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back to article How to destroy a brand-new Samsung laptop: Boot Linux on it

Linux users accidentally bricked their new Samsung laptops by booting their favourite open-source OS on the shiny computers. A kernel driver crashes on Sammy machines when users start up from an Ubuntu 12 USB key - although other distributions may be at risk - giving them the dreaded black screen of no activity whatsoever. After …

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Who thinks the French make good cars?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: French cars

Red Robbo destroyed the "wonderful British car industry"? What about poor management, uninspired design, and poor quality control?

Managers control businesses, not unions and workers. Rover had 12 years of private ownership to turn into a quality car maker, but the only bit that survives is Land rover, which went to Ford when BMW were in charge.

Jaguar's quality was useless until Ford bought them and started putting in some real QA, now they're a benchmark for quality, and JLR are storming ahead.

The "wonderful British car industry" was complacent and badly managed; they thought that, after WW2, the world owed them a living and that the upstarts from Germany and Japan were a joke. Thirty years on Britain makes more cars than ever, but for American, Japanese, German, and Indian companies.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @RAMChYLD NO problems with old Samsungs

Wasn't the E-class legendarily rusty, and they seem to have self-destructing interiors?

Still, at least the motors are usually tough.

Mercs are nice cars if you can get your company to buy brand new then ditch after 3 years.

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Re: French cars

Can't blame Red Robbo for the design faults, they were down to management and poor engineering. Robbo was just a symptom of the British disease of lazy couldn't care less upper class and middle class pricks.

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Mushroom

Re: NO problems with old Samsungs

That sounds like the GS3 "Sudden death" problem. Apparently this is a kernel code issue, which has since been fixed.

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Pint

Re: @peter storm

I loved my Fiat Uno, and then i had a Fiat Palio and was also great. I now have a Renault Megane and i am more than satisfied (11 years old and no mayor repair job, just maintenance).

Beer cause there is no icon for wine which i prefer too.

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Silver badge

I do.

Last three cars (Renault, Citroen, Citroen) have been reliable. Might not win rallies, might be crap as a getaway car from that legendary bank heist everybody dreams about (you apparently need a Mini for that, saw this film once...); however on a freezing cold damp horrible winter morning, you want to get into your car, turn the key, and have something happen.

Especially when you have a job to go to. Reliability is important.

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Re: @RAMChYLD NO problems with old Samsungs

Your case in point of Jap cars being quality British built, (often regarded as better built & in higher productive factories than Japan) illustrates what happens when you remove the cronied, nepotist, corrupt. arrogant, Ox bridged BA'd old style British management.

Now all we have to do is remove them from the expensive inefficient legal, banking, city "investment", parliamentary systems & the recession will be sorted!

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People buy French cars because they think they're good

Citation, please. Financial statements indicate that a significant number of French cars are sold every year, and there can't possibly be that many people who think they're good.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @peter storm

"The French have been doing well, with cars, ever since they invented them."

Well, Mr. Benz might have something to say about that!

That aside, every now and again a comment saying "...like people buying <xyz/> cars, not realizing how overrated they are...". Best thing to do is not feed the trolls, especially not after midnight...

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Ah UEFI.

As i found to my cost UEFI also stops a Windows 8 machine being backed up by WHS2011, a Microsoft oversight.

But bricking a machine? Thats a new low!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ah UEFI.

What an OS released two years before a client can't back it up?

In other news, you can't backup Windows 8 with NetBackup 7.5 (the most recent version). I'm pretty sure it's not supported on Networker yet and likewise TSM.

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Silver badge

Re: Ah UEFI.

well clonezilla backs it up, not really sure how old that is. Certainly older than MSHS11 (which is the latest version btw)

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Linux

Re: Ah UEFI.

What's there to stop an old backup program from backing up a new OS really?

Why should the new OS make old system utilities useless? Why would any man with the least bit of self-respect tolerate such shenanigans?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ah UEFI.

Err... Changes in how the API works? You may be able to backup files, but not necessarily recover the system files etc.

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Joke

Re: Ah UEFI.

Remind me, does UEFI stand for Users Expect a Fuck-up Instantly?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bad Firmware!

In the words of Microsoft:

"Everything is proceeding as I have forseen"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bad Firmware!

"A kernel driver for the Sammy machines crashes when users start up from an Ubuntu 12 USB key"

Sorry - that sentence makes it very much a Linux problem.

Or do you now expect Samsung to support Linux and fix their bugs for free?

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Stop

Bad Firmware or Bad Ubuntu ?

Is it a firmware bug or the installation messing up the firmware or not playing right with it? It doesn't seem clear to me and I would guess no one will know until it is determined why they are bricked.

It's interesting that it requires a particular configuration to be rendered bricked; UEFI enable, booting and installing from USB stick and a power-off. Could it be that a power-off while the BIOS was being updated has rendered it unusable?

I once had a motherboard that, if you went into BIOS settings and accidentally selected firmware upgrade it erased the BIOS then asked for a floppy; you were completely buggered if you did not have that and powered-off or rebooted.

