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Before you Dual Boot - The truth about MS, OEM's & Linux

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  1. #1



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    Before you Dual Boot - The truth about MS, OEM's & Linux


    My journey into hell began about two months ago when I purchased a new HP laptop computer with Windows 8 preinstalled. The machine was fast, worked great and was cheap. It has a quad core CPU, 8 gigabytes of Ram with AMD Radeon 7640G graphics that can use up to 4 gigabytes for video processing. (512 MB dedicated called discrete graphics). It played everything I threw at it on high settings with great frame rate such as the new Skyrim, Black Ops 2 and Far Cry 3. All for only 400 US dollars. I could not be happier with my purchase... Then I tried to dual boot Linux and the world came crashing down around me.

    I knew nothing of UEFI then or Microsoft's requirement of OEM's to use UEFI's Secure Boot feature with Windows 8. Now, I wish I had. Unified Extensible Firmware Interface - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    UEFI, or EFI is slated to be the replacement for Bios and it's been around for about 20 years. Trouble is, it's buggy and no one wanted to use it. There is good reason why OEM's have dragged their feet for years with this technology. It's still getting the kinks worked out. See here for more: EFI and Linux: the future is here, and it's awful - Matthew Garrett - YouTube

    So, I started studying this technology. I found out that what most new consumers have that come shipped with Windows 8 is a bios based system with a UEFI layer implemented, but not always. Some systems have a full UEFI with no Bios and some are UEFI based with a compatibility layer of Bios. Most of the time you wont know which type of system you are buying until it's too late as the OEM's who are Microsoft partners don't advertise this information. One things for certain, if you buy a PC with Windows 8 preinstalled you will have some type of UEFI and you will have Secure Boot enabled.

    Secure Boot acts as a protection feature that is supposed to ensure your system doesn't have any malware at the time of shipping. It works by checking keys in the operating system against hard coded keys in the UEFI. As these keys are signed by Microsoft, the system will not allow any other operating system to boot assuring you have a clean copy of Windows 8.

    For Non ARM based PC's Microsoft requires the user have the ability to disable Secure Boot. Once this is done, Windows 8 will boot normally although still using UEFI for it's IO to the hardware. On many machines you also have the ability to turn off UEFI and boot Windows from Legacy Bios mode.

    The problem with dual booting Linux either with UEFI off or Secure Boot disabled is it's not a proven technology that works well even if you do have a distro like Fedora or Ubuntu which supports UEFI and Secure Boot. I spent weeks fighting with getting Linux Mint to work properly in UEFI with Secure Boot disabled getting advise from top professionals - people who know UEFI well enough to write software for it. If the system was installed under UEFI in the first place, you can count on having your share of trouble.

    I contacted HP's tech support and went round and round trying to explain the issues to people reading scripts off a card and checking with their supervisor with every sentence because they simply lacked the ability to understand the issues. In the end, I was told HP doesn't give support for UEFI, and I should please contact Microsoft.

    Which is silly because Microsoft has nothing to do with the bios/UEFI in the machine, they only require it's use. In fact, you will not find one mention about UEFI in any HP documentation - at all. Not on the website, not in the advertising, not in the user Maintenance and Service Guide.

    I wanted answers. I went over the tech supports heads and spoke to someone (I wont mention her name) who is a: Case Manager for "HP AMS TCO Escalations Team" I'm not exactly sure what that team does but they are supposed to have better answers than tech support. She didn't but told me some interesting things.

    One reason all PC's that come preinstalled with a Microsoft operating system is cheaper than regular laptop is that Microsoft subsidizes the cost of the hardware. This amounts to being paid off in my book. It's a legal bribe.

    The case manager claims this is common knowledge and all OEM's have this same agreement with Microsoft. I asked if she could provide me a reference to this online and she said it's not anywhere online that she knows of. I'm not too surprised at this.

    If you read through the Windows 8 Hardware Certification Requirements for Client and Server Systems, found here: Windows Hardware Certification Requirements for Client and Server Systems , you will read about functionality you are supposed to have, that OEM's agree to - that you may not find in your system. The case manager avows all is good because after all, Microsoft signed off on the certification for these systems HP sells - Wonder how they can do this and still have the product pass Microsoft hardware certification? They are scratching each others backs there is no other way to put it. The case manager made a point to tell me several times that because Microsoft subsidizes these systems they do not have to allow support for dual booting with a Non Microsoft system or give UEFI support or even provide any documentation on UEFI.

