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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Microsoft Will Lock Out Linux

For decades now open-sources have been running dual boot set ups featuring both Windows and Linux running alongside from a standardized boot. Nevertheless, the news is that in the new Windows 8, the firmware known as UEFI is going to replace the low level BIOS along with the ability to lock down PCs so that operating systems should be digitally signed through “secure boot”.


The industry couldn’t stay calm after this news. Ross Anderson, Cambridge University security engineering professor, claimed that Microsoft pushing for obligatory UEFI support would mean that such “unauthorized” operating systems as Linux or FreeBSD just won’t be able to run at all. The professor pointed out that it would mean an increased lock-in, less consumer choice and, as usual, less space to innovate. Overall, the entire idea is absolutely unlawful and mustn’t succeed.

However, software colossus Microsoft was quick to deny that its new operating system has been specifically designed to lock out Linux. The company’s representative said that secure boot was not a tool to lock out OS loaders, but rather a policy allowing firmware to validate authenticity of components. Microsoft has posted a long description of UEFI and the OS support for the next-generation security feature, trying to prove that it won’t control the settings on computer firmware which either control or enable secured boot from any OS different from Windows.

However, Linux fans remain a bit concerned about the secure booting feature of Microsoft that might lock their favorite operating system out. Moreover, the media already report that Linux Australia members have filed a complaint to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission about the plans of software giant and been told they have a case.

The argument of the group was that any software or hardware will need to be signed by Microsoft or any other relevant original equipment manufacturer to be able to run. This clearly means that alternative OS like Linux (and maybe even older versions of Windows) won’t work without the secure keys bundled with new OS releases and many more.

In respond, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has hinted that the open-sources may have a case if they provided more information on the issue. That’s why Linux Australia is planning to bring the matter up again and consider a larger campaign against Windows 8. 

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