EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

07.17.12

TechBytes Episode 69: Richard Stallman on Restricted Boot (UEFI), Coreboot, GRUB, and Boot Freedom

Posted in TechBytes at 8:22 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Techbytes 2012

Direct download as Ogg (0:13:28, 5.5 MB)

Summary: The first part of our interview with Richard Stallman covers Restricted Boot and related issues

I first interviewed Richard Stallman about 5 years ago. Yesterday I spoke to him about the subject of much debate in the Free software world right now. Here is a transcript of our conversation.

Dr. Roy Schestowitz: I want to know how big a threat you think the so-called “secure” boot is considered to be to the Free software movement.

Richard StallmanDr. Richard Stallman: It’s a disaster. Well, except that it’s not secure boot that’s a disaster, it’s restricted boot. Those are not the same. When it’s front of the control of the user, secure boot is a security feature. It allows the user to control what programs can run on a machine and thus prevent — you might say — unexpected malware from running. We have to distinguish the unexpected malware such as viruses from the expected malware such as Windows or Mac OS or Flash Player and so on, which are also malware; they have features that hurt the user but users know what they are installing. In any case, what secure boot does is that it causes the machine to only work with (?) programs that are signed with a certain key, your keys. And as long as the user controls which keys they are, then it’s a security feature. However, it can be chained into a set of digital handcuffs when the user doesn’t control the keys. And this [is] happening.

“We have to distinguish the unexpected malware such as viruses from the expected malware such as Windows or Mac OS…”Microsoft demands that ARM computers sold for Windows 8 be set up so that the user cannot change the keys; in other words, turn it into restricted boot. Now, this is not a security feature. This is abuse of the users. I think it ought to be illegal.

It’s a matter of control by the vendor of course, not control by the user himself

Exactly, and that’s why it’s wrong. That’s why non-free software is wrong. The users deserve to have control of their computers/

I think that not only Windows is going to be an issue in fact, if you consider the fact that even a modified kernel is going to be in a position where it’s perhaps not seen as verified for execution. Right, I’m saying, it might not only be a malicious feature in case of something like Windows running on it, it’s also for — let’s say — a user of the offered operating system but it’s free if the user wants to modify the operating system, for example…

The thing is, if the user doesn’t control the keys, then it’s a kind of shackle, and that would be true no matter what system it is. After all, why is GNU/Linux better than Windows? Not just ’cause it has a different name. The reason it’s better is because it’s freedom-respecting Free software that the users control. But if the machine has restricted boot and the users can’t control the system, then it would be just as bad as Windows. So, if the machine will only run a particular version of GNU/Linux, that is a restriction feature. And I haven’t heard anyone doing that yet with GNU/Linux, but that’s what Red Hat and Ubuntu are proposing to do things — somewhat like that — for future PCs that are shipped for Windows. But it’s not exactly that. And my reason is, the users will be able to change the keys. They will be able to boot their own modified version of the system of Fedora or Ubuntu if they want. So, what Fedora and Ubuntu were proposing doesn’t go all the way there. They’re proposing to do things to make it more convenient for users to install the standard version of those systems. But if things go as it has been announced, users will still be able to change the keys and boot their own versions. So, if all the restricted boot — but it will be something that goes sort of half-way there — it’s somewhat distasteful.

“The thing is, if the user doesn’t control the keys, then it’s a kind of shackle, and that would be true no matter what system it is.”On the other hand, with Android, which is another mostly Free operating system which contains Linux but doesn’t contain GNU, it’s quite common for the product to have something equivalent to restricted boot, and people have to struggle to figure out how they can install a modified and more free version of Android. So, the presence of the kernel Linux in a system doesn’t guarantee it’s going to be better. And I’ve heard someone say — oh, it hasn’t been checked — that a particular or kind of Android device is actually using an Intel chip with restricted boot.

One of the concerns that I think is worth raising is the fact that, as far as I know, with many of the embedded devices, especially those based on ARM, I believe it’s not even possible to get into boot menu to disable so-called “secure”…

That’s where Microsoft is really going all out, because Microsoft has ordered essentially — demanded — that those shipping ARM devices for Windows 8 make it restricted boot with no way to get around it.

