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The Free Software Foundation says it strongly rejects any approach to computer security that involves placing trust in Microsoft or any other proprietary software company.

Instead, the organisation, in a white paper on Microsoft's secure boot proposal and the fallout thereof, said users should be able to both easily disable secure boot and to use their own security keys in order that they could be the ultimate decision-maker on which software should run on their computers.

FSF executive director John Sullivan said: "We will do what we can to help all free software operating system distributions follow this path, and we will work on a political level to reduce the practical difficulties that adhering to these principles might pose for expedient installation of free software.

"The FSF does want everyone to be able to easily install a free operating system - our ultimate goal is for everyone to do so, and the experience of trying out free software is a powerful way to communicate the importance of free software ideals to new people.

"But we cannot, in the name of expediency or simplicity, accept systems that direct users to put their trust in entities whose goal it is to extinguish free software. If that's the tradeoff, we better just turn Secure Boot off."

The white paper pointed out that its GPLv3 licence, the updated version of the GPLv2 under which the Linux kernel is issued, protected users against onerous requirements such as those being made in the name of secure boot; when one bought or rented a computer running GPLv3 software the licence protected one's right to run modified versions of that software on that computer.

"GPLv2 always required that users be able to do this, but one of the improvements in GPLv3 ensures that the freedoms all GPL versions are meant to provide can't be taken away by hardware that refuses to run modified software," Sullivan said.

Under the GPLv3 one was required to provide clear instructions and functionality for users to fully modify or disable boot restrictions so that they could run their own software on such a system.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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