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. Weaponising Russophobia Against One's Critics

    Response to smears and various whispering campaigns whose sole purpose is to deplete the support base for particular causes and people; these sorts of things have gotten out of control in recent years



  2. When the EPO is Run by Politicians It's Expected to Be Aggressive and Corrupt Like Purely Political Establishments

    António 'Photo Op' Campinos will have marked his one-year anniversary in July; he has failed to demonstrate morality, respect for the law, understanding of the sciences, leadership by example and even the most basic honesty (he lies a lot)



  3. Links 16/6/2019: Tmax OS and New Features for KDE.org

    Links for the day



  4. Stuffed/Stacked Panels Sent Back Packing After One-Sided Patent Hearings That Will Convince Nobody, Just Preach to the Choir

    Almost a week ago the 'world tour' of patent lobbyists in US Senate finally ended; it was an utterly ridiculous case study in panel stacking and bribery (attempts to buy laws)



  5. 2019 H1: American Software Patents Are as Worthless as They Were Last Year and Still Susceptible to Invalidation

    With a fortnight left before the second half of the year it seems evident that software patents aren't coming back; the courts have not changed their position at all



  6. As European Patent Office Management Covers up Collapse in Patent Quality Don't Expect UPC to Ever Kick Off

    It would be madness to allow EPO-granted patents to become 'unitary' (bypassing sovereignty of nations that actually still value patent quality); it seems clear that rogue EPO management has, in effect, not only doomed UPC ambitions but also European Patents (or their perceived legitimacy, presumption of validity)



  7. António Campinos -- Unlike His Father -- Engages in Imperialism (Using Invalid Patents)

    Despite some similarities to his father (not positive similarities), António Campinos is actively engaged in imperialistic agenda that defies even European law; the EPO not only illegally grants patents but also urges other patent offices to do the same



  8. António Campinos Takes EPO Waste and Corruption to Unprecedented Levels and Scale

    The “B” word (billions) is thrown around at Europe’s second-largest institution because a mischievous former EUIPO chief (not Archambeau) is ‘partying’ with about half of the EPO’s all-time savings, which are supposed to be reserved for pensions and other vital programmes, not presidential palaces and gambling



  9. Links 15/6/2019: Astra Linux in Russia, FreeBSD 11.3 RC

    Links for the day



  10. Code of Conduct Explained: Partial Transcript - August 10th, 2018 - Episode 80, The Truth About Southeast Linuxfest

    "Ask Noah" and the debate on how a 'Code of Conduct' is forcibly imposed on events



  11. Links 14/6/2019: Xfce-Related Releases, PHP 7.4.0 Alpha

    Links for the day



  12. The EPO is a Patent Troll's Wet Dream

    The makers of software and games in Europe will have to spend a lot of money just keeping patent trolls off their backs — a fact that seems to never bother EPO management because it profits from it



  13. EPO Spreading Patent Extremists' Ideology to the Whole World, Now to South Korea

    The EPO’s footprint around the world's patent systems is an exceptionally dangerous one; The EPO amplifies the most zealous voices of the patents and litigation ‘industry’ while totally ignoring the views and interests of the European public, rendering the EPO an ‘agent of corporate occupation’



  14. Guest Post: Notes on Free Speech, and a Line in the Sand

    We received this anonymous letter and have published it as a follow-up to "Reader's Claim That Rules Similar to the Code of Conduct (CoC) Were 'Imposed' on LibrePlanet and the FSF"



  15. Links 13/6/2019: CERN Dumps Microsoft, GIMP 2.10.12 Released

    Links for the day



  16. Links 12/6/2019: Mesa 19.1.0, KDE neon 5.16, Endless OS 3.6.0 and BackBox Linux 6

    Links for the day



  17. Leaked Financial 'Study' Document Shows EPO Management and Mercer Engaging in an Elaborate “Hoax”

    How the European Patent Office (EPO) lies to its own staff to harm that staff; thankfully, the staff isn't easily fooled and this whole affair will merely obliterate any remnants of "benefit of the doubt" the President thus far enjoyed



  18. Measuring Patent Quality and Employer Quality in Europe

    Comparing the once-famous and respected EPO to today's joke of an office, which grants loads of bogus patents on just about anything including fruit and mathematics



  19. Granting More Fundamentally Wrong Patents Will Mean Reduced Certainty, Not Increased Certainty

    Law firms that are accustomed to making money from low-quality and abstract patents try to overcome barriers by bribing politicians; this will backfire because they show sheer disregard for the patent system's integrity and merely lower the legal certainty associated with granted (by greedy offices) patents



  20. Links 11/6/2019: Wine 4.10, Plasma 5.16

    Links for the day



  21. Chapter 10: Moving Forward -- Getting the Best Results From Open Source With Your Monopoly

    “the gradual shift in public consciousness from their branding towards our own, is the next best thing to owning them outright.”



  22. Chapter 9: Ownership Through Branding -- Change the Names, and Change the World

    The goal for those fighting against Open source, against the true openness (let's call it the yet unexploited opportunities) of Open source, has to be first to figuratively own the Linux brand, then literally own or destroy the brand, then to move the public awareness of the Linux brand to something like Azure, or whatever IBM is going to do with Red Hat.



  23. Links 10/6/2019: VLC 3.0.7, KDE Future Plans

    Links for the day



  24. Patent Quality Continues to Slip in Europe and We Know Who Will Profit From That (and Distract From It)

    The corporate media and large companies don't speak about it (like Red Hat did before entering a relationship with IBM), but Europe is being littered and saturated with a lot of bogus software patents -- abstract patents that European courts would almost certainly throw out; this utter failure of the media to do journalism gets exploited by the "big litigation" lobby and EPO management that's granting loads of invalid European Patents (whose invalidation goes underreported or unreported in the media)



  25. Corporate Front Groups Like OIN and the Linux Foundation Need to Combat Software Patents If They Really Care About Linux

    The absurdity of having groups that claim to defend Linux but in practice defend software patents, if not actively then passively (by refusing to comment on this matter)



  26. Links 9/6/2019: Arrest of Microsoft Peter, Linux 5.2 RC4, Ubuntu Touch Update

    Links for the day



  27. Chapter 8: A Foot in the Door -- How to Train Sympathetic Developers and Infiltrate Other Projects

    How to train sympathetic developers and infiltrate other projects



  28. Chapter 7: Patent War -- Use Low-Quality Patents to Prove That All Software Rips Off Your Company

    Patents in the United States last for 20 years from the time of filing. Prior to 1994, the patent term was 17 years from when the patent was issued.



  29. The Linux Foundation in 2019: Over 100 Million Dollars in Income, But Cannot Maintain Linux.com?

    Today’s Linux Foundation gets about 0.1 billion dollars per year (as explained in our previous post), so why can’t it spend about 0.1% of that money on people who write for and maintain a site that actually promotes GNU/Linux?



  30. Microsoft and Proprietary Software Vendors a Financial Boon for the Linux Foundation, But at What Cost?

    The Linux Foundation is thriving financially, but the sources of income are diversified to the point where the Linux Foundation is actually funded by foes of Linux, defeating the very purpose or direction of such a nonprofit foundation (led by self-serving millionaires who don't use GNU/Linux)


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

Recent Posts