EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

09.22.11

Microsoft Finds Another Excuse to Block GNU/Linux

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Vista 8 at 8:35 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: UEFI is Microsoft’s latest excuse for leaving GNU/Linux out in the cold

MICROSOFT loves blocking or suppressing GNU/Linux installations, typically using a process it keeps describing as a feature. Microsoft has been sabotaging the MBR using the excuses that it is hard to support it (funny how one or two GRUB developers can handle it just fine). There is antitrust evidence about it going decades back and there there is the war on fast booting systems and battles against Linux using VM restrictions (fighting Linux with a Windows EULA). We have covered many such examples, even those that extend to ACPI.

Well, in a blog post that we mentioned a couple of days ago, a detailed explanation was provided about Microsoft’s next mischievous move:

Computer scientists warn that proposed changes in firmware specifications may make it impossible to run “unauthorised” operating systems such as Linux and FreeBSD on PCs.

Proposed changes to the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) firmware specifications would mean PCs would only boot from a digitally signed image derived from a keychain rooted in keys built into the PC. Microsoft is pushing to make this mandatory in a move that could not be overridden by users and would effectively exclude alternative operating systems, according to Professor Ross Anderson of Cambridge University and other observers.

“Microsoft could lock out Linux with Tivoization” was Homer’s (Slated.org) explanation. He pointed out that “The upshot is that in order to run Linux on machines with UEFI secure boot enabled, the new bootloader, kernel and all other binaries must be signed by a key that is accepted and distributed by the OEM. In practice this means Linux will only run on machines that are either preinstalled with Linux by the OEM, or on machines where UEFI secure boot is not enabled. Given Microsoft’s demands, the latter seems unlikely, and the former would essentially spell an end to Linux (or any other OS) users having any sort of autonomy WRT which distro they use, on the extremely rare occasion Microsoft’s subjugated “partners” even bothered to preinstall Linux at all. On most machines, Linux would simply be locked out entirely.

“If this does pan out the way I’m sure Microsoft would like it to, our only hope is for antitrust regulators step in and force OEMs to allow consumers to opt-out of UEFI secure boot, to enable them to install whatever they want on their own damned property.

“This is by far the biggest threat to consumers’ freedom and choice we’ve yet seen on PCs. It literally turns the keys to the entire PC industry over to Microsoft.

“I wonder how much Linus “likes Tivoization” now?”

Sam Varghese writes

Is Microsoft finally resigned to the fact that Windows can never again be the dominant operating system on our planet? Or is the behemoth planning to make one final attempt to control what you use?

Sean Michael Kerner has good coverage, whereas Sam Dean apologises somewhat or gives the benefit of the doubt to Microsoft by writing: “It’s highly doubtful this will end up being a concern when the final version of Windows 8 comes to fruition. Microsoft has become increasingly aware that IT administrators are interested in heterogenous environments where many people want to use multiple operating systems. We’ve also noted that Windows 8 is taking some of its cues from Linux. It’s not in Microsoft’s best interest to box out alternative operating systems.”

Well, gentle headlines exist as well and they come from the expected sources. Microsoft boosters try to belittle the problem, whereas Linux advocates do not. Based on antitrust material we know that Microsoft often does this knowingly and deliberately, citing internal communication.

According to other articles, this debacle “was discovered by Linux developer Matthew Garrett, who’s been doing a lot of work with EFI booting in general for his day job. Recent UEFI specifications have allowed for “secure boot” that requires an OS to have a signed key in system firmware to work.”

Mr. Corbet summarises Garrett’s article as follows:

Matthew Garrett has posted an article about the UEFI “secure boot” feature and its potential impact on Linux.

Katherine Noyes, a great GNU/Linux advocate, challenges this move by Microsoft and Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols says that “Microsoft tries to block Linux off Windows 8 PCs” (he does not give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt).

If this wasn’t so sad, it would be funny. After Microsoft recently declared victory over Linux, it turns out that Microsoft appears is still trying to arrange it so that Linux won’t even boot on the next generation of PCs that come with Windows 8. Yeah, Linux isn’t on your enemy list anymore right Microsoft? Sure.

Matthew Garrett, a Red Hat engineer, gets the credit for spotting Microsoft’s latest anti-Linux move. In a blog posting, Garrett explains that Windows 8 logo guidelines require that systems have Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) secure boot enabled. This, in turn, would block Linux, or any other operating system, from booting on it.

There’s nothing in UEFI that’s wrong. Indeed there’s a lot of good in UEFI. It’s a 21st century replacement for your PC’s basic input/output system (BIOS). Its job is to initialize your hardware and then hand over control over to the operating system.

