Summary: FUSE (Filesystem in Userspace) gets exFAT, allowing the mounting of Microsoft’s patent tax trap
Two companies we wrote about before, Paragon and Tuxera, help Microsoft tax Linux through file systems. One more implementation arrives, but this one is licensed differently and uses FUSE. “Linus Torvalds and others in the past have characterized FUSE file-systems as being for toys and misguided people,” writes Phoronix, “but FUSE has been used before for bringing Sun/Oracle’s ZFS to Linux, various other creative file-system implementations, and now exFAT. ExFAT support for Linux has been talked about going back to early 2009 but the support has been crap on Linux.
“The FUSE-based exFAT project seeks to be a full-featured implementation for GNU/Linux and other Unix-like systems, including Mac OS X. With fuse-exfat 1.0.0, after three years in development, there is support for formatting exFAT partitions using the exfat-utils package while the FUSE driver does provide both read and write support for the Microsoft FS. Some of the recent changes found with the 1.0.0 release include improved write performance through enabling big_writes, improved OS X support, and various crash fixes.”
Another article says that “Open Source File System Takes On Microsoft’s exFAT Patents” (recall the TomTom lawsuit). The exFAT project uses a patents-hostile licence, GPLv3:
ExFAT project member Andrew Nayenko has released version 1.0.0 of fuse-exfat, a filesystem driver that can read and write to Microsoft’s exFAT (Extended File Allocation Table) filesystem. Like the Ntfs-3G NTFS driver that is used in Linux distributions, the exFAT driver is based on FUSE (Filesystem in Userspace) and works under Linux as well as OS X. In a short test with Fedora 18, reading from and writing to a USB flash drive that was freshly formatted with exFAT worked fine.
See the Slashdot discussion. There is no patent tax in this case, but it still helps Microsoft spreads patent traps like FAT. For read-only purpose performance might not be a hugely important consideration, so having this patents-free option is probably fine. █
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Summary: Proponents of UEFI support, who are sometimes Mono proponents as well, may struggle to reason in favour of crippleware given the way UEFI rejects Linux and the reasons the German authorities reject UEFI
HE Windows franchise is collapsing (ignore the Microsoft PR machine, which we’ll address in a separate post), so Microsoft created a breed of machines that won’t boot Linux. One blogger writes:
So do not buy that new shiny computer without knowing what pitfalls you may have to overcome in order to run a free operating system. As a footnote, the Secure Boot link is from an article on the Linux Foundation’s efforts written on ZDNet’s website all about how Microsoft is delaying the keys for Linux. Hmm, just one more reason to buy new equipment from alternate retailers that put Linux first or buy used.
Bottomley and the Linux Foundation cannot say much after they sold out (Novell plays a role for both) and Michael Larabel writes:
James Bottomley wrote a new blog post this morning about why the Linux Foundation really isn’t concerned about UEFI SecureBoot on ARM hardware (smart-phones, tablets, etc) compared to the work they are doing on x86 PCs with UEFI SecureBoot support for Linux.
Last month the Linux Foundation announced their UEFI SecureBoot plans for dealing with Microsoft Windows 8 PCs. Their plans basically equated to legally obtaining a Microsoft key and signing a small pre-bootloader that in turn could chain load a predesignated boot loader that would in turn boot Linux or any other operating system without having to deal with the SecureBoot mess. The signed pre-bootloader will be available from the Linux Foundation web-site for anyone to use along with the source-code, albeit not their private key. The foundation is still working to obtain a SecureBoot key and their SecureBoot focus has just been for x86 hardware.
With Linux users wondering why the Linux Foundation isn’t diving into some SecureBoot solution for ARM, James Bottomley wrote a lengthy explanation.
We also saw some feedback from vocal UEFI apologists, who are sometimes the same people who promote Mono. Yes, promoters of Microsoft’s (and Novell’s) Mono also promote or downplay the issues with Microsoft’s UEFI demands, but we won’t be linking to them. They provoke against this site. Anyway, here is the original post that seeded this debate. It says:
The answer to this comes in several parts: firstly in the PC space, Microsoft has an effective headlock on the OEM and ODMs: no desktop PC ships without a Windows compatibility sticker (the situation is different in the server market, but this is specifically about desktop PCs). Therefore in order to continue simply booting Linux on laptops and desktops, it is a huge priority to find a solution to this problem. Secondly: in the overall mobile marketplace, which encompasses tablets and smartphones, Microsoft has a very tiny presence: somewhere between 2-5%. Linux (Android) has the majority presence: by some counts, Android is >50% in this market space with Apple a close second. Therefore, a Microsoft mandate in an industry where they have no dominance is simply not really threatening (unlike the PC space where they have complete dominance).
