Welcome to the age of locked down computers

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Welcome to the age of locked down computers

I already run fedora, but I guess its time to go get myself a box that I plan to use for the next decade or so, before this happens. This is bad news.



This only applies to pre-build computers from vendors like Dell. If you know someone who can build you one from scratch you would be ok. It's suprisingly easy to do, the hardest part would be applying the heatsink.


So far it's ARM machines, but it is the foot in the door. Plus there is the fact that fedora has modified its releases after the current #17  to comply.

Problem is, asking the regular public to do that is akin to asking them to build their own cars. Those who have an interest will do so, but anyone who just wants a computer will not bother.


radiorahim radiorahim's picture

I've been following this issue on and off for awhile.   Actually have a couple of half-written blog posts that I never quite finished.

I'm not a Fedora user.   I tend to stick with Debian based distros.   But I'm dissappointed that the Fedora community leadership has decided to cave in on this issue.   Fedora has traditionally stuck pretty tightly to free software principles.

In any case, I'm hoping that other distros will not follow Fedora down this path.

Here's Mathew Garrett's blogpost on the issue.   He works for Red Hat.

radiorahim radiorahim's picture

6079_Smith_W wrote:



The only saving grace I suppose is who the hell would ever want to put Windows on a computer with an ARM based processor?

BTW, I've seen the developer previews of the new Windows 8 "Metro" interface and it's truly awful...I mean realllllyyyyyyy awful.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

radiorahim wrote:

BTW, I've seen the developer previews of the new Windows 8 "Metro" interface and it's truly awful...I mean realllllyyyyyyy awful.

So, if I'm going to buy a Windoze-equipped computer, I'd better get Win7 asap?  Dell is advertising stuff  at what they call lower prices, but that's just bullshit advertising.



radiorahim radiorahim's picture

Boom Boom wrote:

So, if I'm going to buy a Windoze-equipped computer, I'd better get Win7 asap?  Dell is advertising stuff  at what they call lower prices, but that's just bullshit advertising.

I don't know why anyone would race out to buy anything with Windows on it.

I haven't used Windows in my home environment for at least ten years.   I keep being told how "stable" Windows 7 is and yet a friend of mine has a "new out of the box" machine with Win7 installed and it still regularly gets the blue screen of death.   Seems the BSOD is one of those Windows "features" that M$ just can't let go of.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Ewww... that doesn't sound good. Mine shuts down because I have a conflict between the CD player and the rest of the computer, or maybe it's the Windows Media Player. The only time I can play a music CD is after bootup. Any other time, it causes the computer to reboot. Loose wire maybe. This started about six months ago.

Three or four years ago Dell said they would sell a unit with Linux instead of windows - never got around to doing so as far as I know. Recovering from the blue screen is easy, by the way. I've had a blue screen a few times, just took the battery out, unplugged the unit, then re-installed the battery, plugged it in, and it rebooted itself. I don't see what the big deal is.

My unit is a Dell 1525 (Win Vista Basic) laptop, now five years old, and has been used almost every day since new for ten hours a day minimum. Pretty outstanding  performance from a laptop that cost just over $500.00. I'm buying another Dell soon, probably a desktop this time.


ps: looks like we're getting TELUS high speed soon. 

radiorahim radiorahim's picture

Congrats on some kind of high speed finally arriving in your neck of the woods there Boom Boom.

Dell did briefly make a few models of their computers available with pre-installed Ubuntu 8.04 LTS    In Canada, they only offered the Dell Inspiron Mini without the Microsoft tax.    To order one you had to really dig through their site to find it.    I have one and use it alot.

Anyway, they no longer do this

The major computer manufacturers are scared shitless to offer anything other than M$ pre-installed.

Funny thing is that I was looking at some Brazilian computer ads from a "big box" retailer and about half the computers offered for sale came with some kind of GNU/Linux distro pre-installed.    Brazilians computer buyers have choice...we don't.

Instead of using Windows Media Player why not use VLC Media Player?   VLC is "free as in freedom" and "free as in free beer".   It plays just about every single audio and video format there is.   You can also use it to record streams as well (and lots of other stuff).


Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Looks interesting - I'll give it a try. Thanks for the link. But I'm not 100% it's a software issue that shuts down my computer when I play a CD. But II'll give it a try anyway.

sknguy II

I love using Foobar 2000, which suits my needs nicely with nothing fancy. It has good music management functionality. Oops, just had a thought, if you play your music from CD music management might not be a big concern. But you're right that the media player software is probably least likely to be the problem. Could also be a drive firmware issue, a driver conflict with new software, or simply an internal component like an ic chip in the drive on its last leg. FYI, at tigerdirect.ca they sell slim-internal dvd-writer drives for about $25.00, plus tax & shipping.

In terms of ARM? Microsoft has always followed a search and destroy business model. They never could see the benefit of how opensource and freeware developments could add value to their product, even though their "innovation" (read deep pockets) has benefited greatly from them. They're a company that is simply oblivious about the future and have always been playing catch up to the other players. Mostly due to their obsession with establishing a monopoly and how their interpretation of competition somehow translates into exclusion. If you can't play on a level playing field you pull the field out from under the competition.

I mean really... it took miicrosoft fifteen years to realize the functions of mousing (that's gotta be at least 75 in computer years) and about six years to finally get usb working properly. And they want to chart the future of computing with ARM? In any event, I guess they must think they're up for another round of antitrust suits. I reality, Microsoft wants to profit from my relationship with a non-microsoft product, huh, go figure.

radiorahim radiorahim's picture

Just to clarify, Foobar 2000 is freeware but it is not "free software".    The software development kit for doing add-ons to Foobar 2000 is free software under the BSD license but the core is proprietary.

I don't really use the term "open source" very much because I find it to be a fairly meaningless term.

The other thing that's problematic about Foobar 2000 is that it only runs on Microsoft Windows, therefore locking the user onto a single proprietary operating system.

VLC Media Player is indeed free software licensed under the GPL and can be modified...as it has been with the Miro Player.

Both VLC Media Player and Miro are "cross platform" in that they run on GNU/Linux, M$ Windows and MacO$X

VLC Media Player also runs on a number of versions of BSD Unix, Android, Solaris, QNX, Syllable and even OS/2!

So if you get used to using free software applications on your proprietary operating system, it offers an avenue of escape from the world of proprietary software.   Once you find that you're mostly using free software applications there's no particular reason to keep a proprietary OS like Windows or MacOSX on your system.



radiorahim radiorahim's picture

One other interesting development that I'm watching is the Vivaldi tablet computer from Make Play Live.

This is the first example of a free software tablet computer where you're free to install anything you want to install on it.   One of the lead developers for the free software KDE Desktop project has been heavily involved.

The target price point right now is around 200 Euros.   The first pre-order has sold out and they're not taking any orders right now. However, you can put your name on an e-mail list for when they open up orders again.

sknguy II

I read a bit more about this UEFI (unified extensible firmware interface). Wikipedia has a good article on it, and SocialistJim is right about it applying to only prebuilt computers. But more specifically, only those that are sold with Windows preinstalled. This "secure boot" feature of UEFI (the one blocking non-microsoft operating systems from booting) is what seems to be the problem. I guessing that if you buy a microsoft OS on a homebuilt the "secure boot" would likely have to be enabled. Wasn't able to find anything on that. By the looks of it UEFI was consortium developed and originally intended for use on server and workstation machines for security purposes. Looks like another one of those microsoft "innovations". They really don't have one original thought in their whole body corporate.

The ARM processor issue deals with microsoft's foray into tablet computing and their new Windows RT (windows 8 based) operating system. Well, good luck with that one. For my part, I've got one linux computer that's helping me make somewhat of a transition to linux.


Every machine in our house originally had Windows preinstalled. 

And walk into almost any place where they sell computers and that is all you are going to see on display. 

That is why I am highly skeptical of the claim that there will be plenty of options for the general public.


Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

A year or so ago we had this same discussion. And, I asked back then if any of the big computer makers provide Linux, and the answer was the same - Dell was thinking about it. Meanwhile, I found these links:

1. Linux-equipped computers (Emperor Linux = Dell based)


2. from 2008: Does Linux lack mass market appeal?




According to the company, Wal-Mart has pulled all Linux-equipped computers off its shelves because it "didn't attract as much customer attention as Windows machines."




