Linux group hits Microsoft with complaint over ‘Secure Boot’

Written by Katherine Noyes / Courtesy of PC World

It’s long been clear that Linux users are more than a little unhappy with the “Secure Boot” technology implemented by default in Windows 8 hardware, but in Spain, one group has decided to do more than simply try to work around it.

Specifically, on Tuesday Linux group Hispalinux filed a 14-page complaint with the Madrid office of the European Commission, calling Secure Boot an “obstruction mechanism,” according to Reuters.

Earlier this month, European Union antitrust officials fined Microsoft $731 million for failing to live up to a 2009 settlement that requires it to offer Windows users a choice of alternate browsers.

Controversial solutions

Originally discovered by Red Hat developer Matthew Garrett in late 2011, the Secure Boot problem for Linux users arises from the fact that Windows 8 hardware comes with Secure Boot enabled in the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), meaning that only operating systems with an appropriate digital signature will be able to boot.

Microsoft maintains that the technology was implemented in the name of improved security.

Since then, however, the topic has been the focus of much urgent work among the various Linux distributions as well the Linux Foundation, all in an effort to create workarounds allowing Linux to boot on Windows 8 hardware. The Free Software Foundation and Linux creator Linus Torvalds himself have also weighed in with their own opinions on the matter.

Fedora’s solution to the problem has been to get its first stage boot loader, or “shim,” signed with a Microsoft key, causing considerable controversy among Linux users.

‘Irreparable damage’

Now, with this new complaint from Hispalinux, which reportedly represents some 8,000 users and developers of the free and open source operating system in Spain, Microsoft faces yet another probe for what the group says are anticompetitive practices that place a “technical barrier” before consumers and cause “irreparable damage” to the European software industry.

I reached out for confirmation and further insight to Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for competition and for Vice President Joaquín Almunia within the European Commission, but he declined to comment. I’m still waiting to hear back from Microsoft, but will post an update if and when that happens.