Frequently Asked Questions

X230 vs T440p?

T440p uses a Haswell plaftorm, whereas X230 is ivybridge; per-clock is about the same, but the CPUs in T440p are clocked higher and therefore faster, and graphics has a nice performance boost on the T440p.

The T440p has a larger screen and more future upgrades options (all of which Minifree can provide if you ask; custom invoice will be sent), such as: 1080p IPS display, T450 touchpad installed, i7-4700mq quad-core CPU. Performance-wise, the T440p holds up quite well even against much newer machines. Most people will be very happy with the performance of this machine.

The X230 is smaller and more portable, and still has excellent enough performance for most people. The X230 is also cheaper than the T440p. Less upgrades options are possible on X230, but some upgrades do exist such as: ability to use X220 keyboard (for scissor switch instead of chiclet design).

The average user would be happy with either laptop, so it’s really just the screen size and CPU/GPU performance that matters here. Choose your weapon.

How can I install Libreboot/osboot updates?

In addition to running Minifree, I (Leah Rowe) am the lead developer and founder of both the Libreboot and osboot projects. Occasionally, I release updated versions of both projects. Releases are always well-tested, especially on the hardware that Minifree sells.

When an update is available, you can easily install it with a flashrom command, from your GNU+Linux system. You do not need to take apart your computer, and you do not need a soldering iron. The original vendor firmware blocks writes to the flash on most machines, requiring you to use special external equipment. However:

Libreboot and osboot do not, by default, enable flash protection (but they can, if configured to do so). Restrictions put in place by the manufacturer do not exist when you’re running osboot or libreboot.

Minifree provides support, if you get stuck and need help installing updates. Otherwise, check the Libreboot and osboot websites.

Can I switch between osboot and libreboot?

Yes! Ever since I introduced osboot, a few have wondered this. Just as you can easily install Libreboot updates, you can also switch between osboot/libreboot easily with a single flashrom command, so long as the hardware in question is also supported by libreboot. Please check this. You may have previously purchased a libreboot-compatible system from Minifree, but products currently sold by Minifree are only osboot-compatible.

What is Libreboot?

Minifree no longer sells libreboot-preinstalled computers, but can offer Libreboot installation via send-in service, if you send in a machine that is libreboot-compatible.

Libreboot is a free/opensource BIOS/UEFI replacement, for core hardware initialization. It starts a bootloader, when will then boot your operating system. See libreboot.org for more information. Libreboot development started in December 2013.

What is osboot?

From now on, laptops come with osboot by default, but you can still request Libreboot when ordering. osboot is an improved fork of Libreboot, also maintained by the same creator of Libreboot, Leah Rowe. Development on this project started in December 2020. See https://osboot.org/

Unlike Libreboot, osboot includes CPU microcode updates by default. On systems that Libreboot also supports, this is the only difference. Intel CPUs have configurable logic gate arrays inside them, which the microcode configures to implement an instruction set. This is referred to as *microprogramming*. Some people regard the microcode is *software* that must be freed, but in reality, there is only so much room to deviate before you end up with a very broken CPU on which software no longer runs correctly. Intel provides these updates, freely redistributable, to the general public, and projects like osboot can use them:

https://github.com/intel/Intel-Linux-Processor-Microcode-Data-Files/tree/main/intel-ucode

Without the microcode updates, these CPUs can sometimes crash, and certain features (such as hardware-based virtualization) may become unreliable. These updates correct errors in the original microcode, allowing for more stable operation. The updates must be re-applied during every boot cycle, and this is performed automatically by osboot.

Not including these updates will result in an unstable/undefined state. Intel themselves define which bugs affect which CPUs, and they define workarounds, or provide fixes in microcode. Based on this, software such as the Linux kernel can work around those bugs/quirks. Also, upstream versions of the Linux kernel can update the microcode at boot time (however, it is recommend still to do it from coreboot, for more stable memory controller initialization or “raminit”).

Here are some examples of where lack of microcode updates affected Libreboot, forcing Libreboot to work around changes made upstream in coreboot, changes that were *good* and made coreboot behave in a more standards-compliant manner as per Intel specifications. Libreboot had to *break* coreboot to retain certain other functionalities:

https://browse.libreboot.org/lbmk.git/plain/resources/coreboot/default/patches/0012-fix-speedstep-on-x200-t400-Revert-cpu-intel-model_10.patch?id=9938fa14b1bf54db37c0c18bdfec051cae41448e

https://browse.libreboot.org/lbmk.git/plain/resources/coreboot/default/patches/0018-Revert-cpu-intel-Configure-IA32_FEATURE_CONTROL-for-.patch?id=4b7be665968b67463ec36b9afc7e8736be0c9b51

These patches revert *bug fixes* in coreboot. These bug fixes happen to break *other* features, when microcode updates are not applied, but coreboot correctly considers the no-microcode situation to be technically invalid. The coreboot code is correct.

In Libreboot, our only choices were: broken reboot + broken speedstep on some machines, or break something *else* to fix these. In both cases, coreboot was correcting something upstream, to fix old, non-compliant behaviour in the coreboot logic. The most optimal solution is to *not* apply the above patches, but Libreboot has no viable alternative.

osboot does not need the two patches listed above, since it includes the microcode updates. It is superior to Libreboot, for this reason. However, Libreboot still works quite nicely for most people, and I’m still happy to give Libreboot to people, instead of osboot, if they ask for it.

The precise policies of each project can be found via these links:

https://libreboot.org/news/policy.html

https://osboot.org/news/policy.html

What if I brick my laptop when updating libreboot or osboot?

If you brick your Minifree laptop when updating libreboot/osboot, Minifree will unbrick it for free if you send it back to us. Even if your warranty has expired! However, such bricking is rare

Why Minifree?

It’s a reference to Orwell’s 1984 novel. In the world depicted by that novel, “freedom” is a banned word. So, in that world, “Minifree” could never exist.

It’s a very amusing name.