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Writing an End to the Bio of BIOS? 511

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the ami-phoenix-award-oh-my dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Intel and Microsoft are gearing up to move toward the first major overhaul of the innermost workings of the personal computer. The companies will begin promoting a technology specification called EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface) as a new system for starting up a PC's hardware before its operating system begins loading."
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Writing an End to the Bio of BIOS?

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  • OF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ChristTrekker (91442) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @10:51AM (#7834802)

    Why not just use Open Firmware?

  • So? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @10:51AM (#7834804)
    So what happens when Intel and Microsoft decide they don't want anymore competition?
  • EFI sucks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuperQ (431) * on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @10:52AM (#7834813) Homepage
    I have several IA-64 systems at work. IA-64 requires EFI (part of the intel spec). It's a major pain in the ass.. you have to have a dos fat formated filesystem to store bootloaders, and other utilities as a primary partition.. besides the fact that they changed the normal dos partition format for EFI. I wish they would have just ported OpenBoot.
  • by cybermancer (99420) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @10:53AM (#7834824) Homepage
    When I see Microsoft and Intel working together I think of the platform lock-in of WinTel. This makes me wonder if they plan to have secret hooks offering advantages to their products. It will of course only be a matter of time for the likes of AMD and Linux to get up to speed, but sometimes a little time is all it takes to improve a market advantage through unfair practices.
  • Of course... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SharpFang (651121) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @10:54AM (#7834834) Homepage Journal
    Of course that woukld include obligatory, non-overridable DRM chip driver?
    Big Brother Has You!
  • Re:EFI sucks (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @10:55AM (#7834842)
    Licensing issues straight up then FAT = paid license nowdays :D

  • by Channard (693317) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @10:55AM (#7834846) Journal
    Particularly Microsoft themselves - if X-Box reaches a third iteration - I doubt this'll make X-Box 2. It may well allow them to put a stop to the old trick of soldering in a new bios chip that takes precedence over the onboard bios, thereby allowing the user to run all sorts of software, legal oses and programs and illegal pirate copies.
  • DRM, here we come! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cozziewozzie (344246) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @10:55AM (#7834850)
    Not really surprising. Microsoft will need some support from the BIOS to implement their DRM 'features'. I wonder how much this will impact Linux and other free systems. After all, MS now have enough XBox experience to ensure that only their operating system can be run.

    I have a bad feeling that one day we might have 'consumer-oriented' windows computers which will be cheaper and will only run Windows...
  • OF (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @10:56AM (#7834862)
    It's been on the cards for some years. Anything has to be better than a chunk of 16bit Real Mode code providing a whole bunch of functions that no one uses any more.

    What I'd like to see is a more intelligent system. We still have to load the boot manager as a 512 byte chunk from sector 0 of the "first" hard drive for crying out loud! If Intel get this right, we should have intelligence right at the start. Something like GRUB or XOSL running right from ROM would be great. The ability to control hardware properly at boot..

    OpenFirmware would be better but it looks like Intel won't be going down that route. We can only hope for the best..
  • by GeckoFood (585211) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [doofokceg]> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @10:56AM (#7834863) Journal

    ...it HAS to be bad, and an attempt to kill Linux.

    There is no mention that this will be tailored to Windows in the article, but MS's hearty endorsement is a suspicious indicator of such. If so, would this simply become a matter of the BIOS not allowing anything but "acceptable" OSes to boot? That's where my nickel gets bet.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @10:57AM (#7834871)
    ...before the OS loads? I can fix my file systems from a boot floppy/CD. With modern operating systems, we should need less BIOS, not more.
  • Figures. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alecto (42429) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:01AM (#7834914) Homepage
    No mention at all in the article of what has to be one of the biggest reasons for the push to change the boot process: Digital Restrictions Management/Trusted Computing/Palladium/Next Generation Secure Computing Base. (Notice how the name gets changed every time it becomes obvious what it really is.)
  • by Alien54 (180860) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:08AM (#7834974) Journal
    Seriously, the more complex you make the code in the bios, the more chance for security flaws built into the hardware itself.

