back to article Lenovo downward dogs with Yoga BIOS update supporting Linux installs

Following last month's criticisms, Lenovo has released a BIOS update for its Yoga 900 range of laptops, finally allowing them to support GNU/Linux installations. Lenovo directly denied the sensational allegation that it had conspired with Microsoft to lock its laptops to Windows 10 with a BIOS setting locking the SSD to RAID …

  1. Lee D Silver badge

    I had something similar with ASUS once.

    Their BIOS on two different laptop models stopped you using encryption while in IDE mode, back when you still used IDE mode to install Windows XP.

    Worked fine if you used XP in IDE mode. Worked fine in AHCI mode. But if you tried to change the disk format in IDE mode, it threw a fit and refused to boot.

    Turned out that any non-NTFS partitioning, weird NTFS partitioning, or encryption would render it unbootable. We found out when TrueCrypting a bunch of the laptops.

    Turns out that their BIOS was explicitly checking for a zero at a certain hexadecimal offset into the drive which was ONLY true if you used NTFS partitions that covered the entire drive and never encrypted. Which, obviously, their pre-fab images did.

    We threatened to send a whole bunch of purchased laptops back because of it, and as soon as money was involved, our suppliers, ASUS and AMI suddenly sprung into action and patched the atrocious bug that they'd introduced by the same kind of "Oh, nobody uses anything but the default Windows install" thinking.

    We ended up getting a replacement firmware that worked, even if it was marked as beta.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "as soon as money was involved"

      Money often has effects like that. Nice one.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        We had a similar issue with sandisk ssds. Back when SSDs were expensive we had 15k vostro laptops and 15k SSDs for a laptop-per-child scheme. Dell were in the loop but the sandisk ssds refused to work with the vostros when encrypted. We thought the firmware was iffy (the kingston and OCZ worked fine but were 7 more per unit. Intel also worked but were way too expensive). Sandisk refused to acknowledge an issue so we eventually went with kingston and bit the bullet on cost. That cost sandisk about three quarter of a million.

        1. ben kendim

          I have not bought SanDisk since one of their flash drives tried to install U3 on my machine, many years ago... I have not bought Sony since rootkit, how long has it been? I would never have bought Lenovo since the fishy thingy...

          Do these manufacturers think we will forget?

          1. lsatenstein

            Most of the time the hardware manufacturers contract out the software (eg bios for ssds). It then becomes a maintenance issue. The software vendor may be overwhelmed and not setup for anything but one operating system version.

            When complaints arrive, they are investigated. It takes at least 20+ common complaints before it becomes significant.

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            "Do these manufacturers think we will forget?"

            Yes. And sadly, most either do or simply don't care.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Both Linux users are now very happy...

  2. Dwarf Silver badge

    Well, +10 points for Lenovo for actually sorting out the problem.

    But ... -100 points for trying to pull the stunt in the first place.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      " -100 points for trying to pull the stunt in the first place."

      It's not as if this was the first time they've faced public criticism for pulling firmware/crapware stunts. I wonder how long it's going to take for the penny to drop. They're certainly not on my list of people I'll buy from.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      I wonder if the home market had something to do with it... Could the next announcement actually be a Linux install albeit for the Chinese market?

    3. sabroni Silver badge

      re: -100 points for trying to pull the stunt in the first place.

      It's no surprise most manufacturers don't give a toss about other OS users.

      When they fix something the response is "It should never have been broken in the first place".

      Be interesting to see whether Lenovo get more sales after this, or whether they've just pissed money away on a group of people that are never going to buy their products.

  3. alain williams Silver badge

    How about testing it ?

    If we take their denial of Windows only at face value then we must ask: why did they not test it with Linux first ? I assume that they spent a lot of time/money testing the hardware and also testing their MS Win 10 boot image; so why not stick in a Linux Mint/Fedora/... ISO/memory-stick and try it ?

    If there are problems I would expect that the help that they would get from the distros would be good.

    Doing this does not mean that they would have to support Linux or even say that it has been known to work (which might get them into trouble from Redmond). But give a few laptops to the right people who can they announce to the world that they have got their distro running on it ... how many more machines would they sell as a result ?

    Can they really that stupid that they aren't already doing this ?

    1. John Sturdy
      Linux

      Re: How about testing it ?

      Perhaps because they haven't worked out how to put something like Superfish onto Linux?

      I don't know why anyone trusts Lenovo any more.

    2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: How about testing it ?

      Lenovo probably decided that no one wants to use Linux unless it is preinstalled. Ignoring that many older machines get Linux and many new machines will get 'bloat wiped ASAP.

