BIOS maker to unveil "bunker environment" for PCs

Phoenix Technologies, the maker of BIOS (basic input/output system) software for most of the world's PCs, plans to unveil next month a software environment for PCs and other devices that creates a "bunker" in which critical utilities can be stored.

The protected space could hold utilities for self-healing, diagnostics, virus protection, emergency Internet access and remote desktop rebuilds that could be accessed quickly even after a system crash, according to a Phoenix statement. Software in this space, located outside the operating system, could help protect systems against viruses and worms, the company said.

Phoenix, along with partners including Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp., Toshiba Corp., and Dell Computer Corp., will unveil the standards-based environment on Feb. 18, according to David Tractenberg, a representative of Phoenix, in San Jose, California.

The "bunker" will incorporate elements of Phoenix's current FirstBIOS and FirstWare Environment products. FirstBIOS is software that is used to get a PC started and control devices such as the hard disk and display. FirstWare Environment is a "service area" on a special, protected part of the hard drive that can store software for tasks such as system diagnostics, emergency Internet access and system recovery.

The new environment will store critical utilities in another, more secure place in the system that has never been used for this purpose, Tractenberg said. Phoenix will provide more details about that location when the technology is announced, he said. The technology first will be used primarily in PCs but can be embedded into many other kinds of devices, such as PDAs (personal digital assistants), he said.

Having an operating system and other recovery resources available in a place that is safe from system crashes can make support much easier, according to Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at research company Insight 64, in Saratoga, California. It means users don't have to carry operating system CD-ROMs with them when they travel, or send their PCs back to an IS staff or a vendor for system recovery, which can be time-consuming and expensive, he said.

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