How to destroy a brand-new Samsung laptop: Boot Linux on it
Motherboard DEATH alert. Suddenly Windows 8 doesn't look so bad
Linux users accidentally bricked their new Samsung laptops by booting their favourite open-source OS on the shiny computers.
A kernel driver crashes on Sammy machines when users start up from an Ubuntu 12 USB key - although other distributions may be at risk - giving them the dreaded black screen of no activity whatsoever. After the operating system froze, users held down the power button to force the laptops to power off.
In some unfortunate cases, when the computers are switched on again the firmware - stored in a chip soldered to the computer's circuit board - refuses to start the laptop, effectively ruining the product.
Outraged Penguinistas reported the cock-up on the Ubuntu bug tracker, naming various models of the South Korean giant's laptops, including the 300E5C, NP700Z5C, NP700Z7C and 530U3C series. One bloke complained he had destroyed two motherboards investigating the fault.
It is understood the "critical" bug is linked to the Samsung hardware driver* and the machine's Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) - but it is unconnected to the controversial UEFI Secure Boot mechanism used to run Microsoft's Windows 8 and other cryptographically signed operating systems.
"Yeesh. I hate UEFI - this should clearly be impossible with correctly written firmware," one bug reporter wrote.
Another said: "If something does not work for you the way it should, your motherboard may be permanently damaged and your laptop may get bricked. For this reason, this bug should have been flagged nuclear rather than critical."
Senior Ubuntu developer Steve Langasek confirmed that the distro's maker Canonical spoke to Samsung's engineers, but the electronics giant did not set a date for rolling out a fix. Langasek said in December that Sammy feared the bug is triggered by a kernel driver that also causes issues on Samsung systems when booted in EFI mode. It doesn't appear to matter whether Secure Boot is enabled or disabled.
Langasek advised users to install Ubuntu from the latest live image that forces machines to boot using the old-fashioned PC BIOS interface rather than UEFI. This process involves using the Compatibility Support Module in Linux and the machine firmware.
Intel developer Matt Fleming is also working on the bug and has posted two different fixes, including just disabling the driver when booting from UEFI. ®
Updated to add
It's now thought the boot-time crash is linked to the Samsung UEFI firmware and its interaction with the kernel's Samsung laptop driver and efivars module.
@AC 13:24 Re: Bad Firmware!
I would expect Samsung to design an architecture where critical motherboard hardware could not be over-written by any software, be it installation or executed normally.
If some motherboard component needs a pattern to execute, that pattern should be booted from eprom afresh every boot, or there should be a simple way to restore it completely independent of OS or application code.
It should always be possible to boot the hardware into the on-board startup code, bios, uefi, or what have you. Once you can do that you can re-install a broken OS. If you can't it is the computer that is broken, not the OS.
Re: Oh How I Laughed...
"Indeed. These freetards write a poor quality driver that crashes hard enough the damage the firmware, and then blame the hardware manufacturer."
A few points:
1) The driver that bricks the Samsung laptops wasnt written by 'freetards', from what I read, it was written by Samsung. Strike one
2) If the hardware is properly designed, it shoudn't be possible to cause it to break using software. Samsung aren't the first to be guilty of this particular crime, but it's still pretty damn stupid, and no doubt embarrassing for the hardware manufacturer. Strike two
3) Calling Linux users 'freetards' is just plain ignorant. I assume you are not aware that much of the internet runs on Linux servers running Apache, or that many universities and research establishments use this operating system for various purposes, or indeed that it is a good way for people with a serious interest in many aspects of computing to gain some knowledge and experience of unix-type operating systems and their quirks. Use of the term to describe such people is... well, it's retarded. Strike three, you're out.
Re: Licence agreements
No actually, it isn't the equivalent of you chipping your BMW. If anything it's more the equivalent of you fitting non BMW tyres and them blaming this for a brake failure.