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 26/11/2014: Docker Patched, New DragonFlyBSD

    Links for the day



  2. Message to the Corporate Media: Bill Gates is Not an Ebola Expert

    Brainwash in the corporate media, including media that the Gates Foundation bribes in exchange for sheer bias, paints the super-rich as the solution rather than the problem



  3. US Government Finally Probes Microsoft Over Financial Fraud, Microsoft Then Bullies the Government With a Lawsuit

    Microsoft is finally being investigated -- perhaps properly too -- for its well-known tax abuses that have so far proved that Microsoft is "too big to jail"; Microsoft is suing the investigator, exerting its abusive power to discourage further investigation



  4. Gagging Critics: Micro Focus-Run SUSE Bribes Journalists in Exchange for Positive Coverage

    Amid the takeover by Micro Focus, SUSE pays journahayess (especially critics) who in turn become some kind of advertisements feed of Novell



  5. Links 25/11/2014: Tizen News, Jolla Tablet Past Million

    Links for the day



  6. Links 24/11/2014: Linux 3.18-rc6, Qualcomm Eyes GNU/Linux Servers

    Links for the day



  7. Boycotting Micro Focus International

    Microsoft's "Partner of the Year" is taking over the patron of SUSE and all of Novell's remains, except the patents (Microsoft has already grabbed those)



  8. Vesna Stilin's Remarks on Željko Topić: Part XI

    Vesna Stilin speaks about her confrontation with EPO Vice-President Željko Topić, who has criminal lawsuits against him in Croatia



  9. Links 22/11/2014: Linux Mint 17.1, Ubuntu MATE

    Links for the day



  10. Links 21/11/2014: Problems at Debian, Jolla Tablet

    Links for the day



  11. Links 18/11/2014: Linux 3.18 RC 5, New DigiKam

    Links for the day



  12. Special Report: Many Criminal Charges Against EPO Vice-President Željko Topić

    The abuses of Željko Topić, who has gained notoriety in his home country, are rapidly becoming public knowledge across all of Europe



  13. Links 16/11/2014: Xfdesktop 4.10.3, GNU Hello 2.10

    Links for the day



  14. Microsoft is Going Into the Anti-Whistleblowing Business, Dodges Criticism Over 19-Year Bug Door in Windows

    With Aorato acquisition Microsoft helps protect the criminals (from whistleblowers) and with lies about .NET Microsoft distracts from a bug that has facilitated remote access into Windows (by those in the know) for nearly two decades



  15. Reaffirming Microsoft's Long-Known Hostility Towards Net Neutrality, Microsoft Crashed Juniper

    Steve Ballmer is ranting against net neutrality and Juniper's business is in trouble after a lot of executives from Microsoft took over most top positions there



  16. Another Massive Step Towards Elimination of Software Patents as Even CAFC Rules Against Them

    After SCOTUS gets involved in the Ultramercial case, the CAFC finally decides to actually serve justice rather than dogma



  17. The GOP's Patent Reform Plan Not Effective Enough to Stop Massive Patent Trolls Like Microsoft/Nokia

    The corporations-serving GOP says that it wants a patent reform, but another reminder is needed of the futility of the suggested changes



  18. How the EPO's Executive Branch (Battistelli and Topić) Banned Scrutiny and Created Authoritarian Model of Control: Part X

    A look at highly dubious moves by EPO President Battistelli and his right-hand man Topić, whose abuses are becoming hard to oversee or even report



  19. Links 15/11/2014: Linux Mint 17.1 Release Candidate, Popcorn Time 0.3.5

    Links for the day



  20. IRC Proceedings: October 26th, 2014 – November 8th, 2014

    Many IRC logs



  21. The Terrible Joke Which is Microsoft 'Loving' Linux: Nightmares With UEFI 'Secure' Boot (i.e. Windows Monopoly Imposed) Continue to Affect GNU/Linux Users

    A reminder of Microsoft's sheer hostility towards GNU/Linux and long-reaching sabotage of GNU/Linux installations



  22. Patent Lawyers Worry About Section 101 in 'Alice' (and Other Patent News)

    A quick roundup of news of interest regarding software patents



  23. Will Write for FUD (Against FOSS)

    Black Duck rears its ugly head again, serving to show that it is in the business of changing perceptions and not in the information or analysis business



  24. Debunking Several Days of Never-Ending Lies About Microsoft and .NET

    .NET is not "Open Source", it cannot be forked (there remains patent threat), Visual Studio is still completely proprietary and it is expected to come to other platforms only because Windows has lost its dominance and Microsoft wants to perpetually control APIs (with software patents) and hence reign over developers



  25. Links 14/11/2014: LibreOffice 4.3.4, Ads Now in Firefox

    Links for the day



  26. Links 14/11/2014: GNOME 3.14.2, PulseAudio 6.0

    Links for the day



  27. Microsoft Windows is Still Designed as a Paradise of Back Doors, Intrusion, Wiretaps, and Interception

    At many levels -- from communication to storage and encryption -- Windows is designed for the very opposite of security



  28. Forget the FUD About Bash and OpenSSL, Microsoft Windows Blamed for Massive Credit Cards Heist

    Home Depot learns its lesson from a Microsoft Windows disaster, but it stays with proprietary software rather than move to software that is actively audited by many people and is inherently better maintained (Free/libre software)



  29. Windows 'Update' and NSA Back Doors, Including a 19-Year Bug Door in Microsoft Windows

    The back doors-enabled Microsoft Windows is being revealed and portrayed as the Swiss cheese that it really is after massive holes are discovered (mostly to be buried by a .NET propaganda blitz)



  30. Revealed: Microsoft is Trying to Corrupt the UK in Order to Eliminate Its OpenDocument Format-Oriented Standards Policy

    Microsoft interference with Britain's preference for ODF is now confirmed, thanks to a valuable news report from Computer Weekly; OOXML lock-in is being unleashed by Microsoft on Android users


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