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. Links 24/8/2016: More From LinuxCon, Uganda Wants FOSS

    Links for the day



  2. Links 23/8/2016: GNOME 3.22 Beta, Android 7.0 Nougat

    Links for the day



  3. The Linux Foundation Gives Microsoft (Paid-for) Keynote Position While Microsoft Extorts (With Patents) Lenovo and Motorola Over Linux Use

    This morning's reminder that Nadella is just another Ballmer (with a different face); Motorola and Lenovo surrender to Microsoft's patent demands and will soon put Microsoft spyware/malware on their Linux-powered products to avert costly legal battles



  4. Not Just President Battistelli: EPO Vice-Presidents Are Still Intentionally Misrepresenting EPO Staff

    Evidence serving to show that EPO Vice-Presidents are still intentionally misrepresenting EPO staff representatives and misleading everyone in order to defend Battistelli



  5. Battistelli the Liar Causes a Climate of Confrontation in French Politics, Lies About Patent Quality (Among Many Other Things)

    Battistelli's lies are coming under increased scrutiny inside and outside the European Patent Office (EPO), where patent quality has been abandoned in order to artificially elevate figures



  6. The Collapse of Software Patents and Patent Law Firms Trying to “Overcome” Alice

    The United States continues its gradual crackdown on software patents (which are viewed as abstract and thus unpatentable), whereas in Europe things are murkier than ever



  7. Apple's Patent Wars Against Android/Linux Make Patent Trolls Stronger

    Apple's insistence that designs should be patentable could prove to be collectively expensive, as patent trolls would then use a possible SCOTUS nod to launch litigation campaigns



  8. Links 22/8/2016: Linux 4.8 RC3, Linux Mint 18 “Sarah” KDE Beta

    Links for the day



  9. Links 21/8/2016: Apple and Microsoft Down, Systemd Spreading to Mount

    Links for the day



  10. Links 20/8/2016: Android Domination, FSFE summit 2016

    Links for the day



  11. Patents Roundup: Trolls Dominate Litigation, PTAB Crushes Patents, Patent Box Regime Persists, and OIN Explains Itself

    Another roundup of patent news from around the Web with special focus on software patenting



  12. The Cost/Toll of the 'New' EPO and Where All That Money Goes or Comes From

    The European Patent Office has become a servant of the rich and powerful (including large foreign corporations) and even its own employees now pay the price associated with misguided new policies (or 'reforms' as Battistelli habitually refers to these)



  13. Links 19/8/2016: Linux Mint With KDE, Linux Foundation's PNDA

    Links for the day



  14. The End of an Era at the USPTO as Battistelli-Like (EPO) Granting Policies Are Over

    The United States is seeing the potency of patents -- especially software patents (which make up much of the country's troll cases) -- challenged by courts and by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB)



  15. Battistelli's European Patent Office Goes to the United States to Speak About the UPC and Software Patents

    The European Patent Office is showing its utter contempt -- not just disregard -- for the very fundamental rules that put it in its place and brought it into existence



  16. Turkey Subjected to the European Patent Convention (EPC) But Benoît Battistelli is Not?

    The ‘constitutional crisis’ at the European Patent Office in the context of Turkey, which has signed "the EPC and as such recognises the competence and the decisions of the institutions which have been introduced in the convention."



  17. Links 18/8/2016: EFF Slams Vista 10, Linux Foundation Makes PNDA

    Links for the day



  18. Links 17/8/2016: GNOME and Debian Anniversaries

    Links for the day



  19. Personal Audio LLC and Patent Troll Jim Logan Demonstrate the Harms of Software Patents and Why They Must Never Spread to Europe

    Jim Logan of Personal Audio (a notorious Texas-based patent troll) is still fighting with his bogus patent, having already caused enormous damage with a single software patent that should never have been granted in the first place (due to prior art, not just Alice)



  20. The Patent Microcosm Hopes That the Originators of Software Patents Will Undermine the Patent Trial and Appeal Board

    Now that the actions of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), which have been consistently upheld by the CAFC in precedential decisions, are suddenly being questioned the patent microcosm gets all giddy and tries to undermine PTAB (again)



  21. That Time When the Administrative Council Helped Battistelli Crush Oversight (Audit Committee) and What ILO Said About It a Month Ago

    Things are becoming ever more troublesome at the EPO as the Administrative Council enjoys inaction from the International Labour Organization (ILO), in spite of its role in destroying much-needed oversight at the behest of Battistelli



  22. The EPO's Administrative Council Keeps Postponing Debate About Grounds for Firing the President

    A recollection of events prior to the latest Administrative Council meeting, where Benoît Battistelli's failings and accountability for failing to correct them never even came up



  23. A Surge of Staff Complaints About the European Patent Office Drowns the System, Disservice to Justice Noted

    Self-explanatory graphs about the state of the justice [sic] system which is prejudiced towards/against EPO workers, based on internal reports



  24. Links 16/8/2016: White House Urged by EFF on FOSS, Go 1.7 Released

    Links for the day



  25. Links 15/8/2016: Linux 4.8 RC2, Glimpses at OpenMandriva Lx 3.0

    Links for the day



  26. Clawing Back the Staff Benefits at the European Patent Office (EPO)

    Staff of the EPO is leaving (or retiring) in droves as abusive management continues to be the norm and staff benefits are being taken away or gradually revoked



  27. The Patent Microcosm is Panicking and Spinning Alice/§ 101 Because US Software Patents Are Still Dying

    A look at recent developments in the software patents scene in the United States, with increased focus on (or fear of) the Patent Trial and Appeal Board



  28. 21,000 Posts in Techrights in Less Than a Decade

    This post is the 21,000th post and the next one will make it more than twenty-one thousand posts in total. We are turning 10 in November.



  29. Patent Microcosm Shuts Out the Poor: Unified Patent Court (UPC) Promotion by Practising Law Institute (PLI) Only for the Wealthy

    The people who are profiting from patent feuds, disputes, lawsuits etc. are still trying to muscle their will into European law and they keep the general public out of it by locking down (or pricing out of reach) their meetings where they influence/lobby decision-making officials



  30. The United States Has a Growing Patent Trolls Epidemic as Very High Proportion of Lawsuits Filed by Them

    A look at the high proportion of patent lawsuits that are filed by entities that make nothing at all and thus serve no role whatsoever in 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