Older blog entries for mjg59 (starting at number 364)

Booting signed versions of Linux on Windows 8 machines

Some people have complained that they can't install Linux on new machines because their firmware won't let them choose a boot device. This is part of Windows 8's fast boot support - the keyboard may not be initialised until after the OS has started. To deal with this, insert the install media and reboot your computer. Wait for Windows 8 to start. While holding down shift, click on the power icon and click on restart. When the menu appears, click "Use a device" and then click your install media. If it's listed more than once, choose the one that says "UEFI" in front of it. Your system will now restart and boot off the install media.

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Syndicated 2012-12-28 00:54:35 from Matthew Garrett

Secure Boot distribution support

It's after Christmas, and some number of people doubtless ended up with Windows 8 PCs and may want to install Linux on them. If you'd like to do that without fiddling with firmware settings, here are your options.

  • Ubuntu 12.10
    The 64-bit version of Ubuntu 12.10 ships with an older version of Shim that's been signed by Microsoft. It should boot out of the box on most systems, but it doesn't have some of the most recent EFI patches that improve compatibility on some machines. Grab it here.
  • Fedora 18
    Fedora 18 isn't quite released yet, but the latest 64-bit test builds include a Microsoft signed copy of the current version of Shim, including the MOK functionality described here. Fedora 18 has some additional EFI support patches that have just been merged into mainline, which should improve compatibility on some machines - especially ones with Radeon graphics. It also has improved support for booting on Macs. You can get it here, but do bear in mind that it's a test release.
  • Sabayon
    According to the wiki, Sabayon now supports UEFI Secure Boot out of the box. I don't know if the current CD images do, though. My understanding is that it's based on the Microsoft signed Shim I discussed here, and you'll have to manually install the key once you've booted the install media. Straightforward enough.
  • Other distributions
    Suse will be using a version of Shim signed by Microsoft, but I don't think it's in any pre-release versions yet. Debian have just merged UEFI support into their installer, but don't have any UEFI Secure Boot support at the moment. I'm not sure what other distributions are planning on doing, but let me know and I'll update the list.
  • The Linux Foundation loader
    The Linux Foundation have still to obtain a signed copy of their bootloader. There's no especially compelling reason to use it - the use case it supports is where you have users who can follow instructions sufficiently to press "y" but not to choose to enrol a key. The most interesting feature it has is the ability to use the MOK database via the usual UEFI LoadImage and StartImage calls, which means bootloaders like gummiboot work. Unfortunately it implements this by hooking into low-level functionality that's not actually required to be present, so relying on this may be somewhat dubious.

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Syndicated 2012-12-28 00:52:48 from Matthew Garrett

Secure Boot bootloader for distributions available now

I'm pleased to say that a usable version of shim is now available for download. As I discussed here, this is intended for distributions that want to support secure boot but don't want to deal with Microsoft. To use it, rename shim.efi to bootx64.efi and put it in /EFI/BOOT on your UEFI install media. Drop MokManager.efi in there as well. Finally, make sure your bootloader binary is called grubx64.efi and put it in the same directory.

Now generate a certificate and put the public half as a binary DER file somewhere on your install media. On boot, the end-user will be prompted with a 10-second countdown and a menu. Choose "Enroll key from disk" and then browse the filesystem to select the key and follow the enrolment prompts. Any bootloader signed with that key will then be trusted by shim, so you probably want to make sure that your grubx64.efi image is signed with it.

If you want, you're then free to impose any level of additional signing restrictions - it's entirely possible to use this signing as the basis of a complete chain of trust, including kernel lockdowns and signed module loading. However, since the end-user has explicitly indicated that they trust your code, you're under no obligation to do so. You should make it clear to your users what level of trust they'll be able to place in their system after installing your key, if only to allow them to make an informed decision about whether they want to or not.

This binary does not contain any built-in distribution certificates. It does contain a certificate that was generated at build time and used to sign MokManager - you'll need to accept my assurance that the private key was deleted immediately after the build was completed. Other than that, it will only trust any keys that are either present in the system db or installed by the end user.