The German authorities have already banned UEFI for their own use/machines on the face of it. So-called ‘secure’ boot is bad for national security. The “German government issues white paper on secure boot,” writes LWN:
A press release from FSF Europe (issued November 20) welcomes a white paper from the German federal government on trusted computing and secure boot. “Another demand by the FSFE is addressed by the government’s white paper. That before purchasing a device, buyers must be informed concisely about the technical measures implemented in this device, as well as the specific usage restrictions and their consequences for the owner: ‘Trusted computing security systems must be deactivated (opt-in principle)’ when devices are delivered… And ‘Deactivation must also be possible later (opt- out function) and must not have any negative impact on the functioning of hard- and software that does not use trusted computing functions.’” The white paper is in essence a non-binding call to manufacturers, but is significant as a statement from a major national government against restrictions imposed via secure boot that may foreshadow more significant government action. The white paper is available in both English and German.
The war on UEFI should carry on until this malpractice is eradicated. It is a defect, not a feature. It gives remote control over hardware. █
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Can’t boot, not approved by Microsoft
Summary: More people find out that PCs they buy ahead of Xmas refuse to boot Linux, and Microsoft is at fault
Microsoft’s Vista 8 is a confusing mess that motivates many people to explore GNU- and Linux-based operating systems. Microsoft knows this. It does not give Linux keys to machines it ruined by blackmailing OEMs and meanwhile we lose potential converts to software freedom:
The Linux Foundation’s promised workaround that will allow Linux to boot on Windows 8 PCs has yet to clear Microsoft’s code certification process, although the exact reason for the hold-up remains unclear.
As The Reg reported previously, the Secure Boot feature of the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) found on modern Windows 8 PCs will only allow an OS to boot if its code has been digitally signed with a key obtained from Microsoft.
That’s a problem for many Linux distributions, because some lack the resources to purchase a Microsoft key, while others simply refuse to.
Where is the formal complaint from the Linux Foundation? Oh, wait, Microsoft paid to silence it, so UEFI continues to sabotage GNU/Linux adoption, as intended.
One report says: “Linux fans wondering why they still don’t have a friendly UEFI Secure Boot option for Windows 8 PCs won’t get a solution in hand this week, but they’ll at least get an explanation. The Linux Foundation’s primary backer for the alternative OS efforts, Parallels’ server CTO James Bottomley, has revealed that Microsoft’s requirements for signed, Secure Boot-ready code are tough if developers aren’t entirely onboard its train of thought. The Redmond crew demands a paper contract signature (remember those?), agreements on work beyond the relevant software and a packaging process that complicates attempts to use open-source tools. Bottomley has already overcome most of these challenges, although he’s still waiting for a Linux Foundation-specific key that should theoretically clear a major hurdle.”
Bottomley worked on some Microsoft projects when Novell paid him, so his response is too gentle. In the mean time expect more stories like this one:
There is a section of this forum about UEFI problems. An admin will probably move your post there. Steve Riley has done a lot with UEFI but if you box doesn’t have an switch in UEFI to disable secure boot then I am afraid that you’ve been screwed.
IMO, preventing the installation of Linux is the entire purpose of UEFI.
Will Hill says: “There are more reports of UEFI boot problems.”
We saw that coming right from the start. Partnering with Microsoft was dumb. Antitrust complaints ought to have been filed. █
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Summary: Linux booting still an issue on new PCs as Microsoft fails to deliver hardware keys
James Bottomley, who had been paid by Novell (Microsoft) before he left, is developing "secure boot" and finding out that UEFI promises are empty. From his blog:
Asked support why the process was indicating failed but I had a valid download and, after a flurry of emails, got back “Don’t use that file that is incorrectly signed. I will get back to you.” I’m still not sure what the actual problem is, but if you look at the Subject of the signing key, there’s nothing in the signing key to indicate the Linux Foundation, therefore I suspect the problem is that the binary is signed with a generic Microsoft key instead of a specific (and revocable) key tied to the Linux Foundation.
However, that’s the status: We’re still waiting for Microsoft to give the Linux Foundation a validly signed pre-bootloader. When that happens, it will get uploaded to the Linux Foundation website for all to use.
So they are losing time and they gave Microsoft the carte blanche to carry on with UEFI.
Will Hill wrote: “Predictable, jerk around. Restricted Boot is defective by design.”
Katherine Noyes says:
In any case, the end result is that, despite paying its $99 fee, the Linux Foundation so far still does not have a validly signed pre-bootloader.
