness for All

  • We provide ready to use binaries with GPG based signing scheme that improve verification where firmware coming from.

What are the differences between the official coreboot repository and the Dasharo repository?

Dasharo focuses on specific platforms listed in supported hardware section of Dasharo Universe documentation.

Dasharo repository contains release tags which are associated with Dasharo Certification Program providing certain quality criteria including test results. We always trying to minimize delta, but sometimes it can be up to 5k SLOC (or more I guess e.g. Talos II coreboot support).

What is Dasharo Certification Program?

The Dasharo Certification Program (DCP) is a highly specialized certification program that benchmarks open-source firmware ecosystem deliverables. The program ensures that firmware is stable, secure, and dependable while aligning with the Dasharo values. DCP encourages developers to create their version of Dasharo or contribute to the Dasharo project or coreboot upstream, enabling them to leverage the power of open-source development to create custom firmware tailored to their specific needs based on years of Dasharo quality assurance results. The program's rigorous certification process entails comprehensive testing in the Dasharo Certification Lab, ensuring that the firmware binary meets the strict standards established by the program. By aligning with the Dasharo values, the certification program improves the overall posture of the open-source firmware ecosystem, making it long-term maintainable, sustainable, and trustworthy and providing specific service level agreements and warranties to commercial customers and the community.

What is DCP-approved firmware?

The Dasharo-certified firmware provides long-term maintenance over ten years after the CPU microarchitecture release, which means that OEM, ODM, hardware vendors, and other companies can rely on the firmware for a long time without worrying about end-of-life issues. Moreover, DCP-approved firmware vendors must provide professional support channels to ensure that other business entities can rely on those channels for long-term support regarding firmware and software.

The validation process for DCP firmware is transparent. Test results and bug reports are always publicly available, allowing the community to continually identify issues and improve the firmware. However, in case of a security embargo, the results can be kept under a strict but well-defined policy, ensuring the security of the firmware.

Future work

These future goals align with the values of privacy, liberty, and trustworthiness in the context of firmware development and the broader tech industry. We would like to implement following features as part of Dasharo Certification Program:

  • Privacy-respecting implementation: By working on solutions that allow users to deactivate potentially malicious components, like ME or PSP, the firmware will respect user privacy and help mitigate data privacy concerns. This approach gives users more control over their devices and reduces the risk of unauthorized access or surveillance. Discussion and more detail in dedicated issue.
  • Liberty for the owners: Respecting the liberty of hardware owners to repair and transfer ownership without risking the leak of personally identifiable data is crucial. This approach supports the right-to-repair movement and ensures that users maintain control over their personal information even when they modify or pass on their devices. Discussion and more detail in dedicated issue.
  • Trustworthiness for all: By publishing known good measurements for each boot phase and storing those measurements in tamper-resistant mediums, such as TPM, during the boot process will increase security and confidence in the firmware. Users and other stakeholders can verify that the firmware executed during the boot process is genuine and uncompromised by making reference measurements publicly available. Discussion and more detail in dedicated issue.

Why there is no AMD mainboard supported in Dasharo ?

Unfortunately, from the perspective of a small open-source firmware vendor, it isn't easy to work with AMD. Despite our experience with AMD SoCs since 2016, we could not yet deliver Dasharo for a modern (Zen core-based) platform. We're trying hard, but Intel has a better ecosystem for open-source firmware development.

The reason for that state may be because AMD is in a rush, and they are understaffed in all areas compared to their success. We've been doing AMD open-source firmware development for 6+ years, including our yearly reports of open-source firmware status at FOSDEM, but the level of support for small volume firmware development companies is not yet at the level of competition.

AGESA distribution was a problem in the past, but we solved that, and Dasharo for AMD is possible. Because Dynamic Root of Trust can work without blob, we favor AMD, but we can't do anything without a partner who can sponsor the development effort. We are on the market of open-source firmware vendors, not hardware vendors.

Can you port Dasharo to my mainboard?

There are other versions of the same questions:

  • Dasharo supports mainboard X; I have mainboard Y (or X'). Can you teach me how to port Dasharo to my mainboard?
  • Can you help me port Dasharo to my mainboard?

TL;DR: No, we can't. In Dasharo, we support only carefully selected targets.

The answer to that question requires understanding many aspects of the open-source firmware business we learned over the years. The critical point is that we can't help to port arbitrary targets. Hardware has to be carefully selected to bring the most benefits to the open-source firmware community and improve the sustainability of the ecosystem. Random hardware porting lead to an unmaintainable stack of platforms that no one adapts in scale, which does not lead to market change in the correct direction. Lack of commercial adoption is part of coreboot problems as a project, and we would like to avoid this mistake.

We have strict criteria based on various aspects explained in Dasharo Community Support section.

Dasharo Team tries to select platforms with long-term availability potential.

Because we are fully responsible for hardware that we enable in open-source firmware ecosystem, our releases have to pass the Dasharo Certification criteria. The whole effort is relatively expensive and, in most cases, not feasible for enabling one platform. That's why in most cases, our customers are OEM/ODM, angel investors, or communities that need reasonable quantities of hardware (>200pcs).

If the board comes with variants with minimal differences required for support in an open-source firmware stack, and one of the variants is part of the Dasharo Support Package, Dasharo Enterprise Package, or Dasharo Community Support, there is a chance to put that hardware on the relevant roadmap. In such a case, don't hesitate to contact us; we will see what we can do. However, the community member who requested support for the platform should also offer their help in validating the firmware and maintenance. That kind of request will be more than welcome from active community members. New members should consider ways to help us to gain a reputation that can lead to influencing Dasharo Community Supported roadmap.