Free Software Foundation urges boycott of Windows 8 PCs over Secure Boot feature

By Tom Warren, on 18th Oct 11 10:41 pm with 73 Comments

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is warning users to “stand up” for their freedom to install free software as Microsoft prepares its Secure Boot feature of Windows 8.

The FSF has created a petition to urge all computer makers implementing UEFI’s Secure Boot technology to allow users to disable the option. The issue stems from concerns that Microsoft and its hardware partners will attempt to block the installation of Linux on Windows 8 systems. Microsoft mandates that OEMs need to enable the Secure Boot technology on their systems for Windows 8. The Secure Boot technology means that OEMs must ship their systems with UEFI keys that will allow the installation and boot of Windows 8. Windows could be signed with a Microsoft key and the public part of that key would ship with all systems or each OEM would include their own key and sign the pre-installed version of Windows 8. The technology will ensure that Windows 8 boots securely but could mean that other operating systems may not install correctly, including older versions of Windows.

Red Hat engineer Matthew Garrett originally claimed that the new support would lock out installations of Linux. Microsoft responded to the original concerns. The company explained that it is working closely with its OEM partners to improve the security experience of Windows. “Microsoft supports OEMs having the flexibility to decide who manages security certificates and how to allow customers to import and manage those certificates, and manage secured boot,” said Tony Mangefeste on Microsoft’s Ecosystem team in a blog post in September. Microsoft believes that OEMs have the ability to customize their firmware to meet the needs of their customers by customizing the level of certificate and policy management on their platform. OEMs are free to allow the technology to be disabled using a switch in the UEFI firmware.  The Samsung developer tablet, with Windows 8 Developer Preview, handed out at BUILD contains the ability to disable the firmware Secure Boot feature.

“We are concerned that Microsoft and hardware manufacturers will implement these boot restrictions in a way that will prevent users from booting anything other than Windows,” says Matt Lee, the FSF’s campaigns manager. “A better name for the technology might be Restricted Boot, since such a requirement would be a disastrous restriction on computer users and not a security feature at all.” The FSF has created a petition which urges those who sign it to boycott Windows 8 systems:

“ 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.”

  • Anonymous



    Seriously though, that would kinda suck, but I don’t see them telling Apple to unlock the iPad, but that’s probably cause I dont care. :P

  • Emi Cyberschreiber

    what the hell….

    these guys think they are the smartest person in the world and they cant understand how UEFI will work in Windows 8, and how Microsoft has nothing to do. even sinofsky commented to a person “We enable the technology so you can have this choice”

    but “We are concerned that Microsoft and hardware manufacturers will implement these boot restrictions in a way that will prevent users from booting anything other than Windows,”sounds really stupid to me :)

    thats why you should read and buy what is best for you, want to install linux? then read about what you are getting and dont complain. read if UEFI can be turned off.

    • Cory Dolphin

      I believe it will simply make a dual boot scenario less compelling, other than that there is nothing wrong. The only realize the open source community is up in arms is that the only group who supports computer manufacturers is Microsoft. At the $~45 dollar a copy price for Windows, it is not worth it for OEMs to attempt to embrace linux, even Ubuntu is too different/ hard to use for many users.

    • Robin Ashe

      Linux also just isn’t good enough. As much as I try to like it, it seems more like a toy than a real OS. So much software on it is half baked it’s ridiculous.

  • Anonymous

    these guys make me sick…
    why are they so bothered?? if microsoft decides to go the apple way and lock down its OS to a hardware, why should linux be bothered? why not partner with OEMs and ship your own devices with linux preinstalled.

    MS is a company of choice, thats why its still on top after 20 years + so most likely they will leave the choice the users.

    • Anonymous

      Despite how irrelevelent linux supporters keep telling everyone (and themselves) that Windows is, one can’t help but notice just how obsessed they are with everything Microsoft does.

      It warms the heart.

    • Robin Ashe

      Linux was on devices pre-installed, users returned them en masse. Now you hardly find any Linux netbooks available for sale at all. Hardly anyone will be really upset about the inability to install Linux.

      I suspect long term what this is actually about is making it difficult to install pirated versions of Windows. With devices shipping without any optical drive, downloading and upgrading ala Lion will be the way to go, and this could require anyone who has an OEM copy of Windows to get an upgrade through the OEM. Just a thought.

    • Anonymous

      “Linux was on devices pre-installed, users returned them en masse.”

