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MoBo Manufacturer Foxconn Refuses To Support Linux 696

Posted by kdawson
from the must-be-some-good-explanation dept.
Noodlenose notes a thread up on the Ubuntu forums, where a user is questioning the practices of hardware manufacturer Foxconn. The user describes how his new Foxconn motherboard caused his Linux install to freeze and fire off weird kernel errors. He disassembles the BIOS and concludes that a faulty DSDT table is responsible for the errors. Even though the user makes Foxconn aware of the problem, they refuse to correct it, as 'it doesn't support Linux' and is only 'Microsoft certified.' The user speculates darkly on Foxconn's motives. Read the forum, read the code, and come to your own conclusions. "I disassembled my BIOS to have a look around, and while I won't post the results here, I'll tell you what I did find. They have several different tables, a group for Windows XP and Vista, a group for 2000, a group for NT, Me, 95, 98, etc. that just errors out, and one for LINUX. The one for Linux points to a badly written table that does not correspond to the board's ACPI implementation.' The worst part is Foxconn's insistence that the product is ACPI compliant because their tables passed to Windows work, and that Microsoft gave the the magic WHQL certification."
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MoBo Manufacturer Foxconn Refuses To Support Linux

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  • by Zebra_X (13249) on Friday July 25, 2008 @08:23AM (#24332653)

    Return it and buy from a manufacturer... no need to disassemble the BIOS, your time is worth more than that.

    • by Kamokazi (1080091) on Friday July 25, 2008 @08:32AM (#24332783)
      Exactly. Vote for Linux support with your money. The problem is, there aren't nearly enough Linux users to make a dent they will notice. If it makes you feel any better, I bought a (crappy) Foxconn board once and won't be buying one again.
      • by CastrTroy (595695) on Friday July 25, 2008 @08:58AM (#24333087) Homepage
        People used to say the same thing about firefox. There aren't enough users to make a difference. Look at where we are now. Firefox is probably around 20% market share, and it's too prominent for web site designers to just sit and ignore it. The changes aren't going to happen over night. With all the inroads Linux is making in the UMPC market, and lowend computer market, it's only a matter of time before hardware manufacturers have to wake up and start supporting it.
      • by mitgib (1156957) on Friday July 25, 2008 @09:15AM (#24333327) Homepage Journal

        Exactly. Vote for Linux support with your money. The problem is, there aren't nearly enough Linux users to make a dent they will notice. If it makes you feel any better, I bought a (crappy) Foxconn board once and won't be buying one again.

        I beg to differ, desktop linux users != linux users.

        I purchase 40-50 systems a year as a one man show hosting company, 100% of those systems MUST be able to run linux, and run it without issue. Only 4 of my computers run a GUI, and only 1 of those runs windows, and only to play games, and that machine can dual boot to linux as well.

        So yes, I do vote with every dollar I spend by purchasing only linux compatible hardware, but I also am realistic and research what I buy before I buy it. Maybe that is why I have a mountain of Gigabyte, Tyan, Adaptec, 3ware and SuperMicro hardware.

      • by jweller (926629) on Friday July 25, 2008 @09:27AM (#24333559)
        I can't tell you how many machines I've built for myself and others, and the one thing I never cheap out on is the MoBo. You've got to have a solid foundation if you want to build a nice house and this is no different. Foxconn was never a brand I considered to be high quality, but it's even farther down on my list now.
      • by archen (447353) on Friday July 25, 2008 @09:58AM (#24334123)

        Personally I do not recommend products that do not support Linux/FreeBSD. Because I use those operating systems? That's part of it yes, but mainly because Linux tends to expose crappy products. Look at the board in question here: "Badly written table". I have yet to see a product where they cut corners in ONE place only. Usually if they're sloppy in one respect, there's a whole nest of other problems you're not even aware of. In the windows world manufacturers like to hide behind smoke and mirrors in binary drivers, and people blame windows for instability. Simply put many hardware manufacturers that release drivers/documentation for Linux are not afraid to do so because it's more than likely they're actually releasing quality products or are at least not afraid to admit to errors and will probably be more likely to fix them. Even if you only use Windows that's an important thing to consider.

