FSF Opposes Restricted Boot

Source: Lucy Black

The Free Software Foundation is running a Restricted Boot Webcomic Contest to raise awareness of the issues surrounding Microsoft’s “Secure Boot” feature on Windows 8 ARM-based machines which threatens to lock out other operating systems. This is marketing masquerading as security.

You may not have come across the Secure Boot versus Restricted Boot controversy before but essentially Microsoft’s proposal for a “Secure Boot”, which sounds like a benefit by being designed to protect against malware by preventing computers from loading unauthorized binary programs when booting, also mean that users would not be able to add another operating system to their devices, thus restricting their ability to use open source OS such as Linux or Android and also hampering any experimental OS under development.




The Free Software Foundation (FSF) originally challenged Microsoft about this towards the end of last year and in December Microsoft appeared to have conceded to public pressure by updating the Windows 8 logo certification requirements so that a desktop computer user could control (and disable) the Secure Boot feature on any Windows 8 computer that is not based on ARM technology.

This appeared to be a victory for FSF but it has now re-opened its drive to raise awareness of the issue surrounding Windows 8 ARM-based devices. 

To quote Josh Gay

Microsoft has  added a treacherous mandate for makers of ARM-based computers — such as a tablets, netbooks, and smartphones — requiring them to build their machines with Restricted Boot technology. Such computers are designed to lock a user into only being able to run Windows 8, absolutely preventing her from being able to install a free software operating system on her computer. Since smartphones and tablets are some of the most commonly used computers, it’s vital that we get straightforward and clear information about this threat out to the public.

For the purposes of spreading the word about this pernicious restriction, FSF is organizing a Restricted Boot Webcomic Contest. Comics (suitable web-quality graphics or a URL and under a free license) need to be submitted by March 17th. The winning submissions will be displayed on the front page of FSF for a month.

FSF is also collecting signatures, from individuals and  from organizations and corporations, to the statement Stand up for your freedom to install free software urging computer makers to implement “Secure Boot” in a way that gives users the freedom to all and run a free software operating system of their choice.

Security is a wonderful thing but not when it becomes a cage that you can’t get into or out of at will.

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