And it's that average person who frequents Wal-Mart and is more than willing to buy a computer that offers an operating system they know--Windows. Linux folks can talk until they're blue in the face saying that Linux is safer than Windows and people can do more, but until it's as easy to use as Microsoft's OS, it's in as many offices as Windows and it's on the nightly news, the chances of people switching are nil.

Linux must stay true to its roots and remain the bastion of hope for all the people in the world who want an advanced operating system and the option to modify it as they see fit.

Linux will never be a mass-market product, so why push it?


@ BoomBoom

Push what?

I just want the option to be there for someone to take an over the counter machine, blow its brains out, and install linux.

This notion about it being less user-friendly is, frankly, nonsense. And even if it is, that does not make it right for the company which dominates 90 percent of the market to squeeze out all competition - and that is the motivation and the end goal of this exercise.

Right now it is bad enough - only fedora has caved, and other distros will be shit out of luck, unless users (who will also be shit out of luck) want to build their own machines. How is it possibly a good thing when the dominant company - the least stable, least transparent, most vulnerable, and most expensive- already convicted of anti-trust actions, holds the key to the door to lock out its free and open competition?

It's like saying that the poor are oppressed - why fight it? 


to be clear, I'm not trying to imply that you are equating the two, but the fact is that computers are nof just a luxury - they are the system which runs virtually everything. Having them in the hands of one for-profit, aggressive company which makes a substandard, closed-door product is a threat to us all.



Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Actually the last line "Linux will never be a mass-market product, so why push it?" wasn't my comment - it was in the article.


I'd love to see Linux take customers away from Windoze! Smile


Ah... thanks for the clarification, and sorry for the mistake.


radiorahim radiorahim's picture

The key issue here is the freedom to tinker with devices that you own.

Increasingly, hardware/software companies are creating "anti-features"...features that prevent you from modifying or changing the software that runs on your devices.

In the good old days, nobody tried to prevent you from modifying your devices other than by putting a sticker on the bottom of the device saying "no user serviceable parts".

But that's not that way it is today with smartphones, tablet style computers and if Microsoft and Apple have their way, with traditional desktops and notebook computers.

It's YOUR computer.   You should have the freedom to do what you want to do with it.

sknguy II

In the past I've seen people develop their own firmware updates for devides a manufaturer stopped supporting. Usually to unlock or add a feature to some device, but none-the-less reprogramming rom software. I've even used Badflash services a couple times myself in the past Embarassed. But to deal with UEFI a linux distro will need an army of programmers to create linux compatibility. I originally thought the problem would only be a motherboard specific issue. But UEFI is going to effect any device that relies on firmware, like graphics cards, network cards, sound cards, storage controller cards. I'm not sure about usb devices? Now I see why Fedora caved. Microsoft has really, and truly gone over the top on this one.

Gawd, and here comes another disposable concept. WTF's up with these companies and their new buzzword "ecosystem" crap. That for me is incredibly insulting.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Don't know where else to put this: Windows 8 Consumer Preview - One word: fail

We have a grim computing future ahead of us, thanks to MicroSloth. Frown

radiorahim radiorahim's picture

A number of computer gaming companies are beginning to port their games over to GNU/Linux...specifically the Ubuntu distro in light of the disaster that is Windows 8.

The computer gaming company Valve has found that it's games run faster on Ubuntu than on Windows 7.   Mind you Valve's games all have DRM crap in them, but it's somewhat better to run evil DRM'd computer games on a free as in freedom software platform than on an evil proprietary platform.  At least it's a small step in the right direction.

For a good laugh you might want to watch this April Fool's Day edition of the "Linux Action Show" video podcast.   For April Fool's Day they renamed their show the "Windows Action Show" and did a hilarious "preview" of Windows 8.

BTW...if you use Firefox, you can watch the faux "Windows Action Show" without Flashplayer in the free as in freedom Ogg Theora video format here...no plugins required!


radiorahim radiorahim's picture

French locked down computer sellers are on strike today

radiorahim radiorahim's picture

The Linux Foundation has just released a fix to get around Microsoft's restricted boot

Installing GNU/Linux on a notebook made by Samsung results in it being bricked due to the way they have implemented Microsoft' restricted boot.   So for the time being (until there's a fix) I would suggest that people avoid buying a Samsung computer that has been "certified for Windows 8".