      I read that and one word popped up: defective. Not referring to the hardware though. :)

    • Jesse Guthrie

      this feature is only to prevent unauthorized users and viruses from screwing with the bootloader. The OEM does have the right to block the owner from accessing this feature. If the owner can access this feature then it makes it a whole lot easier for Viruses and unauthorized users to access it.

  • Frylockns86

    Linux fans of yesteryear: Microsux is killing Linux by FORCING the OEMs to run Winblows! ANTI-TRUST!

    Linux fans today: Microsux is killing Linux by NOT FORCING the OEMs to have the option to disable secured boot! ANTI-TRUST!

    • Anonymous

      yeah that. funny how they can’t compete by making better software people will want to use instead.

    • Junior

      My family uses linux, it’s safe, stable, and do preatty much anything we want to, even use a 64bit web browser with 64bit Flash. My mother does’t even know how to use Windows ‘couse she think it’s “too hard” to find stuf.

      Games? That’s why I bought my PS3, that is embebed with Linux based Software by the way.

    • Tuxplorer

      My family uses Windows 7, Windows Phone 7.5, Bing search engine, Hotmail, Internet Explorer 9, Xbox 360 and Office 2010. Because these products are beautiful, elegant, secure, productive, fun to use and incredibly user-friendly. On the other hand, my parents HATE LinSux because they are fugly, user-unfriendly, insecure, lacks 99% features and completely unusable.

    • Junior

      Do you really mean that windows is secure? Windows is a lot of things, but secure is not among its qualities.

      Why everybody here just think that Microsoft is God’s criation, You guys sound like that Freak MacBoys that urges OSX is the best OS ever made. That is really sad;

      Let’s face reality, Apple is the best with video, audio and graphic editing, Windows works fine on all-in-one needs, since we can find almost anything that we want for it. Linux is far ahead in security, that why it is dominant in Servers and enterprise usage.

      And the do exist in other segments, Ubuntu is not the best operating system ever made, but it will do just fine for people that just use internet and same text editing. It’s still has a lack of games that windows has in it’s favor, and there is a Mac OSX Server edition that is las than 1% of servers among world.

      If we trully compare the usage of the 3 major systems Windows, Mac, Linux that are at the same step, each one has it’s pros and cons.

      Last of all, Chorme is the best web browser ever made, like iOS is the best phone interface. And “FOR ME” bing just can’t find anything that I want;

  • AlienSix

    Nothing to see here folks. Another year of Linux….failure in the consumer space

    • Guest

      As long as you ignore Android, I guess.

    • Robin Ashe

      Android violates the GPL, and most HW manufacturers ship with locked bootloaders. It’s more akin to Windows than Linux in the mobile space, where this is concerned.

    • Guest

      Lots of things violate the GPL. In fact, almost everything that’s successful in OSS does. 

      Android is based on Linux. So if you say Linux is a failure in the consumer space, then you’re saying Android hasn’t succeeded. And I didn’t bother listing all the other consumer implementations of Linux, like my Linksys router, for example.

      What can be said about Linux, at least so far, is that it has not proved overly successful on the desktop.

    • Jair Jaramillo

      Android IS a fork of Linux, since the Linux development team hasn’t added Android improvements on their kernel to the Linux kernel.

    • Anonymous

      Seems like Android has a knack for violations. Just ask Oracle.

    • Rafael

      Android does not violate the GPL since GPL itself allow user to modify and use its content in anyway user wants to, even selling it.

      We can’t sell Linux or Unix, but we can sell Red Hat ou Mac OS X. 

    • Alvaro Osvaldo López-García

      and he’s still ignoring embedded systems, digital cameras, TVs, Sony BD players, smartphones (Android != Linux in smartphones), servers, HPC servers, clusters…

    • Anonymous

      android is in the pocket of google. just making money for another monopoly.

    • Gamer

      We will never , fuck you penguin.

  • No

    This would mainly affect OEM stuff wouldn’t it? such as the pre built HP/Dell/Whatever brand computers that people with little computer knowledge buy because they don’t know better.

    I would think that most people that would be interested in running Linux would build their own computer, which would in turn not have this restriction on it.

    Or maybe I’m completely off the mark and am reading things wrong……..

    • Guest

      Most of the OEMs get their boards made by the same MB suppliers DIY builders get. HP, for example, has been a large buyer of Asus boards in the past. Not sure about currently. So if the Taiwan guys include the option, it’ll likely be there for all. And why wouldn’t they? After all, they want their MB’s to appeal to the widest audience.

