Paying for Freedom (Updated)

There has been much furore over the Microsoft Windows 8 Logo requirements, and how they require UEFI Secure Boot to be enabled, requiring the user to reconfigure their UEFI firmare (on x86 platforms) to be able to boot non-Windows 8 operating systems. People are concerned about the fact that this may be a slippery slope to systems that are locked down completely (as ARM powered Windows 8 systems already will be) with Secure Boot not being allowed to be disabled in order to get the MS Windows logo tick and thus the valuable marketing dollars from Redmond.

Now to me the solution seems obvious – don’t buy systems from people who sell such systems, but instead buy from vendors who believe in making systems that are under your control, and agree that it is you who gets to decide whether or not you want to turn Secure Boot on, or not. Go to companies like ZaReason (who sell around the world and have an Asia Pacific setup in New Zealand now) and System 76 (who used to be US only, but now apparently ship internationally).

The problem seems to be though that people complain that their systems tend to be a bit more expensive than the Dell’s of the world, companies who ship millions of PCs and have huge economies of scale (and power over their OEMs). Because ZaReason and System 76 work on much smaller volumes they don’t get the same deals and so of course their hardware will be more expensive – but that extra cost is actually an investment, a small downpayment on having vendors around in the future who will care about our freedoms to do with our computers as we see fit.

If we don’t make that investment in these companies then we will have no right to complain should we suddenly wake up one morning and find we have a choice between a beige PC that will only boot Windows 8 or later (and the ability to get your own code blessed so it will boot has gone away) and a shiny white Apple iProduct that will allow you to install any of the applications from the App store, but nothing outside of that walled garden.

So I have made my choices, when my desktop PC came a cropper and cooked itself due to the Linux leap second bug I bought a ZaReason Valta desktop and I then replaced my 9 year old laptop with a shiny new UltraLap 430 ultrabook which, I have to say, absolutely rocks with 8GB of RAM and an i5 Ivy Bridge CPU. :-)

I believe freedom is worth investing in.

Update:

As spufidoo mentions in the comments the situation for desktops is not too bad at present whilst you can build your own, though there is always the chance that you end up with motherboards shipping with Secure Boot enabled and only Microsofts key installed (“why would you want anything else?”).

More of an issue are laptops and tablets where you can’t really build your own and you rely on companies to sell you the finished product. This was really the issue I had in mind when I wrote the article but failed to articulate it. We’ve already seen examples of the issues around tablets being locked down with the Nook Tablet from Barnes and Noble (though as the linked article reports people have worked around that now) so unless we support projects like the ZaTab where the package includes the source code we are purely relying on the munificence of companies for whom freedom is not the first thing they are thinking about.