    Imagine the horror of having to patch a system by swapping out chips. I think I recall some old time viruses that basically screwed up the bios royally, and which were not easily cleanable, to one degree or another.

    Remember, this design is supposed to be a feature, not a flaw.

  • Re:OF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by squiggleslash (241428) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:14AM (#7835018) Homepage Journal
    My guess is that OpenFirmware is seen as cryptic. The deal with current BIOSes is that you hold down DEL and up comes a nice, friendly, menu where you can configure anything in the BIOS you want.

    Whereas most people used to OpenFirmware know the default interface involves writing things like:

    1 1 + dup dup + dup + + base !

    ...and that's just to get it to give you numbers in decimal.

    Not that there aren't ways around this, obviously. For starters, there's no reason why DEL can't just bring up a GUI (or arrow-keys/ESC/Enter text interface), it doesn't have to bring up a command line. The point though is that OpenFirmware is seen as hard, it has a serious image problem.

  • by CarrionBird (589738) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:15AM (#7835029) Journal
    The day that takes hold is the day I find a new platform, it's not like x86 is the only game in town.

    Heck, older SGI Octanes are going for peanuts (comapared to thier original price) on ebay, and they are mostly upgradeable to current spec. And Apple is over there just drooling for my cash.

    There really shouldn't be that much going on in BIOS, that's what the whole B part means, ya know.
  • by Cr3d3nd0 (517274) <Credendo&gmail,com> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:17AM (#7835040)
    Not to step outside the Slashdot standard but remember, we do live in an open market. If Microsoft and intel try to pull this kind of stunt, even the most basic computer user is going to notice. ("Why can't I download my mp3's of the net etc.") Then along comes a company that sells a board that's compatible with the newer processors but lacks the DRM and guess what all the computer manufacturers will chose. Before you put on your tin hats remember that we still control what we purchase, and we only put up with what we allow big business to get away with.
  • Re:So? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fitten (521191) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:18AM (#7835050)
    Intel's main concern is selling chips. If the chip runs MS Windows, fine... that's a sold chip. If the chip runs Linux, fine... that's a sold chip. No matter the OS you run on the Intel chip, you *still bought an Intel chip*.

    Why would Intel *not* want another OS to run on an Intel platform? There is no amount of tinfoil that can justify it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:22AM (#7835081)
    Hmmmmm, seems I remember a post in the not so distant past that microsoft won a suit to gain royalties from DOS. Does this mean that a mandated DOS partition means someone has to pay $$$'s to M$?
  • EFI == DRM? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by AwesomeJT (525759) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:30AM (#7835123) Homepage
    I don't trust anything Microsoft writes. I certainly don't want them writing BIOS level stuff before their buggy OS gets loaded.

    However, I'm wondering if this is how they will integrate digital rights management that the MPAA and RIAA want soo badly forced on to consumers computers? This could be it. Everyone's computer must authenticate with the Master Server in Redmond. :-)

    Beyond that, this just means we'll blue screen faster or on detection of a non-MS operating system.

    Personally I find fault with the logic of it's old therefore it's broken.

  • by NewToNix (668737) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:33AM (#7835146) Journal
    And other places that do not want to be tied into the US controll/monopoly.

    You can see the way it is going now, open source adopted by other (I'm USA) governments (this is good, IMO).

    The same will be true of the BIOS chips & even MB chip sets - they (forgin governments) are sharp enough to know it's a bad idea to have your system locked down (or into) something some one else has controll over.

    So we buy all our stuff from overseas now, for price reasons. Soon we will be buying from them for freedom reasons (this may NOT bode well for the price we may have to pay in the future).

    The day may be coming when we have to smuggle BIOS chips and/or Main Boards into the US, just to try to keep some freedom.

    This may not be quite as "tinfoil hat" as it sounds now. Remember no one is looking out for your freedom - that task is up to you.

    NewToNix - I lent my sig to a really nice government man, but he never returned it.