    • Robin Ashe

      I think you’re completely right. The only problem I could see for linux is in a few years places like Free Geek that recycle computers and sell re-assembled working ones with linux installed (to keep costs down) could run into troubles with the most common types of computers they get in.

  • Anonymous

    lol, the only thing that there could be a boycott of Windows 8 is the lack of the Start Menu. 

    From what I’ve heard, I’m pretty sure you have the ability to disable the Secure Boot feature and then install whatever OS you want.

    • Tom W

      Well it’s down to OEMs ultimately, not Microsoft. OEMs CAN choose to ship systems without the ability to switch the feature off but I’d doubt that’s something the major ones will choose to do, especially on their enterprise PCs.

    • snow4558

      So shouldn’t Red Hat be wanting to boycott the OEMs for not enabling this feature? It doesn’t really seem like the fault of MS if the OEM releases a product without it. I’m sure some OEMs will enable it, thus the Linux guys can pick up the compatible hardware.

  • Chump

    Oh man that’s terrible.  What are we going to do without those 500 users?

    • Guest

      Get them to join the 500 WP7 buyers and form a self-help group for fringe users?

    • GP007

      Awww, that’s cute.    I get a kick out of these defensive comments.

    • Anonymous

      and join the 500 android tablet users while they are at it. we’re getting somewhere here.

  • Guest

    I guess FSF needed something to take the focus off Stallman’s recent idotic remarks about being glad Steve Jobs is gone, and an attack on MS is always good for that.

    This entire issue seems like the typical OSS circlejerk. But I’m sure they’ll claim victory when most OEMs go ahead and do what they always were going to: provide a disable option in bios.

  • Gornot

    Well, the point is that the choice IS there, which makes the situation better than anything Apple did since… ever, lol

    • Guest

      um bootcamp?

    • GP007

      Bootcamp is a half hearted attempt to draw in Windows users who like Mac hardware but think OSX sucks balls.  The fact is that you don’t have an option to flat out delete OSX off of the system and you are also locked into using Apples Bootcamp windows drivers which, let’s not lie here, suck.  They are poor when it comes to performance and make Windows run slower than it should at times.

    • Hey

      This is exactly how I feel, good to see someone else does too.

    • Hey

      whoops, wrong place

  • Josh T.

    They’re not saying they’re going to boycott Windows 8. They’re just not going to buy devices from OEMs that use Secure Boot prevent other OSs from being installed.

    • Guest

      Which would all happen to run….W8. So it’s effectively the same thing.

    • Anonymous

      Apparently Tom needs some page hits. He’s been better than others but still has his share of misleading titles.

    • Tom W

      Well they are urging people to boycott:

      “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.”

    • Anonymous

      “Such jailed systems” being systems with no option to disable secure boot. Your title says they are boycotting Windows 8 instead of those particular systems.  That’s false.

    • Tom W

      Nit pick all you want but 99% of those systems will come with Windows 8 installed which as Guest points out is “effectively the same thing.”

    • Anonymous

      There will be plenty of W8 systems which will allow you to boot Linux. They are not boycotting those. So your statement of “W8 boycott” is misleading at best.

    • Tom

      I don’t buy machines without hardware virtualization. Yeah! Boycott! Look at me taking a stand for user freedom!

      They can urge people to “boycott” all they want, but ultimately, only the people who need dual-boot will care.

    • Anonymous

      but if you want linux to begin with, you wouldn’t buy these PCs. these guys are like the occupy wallstreet movement. they state the obvious but stand for nothing. move on, people don’t care for linux on their PCs. They don’t even care for it on their phones. In fact people don’t care for what stupid kernel they use. they just want the thing to work and if you want them to use your product, market it to them.

  • anotherdude

    As if Linux would have the correct drivers anyway…

  • Sheriff Bird!

    I just shat on a penguin….. Lol!


  • Anonymous

    The petition states that OEMs should provide a “sure-fire way” to install and run a free OS. OEMs should honor this when FSF guarantees a “sure-fire way” for Linux to actually install and run properly. 

    • Guest

      Yeah, it an interesting perspective. I believe Chrome OS implements the same secure boot type of scenario. Can you run and install Windows on that?

    • Guest

      No. Or Ubuntu, except with a LOT of pain.

