In the Windows 8 vs. Linux Debate, a Windows Pundit Makes a Great Point

by Ostatic Staff - Oct. 19, 2011

Recently, in response to the brouhaha over its reported effort to implement a specification called Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) that could make it impossible to run Linux on Windows 8 PCs, Microsoft officials responded with an extensive post that explains exactly what kinds of flexibility UEFI (Secure Boot) will offer. However, members of the Linux community in Australia have formally opposed UEFI, and many critics of Microsoft's defense of it argue that Microsoft is simply going to hand off the right to exclude Linux from Windows 8 PCs to hardware manufacturers, some of whom may choose to do so. Now the debate is getting a second wind, and a writer in the Windows corner has one of the best points yet.

Noted Windows pundit Ed Bott has weighed in on UEFI with a post titled "Why Do Linux Fanatics Want to Make Windows 8 Less Secure?" where he writes:

"The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is organizing a petition-signing campaign over Microsoft’s announced support for the secure boot feature in next-generation PCs that use Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) as a replacement for the conventional PC BIOS. My ZDNet colleague Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is urging his readers to sign the petition with a bit of deliberately inflammatory language, calling it “UEFI caging.” ... Don't fall for this FUD."

Interestingly, Bott makes a great point about how this whole debate is likely to be resolved. He asks: "Will PC makers make it possible for end users to toggle this option in the UEFI settings?" And, he decides, "of course they will." His reasoning is that a "non-trivial" percentage of PC owners will want to install non-Windows operating systems, including Linux, and the PC makers don't want to dedicate support people to answering calls about why they cannot do so.

Indeed, support is a huge cost center for most PC makers, who aren't making big profits these days. Most of the smart PC makers are likely to allow users to toggle the UEFI Secure Boot feature on or off, to avoid taking on support hassles. That said, if you intend to buy a Windows PC and you like to run Linux alongside Windows, be careful to check that you have a toggle option before buying, and know how to execute it.