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DRM Microsoft Operating Systems Portables Linux

Why Linux On Microsoft Surface Is a Tough Challenge 561

Posted by timothy
from the 5-feet-high-and-risin' dept.
hypnosec writes "With Linux enthusiasts and distro publishers eagerly waiting for a solution to Microsoft's UEFI SecureBoot, there are those who have already looked at the viability of Linux on Microsoft Surface tablet. Matthew Garrett, a.k.a. UEFI-guru, has revealed that those who are keeping their fingers crossed and hoping to find run Linux on Microsoft's tablet are on an uphill walk and it doesn't seem to be an easy one. So why is this? The answer is in the manner in which Microsoft has restricted the Surface from loading non-signed software / binaries by implementing UEFI SecureBoot. Microsoft has loaded on the ARM based tablet its private key instead of the 'Microsoft Windows UEFI Driver Publisher' key, which is needed to sign non-Microsoft software like Linux distributions or loaders. So, no publisher key = no signed non-Microsoft binary = no Linux."
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Why Linux On Microsoft Surface Is a Tough Challenge

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  • Which tablets? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 30, 2012 @07:12PM (#42428963)

    I can think of only a few major brand Android tablets that have locked bootloaders, and all of these have been defeated:

    * Nook Tablet
    * Nook HD
    * Nook HD+
    * Kindle HD 7"
    * Kindle HD 8.9"

    All use u-boot [www.denx.de] an open-sourced bootloader, and all had implementation flaws. (Actually, the flaws WERE their implementation in the first place. Let's say both had "available fixes".)

    Other tablets such as the Nexus 7 and 10 have locked bootloaders too, but they are unlockable via fastboot and the command "fastboot oem unlock".

  • Re:Solution (Score:4, Informative)

    by symbolset (646467) * on Sunday December 30, 2012 @07:21PM (#42429007) Journal
    About as hard to resist as all the other Windows tablets [cnet.com] that have gone before it in the last 15 years.
  • by Microlith (54737) on Sunday December 30, 2012 @07:39PM (#42429149)

    Whether Secure Boot makes your system more secure is still up in the air.

    What does UEFI do? It lets us move past many of the ancient holdovers from 30 years ago that imposed silly limits on PCs, like 2TB limits on the boot drive, the MBR and associated partitioning scheme (GPT is much cleaner.) It also removes all the 16-bit, 1MB memory window limitations at boot time, moving the processors directly into 64-bit on startup and never leaving. All the archaic stuff moved into a compatibility module that can be turned on and off as you see fit.

    I won't buy a UEFI motherboard. Period.

    Best of luck to you, I hope you enjoy MIPS. Every x86 board vendor has moved to UEFI.

  • by Microlith (54737) on Sunday December 30, 2012 @07:41PM (#42429157)

    mobile phones are not locked down

    Most are.

    even Apple has a DMCA exception to jailbreaking

    There may be a DMCA exemption for jailbreaking, but it only applies to cell phones and Apple can still fight you. Thus the lack of a jailbreak for iOS 6.

    Microsoft (still a monopoly on the desktop) is turning a computer into an electronics device

    I think you mean "Apple and Microsoft are turning the computer into a game-console type appliance."

  • Re:Good! (Score:5, Informative)

    by cbhacking (979169) <been_out_cruisin ... nOSPam.yahoo.com> on Sunday December 30, 2012 @07:59PM (#42429313) Homepage Journal

    MS made (and still makes) some of the first and best mass-market ergonomic keyboards. It was apparently actually a response to an internal problem; too many of their employees were getting RSIs and the best solution was to manufacture their own improved keyboard design. MS also makes some of the best general-purpose mice (1000 DPI, 5 buttons, excellent optical sensor, cheap) and laptop mice. They have competition in all those areas, and some of their more exotic designs haven't fared too well, but the mainstream Intellimouse designs have gone through something like eight generations of steady sales. I don't know how well they've done on the webcam market, though.

    Also, since we're talking hardware, the Xbox and Xbox 360, while very expensive to make and taking a long time to recoup that investment, are certainly products which "did not tank". The Kinect has sold fantastically, although the gen1 model is feeling a little gen1 these days.

    As for Surface... that remains to be seen. The lockdown on the UEFI and bootloader is a pain (personally) and will cost them a few sales (some portion of Slashdotters who would otherwise buy a widescreen tablet with a really nice cover/keyboard/trackpad accessory). Beyond that... it remains to be seen. The Surface Pro is even more a mystery in terms of market response.