I understand that most of the efforts being put into defeating or working around Microsoft's restricted boot are happening in the PC space because of Microsoft's monopoly stranglehold on PC's i.e. it's very close to impossible to buy one that doesn't have pre-installed Window$.

In the ARM processor space, defeating restricted boot is not quite so important because Microsoft is just a bit player in the mobile computing world




Wasn't there a time, a long time ago in a galaxy not so far away, when Microsoft was slapped with an anti-trust lawsuit for making it difficult for people to install programs other than MS programs on their computers?

I can't believe it's legal for a company to make it so your computer gets bricked if you try to install a program on it, simply because some other program they've put on it doesn't want you to use anything but their software.  Disgusting!

Why aren't people screaming about this??


I'm screaming. In my head.

Seriously though, it's an outrage, just another indication of corporate power and the unwillingness of lawmakers to curb it when it doesn't suit their agenda.


You'd think the obvious scam, as well as the latest shitty edition of MS would wake people up.

On the other hand, how many years have they been putting up with this substandard nonsense, dealing with viruses, and PAYING for it while there are free and superior options available? 

The other thing is the whole reason why they did this probably had less to do with preventing viruses and more to do with preventing linux, so clearly some people are starting to get it.




I think Apple has been paving the way for people to just accept this crap.  They've been locking down their devices for years now, especially their iPhones and iPods, and you ran the risk of bricking them if you tried to jailbreak them.  People still bought the damn things like sheep, though, despite this (especially the hipster "iLeft" who think they're such rebels for bucking the stodgy PC and embracing the slick Apple), and now people have just gotten used to the concept of locked down devices and accept it as if it's okay.  E-book readers do similar shit and no one cares about that either. 

Maybe it's also because the stuff is so disposable that people don't care.  iPod Shuffle won't work on your new computer because it thinks you're transferring files from one computer to another?  That's okay, just buy a new shuffle, what the heck.  Can't read a certain type of file on your Kindle?  Oh well, get a Kobo for good measure.  Blackberry dies 2 years into a 3 year contract with Bell? (Yeah, that happened to me.)  Well, you can upgrade now anyhow, if you sign up for a new 3 year contract!  (Which I did, and switched to an Android, but lost my unlimited data plan in the switch.)

Makes me want to unplug and go live in the woods or something.

radiorahim radiorahim's picture

If you're looking for a non-Windows pre-installed PC you pretty much have to cross border shop...because almost no one is doing it in Canada.

System 76 is one such dealer, although the video card drivers on the higher end models are proprietary.  They pre-install Ubuntu.

ThinK Penguin  sells systems designed to run on the Free Software Foundation approved "Trisquel" version of GNU/Linux.   That means no hardware that requires the installation of proprietary device drivers.    And, they'll put whatever version of GNU/Linux you want on your machine.

Dell does sell a limited line of PC's with Ubuntu pre-installed, but I'm not sure how much longer that's going to last considering that Microsoft just bought a chunk of Dell.

On the smartphone end of things I went to the "Google" version of the Galaxy Nexus instead of the Samsung branded version...just to limit the proprietary craplets that hardware makers typically pre-install on Android phones.   It was the "most free" given the locked down nature of smartphones and tablets.   

Also, I noticed that this is the reference device for the new Ubuntu Phone OS, which should be available for download later this month.  So, if I want to change my phone OS, at least it's possible.

It's not that I expect everyone to modify their operating system or software, I just want people to have the freedom to do so if they want to.  I don't want people prevented from doing the things that they want to do on the devices that they've paid for.


radiorahim radiorahim's picture

My understanding is that for Evasi0n, it's available only in binary form.   The source code is not available.   That makes it free as in free beer, but not free as in freedom :)   Perhaps the source code will be made available later...not sure.


If I couldn't get out of jail, free beer would still run a close second.


Apple has always been proprietary, to their own detriment, but they certainly paved the way for this crap, and now that it seems to be the mode de jour, it now works for them.

I guess Linux is the way to go, or any open source OS, but all my most useful software is for Mac OS.


I have Linux on my teeny tiny EEE PC. It's an amazing little machine for a 1GB hard drive. But I have never figured out how to install Linux applications or updates on it. For the average Windows-brainwashed consumer to have to learn how to use Unix-like code in order to download and install applications - it's unlikely.


