Photo by Alex Dawson, 2002
Summary: “Because it really shouldn’t be about MS blessings, it should be about the *user* blessing kernel modules,” Torvalds explains
THE MAN who habitually dismisses some Microsoft critics proves his older statements to be somewhat hypocritical. He too treats Microsoft exceptionally.
Torvalds recently made headlines by using strong language and addressing a controversial subject. It is about UEFI with restricted boot and here is some more relevant coverage he generated, helping to raise awareness of the issue:
A push by Red Hat kernel developer David Howells and ex-Red Hat developer Matthew Garrett to get code supporting secure boot merged into the mainline kernel to meet some of Microsoft’s requirements has led to a sharp rebuke from Linux creator Linus Torvalds.
Howell made a request for a patchset to be pulled into the mainline kernel last Thursday, writing, “It (the patchset) provides a facility by which keys can be added dynamically to a kernel that is running in secure-boot mode.
Linux guru Linus Torvalds is at it again. After telling Nvidia to go forth and multiply, the outspoken Torvalds has decided to share some of his thoughts on Microsoft’s signing techniques in a heated online argument with fellow Linux developers.
The developers were discussing ways of improving the Linux kernel with a bit of code that makes it easier to boot on Windows 8 PCs. The process of booting Linux on PCs shipped with Windows 8 has been complicated due to the widespread use of UEFI firmware with Secure Boot feature enabled. Red Hat developers emailed Torvalds to discuss the addition of new keys to the Linux kernel, which should get around the issue.
Red Hat’s Secure Boot support is a case of the company wanting to “deep-throat Microsoft”, according to a forthright posting from Linus Torvalds on the Linux kernel developer mailing list. Torvald’s comments were made in response to plans by a Red Hat developer to extend Linux support for Secure Boot. The comments have given rise to an ongoing discussion, during which several prominent kernel developers have shared their thoughts on Secure Boot support in Linux.
Moreover, as it turns out, US citizens can now sign this petition calling for the White House to get involved to tackle the antitrust abuse (reports suggest that Microsoft’s fine for antitrust abuses in Europe is only weeks away).
James Bottomley wrote about this in his blog, but being former Novell staff who had worked on Microsoft projects, we expect no strong opposition from him. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, a Novell-sympathetic writer, wrote this followup:
No one, but no one, in the Linux community likes Microsoft’s mandated deployment of the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) Secure Boot option in Windows 8 certified PCs. But, how Linux should handle the fixes required to deal with this problem remains a hot-button issue. Now, as the debate continues hot and heavy, Linus Torvalds, Linux’s founder and de facto leader, spells out how he thinks Linux should deal with Secure Boot keys.
Swapnil Bhartiya, not a strong critic of Novell because he likes SUSE, sure isn’t a fan of what Microsoft is doing here. He is in good company when he writes along the same lines of Torvalds, whom he interviewed last year:
There is a heated (heat is a bit colder word) debate going on within the Linux community over how should Linux handle the Microsoft’s secure boot keys.
In an ongoing discussing Linus Torvalds has made some suggestions which he believes put users in control of their system and not Microsoft.
Torvalds was sarcastic when saying, “let’s please Microsoft by doing idiotic crap approach.”
This attitude is not exactly news (Torvalds alleges that so-called Secure Boot has nothing to do with security). “Because it really shouldn’t be about MS blessings, it should be about the *user* blessing kernel modules,” Linus Torvalds believes. He basically agrees with Richard Stallman and the FSF then.
Dr. Garrett, on the other hand, continues to push for the agenda that Microsoft hoped for, facilitating its control over Linux, Here is part of this whole long discussion where Torvalds says:
So instead of pleasing microsoft, try to see how we can add real security:
- a distro should sign its own modules AND NOTHING ELSE by default. And it damn well shouldn’t allow any other modules to be loaded at all by default, because why the f*ck should it? And what the hell should a Microsoft signature have to do with *anything*?
- before loading any third-party module, you’d better make sure you ask the user for permission. On the console. Not using keys. Nothing like that. Keys will be compromised. Try to limit the damage, but more importantly, let the user be in control.
– encourage things like per-host random keys – with the stupid UEFI checks disabled entirely if required. They are almost certainly going to be *more* secure than depending on some crazy root of trust based on a big company, with key signing authorities that trust anybody with a credit card. Try to teach people about things like that instead. Encourage people to do their own (random) keys, and adding those to their UEFI setups (or not: the whole UEFI thing is more about control than security), and strive to do things like one-time signing with the private key thrown out entirely. IOW try to encourage *that* kind of “we made sure to ask the user very explicitly with big warnings and create his own key for that particular module” security. Real security, not “we control the user” security.
Sure, users will screw that up too. They’ll want to load crazy nvidia binary modules etc crap. But make it *their* decision, and under
*their* control, instead of trying to tell the world about how this should be blessed by Microsoft.
Because it really shouldn’t be about MS blessings, it should be about the *user* blessing kernel modules.
Quite frankly, *you* are what he key-hating crazies were afraid of. You peddle the “control, not security” crap-ware. The whole “MS owns your machine” is *exactly* the wrong way to use keys.