Here is another take from a pro-Linux site:

Microsoft cheered Windows users earlier this month when it demonstrated the upcoming Windows 8 operating system booting in eight seconds. Part of the technology behind the fast boots, however, could enable Microsoft and its PC vendor partners to block users from loading Linux on a Windows 8 PC, according to a Matthew Garrett, a mobile Linux developer at Red Hat, writing in a Sept. 20 blog post.

We also covered this issue in tonight’s episode of TechBytes (to be published shortly). “Microsoft must clarify the Windows 8 boot spec and how it impacts Linux” says this last article we that we wanted to mention:

This is not a small issue. If Microsoft does attempt to make it impossible for the average consumer to install and run Linux aside of Windows 8, it will lose whatever inroads that it has made with developers in the past few years. Even more, it’s restrictive and could open the company to even more anti-trust scrutiny.

Perhaps there is no issue. It could be that Microsoft has foreseen this issue and has a workaround (at worst). But we don’t know, because Microsoft won’t tell us. They will, but the company will have suffered from its reticence to not pipe up with the truth.

The bottom line is, Microsoft is already under a lot of pressure and it’s unlikely to get away with this trick ‘by surprise’. Same ol’ Microsoft is up to no good.

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

6 Comments

  1. Michael said,

    September 22, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Gravatar

    Given the high demand for Linux on the desktop, surely OEMs would allow Linux to run.

    There is high demand… right?

    twitter Reply:

    Microsoft, not OEMs will hold the keys or Windows and Windows updates won’t run either.

    Desktops are a tiny fraction of the world’s computers.

    If you want to see a customer free dead zone, go to any computer store and look at the $400 Windows 7 laptop section. The only thing that can sell worse is Tivoized Windows 8 computers. No one is going to buy them and the bad reputation will destroy what’s left of the Windows ecosystem as long as the inflexible non computers are on the market. I imagine Microsoft will start things off with a hardware dump of epic proportions but that will only bankrupt them. People who want to live in a jail will pick one that works from Apple or Android.

    Michael Reply:

    Ah, so Windows is about to go away. Thanks for letting me know.

    twitter Reply:

    “Windows” as you knew it is already gone. There was once a relatively open and vibrant collection of companies built around the PC and Windows. It was not sustainable or just because Microsoft held all of the power and users were helpless. Microsoft exercised that power and very little is left of the ecosystem. Vista and Windows 7 were both egregious exercises of power and market failures. Windows 8 will not be a general computing platform. Microsoft is imploding.

    Michael Reply:

    Yeah, Microsoft has about six months until the file for bankruptcy. I am so happy Linux pushed them there. What would we do without Linux.

    LOL!

  2. twitter said,

    September 23, 2011 at 1:34 am

    Gravatar

    What we really see here is Microsoft’s planned take over of the desktop. They launched the effort as Palladium in 2001 or so and Richard Stallman decried it as Treacherous Computing. If you compare what RMS warned us about to jailed devices of today we can easily see the future of Windows 8 as one huge jail and an end to general purpose hardware.

    I do not think they will succeed without government mandates. “Secure” Windows 8 computers will have all the flexibility of computerized typewriters of the early 90s and few people will buy them. Cablegate shows us how Microsoft and publishers have been working to force a new “Intellectual Property Regime” (IPR) on the world but government and business need general purpose computing more than they need to protect US controlled media giants.

What Else is New


  1. Links 29/10/2014: Ubuntu Touch Tablet, Puppy Linux 6.0

    Links for the day



  2. Links 28/10/2014: SUSE Linux Enterprise 12, Canonical OpenStack Distro

    Links for the day



  3. Links 28/10/2014: PiFxOS, The Document Foundation in OSBA

    Links for the day



  4. Microsoft is Bricking Devices With Linux (Yet Again!), So a Microsoft Booster Spins/Paints Linux Devices as 'Fakes'

    Microsoft delivers rogue drivers through Windows Update and they brick Arduino microcontrollers



  5. How Bill Gates Continues to Pass Wealth From the Public to His Own Bank Account

    Having put a universal tax on many things (not just computers) and evaded tax using the classic 'charity' trick, Gates is now buying the media, the schools, politicians etc. and earns as much as 10 billion dollars per year while the public is taught that Gates is a giver, not a hoarder of the worst kind



