Microsoft have announced that they will be producing a version of Vista for XO, the One Laptop Per Child Project laptop. Each system will be tied to the Windows Genuine Advantage program through a Trusted Computing module on its circuit board to ensure that only licensed systems can run.
Opponents of this scheme point out that training millions of children to accept permission computing in this way is a subversion of the project’s educational mission and a betrayal of its previously espoused exploratory ethos. But a Microsoft spokesperson claimed that this was for the children’s own good, and that otherwise people might steal XO laptops for use in businesses that would otherwise buy full Vista licenses. Nobody was available from the Free Software Foundation to comment on this latest manifestation of “Treacherous Computing” before this article was due to go to press.
OK, I’m lying. Microsoft haven’t said any of this. No XOs will locked to Windows. No XOs will be tied to WGA.
The people who locking the XO hardware and tying it to a key server system are the OLPC project themselves.
Don’t worry, the trusted computing -er the Bitfrost system- will be removable if you have the trusted keys for the BIOS. And systems in low-bandwidth regions will have very long leases from the key server.
All that remains is to work out how to prevent criminals from reverse-engineering the key server like they have for WGA, stealing the keys for the hardware like they have for every other DRM system ever devised, finding out how long the leases are and stealing a new laptop on the first of the month, or borrowing their kid’s XO in the evening. Compared to creating a new trusted computing security model that suffers from none of the disadvantages of other such systems these are trivial tasks, and should be easy to accomplish in time for the XO’s launch.