    • by Nazlfrag (1035012) on Friday July 25, 2008 @08:55AM (#24333039) Journal

      no need to disassemble the BIOS, your time is worth more than that.

      No self-respecting hacker considers reverse engineering BIOSes a waste of time. Try more along the lines of socialising, bathing, that sort of thing.

    • by javilon (99157) on Friday July 25, 2008 @10:05AM (#24334257) Homepage

      "no need to disassemble the BIOS, your time is worth more than that"

      Well, thanks to his dissasembling of the BIOS, you all know that you want to avoid Foxconn products in the future like the plague. That surely is worth something.

    • by j-pimp (177072) <zippy1981 @ g m a il.com> on Friday July 25, 2008 @10:22AM (#24334563) Homepage Journal

      Return it and buy from a manufacturer... no need to disassemble the BIOS, your time is worth more than that.

      That's not always the case. And while I didn't RTFA, I'm going to make some general arguments against that statement/

      First of all this person seems to be very knowledgeable of these low level details. So, its possible he discovered this very quickly. Being able to make a certain determination and going to tech support with enough knowledge to get you escalated past the triage people is worth your time. If he was able to avoid returning this product, it might have saved him some time.

      Second is the fun aspect of this. Maybe he enjoys this sort of research. Perhaps for a faulty car or toilet he would not diagnose it himself.

      Finally there is the question of what his time is worth. If he's a college student, or consultant that can't find 40 hours of work in a week then it might be worth his time. My time may be worth x based on my salary and what I command in side work. However, I can't always convert x amount of time into x amount of dollars. He might have a surplus of time at the moment.

    • by couchslug (175151) on Friday July 25, 2008 @10:47AM (#24335071)

      "Return it and buy from a manufacturer... no need to disassemble the BIOS, your time is worth more than that."

      He was curious, investigated the problem, found the answer, and informed the rest of us.

      He learned something useful, then helped others, and probably had fun/satisfaction doing that.
      That would fit my definition of time well spent.

    • by alexborges (313924) on Friday July 25, 2008 @11:30AM (#24335849)

      No no no.

      Go read what the guy posted. Its an example of a true community member. This attitude is what spawned the Free Software Movement: vendors should not artificially limit what you CAN do with their shit.

      This guy has PROVEN that Foxconn TARGETS speciffically Linux and BREAKS IT.

      This is anticompetitive and should be a crime.

  • Workaround (Score:5, Informative)

    by eltoyoboyo (750015) on Friday July 25, 2008 @08:24AM (#24332673) Journal
    It appears that within an hour there was a workaround posted on the same forum.
  • by Ikonoclasm (1139897) on Friday July 25, 2008 @08:25AM (#24332685)
    If you're planning on running a Linux OS on your machine, don't use Foxconn. If they don't want customers, that's their business.
    • by Dorkmaster Flek (1013045) on Friday July 25, 2008 @08:33AM (#24332809)
      Why is this modded Troll? That's exactly what you should do. I know when I'm building a machine in the future, I sure as hell won't be buying a Foxconn mobo (not that I was planning to anyway).
    • by houghi (78078) on Friday July 25, 2008 @08:45AM (#24332935)

      If you do not run Linux, don't buy them as well. Could be that you want to run it in 3 years time and then you are forced to buy new hardware.

    • by Average (648) on Friday July 25, 2008 @08:46AM (#24332947)

      Sure, caveat emptor. Mark it one star on Newegg. But there are huge problems with that.

      Foxconn makes bits for hundreds of rebranders, so it's harder than you think to avoid it. And, whose mobo is in yeah random OEM PC?

      Then there is the problem with evangelism. Joe comes to you and says "Vista sucks". You hand him a Hardy Heron disk? Or, do we ask him for a BIOS dump because Linux works with some Windows PCs, but has random reboots with others?

    • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Friday July 25, 2008 @08:52AM (#24333009)

      foxconn is crap, anyway! way overpriced and way under-tested and under-designed.

      last purchase from newegg: 2 mobos, one new one from foxconn and one 'open box' special that was intel.

      the intel one (bare board, nothing - not even an i/o shield) worked. its great. the foxconn didn't even post. brand new board and not even a POST.

      calling newegg was easy and they didn't even put up a fight at all abou the foxconn. I bet they know that its a shabby product and only some people will actually keep theirs (if they can even install to it).

      if this was a tier1 or 2 brand, that would be one thing. foxconn is tier3 and so they don't even 'matter' to us builders anymore. at least not for when the customer doesn't demand to shave every last penny from cost (each time you do that, you are sorry for that kind of cost-cutting).

    • by Yaddoshi (997885) on Friday July 25, 2008 @09:11AM (#24333239)
      I'm a computer repair technician - if you're in this business you know that Foxconn is a low-cost sub-quality motherboard manufacturer, and their product is unreliable at best. Regardless of what operating system you prefer to use, don't buy Foxconn, unless you like throwing your hard earned money away on something that will probably fail in roughly two years. Now that I said that I'm sure there is going to be someone who thinks that Foxconn is great because they've never had a problem with their one Foxconn product. That's great if you've had success - but I've seen more systems fail with their products than other brands.
  • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Friday July 25, 2008 @08:25AM (#24332687)
    ...Windows hardware back. Seriously, who is stupid enough today not to support linux?
  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Friday July 25, 2008 @08:25AM (#24332701)
    there is more than one motherboard manufacturer. Foxconn is more than welcome to take a FISS approach with regards to their customer base: the market will issue any required adjustments to their attitude.
  • by domatic (1128127) on Friday July 25, 2008 @08:27AM (#24332731)

    In my workplace we run Windows, OS X, and Linux. I have the expectation of being able to use Linux on any x86 kit we buy. Absent an explanation or attitude change from this vendor, I won't recommend their kit here for Windows use either. That seems somewhat important so I'll repeat it:

    I will not buy Foxconn kit for Windows use if Linux compatibility is impaired.

    • by Machtyn (759119) on Friday July 25, 2008 @09:07AM (#24333181) Homepage Journal
      This is important and I want to expound on it. I work in a Microsoft shop. Really, it's IIS this, MSSQL that, .NET for all dev, and we've all got the latest and greatest Office suite. Strangely, we've heard rumors that our software is going to be tested Vista, but QA hasn't received a Vista machine, yet. With all of that out of the way, I use Linux in various ways on many of our test computers. Mostly, it is just boot CDs, such as Partimage Is Not Ghost and Ultimate Boot CD. So, just because hardware is meant for Windows doesn't mean that it will never see another OS. Hardware interoperability on the software level is necessary.

      On another note, I've encountered Foxconn boards in the past... usually broken and being replaced.
  • Quick Fix (Score:5, Informative)

    by slashflood (697891) <flow@how[ ]w.com ['flo' in gap]> on Friday July 25, 2008 @08:30AM (#24332761) Homepage Journal
    The title of this trick [howflow.com] is misleading. It should solve those problems by pretending to be Windows to the BIOS.
    • Re:Quick Fix (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 25, 2008 @08:42AM (#24332911)

      Read the full thread. It has errors in the windows acpi list that crash freebsd and linux as well.

    • Re:Quick Fix (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 25, 2008 @09:56AM (#24334093)

      Quoted from a link in the above:

      Bill Gates on Making ACPI Not Work with Linux (in 1999):

      One thing I find myself wondering about is whether we shouldnâ(TM)t try and make the "ACPI" extensions somehow Windows specific.

      It seems unfortunate if we do this work and get our partners to do the work and the result is that Linux works great without having to do the work.

      Maybe there is no way to avoid this problem but it does bother me.

      Maybe we couid define the APIs so that they work well with NT and not the others even if they are open.