  • by Deleriux (709637) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:37AM (#7835173)
    Have you ever thought that the BIOS industry is trying to head down the way the mobile phone industry is? I mean, for example (in the UK anyway) your mobile phone is probably the biggest big brother device you own. If you buy a pay-as-you-go phone or a contract phone you need to phone the vendor after your contract has ended (or never, on pay-as-you-go) to get a code that 'unlocks' your phone, allowing you to insert any sim card from a competitor they want. Imagine the potential contracts you could develop using a similar method for PC's? Buy one of these hire purchase pc's that get paid out over 3 years (many families and people on budgets do this, probably dont need to tell anyone here its not a bargain as in 3 years that machine will be pretty worthless to other peoples standards). Then, after the 3 years is up.. you can pay another $40/40 in 'admin' charge to be sent a usb flash key or other data storage medium that unlocks your machine enabling another type of o/s? You could massively decrease the cost of o/s and pc in a home market while locking home users into draconian contract schemes disallowing certain applications, or o/s's (covered by DRM of course), after which time when the pc is worthless you can have all the features you want.. most home users not knowing any different will probably settle for a return scheme where they pay up for another 2 years for the upgraded version of the machine and so it goes on and on and on. I mean, if you really think about it it really doesnt seem such a crazy idea. It worked with mobile phones and an implementation like this in the future doesnt actually look that far off now.
  • by jejones (115979) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:51AM (#7835292) Journal
    So in other words, since its not specifically good for Linux it shouldnt be done?

    That's an inaccurate paraphrase. The concern, and a valid one, IMHO, is that MS will attempt to use this to lock out competition. IOW, the question is whether this is going to be designed to be specifically bad for Linux.
  • This is PS/2 2.0 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RealProgrammer (723725) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:54AM (#7835313) Homepage Journal

    No, not PlayStation. "Personal System /2", IBM's attempt in 1985-86 to rewrite the PC Industry Standard Architecture into their own proprietary version. They charged a measely 5% licensing fee (in a market where margins were already in that range).

    I predict this will die because:

    1. Hardware incompatibility with somebody
    2. It will be slooow to boot
    3. It already makes my tin hat glow

    Oh, and Microsoft is drifting into irrelevance.

  • Re:OF? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dasmegabyte (267018) <das@OHNOWHATSTHISdasmegabyte.org> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @11:59AM (#7835361) Homepage Journal
    Hey, I know how important bragging rights are. I've sunk several thousand dollars into restoring a 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle. There's nothing like a slow, loud, underpowered, kind-of-gay rolling coffin that you built yourself!

    I support hobby computing. But I don't fool myself into thinking that what works for us nerds will work for the majority of the population. Most people are better off having Microsoft make their decisions for them. Hell, my PC runs windows...because in the time it would have taken me to get Linux running on it, I could have sanded down two quater panels and replaced a seat.
  • Trust no one? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Neurotoxic666 (679255) <{neurotoxic666} {at} {hotmail.com}> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @12:02PM (#7835388) Homepage
    Somehow, I feel a bit scared about this new thing. Just as if these companies would have even more control over what I do and see from my PC. Sounds paranoid, but it's not like no one was trying to spy on us (cough cough gator cough).

    Now my question is, will we have any opportunity to buy hardware we can trust from independent companies in the future? Hardware that allows full privacy and control over the computer?

    I understand there are already some alternatives, like other architectures than Intel's, and other OSes than Windows. But being in the website-design/computer graphics thing, I am (unfortunately) better served with Windows.

    I feel concerned about all this but I depend on their stuff, and most "ordinary" PC users probably don't care. So it's easy to impose whatever-ware on that type of user. I am wondering if there's any way to avoid being spied on, to avoid being sued for what I do on my computer, and to keep control of my computer if such "monopolisticaly"-engineered devices become standard.
  • by gstevens (209321) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @12:03PM (#7835396)
    You guys are all forgetting one thing: Intel is involved, and they have a lot invested in Linux. There are millions of x86 boxes out there running Linux instead of Sun, IBM, HP, etc boxes running some flavor of Unix. Intel knows this, and they like it. They're not stupid...
  • by little alfalfa (21334) <pootmaster @ g m a i l.com> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @12:07PM (#7835427) Homepage
    I've always thought that Sun's PROM setup was much better than anything on any Wintel box. Serial console is standard. Booting your OS only requires configuring which disk to use. Hardware test tools built in. What's wrong with that?
  • Re:Microsoft Logic (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Abjifyicious (696433) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @12:11PM (#7835459)
    Well it's not like the Linux community is completely helpless in the legal department.

    If MS did try and bully hardware manufacturers into altering hardware to lock out Open Source systems, I would think that Red Hat, Suse, Mandrake, etc. would all be after them with lawsuits, and if MS tried to get a law passed requiring DRM in the hardware or whatever, I'm guessing there would be at least several thousand letters sent to politicians from Angry Linux Users protesting such a law. And then there are all those companies that use Open Source Software who'd be pissed off if they were forced to switch to MS software just 'cause MS said so. Not to mention the fact that the government itself is starting to switch to Linux.

    Seriously folks, we're not just gonna wake up one day and find that all our favorite OS's have been outlawed.

  • by molafson (716807) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @12:13PM (#7835479)
    I use a mac, you insensitive clod!

    However, it has been obvious enough for the past few years that Microsoft, Intel, Dell et al. are pushing to reformulate the PC to become a "home appliance." Many consumers look forward to this eventuality, as the appliance-computer will focus on ease-of-use. However, these consumers are being hoodwinked. What they don't understand is that the increasing ease-of-use will be bought at the cost of their freedom.

    Technological development often follows this pattern. As technologies become mainstream, they are often constrained and stifled. Their possible uses are severely limited not only to suit the "lowest common denominator" of user, but also to reflect the interests of big business and the bureaucracy.

    For more on this, see Ursula Franklin's work [stumptuous.com] which is incredibly insightful.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @12:16PM (#7835509)
    What I would like to see in the default standard PC BIOS is remote control via ethernet. Be able to reboot a machine remotely and get console access from the moment the machine powers up, without an add-in board.

    Gee, that doesn't sound at all like a security hole, no. Nothing to see here-- move along, move along :)

    (Don't see it my way? Think about it-- the BIOS itself could be the ultimate remote root exploit, accessible whether you're running a virgin, unpatched Windows 98 or a hardened, fully up-to-date OpenBSD. You're not putting that "feature" on PCs anywhere in my company!)
  • Re:Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jrexilius (520067) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @12:20PM (#7835544) Homepage
    I think the more indirect point/question is that perhaps the current pre-boot operations cant effectively support their DRM desires and they need an extended pre-boot model to lock out unwanted software.

    An earlier post had a link to a threaded discussion with linux core people, Linus, and a guy named Mark from Intel. He gave a background summary of why they are going down this path but he was obviously speaking to his audience and left out mention of any DRM considerations. I am sure the topic was examined as they were developing this model so I am curious/concerned that there may be more to that story.
  • Re:So? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by whereiswaldo (459052) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @12:29PM (#7835631) Journal
    Why would Intel *not* want another OS to run on an Intel platform?

    You forgot the other side of the equation pretty quickly.

    Microsoft, the largest software manufacturer in the world, conviced monopolist, and vendor of the OS which runs on over 90% of the desktop computers in the world, could stipulate to Intel that they do not allow 'other' operating systems to run on their chips. Or, that they require a certain technology in the software for the chip to function, which Microsoft conveniently protects using patents and/or DMCA.
    Now you see how easy it is. No tin foil required.
  • by GirTheRobot (689378) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @12:40PM (#7835733)
    The answer to this is really simple. Not everyone will be interested in this DRM crap, or even running Windows. China is forcefully moving towards Linux, and if Linux cannot run on these new boards, their govt. will buy/support/develop hardware that does. With an installed base that large (and relatively cash strapped), you KNOW that there will be cheap and relatively open hardware to run your choice of OS.

    Screw MS and Intel. I have not purchased software or hardware from either in almost a decade. We have a free global market on our side, and their products are not necessary. These are just 2 US companies in a global market. Let the sheep enslave themselves. We have options.
  • by Burnon (19653) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @12:42PM (#7835749)
    So, earlier someone posted a link [kerneltraffic.org] to a summrary of a discussion on the Linux kernel list. An Intel guy pointed out some issues with the Openfirmware model that make some sense.

    The way I read it is, hardware manufacturers want cheap products, and nobody wants to get locked in to supporting just one system architecture for an expansion card.

    With something like openfirmware, apparently you have to have a ROM big enough to contain valid code that can run on both IA-32 and IA-64 and PPC, etc., or you end up with things like PC-only and Mac-only cards, which isn't cheap, either. So as nasty as ACPI has been from an implementation point of view, it seems like it does some stuff that open firmware can't do. Same can be said for EFI. Seems like a hell of a problem to me - damned if you do, damned if you don't.

    Now, that said, no arguments about the other fringe benefits Intel gets from pushing the standard.

    P.S. To my mind, Linus' post on the issue in the thread seems like something that your average software dude (self included) might come up with. Come up with simple hardware specs that don't need ROM code, and standardize on THAT. I'd kill for that kind of utopia in my line of work. I don't work in PCs, I work in embedded systems. All the hardware guys talk about gaining a competitive edge by locking people into their proprietary hardware via a software interface that they control. Same thing going on here - it's not the software dudes in the industry that need convincing - it's the hardware and business dudes who aren't looking to the future, but to the next product.
  • by the_mad_poster (640772) <shattoc@adelphia.com> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @12:48PM (#7835811) Homepage Journal

    That works great in market situations where people have a tiny clue as to what they're buying. The PC industry is, for the most part, clueless from stem to stern.

    Joe Schmoe goes to buy a new car. He gets in a Ford Focus and the fast talking lipman tries to sell it. But Joe Schmoe doesn't like it, it's too slow.

    The Lipman puts Joe in a Focus SVT. Okay, not as slow, but Joe's not very comfortable.

    Lipman puts Joe in a Mustang, but that's not comfortable either, so he puts him in a Taurus. The Taurus isn't much Joe's style, but it's not too terribly sluggish and it's comfy, so he takes an SeS. Joe has made an intelligent buying decision by weighing his desires against his wallet and picked a reasonable compromise between all of the things that are important to him. Joe's car will work everywhere, and if someone tries to interfere with that, he'll notice. Joe is reasonably clued about this market.

    Now, Joe needs a computer. Joe don't know electronics, so Joe goes to Circuit City and starts looking at computers. Joe knew what "200 hp" meant and even had a reasonable understanding of how the torque came into play in his new Taurus. But, Joe doesn't know how the combination of an "onboard video card" and the processor and the "memory" and the speed of the hard drive all come into play. Joe knows he wants to watch DVDs and he wants to surf for porn. The Lipman in Circuit City tells him that this new Compaq has everything he needs. Joe pretends to know what he's looking at, then buys it because it has a soundcard and a DVD-ROM. Joe doesn't know what DRM is, nobody mentioned it, and since he has a DRM'ed system, he'll almost never notice things not working because it always silently grants him access because he's "trusted". Anything that doesn't work will be written off as "broken".

    The geeks, on the other hand, being a horribly underwhelming minority, are screaming bloody murder because they can't access half the sites on the net. Google sucks now and we can no longer listen to mp3 samples or watch movie trailers.

    Tens of millions of Joes never know anything about the troubles of a couple hundred thousand geeks. DRM has been slipped into everything because the target market has no clue what it is, nobody tells them, and they don't think to ask.

    So yes, it's an open market. But, it's an open market controlled by idiots.

  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @12:56PM (#7835896)
    If it is not good for Linux, then it shouldn't be done.
    After all, Linux runs on just about EVERY platform out there. From wrist watches to mainframes.
    So, if there is something about this solution that RESTRICTS Linux's access, then isn't that sufficient warning that there are problems in this "solution"?
    Is it possible to get the benefits proposed by this solution WITHOUT those restrictions?
    Its sad, because I had always thought computer people always look for the best way to do things. Unfortunately, computer people are just like everyone else, and all too willing to accept the status quo.

    Most of us do. But each person has a different idea of what is the "best way" to do something. That's why we have KDE and GNOME and all the others. That's why we have all those editors.
    You list shorter boot times and better power savings. It appears that these are important to you. It appears that Linux compatibility is less important to you than those.
    To others, that is reversed. They view Linux compatibility as more imporant than shorter boot times and better power savings.
    Does that make them "wrong"?
    You're posting on a pro-Linux site, asking why a solution that restricts Linux isn't popular here. While on a Microsoft-centric site, the response would be different.
    It's all ones and zeros. There is no "right" or "wrong". Only design decisions based upon someone's criteria.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @12:58PM (#7835925)
    It requires a 100 Mb efi (FAT) partition (so it appears useless for diskless servers)

    Doesn't that cost money nowadays? Also wtf is a 100MB needed for? Code at this level has absolutely no business being that bloated.

  • Machine Boot Speed (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Inhibit (105449) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @01:37PM (#7836391) Homepage Journal
    "Why cant we have computers which boot up in seconds, rather than minutes?"

    Maybe you're just useing the wrong operating system.. mine does boot up in seconds. And yes, if your entire well thought out argument is "but maybe it'll boot faster (insert sparkly eyes)!" I really don't need a redesign with DRM and driver preloading.. which sounds slower.
  • by Dylan_t_p (630258) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @02:42PM (#7837154) Homepage Journal
    ah the paranioa of slashdot....don't get me wrong I'm not some micosoft fan boy, but why is it that everything that micrsoft does has to be some ploy to wipe out linux, if you could see past that (not to mention rtfa) you'd see the good implications that this has instead of just, help!! microsoft is out to get us
  • Along with... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mykepredko (40154) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @02:43PM (#7837167) Homepage
    IBM, Hitachi, Fujitsu and Siemens. IBM offers 32 bit systems based on EFI as well (I believe written by AMI).

    I've been working with EFI based systems for three years now. Nicer than BIOS/MS-DOS for test weenies like me to develop code for.

    Have a Happy New Year!

    myke
  • by SalesEngineer (640818) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @02:57PM (#7837338)
    Those 'BIOS destroyer' viruses worked because of how Intel engineered a particular reference design, not due to a BIOS flaw.

    The Intel reference design motherboard of the day used a software general purpose input/output (GPIO) pin to control if the flash was in read-ony or reprogramming mode. This was a departure from the normal designs of the time, which used a hardware jumper to protect the flash ROM.

    At the time, everybody making boards in Taiwan did little more that copy the reference design ... so they took the design with the flash reprogramming GPIO as-is.

    Somebody hacked/reverse-engineered/leaked the pin configuration from the Intel reference design. This lead to the virus. The fact the virus worked on so many systems is that the Intel chipset was very popular, hence the reference design got copied a lot.

    Now it's much harder to pull this type of virus off. Different motherboard designers use different methods to protect against this. Intel's answer was to combine a hardware jumper with their own proprietary encryption system on their motherboards.
  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @02:59PM (#7837357) Homepage
    The basic question is this: will mainstream machines sold in retail channels still be able to run a non-Microsoft OS?

    There are several ways EFI could discourage Linux use:

    • The boot firmware might refuse to boot anything other than a signed operating system. The XBox is that way now. Microsoft would like that, but it's a bit too blatant and might attract unwanted antitrust attention, especially in the European Union.
    • Dual booting probably won't work for Microsoft operating systems. That's quite likely with Palladium-type DRM. Interposing a new boot loader breaks the chain of trust between the firmware and the OS. A Microsoft OS can tell that an unauthorized component has run before it loaded, and can refuse to run. Even if it runs, it won't let you access "protected content" (movies, music, etc.). This will discourage casual Linux use. You'll have to dedicate a machine to Linux.
    • The boot firmware might require some technology for which Microsoft has intellectual property rights. Microsoft's new push on enforcing their rights to long-name FAT file systems indicates a step in this direction. Does EFI require a long-name FAT file system? If it does, you won't be able to build a bootable Linux image without paying Microsoft. You'd probably have to build Linux images using a Microsoft machine. So the Linux-only user won't be able to build a bootable image from source.
    • There may be undocumented proprietary aspects to EFI that make it hard to write to. Watch for incorporation by reference of some Microsoft standard into the EFI standard. This is already a major problem with graphics cards.

    It's a subtle strategy. It's not going to be impossible to boot Linux, but it looks like it's about to become more difficult.

    It will still be possible to build machines that run Linux, and there will be companies that do so and preload Linux. But they'll make up their own distribution, like the Thiz Linux you find at Wal-Mart. End user installation of Linux will decrease. Red Hat's air supply will be cut off.

    Once you see the whole strategy, you realize just how clever Microsoft is being about this. It's not so blatant as to provoke screams from the industry, but it's enough to put a big dent in Linux installs.

  • Re:Microsoft Logic (Score:3, Insightful)

    by diakka (2281) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @03:07PM (#7837435)

    Seriously folks, we're not just gonna wake up one day and find that all our favorite OS's have been outlawed.


    If everyone had your attitude, then I feel confident that day would come to pass.

    It's the paranoid and vigilant who will work to protect freedom. The fact that this discussion is taking place should be a warning to MS that we will not take any such lock out attempt lying down. Should it be the case that EFI is not used for lock out purposes, you'll surely say, "See, you were just paranoid". But however it turns out, paranoia is indisputably the safer option.

    BTW, anyone have Linux booting on the all-in-one Gateway 610 Media Center desktop that was mentioned in the article? Perhaps that could give us further insight.
  • Re:Microsoft Logic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Billly Gates (198444) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:13PM (#7838869) Journal
    "Seriously folks, we're not just gonna wake up one day and find that all our favorite OS's have been outlawed."

    You know, back in 99 I heard a similiar argument by the vast majority of slashdotters in regards to a new propossed law called the DMCA.

    I myself called RMS and the EFF, lunitics and mentioned it here in regards to it. I got modded +4 informitive. My responses were on the line of ya, like they are going to sue innocent software developers who want to watch DVD's or those who bad mouth a company.

    Come on get real. The dmca will never be used to cancel free speech.....

    Well, I was shocked to find out not only was RMS and the EFF right but it was far far more worse then imagined.

    Why can't I watch my own dvd's?

    You know what? What would MS and the MPAA do if I wrote a patch for Lilo or grub that uses the ultra secret boot signature? I would get thrown in the federal "slam me in the ass" prison!

    I just posted another post mentioning how Linux will be still supported for some time like OS/2 is from many bios's. But still I am extremely cautous.

    ALso look at soyo with the ACPI installed by default on some of their motherboards due to a bug. Linux and FreeBSD at the time could not use ACPI properly with it and it caused a major headache. The same could happen if pallidium is on by default so manufactors could avoid headaches with Linux support. I doubt this but its certainly possible.

  • by bizcoach (640439) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:14PM (#7838887) Homepage
    Well if Microsoft's involved ...it HAS to be bad, and an attempt to kill Linux.

    Even if it's not directly an intentional attempt to "kill Linux" (why would the Intel engineers who designed it be interested in that!?), there can be no doubt that Microsoft is trying to do what they can to make sure that the next generation of pre-boot software for PCs will contain whatever is needed to make DRM work.

    This will not stop you from running GNU/Linux or some other Free Software OS, but if a significant percentage of computer users ever get hooked on that DRM stuff, it will become hard to convince them to switch to a Free Software OS where they cannot legally access DRM'd content.

  • by Crypto Gnome (651401) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:31PM (#7839103) Homepage Journal
    boots in a small fraction of the time

    If by "boot" you mean "starts the GUI", then yes.

    However you're completely ignoring the fact that even after giving you a UI, XP is still working its guts out trying to finish loading the other "less imperative" system drivers/services/what-have-you.

    Yeah, to most "users" it "feels like" it's finished booting, but you know - some OSs have actually finished loading all services and system drivers by the time they load the UI, and the ONLY thing they're loading, are UI specific drivers/services/applications.

    And they STILL beat the pants of Windows in a boot-race.
  • by glitch23 (557124) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:56PM (#7839506)

    I didn't read the article but I don't see anyone mentioning AMD in this other than that they are not involved in the design of this new BIOS. The question I have is why? Why wouldn't AMD want to be involved? I'm sure if 2 CPU manufacturers are involved it would help calm of the nerves of everyone on /. Maybe Intel and MS kicked AMD out of the discussion. It's hard to say. Maybe we should tell AMD to get involved?

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