By Alexandra Burlacu | Oct 13, 2012 01:11 PM EDT
Microsoft shook the open-source community last fall with its Windows 8 "Secure Boot," which could prevent Linux from being installed on a PC, but now the Linux Foundation has come up with a solution.
While Microsoft would undoubtedly love to eliminate competition, its Windows 8 certification marked the first time ever when the software giant actually had the power to prevent its rivals from appearing on the computers it certifies.
Microsoft could achieve this prevention thanks to its use of a "Secure Boot" protocol within the BIOS successor called UEFI. To get Windows 8 or any other Secure Boot-enabled operating system to load up and authentication key is required at boot time. Without the authentication key, the operating system or any other boot-related software will not load.
In a bid to keep tighter control of Windows 8-equipped PCs, the software giant requires the use of Microsoft-produced keys, which cost about $100 each. Otherwise, the PC will not receive a Windows 8 certification.
Likely in an effort to avoid charges of monopoly, Microsoft does not limit which entities can purchase its keys, which, in turn, means that various distributors can purchase their own keys to help users get around this issue. Some have already turned to this solution, including openSUSE and Fedora. The Linux Foundation, however, aims to come up with an official solution to this roadblock.
In an Oct. 10 post on the Linux Foundation Web site, developer James Bottomley laid out a solution that could become a standard once Windows 8 is officially out. Like Fedora, the Linux Foundation purchased its own Microsoft-approved key, but used it to create a "pre-bootloader."
"I'm pleased to announce that the Linux Foundation and its Technical Advisory Board have produced a plan to enable the Linux (and indeed all Open Source based distributions) to continue operating as Secure Boot enabled systems roll out," reads the post.
The post further states that "In a nutshell, the Linux Foundation will obtain a Microsoft Key and sign a small pre-bootloader which will, in turn, chain load (without any form of signature check) a predesignated boot loader which will, in turn, boot Linux (or any other operating system). The pre-bootloader will employ a 'present user' test to ensure that it cannot be used as a vector for any type of UEFI malware to target secure systems. This pre-bootloader can be used either to boot a CD/DVD installer or LiveCD distribution or even boot an installed operating system in secure more for any distribution that chooses to use it."
The post goes on to aver that even though the process of obtaining a Microsoft signature may be time consuming, once complete the pre-bootloader will be put on the Linux Foundation Web site, and would be accessible to anyone for download or usage.
Other solutions do exist for getting around the limitation Microsoft has put in place, but Linux Foundation aimed to provide a solution even for the less tech savvy. One of the biggest goals of the Linux Foundation is getting the operating system and other open-source software into the hands of common users, and it would be a big issue if one would need a manual to simply boot into the system.
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