Windows 8 certification will make it 'difficult or impossible' to install Linux on PCs

Windows 8 certification will make it 'difficult or impossible' to install Linux on PCs

Summary: Microsoft is removing control from the end user and 'places it in the hands of Microsoft and the hardware vendors'.

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Red Hat engineer Matthew Garrett, who initially raised the possibility that it might be tricky to install alternative operating systems on Windows 8 certified PCs, has responded to Microsoft's blog post on Windows 8 'secure boot'.

Garrett doesn't pull his punches:

As things stand, Windows 8 certified systems will make it either more difficult or impossible to install alternative operating systems.

"The end user is no longer in control of their PC."According to Garrett, Microsoft's dominance when it comes to desktop and notebook systems means that it can get it's own digital certificates onto millions of machines with UEFI while at the same time effectively locking out rivals such as Linux.

No other vendor has the same position of power over the hardware vendors. Red Hat is unable to ensure that every OEM carries their signing key. Nor is Canonical. Nor is Nvidia, or AMD or any other PC component manufacturer. Microsoft's influence here is greater than even Intel's.

Microsoft is in a position to use that dominance to offer incentives to vendors to follow the certifications requirements (which demand UEFI and that 'secure boot' be enabled).

Competition in that market is tough, and vendors will take every break they can get. That includes the Windows logo program, in which Microsoft give incentives to vendors to sell hardware that meets their certification requirements. Vendors who choose not to follow the certification requirements will be at a disadvantage in the marketplace.

There are also implications when it comes to upgrading:

The end user is not guaranteed that their system will include the signing keys that would be required for them to swap their graphics card for one from another vendor, or replace their network card and still be able to netboot, or install a newer SATA controller and have it recognise their hard drive in the firmware. The end user is no longer in control of their PC.

Garrett goes on to call Microsoft's rebuttal 'misleading' by claiming that Microsoft is removing control from the end user and 'places it in the hands of Microsoft and the hardware vendors'. Furthermore, he claims that 'UEFI secure boot is a valuable and worthwhile feature that Microsoft are misusing to gain tighter control over the market'.

The final irony? If the user has no control over the installed keys, the user has no way to indicate that they don't trust Microsoft products. They can prevent their system booting malware. They can prevent their system booting Red Hat, Ubuntu, FreeBSD, OS X or any other operating system. But they can't prevent their system from running Windows 8.

Has Microsoft found the perfect way to make it difficult for people to install Linux (and older versions of Windows) on new PCs?

Topics: Hardware, Linux, Microsoft, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

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249 comments
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  • RE: Windows 8 certification will make it 'difficult or impossible' to install Linux on PCs

    We'll just have to wait and see, this guy sounds a lot like the guy spewing the "Vista has the DRMs! Nothing will play anymore on Vista!" back when Vista came out.
    bowmanlr
    • The overwhelming majority of the PC ...

      @bowmanlr,

      ... market doesn't care about installing Linux or other OSs. And I'm talking well over 90% of users. For those who care about installing Linux or other OSs, there are those PCs which are uncertified. MS has therefore provided users with a choice. I don't see a problem.
      P. Douglas
      • Disabling Secure Boot on Win certified PCs is an OEM - not MS - issue

        [i]Competition in that market is tough, and vendors will take every break they can get. That includes the Windows logo program, in which Microsoft give incentives to vendors to sell hardware that meets their certification requirements. Vendors who choose not to follow the certification requirements will be at a disadvantage in the marketplace.[/i]

        I'm not aware of any disadvantage to vendors if they give users the option to disable Secure Boot. In other words, Windows certified PCs can include the option to disable Secure Boot. But that's the decision of OEMs - not MS. There are no repercussions from MS if vendors choose one way or the other. So again, I don???t see a problem.
        P. Douglas
      • RE: Windows 8 certification will make it 'difficult or impossible' to install Linux on PCs

        @P. Douglas

        The 90% argument is a lame argument. 90% of drivers are younger than 70 years old, yet it would be wrong to make a law making it illegal to drive a car once you hit 70 on the basis of age only.

        That does not mean I believe MS should lower their standards for their customers (in fact they've more than demonstrated the necessity of secure boot). It does mean I believe OEMs need to cater to their customers, one way or another. A simple switch (either physical or software) to disable secure boot is one way. Selling alternative machines without secure boot altogether is another.
        Michael Kelly
      • No one installs it even if it's darn easy

        We've seen Linux best days. RIP.
        LBiege
      • But that isn't the solution Linux users are looking for

        " 90% of drivers are younger than 70 years old, yet it would be wrong to make a law making it illegal to drive a car once you hit 70 on the basis of age only."

        In Australia, Linux groups are already petitioning the government to ban Windows secure boot. Just like a law making it illegal to drive a car once you hit 70 would be wrong, so is making a law that Windows can't be made more secure because 1% of the population may be inconvenienced.

        That would be wrong.
        toddybottom
      • RE: Windows 8 certification will make it 'difficult or impossible' to install Linux on PCs

        @P. Douglas Dude - Microsoft is a monopoly. Of course the majority of users won't be affected. The whole point is that the competition, by definition a minority, WILL BE. You "don't see a problem"? That's not a problem? If 95% of OEM PCs can only run Windows 8, that's "not a problem"?
        jgm@...
      • RE: Windows 8 certification will make it 'difficult or impossible' to install Linux on PCs

        @toddybottom Are you serious? A "law to keep Windows from being more secure"? It's a law to PREVENT Microsoft from exploiting its monopoly status! Is there anyone on ZDNet that isn't a troll anymore other than the bloggers? If Microsoft began watching you via your webcam just to be sure no one was sneaking onto your PC, would that be just "Microsoft making Windows more secure" too? Seriously? It's as believable as AT&T saying acquiring T-Mobile is all about increasing capacity and not about eliminating competition.
        jgm@...
      • RE: Windows 8 certification will make it 'difficult or impossible' to install Linux on PCs

        @toddybottom

        [i]In Australia, Linux groups are already petitioning the government to ban Windows secure boot. Just like a law making it illegal to drive a car once you hit 70 would be wrong, so is making a law that Windows can't be made more secure because 1% of the population may be inconvenienced.

