Author Topic: AToF - 03 - Platform Build - to UEFI or not to UEFI  (Read 2695 times)


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AToF - 03 - Platform Build - to UEFI or not to UEFI
« on: January 15, 2024, 09:15:28 pm »
In the beginning, there was BIOS ... and life was somewhat simple. However, every computer manufacturer out there decided to "fix" this problem. The internet provides all the gory details of various BIOS issues, but most folks have by now figured out how to maneuver around in their computer's BIOS and get things done.

Along came dual-boot, and various boot managers of those times. Mostly outside of BIOS, you could install a boot-manager, then proceed to install various OS's side-by-side, and hopefully, nothing went wrong or ever will go wrong. This also introduced us all to partitioning, disk drive sizes and filesystems, and filesystem viewers/device-drivers/etc., wrt boot managers. OK, a little harder, but we got through all of that.

Then, along came EFI and UEFI, yet another "fix" to the BIOS problem, although this seems more of a bait and switch to me. It's now either BIOS (possibly Legacy CSM) or it's UEFI ... pick one, and choose wisely.

If you chose UEFI, or if the choice was thrust upon you by your computer manufacturer (and Microsoft), and you didn't fix this choice in your favor, you are now in the midst of a UEFI revolution. Do I accept the UEFI overlords, do I rip them out and do something else, will they stage a COUP if I do rip them out and now they have reinserted themselves?

Plus, it all still seems like dual-boot (more appropriately, multi-boot) to me. OS's are installed side-by-side, and we are all hoping nothing goes wrong. Reports on the internet are that, yes, occasionally things go wrong. It might even be possible to brick your laptop in certain ways, if you had the right combination of a certain Linux distro, and you were installing it onto a certain laptop with UEFI; this doesn't apply to the majority of Linux distros, but it's out there.

ArcaOS folks gave a great presentation (Warpstock '23) on UEFI and AOS 5.1 support for it, and how to get everything working ... looks good. rEFInd might also possibly help in this matter ... but, it's still in "beta" stage. I'm self-printing everything I can find, both UEFI history, and rEFInd-like technology, and I'm getting near 150 pages of ... something. The next phase in our computing journey seems to be that we'll all become UEFI system administrators.

So, wrt AToF, what do we need to do? As best I can tell ... absolutely nothing.

As in, don't use UEFI, or revert to BIOS if you can, or just leave the computer the way you found it, hopefully running either Windows 10 or 11 pro/enterprise, or Linux, and with whatever BIOS or UEFI choice they made for you. In AToF terms, this is the HostOS, and whatever boot method was running that OS when you got the computer. It doesn't really affect AToF.

Personally, I'd tend to rip out UEFI as being too complicated to be helpful in an AToF scenario, as the hypervisor is pretty much acting like UEFI. The difference is that UEFI is either-or (run this OS or that OS), whereas a hypervisor is all-you-can-eat (run as many as hardware resources allow, all at once).

I'd revert back to BIOS (where possible, and my 2018 Dell Laptop allows this), and proceed with AToF. But, I don't know all of the ramifications of this, and perhaps you'd want UEFI to permit better recovery options or whatnot. So far, it hasn't impacted me in my implementation of AToF on top of BIOS, and I don't thing it will impact those who just have one HostOS in an AToF scheme (and they left either BIOS or UEFI in place as they found it).

So, if we have implemented AToF, there shouldn't be any need to further fiddle with UEFI or BIOS, because whatever supports that single 64-bit HostOS is fine. The magic is in the fact that all other OS's won't be in a dual-boot or multi-boot scheme (the problem UEFI purports to fix), they'll be in a *multi-VM* scheme, and a key advantage to ATOF over UEFI alone is that all of them are running at once.

Contrast that key advantage to an old dual-boot or multi-boot boot manager, or a newer UEFI implementation (perhaps rEFInd), where you pick the OS at boot time, use it for awhile, then realize you need to do something in another OS, so you shut down the original OS, boot another and finish the task, then shut it down, and boot the original ...

The appeal for UEFI might be there for others ... the siren call to run ONE OS at a time, and have all the hardware features of a 64-bit computer working with that OS is strong.

ArcaOS folks are working hard to make things better under OS/2 (ArcaOS 5.1 and later), and all hardware features work if under Linux or Windows x64 OS's. But, OS/2 is 32-bit, and will be for the forseeable future. Unlike all of today's current articles in the world about OS/2, which either proclaim it's death, or it's zombie-like hanging on, or whatever, 32-bit OS's are still in use. Windows x32, ArcaOS x32, Linux x32 ... these are all still prevalent and viable.

AToF makes them better, because you can run multiples of these 32-bit OS's, all at once, and switch between them with a mouse click. They all inherit, through VirtualBox, the x64 feature set of the HostOS. All limitations of a 32-bit OS are removed.

No bios fixes (UEFI) needed ...

As a sidebar, we just need more, and better-written, articles showing the alternatives! I'm pondering articles and venues (who to submit them to, and would they even accept them), because I'm tired of seeing "OS/2 is a dead OS" and such.

As another sidebar, it's beyond my timeline and hardware resources to test (I don't own any ThinkPads), but theoretically, it's possible to have an AToF solution with ArcaOS running in one or more VM's, and ArcaOS running under UEFI as a multi-boot OS. Thus, you could compare for yourself how ArcaOS runs on native hardware (the standard for ArcaOS seems to be a ThinkPad), and how it runs in a (AToF provided) VM. Perhaps those folks with Thinkpads, old or new, could consider testing this out, and reporting back to this Virtualization forum.

Note: AToF utilizes VirtualBox (vbox), and vbox understands UEFI from within a VM. You can install an OS into a VM, choosing either BIOS or UEFI. BIOS is simpler, but the latter means you can test out all kinds of UEFI scenarios, including rEFInd. This is one of the strengths of vbox, and therefore of an AToF implemenatation. Your HostOS, your ArcaOS (or three), and any number of VM's for testing things, without polluting your critical HostOS & ArcaOS build efforts.

As always, any feedback on AToF would be greatly appreciated!
« Last Edit: January 15, 2024, 11:36:27 pm by JTA »