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Microsoft and the Windows 8 attack on Linux

December 31, 2012
By

Steven has a good look at what a pain in the ass it is to install Linux on a Windows 8 computer. The ridiculous “secure boot” is an obvious attempt by Microsoft to kill Linux on the desktop.

Microsoft has announced that if computer makers wish to distribute machines with the Windows 8 compatibility logo, they will have to implement a measure called “Secure Boot.” However, it is currently up for grabs whether this technology will live up to its name, or will instead earn the name Restricted Boot.

Please add your name to the following statement, to show computer manufacturers, governments, and Microsoft that you care about this freedom and will work to protect it.

We, the undersigned, urge all computer makers implementing UEFI’s so-called “Secure Boot” to do it in a way that allows free software operating systems to be installed. To respect user freedom and truly protect user security, manufacturers must either allow computer owners to disable the boot restrictions, or provide a sure-fire way for them to install and run a free software operating system of their choice. We commit that we will neither purchase nor recommend computers that strip users of this critical freedom, and we will actively urge people in our communities to avoid such jailed systems.

A Futile Gesture and Bad PR
It’s not going to work though as more and more people become aware of it. The key, as mentioned by the FSF quote in the article is to avoid buying computers that do not allow owners to disable “secure boot” or otherwise allow them to install Linux (or any other operating system of their choice).

It’s also causing even more disgust and dislike of Microsoft as a company. You have to wonder at how they could be so ignorant of how they are perceived among consumers. Or perhaps they simply don’t care? I suspect that the billions from their Windows and Office monopolies have insulated them from worrying about pissing people off.

We’ll see how long that arrogance and complacency lasts as things are changing in the computing world with the huge shift to mobile devices.

Microsoft’s Pettiness and Poor Strategy
All of this makes me wonder about how utterly petty Microsoft is, given that Linux hasn’t been a big threat on the desktop. Given how badly Microsoft has performed over the last ten years (the stock has been utterly forgettable), you’d think they’d have much more important fish to fry.

Google and Apple have both been killing Microsoft in the mobile arena. Very few people care about Windows Phone 8, or Microsoft’s lame attempts at tablets. Even Oprah tweeted about the Surface tablet from an iPad! The shift to mobile devices has largely passed by Microsoft by, despite them having had more than ten years to get mobile right.

And yet Microsoft has chosen to expend some of its energy on “secure boot” in a lame attempt to screw over people who prefer Linux or other operating systems to Windows. Maybe they had a clue back before Windows 8 was released? It hasn’t exactly been burning up the sales charts, with most Windows users I know being determined to stick with Windows 7.

Think Before You Buy a Computer
Anyway, be careful what kind of computer you buy in 2013. Make sure you can disable “secure boot” or otherwise install any operating system of your choice. Don’t reward computer makers with your dollars if they go along with Microsoft’s blatant attempt to discourage people from moving away from Windows.

In the end, Microsoft’s attack on Linux will fail. Nobody wants to return to the dark days when Redmond ruled the word of desktop computing with an iron fist.

Been there, done that and we’re not going back.

What’s your take on Microsoft and “secure boot?” Do you think Linux will survive? Tell me in the comments. 

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8 Responses to Microsoft and the Windows 8 attack on Linux

  1. Melvin Quintin on October 9, 2013 at 6:35 PM

    Secure boot can be turned off. On an new Hp laptop I had to turn on legacy support in the bios before I could install linux. I could not set it up with dual boot. I had to wipe out windows 8 to for it to boot properly. The owner is quite happy with the results.

  2. Richman on March 19, 2013 at 2:47 AM

    I have always built my own machines aside from my very first one which was a used IBM business machine and I haven’t seen any MB manufacturers selling boxed MB’s that come with the UEIF turned on much less being unable to turn it off and on at will. So I would presume that the effects of that whole debacle will lie on the shoulders of the consumer elite that give credence to the political/economic/capitalistic machine that enslaves them by way of their own authorization and will. But then most of these consumers don’t much care about getting good value for their dollar and freely squander their billions without any need or consideration of true freedom. But then, Redmond knows this all too well along with their highly paid consumer marketing psychologists.

  3. Steve on January 5, 2013 at 6:32 PM

    LOL, well apparently it looks like Microsoft wants everyone to buy Apple products – as Apple products have no real incentive to have the “Windows 8 compatible” logo on them. Dumbasses.

    • Jim Lynch on January 9, 2013 at 5:12 PM

      Ballmer should be fired. Now.

  4. kmb42vt on January 1, 2013 at 4:02 PM

    It seems to me that one of the most obvious factors in this situation that people are missing is that buying the newest PC/laptop is not really necessary any longer. Especially with the amount of older generation machines available to be purchased online. For example, Any Intel Core2 CPU based machine, either dual core or quad core, can easily be found for usually less than $500. Very often significantly less than that figure and well decked out to boot. The low price means you can also afford to upgrade the system if wish (new video card, etc).

    I myself have an older 2008 desktop mid-tower that has a Intel Core2 Quad CPU, 8 GB DDR2, 1.0 TB HDD and Nvidia GT 430 video card w/1.0 GB DDR3 (but can easily support the newer video cards out there). This older machine can keep up with the majority of the newest ones available for almost every user out there with the exception of the most hardcore gamers. And this is a rather extreme example as there’s 5 years worth of older generation machines to choose from now.

    Okay, so all this is a bit off topic for the article at hand but purchasing an older, BIOS based machine is definitely an option for those of us who prefer GNU/Linux based OSs. Root kits may be a concern to Linux as well but Linux distros are not nearly as vulnerable to these as Windows based machines are. But what the heck? It’s not like this is a new thing for Windows, the most popular OS out there. And you can install Windows 8 on these older machines if you really want to. Just choose a decent Internet security suite and do like you always.

    • Jim Lynch on January 2, 2013 at 3:10 AM

      Very good point, I like the idea of continuing to use older hardware anyway. It makes good financial sense. And, in this situation, it helps thwart Microsoft from trying to push Linux off the desktop.

  5. Jim Lynch on January 1, 2013 at 7:59 AM

    I totally agree, Brian. We should not blindly accept anything! Especially not something like this, because it sucks.

    I truly hope people are careful in the computers that they buy. It’s a terrible idea to give money to manufacturers that will block people from installing Linux on their computers.

  6. Brian Masinick on January 1, 2013 at 12:09 AM

    Hopefully the number of vendors who ship equipment with those labels and secure boot stuff enabled will be limited. Meanwhile, I shouldn’t have to buy equipment that new that I’ll need to worry about it until a better solution emerges.

    Seems to me that some kind of consortium could be developed to create something for this situation – that is, assuming that securing the boot block is actually as important as it has been made out to be in the first place. Linus Torvalds, for one, questions just how important it is; then again, Ken Olsen, late Digital Equipment founder, used to call UNIX systems “snake oil” and though his company built both UNIX systems and PC systems (remember the DEC Rainbow and the DECmate?) he also questioned “who would ever want a home computer?

    Clearly, Ken was thinking within a box; could Linus be guilty of the same thing, or has he considered securing all hardware components, INCLUDING what USED to be the BIOS? UEFI or some other construct could, and perhaps SHOULD, replace the BIOS.

    The better question is whether or not we should blindly bend over and accept what is being thrown at us, or should smart minds get together, create a number of different solutions, and then standardize on the one that solves the problems best overall, at reasonable cost, easy to implement, that is scalable, extensible, and conceivably can survive ten to twenty years?



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