        That would be wrong. [/i]

        Agree completely. Reasonable solutions which satisfy everybody are quite obvious and need to be reached. And quite obviously the OEMs hold the key to these solutions, not Microsoft.

        BTW I have no problem with paying an extra fee for the ability to either disable secure boot for my Linux distro, or to be able to either make or obtain the proper keys, as long as it is a reasonable fee. But the option needs to be available.
        Michael Kelly
      • RE: Windows 8 certification will make it 'difficult or impossible' to install Linux on PCs

        @P. Douglas
        [I'm not aware of any disadvantage to vendors if they give users the option to disable Secure Boot. In other words, Windows certified PCs can include the option to disable Secure Boot.] If the PC is able to dual boot it might not qualify for the Windows Logo program. Microsoft has not come out and said that the ability to disable secure boot, will allow the PC to be sold as a Windows 8 certified PC. Also there might be a requirement to get the incentives. IE: If you sell 100% of the PCs locked down, you get a break on the license cost. This would be more than enough incentive to keep those pesky rebels inline.
        Silly question, can we use html tags to quote on this board?
        Rick_Kl
      • Rick: You are lying

        "If the PC is able to dual boot it might not qualify for the Windows Logo program."

        You are a liar.

        MS has made it very clear that the ability to disable secure boot or even the ability to dual secure boot is not a determining factor in being able to use the Windows 8 Certified PC label. There is absolutely zero confusion about this other than in the minds of idiots like you.

        MS has gone on record on this topic: if an OEM chooses to allow secure boot to be disabled or an OEM chooses to include multiple keys in the UEFI that the PC can still be a Windows 8 Certified PC.

        Stop lying Rick.
        toddybottom
      • Rick: state your source or retract your claim

        "Also there might be a requirement to get the incentives. IE: If you sell 100% of the PCs locked down, you get a break on the license cost."<br><br>Where is your justification for making such a claim?<br><br>You don't have any?<br><br>Exactly.

        In fact, considering how many organizations are looking specifically at this scenario to make sure it doesn't happen, it would be next to impossible for MS to get away with this today.
        toddybottom
      • RE: Windows 8 certification will make it 'difficult or impossible' to install Linux on PCs

        @P. Douglas

        Having recently replaced a crappy Vista install on a machine with Ubuntu Linux, I care. Brought new life to what had been an expensive machine.
        jorjitop
      • RE: Windows 8 certification will make it 'difficult or impossible' to install Linux on PCs

        @P. Douglas No problem other than obviously abusing their monopoly position to intentionally erect barriers to free trade. This is text book anti-trust behavior. I doubt the DOJ will go after them again, but this is just unbelievably blatant anti-competitive behavior.
        wzrobin
      • RE: Windows 8 certification will make it 'difficult or impossible' to install Linux on PCs

        @P. Douglas

        10% of markets means 150 million laptops, notebooks and desktops. That's quite a lot. However i've never seen serious reason using Windows nowadays. Hardly 20% of users have some important "MUST" Windows based application and really need Windows. 80% are using pc's just for internet browsing, facebook, e-mail etc...
        Matsi66
    • RE: Windows 8 certification will make it 'difficult or impossible' to install Linux on PCs

      @bowmanlr

      You mean that wasn't true? I avoided Vista for that reason (among other reasons), and I never heard a report that it was false.
      matthewlinux
      • RE: Windows 8 certification will make it 'difficult or impossible' to install Linux on PCs

        @matthewlinux

        It was false
        bmore_bro69@...
      • RE: Windows 8 certification will make it 'difficult or impossible' to install Linux on PCs

        @matthewlinux

        oh no... no again...
        http://www.zdnet.com/blog/bott/everything-youve-read-about-vista-drm-is-wrong-part-1/299
        http://www.zdnet.com/blog/ou/gutmann-vista-drm-paper-uses-shoddy-web-forums-as-source/723
        http://www.dasmirnov.net/blog/windows_vista_drm_nonsense
        http://windowsteamblog.com/windows/archive/b/windowsvista/archive/2007/01/20/windows-vista-content-protection-twenty-questions-and-answers.aspx
        Samic
      • RE: Windows 8 certification will make it 'difficult or impossible' to install Linux on PCs

        @matthewlinux

        I avoided Vista too until I got a new computer as a gift that game with Vista. I could only stand it for so long before I took great pleasure in deleting it and formatting the recovery partition.

        Anyway, I did have issues with Vista and DRM. But the benefit was that it forced me to learn how to break through their DRM so I could actually play DVDs that I legitimately purchased. Thanks m$. Anyway, never had a problem again after I got rid of Vista, although even without a DRM issue I would have ditched it; such a pile of ****.
        stooge51
    • RE: Windows 8 certification will make it 'difficult or impossible' to install Linux on PCs

      @bowmanlr

      No problems for me. I've stopped using Windows several years ago. I don't need it. When i got old pc with Windows OS free (don't have to pay for it) i always kick out Windows and install some Linux based OS.
      Matsi66