A couple of final notes: As of 17:00 EST today, I am officially (rather than merely effectively) no longer employed by Red Hat, and this binary is being provided by me rather than them, so don't ask them questions about it. Special thanks to everyone at Suse who came up with the MOK concept and did most of the implementation work - without them, this would have been impossible. Thanks also to Peter Jones for his work on debugging and writing a signing tool, and everyone else at Red Hat who contributed valuable review feedback.

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Syndicated 2012-12-01 01:43:10 from Matthew Garrett

More in the series of bizarre UEFI bugs

A (well, now former) coworker let me know about a problem he was having with a Lenovo Thinkcentre M92p. It booted Fedora UEFI install media fine, but after an apparently successful installation refused to boot. UEFI installs on Windows worked perfectly. Secure Boot was quickly ruled out, but this could still have been a number of things. The most interesting observation was that the Fedora boot option didn't appear in the firmware boot menu at all, but Windows did. We spent a little while comparing the variable contents, gradually ruling out potential issues - Linux was writing an entry that had an extra 6 bytes in a structure, for instance[1], and a sufficiently paranoid firmware implementation may have been tripping up on that. Fixing that didn't help, though. Finally we tried just taking the Windows entry and changing the descriptive string. And it broke.

Every UEFI boot entry has a descriptive string. This is used by the firmware when it's presenting a menu to users - instead of "Hard drive 0" and "USB drive 3", the firmware can list "Windows Boot Manager" and "Fedora Linux". There's no reason at all for the firmware to be parsing these strings. But the evidence seemed pretty strong - given two identical boot entries, one saying "Windows Boot Manager" and one not, only the first would work. At this point I downloaded a copy of the firmware and started poking at it. Turns out that yes, actually, there is a function that compares the descriptive string against "Windows Boot Manager" and appears to return an error if it doesn't match. What's stranger is that it also checks for "Red Hat Enterprise Linux" and lets that one work as well.

This is, obviously, bizarre. A vendor appears to have actually written additional code to check whether an OS claims to be Windows before it'll let it boot. Someone then presumably tested booting RHEL on it and discovered that it didn't work. Rather than take out that check, they then addded another check to let RHEL boot as well. We haven't yet verified whether this is an absolute string match or whether a prefix of "Red Hat Enterprise Linux" is sufficient, and further examination of the code may reveal further workarounds. For now, if you want to run Fedora[2] on these systems you're probably best off changing the firmware to perform a legacy boot.

[1] src/include/efi.h: uint8_t padding[6]; /* Emperically needed */, says the efibootmgr source code. Unhelpful.
[2] Or Ubuntu, or Suse, or…

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Syndicated 2012-11-15 05:12:22 from Matthew Garrett

VMware are as bad as Microsoft

Everything here applies to this as well. Thanks, VMware. In Microsoft's case it turned out that nothing was using that value and it could be replaced without breaking things. With luck that's true here as well.

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Syndicated 2012-11-13 05:46:52 from Matthew Garrett

Last day at Red Hat

After four and a half years at Red Hat, I'm about to take the three weeks of holiday I've built up and am then heading off to Nebula at the beginning of December. I'm still planning on being active in UEFI and Secure Boot development, and don't expect anything to change in terms of my Fedora involvement. It's been a fun time here, so just imagine that I'm writing something about exciting future challenges while I go back to saying goodbye to people.

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Syndicated 2012-11-09 17:02:04 from Matthew Garrett

A detailed technical description of Shim

Shim is the first stage bootloader we've been implementing for supporting Secure Boot. It's called Shim because it serves as an object to fit the gap between the Microsoft trust root and our own trust root. As originally envisaged it would do nothing other than load and execute appropriately signed binaries, but it's got a little more complicated than that now. It is, however, basically feature complete at this point - I don't expect it to grow significantly further.

(For those of you following along at home, the Shim source code I'm talking about is here)

First, it checks whether the user has disabled local signature verification in check_mok_sb(). This is done by reading the MokSBState UEFI variable and verifying that it has the correct variable attributes, ensuring that it was created in the trusted boot services environment. If so, and if it's set appropriately, signature verification is disabled for the rest of Shim. Shim then pauses for a couple of seconds while displaying a message indicating that it's running in insecure mode.

