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FSF announces winner of Restricted Boot webcomic contest

por Joshua Gay Published on 05/07/2012 10:41
With over 30,000 signatures to our statement and over a dozen high-quality submissions to our contest, I'm confident our message that Restricted Boot is a mistake has the attention of Microsoft and computer-makers alike. Now we need take the next step of turning this support into tangible results.

BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA -- Thursday, July 5th, 2012 -- The Free Software Foundation (FSF) today announced the winner of its Restricted Boot webcomic contest. The winning entry comes from Erik Steinmann, and will be featured on the front page of FSF.org for the month of July, in addition to being used in other materials published by the organization. Since the comic is freely licensed, the FSF is encouraging others to share it on their own sites as well.

In the Fall of 2011, the FSF issued a statement to computer makers, urging them to reject Restricted Boot technology, concerned that Microsoft's Windows 8 certification standards would impose rules preventing users from installing free software operating systems on most computers. Thus far, over 30,000 confirmed individual signatures have been added to the statement, titled "Stand up for your freedom to install free software." Twenty-five organizations have also expressed their support.

Then in December, Microsoft apparently conceded to public pressure by quietly updating the certification requirements with a mandate that a desktop computer user must be able to control (and disable) the Secure Boot feature on any Windows 8 computer that is not based on ARM technology. This looked like a victory for free software users, as it meant a user could install GNU/Linux or another free software operating system in place of Windows 8. But, Microsoft also added a treacherous certification mandate for makers of ARM-based computers -- such as a tablets, netbooks, and smartphones -- requiring them to build their machines with Restricted Boot technology. Such computers are designed to lock a user into only being able to run Windows 8, absolutely preventing her from being able to install a free software operating system on her computer.

Since smartphones and tablets are some of the most commonly used computers, the FSF launched the Restricted Boot webcomic contest to collect materials that could be used to "raise awareness and put pressure on Microsoft and computer makers."

"I'd like to thank everyone who submitted an entry to the contest, as well as our panel of judges. With over 30,000 signatures to our statement and over a dozen high-quality submissions to our contest, I'm confident our message that Restricted Boot is a mistake has the attention of Microsoft and computer-makers alike. Now we need take the next step of turning this support into tangible results," said Joshua Gay, FSF's licensing and compliance manager.

The FSF also recently published a comprehensive assessment of the issues posed by both Secure Boot and Restricted Boot for GNU/Linux and other free software operating system distributions at www.fsf.org/campaigns/secure-boot-vs-restricted-boot/whitepaper-web, specifically addressing announcements made by Fedora and Ubuntu.

The panel of judges included Chris Webber, Rob Myers, Jason Self, Benjamin Mako Hill, ginger coons, Aaron Williamson, and Richard Stallman.

About Secure Boot vs Restricted Boot

When done correctly, Secure Boot is designed to protect against malware by preventing computers from loading unauthorized binary programs when booting. In practice, this means that computers implementing it won't boot unauthorized operating systems -- including initially authorized systems that have been modified without being re-approved. This could be a feature deserving of the name, as long as the user is able to authorize the programs she wants to use, so she can run free software written and modified by herself or people she trusts. However, we are concerned that Microsoft and hardware manufacturers will implement these boot restrictions in a way that will prevent users from booting anything other than Windows. In this case, we are better off calling the technology Restricted Boot, since such a requirement would be a disastrous restriction on computer users and not a security feature at all.

About the Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software -- particularly the GNU operating system and its GNU/Linux variants -- and free documentation for free software. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software, and its Web sites, located at fsf.org and gnu.org, are an important source of information about GNU/Linux. Donations to support the FSF's work can be made at http://donate.fsf.org. Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA.

Media Contacts

Joshua Gay
Licensing and Compliance Manager
Free Software Foundation
+1 (617) 542 5942 x20 licensing@fsf.org

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