Skip to comments.Windows 8 secure boot would 'exclude' Linux - Microsoft wants firmware to only start authorised OSes
Posted on 09/21/2011 5:57:26 PM PDT by LibWhacker
Computer scientists warn that proposed changes in firmware specifications may make it impossible to run unauthorised operating systems such as Linux and FreeBSD on PCs.
Proposed changes to the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) firmware specifications would mean PCs would only boot from a digitally signed image derived from a keychain rooted in keys built into the PC. Microsoft is pushing to make this mandatory in a move that could not be overridden by users and would effectively exclude alternative operating systems, according to Professor Ross Anderson of Cambridge University and other observers.
UEFI is a successor to the BIOS ROM firmware designed to shorten boot times and improve security. The framework, a key part of Windows 8, is designed to work on a variety of CPU architectures.
If the draft for UEFI is adopted without modification, then any system that ships with only OEM and Microsoft keys will not boot a generic copy of Linux. A signed version of Linux would work, but this poses problems, as tech blogger Matthew Garrett explains.
Firstly, we'd need a non-GPL bootloader. Grub 2 is released under the GPLv3, which explicitly requires that we provide the signing keys. Grub is under GPLv2 which lacks the explicit requirement for keys, but it could be argued that the requirement for the scripts used to control compilation includes that. It's a grey area, and exploiting it would be a pretty good show of bad faith.
Secondly, in the near future the design of the kernel will mean that the kernel itself is part of the bootloader. This means that kernels will also have to be signed. Making it impossible for users or developers to build their own kernels is not practical. Finally, if we self-sign, it's still necessary to get our keys included by ever OEM.
There's no indication that Microsoft will prevent vendors from providing firmware support for disabling this feature and running unsigned code. However, experience indicates that many firmware vendors and OEMs are interested in providing only the minimum of firmware functionality required for their market.
Garrett concluded that there is no need to panic just yet.
The upshot of the changes is that considerable roadblocks might be placed in the way of running alternative operating systems on PCs. Anderson describes this as a return to the rejected Trusted Computing architecture which at that point involved force-feeding DRM copy-protection restrictions which may be far worse than its predecessor.
The professor said:
These issues last arose in 2003, when we fought back with the Trusted Computing FAQ and economic analysis. That initiative petered out after widespread opposition. This time round the effects could be even worse, as 'unauthorised' operating systems like Linux and FreeBSD just wont run at all. On an old-fashioned Trusted Computing platform you could at least run Linux it just couldnt get at the keys for Windows Media Player.
The extension of Microsofts OS monopoly to hardware would be a disaster, with increased lock-in, decreased consumer choice and lack of space to innovate.
Anderson concludes that the technology might violate EU competition law in a rallying call on Cambridge University's Light Blue Touchpaper blog here.
Does anyone really dual boot OSs anymore? Most folks just run virtual machines, rather than have a 2nd OS installed on the hard disk. Better that way, given that you can run your 2nd OS at the same time as the ‘primary’.
This does stink though. For whatever reason, certain users may NEED to dual boot, and the option should be there.
And that is how the government could shut down the internet...just make everyone buy new “approved” PC’s...(cash for computer)
This isn’t just for dual boots. It’s wired into the firmware, so the system wouldn’t be able to boot Linux *at all*.
See ya Mr. Gates.
Dual booting isn’t the main issue, it is that you wouldn’t be able to install a different OS on a “windows” box. You possibly wouldn’t be able to take your old Dell, and install linux to turn it into a media server, for example.
The whole world’s going to crap. Who knew the system designers were part of Agenda 21?
So very Microsoft.
They really do not have any talent...never have.
Gate’s legacy of sleazy business practices has long been successful in giving us junk.
May he rest with dead Ted.
Wow! That’s worse than I thought! (I just skimmed the article)
The PC makers should tell MS to piss up a rope!
Hey Microsoft, take your pick:
I dual boot AND run several virtual machines. I prefer running some things natively for the comparative performance advantages you get.
I don’t see this new boot loader getting much traction. Even if it does, it will be reverse engineered just like other closed Microsoft specifications (ntfs read/write modules as an example come to mind). This is what the open source community does very well — frustrate the makers of closed specifications. There is, however, some lag time in development.
Any machine that WILL boot Linux WON'T boot Windows at all.
As long as there continues to be a market for LINUX, I would imagine that the hardward makers would continue to support it, as well as MS.
Possibly some companies—Dell has been mentioned—might not do both. But I would imagine that someone would step in to fill the gap,as long as there was a profit in it.