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols also complains:
By design, Microsoft has made installing and booting Linux on Windows 8 PCs with UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) Secure Boot troublesome. Many of the major Linux distirbutors, including Fedora, openSUSE, and Ubuntu, have proposed different ways of addressing this problem. The Linux Foundation, which supports all Linux, recently proposed a universal plan for addressing the UEFI Secure Boot issue. Unfortunately, it’s been delayed.
The plan was, as James Bottomley, Parallels’ CTO of server virtualization and well-known Linux Kernel maintainer, explained on October 10th, 2012, to “obtain a Microsoft Key and sign a small pre-bootloader which will, in turn, chain load (without any form of signature check) a predesignated boot loader which will, in turn, boot Linux (or any other operating system).”
Red Hat too was bamboozled by Microsoft, the longtimes convicted thug. This is what happens when you become UEFI ‘partners’ with the monopolist rather than file an antitrust complaint. As Larabel
Linux Foundation Struggles With Microsoft UEFI Signing
James Bottomley has written about the problems being faced by the Linux Foundation in having a Microsoft-approved validly-signed UEFI pre-bootloader.
There’s many hurdles to jump from Microsoft and Verisign/Symantec for obtaining a valid signing key. There’s third-party open-source tools for handling much of the signing process, but in the end Windows is still needed due to a Silverlight-based file uploader for the UEFI binary. The Mono-based Moonlight doesn’t work with the Silverlight uploader. After uploading the cabinet file for signing, there’s a seven-stage process.
That is how bad it is. Pogson puts it more crudely:
M$ Sabotages UEFI “Secure Boot” for Linux Foundation
I have always thought it was a mistake to do anything in GNU/Linux the M$’s way. They will do anything to prevent GNU/Linux being more widely accessible for consumers. Expect nothing but “accidents”, failures, disasters and the inevitable legal suits to result. They’re all good for M$ keeping the cash-cow flowing a bit longer.
Microsoft may have attracted some headlines and discussion on Slashdot for being a ‘sponsor’ at the Linux Foundation’s Europe event LinuxCon. But this sponsor is not giving the Linux Foundation any special treatment when it comes to UEFI Secure boot.
If you remember the Linux Foundation earlier announced their workaround for the UEFI Secure boot for the Linux community. That’s getting delayed.
James Bottomley, chair of the Linux Foundation’s Technical Advisory Board, explains in his blog the ‘technical’ and ‘paper’ challenges there are to get a Microsoft signed key and implement it.
He detailed the entire painful process to get a Microsoft signed key. While is extremely easy to pay $99 and get a Verisign verified key the rest of the process is quite daunting and challenging, which also requires one to use Microsoft technologies.
The foundation somehow managed to create and upload the file which had to go through seven stages and “unfortunately, the first test upload got stuck in stage 6 (signing the files).”
There were some email exchanges between Microsoft and Bottomley to sort the problem but at the moment the cart is stuck in mud.
We’re still waiting for Microsoft to give the Linux Foundation a validly signed pre-bootloader. When that happens, it will get uploaded to the Linux Foundation website for all to use.
UEFI apologists hopefully learned their lesson by now. Microsoft has crooks trying to save Windows by breaking Linux. █
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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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“I’ve killed at least two Mac conferences. [...] by injecting Microsoft content into the conference, the conference got shut down. The guy who ran it said, why am I doing this?”
–Microsoft's chief evangelist
Summary: The Linux Foundation, which funds core Linux developers, receives money from Microsoft in exchange for favours
TWO readers have contacted us regarding this matter. It is pretty serious and unprecedented in the sense that this time it’s the Linux Foundation which takes the dirty money and not some Linux-unaffiliated party like LinuxTag [1, 2, 3, 4].
So now we know that the Linux Foundation too puts principles aside and lets Microsoft buy a session to promote proprietary software including running of Windows, or essentially to fund the company which is suing Linux over software patents.
Richard Stallman said that in sponsorships such as this the “price might be, let someone from Microsoft give a speech. The price might be, don’t say that proprietary software is evil. The price might be, present Microsoft sponsorship in a way that inhibits you from denouncing Microsoft’s software as unethical.”
Well, after it took over Novell and Nokia Microsoft already had some bridges into the Linux Foundation. When the foundation is getting money from Microsoft it leaves itself open not just to criticism but also subversion from the inside. As we showed in prior years, other FOSS foundations died pretty much as soon as they had accepted money from the enemy, Microsoft, instantaneously collapsing like ALEC. Anyway, here is the news:
I’m not exactly sure how Microsoft ended up being a Gold Sponsor of the Linuxcon event. At the Gold Level for an event, sponsorship is worth approximately $20,000 and it looks like it also comes with a guaranteed session speaking opportunity too.
