Friday, July 20, 2012

UEFI and the right to read

If you haven't read it before, I suggest that it is worth your while to read the short short story the Right to Read.  It is set in 2096, but the issues it speaks to are starting to happen right now.

Specifically, there is a battle over the control over your computer hardware.

Why does this matter?  And what on earth does this have to do with the theme of this blog?

It matters because your computer is your information machine.  If someone else has ultimate control over it, that means you do not, and that means someone else is controlling your information machine.  I don't think you have to be especially paranoid or technical to appreciate what that can mean.  You can see it today with "locked down" cell phones.  Not only does it keep you from doing what you want with  hardware you own, but it gives other people control over the software you run, and thus ultimately the information you have access to.

Software = information.

The new UEFI scheme is one way of "signing" the computer operating system (Windows, Linux, OSX, etc.) that runs on your computer, so that only signed (encrypted) binaries can be run.  There are problems with this when it is not YOU who are doing the signing.

Currently, Microsoft is negotiating with hardware manufacturers to include Microsoft's keys with new computers.  This means that, out of the box, only Microsoft's software will run.  It means, quite literally, that ultimate control of your computer will belong to Microsoft, and not you.

If you think this is a fucking joke, then you don't know what you're talking about.

In the short term, x86 PC's, such as most desktops today, will have an option to bypass this.  But in the short term, ARM machines will not.  Most phones have ARM chips, and I'm here to tell you that ARM desktop PC's are right around the corner.

This is only a way for Microsoft to assert and force their presence in the computer market, as they wane in relevance.  You should not stand for it if you have any self respect.

The relevance to this blog is that this is also a way of forcing Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) software on you, which is another way of denying you access to information.  This is precisely why expanding fair use in copyright is so important--to render these crazy sociopathic regimes useless.

The long and the short of it is it means you will not be allowed to know what software is running on your computer.  And believe me, as a software developer I can assure you, this is not a thing you want to have happen.

Or have you not noticed?

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