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Ubuntu Acknowledges UEFI Mistake by Taking FSF Advice

Posted in FSF, Ubuntu at 12:24 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Mono the Trojan
Source: “Mono, the Trojan” (reused with permission)

Summary: Canonical decides to keep GRUB and stand up closer to the FSF


anonical had a bout of arrogance recently. Its founder Mark Shuttleworth labelled people who disagree on a technical and ethical matter “trolls”. This is not a new tactic from Ubuntu’s corporate backer; Mono and UEFI — not just Amazon — led to it. The so-called ‘peanut gallery’ just happens to be people capable of thought and not an Apple-esque herd mentality. So when we criticised Ubuntu’s approach to UEFI we were just not blindly accepting what Ubuntu eventually came to reject because “Ubuntu to Use Signed GRUB2 Bootloader for Secure Boot”, says the Ubuntu herd (OMGUbuntu folks).

Here are some related reports:

  • “Ubuntu Linux changes its plans for Windows 8 Secure Boot

    Microsoft’s “Secure Boot” plans for Windows 8 have already caused no end of controversy in the Linux community, and certainly one of the more divisive announcements in recent months was Canonical’s decision to drop the GRUB 2 bootloader as part of its solution for Ubuntu Linux.

  • Ubuntu 12.10 Tries For Last Minute GRUB 2.00

    Going back to Ubuntu 9.10, GRUB2 was used as the default boot-loader, albeit a pre-release of the long-awaited GRUB update. In late June of this year, GRUB 2.00 was officially released after many years in development. Meanwhile, in the Ubuntu 12.10 “Quantal” repository up to now is GRUB2 v1.99-22ubuntu2 — one of the earlier development snapshots.

UEFI is being tackled in multiple ways now, depending on who takes action. Red Hat’s staff sites mention this too. MJG speaks of bootkits and concludes: “So this isn’t really a story about a surprising vulnerability. It’s a story about someone taking the logical step of implementing a bootkit on top of UEFI, which is what everyone should have been expecting all along. Computers that are configured to run arbitrary code will run arbitrary code, and if that arbitrary code happens to modify your kernel so your credit card details are automatically posted to pastebin, well, that’s a plausible outcome.”

Vista 8 already causes issues for GNU/Linux users. Here is a new example: “Yesterday, Megatotoro and I helped a colleague who wanted to dual boot her recently bought desktop PC. She wanted us to install Mageia 2 and we were confident because it is a process that we have done several times already.

“However, when we hit the key to get into the BIOS… Surprise! We were greeted by UEFI instead.”

UEFI further complicated dual-booting, yet nobody filed an antitrust complaint. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols writes to explain the role the FSF is playing: “Windows 8 PCs will come with Microsoft’s UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) Secure Boot. This “feature” will make it much harder to boot Linux or other operating systems. Canonical, Ubuntu Linux’s parent company, is going to take a new approach to address this problem.

“Canonical and the FSF have talked their disagreement out and, continues Melamut, “the FSF has stated clearly that Grub 2 with Secure Boot does not pose a risk of key disclosure in such circumstances. We have also confirmed that view with our OEM partners, and have introduced variations to the Ubuntu Certification program and QA scripts for pre-installs to ensure that security and user choice are maintained on Ubuntu machines. Therefore, we have decided that Grub 2 is the best choice for a bootloader, and will use only Grub m,2 in Ubuntu 12.10 and 12.04.2 by default.”

“In a statement, John Sullivan, Executive Director of the FSF, added, “We are pleased with Canonical’s decision to stick with Grub 2. We know that the challenges raised when trying to support true user security without harming user freedom—Secure Boot vs. Restricted Boot—are new for everyone distributing free software. This is the situation for which GPLv3 was written, and after helpful conversations with Canonical, we are confident the license does its job well, ensuring users can modify their systems without putting distributors in untenable positions.””

Debian followed the FSF’s footsteps right from the start. Canonical needed some pressure. It’s not “trolling” against Canonical. The FSF believes that UEFI should be illegal.

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A Single Comment

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