  • Re:Jailbreak surely? (Score:3, Informative)

    by ultrasawblade (2105922) on Sunday December 30, 2012 @08:19PM (#42429465)

    Unfortunately Microsoft has learned a lot over the decades. The Xbox 360 is very secure (per CPU keys in ROM internal to the CPU, RAM encryption, a small, lean, and easy-to-secure hypervisor) and has yet to have a modding solution available that doesn't require tweaking the hardware. This is in contrast to the original Xbox which was a massive failure from a security standpoint.

  • Things change (Score:5, Informative)

    by cbhacking (979169) <been_out_cruisin ... nOSPam.yahoo.com> on Sunday December 30, 2012 @09:42PM (#42429985) Homepage Journal

    None of the prior-generation x86 Windows tablets ran an OS that was really touch-friendly. The software, even more so than the hardware, crippled them as products. Additionally, the hardware has come a long, long way. Tablet PCs used to come in two form factors:

    1. Badly overpriced/underpowered laptops with funky screen hinges, styluses, and mediocre battery life,
    2. Very thick and heavy (for a handheld device) "slates" with high prices, poor performance, no easy way to use them like a laptop, probably a stylus, and mediocre battery life.

    #1 achieved some popularity in workplaces and university campuses, where the ability to take notes and documents on a reasonably portable device that could also run "real programs" was useful, but they were never a commercial hit and until software like OneNote started appearing, there wasn't a lot that took advantage of their unique functionality. For the same price, you could get a more portable and durable ultra-light laptop, or a more powerful and durable conventional laptop, or a vastly more powerful non-tablet laptop. For a lower price, you could get a more powerful and durable small laptop, or a much more powerful (though less portable) typical laptop. With tablet functionality imposing such a hit on the performance and cost, and the software not there to back it up, of course they weren't popular.

    #2 was even worse off. Although slightly more durable (no easy way to cover the screen though, unlike the convertible clamshell designs) and more portable (no keyboard, etc.), they were worse off for software (some programs just can't be used without a keyboard, and the on-screen keyboards take up too many pixels and are a pain to use) and were so niche that they had very little to drive the price down (convertible tablets had a reasonable amount of competition, with most major laptop vendors offering at least one model at a time in the last decade or so). Combined with their crippling inability to be used as a typical laptop (no built-in stand, no convenient way to offer peripherals), of course they sold terribly.

    The world is different now. The introduction of cheap and accurate (if not precise) capacitive touchscreens has made multi-touch a far more common tablet interface than stylus digitizers. Low-power CPUs and high-capacity batteries have more than doubled tablet battery life, even as the devices have gotten thinner and lighter yet also more powerful. Relatively cheap and widely available solid-state storage has drastically improved performance, weight, battery life, and durability of modern tablets compared to their predecessors. The earmarks of the old tablet form factors are all but gone, even as the general classes of form factor - convertible and slate - still exist. Those lines are blurring now too, though.

    On the software side, multi-touch has made interacting with a tablet much easier and more practical. Largely as a result of the rise in touch-driven phones, users are much more familiar with interacting with a computing device via touch - it is, after all, a natural paradigm, and one which the old tablets typically didn't support well if at all - and developers are much more familiar with writing touch-driven software. The hard-learned lessons of what makes a touch interface usable are finally being embraced by OS and app developers alike. Similarly, the importance of low battery utilization in apps has finally penetrated, and developers are learning to code appropriately. Tablet hardware (at a reasonable price) is finally capable of supporting "real" software - full web browsers and office suites, high-quality games and powerful utility apps, slick media players (and storage for their media) and tools for photographers and artists - in form factors that were before barely usable for handwritten notes and barely capable of running anything else. To find and buy all that lovely new software, built-in app stores are now common. To the user they provide convenience and at least some safety against malware, to the developer they offer di

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Sunday December 30, 2012 @10:36PM (#42430277)

    If I see the practice of artificially restricting what software the purchaser of hardware can run as heinous, then why wouldn't I try to crack the DRM?

    Because you have to put $900 in Microsoft's pocket for the privilege of trying.

    If you were somehow getting the thing for free, I could understand your reasoning. Maybe if the thing only cost $49 (and was a loss leader), I could understand your reasoning as well. But it's not free, it's not under $100, it's not even close. There's a lot of better things I could do with $900 than buy a piece of crippled hardware hoping to get Linux running on it and show MS that "DRM is just a waste of resources". Even if you do get Linux running on the thing, so that many more people could shell out $900 to do the same thing, Microsoft will just be laughing all the way to the bank.

    If you really have that much spare time and money, why not work on something more productive, like fixing some of the many outstanding problems and deficiencies that Linux is still plagued by? There's lots of other hardware out there that Linux runs sub-optimally on; go buy some of that HW and fix the problems.

