UEFI Summerfest 2013

A colleague and I attended the UEFI Summerfest on the Microsoft Campus, in Redmond last month. It was very well run and Microsoft was a great host.  

WinMagic has been an adopter level member of the UEFI forum for a few years now. The UEFI forum is a non-profit industry standards body that “works in partnership to enable the evolution of platform technologies”.  Its members include: Microsoft, Intel, AMD, the PC OEMs (HP, Lenovo, Dell, etc.) and of course the BIOS companies (AMD, Insyde, Phoenix etc.).

UEFI has been around for years now but has not been on most people’s radar.  Historically, when you power on your computer running Windows 7 or XP or Linux etc., some BIOS (Basic Input Output System) code built right into the computer reads the OS off the disk, loads it into memory and then runs it.  This is called booting.  Since with WinMagic’s Full Disk Encryption software the OS is encrypted we have a program called Boot logon that runs before the OS is loaded so we can decrypt it as it is loaded into memory.

With Windows 8, UEFI got on a lot of people’s radar all of a sudden. That is because in order for a PC OEM to ship with a PC with the Windows 8 logo the PC must ship in native UEFI mode. That means the Boot Logon program that was run from the BIOS had to change big time.  Back in Nov 2012 when Windows 8 first came out we released a native UEFI “Boot Logon” program and improved it in our July 6.2 release with a new UEFI GUI and UEFI PBConnex support.

Personally I think UEFI is a great idea but that it will still be a few years before all the wrinkles are ironed out.  That is why we attended the forum.  My colleague, a senior developer, brought along a UEFI test application he wrote that we ran against the UEFI implementations of the PC OEMs and BIOS companies (they are still called BIOS companies even though they focus on UEFI now).  Not all implementations passed all our tests but overall we were pretty pleased. We were even more pleased that our testing partners showed great interest in achieving compatibility and we had more than one request for the test program (my colleague liked that).

The UEFI Summerfest is “plugfest” and testing for compatibility is a big part of it, but there is also a big educational component so each day there were a few hours of seminars.  The presentations are posted on the UEFI web site http://www.uefi.org/learning_center/presentationsandvideos/.  I had a few general observations:

  • These are really pretty technical topics that hopefully 99.999% of the people in the technology business don’t need to study because some pretty smart people are taking care of this for them.
  • About 80% of the presentations had a security theme. Security is an important driver for UEFI.
  • The UEFI 2.4 Specification is now available – (even though there are still wrinkles in the 2.3.1 implementations still to iron out.)

In summary I think these UEFI plugfests are a good thing and do help advance the industry. WinMagic will continue to participate and do our small part “to enable the evolution of platform technologies.”

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