      1. lsatenstein

        Re: How about testing it ?

        Lenova makes hardware, not software. They purchase the bios code or pay a royalty fee. Software updates come from Lenova's supplier(s).

        1. Lennart Sorensen

          Re: How about testing it ?

          In this case Lenovo removed access to features that were still in the BIOS code which is what caused the problem. Those features were useful and needed by some people. If Lenovo had done nothing to the code they bought, this problem would not have existed. They put actual effort into making the product worse for their users.

      2. Halfmad

        Re: How about testing it ?

        Yep first step in getting a PC from a manufacturer like Dell, HP and Lenovo - Wipe it.

        Yes you may lose the recovery options, but usually if you're happy enough to wipe it, you'd be able to recover it better yourself anyway, without all the Mcafee, Norton and other bloatware installed to hinder performance.

        1. waldo kitty
          Facepalm

          Re: How about testing it ?

          Yep first step in getting a PC from a manufacturer like Dell, HP and Lenovo - Wipe it.

          if that's the first step, then why buy with OS installed? why waste the $$$? if you're going to install your own OS then you already have the necessary license if any are required... you surely don't need the pre-installed ones... especially in a corporate environment...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How about testing it ?

      "why did they not test it with Linux first ?"

      first? You mean ONCE?

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: How about testing it ?

        "why did they not test it with Linux first ?"

        first? You mean ONCE?

        I read it as "first" in relation to "shipping buggy code"

        I.e. "(Once they thought it was ready to release), why did they not test it with Linux first"

  4. Franco Silver badge

    Lenovo are far from alone in having crappy BIOS interfaces. If they did do this deliberately then they should be condemned, but IMO it's far more likely no one thought it was an issue.

    For example, Dell have long had pretty good BIOS interfaces, at least in terms of features. Back in about 2005 they already had individually controllable SATA ports, options for RAID/AHCI/IDE on their IDE ports etc. I have a Gigabyte motherboard from a couple of years ago with 4 SATA ports (no IDE on board) that labels them as Primary Master, Primary Slave, Secondary Master and Secondary Slave. No control options at all, no RAID and massively incorrect terminology.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "If they did do this deliberately then they should be condemned, but IMO it's far more likely no one thought it was an issue."

      So if it was just sloppily written software they were shipping that would be OK?

      1. Franco Silver badge

        No, it's not OK, but there is a world of difference between a malicious act and leaving out a feature because you don't forsee a need for it. Lenovo have resolved the issue as best they can, but you could just as easily accuse Intel of (at best) dragging their heels over providing Linux drivers or (at worst) vendor lockout.

        I saw this a lot back in the Windows Vista days. SATA/AHCI was starting to become the default setting for a lot of OEMs shipping Vista PCs, but most businesses continued to use XP for a long time and had to either create new images with the driver slipstreamed in or turn off SATA/AHCI in favour of legacy mode.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      High end Hell laptops are similary linux-unusable. They use Nvidia chipsets in the high end and the recent Hell stock does not have Optimus off button.

      If you do not turn off Optimus you cannot use the binary nvidia driver and you are limited to the open source one which has no thermal management. That, surprise, surprise, leads to the laptop getting as hot as its (HELL) name suggests and crashing before you are finished installing an full OS on it.

      So Hell is as guilty as Lenovo if not more so. Just guilty in a different way.

    3. Tom 64

      > "Gigabyte motherboard "

      Gigabyte have always been pretty shit with BIOS support, unless you pick their top-end models.

      Switch to ASUS next time you are building your own kit, they're much better.

      1. Franco Silver badge

        Re: > "Gigabyte motherboard "

        The Gigabyte was the one aberration in a succession of ASUS boards over the years, I agree that their BIOS interfaces are pretty fully featured.

  5. streaky Silver badge

    Microsoft..

    It would be illegal for them to get involved in a deal like this so it's *extremely* unlikely they'd go anywhere near it just for shitty Lenovo boxen when most would just stick with windows anyway (statistical reality).

    I'd put it down to pure laziness and an inability to understand how storage interfaces work on the part of the other party.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Microsoft..

      "It would be illegal for them to get involved in a deal like this"

      That's never stopped Microsoft before...

      UK's Equality Act 2010/Windows 10 Nagware (specifically,manuipulating the UI standard protocols, clicking 'X' {close} to install Windows 10) is seen as illegal under UK disability law, but for some reason Microsoft have got off Scot-free.

      Partially sighted users of Windows 7, were pretty much fcuked over by Microsoft last year, without even an apology from Terry Myerson.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Microsoft..

        Partially sighted users of Windows 7

        And what about suffering of the fully sighted users of Windows 8?