Next, Shim checks whether the user has set any variables that indicate that a Mok request has been made in check_mok_request(). If so, it launches MokManager. The mechanism by which this is done is described later.

Shim then copies the Mok key database into a runtime variable, which makes it accessible to the kernel (mirror_mok_list()). The kernel can then use the Mok keys when performing module signature verification. Next, as the last step before launching the next stage bootloader, Shim installs a UEFI protocol that permits other applications to call back into Shim. We're now ready to branch off from Shim into the actual bootloader.

To do this, Shim has to do a few things. First, we need to get the bootloader off disk. This involves finding Shim's path, which we can do by opening the loaded image protocol on Shim's image handle, turning that into a string, walking backwards along it until we find a directory separator, stripping the filename and appending the path to the second stage bootloader. This is then turned back into a binary device path, all of this happening in generate_path(). The binary is then read off disk in load_image(), using the simple filesystem protocol. We open the device, open a reference to the file, check how large the file is, allocate a buffer to hold the file and then read it off disk into that buffer. Everything so far has been fairly straightforward, but now things get more complicated.

handle_image() is the real meat of Shim. First it has to examine the header data in read_header(), copying the relevant bits into a context structure that will be used later. Some basic sanity checks on the binary are also performed here. If we're running in secure mode (ie, Secure Boot is enabled and we haven't been toggled into insecure mode) we then need to verify that the binary matches the signature and hasn't been blacklisted.

verify_buffer() has to implement the Microsoft Authenticode specification, which details which sections of the binary have to be hashed and in which order. The actual hashing is done in generate_hash(), which calls into the crypto code to add each binary section to the hashed data. The comments in generate_hash() describe what's going on there clearly enough. The crypto code itself is a copy of the crypto library extracted from the Tiano source tree. It's a relatively thin layer on top of OpenSSL, so the code's been fairly well tested.

Once we have the hash, we need to verify the signature. First, we ensure that the Mok database hasn't been modified from the OS (verify_mok()). Next, we check whether the binary's hash or signature have been blacklisted (check_blacklist()). This is done for each of the SHA1 and SHA256 hashes of the binary (the two hashes implemented in Tiano) and the certificate. If any of these match an entry in the dbx variable or a built-in blacklist, Shim will refuse to run them. Next, we simply do the same for the whitelist. If the binary's hash is either in the db variable or the Mok list, or if it's signed with a certificate that chains back to an entry in either db or the Mok list, we'll run it. Finally, the signature is checked against any built-in keys. Certificate verification is carried out with the AuthenticodeVerify() function, which again comes from Tiano's crypto library and is mostly implemented in OpenSSL.

If the binary passed signature validation we return to handle_image() and now load the binary's sections into their desired addresses. That buffer is handed to relocate_coff() which runs through the binary's relocation entries and fixes them up. There's one last subtlety, which is that because we've been fixing this up by hand, the image handle still refers to the shim binary. We fix the ImageBase and ImageSize values in the loaded image protocol to match the newly relocated binary, which is vital because otherwise grub is unable to find its built in modules. Finally, we jump into the binary's entry point. What the binary does next is up to it - if it's a bootloader, there's a good chance that it'll simply launch an OS and we'll never return. If it does return, we restore ImageBase and ImageSize, uninstall the protocol we installed and exit ourselves. If Shim exits (either because the second stage bootloader wasn't present, didn't verify, or exited) then control will simply pass on to the next boot option in the UEFI priority list. If there's nothing else, the platform will do something platform defined.

And that's how Shim works.

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Syndicated 2012-10-30 19:55:18 from Matthew Garrett

An overview of our Secure Boot implementation

I've written rather a lot about how we're implementing our Secure Boot support, but there's been a range of subtle changes over time. Here's an overview of how it all fits together.

Secure Boot and signing

Secure Boot is part of the UEFI specification. When enabled, systems will refuse to boot any UEFI executables (such as an OS bootloader) unless they've been signed by a trusted key. The only trusted key effectively guaranteed to be present is Microsoft's, and Microsoft will sign binaries if you have access to the Windows hardware dev center. You gain access to this by purchasing a certificate from Verisign that verifies your identity and then use that to create a developer account at the Sysdev website. Once you've agreed to the legal contracts, you can submit a UEFI executable and Microsoft will then send you back a signed one. The signature is added to the end of the binary, so it's trivial to verify that your executable hasn't otherwise been modified in the process.

