Not too long ago, I had stumbled across a post on the Ubuntu Forums in the System76 support section. But first, perhaps I had better back up a bit.
System76 is a computer hardware company located in Denver, Colorado. They are particularly unique because they offer Ubuntu Linux across their entire hardware line. All of their hardware is tested to be Linux-compatible, and there are numerous reviews from users that love their machines. To use a cliche here, It Just Works. For beginners and people that are new to the GNU/Linux world, this is the go-to for getting a machine that works out of the box with Linux. Heck, it's great for seasoned users as well!
However, there is a small problem that plagues System76 machines. For everyday Average Joes, this isn't much of an issue. But, to Free Software enthusiasts, it's a glaring problem. Their BIOS are proprietary.
Well, that doesn't sound so bad, you say. But think about it. BIOS is the system software that runs on the motherboard. It is the system firmware on most desktop and laptop computers. For years, various middleware companies such as American Megatrends have peddled their own BIOS offerings onto machines. These BIOS often rarely get updates for years on end, and actually hamper capabilities of the machine itself. In this sense, BIOS can be restrictive.
However, a project exists called Coreboot. It was started in late 1999 to provide an alternative to proprietary BIOS, using a lightweight Linux kernel (or other boot extensions) to configure a system. It is capable now of running GNU/Linux, FreeBSD, and even Windows versions all the way up to Windows7 (No word on running MacOSX, of course).
The fact of the matter is, Coreboot is extremely flexible. It is also supported on a plethora of hardware currently, and herein lies the problem: although it supports quite a range of hardware, Coreboot is not officially supported on any laptops. A few netbooks support it, such as the Lemote Yeeloong. But there aren't really any laptops that ship exclusively with this Free Software BIOS alternative. I think System76 has a great chance to step up and support Free Software by adopting Coreboot.
And this is where we come in. I have started a petition to System76 to voice our opinions about Coreboot on their machines. I would love for everyone to take a moment to sign the petition and spread word throughout the Free Software community. This is a chance to have a hardware manufacturer truly support Free Software in North America with laptops, desktops, and servers for consumers. This is our chance to prove to the world that Free Software is profitable by voting with our money.
I have started the petition here, be sure to sign it and pass it along to anyone that might be interested!