07.05.12

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Canonical and Red Hat Receive Negative Publicity Over Submissive UEFI Choices

Posted in Red Hat, Ubuntu at 11:20 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Fishy business

Thought

Summary: Following the FSF’s paper, criticism of Canonical and Red Hat becomes more commonplace

TECHRIGHTS spent a lot of time covering UEFI because it relates closely to technology rights, or lack thereof. Microsoft essentially gives the finger to Linux users, as one publication put it. The spin from Microsoft boosters [1, 2] sought to portray it as Linux-friendly even though it clearly is the opposite. This led to a blow against the GPLv3-licensed GRUB 2, which Canonical’s reaction in no way a solution but a compromise.

Here is a a good article about what Microsoft has done. It’s from a site about encryption:

A second Linux Distro has joined the Microsoft Secure Booth party. You see Microsoft has come up with what they are calling the UEFI Secure Boot. 61285 Secure boot is somewhat controversial in that once set up it will only allow signed versions of an OS to be installed. This means that if a computer is shipped from an OEM with Windows 8 and UEFI Secure Boot on you could not install a generic version of Linux or indeed any other OS including Windows 7 etc. This would effectively lock someone into using Windows 8 only on these devices. This block would include even downgrading your new system to Windows 7.

Now Microsoft is claiming that there might be a way to turn this off for x86 systems (ARM based systems will be locked to Windows RT), but it has prompted both Red Hat and Canonical to find a way to work within the UEFI Secure boot structure just in case. To do this they are getting a digital signature (from Verisign apparently) which will allow them to work with the UEFI Secure boot.

The FSF has already criticised Canonical, as we pointed out before. “Both the Linux Foundation and the Free Software Foundation voiced their own perspectives last fall when the issue first came up, but over the weekend the Free Software Foundation felt the need to speak out again in response to the approaches being taken by these two popular distributions,” notes the article. “In a nutshell, the advocacy group isn’t thrilled with what either distro has proposed, but it prefers the Fedora approach over Canonical’s solution. It also has a number of suggestions of its own.”

Pogson covered this too, as did some news sites and Groklaw. Here is a snippet from Pamela Jones’ words:

With regard to Fedora’s approach, Sullivan writes that while it’s a thoughful effort that results in GPL compatibility, trusting Microsoft is not an option: “Encouraging free software distributors and users to trust Microsoft or any other proprietary software company as a precondition to exercising their freedoms is simply not an acceptable solution.”

FSF has a number of suggestions going forward, including helping users to learn how to do what they can do to protect themselves, and it is also working with companies like Lemote, Freedom Included, ZaReason, ThinkPenguin, Los Alamos Computers, Garlach44, and InaTux to make computers available that are preinstalled with fully free GNU/Linux distributions.

The bottom line is, UEFI is an attack on computing freedom and it’s therefore unsurprising that it is not compatible with GRUB’s licence. The FSF writes the GPL to help defend against the empire of proprietary software companies. Playing nice with those companies is giving up, it’s defeatism.

“He [Bill Gates] is divisive. He is manipulative. He is a user. He has taken much from me and the industry.”

Gary Kildall

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2 Comments

  1. mcinsand said,

    July 5, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Gravatar

    Were the Canonical and RedHat choices submissive or treasonous? To me, submissive is too mild of a word. MS put themselves into a mess by choosing a software design that makes security impossible, and UEFI is a marketing ploy to con people into thinking that security matters to them; if it mattered, kernel/OS, desktop, browser, etc… would go back to being discretely separate modules as required for basic security.

    But, dammit, now two companies have sold out to legitimize MS’ ploy in the eyes of the ignorant. I’ve been going through my options, and my top three are Slackware, Debian, and PCBSD. Deb is most appealing right now, although PCBSD is almost ridiculously easy to install and configure. My main issue with BSD, though, is the permissive license that fails to guarantee innovation reinvestment (commercialized application sources can’t become closed, with the GPL).

    Anyone else have rankings they’d like to share?

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    The word “treasonous’ is too strong a concept. But it disappointed me and many others.

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