Avoiding signing round trips

We didn't want to have to get binaries re-signed every time we updated our bootloader or kernel, so we came up with a compromise approach. We implemented a shim bootloader (cunningly called "Shim") which is signed by Microsoft and includes a copy of a public key that's under our control. Shim will launch any binary signed with either a key installed in the system firmware or the public key built into it. This allows us to build and sign all other binaries ourselves.

Preventing Secure Boot circumvention

Secure Boot is intended to prevent scenarios where untrusted code can be run before an OS kernel. Locking down the boot environment avoids the simple case of using a modified bootloader, and requiring that the kernel also be signed avoids simply booting arbitrary attack code that looks roughly like a kernel but does nothing to prevent the more complex case of using a running kernel to launch another kernel. To do that we've had to restrict the behaviour of the kernel in Secure Boot environments. Direct hardware access from userspace has been blocked, and modules must be signed by a key the kernel trusts.

Providing user control over trust

Microsoft requires that it be possible to modify the key database on all Windows-certified x86 systems, but the UI to do so may be inconsistent and awkward. Suse developed a plan to avoid this, involving adding an additional key database to the system. The user enrols a key from the running OS and enters a password. On the next reboot, shim detects that a key is awaiting enrolment and drops to a prompt. If the user does nothing or just hits enter, the system continues to boot. If the user chooses to enrol a new key, the user is asked to re-enter the password in order to confirm that they're the same user that initiated the original request. If successful, the key is then copied into a boot services variable which cannot be directly modified from the OS. Anything signed with the user's key will then be trusted.

Providing user control over signature verification

Some users (such as kernel developers) may be hampered by Secure Boot - forcing them to sign every new kernel they build is time consuming and unhelpful. Windows-certified x86 hardware will be required to provide an option to disable Secure Boot, but again that UI may be inconsistent. We've added an option where a user can generate a request to disable signature validation, again requiring a password. On next boot the user must explicitly choose the "Toggle signature validation" menu item and will then be requested to enter three randomly chosen characters from their password. After confirmation, signature validation in Shim will then be disabled.

Supporting other distributions

Not all distributions will want (or be able) to sign via Microsoft. They'll be able to take any other signed version of Shim and put it on their boot media. If their second stage bootloader is signed by a key that Shim doesn't trust, Shim will pop up a menu permitting the user to choose to enrol a new key off the install media. The user can select this, navigate a file browser and select the key. After confirmation, the key will be added to Shim's trusted key list. The user can then install the distribution.

Third party modules

There's two approaches here. The first is for the third party to provide a module key that the user can install into Shim's database. The kernel will import this at boot time and trust any modules signed with it. The second is for the third party to provide a key signed by Microsoft. David Howells has come up with with the idea of utilising this approach of embedding a public key in a pe binary, with the kernel then having support for importing this key, noticing that it's signed by a trusted key and adding it to the kernel keyring.

How about ARM?

We're not planning on supporting Secure Boot on ARM, for two reasons. The first is that Microsoft require that it be impossible to disable Secure Boot on ARM, and we don't want to support systems unless it's guaranteed that the user will be able to run what they want. The second is that there's no strong expectation that the signing key used for signing third party UEFI binaries will be present on ARM systems.

What are other distributions doing?

As far as I know, Suse and Fedora will be shipping the same code. Ubuntu is shipping an older version of Shim but should pick up the local key management code in the next release. The only significant difference is that Ubuntu doesn't require that kernel modules be signed.