Sam Varghese, consistently an opposer of restricted boot, says that it would put “Linux is at Microsoft’s mercy”:
Linux companies or organisations that have paid for, and obtained, keys from Microsoft to ensure that their distributions can be booted on secure boot-enabled devices, have to abide by the terms of a contract or else may have their keys revoked.
Whatever some Linux developers with past in Novell may say, at least we know Torvalds’ approach is perhaps more similar to the FSF’s than his employer’s. █
Summary: Stallman speaks about Canonical’s distribution of GNU/Linux in new interview
Microsoft too daemonises GPLv3 because it helps remove restrictions
Summary: Some FUD from patent lawyers and a badge of honour for the GPLv3 (our enemies’ enemy)
The patent lawyers, known for their systematic lying, win another case. They always win, no matter which side gets a favourable ruling. It’s like arms industries during war. So lawyers alone got nearly £10,000,000, enough to buy 100 cheap houses. This is just what we see as the result of one single lawsuit. And yet, with patent debates we usually just see lawyers everywhere. Here, as part of a long-running rigged ‘debate’, is a lawyer at Wired with “It’s Time to Make Vague Software Patents More Clear” (link). Yes, we see calls for more of the same. And no, we oughtn't listen to lawyers when it comes to patent policy and this latest suggestion is definitely not the solution to the problem, it’s a distraction.
Other patent lawyers are currently smearing the GPLv3 for what they call “patentleft” (oh, the horror!), showing to us just how apathetic they are towards software freedom. To quote:
The much publicised patent litigation between Apple and Samsung (reportedly the highest-value claim in patent litigation to date) has served as a reminder that software patents are increasingly important. Thus, it is essential to protect patent portfolios from negative impacts – which could be caused by the ‘patentleft’ effect when dealing with open source software.
Departing #uspto director shows fine sense of #irony “we need to fix #swpats”
This is the same man who has defended software patents (swpats) while he was heading the USPTO. What we really need right now is GPLv3 in EFI/UEFI restricted boot as it would help eliminate FAT patent threats universally. Intel EFI was released under the BSD license or Eclipse Public License (EPL) as TianoCore. EFI was also used to deter against the use of GPLv3, under the premise that it would be incompatible with restricted boot. █
Summary: New Richard Stallman talk just published by the FSF
Summary: Microsoft’s latest abuses continue to show their effectiveness at preventing people from embracing free operating systems; FSF spearheads action against it
WITH Vista 8 came UEFI, which is probably its best ‘feature’ in Microsoft’s eyes; it helps discourage and deter against Linux booting. One blogger provides us with this story which shows UEFI in action (preventing ‘malware’ like Linux from booting):
During the last weeks, I spent several nights playing with UEFI and its extension called UEFI SecureBoot. I must admit that I have mixed feelings about UEFI in general; on one hand, you have a nice and modern “BIOS replacement” that can boot .efi files with no need for a bootloader like GRUB, on the other hand, some hardware, not even the most exotic one, is not yet glitch-free. But that’s what happens with new stuff in general. I cannot go much into detail without drifting away from the main topic, but surely enough, a simple google search about UEFI and Linux will point you to the problems I just mentioned above.
So far, not much has been done about it. The FSF ran an online petition which it plans to use quite soon based on articles like this one.
The Free Software Foundation is an organisation for which I have the utmost respect. Without it, the whole phenomenon of free and open source sofware would never have come to be.
The FSF has also been at the forefront of efforts to preserve freedom in computing and has stuck to its guns in the face of much criticism.
But on secure boot, it is lagging behind. I am surprised that it has not updated its campaign against secure boot, launched in October 2011, to include relevant facts. A great deal of material in the petition is now outdated and factually incorrect.
Here in this Web site we collected a lot of information on the subject and we also confronted key UEFI people. Christopher Tozzi talks about the FSF’s action as follows:
Still, the Free Software Foundation, one of the open-source channel’s most influential organizations in moral (if not financial) terms, is aggressively combating Secure Boot with a multi-channel campaign. The group plans to educate the public on avoiding Secure Boot-enabled hardware, pressure device manufacturers to avoid measures that will prevent consumers from installing the software they wish and combat Microsoft’s proposal for implementing a similar feature on ARM-powered smartphones and tablets.
To advance its efforts, the FSF has created a petition, signed so far by more than 40,000 individuals and 50 organizations. The signatories pledge not to purchase hardware that fails to “provide a sure-fire way for them to install and run a free software operating system of their choice.” The FSF also invites users to donate $50, although it’s not clear whether that money will be used to combat Secure Boot specifically, or support the FSF’s operations more generally.
What’s needed is regulatory action. It was needed all along, but Microsoft apologists helped legitmise what Microsoft had perpetrated. What we have now is a mess and no federal investigation. Mikkel Munch Mortensen writes today:
I paid for a genuine copy of Windows 8.
I tried installing it on a seperate disk next to Ubuntu on my desktop computer. When rebooting after install, it says there’s a problem with my OS that can’t be fixed. The error code is something like 00000001. I guess that’s a kinda fundamental error. Reinstall didn’t work.