      Or maybe we could patent something related to this.

  • Immature (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 25, 2008 @08:32AM (#24332781)

    How old is this guy?

    If I had a serious problem I would be more professional in my way of contacting support. Certainly his way of approaching the Customer Support is looking like some angry teenager.

  • Par for the course. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FellowConspirator (882908) on Friday July 25, 2008 @08:38AM (#24332851)
    First, Foxconn's hardware isn't the only with DSDT errors. Every use a Dell? HP? Considering how sloppily lots of this BIOS code is written, it's a miracle anything works at all. These errors only mean that he's stuck using APM in place of ACPI. If the user wanted a decent motherboard, he'd have bought it from ASUS, Gigabyte, MSI, etc. It's not some conspiracy, it's a cheap motherboard vendor using a defective BIOS that doesn't give crap about it's customers. Really, how's that not normal?
  • by pieleric (917714) on Friday July 25, 2008 @08:38AM (#24332855) Homepage

    Although this vendor seems definitely not trying to support Linux with it's BIOS, the hard truth is that it's not so easy even for those who try. For more information, there is currently a thread on the LKML disussing this [lkml.org] and how to improve the situation.

    In particular, latest kernels claim to be every versions of Windows at the same time, and not Linux! That's not easy to handle for the BIOS writer...

  • by Sir_Real (179104) on Friday July 25, 2008 @08:44AM (#24332917)

    This is active sabotage.

    They haven't lost a customer, they've gained an enemy. This is an attack. Do not let them get away with it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 25, 2008 @08:46AM (#24332951)

    Here is most of the original article.
    The pesky junk filter meant I had to snip some of the code out - sorry.
    Posting AC for the usual reason(s).

    Foxconn deliberately sabotaging their BIOS to destroy Linux ACPI
    Edit: Please tell Foxconn what you think of their behavior:

    http://www.foxconnchannel.com/support/online.aspx [foxconnchannel.com]

    You need to put in an email, and then it will bring up a form, choose Complain/Suggest.

    Edit: Welcome Digg, Reddit, and Slashdot.

    http://digg.com/linux_unix/Foxconn_d..._destroy_Linux [digg.com]
    http://www.reddit.com/comments/6tcv8...their_bios_to/ [reddit.com]
    (Will add Slashdot when I know the final URL)
    ------------
    I disassembled my BIOS to have a look around, and while I won't post the results here,I'll tell you what I did find.

    They have several different tables, a group for Windws XP and Vista, a group for 2000, a group for NT, Me, 95, 98, etc. that just errors out, and one for LINUX.

    The one for Linux points to a badly written table that does not correspond to the board's ACPI implementation, causing weird kernel errors, strange system freezing, no suspend or hibernate, and other problems, using my modifications below, I've gotten it down to just crashing on the next reboot after having suspended, the horrible thing about disassembling any program is that you have no commenting, so it's hard to tell which does what, but I'll be damned if I'm going to buy a copy of Vista just to get the crashing caused by Foxconn's BIOS to stop, I am not going to be terrorized.

    -----
    How to fix:

    Get Intel's BIOS ACPI source compiler:

    sudo apt-get install iasl

    Dump your DSDT table:

    sudo cat /sys/firmware/acpi/tables/DSDT > dsdt.dat

    Disassemble it:

    iasl -d dsdt.dat

    Open it in Gedit:

    gedit dsdt.dsl

    Fix Foxconn sabotage:

    Find, the section that starts out with

    Code:

    If (_OSI ("Windows 2000"))
    {
    Store (0x04, OSVR)
    }

    Go down til you get to the first

    Code:

    }
    Else
    {

    Past that you should see Linux alongside Windows NT, which is above another Else that leads to Windows Me.

    Should look like:

    Code:

    If (MCTH (_OS, "Linux"))

    {
    Store (0x3, OSVR)
    }

    Change it to:
    Code:

    If (_OSI ("Linux"))
    {
    Store (Zero, OSVR)
    }

    Copy the section, and remove it and the other characters (CAREFULLY PRESERVING SYNTAX!!!!)

