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. Google's Stewardship of GNU/Linux (Android, Chromebooks and More) in Doubt After Company Resorts to Patent 'First Strikes'

    Google has just turned a little more evil, by essentially using patents as a weapon against the competition (by no means a defensive move)



  2. Links 24/2/2017: Ubuntu 17.04 Beta, OpenBSD Foundation Nets $573,000 in Donations

    Links for the day



  3. IAM, Greased up by the EPO, Continues Lobbying by Shaming Tactics for the UPC, Under the Guise of 'News'

    The shrill and well-paid writers of IAM are still at it, promoting the Unitary Patent (UPC) at every opportunity and every turn



  4. Patent Scope Gone Awry: European Vegetable Patents Office?

    In its misguided race to raise so-called 'production', the EPO lost sight of its original goals and now facilitates patent royalty payments/taxation for naturally-recurring items of nature



  5. Yes, There is Definitely Brain Drain (Experience Deficit) at the European Patent Office and Stakeholders Feel It

    The direction that the European Patent Office has taken under Battistelli undoes many decades (almost half a century) of reputation-building and progress and naturally this repels existing staff, not to mention hampers recruitment efforts



  6. The Sickness of the EPO – Part IV: Cruel Management That Deliberately Attacks the Sick and the Weak

    The dysphoric reality at the European Patent Office, which is becoming like a large cell (with bolted-down windows) where people are controlled by fear and scapegoats are selected to perpetuate this atmosphere of terror and maintain demand (or workload) for the Investigative Stasi



  7. Links 23/2/2017: Qt 5.9 Alpha, First SHA1 Collision

    Links for the day



  8. UPC Roundup: War on the Appeal Boards, British Motion Against the UPC, Fröhlinger Recalled, and Fake News About Spain

    Taking stock of some of the latest attempts to shove the Unitary Patent (UPC) down Europe's throat, courtesy of Team Battistelli and Team UPC



  9. The Sickness of the EPO – Part III: Invalidity and Suicides

    An explanation of what drives a lot of EPO veterans to depression and sometimes even suicide



  10. The Appeal Board (PTAB) and Federal Circuit (CAFC) Maintain Good Pace of Patent Elimination Where Scope Was Exceeded

    The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) continues to accept about 4 out of 5 decisions of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) refuses to intervene



  11. Software Patents Are Ebbing Away, But the “Swamp” Fights Back and Hijacks the Word “Fix”

    The club of patent maximalists, or those who profit from excess prosecution and legal chaos, isn't liking what has happened in the United States and it wants everything reversed



  12. Report From Yesterday's Debate About the European Patent Office (EPO) at the Bavarian Landtag

    A report of the EPO debate which took place at the Bavarian Landtag yesterday (21/2/2017)



  13. Links 22/2/2017: Wine-Staging 2.2, Nautilus 3.24

    Links for the day



  14. French Politician Richard Yung Tells the Government About Abuses at the European Patent Office (EPO)

    The subject of EPO scandals has once again landed in French politics, just a couple of months since it last happened



  15. The Sickness of the EPO – Part II: Background Information and Insights

    With a privatised, in-house (sometimes outsourced and for-profit) force for surveillance, policing, justice, public relations and now medical assessment (mere vassals or marionettes of the management) the EPO serves to show that it has become indistinguishable from North Korea, where the Supreme Leader gets to control every single aspect (absolutely no separation of powers)



  16. EPO Cartoon/Caricature by KrewinkelKrijst

    A new rendition by Dutch cartoonist and illustrator KrewinkelKrijst



  17. Inverting Narratives: IAM 'Magazine' Paints Massive Patent Bully Microsoft (Preying on the Weak) as a Defender of the Powerless

    Selective coverage and deliberate misinterpretation of Microsoft's tactics (patent settlement under threat, disguised as "pre-installation of some of the US company’s software products") as seen in IAM almost every week these days



  18. The Sickness of the EPO – Part I: Motivation for New Series of Articles

    An introduction or prelude to a long series of upcoming posts, whose purpose is to show governance by coercion, pressure, retribution and tribalism rather than professional relationship between human beings at the European Patent Office (EPO)



  19. Insensitivity at the EPO’s Management – Part VII: EPO Hypocrisy on Cancer and Lack of Feedback to and From ECPC

    The European Cancer Patient Coalition (ECPC), which calls itself "the largest European cancer patients' umbrella organisation," fails to fulfill its duties, says a source of ours, and the EPO makes things even worse



  20. Links 21/2/2017: KDE Plasma 5.9.2 in Chakra GNU/Linux, pfSense 2.3.3

    Links for the day



  21. EPO Caricature: Battistelli's Wall

    Battistelli's solution to everything at the EPO is exclusion and barriers



  22. The 'New' Microsoft is Still Acting Like a Dangerous Cult in an Effort to Hijack and/or Undermine All Free/Open Source Software

    In an effort to combat any large deployment of non-Microsoft software, the company goes personal and attempts to overthrow even management that is not receptive to Microsoft's agenda



  23. PTAB Petitioned to Help Against Patent Troll InfoGation Corp., Which Goes After Linux/Android OEMs in China

    A new example of software patents against Free software, or trolls against companies that are distributing freedom-respecting software from a country where these patents are not even potent (they don't exist there)



  24. Links 20/2/2017: Linux 4.10, LineageOS Milestone

    Links for the day



  25. No, Doing Mathematical Operations on a Processor Does Not Make Algorithms Patent-Eligible

    Old and familiar tricks -- a method for tricking examiners into the idea that algorithms are actual machines -- are being peddled by Watchtroll again



  26. Paid-for UPC Proponent, IAM 'Magazine', Debunked on UPC Again

    The impact of the corrupted (by EPO money) media goes further than one might expect and even 'borrows' out-of-date news in order to promote the UPC



  27. Lack of Justice in and Around the EPO Drawing Scrutiny

    The status of the EPO as an entity above the law (in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and so on) is becoming the subject of press reports and staff is leaving in large numbers



  28. Links 19/2/2017: GParted 0.28.1, LibreOffice Donations Record

    Links for the day



  29. The EPO is Becoming an Embarrassment to Europe and a Growing Threat to the European Union

    The increasingly pathetic moves by Battistelli and the ever-declining image/status of the EPO (only 0% of polled stakeholders approve Battistelli's management) is causing damage to the reputation of the European Union, even if the EPO is not a European Union organ but an international one



  30. Patent Misconceptions Promoted by the Patent Meta-Industry

    Cherry-picking one's way into the perception of patent eligibility for software and the misguided belief that without patents there will be no innovation


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