10.02.16

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Guest Post: Lenovo Forums Possibly Banned All Comcast Users in Illinois in Order to Silence Discussion of Linux on Yoga Problems

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 3:29 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The big story which silently began here in #techrights and took over the Internet in September

Phone silence
The latest twist: Lenovo attacks free speech and silences complaints

Summary: The Lenovo/Yoga brouhaha (which came from Techrights last month) will from now on be covered in our main site, not just the IRC forums

SEVERAL weeks ago, we at the #techrights IRC channel began discussing issues that had been encountered with Lenovo devices. Once publicised, these made it into the news in many countries, with hundreds if not thousands of articles, blog posts, forums threads etc. about the topic (we cataloged a lot of the coverage over at Tux Machines). It was a huge success story for us, as the news reached many millions of people all around the world. It did so much damage to Lenovo (not just the desktop business but servers and mobile also, to the point of major layoffs being announced last week) and Lenovo repeatedly lied, trying to blame everyone by itself and repeatedly changing the story (face-saving excuses and ‘damage control’), at some point even blaming Linux (although Alan Cox refuted them publicly about it).

We have not written about this until today because the media seems to be unwilling to cover the subject anymore, even when Lenovo’s lies are being debunked, necessitating new stories and corrections refuting Lenovo’s ‘official’ response. In the latest twist, Lenovo seems to be suppressing discussion. As Ryan from #techrights put it last night:

So yeah, Lenovo Forums seems to have banned all Comcast users in the state of Illinois in order to try to silence me.

Apparently, they don’t want anyone to talk about Linux issues on their Yoga anymore. I have another account on their forums that I can use behind a proxy, but even deleting all of my cookies and stuff, no matter what IP address I get from Comcast, it gives me a screen saying “We’re sorry, but you have been banned from using this site.”.

Anyway, I can still see what’s going on in there and comment using my other account behind a proxy server, but the mods seem to have done the following in the Linux forum:

Banned me (and all Comcast IP addresses in Illinois, apparently).

Banned at least half a dozen or more other people who were complaining that they couldn’t run Linux, or stating that they would take their Yoga back to the store, or talking about ways to potentially mod their Yoga to get AHCI support back and install Linux in spite of Lenovo’s BIOS restrictions.

Changed the thread about no Linux support on the Yoga 900 ISK2 to “moderated”, which makes it look like you can post there, but you can’t, because the mods aren’t approving new posts since 9/27, apparently. The views on this topic have shot up over 130,000 people. Lenovo is trying to stop people from talking about it and is going back and deleting and modifying earlier posts to make them look less damning.

Deleting more posts about Linux not working or people taking their Yogas back to the store on other threads. Probably banned them too since many haven’t posted anything since Lenovo deleted their thread. One person in Germany said that he was talking to his lawyer and gathering evidence to force them to take back his 710S and give him a refund. They deleted that. He hasn’t been seen since.

The Private Message feature seems to be gone, so there’s no way for me to contact other users without the mods noticing and deleting another forums account.

At least one of the mods doing this is a Microsoft MVP. One of the other mods “Sarbin” said that it was just a coincidence after someone brought that fact up, and then moved the post about the MS MVP to a “Forum Housekeeping” forum. Instead of deleting some posts, they seem to be moving them to “the cornfield”, where it’s harder for people to read them or for Google to index it, or for archives of the main thread from being saved.

So if I say cover up, then certain people will roll their eyes and downvote me and proceed to take Lenovo’s side again, but it’s definitely a cover up.

I just wanted to let everyone know what happened in case they thought that people didn’t want to talk about the Linux problems on Lenovo’s Forums. In reality, people are steaming mad about this and their accounts are being banned and their threads deleted or modified.

Prior to this, Ryan submitted a letter to the Federal Trade Commission regarding Lenovo blocking GNU/Linux and other operating system installations on Yoga PCs. This can take a while to make progress on and here is the gist of it:

This is the letter I sent to the Federal Trade Commission and to the Illinois Attorney General’s office regarding Lenovo locking out Linux from their Yoga laptops.

“Lenovo sells computers known as “Yoga” under at least several models that block the installation of Linux operating systems as well as fresh installations of Windows from Microsoft’s official installer. They have the system rigged, intentionally, in a storage mode that is incompatible with most operating systems other than the pre-installed copy of Windows 10. If the user attempts to install an operating system, it will not be able to see or use the built-in SSD (Solid State Drive) storage. I believe that this is illegal and anti-competitive. These product are falsely advertised as a PC, even though it prohibits the user installing PC operating systems. Known affected models are the 900 ISK2, the 710, the 900 ISK for Business, the 900S, and possibly others. Lenovo’s position is that this is not a defect and they refuse to issue refunds to their customers, who have been deceived by the notion that their new PC is compatible with PC operating systems and that they should be able to install a PC operating system on a PC. Lenovo is therefore engaging in a conspiracy to defraud their customers through deceptive advertising. Lenovo’s official position is that Linux lacks drivers, however, Linux could easily be installed on these systems had Lenovo not removed the AHCI storage mode option from the BIOS and then wrote additional code to make sure that people couldn’t set it to AHCI in other ways, such as using an “EFI variable”. AHCI mode is an industry standard and should be expected on a computer describing itself as “PC” or “PC compatible” as it is broadly compatible with all PC operating system software. I feel that Lenovo should remedy the problem in one of three ways. (1) Offer full refunds for customers who want to install their own operating system but can’t. -or- (2) Release a small BIOS firmware patch to restore AHCI mode, which is simply hidden. This would be extremely easy for them since it would only be two lines of code and the user could do it themselves were they not locked out of updating their BIOS themselves. -or- (3) Provide open source drivers to the Linux kernel project that would allow Linux and other PC operating systems address the SSD storage in the “RAID” mode.”

Feel free to use this as your letter or a template for a letter of complaint to the FTC. Their consumer complaint form is available here.

https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#&panel1-1

Please also contact your state’s Attorney General’s office. They usually have a bureau of consumer complaints or something to that effect. If not, just shoot them an email.

Since the FTC form requires the company address and phone number, I used this:

Lenovo “Customer Center” Address: 1009 Think Pl, Morrisville, NC 27560 Phone:(855) 253-6686

Update: Lenovo just updated the BIOS for the Yoga 710, another system that doesn’t allow Linux installs. Wanna know what they changed? Update to TPM (secret encryption module used for Digital Restrictions Management) and an update to the Intel Management Engine, which is essentially a backdoor rootkit built into all recent Intel processors (but AMD has their version too, so what do you do?). No Linux support. Priorities…

Update: The mods at Lenovo Forums are losing control of the narrative and banning people and editing/deleting more comments. http://imgur.com/a/Q9xIE | But it appears that some people just aren’t buying it anymore. http://imgur.com/a/1K1t5

Watch this space. Techrights did not publicly speak about it as long as the mass media (including the BBC) covered the subject, but now that Lenovo enjoys silence from the media we shall take over the coverage, which all along came from us.

Eventually, as was the case in the Superfish saga (also lasting a long time), we hope to compel Lenovo to admit that it lied all along and get to the bottom of it, potentially demonstrating that Microsoft is the culprit and that Microsoft uses a secret contract (under NDA) to have BSD and GNU/Linux blocked by OEMs.

This story is far from over.

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