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Silver badge

@AC 13:24 Re: Bad Firmware!

I would expect Samsung to design an architecture where critical motherboard hardware could not be over-written by any software, be it installation or executed normally.

If some motherboard component needs a pattern to execute, that pattern should be booted from eprom afresh every boot, or there should be a simple way to restore it completely independent of OS or application code.

It should always be possible to boot the hardware into the on-board startup code, bios, uefi, or what have you. Once you can do that you can re-install a broken OS. If you can't it is the computer that is broken, not the OS.

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IT Angle

Re: Bad Firmware!

Or do you now expect Samsung to support Linux and fix their bugs for free?

The firmware should present a state machine that is always recoverable to the 'load bootimage' state.

That said, given that Samsung themselves wrote the problematic linux driver, yes.

link to GKH's g+ post on the subject here --> https://plus.google.com/u/0/111049168280159033135/posts/h7FjkQKZHKT

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @AC 13:24 Bad Firmware!

Expect all you want - but the machine works perfectly as designed and with the OS provided. The fact that some people want to run unknown code is not Samsung's problem.

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Gold badge

Re: Bad Firmware!

"This is a Samsung Firmware problem."

...since it is now only a matter of time before someone turns this "proof of concept" into a properly weaponised DOS attack.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bad Firmware!

"That said, given that Samsung themselves wrote the problematic linux driver,"

Wrong. GKH wrote it - unless he is now a Samsung employee?

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Boffin

Re: @AC 13:24 Bad Firmware!

Expect all you want - but the machine works perfectly as designed and with the OS provided. The fact that some people want to run unknown code is not Samsung's problem."

The idea that any software is perfect or bug free is ludicrous. The moment someone finds, e.g. through a security vulnerability, or any other unpatched bug, that the machine does not work perfectly as designed with the OS provided, this statement becomes false. That's why software is called what it is, because there is a reasonable expectation that you can change it, and that when you do, the hardware confinues to work as well as it was designed to do. If Samsung want to manufacture a system so locked down, e.g. as with Microsoft surface tablets that it's impossible to install a different OS, then that's up to them but I'm not buying products so described if they do, and even if I did I'd still expect security and bugfix updates to fix issues unknown at time of manufacturing.

The fact that software not tested by the hardware manufacturer can accidently disable the hardware doesn't say anything good about the reliability a purchaser can reasonably expect, even if the only changes a particular user may decide to carry out are the OS supplier approved patches and installation of applications designed for compatibility with the supplied OS.

This kind of hardware issue comes under the merchantability or fitness for purpose test, giving the purchaser the right to a refund, regardless of the software which discovered the fault.

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Go

Re: Bad Firmware or Bad Ubuntu ?

The kernel driver may be buggy. But even so: a driver should NEVER brick the machine. If we were talking about a firmware update, then yes, You could have a point.

Remmember the fiasco with LG CD-ROMs? Bricked by the Mandrake instalation? Turned out it was a massive cock up from LG.

They used an ATA command to update firmware on a CD-R unit. The reasoning was "no one would order an reader to write. Right?" Wrong.

Details here:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2003/10/29/mandrake_linux_ate_my_cd/

So, yes. It is a problem with the hardware. Perhaps with the driver also - but first with the hardware.

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Silver badge

Re: Bad Firmware!

@AC 13:24: No, this is NOT a Linux problem. The Linux problem is that the driver doesn't work. However the fact that it bricks the machine is a massive Samsung fail. In a properly designed computer that should simply not be possible. In an absolute worst case scenario it should boot up to a firmware replacement system. For the computer to be bricked simply because the use tried to boot up a different operating system is a sign of a serious design flaw.

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Silver badge

Re: @AC 13:24 Bad Firmware!

"Expect all you want - but the machine works perfectly as designed and with the OS provided. The fact that some people want to run unknown code is not Samsung's problem".

It is very much Samsung's problem. As others have pointed out, someone who buys a computer should be able to assume that its basic hardware functions cannot be altered or deleted by any software running on the processor.

In this case, the damage was caused by a Linux distro. But if Ubuntu can brick the machine by accident, what do you think a "black hat" could accomplish on purpose by modifying the firmware? (Answer: anything at all).

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Re: @AC 13:24 Bad Firmware!

That might be an unfortunate but valid notion in tablets and smartphones but standard PC's are supposed to be just that. Standard, and capable of running any PC OS.

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Flame

Re: Bad Firmware!

So you don't think it is a Samsung problem that their motherboards can be bricked by software running on the machine? Really?

I wonder how long it will be before we have our first UEFI motherboard bricking malware exploit...

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WTF?

Re: @AC 13:24 Bad Firmware!

" The fact that some people want to run unknown code is not Samsung's problem."

What exactly do you think a PC is for if not to run a program that the manufacturer didn't put on it?

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Anonymous Coward

@AC 13:24GMT - Re: Bad Firmware!

No, Samsung is not expected to support Linux. However, their engineers are supposed to design firmware that can recover graciously from any software crash you might throw at it. It should crash no matter how horribly but after a power on, it should come back to a previously known good state. Engineering 101 in case you might be asking.