One reader called it “[c]orruption within the Linux Foundation” and another called it “interesting news”. One asked: “What was that Comes v Microsoft document about killing two mac conferences. Now it’s happening to Linux. Is it greed or has someone defected and now trying to bring down LF?
“Amazing,” he added later, “I was able to find it in Techrights only because I knew it existed. But as far as Google goes, it and Comes V Microsoft don’t exist.” █
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Some people just can’t get along…
Summary: Response to smears of Matthew Garrett against people who stand up for software freedom, free speech, etc.
A few years ago one of our members, Ryan, anonymously but publicly accused Foxconn of screwing with Linux through defective BIOS-level design. This became a massive thing in the news and Foxconn scrambled to rectify the issue. Mr. Garrett, who openly spoke against Ryan later on, defended Microsoft’s side rather than acknowledge that a problem did in fact exist. He also flamed the FSF at times. This was utterly disappointing.
Much to our regret, Garrett has recently been an apologist for Microsoft’s anti-competitive UEFI scheme, motivating articles like this one:
Linux Security icon Red Hat and Fedora developer Matthew Garrett has detailed the “range of subtle changes” that have taken place since he began working on Secure Boot support. In a blog posting, Garrett gives an overview of the current implementation. He explains that the current approach, a shim bootloader, “cunningly called ‘Shim’”, contains a public key under their own control and is signed by Microsoft. The shim will only boot binaries signed with the public key and allows the developers to build and sign all other binaries themselves without going back to Microsoft to get bootloaders or other components signed.
Now, it’s bad enough that Garrett helps UEFI (Red Hat should have filed a formal complaint), but more recently we saw him using the “sexism” card against a notable Linux developer, former Linux Foundation CTO, and close colleague of Linus Torvalds. This reminds us of an ACCESS troll who used similar tactics against Stallman, also disclosing private E-mails in the process, as shown here.
Garrett had become a Microsoft apologist before he started personal insults against Free software proponents and notable Linux developers. He helps the embrace and extend endeavours at Microsoft (see some truths in this post about TypeScript), portraying opposition to it as the problem. Shame really.
It is worth noting, at least as a side note, that Phoronix too has exaggerated severity of bugs in Mr. Ts’o ‘baby’, ext4′s code and the ext4 file system’s reputation, twice even (see our daily links for details). Michael Larabel got accused of irresponsible journalism for that. We could probably go down the path of addressing file system and rape apologism allegations, but that would not be in the spirit of this Web site. One requires profound knowledge about file systems, whereas the other opens a large jar of worms. █
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Summary: Microsoft responds to defeat by playing dirty, but many people speak out against this
STEVE Ballmer says that Microsoft Is a “Devices and Services Company”, notes Tracy. “Anyone else happy to see that? They don’t claim to be an OS company anymore” he says. “They are losing their grip on the market via the OS and the Windows mobile OS barely has any market share.”
Here is one such article which speaks of Ballmer’s revealing words. Some of the weakest points are being pushed forth as strengths.
Vista 8 has been slammed by several hardware companies, so what devices was Ballmer talking about? Microsoft needs a lot of brainwash to save the monopoly, so it throws billions into public relations with a dedicated shill who was appointed internally: “Guggenheimer had served as corporate vice president of Microsoft’s OEM division, and in his new role Guggenheimer replaces Walid Abu-Hadba.”
We wrote about Guggenheimer before [1, 2] due to ugly things which were done. It was about anti-competitive behaviour.
“As a side note, OpenBSD and the FSF should be praised whereas Linux Foundation denounced for playing along with this, even if passively.”Additionally, Microsoft makes Linux booting harder on hardware using UEFI requirements that writers complain about. As one put it: “EFI, and the later UEFI specification, is not the problem for Linux. The problem is Microsoft’s other requirement for any Windows 8-certified client: the system must support secure booting. This hardened boot means that all firmware and software in the boot process must be signed by a trusted Certificate Authority (CA).”
The Microsoft boosters hide the problem with UEFI, but notable figures speak out loudly: “The un-unified efforts by these distributions did not go very well with the entire open source community. OpenBSD founder Theo de Raadt criticized both Canonical and Red Hat. “I fully understand that Red Hat and Canonical won’t be doing the right thing, they are traitors to the cause, mostly in it for the money and power. They want to be the new Microsoft.”"
Theo de Raadt is right on this one.
Microsoft is losing the OS war because of devices. Linux and Android reign there. So Microsoft is resorting to dirty demands from device makers.
As a side note, OpenBSD and the FSF should be praised whereas Linux Foundation denounced for playing along with this, even if passively. █
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