    Then move the Linux section to right underneath Windows 2006 section.

    _Code removed to get past junk filter_

    So there you have it!

  • by uberdave (526529) on Friday July 25, 2008 @09:01AM (#24333125) Homepage
    Whatever happened to the concept of generic hardware? It usedc to be that when you bought a printer, it would work with everything. They published the escape codes that you used to change fonts, or draw lines, or whatever. Same thing with modems. You used to be able to grab any modem off the shelf and expect it to work with any computer.

    Somewhere along the line, hardware started becoming Windows Only. Modems became Winmodems. Printers became Winprinters. I'm guessing the same thing applies to webcams, and scanners, and other hardware. Now we've got a motherboard with a Windows only BIOS. It sickens me.
    • by Ruie (30480) on Friday July 25, 2008 @09:22AM (#24333445) Homepage

      Actually it is in reverse for webcams: initially USB webcams required proprietary vendor drivers but now more and more webcams support UVC - USB video class [berlios.de].

  • by God of Lemmings (455435) on Friday July 25, 2008 @09:07AM (#24333173)
    Poorly designed, or incomplete bios implementations are not the exception. They are in fact a fairly common occurrence. The DSDT table being missing, incomplete, or just wrong is so common in fact, that a number of solutions exist.

    See here: http://acpi.sourceforge.net/dsdt/index.php [sourceforge.net]
  • by Zantetsuken (935350) on Friday July 25, 2008 @09:13AM (#24333271) Homepage
    Ok, ya, they probably are falsely advertising, and just shoved it off because they got MS WHQL stickers (most companies do the same anymore)...

    But you know what? I don't feel too much sympathy - because honestly, you get what you pay for. Any PC builder with half a brain (which it looks like he has plenty of if he knows how to pick apart the bios) is going to know that manufacturers like Foxconn, ECS, Abit, etc are going to be horrible quality (or at best sub-par).

    Basically, he probably was being a cheapskate and went with the $30 or 40 dollar Foxconn board, when for $50, a mere $10 more, he could have gotten a fantastic Asus motherboard, or at *least* MSI or Gigabyte...
  • Disgusting (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ugmoe2000 (1305073) on Friday July 25, 2008 @09:16AM (#24333339)
    After having read the Ubuntu forums I was flat out disgusted at how Foxconn responded to the customer. I have never received a response so rude from tech support. They outright told him to stop sending them e-mail because they did not want to address his problem. Nevermind their poor products... how about their customer service? That is pitiful and they fully deserve whatever comes their way.
  • by Brane2 (608748) on Friday July 25, 2008 @09:32AM (#24333651)

    I've just opened official ACPI specs and Microsoft's WHQL is NOWHERE EVEN MENTIONED, let alone of being needed and sufficient criteria of ACPI compliance.

    IOW, product is ACI compliant when it works in accordance with specs. Once there is violation found, they can no longer claim ACPI compliance.