This shows me their firmware is modifying itself so I my vote is for Samsung engineer severe incompetence.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bad Firmware or Bad Ubuntu ?

Except for a firmware update, nobody and nothing should be able to mess with a firmware. Even if you allow that, you should provide for a minimal non-changeable start-up routine that should allow some form of recovery. No bricking should be allowed, ever.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC 13:39GMT - Re: @AC 13:24 Bad Firmware!

Still this does not let Samsung engineers off the hook. Yes, it works with the OS provided but this does not means it is correctly designed. Even Microsoft OS could very well trigger that bug some day.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC 13:39GMT - Re: @AC 13:24 Bad Firmware!

And what if somebody will code the same sequence of actions into a beautiful, clever Windows executable, is it still the fault of those who want to run unknown (as you call it) code ?

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FAIL

Re: Bad Firmware!

Reminds me of the superbrick bug in the galaxy note, even the act of factory restoring could permabrick the thing. Luckily, rom devs worked round this and ringfenced the problem by disabling the delete command that triggered it in the ics kernel. The thing that flabbaghasted me was that an xda member wrote a utility to unbrick it and recover the nand, but Samsung actively blocked him from releasing it to the community, prefering that people either sent it back to them or, if it was out of warrenty, tough, buy a new one. I love Samsung phones, all the ones i have owned have worked perfectly their entire working lifespan, but Samsungs attitude really sucks at times.

As for this, how the fuckity fuck does a manufacturer release a laptop that this is even possible on without building in a fallback mode if something goes wrong? My 5 year old desktop has a dual bios, you fuck up a firmware upgrade, it reloads a default image. Why dont these machines have something similar?

I blame samsung for this, not the linux people, how on earth were they to know the act of installing an os would brick the machine? in this day and age it beggers belief.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bad Firmware!

"Or do you now expect Samsung to support Linux and fix their bugs for free?"

Why not? Don't they want to sell their products?

Don't they send their firmware to Microsoft for their approval?

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FAIL

Re: @AC 13:24 Bad Firmware!

"The fact that some people want to run unknown code is not Samsung's problem."

Unknown code?

This is open source software we're talking about.

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Gimp

Re: @AC 13:24 Bad Firmware!

The Samsung Chromebox 3 exemplifies your notions and the DiY lifestyle. http://themap.multiverse.org/life-with-the-samsung-chromebox/ How a company can produce both products is very confusing.

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Silver badge

Re: @AC 13:24 Bad Firmware!

** Slight Aside ** (relevant if this article causes people use Ubuntu 12.04 under VMWare Player for the time being)

If you want to run Ubuntu 12.04 under VMWare Player, do not use VMWP's Easy Install option - the thing get stuck at "installing VMWare Tools" (even if you've told it not to bother), even after restarting the VM. The installation can be repaired from the command line, but by this time no longer qualifies as 'easy'.

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Silver badge

Re: Bad Firmware or Bad Ubuntu ?

Probably because the fallback routine needs to be updateable in case the fallback itself becomes an exploit avenue. And this fail occurred during kernel (Ring 0) operation, so it could conceivably do anything: even access the EPROMs that contain the fallback units, messing them up beyond any means of either recovering (because you now have a backup failure) or preventing (because it's already running at the highest level of trust short of hypervisor mode--who watches over the kernel?).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bad Firmware!

"Sorry - that sentence makes it very much a Linux problem."

I plugged my computer into the Internet and got a virus. It's clearly a problem with the Internet. ;)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @AC 13:24 Bad Firmware!

"The fact that some people want to run unknown code is not Samsung's problem."

It's funny how you FOSS bashers blather on. Open source is the epitome of known code. You are a moron not because you are ignorant. You are a moron because you are talking out of your ass. What are you even doing reading the Reg. Go read Wired or something. There are plenty of other morons there.

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Mushroom

Re: Bad Firmware!

The firmware should be robust enough to not brick the machine because of bad code!

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Facepalm

Re: @AC 13:24 Bad Firmware!

"Expect all you want - but the machine works perfectly as designed and with the OS provided. The fact that some people want to run unknown code is not Samsung's problem."

The Apple generation speaks.

I remember a time when a PC meant "PC compatible", which meant OS and hardware were decoupled and a standard BIOS interface allowed you to mix and match. Oh wait, that's what UEFI is supposed to do today on that very same fucking Samsung machine.

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Trollface

Remember the shuttle motherboard?

Very long time ago where mobo are using slot A,a windows 95 installation will cause the bios on the shuttle board to corrupt and the motherboard dies.samsung i see what you did there.

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FAIL

Oh How I Laughed...

the dreaded black screen of no activity...

At least a blue screen of death will give some slight indication of the cause of the problem.

Flame on, you crazy linux-tards.

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Meh

Re: Oh How I Laughed...

Its a boot-time firmware problem unrelated to the OS. Use of the technical term "bricked" implies unrecoverable damage after all, even by trying to boot into the factory-supplied Windows installation.

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