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Syndicated 2012-10-30 19:08:59 from Matthew Garrett

Getting started with UEFI development

It's not difficult to write a UEFI application under Linux. You'll need three things:

  • An installed copy of the gnu-efi library and headers
  • A copy of the UEFI specification from here
  • Something running UEFI (OVMF is a good option if you don't have any UEFI hardware)

So, let's write a trivial UEFI application. Here's one from the gnu-efi source tree:
#include <efi.h>
#include <efilib.h>

efi_main (EFI_HANDLE image, EFI_SYSTEM_TABLE *systab)

        conout = systab->ConOut;
        InitializeLib(image, systab);
        uefi_call_wrapper(conout->OutputString, 2, conout, L"Hello World!\n\r");

        return EFI_SUCCESS;
The includes are fairly obvious. efi.h gives you UEFI functions defined by the specification, and efilib.h gives you functions provided by gnu-efi. The runtime will call efi_main() rather than main(), so that's our main function. It returns an EFI_STATUS which will in turn be returned to whatever executed the binary. The EFI_HANDLE image is a pointer to the firmware's context for this application, which is used in certain calls. The EFI_SYSTEM_TABLE *systab is a pointer to the UEFI system table, which in turn points to various other tables.

So far so simple. Now things get interesting. The heart of the UEFI programming model is a set of protocols that provide interfaces. Each of these interfaces is typically a table of function pointers. In this case, we're going to use the simple text protocol to print some text. First, we get a pointer to the simple text output table. This is always referenced from the system table, so we can simply assign it. InitializeLib() just initialises some internal gnu-efi functions - it's not technically required if we're purely calling native UEFI functions as we are here, but it's good style since forgetting it results in weird crashes.

Anyway. We now have conout, a pointer to a SIMPLE_TEXT_OUTPUT_INTERFACE structure. This is described in section 11.4 of the UEFI spec, but looks like this:
    EFI_TEXT_STRING OutputString;
The majority of these are functions - the only exception is the SIMPLE_TEXT_OUTPUT_MODE pointer, which points to the current mode. In an ideal world you'd be able to just call these directly, but sadly UEFI and Linux calling conventions are different and we need some thunking. That's where the uefi_call_function() call comes in. This takes a UEFI function as its first argument (in this case, conout->OutputString), the number of arguments (2, in this case) and then the arguments. Checking the spec for OutputString, we see this:
    IN CHAR16 *String
The first argument is a pointer to the specific instance of the simple text output protocol. This permits multiple instances of the same protocol to exist on a single machine, without having to duplicate all of the code. The second argument is simply a UCS-2 string. Our conout pointer is a pointer to the protocol, so we pass that as the first argument. For the second argument, we pass L"Hello World!\n", with the L indicating that this is a wide string rather than a simple 8-bit string. uefi_call_function() then rearranges these arguments into the appropriate calling convention and calls the UEFI function. The firmware then prints "Hello World!" on the screen. Success.

(Warning: uefi_call_function() does no type checking on its arguments, so if you pass in a struct instead of a pointer it'll build without complaint and then give you a bizarre error at runtime)

Finally, we clean up by simply returning EFI_SUCCESS. Nothing more for us to worry about. That's the simple case. What about a more complicated one? Let's do something with that EFI_HANDLE that got passed into efi_main().
#include <efi.h>
#include <efilib.h>

efi_main (EFI_HANDLE image, EFI_SYSTEM_TABLE *systab)
        EFI_LOADED_IMAGE *loaded_image = NULL;
        EFI_GUID loaded_image_protocol = LOADED_IMAGE_PROTOCOL;
        EFI_STATUS status;

        InitializeLib(image, systab);
        status = uefi_call_wrapper(systab->BootServices->HandleProtocol,
                                (void **) &loaded_image);
        if (EFI_ERROR(status)) {
                Print(L"handleprotocol: %r\n", status);

        Print(L"Image base        : %lx\n", loaded_image->ImageBase);
        Print(L"Image size        : %lx\n", loaded_image->ImageSize);
        Print(L"Image file        : %s\n", DevicePathToStr(loaded_image->FilePath));
        return EFI_SUCCESS;
UEFI handles can have multiple protocols attached to them. A handle may represent a piece of physical hardware, or (as in this case) it can represent a software object. In this case we're going to get a pointer to the loaded image protocol that's associated with the binary we're running. To do this we call the HandleProtocol() function from the Boot Services table. Boot services are documented in section 6 of the UEFI specification and are the interface to the majority of UEFI functionality. HandleProtocol takes an image and a protocol identifier, and hands back a pointer to the protocol. UEFI protocol identifiers are all GUIDs and defined in the specification. If you call HandleProtocol on a handle that doesn't implement the protocol you request, you'll simply get an error back in the status argument. No big deal.

