Does Microsoft Hold The Keys To Desktop Linux?: Page 2

Windows 8's Secure Boot function could hamper the use of desktop Linux.
Posted September 26, 2011

Matt Hartley

(Page 2 of 2)

We already know that Microsoft has tremendous pull with OEMs that depend on their partnership. In addition, OEMs will indeed offer up what they believe is going to yield the least amount of support calls possible.

This support idea adds weight to my Secure Boot disabled once per boot up theory. In the end, the OEMs aren't being flooded with support calls because of problems stemming from forgetting to reactivate Secure Boot.

And Microsoft offers a real blow both to malware on their OS in addition to slowing down Linux adoption on affected PC hardware.

The only losers here are Linux enthusiasts looking to see greater adoption.

What can Linux users do?

I should point out that Red Hat, among others, will be challenging any OEMs trying to offer Secure Boot without a long-term disable function. Yet at the same time, I think we can take this as an opportunity to stop purchasing the cheapest computers possible.

Instead, how about if Linux users buy from smaller PC vendors? The reason being that the "big guys" will be among those OEMs looking to save as much money as possible. And let's be honest, leaving out a decent disable feature for Secure Boot could be a small bit of savings per motherboard in each new computer.

For years, I've advocated the importance of not buying from the big-named PC vendors due to them offering a lousy product bundled with even worse customer service. Now imagine my surprise when the news of Secure Boot came out!

Clearly, we're in for some nail-biting as we wait to see how the OEM PC sellers handle Secure Boot and customer choice.

Looking at the larger picture

I'd like to suggest to any naysayers the following consideration: Remember what a hassle it used to be to find non-Windows PCs? I don't mean building your own, I'm talking about locating computers without Windows already installed.

This was a big deal in the early days of Linux on the desktop. Fast forward to now, this is what I see potentially happening all over again. The difference being that this time, existing computers might be "locked down" to where they accommodate Windows 8 installations only.

Think of it this way. What if this entire issue spreads beyond just PC OEMs? What happens when motherboard manufacturers also begin limiting users by not providing an off switch for Secure Boot? Do we wait around and hope that there will be a magic "off switch" for this new Microsoft feature once enough of us complain?

Sadly, though, our options are limited at this stage in Windows 8 development. The best we can do at this point is to watch related events closely, support articles that call this push to OEMs into question and hope that those OEMs that are reading about our concerns take notice.

Despite our numbers being less than the Windows-using masses, I'd like to think that OEMs aren't too interested in losing Linux enthusiasts as customers altogether. We may not have incredible numbers, however, I think we might just surprise the industry with our wish to be heard.

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Tags: Linux, Windows, Red Hat, desktop linux, secure boot

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