Over the weekend the blog world erupted in response to a report by Computerworld UK blogger Glyn Moody, who discovered that Microsoft was changing the rules for dual-booting ARM-based Windows 8 computers.
The ensuing furor polarized along predictable lines with time-worn arguments -- namely, "Microsoft monopolists are trying to destroy Linux" vs. "Microsoft is looking out for its defenseless customers." But I'm left with two lingering concerns that point to a much deeper problem.
The technical side of the revelation goes like this: Intel- and AMD-based "Made for Windows 8" machines can be mult-booted, although the operating system(s) must be signed digitally. The signature must be authorized by a Microsoft-recognized certificate authority, or the signature for the operating system must be entered manually into the computer.
ARM-based "Made for Windows 8" machines, we've just discovered, will be prevented from multibooting at all. Moreover, it won't be possible to replace Windows 8 with a different operating system unless Microsoft certifies the alternate operating system.
Of course, there are many nuances, primarily involving the Secure Boot feature of UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface), which is the Windows 8-mandated replacement for BIOS. Microsoft's Building Windows 8 blog has two posts germane to the topic, and Ars Technica has the best overview of the inner details in the controversy.
But two things in particular struck me. First, Microsoft lied. Or to be a little more charitable, Microsoft suffered a severe documentation malfunction (somewhat akin to a performer's wardrobe malfunction, I suppose).
In the Building Windows 8 blog post "Protecting the pre-OS environment with UEFI," Microsoft states that it "supports OEMs having the flexibility to decide who manages security certificates and how to allow customers to import and manage those certificates, and manage secure boot. We believe it is important to support this flexibility to the OEMs and to allow our customers to decide how they want to manage their systems."