The loaded image protocol is fairly different to the simple text output protocol in that it's almost entirely data rather than function pointers. In this case we're printing the address that our executable was loaded at and the size of our relocated executable. Finally, we print the path of the file. UEFI device paths are documented in section 9.2 of the UEFI specification. They're a binary representation of a file path, which may include the path of the device that the file is on. DevicePathToStr is a gnu-efi helper function that converts the objects it understands into a textual representation. It doesn't cover the full set of specified UEFI device types, so in some corner cases it may print "Unknown()".

That covers how to use protocols attached to the image handle. How about protocols that are attached to other handles? In that case we can do something like this:
#include <efi.h>
#include <efilib.h>

efi_main (EFI_HANDLE image_handle, EFI_SYSTEM_TABLE *systab)
        EFI_STATUS status;

        InitializeLib(image_handle, systab);

        status = uefi_call_wrapper(systab->BootServices->LocateProtocol,

        Print(L"Framebuffer base is at %lx\n", gop->Mode->FrameBufferBase);

        return EFI_SUCCESS;
This will find the first (where first is an arbitrary platform ordering) instance of a protocol and return a pointer to it. If there may be multiple instances of a protocol (as there often are with the graphics output protocol) you should use LocateHandleBuffer() instead. This returns an array of handles that implement the protocol you asked for - you can then use HandleProtocol() to give you the instance on the specific handle. There's various helpers in gnu-efi like LibLocateHandle() that make these boilerplate tasks easier. You can find the full list in /usr/include/efi/efilib.h.

That's a very brief outline of how to use basic UEFI functionality. The spec documents the full set of UEFI functions available to you, including things like direct block access, filesystems and networking. The process is much the same in all cases - you locate the handle that you want to interact with, open the protocol that's installed on it and then make calls using that protocol.

Building these examples

Building these examples is made awkward due to UEFI wanting PE-COFF binaries and Linux toolchains building ELF binaries. You'll want a makefile something like this:
ARCH            = $(shell uname -m | sed s,i[3456789]86,ia32,)
LIB_PATH        = /usr/lib64
EFI_INCLUDE     = /usr/include/efi

EFI_PATH        = /usr/lib64/gnuefi
EFI_CRT_OBJS    = $(EFI_PATH)/crt0-efi-$(ARCH).o
EFI_LDS         = $(EFI_PATH)/elf_$(ARCH)_efi.lds

CFLAGS          = -fno-stack-protector -fpic -fshort-wchar -mno-red-zone $(EFI_INCLUDES)
ifeq ($(ARCH),x86_64)

LDFLAGS         = -nostdlib -znocombreloc -T $(EFI_LDS) -shared -Bsymbolic -L$(EFI_PATH) -L$(LIB_PATH) \
                  $(EFI_CRT_OBJS) -lefi -lgnuefi

TARGET  = test.efi
OBJS    = test.o
SOURCES = test.c

all: $(TARGET)

test.so: $(OBJS)
       $(LD) -o $@ $(LDFLAGS) $^ $(EFI_LIBS)

%.efi: %.so
        objcopy -j .text -j .sdata -j .data \
                -j .dynamic -j .dynsym  -j .rel \
                -j .rela -j .reloc -j .eh_frame \
                --target=efi-app-$(ARCH) $^ $@
There's rather a lot going on here, but the important stuff is the CFLAGS line and everything after that. First, we need to disable the stack protection code - there's nothing in the EFI runtime for it to call into, so we'll build a binary with unresolved symbols otherwise. Second, we need to build position independent code, since UEFI may relocate us anywhere. short-wchar is needed to indicate that strings like L"Hi!" should be 16 bits per character, rather than gcc's default of 32 bits per character. no-red-zone tells the compiler not to assume that there's 256 bytes of stack available to it. Without this, the firmware may modify stack that the binary was depending on.