  • Aaron McRuer

    IIRC, this isn’t even the normal Linux users… isn’t this Richard Stallman’s group?  If so, ignore it.  Guy’s a kook, and I’m weary of any group that he’s affiliated with.  This isn’t what we’d call the normal Open Source user group… 

    • Guest

      What do you mean? FSF and Stallman were *the* mouthpiece for OSS. Now you want to distance them from “normal” linux users? Look, given the stupidity that comes out of Stallman’s mouth, I don’t blame you. But isn’t it just a tad hypocritical?

  • Seth_p

    This cr*p again?

  • Anonymous

    The Free Software Foundation is like the Westboro Baptist Church of the IT world.

    Much as I love some of the underlying concepts of free software and appreciate some of the work that has gone into it, the attitudes of the community surrounding it has managed to sway my sentiment towards FOSS from mild interest to near-total repulsion.

    • Tom

      Indeed.  Apart from Linux, open-source has found its greatest success in *non-copyleft* projects.

      Apache.  BSD.  etc.  All shipped under permissive licenses.

    • Anonymous

      indeed. these guys’s agenda boils down to this:

      we have failed in the market and it is all due to the fact users don’t choose us because evil microsoft keeps making an operating system people want to use, pay for, order, and expect to get. get over it.

  • Gamer

    We will never , fuck you penguin.

  • Gamer

    We will never , fuck you penguin. You are just finding an excuse against Microsoft.

  • Erikpvb

    This is just whining for nothing. UEFI permits switching secure boot off in the bios, so if that is possible anyone wanting to install whatever iteration of Linux will be able to do this without issue. Face reality: those who want Linux are more than likely more than able to get this done without a problem. Want to dualboot, then use Windows7 (as 8 requires secure boot) or maybe it istime for those Linux developers to embrace security and add secure boot to Linux capabilities as well? 
    Linux is worried about users who won’t know how to do this? Those are just consumers of Windows anyway and are less than likely to want Linux in any case.
    So all this is is whining to get themselves heard in the news.

  • Johnno87

    Article is wrong. Microsoft says to gain the ‘built for windows 8′ sticker OEMs need to enable this. Not all manufacturers have to & you’ll be able to disable it. Enterprises buying brand new PCs that have this feature but want windows 7 will easily be able to disable the feature. This is Linux whining for the sake of whining & the less articles written about it the better.

    • Joshua Godwin

      All OEMs have that Logo certification so it is one and the same,but yeah the Linux Fanatics are simply whining.

  • Blindfury

    Get a job!

  • Anonymous

    Will the FSF buy me a new computer when mine gets a rootkit virus?

    • Junior

      Have you ever heard of Anti-virus? I’m sure they’re famous. EG: Microsoft Security Essentials, Avira, Avast, AVG, Norton, and so on… that will work better that a UEFI lock down.

  • Anonymous

    “The issue stems from concerns that Microsoft and its hardware partners will attempt to block the installation of Linux on Windows 8 systems”

    for that to happen somebody will actually WANT to get linux. that iself is less than 99% of the pcs sold. the 1% should be able to figure out how to get into the mobo settings and turn it off.

  • Miro

    yawn, that’s going to go somewhere i’m sure

  • Junior

    This is good, considering that in Brazil there are laws that prohibit this type of practice, that is, if I buy one of these, I will make some money in compensation. Apple says so.

  • DualBooter

    What the…?

    I’ve been an avid Windows user since 3.1. All I see on this board is the Windows equivalent of Mac Fanboys. You guys are really funny by the way. The ignorance displayed on this board is priceless, to say the least.

    Linux is a fantastic operating system. Written and maintained by folks who believe that open source channels an aspect of creativity that otherwise doesn’t exist in profit driven programming. If you guys weren’t to busy pounding your chests like monkeys and saying “Look at Linux users cry! Windows is best!” maybe you would realize that.

    I have always dual-booted the two. Why not? Locking the bootloader is an insult to anyone tech-oriented. Reminds me of Apple, a company I despise. And you guys here support this nonsense.. and for the reason of security? ROFL. Anyone stupid enough to install a rootkit, unintentional or otherwise, probably shouldn’t be using a computer to begin with.

    Or maybe this board is filled with kids. They tend to exert a lot of biased opinions while disregarding facts. Grow up..

  • Anonymous

    What’s Linux? Isn’t this all being done by Microsoft to make sure the Chinese bootleggers have a harder time ripping them off?