    What's worse in my opinion is she made a point to state proudly they are very interested in Linux. They have several machines certified to work with Linux and they are even Platinum members of The Linux Foundation. It's not about the freedom to use your system as you want, it's about Money. Many people fear Microsoft doing these things knowingly to keep people from dual booting with Windows 8. I even recently defended Microsoft's rights here because I thought the author went overboard: My problem with the Free Software Foundation

    After talking to this case manager, I'm not so sure I had all the facts. It certainly does look like there is something rotten in town and it's not looking good for dual boot users.

    The best solution to all of this is if you have such a machine make backup copies of your Recovery Disks, uninstall the system completely, and reinstall in Legacy Bios mode. You don't really need UEFI at this stage unless you have a hard drive larger than 2.2 TB's. If you want to do a clean non OEM bundled install you may be able to obtain a Windows 8 ISO from torrent of the disks here: MSDN Subscriber Downloads ( You will still have to re-install all your drivers manually) You cannot download from this site directly if you are not a MSDN partner but if you obtain such a disk you can legally use it because the product keys and CD keys are embedded in the systems bios. This will be true for all OEM machines that come preshipped with Windows 8. The installation disk will check your keys and activate your Windows as legal on first boot. In HP's case, this also will not void the warranty, your OEM may be different.

    Bottom line, if you plan to dual boot with Linux, don't buy a Windows 8 preinstalled machine or be prepared for headaches. Better yet, don't support these companies at all who have these shady business practices. Buy from a company who doesn't partner with Microsoft or build your own machine. I know for me, this HP will be the last I ever buy.


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  2. #2
    whs's Avatar
    whs

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    This UEFI is a scam to protect the territory. All this talk regarding security is nonsense. MS and the OEMs are feeding on each other.

    The solution is to run Linux in virtual - e.g. VMware. Works great for me (Zorin) even running it from an external disk attached via USB.
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  3. #3
    theog's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by whs View Post
    This UEFI is a scam to protect the territory. All this talk regarding security is nonsense. MS and the OEMs are feeding on each other.

    The solution is to run Linux in virtual - e.g. VMware. Works great for me (Zorin) even running it from an external disk attached via USB.
    Secure boot: technical types spreading half-baked information

    Linux distributions are making slow progress on implementing measures to ensure that their images available for download are bootable on hardware that has secure boot turned on.


    Secure boot is a feature of the UEFI, the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, a replacement for the BIOS.

    Microsoft has implemented this feature on hardware certified for Windows 8 in a way that requires the exchange of cryptographic keys; since the company controls the key-signing authority, anyone who wants to create a bootable medium has to necessarily obtain a key from Redmond.

    Misinformation is rife about secure boot, simply because people confuse UEFI with secure boot and think that support for the former means support for the latter. Many so-called technical types are as guilty as others of spreading wrong information.

    mjg59 | Secure Boot distribution support


    “Microsoft's real aim is to kill the aftermarket in used computers that have Win 8 installed by not allowing you to install something other than Windows”
    Microsoft could just have refused to sign UEFI bootloaders. They didn't. That doesn't really fit in with what you're claiming.

    If I buy a computer with Windows 8 and Secure Boot, will I still be able to install Linux? - Super User

    First of all, Secure Boot is not something that Microsoft came up with. They're the first to widely implement it, but they didn't invent it. It's part of the UEFI specification, which is basically a newer replacement for the old BIOS that you're probably used to. UEFI is basically the software that talks between the OS and the hardware. UEFI standards are created by a group called the "UEFI Forum", which is made up of computing industry representatives including Microsoft, Apple, Intel, AMD, and a handful of computer manufacturers.

    Unified Extensible Firmware Interface - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The original motivation for EFI came during early development of the first Intel–HP Itanium systems in the mid-1990s

    uEFI/bios firmware has been around a long time.
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  4. #4



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    Quote Originally Posted by whs View Post
    This UEFI is a scam to protect the territory. All this talk regarding security is nonsense. MS and the OEMs are feeding on each other.

