Latest Case of Microsoft Using Hardware Companies to Block GNU/Linux Coincides With Denying Previous Such Case
Evidence of chip-level offences (using silicon to block Linux) fading away
Summary: Microsoft’s use of discriminatory and potentially illegal contracts to stop GNU and Linux at OEM level
GNU and Linux benefit from the failure of Vista 8, but UEFI makes it hard to boot Linux, as we last noted yesterday in a guest post about this news. A new article from the Indian press covers this problem:
Microsoft’s brand new version of its flagship product, the Windows operating system, has pitted it once again against Linux users who have had a longstanding battle with the giant. The Linux community has been particularly offended by the operating system’s Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), or popularly known as Secure Boot.
The GNU Linux community’s fundamental objection to the feature is that it amounts to collusion between Microsoft and hardware manufacturers to lock users, depriving them of the freedom to install other operating systems in a Windows environment. They were later mollified by Microsoft’s clarifications that there will be a ‘Secure Boot-disable’ option on PC’s shipping with Windows 8. Although this option would have allowed installation of multiple operating systems, it is still arduous on Secure Boot machines.
A blog post on Free Software Foundation website reads, “When done correctly, Secure Boot is designed to protect against malware by preventing computers from loading unauthorised binary programs when booting.” In the case of the Microsoft implementation, it hasn’t been done correctly. Making the apprehensions of Free Software crowd come true, Microsoft has now made it mandatory for ARM-based devices to have “Secure Boot” on, without an option to disable it. This means ARM-based devices certified for Windows do not have the option of booting into another operating system (unless the operating system in question is also certified by Microsoft).
Here is a new suggestion for a workaround:
TLWIR 52: Secure Boot Reveals the Need for a GNU/Linux Reference System
Perhaps the reference devices could be named once per year to give manufacturers a year to compete, develop, and deliver their new reference candidates. The reference candidates that did not get picked would probably still be great choices for people building new GNU/Linux systems. Some hardware manufacturers would get angry, but their only recourse would be to get better at supporting GNU/Linux, or risk becoming obsolete in the GNU/Linux community. The confusion around Secure Boot would go away: anyone could be certain that they would have no problems at all with a reference system. The reference system would provide a system 100% guaranteed to work with no problems at all.
More outrageous than that is the revisionism we see in the press. Charles Arthur from the Bill Gates-funded Guardian chooses to eliminate from history a previous anticompetitive tactic from Microsoft, where companies behind netbooks were encouraged to prevent GNU and Linux from spreading. Pamela Jones called Arthur’s piece “hilarious rewrite of history.” She explains: “Microsoft saw Linux on netbooks as a threat, and it deliberately set out to kill Linux on netbooks by requiring vendors to follow their specs, which blunted the Linux benefits. (“‘Microsoft would like the netbook to go away and be replaced by lightweight laptops — ones with long battery life that cost enough to justify running full Windows on them,’ he said. Helm added that Microsoft is trying to discourage the production of inexpensive computers where Windows becomes the most expensive component because it can’t make as much money on Windows on these devices, and they could drive down the price of Windows.”) There were also reports of arm-twisting vendors to drop Linux and the typical ugly Microsoft FUD.” █