Funny, way back when I did use windows I considered it a slightly better option. Mac was like having a car with the hood welded shut.



jas wrote:

I have Linux on my teeny tiny EEE PC. It's an amazing little machine for a 1GB hard drive. But I have never figured out how to install Linux applications or updates on it. For the average Windows-brainwashed consumer to have to learn how to use Unix-like code in order to download and install applications - it's unlikely.

You know, I would have thought so. Certainly when I started using it there was a steep learning curve. And if you want to use the system to its full advantage it helps to know a bit of the language, and understand how the filesystem is different.

But if you are using a userfriendly distro there is no comparison how much easier it is than windows. Last time I set up a dual boot (five years ago, with W2000) trying to get windows on was like pulling teeth with all the patches and nonsense. Plus having to set all the drivers and bits and pieces up by hand.

radiorahim radiorahim's picture

jas, your EeePC would have probably come with the Xandros version of GNU/Linux pre-installed on it.   It was great to see the early netbooks without Windows, but it would have been better if Asus and Acer had installed something other than Xandros and Linpus (in the case of Acer).

One distro you might want to take a look at for your EeePC would be Bodhi.    It's more or less based on Ubuntu, so anything that can be installed from the Ubuntu software repositories can be easily installed on Bodhi.    I've used Bodhi on a couple of old machines at work.



radiorahim wrote:

The Linux Foundation has just released a fix to get around Microsoft's restricted boot

Installing GNU/Linux on a notebook made by Samsung results in it being bricked due to the way they have implemented Microsoft' restricted boot.   So for the time being (until there's a fix) I would suggest that people avoid buying a Samsung computer that has been "certified for Windows 8"....

It is actually Microsoft, not the Linux Foundation, that released that implementation.

Rather than "get around" the UEFI Mode it is rather a non-MS OS implementation of the UEFI Mode.

"Getting around" UEFI (ie, avoiding it) is a different matter and is normally much simpler; the onus is on the bios implementations of (usually) laptop makers who either don't want to deal with the additional expense of support/warranty costs for other operating systems or are too cheap to spend the extra cents to make their bios dual-boot.

Unlike the Apple hardware/software nexus, Microsoft has no "Monopoly stranglehold" on PC's for anyone who want's to use other operating systems for x86 and x64 machines.

As computing devices continue their move from desktops to laptops to tablets to smartphones, Microsoft is increasingly becoming just another OS supplier among many, and  not the  most successful one at that.


radiorahim radiorahim's picture

This is Microsoft releasing the keys to a car that they locked in the first place.

Yes you can always turn Microsoft's restricted boot off, providing the OEM hasn't been too lazy or cheap to allow you to do this.

If Microsoft doesn't have a monopoly stranglehold on x86 and x64 machines, please show me a major retailer where the average person can buy one anywhere in Canada.

Even if you go to Dell, they don't advertise or promote their non-Microsoft PC's and if you search through their website and happen to find the non-Microsoft PC'S at the top of the page it says "Delll recommends Microsoft Windows".

I will agree though that in the mobile space Microsoft is just another locked down OS.

radiorahim radiorahim's picture

This article by Steven Vaughan-Nicholls on ZDNet is a bit dated (about six weeks old) but does illustrate the problem well.

Installing Linux on Windows 8 PC is still a pain.


Note that Microsoft is only one of the consortium of UEFI, a development of Intel's EFI, which most Linux distros had already embraced, so speaking of MS's UEFI would be inaccurate.
It is MS's proprietary firmware implementation, "Secure Boot", that is a MS-incurred issue. And even here the problem is not MS but, for the reasons I suggested above, the (mostly) laptop and major box assemblers who want to delimit their exposure to other OS's by locking down the bioses.
Obviously, there would be zero pressure on these OEMs to mend their ways from retailers whose profits also depend on selling application software.

For its part, Microsoft argued that OEMs were free to allow users to disable Secure Boot, so long as those who did so understood that they were reducing the overall security of their systems. But Linux enthusiasts observed that some OEMs were actually disabling the Secure Boot switch in their firmwares, leaving customers with no way to turn it off (and thus, no way to boot Linux).


Users of the various flavours of Linux should vote with their pocketbooks patronizing only those OEMs that are Linux friendly.