  • Re:Solution (Score:4, Informative)

    by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Sunday December 30, 2012 @11:00PM (#42430399)

    On battery life, the Atoms that were promised for Christmas are delayed until summer for driver issues related to sleep states.

    No, they have been delayed until next month. [informationweek.com] At least as far as HP and Dell go.

    The mainstream Intel processor versions don't have the battery life you speak of, nor the sexy slimline form factors, nor the low weights of competing tablets.

    Actually, the W700 does [tabletpccomparison.net]. It clocks in at 7 hour with a mainstream core i3. It's available now. They may not be as slim and light as other tablets, but 2 lbs and half an inch thick isn't exactly a brick. And again, this is in comparison to the previous generation tablets which were 3-4 pounds and an inch+ thick.

    On price, you can get a 7" Android tablet now for $90, or 10" for $130 - and they work fine.

    You're seriously bringing $99 rite aid tablets into this discussion? These things are the lowest, most terrible pieces of computing tech out there. Terrible screens, little to no memory, tiny on board flash storage, no name brand with no name support. The *only* thing they have going for them is price. If that's all consumers cared about, you would have a point.

    Ability to run legacy apps is a trap. They're deprecating legacy apps. Eventually they want to break app compat with legacy apps because the situation has become unmaintainable.

    Where do you get this idea? The desktop is there for a reason, and these apps aren't going away anytime soon for corporations. If there's one thing Microsoft actually understands, it's the importance of legacy support. Windows RT is a different matter, but this is Windows 8 we're talking about.

    A Windows tablet is something you sell to somebody you never want to darken your doorstep again. It's a "farewell product". As IT staff it's the last joke you play on the customers who tormented you before you retire. This is not going to go well for Microsoft.

    I actually worked for a company whose business was specifically to sell the old generation tablets to businesses. It was very niche, but for the applications at the time there was nothing better. We mostly sold to medical professionals, contractors, and government. The medical people used tablets like the motion computing c5 as a sort of digital chart and had specialty software for it. The contractors and government customers used them mostly for the signature capabilities and the ability to mark up drawings on the job. Our customers like the solutions we provided, and the new crop of devices are better in every single way.

    Tablets like the Dell Latitude 10 shipping next month are .4" thick and weigh 1.3 lbs. This is the same size as iPad, runs just as long, runs legacy software, comes with built in USB, HDMI, SD ports, removable battery, and to boot costs less. There's really nothing not to like about tablets like this.

  • by mysidia (191772) on Sunday December 30, 2012 @11:05PM (#42430411)

    Hackers were able to get Android running even on an iPhone. I don't think the Surface will be a technical impossibility getting Android running on it... the only question will be if hackers are willing to devote the time and energy to it.

    IMO it's just not worth it. Don't buy the crap from MS :)

  • Re:Apple angle? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Elldallan (901501) on Sunday December 30, 2012 @11:09PM (#42430429)
    Because Microsoft has a dominant market share by EU standards and therefore this sort of behavior is illegal, Microsoft has been up in the courts over monopoly abuse before so that they have a "dominant market share" has been clearly established, Apple is more of a grey area, whether they have a "dominant market share" has not yet been determined yet by the EU courts so they are free to act as they choose until they are found to be abusing their "dominant market share".

    Hence Microsoft is evil and breaking laws, and Apple is not (yet).
  • Re:Solution (Score:3, Informative)

    by Zontar The Mindless (9002) <plasticfish.info ... m ['gma' in gap]> on Monday December 31, 2012 @12:29AM (#42430729)

    Why aren't there a bunch of people trying to put Linux on iPads? I don't see any Slashdot articles about that...

    No need to try, it's been done. Use the Google.

    I don't see Linux hackers putting tons of energy into trying to get Linux to run (natively) on all the Apple hardware out there, despite how well it sells.

    Again, no need for this, since it's been done. I know heaps of people running Linux on Mac hardware (but don't take my word for it, use the Google).

    So basically you're trying to stir up excitement over a non-issue. Or trolling.

  • by MysteriousPreacher (702266) on Monday December 31, 2012 @09:21AM (#42432261) Journal

    It doesn't have to run a single Win32 app. Whether the FSF is right or wrong I don't know. It's merely enough to demonstate that Microsoft is using its monopoly status in desktop and/or office apps to compete unfairly in another market.

    In theory they could be brought up on anti-trust charges if they found a way to unfairly tie banana purchases to Windows. Exactly where does the FSF come in to this discussion, and what FUD are they spreading? Their petition is perfectly reasonable. It's asking that users have the ability to disable secure booting - not that the technology should be avoided altogether. That seems fairly pragmatic to me. Users who want the protection can have it, while those who want to install other operating systems can.

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