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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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@Ru re. Re: Oh How I Laughed...

I thought that 'bricked' meant that your shiny item of kit had assumed the functionality of a brick, but that it was recoverable if you knew how to do the necessary digital incantations.

You seem to think it means that your shiny item of kit has suffered the equivalent of having a brick thrown through it.

We need a formal and agreed glossary of terms.

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WTF?

Re: Oh How I Laughed...

Its a boot-time firmware problem unrelated to the OS. Use of the technical term "bricked"...

O RLY? You may want to take that up with the author of the article, the title of which is:

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

I don't see anything in the article that indicates Windows users are having the same problem.

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Stop

Well actually

the article quite clearly mentions this is a problem caused when Samsung laptop users try to boot into Linux. So no, it's not unrelated to the OS.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh How I Laughed...

Indeed. These freetards write a poor quality driver that crashes hard enough the damage the firmware, and then blame the hardware manufacturer.

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Re: Well actually

It's not unrelated to the OS true, but as has been said the blame lies squarely with Samsung.

It should not be possible to kill a UEFI firmware simply due to loading a bad driver.

In fact the driver isn't even bad, it works fine on other models of laptop.

But whether you point to the UEFI or the kernel module as the cause, I'm pretty sure it's Samsung's fault since as far as I'm aware the samsung-laptop module is code actually code contributed to Linux by Samsung.

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Re: Well actually

Well that's the thing of it isn't it? When I choose an OS I choose one I know will work.

This issue aside, I still have problems installing Linux on my Sony Vaio. Every year I rebuild it, and every year I start with a version of Linux (last was Ubuntu) to see how it fares. Never ever has a Linux install !just worked!. There's forever a %&$£ problem with drivers for ^$%£ something. And that Vaio is 5 years old now, so there shouldn't be.

Issues like this don't help Linux. Pointing fingers and blaming someone, irrespective of who that might be, doesn't help Linux.

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Windows

Re: Oh How I Laughed...

Windows users have enough problems already.

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Re: Oh How I Laughed...

"Indeed. These freetards write a poor quality driver that crashes hard enough the damage the firmware, and then blame the hardware manufacturer."

A few points:

1) The driver that bricks the Samsung laptops wasnt written by 'freetards', from what I read, it was written by Samsung. Strike one

2) If the hardware is properly designed, it shoudn't be possible to cause it to break using software. Samsung aren't the first to be guilty of this particular crime, but it's still pretty damn stupid, and no doubt embarrassing for the hardware manufacturer. Strike two

3) Calling Linux users 'freetards' is just plain ignorant. I assume you are not aware that much of the internet runs on Linux servers running Apache, or that many universities and research establishments use this operating system for various purposes, or indeed that it is a good way for people with a serious interest in many aspects of computing to gain some knowledge and experience of unix-type operating systems and their quirks. Use of the term to describe such people is... well, it's retarded. Strike three, you're out.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh How I Laughed...

1) It was written by Greg Kroah-Hartman who is not a Samsung employee.

2) Ah, so Windows causes the same issue? Oh yeah, it doesn't.

3) They are freetards. They get their OS for free, the applications for free and when they break they expect and unrelated hardware manufacturer to replace it for free and then fix the problem the freetards caused. For free.

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Re: @Ru re. Oh How I Laughed...

I thought that 'bricked' meant that your shiny item of kit had assumed the functionality of a brick, but that it was recoverable if you knew how to do the necessary digital incantations.

You're half right. 'Bricked' does imply the functionality of a brick, but it's not always possible to recover from such a state. There are device that when bricked stay that way and there's no way to fix them short of replacing parts. Even with devices that can normally be unbricked it's sometimes possible to brick them so badly that the unbricking techniques won't work.

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Re: Well actually

every year I start with a version of Linux (last was Ubuntu) to see how it fares. Never ever has a Linux install !just worked!.

Next time try Mint or Mepis. Ubuntu's always been a steaming pile of crap despite all the press it gets. I've never seen it just work on anything, and on most of the machines that I've tried it on even Debian took less effort to get up. Mint and Mepis, on the other hand, have never let me down when 'just works' is the goal (though I do still prefer Debian).

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Re: Oh How I Laughed...

