29 Dec 2012 mjg59   » (Master)

No, Linux won't be easy to run on a Microsoft Surface

The Microsoft Surface is a fairly attractive bit of tablet hardware, and as a result people have shown interest in running Linux on it. The immediate problem is that (like many ARM devices) it has a locked-down firmware that will only run signed binaries - unlike many other ARM devices, this is implemented using an existing standard (UEFI Secure Boot). Microsoft provide a signing service for UEFI binaries, so it's tempting to think that getting around this restriction would be as simple as taking an existing Linux bootloader, signing it and then booting. Unfortunately Microsoft's signing service signs binaries using a different key (the "Microsoft Windows UEFI Driver Publisher" key) to the one used to sign Windows, and the Surface doesn't carry that key. Booting Linux on these devices would involve finding a flaw in the firmware and using that to run arbitrary code.

Could this also be a problem on x86? In theory - Microsoft don't require that vendors carry the driver publisher key, and so a system could be Windows 8 certified and still not carry it. It's unlikely to occur in practice, though, since any third party expansion hardware will then fail on that device. As a result, anything with PCIe or Expresscard slots is effectively certain to have this key. If anyone finds any counterexamples, please let me know.

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Syndicated 2012-12-29 18:39:43 from Matthew Garrett

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