UEFI, or the Age of Useless Computers…

Your next Intel x86 computer with UEFI secure boot…

Much has been said of the UEFI and one of its features, the Secure Boot. The launch of  windows 8 is near , and the UEFI is just around the corner.

UEFI is the talk of the town, but what is it?
It is a specification of a software layer between the old computer’s BIOS and the operating system.
Intel created the specification to solve various problems in its 64-bit Itanium platform, those problems caused by incompatibilities with the old BIOS, which was designed for a 16-bit architecture.
It will replace almost entirely the calls to the BIOS, for all operating system services.
Yes, it would be very interesting to do this, since our old BIOS is more than 30 years old.
It turns out that, currently, no  operating system makes calls to the BIOS anymore. They all have routines for interfacing with the hardware already built-in, the BIOS only works at boot (memory test, and that’s about it).

Specifications inspired by Windows …
Exactly when the UEFI was thought, its design was very similar to that of Microsoft Windows, with calls for protocols and practices inspired by the Microsoft product.
Interesting, no? Does it look like something made for everyone? No, no, but one thing made for  just a few to benefit  just a few.

How UEFI works
The UEFI would work more or less like this:

That is, would be present in all the user’s system, like a shadow controlling everything.
But if this is something that comes from Intel and Microsoft, what is there to fear? Much as it is a black box running inside your computer, and with the ability of a complete operating system.
Hence, very interesting questions are raised, since no one knows what is inside UEFI, unlike the good old BIOS, which is already very well known (and documented).


But, The Security UEFI Brings is what matters…
Ha, how nice it would be if it were true. But, as it has already happened ( The FLAME malware has been spreading with valid keys from MS) ​​is all a big crock. And, as mentioned here, the possibility of an attack at boot time is almost nonexistent.


But So What’s the grand plan to use the Secure Boot and UEFI?
Intel is suffering from a heavy attack of the ARM platform. ARM chips are ubiquitous, they are in mobile phones to video games, and now are entering the server room.
Microsoft is not doing well also, its windows XP system is still the most widely used worldwide, after almost three years of the release of Seven, and five years of the release of Vista.
Microsoft already knows that windows 8 will flop, so with the help of Secure Boot, it will lock the machines so that only its operating systems will be allowed to run, do not allowing users to know that there are other options, and much better, an attempt to freeze the market waiting for their next OS, 9.

What to do to fight this fierce competition?
Simple, use a standard and exclude the competitors from the standard. And the restricted UEFI boot fits perfectly there.
Consumers are choosing smartphones and tablets (with ARM chips) over x86 desktop computers. How could Intel  leverage its sales?
Easy, to sell more  x86 processors, just make computers that have a shorter lifespan. Hence, it will force consumers to buy more and more x86 computers.

Now, Apple already does this, with machines that are not repairable nor upgradeable (the latest MacBook Air comes with welded memories, so, not even memory is possible to add to it).
The next step for rapid obsolescence: An operating system slow, bloated and that drags the machine, coupled with applications with useless options – Anyone for Office 15 ? (for, obviously, make the whole system more cumbersome and slow).

Let’s face it, a computer with windows lasts no more than three years. After that, or it must be added more memory, or more HD or a more powerful processor (if possible).
Add to that the fact one can not install any other operating system to the machine, and you have a beautiful pile of useless junk.

Now, I wonder if this little UEFI secure boot detail Intel will also push in its server market.
I doubt it, since Intel is doing very well in the server market, mostly thanks to the Linux distros. It’s something they want to push down the throats of the domestic consumer and SOHO.
And, with Intel, Apple and Microsoft doing the same thing, this practice will become a standard.

What Can Happen?
Many things can happen. One that will certainly occur, is to increase the ignorance of the average user regarding  Information Technology, which is not good, thanks to Microsoft and Apple, and will only tend to worsen. Imagine a Fahrenheit 451 world where books are banned, and most of the population lives in complete ignorance, where few can read and remember the culture and the old books (I have not read the book, just watched the wonderful film by François Truffaut, but the overwhelming impact of the message makes you think, a lot).
And worse, students of Information Technology related matters(software, hardware, computer science), will have their hands tied, they will not be able to experiment with their hardware / software and learn from it.
Imagine, there won’t be a next Linus Torvalds, because he can not run an operating system made by the user in his/her computer. And no  next Steve Jobs also, since he began building computers in the Homebrew Computer Club. This will be a thing of the past.
Increase the junk in the world, the e-waste, since the machines will have a lifespan much shorter, it surely will happen. So long greencomputing.