Clearly Microsoft needs to be broken up like Ma Bell, when it practices as a monopoly. It is illegal. But then Obama’s Administration never sees corporate greed as a problem, just a doner.
To be clear this would be horrible. That said I bet the LINUX crowd finds a hack, fix, workaround, whatever I bet they break it. And yes I run a dual boot on separate drives.
The option IS there.
Watch this video on Windows 8 boot process from Microsoft themselves:
You should know better than trust the tabloid, gutter journalism from the notorious British site “The Register”.
I run boot camp and Windows XP on my mac so I can access my work computer with a usb device. I eventually will end up switching to another version of windows for that capability, but it looks like that will stop with Win8.
Guess who is using their monopoly to crush rivals right now.
Hint: Its sure is not Microsoft.:
Google ‘rigs’ search results, rivals tell senators
But then Obamas Administration never sees corporate greed as a problem, just a doner
Yeah..that s why Google CEO Eric Schmidt, came out and openly campaigned for the Kenyan communist in 2008, and over 95% of the political contributions of the Google employees went to 0bama and the Democrats.
Go with windows 7 for the other OS. It’s a very good OS. I also have a mac that I sometimes boot to windows. I have second pc, which boots both linux and windows. It’s always good to have options.
The problem is the lawyers and the licenses.
I hate the unnecessary complexity of software that this dictates.
I have used some flavor of linux since about 1996. I still like it, even prefer it to Windows of any flavor.
If this is what it takes to keep Microsoft in business, I can do without it.
Where did that come from? I personally doubt they have signed on. They sell a lot of Linux servers and just went through a dispute with Microsoft over some overseas supplier enforcement nonsense.
If it is important, I can find out. Have a connection.
I have bought very few packaged machines in my life. Have used lots of company machines, but generally always built my personal ones. From components or from older machines.
Built my first PC in 1982. That has been a while.
The article is talking about booting to a non-Microsoft, non-signed OS. Of course you can dual boot into other installs of Windows. I do think the article is probably a little hyperbolic - you’d probably be able to disable the functionality.
Someone needs to explain to me why Bill Gates puts out Vista (Windows ME, etc, etc, etc) and Steve Jobs gets cancer??? Where is the justice in that????
I was on the inside of Google briefly. Evil.
Gee you mean pc’s will be just like Mac’s were for most of their existence.. how.. dumb.
Linux as a server operating system is a great idea, but Linux as a desktop operating system, I have my doubts.
My comment was tongue-in-cheek, except for the part about the whole world in the crapper, which was entirely sincere.
I run SUSE and a Debian-derivative called Anti-X on various machines.
Yep, it’s a rule that every other MS OS is gonna suck bigtime, so I won’t bother with Windows 8 at all.
Yeah, right. Microsoft's likely response: "Right back at ya."
After all...they're Microsoft, doncha know.
I have run several flavors of Linux. Started with a UMSDOS version of slackware then Mandrake, Redhat and recently Xubuntu. I really like XFCE window manager, used it on Redhat for years before making the switch to Xubuntu.
I am more a command line guy, but Xubuntu 11.04 is pretty nice. I had to add a number of apps, but I am very happy with this machine.
I would have installed Debian but found that downloading the install disc was a pain so I opted for Xubuntu.
I’m sure the linux crowd will be able to figure it out.
MS will make it a precondition to preload WIndows 8. Just like the early days when every computer included a Windows license even if it was shipped bare with no operating system. If anyone else did that it would be restraint of trade but MS has the DOJ in their pocket and gets away with predatory acts such as this.
How about, instead of worrying about boot times, you design the computer so it doesn't have to boot constantly? I rarely reboot a box, and often go months without having to. Who would really care if a boot process took 10 minutes if it only happened once or twice a year?
I'll never buy a computer that has this kind of vendor lock-in. It all boils down to the question of, "who's computer is it?" Microsoft would love to be able to exert as much control over your property as you're willing to let them get away with. It gives them power over your choices that they wouldn't otherwise have. yeah, that's what I want, to give microsoft more power.
Some way will be found around this. Either hacking the lockout mechanism or rejection of it by the hardware makers. And yes, I built a dual boot system this year (not that that matters).
I started with Mandrake in about 1999 and stayed with it through Mandriva’s end. Switched to SUSE on the main machines then. Demo-ed many other distros for a day or two along the way. Interesting you mention XFCE as I just switched to it on an older Pentium 4M laptop when KDE 4.7 proved a little too bloated, although 4.7 is very satisfactory on the newer desktops.
It's like dealing with Democrats. When they can't get people to like their ideas (always), they resort to trying to take away their alternatives.