@AC 14:34

You're right Greg Kroah-Hartman, compiled the module, using for the most part code provided by Samsung.

Suggest you check his Google+ page where you'll see him saying as much.

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Linux

Re: Well actually

I bet you a bottle of Bruichladdich (*) I can get your Vaio working just fine.

* If you don't like Bruichladdich, name the similarly priced spirit/case of beer of your choice.

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Mushroom

Re: Well actually

Yes, but it's a Vaio, did you expect it to work properly? I've seen plenty of Vaios that couldn't even install Windows properly from the Sony-supplied recovery disks...

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Re: Spearchucker Jones

Just wanted to say I installed Mint ( version 12 it was) which is based on Ubuntu on an old sony Vaio we have and it installed no problem, no driver issues. Never tried the wireless though - it is cabled to the network.

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Re: Well actually @Spearchucker

In my experience, the various Ubuntu releases work on everything I've put it on with few or no problems.

In the last 8 years since I started using it, I've put it on lots of Thinkpads and other laptops, netbooks, and desktop systems, and while I won't say that I've never had problems, none of them have been show-stoppers.

OK, when I first used my eeePC 701, I had wireless problems until the slightly strange Atheros chipset gained a Linux driver. My Thinkpad T30 does not reset the sound correctly after suspend, and the Mobile Radeon graphics adapter is too old to work with Compiz well, and I came across a wireless card for which there was no Linux support on a Shuttle XPS (which, incidental, did not work in Windows very well either).

I suspect that your Vaio must have some very specific hardware in it, and only works on Windows because you have a system restore image prepared by Sony that contains the right drivers. I would be interested in seeing how well you managed to get it working with a retail windows install disk, and what would not work.

Windows users think that their systems 'just work', but this is mainly because the PC manufacturer has taken the necessary background steps of identifying the drivers and building a bundle of Windows and drivers specifically for their systems. If they went to the same lengths for Linux, it would be the same.

What is amazing in my view is that a single build (one CD, not even a DVD) of, say, Ubuntu will 'just work' on a huge number of different systems without all of the behind the scenes customisations that happen for Windows, because they are done for you.

One of the problems is that Windows drivers are specific to a particular instance of hardware, so a Atheros card from say Netgear would not work with the drivers supplied by Belkin for a card with the same chipset, and often not even with the driver for another card from the same supplier with the same chipset.

Linux is different here, because its drivers are largely manufacturer agnostic. It identifies something like an Atheros chipset, and it configures the driver regardless of the manufacturer (OK, I know Atheros is an old chipset not used much now, but it's the one that came to mind first).

Occasionally, you will come across some hardware for which the PCI or USB ID's are not in the database, so the module code cannot identify the required driver correctly, but this becomes less and less frequent as time goes by, and is usually fixed for what must be regarded as non-mainstream hardware (if it were mainstream, the ID's would be in the database) after a little Googling. Not everyone's forte, I accept, but you cant expect the distro maintainers to be omnipotent!

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@Lord Elpuss - Re: Well actually

Sorry to bring you on earth. Linux is the test case that allows this bug to be detected. I can assure you that any half competent Russian or Chinese hacker should have no problem to code that into a Windows executable.

Oh, and don't mind if they will. Soon.

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@Spearchucker Jones - Re: Well actually

You're insisting on using hardware from Sony, one of the most anti-FOSS, anti-customer company on Earth and you're blaming Linux ? Heck, even Windows service packs have to be downloaded from Sony because they've been heavily modified. Stop using Linux, you're wasting your time. And ours too.

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@AC 14:34GMT - Re: Oh How I Laughed...

1) Greg Kroah-Hartman has written it based on Samsung provided API and specs

2) Now it will because the news is rapidly spreading. There is a precise sequence of binary instructions that will brick the machine. Do you still think Windows can't be "upgraded" to do the same ?

3) It's your problem if you pay for Windows, not ours. And just to upset your stomach, Samsung will fix it for free because of 2) above.

Continue laughing.

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Re: Well actually

I have an ancient Sony Vaio and have never had problem installing Linux on it!

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Re: @Ru re. Oh How I Laughed...

