UEFI secure boot fix released for Linux

New workaround should let users install Linux on Windows 8 machines

After just a few months of development, users finally have an official way to run Linux on machines using Windows 8's UEFI secure boot framework.

Developer and Linux Foundation director James Bottomley announced in a blog post that he has created a preliminary version of a workaround that should allow the use of Linux on newer hardware.

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Essentially, UEFI - or unified extensible firmware interface - is an updated version of the BIOS, which allows an operating system to access a computer's hardware. One of the many changes made by UEFI is the aforementioned secure boot system, which requires the use of a digitally signed key before software can function on a secure boot-equipped computer. The idea is to make it much more difficult to distribute potentially unsafe software.

However, the implementation of UEFI has provoked angry criticism from many in the open-source world - the Free Software Foundation accused Microsoft of attempting to lock out the competition by requiring secure boot on many OEM computers, effectively preventing Linux from being installed. Some popular Linux distributions, including Ubuntu, purchased keys from Microsoft in order to keep their products available on as many devices as possible, but a Linux-wide solution is only now available thanks to Bottomley's efforts.

The workaround uses a "pre-bootloader" along with its own Microsoft key to allow Linux installs on secure boot devices without simply breaking the security system. Previously, this was the only way to put Linux on such computers. While the technique is still being developed - Bottomley wrote that community feedback is needed - it's still a major step toward bringing Linux to Windows 8 PCs.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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