07.15.12

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UEFI Debate Rages on While New Workarounds and Advice Surface

Posted in FSF, Microsoft at 2:35 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Defence

Summary: Routes that are less complicit with Microsoft are noted in light of the anti-competitive UEFI scheme

THE UEFI saga has got booting freedom at stake and within a day or two I will have a chance to speak to Dr. Stallman about it. Canonical did not follow the FSF’s advice, as we noted before. “There’s been plenty of speculation as to Canonical’s rationale,” writes this one pundit. “Meanwhile, reports of murmurings on the topic among Debian developers have kept imaginations active, as has the arrival of the first retail PCs to support UEFI Secure Boot. Bottom line? No proverbial “fat lady” is going to be singing around here anytime soon. On Slashdot and beyond, the flames of controversy just keep getting higher.”

The Debian position was mentioned here before [1, 2, 3] and it intersects with the attempt by Debian to fully satisfy the FSF. Brian from Linux Today fame says that “[t]he Debian Project, developers of the Debian GNU/Linux distribution, are making a concerted effort to get within the good graces of the Free Software Foundation.

“The Debian position was mentioned here before and it intersects with the attempt by Debian to fully satisfy the FSF.”“Debian Project Leader Stefano Zacchiroli proposed the plan over the US holiday last week, specifically stating that project members “should either get Debian in FSF free-distros list, or document (from our [point of view]) why Debian is not there.”

The FSFE's advice was something along the same lines that Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols mentioned in his latest coverage where he speaks to a GNU/Linux-friendly vendor. To quote: “Will the advent of Windows 8 really mean that Microsoft’s secure boot lock-in will be on every PC? Cathy Malmrose, CEO of the Linux PC vendor ZaReason doesn’t think it should.

“Malmrose told me “With UEFI’s Secure Boot around the corner, we are hoping to raise awareness that [GNU/]Linux distributors don’t need to sign with Microsoft [or use their secure boot. Computers that are rooted with open bootloader are available. That’s what we ship.”

“ZaReason’s mission isn’t just to make free/open hardware: it’s to ensure that there is always a free-as-in-free-speech option for your computing needs.”
      –Cory Doctorow
“She knows, “UEFI’s Secure Boot is implemented at OEM (originial equipment manufacturer) level, all new PCs purchased (with the intent of loading your favorite distro) will have Secure Boot.” This cripples them as far as Malmrose is concerned.

““Yes, you can disable it. But ‘disabling’ something that’s ‘secure’ makes you bad.” Besides as Malmose told me, “the keystroke(s) needed to get [GNU/]Linux to run on machines post-2012 will be simple at first, becoming increasingly complex at a non-shocking rate. It’s a monumental shift at OEM level.” Malmrose fears that this will desktop [GNU/]Linux “too difficult to new users, [and this will cause] slow death by suffocation” for [GNU/]Linux.

“So what can [GNU/]Linux users do instead? Malmrose thinks we can avoid a “Greek Tragedy “ by recognizing that Linux needs hardware vendors, like ZaReason, “who can keep things open, [who keep our collective foot in the door at the factories.” Malmrose insists that it isn’t about her particular company. “There is 0 profit.* If we ever did have profit, we would donate to support the EFF, FSF, Software Freedom Conservancy, LinuxFests, GNOME Foundation, various conferences, the works. Hopefully someday there will be but most months it’s a stretch to make payroll.”

“So why take this stance? Cory Doctorow, in describing ZaReason, put it well, “ZaReason’s mission isn’t just to make free/open hardware: it’s to ensure that there is always a free-as-in-free-speech option for your computing needs.”

“She’s right. We need to support [GNU/]Linux-friendly hardware vendors. There is no law that says computers with UEFI must use Secure Boot. Yes, Microsoft may want it that way, but if we support companies that offer open systems we can still get open hardware to go with our open-source software.

“The myth that it contributes to security will be spread again and there will be no defence against secure boot being mandated by governments.”
      –Sam Varghese
Another writer who has criticised Red Hat’s and Ubuntu’s (or Canonical’s) decision right from the start notes that “[b]y going along with Microsoft, and not even bothering to join together and raise a stink, the rest of the computer industry has created a situation where Microsoft can surface again a couple of years down the track and lobby for making secure boot mandatory for all devices. After all, the company can argue that secure boot has been widely accepted – this will be true – and nobody has objected. Everyone has adapted and started to use it.

“The myth that it contributes to security will be spread again and there will be no defence against secure boot being mandated by governments. Is there any guarantee that the cost of a key to implement secure boot will cost $US99 at that stage? It will turn out to be a nice little earner.”

This analysis from Sam Varghese hits many of the important points — the same points stressed by Techrights right from the get-go. The above will prove handy for future reference.

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