Feeds

Microsoft dragging its feet on Linux Secure Boot fix

Linux Foundation's workaround held up by roadblocks

The essential guide to IT transformation

The Linux Foundation's promised workaround that will allow Linux to boot on Windows 8 PCs has yet to clear Microsoft's code certification process, although the exact reason for the hold-up remains unclear.

As The Reg reported previously, the Secure Boot feature of the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) found on modern Windows 8 PCs will only allow an OS to boot if its code has been digitally signed with a key obtained from Microsoft.

That's a problem for many Linux distributions, because some lack the resources to purchase a Microsoft key, while others simply refuse to.

To help get around UEFI's restrictions, the Linux Foundation has been developing a signed "pre-bootloader" as a stop-gap measure that will allow Linux distributions to boot, until such time as open source developers can come up with more effective solutions.

For that plan to work, however, the Linux Foundation must first obtain a binary executable of the pre-bootloader that has been properly signed using a Microsoft-supplied key. According to a blog post by the Foundation's James Bottomley, that's proving to be easier said than done.

Each time he has tried to upload the pre-bootloader code to Microsoft's servers to have it signed, Bottomley says, the procedure has failed, and he's not entirely sure why. Emails to Microsoft support haven't yielded much insight.

As near as Bottomley can tell, there's a problem with the key he has been trying to use to sign the software, but the most he's heard from Microsoft has been, "Don't use that file that is incorrectly signed. I will get back to you."

This latest glitch isn't the first roadblock the Linux Foundation's pre-bootloader project has had to circumvent, either. As Bottomley explains, Microsoft hasn't exactly been making it easy for open source projects to access its UEFI tools.

In addition to purchasing a digital key through Verisign, the Linux Foundation had to create a Microsoft sysdev account, which itself involves digitally signing an executable using tools running on a specific Windows platform (though Bottomley was able to find a workaround).

Next, paper contracts had to be signed. What Microsoft sent over passed muster with the Linux Foundation's lawyers, but Bottomley says the "onerous" terms might not be to some developers' liking. For one thing, Microsoft's code-signing procedures exclude software licensed under a whole range of open source licenses; GPLv3, in particular.

Then there was the problem that the entire process of uploading code to be signed assumes developers are running Windows and using Windows-based tools. Even the file upload window required Sliverlight, which ultimately meant there was no way for Bottomley to submit the Linux Foundation's pre-bootloader without loading up Windows 7 in a virtual machine.

Only after Bottomley had completed all of these steps was he able to find out that the code-signing process didn't seem to be working. As of Tuesday, he was still at an impasse.

Microsoft has previously denied that Secure Boot is designed to lock Linux out from Windows 8 PCs, but the open source community's ongoing difficulties with UEFI have led many to doubt that claim. The Linux Foundation's latest woes are only likely to add fuel to the speculation.

"We're still waiting for Microsoft to give the Linux Foundation a validly signed pre-bootloader," Bottomley writes. "When that happens, it will get uploaded to the Linux Foundation website for all to use." ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Why has the web gone to hell? Market chaos and HUMAN NATURE
Tim Berners-Lee isn't happy, but we should be
Apple promises to lift Curse of the Drained iPhone 5 Battery
Have you tried turning it off and...? Never mind, here's a replacement
'Stop dissing Google or quit': OK, I quit, says Code Club co-founder
And now a message from our sponsors: 'STFU or else'
Microsoft boots 1,500 dodgy apps from the Windows Store
DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! Naughty, misleading developers!
Linux turns 23 and Linus Torvalds celebrates as only he can
No, not with swearing, but by controlling the release cycle
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
This is how I set about making a fortune with my own startup
Would you leave your well-paid job to chase your dream?
prev story

Whitepapers

Best practices for enterprise data
Discussing how technology providers have innovated in order to solve new challenges, creating a new framework for enterprise data.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?