I tried installing to my laptop, on a seperate disk that used to have another copy of #Windows8 on it, which I wiped, kinda just 4 the lulz. Even before I get to install anything, even before I get to enter my serial key, it says that the serial key I entered doesn’t match what is (whatever that “what” refers to, it’s a wiped disk) on the device (or something like that).
I spent 5 hours on this yesterday. I spend several hours about a month ago.
To me, it seems like #Microsoft tried so hard to avoid something like dualbooting/pirated copies/installation on secondary disks that it’s completely impossible to install their OS that I already deemed crappy, but really need for a few applications that is not (yet) available for Ubuntu or other Linuxes.
Or, maybe, it’s just Microsofts way of giving me the middle finger for ditching their OS as my primary OS years ago in favor of #Ubuntu.
Here is another story published earlier today to demonstrate UEFI abuses. The victim writes:
I really appreciate the helpful Windows 8 tips I’ve been getting from you. But there’s one issue I am struggling with: Linux, and specifically installing it on my Windows 8 computer.
I haven’t been able to get Linux to install properly, and I really don’t know why. One of my techie friends told me it has to do with a new Secure Boot feature in Windows 8.
Summary: Techrights agrees with the take of the EFF on the latest Ubuntu (and now the FSF’s stance too)
LAST night when I returned home Richard Stallmanh (RMS) had finally published an article he wrote about a month ago. “RMS’ article on Ubuntu has been published,” told me one person in the IRC channels. The substance was covered in much of the press/news sites while I was away down south for a couple of days, e.g. British press with this deceiving headline which the editor probably used to get hits rather than report correctly and accurately (a colleague let me know about this article). This was covered in a lot of US media and elsewhere in the world. The truth is, I approached Stallman after the EFF had published its piece and suggested addressing the subject, saying “spyware” rather than “malware” as early drafts called Ubuntu. Yes, he originally called it “malware”, not “spyware”, arguably a subset of “malware” which is a correction I suggested because I thought it would be gentler on Canonical. I am not against Canonical or Ubuntu, but this one development in their software (which I use) required some diplomacy to fix. One must be polite to bring about change. Did Canonical acknowledge the issue and fix it? Of course not, at least not yet. It was the same with Mono. They don’t want to admit being wrong. My guess is, such settings will be silently altered in future releases. Canonical will never attribute this to angry users, the EFF, FSF, or anyone else. They think they gain respect through control. Richard Stallman once said: “Idiots can be defeated but they never admit it.”
“My guess is, such settings will be silently altered in future releases.”Mr. OpenRespect Jono Bacon posted the most widely-cited reply to Stallman’s piece. Bacon tackles the argument but uses a personal angle, which is a spurious surplus. Canonical’s official response was more polite than that.
Muktware‘s Swapnil Bhartiya stressed that what RMS is doing is not much different from what the EFF was doing; I heard Jono’s unconvincing explanation as to why when the EFF said the same it got no criticism and personal addressals like Stallman got. Anyway, others in Muktware believe that both sides have a level of validity. The important thing is, people can see that there are two sides here and decide for themselves which one suits their ideology better.
Ryan in our IRC channel said that “Jono Bacon responded with a personal attack on Richard Stallman,” but the article he linked to did not quite support it. It wasn’t an “attack”, it was relatively polite, but still, why speak of the messengers at all and distract from the message? Here is a better summary:
Canonical’s Jono Bacon has already responded with his own blog post and accuses Stallman of spreading FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) and that at times Stallman is shortsighted.
Sam Varghese covered this properly as well:
The founder of the Free Software Foundation, Richard M. Stallman, has slammed Ubuntu over its provision of Amazon search results for a regular search, prompting Canonical’s community manager, Jono Bacon, to hit back, accusing him of spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD).
The responses from Microsoft boosters at Ars Technica (even former Microsoft boosters of Ars Technica) did the usual thing, which is incitation against Stallman’s stance and views. Jon Gold, another FOSS hater and colleague of the aforementioned Microsoft booster, covered this too. They attack Ubuntu and Stallman at the same time. In some sense it is helpful to Microsoft, but this was intended by neither side. One writer called Stallman “the grand old man of open source software” — this sounds wrong for so many reasons!
Anyway, the important thing is, Ubuntu has a privacy problem. Canonical should acknowledge this and fix it, not stick to its guns for some profit from Amazon (which they make at the expense of Ubuntu users’ rights). Make Ubuntu the product, don’t make Ubuntu users the product. █
Summary: Remark on the context in which we achieve software freedom
I wish to interrupt our flow of news-related commentary and discuss something that has bothered me for over a year. The FSF, one of the few (if not the only) bodies that truly ‘get’ freedom and technology’s effects on it, has lost a lot of key staff. I won’t name them, but it is clear that plenty of brain drain occurred there. The Linux Foundation, which has many members that promote software patents and sell proprietary, freedom-disregarding software, recently accepted money from Microsoft as well. At the same time, the platform which takes over (in FOSS form) is Android, where applications are mostly proprietary and there is no GNU.
Celebrating “victory” when Android takes over is like liberals/progressives celebrating victory just because Romney lost. There is a broader fight to fight. █
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