But As For the time being, UEFI Secure Boot is not Mandatory…
Exactly, but with so many laws being passed by fear of terrorism or as protection of intellectual property (ACTA, SOPA, PIPA, etc …) how long to be illegal to run programs (and operating systems) not authorized by the vendors / manufacturers?
Just remember, there are countries where making a legitimate copy of a DVD, for security purposes, is illegal.

And is there an Option?
Sure. And, a much better than UEFI. The CoreBoot, the free, open, auditable specification, made in partnership with the Open Source community and the company AMD.
And, its block diagram is as follows:

Extremely simple, unobtrusive and lightweight, CoreBoot covers several platforms: x86, ARM, and various operating systems: GNU / Linux, BSD, and even windows (with SeaBios).

Even Linus has spoken out against the UEFI (“It has few real advantages, and add a greater layer of complexity” – http://kerneltrap.org/node/6884).
Not to mention that the user has no control over it.

How  to Fight UEFI Secure Boot?
There are several ways.
1º Legally – Act to push investigation on the UEFI secure boot, to make the DOJ investigate anti-trust unheticall moves, by Microsoft and Intel.
2º Politically – Pressure on your congressmen, senators, legislators,  to do not allow to become a common practice restricting  the boot of the computers.
3º Boycott Intel and Microsoft (and all companies that sell machines with the UEFI secure boot). I do not like to advertise products or companies, but support  AMD, the  CoreBoot standard is supported by it, and do not buy from companies that offer machines that do not allow you to run your favorite distro.

Finally, a famous text (adapted to our Free, Libre and Open Source reality):


“First they came for Gentoo.


And I did not speak up because I don’t use Gentoo.


Then they came for Arch Linux


and I said nothing because I don’t use Arch Linux.


Later, they came for Slackware.


And I kept silence, because I don’t use Slackware.


Then they came for Pardus Linux.


And I remained silent because I don’t use Pardus Linux.


Finally, they came for  Puppy Linux


And then there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Adapted from Martin Niemoller – First they came …

Further reading:

“Uefi homepage.”: http://www.uefi.org/
“Gnufi homepage.”: http://www.gnu.org/software/gnufi/
Intel, “Beyond bios,” Intel Software Network, November 2008.
Jeremy, “Linus on the extensible firmware interface,” Julho de
2006. http://kerneltrap.org/node/6884
Unified Extensible Firmware Interface Specification, Version 2.3,
errata b ed., UEFI Forum
Fevereiro 2010.
  1. P. L., “New technology beefs up bios,” Computer, vol. 37, 2004.
Intel, “Intel platform innovation framework for uefi.”:
http://www.intel.com/technology/framework/index.htm

Of Turkeys, Eagles, and Burning Platforms

Some time after that fateful Friday, February 11th, we can look at the  MS / Nokia deal with a better perspective.
And make better conclusions about it.
In fact, the  deranged acts of the current directors of Nokia, ultimately, make much sense.
We just did not know the whole story. And we’ll never know, of course. But with the little that came to light, we can make a better picture of the involved persons/entities .

Elop: It didn’t take long to go public that he is the seventh biggest shareholder in Microsoft. And his actions as president of Nokia are very eloquent in this regard. Doing things like the “Burning Platform Memo,” which was thought to be false, it is an insult to the entire culture of Nokia, and soon after it surfaced, the company’s stock began to fall.
As president of Nokia, he acts as a Microsoft employee, helping one company over another. This type of conflict of interest is something that deserves further scrutiny, after all, such attitudes fit perfectly as white collar crimes.

Board of Nokia shareholders: Interesting to know that several big Microsoft shareholders also have many shares of Nokia. And they chose to sacrifice Nokia now, trying to make Microsoft to thrive in the cell phone  market. The maneuver did not work, since the announcement of the deal, Nokia’s shares have fallen 25% , while Microsoft’s shares are still low. Shares of Google, on the other hand, rose by 8% when the deal was announced.

Symbian: Much is said, that the division responsible for Symbian has grown so much, both in importance and political power within Nokia, that it began to clamp the company’s ability to make decisions quickly and be agile, and obviously acted to protect itself. The deal with Microsoft would be a response to the  Symbian division, ending its days of influence within Nokia.