  • by basil2008 (1332815) on Friday July 25, 2008 @09:55AM (#24334065)
    I don't work for FoxConn, but I do work for a hardware and software vendor. And here's some insight - as I have been in a situation similar to FoxConn - but being both the accuser and the guilty party at the same time ;) WHQL is kind of a big deal for hardware vendors. The main attractive is being able to add the "certified compatible with Windows" to your product box. Honestly speaking - having the logo there gives you *some* cred with users - at least, with Windows users ;) So your competitors are nibbling at you, the product has to ship, and you need to have the logo in the box. What do you do? If you're already late to market, you hack. You install all the different flavors of Windows, check if it works - if it doesn't and crashes, well, some of that can be attributed to Windows itself. As long as you can install the OS and pass the certification, you're good, the product ships, you get your bonus and a pat in the back for delivering on time. So say that during testing you DO install Linux and crashes - time for a reality check. If the product spec said "Windows WHQL is a must", and making Linux happy means not passing WHQL - tough luck. Linux won't run. Or if "fixing the product so it passes WHQL" means "screwing Linux users", well, let me think about that ;) Many engineers working on any given product would like to ship the best possible product - the one that has a 100% compliant ACPI, APM, TPM, you-name-it implementation. But when time is short and the management chain is breathing down your neck . . . you do whatever it has to be done to be able to ship. And hope that once the product is out there, you WILL be able to go back and clean up the mess - and ship a BIOS upgrade. Everyone is happy. Sadly, by the time the product shipped, you've been reassigned to other product - and you will only go back to the first one if the Windows crowd complains. The solution is easy - Linux users to boycott the brand. But then again: if the mobo was designed to be sold to another company to be used as the basis for a product that will only run Windows . . . It isn't like you care a lot about losing the Linux business. This is only the reality - hard as it might seem. And to the guy that originally found the bug: next time, remember that maybe the guy at the other side of the email exchange also thinks the situation sucks, but he's powerless to change it. Because if even if he was provided with a full working patch for the BIOS (that doesn't break Windows compatibility), he might need to reapply for WHQL if he patches the BIOS - which means more $$$ and time spent on a product that is already shipping. So.
  • by raw-sewage (679226) on Friday July 25, 2008 @10:39AM (#24334917)

    I read the thread on the Ubuntu forums, where the guy's correspondence with Foxconn was posted. What frustrates me time and time again is seeing these often immature, scathing, and/or accusatory emails being sent by self-proclaimed representatives of the Linux and/or open source community.

    In particular, "Yeah, well, I allege that you guys thoroughly suck. Learn how to write a BIOS before you go selling hardware with falsified specs." Come on, how does that help the situation at all? Speculating on the motives of Foxconn and/or the BIOS provider is fine for forums like this. But when dealing with the manufacturer, keep it professional, and stick to the issues at hand. In this case, the issue is that the board claims to be ACPI compliant, and it is not. That can be proven and repeatably verified. In fact, Linux compatibility isn't even an issue here. That the BIOS fails to work with Linux is a side-effect (i.e. Linux assumes a working ACPI implementation, and this motherboard does not provide that).

    Of course the bigger problem is that while a standard exists (i.e. ACPI), Microsoft can get away with using its weight to effectively subvert it. Like another poster here said, there are lots of motherboards with imperfect DSDTs that cause various degrees of headache with Linux. This Foxconn board appears to be one of the worst, however.

    If I were to speculate, I doubt Foxconn or the BIOS provider (AMI) is actively trying to break Linux. I think it's just poor coding and/or lack of concern for adhering to the ACPI spec (which in turn breaks Linux). The big money is in supporting Microsoft Windows, so that's what the vendors will do. Ideally, there would be an official "ACPI certification" offered by ISO or some not-for-profit third party, and both the vendors and Microsoft would have to comply. But the reality is that while there is a standard, it's not closely followed, and instead has degraded into vendors and Microsoft working too close, effectively preempting the specification. In other words, a Microsoft certification does not imply ACPI compliance. It should, but Microsoft doesn't gain anything from enforcing that.

    As for poor coding... I've seen plenty of code written by people who either didn't know what they were doing or didn't care. The result is that you get lots of crummy hacks to take care of special cases. Seriously, why would a company go out of their way to not work with Linux? Yes, conspiracy is a possibility. But I think the more likely reason is that the lousy support was either done by someone who didn't care or didn't know enough to do it correctly... and/or it was an after-thought, a total kludge that didn't go through the typical QA process.

    Anyway... I give Foxconn credit for at least replying with readable, mostly grammatically correct, non-form letters. Many hardware vendors I've dealt with either reply with worthless form letters, broken, non-sense English, and/or don't reply at all. Given that this person actually had the ear of a presumably "real" person, I have to wonder: if he'd kept his dialogue more professional, left out the name-calling, accusations and allegations, and remained true to the crux of the matter (non-compliant ACPI implementation), perhaps Foxconn would have been more receptive.

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