    The solution is to run Linux in virtual - e.g. VMware. Works great for me (Zorin) even running it from an external disk attached via USB.
    Ya know, I resisted that notion for a long time. Just read my above mentioned thread where I say i defended Microsoft. I still won't say that for a fact because i don't know that - but i do know these people have to realize they make it harder on dual booters. I asked the case manager, why dont you put any info about the system having UEFI on ads even at a tiny place at the bottom, or in the documentation.. she said they do not want to make it easy for people to dual boot with Windows. She said that would cause them to lose sales. I understand it's business and both companies are out to make money but I think putting all your ducks in a row and being honest and up front about everything would be better for all. This way it just makes people find fault with them.

    I wouldn't be so uptight about if she had not told me that because Microsoft gives them money they will scratch each others back but when she told me that i lost all respect for both companies.
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  5. #5
    whs's Avatar
    whs

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    Two years ago I bought a $1200 Sony Vaio that could not boot live Linux CDs because of the retarded BIOS. Sony admitted that this was the case but did not want to take the thing back because "It was not designed for Linux". They gave me a 6 month run around.

    I wrote a letter to their CEO and 5 days later I had my money back. Now I will NEVER buy ANY Sony product again.
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  6. #6
    theog's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by whs View Post
    Two years ago I bought a $1200 Sony Vaio that could not boot live Linux CDs because of the retarded BIOS. Sony admitted that this was the case but did not want to take the thing back because "It was not designed for Linux". They gave me a 6 month run around.

    I wrote a letter to their CEO and 5 days later I had my money back. Now I will NEVER buy ANY Sony product again.
    All about doing your homework.



    My OEM test rig,Windows 8 specs:




    Quote Originally Posted by OEM
    OS Provided Windows 8 Pro 64-bit Edition Microsoft Office Preloaded Includes a pre-loaded image of select Microsoft Office 2010 suites. Purchase an Office 2010 Product Key Card or disc to activate preloaded software on this PC. Software Drivers & Utilities, Nero Essentials S, Microsoft Office 2010 Starter, Norton Internet Security (60 days trial), Fujitsu Recovery, Windows 7 / Windows 8 Pro Twin-Pack recovery DVD


    Quote Originally Posted by OEM
    Compatible operating systems

    Microsoft Windows 8, Windows 7 Professional 64-bit, Windows 7 Professional 32-bit, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit, Windows 7 Home Basic (EM) 32-bit,\r\nWindows Vista, Windows XP, \r\nopenSUSE Linux
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  7. #7



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    theog Which OEM are you speaking of? Most don't post that information or bother to tell you they boot in UEFI or Secure Boot mode. Yours doesn't say this either, which can influence sales and tell people it may more difficult to dual boot with such a machine.
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  8. #8
    theog's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dark Rider View Post
    theog Which OEM are you speaking of? Most don't post that information or bother to tell you they boot in UEFI or Secure Boot mode. Yours doesn't say this either, which can influence sales and tell people it may more difficult to dual boot with such a machine.
    It is all about doing your homework.


    As you have a HP, my homework on HP.

    Linux operating systems for HP Workstations

    Ubuntu on HP Models | Ubuntu

    HP's Love/Hate Relationship with Linux Continues | PCWorld
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  9. #9



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    The information you posted was not from HP concerning what systems are supported on my HP model PC. Someone looking for information for their prospective PC which comes preinstalled with Windows 8, from HP's information isn't going to come across that same info. This was my beef that HP should provide better information. I would not expect someone to try to find info on this by looking at what Linux systems HP sells, or whats compatible with Ubuntu or Stephen Vaughn's blog.

    So, what was the OEM that posted the above information you posted?
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  10. #10
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    Lee

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dark Rider View Post
    The information you posted was not from HP concerning what systems are supported on my HP model PC. Someone looking for information for their prospective PC which comes preinstalled with Windows 8, from HP's information isn't going to come across that same info. This was my beef that HP should provide better information. I would not expect someone to try to find info on this by looking at what Linux systems HP sells, or whats compatible with Ubuntu or Stephen Vaughn's blog.

    So, what was the OEM that posted the above information you posted?
    The following is just a question: Why should HP (or any OEM) supply information for installing any other OS other then the one they preinstalled? If someone buys a specific brand with a preinstalled OS with the intention of installing another or different OS then it should be up to that individual to do the research. Again just a question. . .
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Before you Dual Boot - The truth about MS, OEM's & Linux
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