Yeah, which also means of course waste of… all sorts of impacts on the environment. Any time that hardware become obsolete with the operating system itself is not being used of course…

“So it’s a very damaging thing that Microsoft is doing and so we need to look for every possible way to stop them or tweak what they’re doing.”Well, it’s worse than that. It means basically that those devices, you have to throw them out if you want to escape to the free world. And this — in the past — we were able to install, to liberate a computer by installing Free software on it instead of its user-restricting operation system, and this of course was tremendously helpful to the spread of GNU/Linux because it meant that users could move to freedom. It would be much harder if they had to buy another computer to do so. So it’s a very damaging thing that Microsoft is doing and so we need to look for every possible way to stop them or tweak what they’re doing.

Well, I wanted to ask you, one of our readers — his name is Will — is asking me if you have seen any new good hardware that can take coreboot.

I’m sorry, what?

One of my readers — a guy called Will — he has asked me if you have seen any new good hardware that can take coreboot.

“So, what we really need to do is make coreboot libre, just as we make Linux libre (which doesn’t have the blobs)…”I don’t know. Basically, I don’t keep track of hardware models. I only remember their names anymore, except for the one I use, which is, the Lemote Yeelong and it doesn’t run coreboot but it will run timar [?] in GRUB, it has a Free BIOS. When it comes it has a Free BIOS, which is why I chose it. But in terms of running coreboot, well, the machine which you run coreboot on are Intel-type machines. Now, there are a couple of… there is a problem, and that is, a lot of the Intel — and also AMD — CPUs require a microcode blob, and coreboot has these microcode blobs, which is the same kind of problem as firmware blobs in Linux. So, what we really need to do is make coreboot libre, just as we make Linux libre (which doesn’t have the blobs), keep (?) the coreboot libre (which doesn’t have the blobs) and then we need to see which processors actually run adequately without any microcode blob. And we’re looking for somebody who wants to lead this project ’cause it takes work. Now, leading this project doesn’t mean that you personally get all these kinds of hardware; oh, no, it would be asking the whole community to test things, but somebody has got to ask the community to do it, spread the word, receive the responses, put them together, and publish the list. Would (?) he like to do that? If he is really interested in having the answer to this question, maybe he’d like to help get the answer, and that would help the whole community.


More from Stallman is to be published in coming days.

We hope you will join us for future shows and consider subscribing to the show via the RSS feed. You can also visit our archives for past shows. If you have an Identi.ca account, consider subscribing to TechBytes in order to keep up to date.

As embedded (HTML5):

Keywords: UEFI Coreboot GRUB GNU FSF

Download:

Ogg Theora

Past shows in this series:

Show overview Show title
Episode 66: Tim and Roy TechBytes Episode 66: First of the Second Series
Episode 67: Tim and Roy TechBytes Episode 67: Nokia Down, Android Up
Episode 68: Roy TechBytes Episode 68: Solo With Patents, Apple Bans, and Android World Domination
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

What Else is New


  1. New Optimism in the Age of Doubt Over Software Patents

    As the tide turns against software patents, even in their country of origin, their opponents come out of the woodwork to celebrate



  2. Links 28/7/2014: New Linux RC, Plasma 5 Live in Kubuntu

    Links for the day



  3. Links 27/7/2014: KDE 4.14 Beta 3, KDE 4.14 Beta 3 Released

    Links for the day



  4. Apple and Microsoft Are Proprietary Software Companies and the Media Should Stop Openwashing Them

    New examples where proprietary software giants are characterised as FOSS-embracing and FOSS-friendly by gullible or dishonest 'journalists'



  5. Bloomberg's Microsoft Propaganda

    Bloomberg delivers 'damage control' and PR ahead of the layoffs announcement; Microsoft uses Nokia to hide it and Bloomberg helps Microsoft by radically modifying headlines



  6. Frequency of Browser Back Doors in Microsoft Windows is Doubling

    The vulnerabilities which Microsoft tells the NSA about (before these are patched) are significantly growing in terms of their numbers



  7. FUD Entities Entering the FOSS World

    Symantec enters the AllSeen Alliance and Sonatype is once again trying to claim great insecurity in FOSS due to software licensing



