Saturday, 12 January 2013 11:20

Fedora still has issues with secure boot

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Three days before its scheduled release, Fedora 18 still has some issues when confronted with a computer that is running Windows 8 with secure boot enabled, if one goes by the latest testing image available online.  (Key points in this article are disputed by Fedora developer Matthew Garrett - see his retort at the end)

The Fedora project announced on January 9 that it would be releasing Fedora 18 on January 15, US time.

While the image mentioned above can now be installed on a secure boot-enabled machine unlike the last time I tried with the previous testing image, one cannot reclaim space from a hard drive, that has plenty to spare, for installation.

During the installation procedure, once one chooses the option of reclaiming space, one is presented with the hard drives in one's machine.

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But after choosing one of these, and then selecting any partition on said disk, the reclaim space option remains greyed out. The only option available is to delete the partition - and this cannot be done unless one wants to blow away Windows 8 altogether.

A similar problem presents itself on a disk where a GNU/Linux distribution is present; the reclaim space option remains greyed out when one selects a partition. I had to blow away an Ubuntu 12.10 installation on a second hard drive in order to install Fedora.

The two disks in my test machine do not lack for space: Windows 8 is installed on a 250GB drive and Ubuntu was installed on a 500GB drive.

Before I continue, for the uninitiated, secure boot is a feature of UEFI, the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, the new replacement for the BIOS. Microsoft has implemented secure boot, and required hardware vendors to turn it on on any machines that are loaded with Windows 8.

Microsoft's implementation requires the exchange of cryptographic keys to verify that the operating system which is trying to boot on a given machine is authorised to do so.

The keys are issued by a Microsoft-authorised entity, Verisign. Anybody who wishes to obtain a key to boot an operating system on Windows 8 hardware needs to buy one from this same entity.

There is another issue with Fedora; after installation, it makes itself the default operating system and does not include Windows 8 in the grub boot menu list it presents after starting up. I had to go into the UEFI and change the boot order to make Windows 8 the default as I have a 17-year-old who uses my test machine to play Starcraft II.

One has to adopt a round-about way to boot Fedora - boot into Windows 8, select the restart button with the shift key pressed down and then select an alternate boot location.

Matthew Garrett disputes the main points of this article. In an email to iTWire he writes: "The article makes two claims - firstly, that the author is unable to reclaim space from existing partitions, and secondly,Windows 8 is not automatically included in the boot menu. Neither of these issues are related to Secure Boot."


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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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