Windows goes to UFI

   

UEFI LogoIt is a well known truism in Linux circles: The coolest toys come with Windows pre-installed. All a geek has to do is to either completely wipe the drive or dual boot Linux with Windows. A hitherto trivial and straightforward task that could at times be completed in a matter of minutes. That is before Microsoft decided to go all UEFI on us. Now even the geekiest of geeks can sometimes find themselves out of their depth and stuck in the mires of firmware when attempting to install Linux on a Windows 8 device.

UEFI stands for “Unified Extensible Firmware Interface”. ‘The UEFI specification defines a new model for the interface between personal-computer operating systems and platform firmware. The interface consists of data tables that contain platform-related information, plus boot and runtime service calls that are available to the operating system and its loader. Together, these provide a standard environment for booting an operating system and running pre-boot applications. ‘ Then I stopped reading the specification. At least I now know UFI and UEFI are two different things!

Since UEFI is intended as an improved replacement of the old legacy BIOS, what are its advantages as compared to the latter (In truth UEFI can and does sit on top of BIOS). The most touted advantage is that UEFI provides a way for the firmware to verify the integrity of the operating system (Kernel) at boot time and thus acts as a bulwark against some boot-time malware that had become prevalent  As a Zimbabwean I have to look for things that could be of use or concern to my fellow beloved countryman. I do not understand some of the value or advantages revealed by Google such as: modular design, CPU-independent architecture and Flexible pre-OS environment including networking support.

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It is important to note two things: UEFI does not solve any of the BIOS’s long-standing problems of requiring two different drivers—one for the firmware and one for the operating system—for most hardware and it leaves room for vendor lock in by hardware makers and/or Microsoft. The real reason it is still a pain to install Ubuntu/Fedora or other Linux is because Microsoft mandated the use of UEFI on all vendors who want to display the Windows 8 logo on their devices. Typically these can only boot operating systems signed by a Microsoft key. Ubuntu and Redhat (Fedora) came up with two different solutions and so did the Linux Foundation. Microsoft dragged its feet signing the Linux Foundation key. It is worth mentioning that whilst the problem is not with UEFI itself, it is through UEFI that Microsoft and Apple are equipped with a DRM tool that was not at their disposal before.

Given that the most foolproof way to install Linux on a UEFI device (at least as can be witnessed from the Fedora forums after the release of Fedora 18) is to disable UEFI completely. This seems like taking a step backwards. What value does it offer me when it is disabled. I consider the right to install whatever I want on my computer including Open Source software and pirated copies of proprietary software an inalienable right. It has been one of the few remaining rights that I was able to count on being there every time I wanted to exercise it and now it is gone and for what? UEFI?

What are your thoughts, UEFI is cool? Or is it just another Itanium?


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