“When done correctly, “Secure Boot” is designed to protect against malware by preventing computers from loading unauthorized binary programs when booting. In practice, this means that computers implementing it won’t boot unauthorized operating systems — including initially authorized systems that have been modified without being re-approved.
“This could be a feature deserving of the name, as long as the user is able to authorize the programs she wants to use, so she can run free software written and modified by herself or people she trusts. However, we are concerned that Microsoft and hardware manufacturers will implement these boot restrictions in a way that will prevent users from booting anything other than Windows. ”
Although Microsoft’s “Secure Boot” purports to provide consumer security, it also imposes serious Digital Rights Restrictions (DRM). The Free Software Foundation has been running a campaign to oppose the Windows 8 Secure Boot which would impede or prevent users from choosing to load free software on computers that come loaded with Windows 8. Erik Steinman’s web comic (below) won the contest FSF ran to raise awareness of this very serious issue.
In Canada you can’t simply walk into Tiger Direct, Future Shop, Staples or even Canada Computers and buy a GNU/Linux computer system off the shelf. You’ll only find new computers preloaded with an Apple or Microsoft OS.
Canada Computers will sell you the components so you can build your own; and, like Tiger Direct or System 76, will sell you a customized computer with your choice of GNU/Linux software installed. It will necessarily cost more — after all, the empty device costs them more.
Apple manufactures its own devices, so it isn’t surprising Apple devices come loaded with Apple software. In Canada, Microsoft Windows is routinely preloaded on new computers built by the other manufacturers. Through Byzantine machinations that are far beyond my own rudimentary understanding of economics, a computer with no operating system at all costs more than than a computer pre-loaded with Windows. That’s just the way it is.
The last time we went shopping for a computer for my high school aged child, we brought along the free software of choice on a thumb drive, so we could test drive the computer with the intended OS. This would not be possible on a secure boot computer.
Presumably you could pay more to buy an empty box, but traditionally people simply buy computers encumbered with Microsoft’s OS and then either replace it with a GNU/Linux free software OS, or add it as a second OS. That’s how things stand on the netbook I’m writing this on. When I turn it on I get to decide if I want to boot with the pre-installed Windows 7 Light or the version of Ubuntu I’ve installed. I think I’ve opened Windows all of three or four times to let it update (and update, and update).
So what’s the big deal about the Microsoft “Secure Boot” ? Well, besides Apple computers, the only new computers Canadians will find on the retail shelves will be loaded with Windows 8.
DRM (Digital Restrictions Managemnt) — what they called TPMs (Technological Protection Measures) in Canada’s shiny new Copyright Act — is what makes it “Secure Boot” or “Restricted Boot” software.
Once Canada’s “modernized” Copyright Act goes into force, it will become illegal for Canadians to circumvent TPMs (DRM). Canadians who circumvent Microsoft’s Secure Boot TPMs by loading a free software Operating System on our own computers will be breaking the law.