Anchorboot is a new platform firmware distribution for ARM-based ChromeOS devices using coreboot and U-Boot, with the aim to make it easy to install and use conventional Linux distributions on them through UEFI support.
It is still in initial, proof-of-concept phases of development, so be sure to check back later!
Despite their bad reputation as walled-garden systems, ChromeOS devices have huge potential to be FOSS-friendly as most things that make them work are published as free software. However, they use custom platform firmware purpose-built to boot their operating system with non-standard boot mechanisms, whose limitations make it significantly hard to run other OSes on these devices through their stock firmware, stifling this potential.
There are existing projects working on enabling conventional Linux distributions to run on these devices. The most successful of these efforts is the “Chrultrabook” project, which provides replacement platform firmware using coreboot and TianoCore EDK II.
However, they have limited their focus on x86-based ChromeOS devices so far. Meanwhile, although other developers have been doing firmware work on ARM-based ones enough to support U-Boot on earlier models, there isn’t an easy-to-install distribution like theirs yet. We would like to bridge the gap and replicate their success on the ARM side.
ChromeOS devices use coreboot-based firmware, and Google properly releases their sources and upstreams code for their devices. We would like to reuse this upstream support, in part to make maintenance easier going forward. On the flip side, most ARM devices outside this niche use U-Boot which has been steadily gaining UEFI capabilities, and most conventional Linux distributions have support for its boot methods otherwise. We would like to use it for this ease-of-use. There is some support for combining the two on x86 systems, but not on ARM.
We will first improve and extend integration between coreboot and U-Boot to the ARM architectures, then work on a selection of Chromebooks to fix any issues and to port device drivers to either project where necessary. As each board’s work is complete, we will prepare and distribute pre-built, tested firmware images ready to be flashed on these boards along with sources, instructions on how to use the images, and other documentation relevant to the devices.
This project was funded through the NGI0 Entrust Fund, a fund established by NLnet with financial support from the European Commission’s Next Generation Internet programme, under the aegis of DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology under grant agreement No 101069594.