Summary: Microsoft puts an unjust ‘feature’ in place and then uses it to blackmail Red Hat into paying for ‘permission’ (from Microsoft) to boot
THE anti-competitive behaviour of Microsoft is thoroughly documented in this Web site. Our item of focus has been the deal of Microsoft and Novell, but Microsoft had a much longer history of systematic abuse and violation of laws.
Recently, with the likely end of Oracle's tactless attack on Android, Groklaw returned to focusing a bit on Microsoft antitrust, as it applies to the company’s abuses against Novell. To quote Pamela Jones:
The trial ended in a mistrial, because one juror held out for Microsoft on the issue of damages, after the entire group of twelve agreed that Microsoft was guilty of anticompetitive behavior.
Apologists of Microsoft love to pretend this is just something from the 1990s and that the so-called “new Microsoft” is all reformed. But this is utter nonsense; Microsoft just got more of its cronies inside the most dominant government (some are funded by Microsoft), which gives this convicted monopolist yet more leeway.
Microsoft spent some more buying the competition out some years ago (Novell) and now it uses SUSE to tax GNU/Linux under the pretence of “community”. Some bloggers fall into the trap and assess it only on technical grounds. Quoting one of them:
I have installed it on pretty much everything around here, and it looks good.
What Microsoft is doing with SUSE — patents-wise — does not look good at all. The ultimate goal is to tax most GNU/Linux users. Fedora/Red Hat is the latest victim of those types of schemes, with Phoronix providing a roundup about the subject. Here is an article which puts it as follows:
Future versions of Fedora could come with a bootloader that is signed by Microsoft, a move that would ensure that the Linux distribution is easy to install on computers with the secure boot mechanism. The proposal was described in a blog entry this week by Red Hat kernel developer Matthew Garrett.
What a bad idea it is to become complicit. “UEFI signing won’t affect security,” said a contributor of ours, “except for market share security” (he cited this news as proof and another contributor gave this link).
Fedora 17 was released this week. It’s both useful and free, and serves as a welcome addition to any family gathering. Do give it a go. But it’s also noteworthy for another reason – it’s the last Fedora release in the pre-UEFI secure boot era. Fedora 18 will be released at around the same time as Windows 8, and as previously discussed all Windows 8 hardware will be shipping with secure boot enabled by default. While Microsoft have modified their original position and all x86 Windows machines will be required to have a firmware option to disable this or to permit users to enrol their own keys, it’s not really an option to force all our users to play with hard to find firmware settings before they can run Fedora. We’ve been working on a plan for dealing with this. It’s not ideal, but of all the approaches we’ve examined we feel that this one offers the best balance between letting users install Fedora while still permitting user freedom.
In order to get its Linux distribution to run on the next generation of secured desktop computing hardware, the Fedora Project will obtain a digital signature from Microsoft, a developer from the project announced Wednesday.
“This isn’t an attractive solution, but it is a workable one,” wrote Matthew Garrett in a blog post on Wednesday. “We came to the conclusion that every other approach was unworkable.”
Microsoft’s new antifeatures are a bad scenario to software freedom and given that Vista 8 is not guaranteed to gain ground (Microsoft boosters do not like it either) Red Hat’s actions represent a surrender; instead of surrendering, Red Hat should have filed an antitrust complaint about Microsoft. Not that a systemically-corrupt regime would be able to stand up to a large corporation, but sometimes one needs to stick to principles.