Dell Linux Developers Implement TPM

Oct 20, 2009

Most Linux users think of Trusted Platform Module (TPM) as digital rights management (DRM), i.e. software freedom prevention. However, TPM used in some Intel computer modules may have some useful functions.

Licensing a CPU core or DRM are foreign concepts in Linux. Recently, however, a few kernel developers have been looking at some of the more positive aspects of implementing TPM modules. We're therefore starting to see more device drivers for them in the kernel.

One useful function identified for TPM is pseudo-random number generation. As Fedora developer Matt Domsch indicates in his blog, he's been contacting the Linux team at Dell and recommending that they feed their TPM chip, common to Dell's PowerEdge 11G servers, into the Linux kernel's random number gathering daemon (rngd) tool. The rngd normally gets input to the entropy pool from mouse and keyboard activities, things that usually don't occur in server environments.

The Dell team has since taken the hint and written a patch for the rngd tool that derives the random number values from the TPM chip. Having a TPM-based system thus requires only enabling TPM support in the BIOS to get the sufficient random numbers. Meanwhile the patch is waiting to be picked up in the official rngd branch.

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