There are different levels of bricking. Each start with the same problem: useless machine. But "soft" bricks can usually be remedied by switching the machine to different or alternate modes of operation that go around the piece of software/firmware causing the brick. Harder bricks usually affect some piece of software that can't be avoided. In this case, we're dealing with something worse, a "baked" brick in which some hardware or firmware component has been damaged, instantly rendering any fallback worthless because the failure is either in the fallback or affect something above it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh How I Laughed...

"I don't see anything in the article that indicates Windows users are having the same problem."

I laughed too - at you. Ross K, sir, obviously lack knowledge on the subject matter and therefore have to rely solely on the author's explanation. Perhaps you should consider reading about something you know about so you can engage your brain. Or perhaps when encountering something you do not understand, rather than making assumptions, actually study about it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh How I Laughed...

"Indeed. These freetards write a poor quality driver that crashes hard enough the damage the firmware, and then blame the hardware manufacturer."

Engineers often rely on pre-built components. They expect them to work as advertised. When they don't it's their fault, by your definition.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh How I Laughed...

"3) They are freetards. They get their OS for free, the applications for free and when they break they expect and unrelated hardware manufacturer to replace it for free and then fix the problem the freetards caused. For free."

But you or the other AC said they wrote it. I agree that freeloaders (and that is the appropriate term because the same folks will happily use pirated software) are a pain. However, they don't write code. That's what's the problem with them. But at least they make good testers. ;)

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Gimp

Re: Oh How I Laughed...

I laughed too - at you. Ross K, sir, obviously lack knowledge on the subject matter and therefore have to rely solely on the author's explanation. Perhaps you should consider reading about something you know about so you can engage your brain. Or perhaps when encountering something you do not understand, rather than making assumptions, actually study about it.

Wow. You sir, posting as an Anonymous Coward, really stuck it to me.

Instead of relying on what the author of an article says, I will do as you say instead and "actually study about it."

I now realise the error of my ways, and won't criticise a crowd-sourced operating system again

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Anonymous Coward

I have installed Linux on two Vaios

One was a tenny tiny pocket sized thing that just about managed to run the Win 2000 that came with it and you could have a network cable, or a USB port, but not both at the same time

THe other is an old A series Vaoi. It's been running Xubuntu (and Kubuntu) quite happily for a couple of years now

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Anonymous Coward

Close...

1) It was written by Greg Kroah-Hartman, who does not work for Samsung.

2) so how exactly are you planning on someone updating the BIOS or UEFI of their system if Samsung prevents any software from modifying the BIOS or UEFI?

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Licence agreements

Isn't this a shining example of why those damned Eulas/Licence agreements exist.

--->>>> Install your own software at your own risk..... <<<<--------

I am not critisizing Linux or Samsung, I am merely pointing out that installing your own ROMS, OSes etc is normally something which is done at your own risk.

it's the equivalant of me chipping the engine of my car, BMW refuse to garauntee the engine if I make mods...

By the way the article does not mention if the problem also exists when reinstalling windows or any other OSes....It wold be more interesting to know if this was a generic problem or a UbuntuLinux problem.

If it is a generic problem then the Ubuntu installers have just cause, if not well ........that's life.

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Re: Licence agreements

No actually, it isn't the equivalent of you chipping your BMW. If anything it's more the equivalent of you fitting non BMW tyres and them blaming this for a brake failure.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Licence agreements

Quote: "No actually, it isn't the equivalent of you chipping your BMW. If anything it's more the equivalent of you fitting non BMW tyres and them blaming this [insert option here]".

Which they do. BMW, Porche and some other from the list of our "favorite" car companies have homologation programs and will refuse warranties if you have fitted non-homologated tyres, used non-homologated oil, etc.

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Re: Licence agreements

> it's the equivalant of me chipping the engine of my car, BMW refuse to garauntee the engine if I make mods...

No it isn't. You are not adding or removing anything from the laptop.

You are plugging a USB stick into a USB port and rebooting. The laptop should be able to handle this without bricking.

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Re: Licence agreements

@Santa

Well if the tyres you fitted modfied that behavoir of the brakes then this would be justifiable, that's why certain items are certified and others are not.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Licence agreements

"You are plugging a USB stick into a USB port and rebooting. The laptop should be able to handle this without bricking."

And it can - so long as some dodgy driver (not written, endorsed or supported by the manufacturer) doesn't barf all over the firmware.

