Fear and Loathing in Les Rambles/ blog/ SecureBoot in Ubuntu 12.10

The 12.10 release is the first version of Ubuntu that supports Secure Boot out of the box. In what is largely an accident of release timing, from what I can tell (and please correct me if I'm wrong), this actually makes Ubuntu 12.10 the first general release of any OS to support Secure Boot. (Windows 8 of course is also now available; and I'm sure Matthew Garrett, who has been a welcome collaborator throughout this process, has everything in good order for the upcoming Fedora 18 release.)

That's certainly something of a bittersweet achievement. I'm proud of the work we've done to ensure Ubuntu will continue to work out of the box on the consumer hardware of the future; in spite of the predictable accusations on the blogowebs that we've sold out, I sleep well at night knowing that this was the pragmatic decision to make, maximizing users' freedom to use their hardware. All the same, I worry about what the landscape is going to look like in a few years' time. The Ubuntu first-stage EFI bootloader is signed by Microsoft, but the key that is used for signing is one that's recommended by Microsoft, not one that's required by the Windows 8 certification requirements. Will all hardware include this key in practice? The Windows 8 requirements also say that every machine must allow the user to disable Secure Boot. Will manufacturers get this right, and will users be able to make use of it in the event the manufacture didn't include the Microsoft-recommended key? Only time will tell. But I do think the Linux community is going to have to remain engaged on this for some time to come, and possibly hold OEMs' feet to the fire for shipping hardware that will only work with Windows 8.

But that's for the future. For now, we have a technical solution in 12.10 that solves the parts of the problem that we can solve.

This first release gives us preliminary support for booting on Secure Boot, but there's more work to be done to provide a full solution that's sustainable over the long term. We'll be discussing some of that this week at UDS in Copenhagen.

And as part of our committment to enabling new hardware on the current LTS release, we will be backporting this work for inclusion in 12.04.2.

It remains to be decided how Debian will approach the Secure Boot question. At DebConf 12, many people seemed to consider it a foregone conclusion that Debian would never agree to include binaries in main signed by third-party keys. I don't think that should be a given; I think allowing third-party signatures in main for hardware compatibility is consistent with Debian's principles, and refusing to make Debian compatible with this hardware out of the box does nothing to advance user freedom. I hope to see frank discussion post-wheezy about keeping Debian relevant on consumer hardware of the future.