Nokia: Nokia as a company could not have taken a worse decision. At a time when the hardware is commoditizing, that large profits are coming from software and services, Nokia will throw away its chance of being able to control its destiny, and have influence in services (Ovistore – Maps) and AppStore, to become another Microsoft OEM manufacturer. And it will happen what happened in the market of personal computers, where the hardware was a major source of income just in the beginning, with several different brands and manufacturers. When the IBM PC became an industry standard, Microsoft was the only one to profit high with it. The rest, manufacturers, OEM’s and others,  were getting tighter and tighter margins.
And what’s worse, since the announcement of the agreement, Nokia’s shares are in free fall, and the company lost somewhere around 11 billion dollars in market value.

About Nokia expect it to become much more aggressive against manufacturers of mobile phones that use Android (patent lawsuits), since both Horacio Gutierrez(Microsoft) and Elop  said they will jointly protect intellectual property from both companies.

Steve Ballmer: This great “strategist,” Microsoft’s CEO tried this maneuver, to save his job. A very good plan, were not his competitors  Google and Apple. With this maneuver, practically, Ballmer has transformed Nokia into another subsidiary of Microsoft, for US$ 0.
And, there is nothing new. He has done the same with Yahoo, where he planted Carol Bartz, and everyone saw the result: Yahoo was the second largest firm in searches in Internet, has become nothing but an empty shell. And expect to happen with Nokia what has happened with Yahoo, closure of projects, mass layoffs, end of divisions.
Of course everything must be some secret plan from Steve Ballmer, devaluing  Nokia until he can buy it for changes.

Intel: Intel desperately needed Nokia, so it  joined forces with Nokia, creating Meego, which was part its creation (Moblin) and part Maemo (Nokia’s creation)
Intel loses badly in the mobile and embedded scenarios, always behind the ARM RISC processors,  that are much smaller, efficient in power consumption and heat dissipation without losing processing power.
In the embedded / mobile, Intel’s still pitching its Atom platform, without much success.
Now without Nokia, Intel is adrift, looking for any other manufacturer who is interested in its Meego operating system .

Qt: Qt’s staff, although very optimistic, are in a extremely delicate situation: As  Symbian was officially announced as a dying platform, the future development of Qt is threatened. In Elop’s plans, they will sell another 150 million units with Symbian in the next two years and then shut down. And what will be of Qt then? Being a very good framework, Elop would never let it out of his control, after all, it would compete with the Microsoft Windows platforms. Chances are he will do like Oracle did with OpenSolaris:  let it to die slowly, and terminated its development.
Therefore, it is urgent to fork Qt, for  the sake of KDE, and so many great programs written on Qt.

Microsoft: It was the only winner in this deal. It desperately needed any traditional manufacturer to pick up its WP7 platform,  because since its launch, interest in it was close to none. And has gotten, simply the world’s largest maker of mobile phones.
With its “employee” Elop in Nokia’s helm, Microsoft can get close to many patents in mobile telephony, and with his clumsy actions at the helm of Nokia, the company’s value tends to decrease even more.
Microsoft not only manages to get a manufacturer for its turkey mobile OS, it also can get to buy a nearly bankrupt Nokia, and quite cheap.
It is no secret that Microsoft achieved this agreement injecting money in Nokia, paid a lot of cash for Nokia  to go WP7’s way, but, even with the “advantages” for Nokia (save a lot of cash in R & D), these acts did not improve Microsoft’s stock, which loses billions in its disastrous online adventures  (Bing, Xbox Live and now WP7). But the source of Microsoft’s money  is finite, and they are now borrowing billions of dollars. Of course it is something that is not highly publicized, so the company does not have its image tarnished.

Nobody can know, however, what will happen. Maybe Nokia has success with the  Meego powered phone  it is to launch this year. Who knows, it may even draw attention back to Meego and give a new breath of life in the Nokia Meego platform. Maybe Nokia will successfully  sell the WP7 phones . Maybe Microsoft will sink so much in debt that it goes bankrupt.

Anything can happen, but, to paraphrase Vic Gundotra, Google VP for mobile technology, two turkeys do not make an eagle. And that’s what Nokia + Microsoft are today, two halves, desperately trying to make a whole.