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Re: Licence agreements

@Condiment

You are adding to the machine.

You are adding a set of instructions, from teh Linux Kernel, that only come into existance under certain circumstances.. These instructions do not exist without the USB key - as I mentioned before it is the equivalant of modding your machine.

Without the USB key no problem.

With the USB key problem.

Please note the need for the "additional" USB key before the problems are generated.

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Re: Licence agreements

So you are missing the part where GKH wrote the driver to specifications provided by Samsung and based it on code provided by Samsung?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Licence agreements

"And it can - so long as some dodgy driver (not written, endorsed or supported by the manufacturer) doesn't barf all over the firmware."

The point is no matter what is on the USB stick, it shouldn't be able to barf all over the firmware as you put it. Modifications to the firmware should only be allowed by trusted means and not a random bit of code on a USB stick. (e.g. my BIOS can only be updated through itself, where it makes a backup before the operation to prevent bricking).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Licence agreements

It's more like the BMW car not allowing you to open doors and refusing to start engine just because you fitted non-approved tyres.

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Linux

Re: Licence agreements

> Which they do. BMW, Porche and some other from the list of our "favorite" car companies

...perfect reason right there to reject both of those companies and their products out of hand.

Excessively proprietary products are always much more of a bother.

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Re: Licence agreements

Interesting (but wrong) analogy to chipping cars, and how ironic BMW was chosen as an example, because if anything this is more like the 'Nikasil' engine liner fiasco that that very company was eventually forced to accept responsibility for after initial denial.

BMW used Nikasil as a strengthener in its engines. Then owners in certain territories (including the UK) started suffering premature engine failure. BMW denied there was any issue as the majority of cars with the material were unaffected. When it was established that higher sulphur content in the petrol sold in these regions was the cause of the eroding of the Nikasil plating BMW claimed they were vindicated, until it was pointed out to them that the maximum permissible sulphur content in petrol is laid down in International standards and that BMW were obliged to make sure their car could run on it or state clearly in their literature otherwise.The fuel the afflicted owners had been using was still within those standards and BMW had never bothered to test the car at the extreme levels - just ran it on the nice low sulphur fuel they had available in their domestic market during testing.

Cue u-turn and costly engine replacement program, even many years after end of warranty.

Can't see this one ending nicely though.

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Re: Licence agreements

Not even a Live OS complete with Kernel which by definition must have low-level access to the hardware in order to function?

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@Charles 9

By definition? There's nothing special about a Live CD Linux kernel.

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Re: Licence agreements

Luckily Sumsung don't seem to refuse waranty in this case.

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Terminator

Paint it black

Who needs malware* if the OS is *that* destructive?

*Don't you be getting no ideas now, you hear!

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Re: if the OS is *that* destructive

It's not the OS - the machine's firmware is self-destructive.

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@Pookietoo Re: if the OS is *that* destructive

It IS the OS, which is triggering the problem; there wouldn't be a problem with the firmware if the user didn't try to boot Linux. Not trying to excuse the problem (which is inexcusable), but just saying, you know, RTFA before commenting.

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Re: @Pookietoo if the OS is *that* destructive

well as with all thg8ings it seems to be a combination...

of a Linux driver based on Samsung code which may, or may not, get loaded depending on which boot method you use, and which may, or may not write to certain RAM areas that may, or may not, brick the machine beyond the ability to boot anything. Even repair software.

To my mind whatever else may be said, a machine that cant even boot a bios screen, is a machine whose design is faulty.

But I suppose that with bios in flash, suitable for upgrades (or malicious attacks, or sheer murphyisms) is always gonna be vulnerable.

In short if you send a machine out with even the boot loader in EAROM you will inevitably have failures and returns.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Pookietoo if the OS is *that* destructive

"there wouldn't be a problem with the firmware if the user didn't try to boot Linux."

Yes, there would, you just wouldn't know about it until you got some malware that messes with the same flaw for shits and giggles.

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FAIL

Re: @Pookietoo if the OS is *that* destructive

Of course there would, a latent problem which could just as easily bite a Windows user the reboot after running Windows Update...

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Meh

I don't know if it's worse having your new laptop bricked, or having Ubuntu on your new laptop.

Seriously, any other distro.

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