  6. Links 27/10/2014: Lenovo Unbundling, Linux 3.18 RC2

    Links for the day



  7. IRC Proceedings: September 14th, 2014 – October 25th, 2014

    Many IRC logs



  8. Links 25/10/2014: KDE Mockups, Update on GNOME Outreach Program for Women

    Links for the day



  9. After Infecting Unity -- Successfully -- Microsoft's Partner Xamarin Wants to Infect Unreal Engine With .NET

    Xamarin continues to spread dependence on Microsoft to more gaming frameworks, not just platforms such as GNU/Linux, Android, and even permanent-state devices



  10. Taking Microsoft Windows Off the Grid for Damage to Businesses, the Internet, and Banking Systems

    Microsoft's insecure-by-design software is causing massive damages ([cref 27802 possibly trillions] of [cref 13992 dollars in damages to date]) and yet the corporate press does not ask the right questions, let alone suggest a ban on Microsoft software



  11. City of Berlin Does Not Abandon Free Software, It's Only Tax Authorities

    A Softpedia report that says the City of Berlin is moving to Microsoft Office is flawed and may be based on a poor translation



  12. Nadella a Liar in Chief at Microsoft, Pretending That His Anti-Competitive Practices Are Unfortunately Imposed on Microsoft

    The nastiness of Microsoft knows no bounds as even its assault on GNU/Linux and dirty tricks against Free software adoption are characterised as the fault of 'pirates'



  13. Reuters Writes About the Demise of Software Patents, But Focuses on 'Trolls' and Quotes Lawyers

    How the corporate media chooses to cover the invalidity of many software patents and the effect of that



  14. Links 24/10/2014: Microsoft Tax Axed in Italy, Google's Linux (ChromeOS/Android) Leader Promoted

    Links for the day



  15. Links 24/10/2014: GNU/Linux History, Fedora Delay

    Links for the day



  16. Links 23/10/2014: New *buntu, Benchmarks

    Links for the day



  17. Links 22/10/2014: Chromebooks Surge, NSA Android Endorsement

    Links for the day



  18. Links 21/10/2014: Debian Fork Debate, New GNU IceCat

    Links for the day



  19. Criminal Microsoft is Censoring the Web and Breaks Laws to Do So; the Web Should Censor (Remove) Microsoft

    Microsoft is still breaking the Internet using completely bogus takedown requests (an abuse of DMCA) and why Microsoft Windows, which contains weaponised back doors (shared with the NSA), should be banned from the Internet, not just from the Web



  20. Microsoft 'Loving' GNU/Linux and Other Corporate Media Fiction

    Microsoft has bullied or cleverly bribed enough technology-centric media sites to have them characterise Microsoft as a friend of Free/Open Source software (FOSS) that also "loves Linux"



  21. India May be Taking Bill Gates to Court for Misusing His So-called 'Charity' to Conduct Clinical Trials Without Consent on Behalf of Companies He Invests in

    Bill Gates may finally be pulled into the courtroom again, having been identified for large-scale abuses that he commits in the name of profit (not "charity")



  22. The Problems With Legal Workarounds, Patent Scope, and Expansion of Patent Trolls to the East

    Patent trolls are in the news again and it's rather important, albeit for various different reasons, more relevant than the ones covered here in the past



  23. Links 20/10/2014: Cloudera and Red Hat, Debian 7.7, and Vivid Vervet

    Links for the day



  24. Links 20/10/2014: 10 Years Since First Ubuntu Release

    Links for the day



  25. How Patent Lawyers Analyze Alice v. CLS Bank

    Breaking down a patent lawyer's analysis of a Supreme Court's decision that seemingly invalidated hundreds of thousands of software patents



  26. Is It Google's Turn to Head the USPTO Corporation?

    The industry-led USPTO continues to be coordinated by some of its biggest clients, despite issues associated with conflicting interests



  27. The EPO's Public Relations Disaster Amid Distrust From Within (and EPO Communications Chief Leaves): Part VII

    Amid unrest and suspicion of misconduct in the EPO's management (ongoing for months if not years), Transparency International steps in, but the EPO's management completely ignores Transparency International, refusing to collaborate; the PR chief of the EPO is apparently being pushed out in the mean time



  28. Links 18/10/2014: Debian Plans for Init Systems, Tails 1.2

    Links for the day



  29. Links 18/10/2014: New ELive, Android Expansion

    Links for the day



  30. Another Fresh Blow to Software Patents (and With Them Patent Trolls)

    Another new development shows that more burden of proof is to be put on the litigant, thus discouraging the most infamous serial patent aggressors and reducing the incentive to settle with a payment out of court


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts