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Microsoft locks out installation of other OS in new ARM devices...
January 14, 2012 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Microsoft confirms UEFI fears, locks down ARM devices Seems like MS is up to old tricks. New BIOS bootset up seems to only allow MS Operating system as per Microsoft Windows Certification standards which hardware makers have to follow for Windows certification.

From the article at the Software Freedom Law Center:

(snip)
"The Certification Requirements define (on page 116) a "custom" secure boot mode, in which a physically present user can add signatures for alternative operating systems to the system's signature database, allowing the system to boot those operating systems. But for ARM devices, Custom Mode is prohibited: "On an ARM system, it is forbidden to enable Custom Mode. Only Standard Mode may be enable." [sic] Nor will users have the choice to simply disable secure boot, as they will on non-ARM systems: "Disabling Secure [Boot] MUST NOT be possible on ARM systems." [sic] Between these two requirements, any ARM device that ships with Windows 8 will never run another operating system, unless it is signed with a preloaded key or a security exploit is found that enables users to circumvent secure boot."
posted by aleph (113 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
An Android device makes Microsoft some number of dollars in licensing fees, because Android uses Microsoft technologies. If all the user has to do is buy a subsidized Microsoft-branded ARM device and then install a third-party copy of Android, Microsoft doesn't get paid for its technology. In light of that, it seems plainly obvious why they are doing this.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:13 AM on January 14, 2012


Immediate response: I just found a list of vendors from whom I am not going to be purchasing hardware.

Also, how long before someone finds a workaround, just to spit in their eye?
posted by caution live frogs at 11:15 AM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


caution live frogs: "Immediate response: I just found a list of vendors from whom I am not going to be purchasing hardware."

Who is not on it?
posted by vanar sena at 11:16 AM on January 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Microsoft Windows Certification standards which hardware makers have to follow for Windows certification

Read that, this is for obstaining windows certification.

As the article states all of the handsets running the Windows Phone operating system are ARM-based

This is not MS trying to lock down all computers everywhere. It is MS requiring that smartphones running WP8 not run anything but WP8

But hey, hating on microsoft without even knowing what they are doing sure feels good.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:17 AM on January 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is also the death knell for any remaining chance of linux smartphones at Nokia.
posted by vanar sena at 11:19 AM on January 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


Android patent-licensing money keeps pouring in for Microsoft

For the past year or so, Microsoft has been saying that it holds patents on technology used in the Android mobile operating system, and has been either suing or signing licensing agreements with phone and computer manufacturers that use Android. It signed a deal with HTC in April 2010 (it has been said that Microsoft gets $5 for every HTC Android phone sold), and has sued Motorola over its Droid line and Barnes & Noble over its Nook e-readers.

In October, Microsoft essentially said companies using Android need to pay up or get sued.

“Android has a patent fee. It’s not like Android’s free,” CEO Steve Ballmer told the Wall Street Journal in October. “You do have to license patents. HTC’s signed a license with us and you’re going to see license fees clearly for Android as well as for Windows.”

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:19 AM on January 14, 2012


So, it MUST NOT be possible. However, a third party, the customer, discovers a method for doing so. This now invalidates the tablet makers agreement with microsoft. Interesting.
posted by Bovine Love at 11:19 AM on January 14, 2012


So the upshot of this is that manufacturers will lock out the ability to run custom OSes on Windows Phone-branded devices?

I...can't really say I'm shocked, there.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:24 AM on January 14, 2012


This is not MS trying to lock down all computers everywhere. It is MS requiring that smartphones running WP8 not run anything but WP8

There are several manufacturers (Acer, among others) coming out with windows 8 ultrabooks on the ARM platform. In addition, Lenovo's X1 is a hybrid Intel / ARM device; I'm not sure how certification would work there.
posted by jenkinsEar at 11:28 AM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is the end of something as we know it.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:28 AM on January 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Everybody is talking as if this affects smartphones, but is that actually the case? Do smartphones run UEFI?

I read the article as covering (the as of yet, hypothetical) ARM-based devices (tablets, laptops) that run Windows 8, not smartphones.
posted by jcreigh at 11:30 AM on January 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


jcreigh: "I read the article as covering (the as of yet, hypothetical) ARM-based devices (tablets, laptops) that run Windows 8, not smartphones."

It covers ARM devices, which include future smartphones, of course. You really think they're not going to do what ALL their competitors (Apple, Android vendors) are already doing? The only difference is that Microsoft has the market clout to extend it to manufacturers that the rest can't reach.
posted by vanar sena at 11:36 AM on January 14, 2012


The whole paragraph from the document:
MANDATORY: Enable/Disable Secure Boot. On non-ARM systems, it is required to implement the ability to disable Secure Boot via firmware setup. A physically present user must be allowed to disable Secure Boot via firmware setup without possession of PKpriv. Programmatic disabling of Secure Boot either during Boot Services or after exiting EFI Boot Services MUST NOT be possible. Disabling Secure MUST NOT be possible on ARM systems.
posted by gjc at 11:42 AM on January 14, 2012


There is a huge opportunity cost for geek here because soon we'll feel like playing around with real mobile Linux distributions, witness :

Canonical CEO: Ubuntu tablet OS will battle Android and iOS

You could always pony up the extra $500 for the "UbuntuTab" while Indian hacker kids cannot afford that but maybe own some cheaper device.

There are after market Android distributions like CyanogenMOD (previously). In particular, the Guardian Project makes noises about producing a secure Android distribution for activists.

Anyone else think this shit might eventually prompts Linux to move Linux to GPL v3?
posted by jeffburdges at 11:45 AM on January 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


As I understand it, there's nothing that prevents a hardware vendor from writing a Linux bootloader[*], signing it and making it available to people to run on their hardware. But I could be wrong.

As a Microsoft employee, I think this is pretty lame. Are we really so worried that someone is going to buy a tablet -- for which they've already paid the Windows licensing fee -- and then replace the OS? That strikes me as largely unlikely. I suspect (and this is pure supposition) that someone may be entertaining thoughts of selling hardware which is subsidized by no-opt-out advertising or by subsequent app sales. The latter, after all, is the standard revenue model for consoles.


*Most people seem to think that signing an existing bootloader is likely to run afoul of the GPL.
posted by Slothrup at 11:51 AM on January 14, 2012


there's nothing that prevents a hardware vendor from writing a Linux bootloader[*], signing it and making it available to people to run on their hardware

The agreement a hardware vendor has with Microsoft might prevent the vendor from writing any software that breaks that agreement. Similar arrangements constrained third-party device drivers back in the days leading up to Vista.

But since this is for a hypothetical product that may not see light of day until 2013 (or possibly even 2014), Microsoft may not be in the same position to make those kinds of demands as it is today.

PC-read-Windows-license sales are down, and with all the iPads, iPhones and Android devices out there, some enterprise operations are already finding themselves supporting a much more heterogeneous (i.e., non-Windows-dependent) computing setup. And then there is the non-zero time and dollar cost of moving existing Windows apps over to the ARM platform. Some investors think there may not be as much demand for Windows 8 as Ballmer would like, at least at first:

We expect Windows 8 ARM tablets to ramps slowly as most Apps require rewriting for ARM-based tablet hardware. We remain skeptical that Win 8 tablets will gain much traction [in 2012] (App rewrites take time / developer ecosystem support).

There's probably some urgency on Ballmer's part to get these contracts signed as soon as possible, and understandably so.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:07 PM on January 14, 2012


Computers as we know them are going away. No one has yet found a way to get 98% of the public to need a computer more powerful than a mid-2000s level desktop machine, and that machine can just about now squeeze into the size of a pack of playing cards

Apple, Microsoft, Google, Canonical and everyone know the desktop is dead. Laptops, tables and smartphones are converging on identical hardware, which is many-core ARM-based CPU/GPU with a bunch of RAM and an SSD. Maybe x86 if Intel can keep up it's lead in fabs, but realistically x86 looks like a deadweight technology right now

So you've got Windows 8 with Metro running in extreme lockdown mode, hardware locked and software jailed to an app store, OS X and iOS in all likelihood re-converging soon (the signs are all there in Lion/iOS5) with another compromise between the current quasi-open status of OS X and the extreme lockdown in iOS

If this all actually does come to pass, and it's looking more and more likely (read up on Apple's "sandboxing" guidelines for Mac App Store apps), we'll be left with Linux as the only real general purpose computing platform, and dependent on hardware makers to churn out some sort of quality, unlocked devices to run it on
posted by crayz at 12:14 PM on January 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Jailbreaking is still legal, at least for the time being.

Last year Obama's Copyright Czar said that they want to authorize DNS to intercept imported "circumvention" devices for Hollywood's inspection (which arguably could cover jailbreaking tools)

It ain't over yet.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:14 PM on January 14, 2012


For the past year or so, Microsoft has been saying that it holds patents on technology used in the Android mobile operating system

Microsoft can SAY anything they want. Until a judge issues a verdict from the bench, its a large Corporation making a claim. Keep the price for compliance low enough and the extortion gets paid VS nutting up an taking the matter to court.

But none of you worry - The Gates Foundation will make it all better.

The interesting part will be if you buy the device without seeing the contract - can you be bound by their blocking attempt? And could you sue for them denying you some 'right' you may have for buying a device?
posted by rough ashlar at 12:16 PM on January 14, 2012


No one has yet found a way to get 98% of the public to need a computer more powerful than a mid-2000s level desktop machine

Game consoles, maybe?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:21 PM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Indeed, it should be illegal to build hardware that doesn't run linux. Why don't you freedom fighters develop a community with producers and sellers that interact in a mutually beneficial way?

There's a long history of companies building hardware for open source and hacking (e.g. linux phones) being ignored because the community prefers to buy software from companies they despise and then spend time working around the roadblocks placed in their way.

Instead of working around this why don't you buy from companies that want to sell you hardware that does what you want? And if they don't exist well, maybe ask why there's not market for it and why everyone who wants a Mac or a Windows machine should be required to support your needs as well?

Ahh.. yes, but of course, if we don't have some sort of government intervention to support the way you think hardware should work, we won't get any more technological innovation, because this stuff is critical to all the really smart geeks, the really smart ones who are 99% libertarian except for the second it seems to be inconvenient. The really smart geeks who not only despise Apple but think that the masses are misguided as to what they really need and want despite the fact that they also despite those masses.
posted by Wood at 12:24 PM on January 14, 2012


Game consoles, maybe?

The common thread through all of this is the realization that after a certain level of functionality, people would rather have something that weighs half a pound, costs a few hundred bucks, and fits in their hands and looks awesome, than some giant bulky borg device that sits in a cabinet and has 5 wires and is 10x better

Now that we've got that form factor down, yeah maybe we'll have 50-core iPads in a few years. But is that iPad going to be a "computer", or just a locked-down device that lets you FaceBook and Google and iTunes and NetFlix? Maybe that lets you Web if you're a dangerous cowboy?
posted by crayz at 12:29 PM on January 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


The dissonance, it hurts.
posted by maxwelton at 12:29 PM on January 14, 2012


Wow, you're really angry.
posted by vanar sena at 12:30 PM on January 14, 2012


There's a long history of companies building hardware for open source and hacking (e.g. linux phones) being ignored because the community prefers to buy software from companies they despise and then spend time working around the roadblocks placed in their way.

"long history" - then you must have names, dates of this hardware? Please share this list.

And I'm not sure how you go from "building hardware for open source and hacking" and jump to "buying software". Perhaps you can explain that further - because you seem to jump from hardware to software.

posted by rough ashlar at 12:30 PM on January 14, 2012


No one has yet found a way to get 98% of the public to need a computer more powerful than a mid-2000s level desktop machine [...] Apple, Microsoft, Google, Canonical and everyone know the desktop is dead

There will always be that 2% that do actual work on computers, such as 3d modeling, CAD, video processing, software development, and research. Engineers are not going to be running Matlab on ipads anytime soon.
posted by Pyry at 12:31 PM on January 14, 2012


Game consoles, maybe?

The current console generation is nothing special from a hardware perspective. If/when the next one happens, that might change, but it's not certain that there will be another console generation like the current one.

The Xbox 360 has 512MB of RAM and a CPU from 2005. The PS3's manycore chip gives it a bit more ooomph, but it's not spectacular, while the Wii is little more than two Gamecubes duct-taped together (100MB of RAM! In 2012!).
posted by Urtylug at 12:32 PM on January 14, 2012


I can only think of two models of phones that supported linux natively - the Nokia N series (which saw quite limited release), and OpenMoko - which I don't think ever got to the point where it was an operational phone. I know some of the really early Windows mobile smartphones (PDAs?) were unlocked enough to support linux easily, and those were selling like hotcakes to Linux devs until they were discontinued.
posted by vanar sena at 12:33 PM on January 14, 2012


OpenMoku was indeed one of the phones I was thinking of. Yeah, I meant hardware. Anyway, let's make sure that it's illegal to make hardware that won't run Linux, that's the really important thing.
posted by Wood at 12:40 PM on January 14, 2012


OpenMoku was indeed one of the phones I was thinking of.

Ok - that is 1.

You claimed a "long list" - 1 doesn't make a long list. Neither does the Nokia N to make 2.
posted by rough ashlar at 12:44 PM on January 14, 2012


Long is relative, for example we have a long slippery slope ahead before we reach the first day before there aren't more opportunities for hackers than there were the day before.

But god forbid there be anything for anyone else.
posted by Wood at 12:47 PM on January 14, 2012


Like I said, you seem to be really angry. I guess one more step from a company widely accepted to have behaved anti-competitively [pdf] is nowhere near as bad as a bunch of "libertarians" hoping to keep the playing field level.
posted by vanar sena at 12:49 PM on January 14, 2012


Ah yes, anti-trust, the default excuse for government intervention. It's nice to have a handy excuse isn't it?
posted by Wood at 12:53 PM on January 14, 2012


What the hell are you on about?
posted by vanar sena at 12:53 PM on January 14, 2012


Anyway, let's make sure that it's illegal to make hardware that won't run Linux, that's the really important thing.

Wait. You were being sarcastic?
posted by werkzeuger at 12:56 PM on January 14, 2012



Apple, Microsoft, Google, Canonical and everyone know the desktop is dead.


Ah, that gives me a belly laugh every time I read it. It might even be true for people just using Facebook and the like. Everyone doing everything from WP to payroll to ERP to serious gaming to science going to be doing it on an iPad or clone with no keyboard and mouse? No they are not.

The PS3's manycore chip gives it a bit more ooomph, but it's not spectacular

But it's more powerful than SUPERCOMPUTERS!!1! (c) The Internet, 2006.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 12:58 PM on January 14, 2012


I'm on about the fact that there are a whole bunch of steps that need to come between, don't buy it if you don't like it, and well no ANTI-TRUST means it should be illegal. None of those steps have happened. There are infinitely times more ARM tablets running Linux than Windows now.
posted by Wood at 12:59 PM on January 14, 2012


We're unhappy they might prevent us from running the Linux we choose instead of the Linux the manufacturer chooses.

I'd consider locking out after market operating system distributions like Canonical's tablet based Ubuntu or CyanogenMOD or whatever clearly qualifies as anti-competative.

I would be content if a hardware key got printed on each UEFI device, right along with its serial number, for example.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:06 PM on January 14, 2012


Wood: "I'm on about the fact that there are a whole bunch of steps that need to come between"

And I put it to you that controlling the bootloader, (which microsoft hasn't been able to do so far), and using its market power to StrongARM (hyuk hyuk) manufacturers into disallowing competing OSes from booting, is a pretty big step in that direction. All they have to do now is convince HTC, Samsung, Nokia et all (basically anyone who wants to ship WM) that their OS "discounts" will only apply if their phones cannot actually boot anything else. They did this already with PC vendors (they weren't allowed to sell Linux machines), but with bootloader control this time it has actual teeth.

I agree though with Blazecock's earlier assertion that Microsoft's weak presence in the mobile area makes this a last ditch effort, but it's in no way different from any other competition-killing thing Microsoft has ever done in the past, and it's worth pointing out.
posted by vanar sena at 1:08 PM on January 14, 2012


The difference between competing and competition-killing is in the eye of the beholder. Acting so offended because Microsoft wants to sell an integrated tablet like the market leader Apple and like the majority of the rest, Kindle, Nook, etc is bizarre.

Yeah, I get it, you hate Microsoft but you were kind of thinking that if their ARM tablets were anything like the Wintel market it would be so awesome to have all that hardware just ready to have your OS installed on it. Well, tough shit, try to to find someone who actually wants to sell you the product you want to buy. And stop using anti-trust as your excuse for why you not finding what you want is a market failure.
posted by Wood at 1:17 PM on January 14, 2012


Also, can I point out how odd it is that you would classify people arguing against anti-competitive, monopolistic behaviour as "libertarian"? I would think libertarians would be all for pure laissez faire. Not everyone working on FOSS is Eric Raymond.

I don't actually "hate" Microsoft, btw. What on earth does that even mean? It's a company with huge, market-bending clout in an industry I have a stake in, and I have valid concerns about how they use that influence. But "hate" is for people who beat me.
posted by vanar sena at 1:20 PM on January 14, 2012


Wait, does this mean that there will be a Microsoft Windows device that I can buy my family that can't get horrible viruses, because it is all locked down? So they can go on the web, and use Skype, and look at pictures, and not worry about security and updating so much?

Because, to be honest, that sounds great.
posted by alasdair at 1:23 PM on January 14, 2012


The Coming War on General-Purpose Computing

I'm beginning to think the computing era we've all enjoyed up until now has been a happy accident resulting from the high speed of technological advancement combined with the slow-as-molasses legislative process and the general stupidity of legislators.
posted by odinsdream at 1:25 PM on January 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


Wait, does this mean that there will be a Microsoft Windows device that I can buy my family that can't get horrible viruses, because it is all locked down? So they can go on the web, and use Skype, and look at pictures, and not worry about security and updating so much?

Because, to be honest, that sounds great.


No. It means the device will only boot Windows. It has nothing to do with security - that's a red herring.
posted by odinsdream at 1:26 PM on January 14, 2012


The nerd community believes deeply that hardware and software should be separate, orthogonal.

I think people want integrated solutions. I'm mystified at the idea that my mother needs a laptop that requires a decision tree regarding who to contact about the problems that show up after a week.

The open source community wants government action to encourage the separation of hardware and software, as far as I can tell based on their gut feeling about how things "should" be. I think that would be a step backwards and I think it's incredibly arrogant.

It's sort of exactly how people don't buy their car body and their engine separately and they don't generally even have that option. If you want to buy a big enough truck or a plane, you still can though. The open advocates are trying to hold computing back to a model where everyone in the year 2012 still goes and buys their car body at one place and their engine at another place.

We'll see how it goes... Google's buying Motorola, Amazon's forked android, and Samsung may end up deciding if it's going to make so many of the Android products why shouldn't it get something for itself?
posted by Wood at 1:29 PM on January 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Acting so offended because Microsoft wants to sell an integrated tablet like the market leader Apple and like the majority of the rest

Microsoft isn't selling a tablet. They're selling software for tablets. They're trying to force the companies, that they sell the software to, to make their tablets not accept competing software.

(Regarding the whole libertarian derail: I think Wood was referring to the idea that hackers tend toward libertarianism, and lamenting that they aren't being libertarian on this particular point.)
posted by Kalthare at 1:31 PM on January 14, 2012


alasdair: "Wait, does this mean that there will be a Microsoft Windows device that I can buy my family that can't get horrible viruses, because it is all locked down?"

As long as you don't install an antivirus from Microsoft's WinMo marketplace, you should be mostly okay.
posted by vanar sena at 1:32 PM on January 14, 2012


The open source community wants government action to encourage the separation of hardware and software, as far as I can tell based on their gut feeling about how things "should" be.

I think you're confused. Hardware and software are fundamentally separate - like air and water - regardless of how one group or the other "feels" about it. Obviously, people who deal with computers understand this implicitly. People who just "use the facebook or the google" probably don't, but that doesn't mean there are two camps.
posted by odinsdream at 1:36 PM on January 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Kalthare: "(Regarding the whole libertarian derail: I think Wood was referring to the idea that hackers tend toward libertarianism, and lamenting that they aren't being libertarian on this particular point.)"

Yeah I got that, but the fact that your link is from ESR should raise a few red flags. This is the guy who thinks all hackers like guns. As Maciej Ceglowski wrote, "Raymond is the original perpetrator of the "what is a hacker?" essay, in which you quickly begin to understand that a hacker is someone who resembles Eric Raymond."
posted by vanar sena at 1:40 PM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hardware and software are fundamentally a single continuous integrated whole. DDIs (device driver interfaces) are national borders, drawn by people on a single landscape.
posted by Wood at 1:40 PM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


But I know you have to say that because it lets the open folks play bullshit games with binary blobs and microcode.
posted by Wood at 1:41 PM on January 14, 2012


By the way, your comment about people who "use the facebook" is precisely what I'm talking about. Open source folks have become central planning advocates with contempt for the choices of the masses who demean themselves by not being into computers enough.

Though honestly, go to one of your professional colleagues and tell them that hardware and software are fundamentally separate. Or one of your professors if you still have time.
posted by Wood at 1:45 PM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


So tell me, Wood. How does UEFI benefit consumers?
posted by vanar sena at 1:45 PM on January 14, 2012


Can you install windows on an iPhone or iPad? No?

Okay then, I don't see what the big deal is here.
posted by empath at 1:45 PM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's sort of exactly how people don't buy their car body and their engine separately and they don't generally even have that option. If you want to buy a big enough truck or a plane, you still can though. The open advocates are trying to hold computing back to a model where everyone in the year 2012 still goes and buys their car body at one place and their engine at another place.

This is an awful analogy. First, there are kit-car manufacturers that allow you to supply your own engine. Second, most PCs and tablets come with a pre-installed OS, just as most cars come with a pre-installed engine. You don't have to buy your computer from one place and your OS from another. Finally, the "open advocates" aren't asking for a model where you have to buy hardware and software from separate vendors. Rather, they want a model that allows you to buy a car and put a different engine in if you want, without any ridiculous locks put in place solely to prevent the use of another engine. Which, as any car enthusiast can tell you, is exactly how cars work now.

Plus, the whole idea that "open source advocates are mandating we keep systems open" makes no sense, given that ARM processors already work with a number of different OSes (or did you forget Windows was only recently modified to work on ARM?). iPads run on ARM architecture and that's about as integrated a solution as you can get on a tablet these days. What you want already exists, and no "open source advocate" boogeyman is trying to take that away from you.
posted by chrominance at 1:49 PM on January 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


So tell me, Wood. How does UEFI benefit consumers?

Computers will still be able to boot as hard drives pass the 2TB mark.
posted by Talez at 1:49 PM on January 14, 2012


Vanar sena, this debate is so far from the question of what benefits consumers we can't get there from here. But in a nutshell anything that gets us further away from the model of selling hobbyist electronics to the general public is at least worth a try. The ipad isn't going to be beat by anything less than something better. There's no future in just using arguing it was a bad idea.

There are huge non-technical issues here. The best thing about the word "jailbreaking" is that it lets people know that no one at Apple is going to be spending a lot of time looking at their crash dumps that have springboard extensions loaded into them. It's a matter of communicating what's being produced and sold. Don't like it? Well I guess it was communicated well enough then, buy something else please.
posted by Wood at 1:53 PM on January 14, 2012


Chrominance, you do realize these tablets are going to be like ipads right? So what's the problem? What the open zealots are against is the idea that there could be something for someone else. It's not perfect but my analogy is reasonable enough, car enthusiasts don't get all up in arms about the existence of cars that aren't suitable for modding, they buy something else (or they make it work, hopefully with a spirit of realizing that going to all that effort is an idiosyncratic desire and that a hobby is a hobby and not a political hobbyhorse.)
posted by Wood at 1:56 PM on January 14, 2012


Hey, you're the one who's been bringing up "integrated solutions" as what people want (and I have no argument with that). I've yet to understand how UEFI Secure Boot does that. As we've established, no matter what kernel is booted by UEFI, it's still going to be written by a company that has a poor track record of security. Does Secure Boot rule out viruses?
posted by vanar sena at 1:58 PM on January 14, 2012


Apple, Microsoft, Google, Canonical and everyone know the desktop is dead.

While game developers push each and every generation of hardware to the limit this will remain a falsification.
posted by Talez at 2:05 PM on January 14, 2012


I haven't mentioned security, so I'm not sure what you're asking about?
posted by Wood at 2:08 PM on January 14, 2012


And, again, Microsoft isn't selling an integrated solution. They're selling just the operating system. Even if the line between hardware and software is blurry, what Microsoft is selling is most definitely on the 'software' side of the line.
posted by Kalthare at 2:10 PM on January 14, 2012


UEFI secure boot protects against bootkits

Secure Boot is a good idea. Even Canonical supports it. All things being equal, I would prefer a way to turn it off on all platforms
posted by Ad hominem at 2:10 PM on January 14, 2012


So I'll repeat my question, more carefully worded this time (thanks Talez): what is it about UEFI Secure Boot that benefits consumers and helps them achieve an "integrated solution"? This is what this thread is about, right? What benefit do consumers receive from Microsoft's requirement that secure boot never be turned off?

%n: "UEFI secure boot protects against bootkits

Secure Boot is a good idea. Even Canonical supports it. All things being equal, I would prefer a way to turn it off on all platforms
"

I hear this makes you a hypocritical libertarian.
posted by vanar sena at 2:16 PM on January 14, 2012


I suppose in theory, if no way to turn it off exists and they can never defeat secure boot there is one less attack vector we need to worry about. That is a big if though, secure boot will eventually be defeated. There were claims that it had been but it seems like the claims were false.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:26 PM on January 14, 2012


Part of defining your product is saying what you don't do. I'm not sure that not doing something is good for consumers in the way I think you're asking. It's good for the market for businesses to be able to sell limited solutions. It's good for the market for business to be able to sell products that don't do things. Like I said about jailbreaking, it makes it clear what is supported. The thing that you were only able to install after you jailbroke your phone? Not supported.

Just to be totally clear. This idea that many folks (C.D., e.g.) have that you can have a switch that says, "hey, now you're not supported" does not work. It just doesn't. If enough people do it, it ends up being supported anyway. So you have to make it harder for people to open up. And once you've done that, why not make it really really hard, because, well, you're not interested in selling that product, so why do you have to please Doctorow?

Amazon has a switch that says, hey, install unsigned apks. If Google put a link on their homepage that said hey, click here to download google mail, calendar, maps, voice, current, etc on your fire and a couple million of the few million fire owners did it, amazon would be in a spot and verbiage would not have anything to do with getting into or out of it.

There's just so little interest in the business of computers that's going on out there on top of these "general purpose computing" devices. There's more to this than Turing completeness.
posted by Wood at 2:34 PM on January 14, 2012


But you're still not addressing what Microsoft is trying to do here, that, is, get other companies to limit their solutions. UEFI is not Microsoft's product, but Microsoft is trying to give orders for how their clients configure it.
posted by Kalthare at 2:45 PM on January 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I get it, you hate Microsoft

Nope. My personal kingdom of loathing is for people who make a claim like "a long list" and when challenged can't be bothered to actually back up what they said or go "hey, seems I was over the top, mea culpa".

Microsoft is like every other large Corporation and will look to maximise its cash and if that means consumers get screwed, so mote it be.

Plays for Sure is a fine example of what happens when you choose Microsoft for your encrypted product needs. When it became 'inconvenient' Microsoft killed the product - contrary to the original "promise". The consumers will be screwed on this encrypted boot loader.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:50 PM on January 14, 2012


The only thing this rule applies to is for Windows-certified machines sold with Windows pre-installed. It does not apply to any other machines old by the same manufacturer. It doesn't prevent them from selling the exact same machine without Windows and with different UEFI behavior.

The whole Windows model is hella confusing to people, but basically from one very accurate perspective Microsoft supplies a part to OEMs. However the final product is nonetheless perceived as a weird blend of Microsoft and OEM X in a way that your car isn't really perceived as a blend of GM and Firestone and whoever made the dashboard display. The idea of Windows-certified reflects this and the reality is that there's no easy way to simplify things.

So... it doesn't really limit other companies solutions. They can sell one of these Windows tablet and sell the same tablet with Android, they just can't sell a Windows-certified and pre-installed tablet without this UEFI behavior.
posted by Wood at 2:51 PM on January 14, 2012


If only you could educate all those dumb hicks about what's good for them, but I guess they'll have to learn it the hard way.
posted by Wood at 2:52 PM on January 14, 2012


You know what, never mind the whole vendor lockout thing. I want legislation to ban car analogies.
posted by Kalthare at 2:56 PM on January 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yes. microsoft is saying "if you want a windows 8 sticker on your machine you must do this".Same way they specify:

"Title: Touch mobile systems must provide sufficient bezel space on the face of the device to allow it to be held without resulting in accidental touch input on the edges of the digitizer"

Read the guides yourself.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:56 PM on January 14, 2012


Also, can I point out how odd it is that you would classify people arguing against anti-competitive, monopolistic behaviour as "libertarian"?

Wood is choosing an emotionally loaded word for Metafilter in an attempt to sway the readers. Just like using the words "A Long List" in an attempt to get readers to think there were many products to support the POV being posted.

In the case of phones - there are gatekeepers in the form of the cell phone Corporations which seem to have the power to dictate the OS choices on the devices. So Microsoft might end up not being the "bad guy" here - it could be AT&T.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:57 PM on January 14, 2012


Wood: "The only thing this rule applies to is for Windows-certified machines sold with Windows pre-installed. It does not apply to any other machines old by the same manufacturer."

Along with their famous "discount" licensing agreements, they are unlikely to allow manufacturers to sell phones with other OSes either, particularly in the case of captive manufacturers like Nokia. I don't think this is so hard to understand.

There were a couple of cases where manufacturers were quick to realize an untapped market that they hadn't forseen among FOSS people and provided products for them. If those devices had been running hard-locked UEFI secure boot instead, this would never have happened.
posted by vanar sena at 2:57 PM on January 14, 2012


I hate being told what I can do with my property.
posted by mikelieman at 3:01 PM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hate being told what I can do with my property.

That is the problem - the vendors of things with a digital component make the claim that it isn't yours. It is a licence and if you want the functionality, you will either agree to their one sided un modifiable contract or you will go without.

In this new case, you could end up with a hunk of electronics that is useless due to an encryption key. Repair and data recovery may be impossible if the key is "lost". When the manufacturer decides to stop support - you can't replace the software with a supported version. Forced march upgrades for their benefit, no matter what shills from Seattle say.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:08 PM on January 14, 2012


Wood: "If only you could educate all those dumb hicks about what's good for them, but I guess they'll have to learn it the hard way."

Who, Microsoft? You've stated quite clearly that this is to the benefit of vendors, not customers. So who are you talking about?

Can I ask - are you a Microsoft employee? Just checking.
posted by vanar sena at 3:12 PM on January 14, 2012


Who is Microsoft hoping to appeal to with these tablets? The "I want something that just works" crowd isn't impressed by windows, the hardcore gaming crowd isn't impressed by tablets, and the nerds are going to stick with android. If Google were pushing this, then it would be an issue, but I can't see windows 8 tablets gaining enough market share to be concerned.
posted by Pyry at 3:21 PM on January 14, 2012


I will buy a Windows 8 tablet. I think there is a huge business market for dockable tablets. that run outlook.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:24 PM on January 14, 2012


I could see myself buying a bare-system tablet and a retail copy of Windows 8 ARM, if those both turn out to be products that exist.
posted by Kalthare at 3:51 PM on January 14, 2012


Who is Microsoft hoping to appeal to with these tablets?
Anyone who has a significant investment in one of those gazillions of non-sexy, non-fun but mission-critical Windows-based business tools could be interested in a Windows tablet. It's a very, very big crowd, it's just much less vocal than others. For me (for instance) the ability to run Access on a tablet would be an instant selling point.
posted by elgilito at 3:59 PM on January 14, 2012


Remember that thread all of 10 days ago where so many people were mocking Cory Doctorow's claims on the death of general purpose computing? "lol doctorow", "sky is falling", "patently ridiculous things" were some of my favorite snarks.

LOL indeed.

Like Stallman, Assange and others like them in the cypher/cyberpunk community, they may be blowhards, but they've been damn prescient about the evolution of computing and privacy.
posted by formless at 4:50 PM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Coming War on General-Purpose Computing

This is like the War On Christmas that FOX News complains about every year. No one is taking your computers away, ffs.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:51 PM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is like the War On Christmas that FOX News complains about every year. No one is taking your computers away, ffs.

I understand your passionate support for Apple, and the defensiveness around Android / Open Source fanboys. I want to let you know I'm not of the opinion that Apple's devices are a bad thing for computing or society in general. They brought wonderful user experience, interfaces and simplicity of design to the public. I'm a proud owner of an iPad and it's a wonderful device. There's a big place in the market for them.

But back to your statement, I realize that Microsoft isn't going to bust into my house and take my computers. I'm worried that 5 or 10 years from now, will I be able to buy a low-cost computer that allows me to install a development environment on it?

Having access to that BASIC prompt as a kid introduced so many to programming and really helped build the modern tech industry. Having the ability to install multiple operating systems on devices helps build competition and brings freedom to users.
posted by formless at 5:08 PM on January 14, 2012


For me (for instance) the ability to run Access on a tablet would be an instant selling point.

That actually made me die a little inside.
posted by empath at 5:13 PM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


will I be able to buy a low-cost computer that allows me to install a development environment on it?

I'll bet you $500 that we will still have desktop Macs, Windows and Linux machines for sale in 5-10 years, assuming we define low-cost as anything under a grand, which I think is a reasonable assumption about inflation. I work in non-profit, and that is a lot of money to me. Would you take that bet?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:18 PM on January 14, 2012


Completely bizarre that companies dictating to people exactly which activities are permitted with their products and what things the consumer should and should not want to do is good for the market and so obviously the way things ought to be, but opposing that kind of control means you want to "educate all those dumb hicks about what's good for them."

Educating the "dumb hicks" about how computers should be used is evidently just fine if you're a computer or software manufacturer but is contemptible hubris if you're anyone else.
posted by XMLicious at 5:25 PM on January 14, 2012


I'll bet you $500 that we will still have desktop Macs, Windows and Linux machines for sale in 5-10 years, assuming we define low-cost as anything under a grand, which I think is a reasonable assumption about inflation. I work in non-profit, and that is a lot of money to me. Would you take that bet?

You're right, I should have rephrased that, there will still be low-cost devices. But will these devices have UEFI? Will Microsoft and others claim that if you buy a computer with Windows, you aren't legally allowed to install your own OS?

I'm a software engineer who grew up on LOGO, and wanted to bring that fun to mobile devices. But when I decided to start porting it to iOS (around 2009) I found out you couldn't have interpreters on the platform. They've changed it now to allow interpreters, but you can't provide the ability to download source code, so the code sharing service I had built in couldn't be added.

But again, leaving Apple out of it, look at other consumer devices and the legal situation around you. Blu-Ray players, SOPA, etc. The trend seems to be less control for the user.
posted by formless at 5:45 PM on January 14, 2012


To clarify, UEFI itself isn't the problem. UEFI is good. UEFI will bring the BIOS out of the 1980s and let us use hard drives larger than 2TB. Macs have been using UEFI for years, and you can install pretty much any OS you want on them.
posted by Kalthare at 5:51 PM on January 14, 2012


But again, leaving Apple out of it, look at other consumer devices and the legal situation around you. Blu-Ray players, SOPA, etc. The trend seems to be less control for the user.

You keep trying to bring Apple into this and I don't recall saying anything about them here. If you won't take the bet, don't.

But a "war on general computing" is hyperbolic, to say the least, and not much less manipulative in a discussion about technology than FOX News' accusations of a war on Christmas being red meat for their religious viewers.

Unlike Cory, I don't need my refrigerator to cook food for me, nor am I interested in hacking a refrigerator to cook food. If I need a stove, I use a stove. I do not get upset that refrigerators do not give me the control I desire over the process of cooking food.

Likewise, I do not get upset that a Blu-ray player does not give me a command line. I also acknowledge that the average price of a computer keeps coming down, while average specifications generally improve. I can buy a refurb'ed Mac mini for a few hundred dollars that does all the FOSS development I care to do. (And, for that matter, I have written open-source software on this very low-cost option, and published open-source software from this same very low-cost computer.)

Unless we suddenly find ourselves in a 1984-style autocracy, then what I have just described will likely still be an option 5-10 years from now. There have always been threats to civil liberties, and always will be. DRM is a pernicious element in society, but it is dead for music, and I expect the same will happen for books and video as devices become more prevalent, even if that process takes longer.

In any case, it seems highly improbable that computers will be outlawed in this time frame, and I'd question the motives of anyone who makes that assertion. Particularly if it is coming from someone like Doctorow, who has a history of making hyperbolic statements that never pan out, but almost always bring clickthroughs to his site.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:19 PM on January 14, 2012


I've never witnessed a hyperbolic statement about a threat to civil liberties in my lifetime, Blazecock Pileon, basically they're all coming true. RMS was right all along.

Jobs himself could be given a pass because he achieved difficult things, but Apple without Jobs, no sorry they ain't earned it. And they almost certainly never will. And I'll absolutely reject giving Microsoft a pass.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:31 PM on January 14, 2012


> I do not get upset that a Blu-ray player does not give me a command line

Do you get upset when it doesn't let you skip the commercials in front of movies you paid for?
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 6:35 PM on January 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Do you get upset when it doesn't let you skip the commercials in front of movies you paid for?

Being forced to sit through trailers for crap movies is obnoxious, definitely, but I don't watch or buy many Blu-rays, in any case, because I don't like that I am compelled to watch ads. It's the same reason I go to the movie theatre maybe once a year. Nonetheless, I am not forced by the government to watch movies on Blu-ray format, and I doubt very much that this will ever happen.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:11 PM on January 14, 2012


here we go again.
posted by mugsydean at 7:14 PM on January 14, 2012


An Android device makes Microsoft some number of dollars in licensing fees, because Android uses Microsoft technologies. If all the user has to do is buy a subsidized Microsoft-branded ARM device and then install a third-party copy of Android, Microsoft doesn't get paid for its technology. In light of that, it seems plainly obvious why they are doing this.
Hmm... Only so long as Microsoft subsidizes the phones, which they obviously don't plan on doing forever (unless they want to make more money from the app market)

Cyanogen is actually thinking of making their own branded App Store for Cyanogen Mod, which would mean complete independence from google. And they'd get a commission to fund future development, the same way Firefox gets a commission from google for putting the google search bar in there.

I would bet their biggest concern is making money off the app market. They probably want to stop piracy as well, like with their Xbox. Then they can charge for expensive x-box games on their phone market, along with cheaper $1 apps. My guess is they want to own the software distribution channel, more then concern about people buying windows phones and running android on it.

It's also somewhat Ironic to see you somehow using this to complain about Android handset makers paying patent license fees to Microsoft, when Apple is actually trying to shut them down over patent issues, let alone charging people. And I'm sure Apple pays Microsoft's patent fees on stuff like fat32.

---

Also, everyone talking about ARM like it's the future, it's a 32 bit CPU with a 32 bit address space. Apparently there's a 40 bit address extension allowing for memory up to 1TB, but it's a hack like the old extensions in IA32. I don't really think ARM is the future of desktop computing, at least not until they come out with a 64 bit version. With SSDs coming down the pipeline people are going to want to do things like memory map their entire drives and just use RAM as a cache.
Anyone else think this shit might eventually prompts Linux to move Linux to GPL v3?

I really doubt that. Linus doesn't care, as far as I know. Most of the major code contributors are major vendors anyway.

I don't really think the future is all that bleak. I always bring up the raspberry pi. They're in production now, with an initial run of 10k units, for $35 each (this is the 'high end' model, compared to the $25 version). So for a total of $350k minus their margin, they're launching a computer platform, one designed with open source in mind. And the costs are going to keep dropping even further. This one's also ARM based and it actually has 3D acceleration, HDMI output, etc. Basically it's cell phone hardware in a miniaturized 'desktop' format.

Does this suck? I guess. But it's no different then the XBox. Except, as far as I know it will be legal to hack due to the DMCA exemption for jailbreaking cellphones. On the other hand, you could go to jail if you distribute tools to root an XBox. And Microsoft is becoming less and less relevant.
The nerd community believes deeply that hardware and software should be separate, orthogonal.

I think people want integrated solutions. I'm mystified at the idea that my mother needs a laptop that requires a decision tree regarding who to contact about the problems that show up after a week.

The open advocates are trying to hold computing back to a model where everyone in the year 2012 still goes and buys their car body at one place and their engine at another place.
No, they think you should be able to do whatever you want with the hardware you pay for. They don't have a problem with people selling devices with software pre-loaded. The same way car enthusiasts would be outraged if all cars came with non-removable engines. Lots of people enjoy tuning and 'hacking' their cars to make them go faster. They buy lots of add-ons and sometimes put in new engines what's wrong with that? Of course they would be upset if they thought all cars were going to be locked down with the engines welded in place and non-removable.

But none of those people are demanding that engine and bodies are sold separately, and there are no open source advocates who say hardware should not come with a pre-installed OS.
Hardware and software are fundamentally a single continuous integrated whole. DDIs (device driver interfaces) are national borders, drawn by people on a single landscape.
...
But I know you have to say that because it lets the open folks play bullshit games with binary blobs and microcode.
First of all what's with the outrage? Second of all, when it comes to anything based on a turing machne, software and hardware are separate things. You can encode software in the form of hardware, but at that point, it becomes hardware, and is no longer software.

The other thing I don't get, WTF is your problem with people wanting to play with code? Why is it "bullshit"? You seem to be outraged about the fact that people enjoy hacking. It's downright bizarre. I mean how can you argue against a position that makes no sense? You seem so bitter about something that you couldn't possible be affected by. It's like your girlfriend left you for a dashing open source hacker but that seems like a very improbable circumstance
UEFI secure boot protects against bootkits

Secure Boot is a good idea. Even Canonical supports it. All things being equal, I would prefer a way to turn it off on all platforms
Boot signing is fine, so long as the owner can sign their own bootloaders.
Being forced to sit through trailers for crap movies is obnoxious, definitely, but I don't watch or buy many Blu-rays, in any case, because I don't like that I am compelled to watch ads. It's the same reason I go to the movie theatre maybe once a year. Nonetheless, I am not forced by the government to watch movies on Blu-ray format, and I doubt very much that this will ever happen.
Are you still using VHS or something? The government forces you to watch movies in formats that copyright holders choose. If they only release a movie on DVD or Blue-Ray, that's the only way to watch it. If they burn unskippable ads on those disks, you are forced to chose between non-skippable ads or not watching the movie.

So, yes, the government actually is quite literally forcing people to choose between watching the ads, not watching the movie, or breaking the law. Those are the only three options for movies that the copyright owner has chosen to prefix with unskippable ads.

And that basically means that you don't 'really' own the movie either. In fact As far as I know there's nothing preventing movie companies from putting code on a DVD or blue ray that will prevent it from playing after a certain hard-coded date, for example*. So you don't own property, you just poses license. One that can be revoked.

(*Now obviously they don't do that now. But they could in the future for next-gen devices. Instead of having the user enter the date, they just get to use the timezone and use a quartz clock, long battery and require the device be connected to the internet to verify the date via digitally signed NNTP in order to play time-locked content. Getting around it would be a DMCA violation)
posted by delmoi at 9:55 PM on January 14, 2012


Oh anyway, like I said in the other thread. The fact that the cost of the internal hardware keeps dropping makes the argument somewhat irrelevant. Okay, lets say you buy a windows tablet, and decide you really want a Linux tablet instead. But you can't load linux because of the secure bootloader.

Okay, fine. Just open it up and remove the entire logic board. Stick in some $5-$10-$50 circuit board, the next generation rapsberry pi connect the screen and battery and... that's it. You don't need to mod the logic board, you just replace the entire thing. If the board itself is the expensive component, that's not practical. But really I think the major cost driver these days is the touch screens more then anything.

Just looking on newegg, the cheapest touchscreen displays costs $330 or for 20 inches, while a 20-inch LCD now costs just $89. The "computer" part of a nice tablet is only a fraction of the cost, and is going to continue to go down in price until it's hardly any more trouble to replace then the software.
posted by delmoi at 10:11 PM on January 14, 2012


I've never witnessed a hyperbolic statement about a threat to civil liberties in my lifetime

*raises eyebrow*
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:52 AM on January 15, 2012


I've never witnessed a hyperbolic statement about a threat to civil liberties in my lifetime

"FEMA camps"
posted by delmoi at 2:59 AM on January 15, 2012


Umm, yes I vastly overstated that, mostly because I was ridiculously drunk last night, fair enough. I should've stuck with RMS was right all along.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:34 AM on January 15, 2012


Though honestly, go to one of your professional colleagues and tell them that hardware and software are fundamentally separate. Or one of your professors if you still have time.

I have no idea what kind of axe you're even grinding here, so please don't be too offended when I excuse myself from further dialog with you - I literally don't know what you're talking about.
posted by odinsdream at 9:11 AM on January 15, 2012


This is like the War On Christmas that FOX News complains about every year. No one is taking your computers away, ffs.

This thread is literally about a computer system that would not be a general-purpose computer. It would be a vendor-specific computer, enforced by a combination of cryptography and legislation.

This seems to be pretty cut and dried - just read the specifications. Certainly arguments exist for and against vendor-specific computers, but it's abundantly clear that's exactly what the system would be.
posted by odinsdream at 9:18 AM on January 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Unlike Cory, I don't need my refrigerator to cook food for me, nor am I interested in hacking a refrigerator to cook food. If I need a stove, I use a stove. I do not get upset that refrigerators do not give me the control I desire over the process of cooking food.

I don't think anyone's suggesting that all devices should be able to do all things. It's that devices should not be artificially restricted through legislation or cryptograpy. If, in your example, your fridge broke, but you could only get it repaired through the original equipment manufacturer because all of the controls were cryptographically signed with a secret key, that would be an example of general-purpose computing being attacked.

This isn't a far-fetched example, either, since this is exactly what many car manufacturers do with their engine control computers, or their on-board diagnostics systems. They're artificially locked for a business reason. Again, there are pro and con arguments for this kind of approach, but the fact of it isn't in dispute.
posted by odinsdream at 9:24 AM on January 15, 2012


This thread is literally about a computer system that would not be a general-purpose computer. It would be a vendor-specific computer, enforced by a combination of cryptography and legislation.

I don't think anyone is arguing (or should be arguing) that this is a general-purpose computer, so much as another variant of a popular tablet device whose name I shall not mention, knowing that very few here on Metafilter will ever allow that that is a general-purpose computer, either.

Microsoft's gadget is, as described, a consumption device, not much different from a game console or Blu-ray player, except perhaps with more functionality. So I would question the introduction of Doctorow's doom-and-gloom into this thread, particularly as:

1. The subject matter of Doctorow's piece probably doesn't apply to this thread, if we're applying the same terminology that we use for other non-Microsoft devices that exist today.
2. All of Doctorow's hyperbole never comes to pass, anyway.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:23 AM on January 15, 2012


An Android device makes Microsoft some number of dollars in licensing fees, because Android uses Microsoft technologies obvious, straightforward techniques that Microsoft managed to patent.

Those patents have about as much validity as would a patent claim on forks and spoons.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 10:24 AM on January 15, 2012


Those patents have about as much validity as would a patent claim on forks and spoons.

Not saying you're wrong (or right), but when the HTCs of the world decide to disagree with your assessment, by not going to court, then losing licensing revenue is perhaps what motivates Microsoft in locking down devices.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:56 AM on January 15, 2012


...knowing that very few here on Metafilter will ever allow that that is a general-purpose computer, either.

This really isn't about one person (Cory) and their opinion. This is about the way computers actually operate, versus how business interests and legislators would prefer that they operate. It's simply a fact that the iPad is, indeed, a general-purpose computer. It has been restricted from certain uses by legal and cryptographic mechanisms. I don't understand how this could possibly be a matter of disagreement.

As I mentioned, I can certainly see how there is disagreement over the role of this kind of device in society, and about the rights of businesses, rights of consumers, etc., with respect to these devices, but the device clearly is a general-purpose computer, just as these tablets (or any low-power laptop with an ARM processor) would be.
posted by odinsdream at 12:18 PM on January 15, 2012


Umm, yes I vastly overstated that, mostly because I was ridiculously drunk last night, fair enough. I should've stuck with RMS was right all along.
I remember, probably ten years ago or so discussing a short 'dystopian' story RMS wrote, Where people had to pay for books, and accessed them with passwords. Obviously, it was meant as an allegory. 10 years ago slash dot, I remember a discussion where people said the story was completely insane, etc. Looking at it again, the story also took place in 2096. On the moon.

Last year Tennessee passed a law making it literally illegal to share passwords to content sites, including, I would imagine sites kids have to log on to read textbooks. RMS's somewhat hyperbolic allegory became literally true! At Least in Tennessee.
posted by delmoi at 5:57 PM on January 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wood writes "It's sort of exactly how people don't buy their car body and their engine separately and they don't generally even have that option. If you want to buy a big enough truck or a plane, you still can though. The open advocates are trying to hold computing back to a model where everyone in the year 2012 still goes and buys their car body at one place and their engine at another place."

It's really unfortunate power train selection is so strongly integrated with body selection. As it is the most powerful engine in a particular platform is almost always tied to the most optioned body and therefor is burdened with having to accelerate the most weight. You pretty well can't buy the modern equivalent of the striped down, big block, compact Dart.

Wood writes "Hardware and software are fundamentally a single continuous integrated whole. DDIs (device driver interfaces) are national borders, drawn by people on a single landscape."

That's crazy talk. With hardware abstraction software isn't tied to any particular hardware and it's self evident any particular piece of hardware can run wildly different software (otherwise we wouldn't be having this conversation).

empath writes "Can you install windows on an iPhone or iPad? No?

"Okay then, I don't see what the big deal is here."


Seriously? Lack of choice of OS is a major failing of the iPad. That and lack of a memory card slot (which allows Apple to charge out the ass for memory) is the reason I refuse to buy one.
posted by Mitheral at 8:05 PM on January 15, 2012


Lack of choice of OS is a major failing of the iPad.

Of course it is, that's why all the other tablets are flying off the shelves while Apple can't even give iPads away.
posted by empath at 8:59 PM on January 15, 2012


It's simply a fact that the iPad is, indeed, a general-purpose computer.

Almost anything with a chip in it is theoretically a general purpose computer. You can probably boot linux on the average $40 microwave if you really wanted to.
posted by empath at 9:01 PM on January 15, 2012


That's correct, and if GE made a microwave with some weird cryptographic signing that prevented you from booting linux on it, or, more likely, prevented third-party repair and diagnostics, that would be another example of an attack on general-purpose computing.

I don't seriously envision a future where computers are literally and explicitly outlawed.

Rather, a conflux of legislative and business interests will result in practically the same effect, whereby a general-purpose computer may exist in theory, and may be assembled with sufficient resources by a hobbyist, but purchasing one? Not a chance. With the move towards systems-on-a-chip, the physical distinction between a CPU, GPU, memory, etc, is becoming less defined. Once you throw TPM modules into the mix and legislatively require them to be manufactured on the same silicon wafers, you rapidly approach the point where it becomes impossible to buy a non-restricted chip.

The same technological progress that's enabled us to build fast, small chips is going to be available for locking down even the smallest, simplest piece of hardware. Headphone jack with an in-line DSP and TPM? There's no physical impediment to this.
posted by odinsdream at 6:36 AM on January 16, 2012


Of course it is, that's why all the other tablets are flying off the shelves while Apple can't even give iPads away.

Things can have a major failing and still be popular.
posted by Mitheral at 6:56 AM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]




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