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Windows 8 Update: OS gets friendly with Linux

Microsoft's initial boot security for Windows 8 made it hard to start other operating systems on Win8 machines, but the company has worked out a way for Linux and other OSes to clear the secure boot sequence on such devices.

The secure boot, called Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), requires a key for the boot firmware to hand off to the operating system, the idea being to make sure the operating system isn't corrupt.

VISUAL TOUR: Windows 8 Release Preview

Microsoft's initial UEFI implementation was restrictive by making it difficult for non-Windows operating systems to get their keys included in the firmware, says Tim Burke, vice president of Linux engineering for Red Hat, in a blog. But that's all been cleared up with some cooperation among interested parties, he says.

Now the keys can be registered via Microsoft key signing and registry services for $99. That way participating vendors can get their keys accepted by the machines so their OSes will boot. "I'm certainly not a huge UEFI fan, but at the same time I see why you might want to have signed bootup etc," Linux kernel creator Linus Torvalds (pictured) is quoted as saying in the ZDNet Linux and Open Source blog. "And if it's only $99 to get a key for Fedora, I don't see what the huge deal is."

Power sipping video hardware

Windows 8-certified hardware will offload video decoding to a hardware subsystem, according to the Building Windows 8 blog.

"This allows us to significantly lower CPU usage, resulting in smoother video playback and a longer battery life, as the dedicated media hardware is much more efficient than the CPU at media decoding," Scott Manchester, group program manager for Microsoft's Media Platform and Technologies team, writes in the blog. "This improves all scenarios that require video decoding, including playback, transcoding, encoding, and capture scenarios."

A chart in the blog (below) indicates the hardware will call for a half to a third of the CPUs needed by Windows 7 for the same video tasks.

Chrome for Metro

Google's Chrome browser is getting tuned up to support Windows 8 in both desktop and Metro modes. Presumably, it won't be much challenge to get the browser to run in desktop mode since Microsoft says any app that run on Windows 7 runs on Windows 8.

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But it's a little more challenging to fit it out to handle Metro and all its touch features. The company has been working on it since March, and says, "Over the next few months, we'll be smoothing out the UI on Metro and improving touch support, so please feel free to file bugs."

Samples of the browser will be available with the next Chrome Dev channel release, but the company doesn't say when that is. It also takes the opportunity to restate it's complaint that Chrome is banned from Windows RT, the ARM version of Windows 8 "Chrome won't run in WinRT, i.e. Windows 8 on ARM processors, as Microsoft is not allowing browsers other than Internet Explorer on the platform," Google says.

Qualcomm is down with Windows RT

Qaulcomm says it is making ARM chips designed for Windows RT devices -- the Windows 8 combo of operating system, limited Microsoft Office and hardware that won't run x86 applications. The chips are called Snapdragon S4 Pro.

Tim Greene covers Microsoft for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at tgreene@nww.com and follow him on Twitter @Tim_Greene.

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.


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