  8. Groklaw Back in the Wake of ODF in the UK?





  9. Links 26/7/2014: New Wine, Chromebooks Strong Sales

    Links for the day



  10. Links 25/7/2014: GOG With GNU/Linux, Ubuntu 14.04.1 LTS

    Links for the day



  11. Links 24/7/2014: Oracle Linux 7; Fedora Delays

    Links for the day



  12. Valerie Strauss Explains Why Gates Foundation's Lobbying for 'Common Core' (Privatisation) is a Swindle That Makes Microsoft Richer

    Continued criticism of the Gates Foundation's lobbying and masquerading, with more journalists brave enough to highlight the corruption



  13. USPTO Officially Sets New Guidelines to Limit Scope of Software Patents in the United States

    Even patent lawyers finally acknowledge that the incentive to file software patent applications has been reduced, as the scope of patents on software has been noticeably narrowed and they are harder to acquire, let alone enforce in a courtroom



  14. UK Government Adopts OpenDocument Format (ODF) and Microsoft Already Attacks the Government Over It, Showing Absolutely No Commitment to Open Standards

    Only "Microsoft as the standard" is the 'standard' Microsoft is willing to accept, as its response to the Cabinet Office's judgment reveals



  15. Microsoft Layoffs of 2014

    Another quick look at Microsoft's horrible state of affairs and why it has virtually nothing to do with Nokia



  16. Links 22/7/2014: Linux 3.16 RC 6, New UberStudent

    Links for the day



  17. Links 20/7/2014: Jolla in India, Mega Censored in Italy

    Links for the day



  18. Longtime Mono Booster Joins Microsoft-linked Xamarin

    Jo Shields almost joins Microsoft, settling instead for its proxy, Xamarin



  19. Linux Foundation Welcomes Patent Aggressor Red Bend Software

    The Linux Foundation's AllSeen Alliance welcomes as a member a company that uses software patents to sue Free/Open Source software



  20. Matt Levy From Patent Progress (and CCIA) Does Not Really Want Patent Progress

    Matthew ('Matt') Levy moved into a foe of patent progress last year, but he still runs a site calls Patent Progress, in which he diverts all attention to patent trolls (as large corporations such as Microsoft like to do)



  21. Attacking FOSS by Ignoring/Overlooking Issues With Proprietary Software

    The biasing strategy which continues to be used to demonise Free/Open Source software (FOSS) along with some new examples



  22. Links 19/7/2014: CRUX 3.1 is Out, CyanogenMod Competes With Google Now

    Links for the day



  23. Microsoft's Massive Layoffs Go Far Beyond Nokia; Nokia's Android Phones Axed by Microsoft's Elop

    Microsoft's rapid demise and permanent exit from Nokia's last remaining Linux platform (after Microsoft had killed two more)



  24. Patents on Software Already Being Invalidated in Courts Owing to SCOTUS Ruling on 'Abstract' Patents

    The Federal Circuit Appeals Court has just "invalidated a software patent for being overly abstract," says a patents expert



  25. OpenSUSE 'Community' is Crumbling, AttachMSFT Killed SUSE's Potential (Except as Microsoft Tax)

    Not much too see in the land of SUSE and Attachmate, or formerly the company known as Novell



  26. Links 18/7/2014: Slackware Turns 21, Spotify Switches to Ubuntu

    Links for the day



  27. Links 16/7/2014: Manjaro 0.8.10 Third Update, SIA Migrates to Red Hat

    Links for the day



  28. Microsoft's Latest Round of Massive/Bulk/Large-scale Layoffs

    Microsoft boosters are preparing 'damage control' pieces ahead of massive layoffs at Microsoft



  29. Secrecy Allows British Government to be Manipulated by Microsoft for Spyware Behind Closed Doors

    Dependence on malicious software from NSA ally Microsoft is highly dependent, at least in Britain, on government secrecy and vain refusal to comply with Freedom of Information (FOI) requests



  30. Software Patent Applications Already Being Rejected in the US Owing to SCOTUS Ruling, Some Patent Lawyers Are Fuming

    Good news on the software patents front as the USPTO starts rejecting software patent applications, based on patent lawyers' words


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