Linux

Red Hat Linux paying to get past UEFI restrictions on Windows 8

Red Hat Linux has decided it will pay to get around the UEFI. Jack Wallen thinks Microsoft has pushed other operating system developers and distributions into a tough situation that could have lasting effects.

The subject says it all. The soon to be released Windows 8 operating system is going to place all other operating system creators between a major rock and a hard place. The UEFI has been discussed ad nauseum in many forums, most of the discussions quickly diving into warring camps.

  • It's good that Microsoft is driving a hardware-level security measure.
  • This is Microsoft going back to its monopolistic ways!

I even read one user on a Fedora mailing list dropping a Jean Luc Picard quote, by saying:

We've made too many compromises already, too many retreats. They invade our space and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no farther!

When the news of the UEFI first hit, I wasn't completely surprised. I did, however, assume there would be easy ways around this and that Linux distributions would have no issue. That is not necessarily the case. It seems that hardware shipping with the Windows 8 sticker will have the UEFI restrictions enabled and the only way around those restrictions are to upload a new firmware or add their own security key.

Neither option is viable to the consumer.

I get it. I understand that Microsoft is doing everything it can to help secure its operating environment, but for anyone who chooses an alternative, this is simply not acceptable. This could possibly even have ramifications on virtual machines. Will they even boot?

From Red Hat's perspective, there was really only one option:

Pay Microsoft (actually Verisign) the fee so that the Linux bootloader (Grub2 in this case) will actually boot. But there are other issues this brings up. What about:

  • Kernel modules?
  • Those that build their own kernels?
  • How does this effect the GPL?

You see, the UEFI digs its proprietary fingers into multiple layers. But ultimately, here's my real gripe:

Someone is making money off of something they have no right to demand. This begs for the recollection of the old (and nasty) days of Wintel. And this is coming off the heels of Microsoft creating a new Open Source branch of their business. How do those two things jive? They don't! Microsoft knows the UEFI cripples Linux and forces distributions to pay to play. How in the world are the smaller distributions going to survive? They may well not. The only hope is that companies like System 76 step in and offer UEFI-free hardware. But even then -- the average user isn't going to pony up the cash for a costlier system just to have an UEFI-free machine.

The average user being the key. But honestly, I don't want to go back to a time when Linux was relegated to nothing more than the basement of comp-sci programs and hackers. Linux has had to fight and scrape for every single step forward it has made and now Microsoft steps back into the ring and lands a possible knock-out blow.

Does this smack of conspiracy to anyone else? Seriously -- why should Red Hat Linux have to pay to get their operating system to work on hardware? Even when an end user doesn't WANT Windows 8 on their machine, why should said machine be pre-crippled? It shouldn't. Period.

Here's a better idea -- why can't Microsoft just build a more secure operating system in the first place and not go back to their old-school days of bullying the competition?

I guess our only hope is that the UEFI doesn't doesn't wind up embedded in aftermarket motherboards and CUPS, so anyone who wants to build their own machine doesn't wind up with the same crippling UEFI.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

1 comments
tom.marsh
tom.marsh

Microsoft has a near-total-monopoly on the business desktop and personal desktop spaces, so I'm unclear how this scheme to milk revenues out of other software entities is anything other than an attempt to force competitors to choose between 1) Paying for the right to exist as a tribute to Microsoft, or 2) Limiting their competitors ability to do business without the tribute. Although I'm not a lawyer, this seems to be dangerously close to leveraging one's monopoly to limit competition, and it bears much closer scrutiny by the DoJ.

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