The linker arguments are less interesting. We simply tell it not to link against the standard libraries, not to merge relocation sections, and to link in the gnu-efi runtime code. Nothing very exciting. What's more interesting is that we build a shared library. The reasoning here is that we want to perform all our linking, but we don't want to build an executable - the Linux executable runtime code would be completely pointless in a UEFI binary. Once we have our .so file, we use objcopy to pull out the various sections and rebuild them into a PE-COFF binary that UEFI will execute.

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Syndicated 2012-10-30 15:34:47 from Matthew Garrett

Ted Ts'o is a rape apologist and why this matters

(This post contains some discussion of rape and sexual assault but does not go into any specifics)

There was a brief controversy at Linux.conf.au back in 2011. The final keynote speaker gave a compelling presentation on online privacy, including some slides containing sexualised imagery. This was against the terms of the conference policies, and resulted in an apology from the conference organisers and the speaker. The situation was unfortunate but well handled, and that should have been the end of it.

Afterwards, there was some pushback on the conference mailing list. Concerns were raised about the policy being overly restrictive and the potential for it to be used to stifle speech that influential groups disagreed with. I don't agree with these arguments, but discussion of why policies have been implemented is completely natural and provides an opportunity for a community to determine what its expected standards are.

And then Ted Ts'o effectively called rape victims liars[1]. At first I assumed that this was just some sort of horrific failure to understand the implications of what he was saying, so I emailed him to check. The reply I got drew a pretty clear distinction between the case of a drunk college student raping another drunk college student in their room and the case of knifepoint rape in a dark park. You know, the difference between accidental rape and rape rape. The difference between the one any of us might have done and the one that only bad people do. Legitimate rape and the "rape" that those feminists talk about. The distinction that lets rapists convince themselves that they didn't really rape anyone because they weren't holding a knife at the time.

Ted Ts'o argues that only a small percentage of rape really counts as what people think of as rape. Ted Ts'o is a rape apologist.

There's an ongoing scandal in the UK at the moment. A well known DJ, Jimmy Savile, died last year. He grew up in a working class family, but through hard work and natural talent was one of the most significant figures in promoting pop music in the UK in the 50s and 60s, and worked in various parts of the BBC for the best part of 30 years. He spent significant amounts of time raising money for charity, and it's estimated that he raised over £40 million for various causes. Since his death, around 300 people have accused him of sexually abusing them. The BBC is desperately trying to explain why it cancelled an expose shortly before it aired. Multiple people who worked there at the time claim that everyone knew he was involved in indecent activities, but saying anything would risk both their career and the charities that depended on his fundraising. Nobody said anything, and he was allegedly free to continue his abuse.

Ted Ts'o is a significant figure in the Linux kernel community. He has expressed abhorrent beliefs that damage that community. Condemnation was limited to a mailing list with limited readership, meaning, effectively, that nobody said anything. Last week the Ada Initiative published a blog post pointing out the damage that did, and I realised that my effective silence was not only helping to alienate 50% of the population from involving themselves with Linux, it was also implicitly supporting my community leadership. I was giving the impression that I was basically fine with our community leaders telling people that it wasn't really rape if you were both drunk enough. I was increasing the chances of members of our community being sexually assaulted. Silence is endorsement. Saying nothing is not ok.

In the absence of an apology and explanation from Ted, I'll be interacting with him to the bare minimum that I'm compelled to as a result of my job. I won't be attending any Linux Foundation events he's involved in organising. If I'm running any events, I won't be inviting him. At a time when we're finally making progress in making our community more open and supportive, we don't need leaders who undermine that work. Support organisations who encourage that progress, not the people who help drag us back.


[1]The original archive has vanished. I've put up a copy of the relevant thread here. Throughout, Ted states that he's actually arguing against the idea that women need to be frightened of sexual assault, and not against the definition of rape. Except saying things like This one does a pretty good job of taking apart the Koss / Ms. Magazine study, which is the source for the "1 in 4" number. For example, it points out that over half of those cases were ones where undergraduates were plied with alcohol, and did not otherwise involve using physical force or other forms of coercion is difficult to read in any way other than "Half of the people you're counting as having been raped haven't really been raped", and favourably referring to an article that asserts that the rate of false rape reports is probably close to 50% is pretty strong support for the idea that many rape victims are liars.

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Syndicated 2012-10-29 21:06:43 from Matthew Garrett

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