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Microsoft..

        "UK's Equality Act 2010...seen as illegal under UK disability law, but for some reason Microsoft have got off Scot-free."

        I'm not sure how this particular law is enforced but I'd expect that either a complaint has to be made to some official body or a complainant has to raise it in court themselves. If nobody did so that might be the reason.

      3. streaky Silver badge

        Re: Microsoft..

        You're talking about small fines versus the potential for Microsoft to be broken up into smaller pieces, best case and unlimited fines. One's worth taking the risk if you're Microsoft and you can undo the damage caused by broken old OS stacks versus the potential for effectively company deletion.

    2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Microsoft..

      @Streaky - Slurp is quite possibly a criminal enterprise if any competent DA would care to look with their abusive 'bloat 10 garbage. Whether Lenovo conspired with Slurp or did this on their own is hard to tell. Both are quite likely given the sleaziness of both.

      1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Re: Microsoft..

        Sadly politicians and legislators are still technologically stupid, among other kinds of stupid.

        But Brexit will fix all of that for sure.

  6. John 104

    Not Likely

    @Streaky

    I want to live in the world you live in. Rose colored glasses a fairy dust. ;)

    Microsoft works very closely with hardware suppliers to optimize a given platform to work with their OS. Remember, they are pretty much giving Win10 away to vendors for free just to get bodies looking at their screens.

    Take the HP Stream or any of the other plethora of 2-300 laptops. Do you think MS is making a cent off of any of these things for the OS? No. They give it away in hopes of luring consumers to their app store, which does quite well surprisingly.

    With that in mind, I'm sure there is a lot of unwritten encouragement to make it difficult for these machines, or any other for that matter, to be able to boot an alternative OS.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Not Likely

      Really?

      "It is of note however that Microsoft did not share any information on the current size of the store, the number of downloads they have had or the revenue generated or paid out to developers, all more common metrics which can be compared to other stores."

      Sounds to me like they're making a pittance and are too embarrassed to admit it.

      Windows consumer licensing itself has been pitiful for a long time. Office makes money. Server makes money. But Windows Home? Not so much. Giving it away is probably the only way to do it when you have people buying £100 Android devices or £200 iPad devices in preference to the £1000 Surface devices.

      And I'm sure vendors would love to know how to get Windows "virtually given away" to them.

      P.S. Chromebooks are £100 for a reason, against your £200-300 laptops. No Microsoft licensing, even with x86 chips.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Not Likely

        "Windows consumer licensing itself has been pitiful for a long time."

        I think they know exactly what they're doing and it's not pitiful for them. This one's free, once you're hooked, however...

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Not Likely

      "Remember, they are pretty much giving Win10 away to vendors for free just to get bodies looking at their screens."

      No, they're pretty much giving Win10 away to ensure that they can sell copies of MS Office.

      THAT is the MS cash cow. Threaten sales of it and watch how fast they move.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not Likely

        Except MS now has it's head in the clouds, and wants you to access Office365 through the web.

        Last time I checked, any operating system could access the internet..

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Not Likely

          Last time I checked, any operating system could access the internet..

          Except maybe Win10, given the rate at which it's been observed to knock out WiFi etc..

    3. Kiwi Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Not Likely

      Microsoft works very closely with hardware suppliers to optimize a given platform to work with their OS. Remember, they are pretty much giving Win10 away to vendors for free just to get bodies looking at their screens.

      Surely after the first few times they would've realised how bad their platform is and given up or preferably turned to drink/drugs and a lingering death due to the crap they foisted on the world? Or are they really that incompetent?

      While writing this I have a game running in another desktop. Windows game, all the graphics options turned to 11, and it's running great, no noticeable slowdowns. On Windows this very same game locks the machine solid for the 2-3 minutes it takes to load (and 5+ loading a saved game!) and with even half the details etc settings it crawls.

      Linux generally has run far better on any given machine, yet hasn't had anywhere near as much working "...very closely with hardware suppliers to optimize..." it for any platform.

      Why is Windows' performance so lacking when they have all the effort put in to them? It's like taking a pair of twins, letting one sit around watching TV and eating junk all day while the other gets special diets and fitness training, motivational work and so on, only to see the fat lazy one win every race no matter what. (bad analogy, windows is more of a seriously brain damaged quadriplegic c/f Linux being a top athlete with a above-the-charts IQ and a few dozen degrees, but you get the point...)

  7. HarryBl

    "Lenovo downward dogs with Yoga BIOS update supporting Linux installs"

    I know it's Friday but can you tell whoever writes your headlines to lay off the sauce until they've finished work.

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      "Lenovo downward dogs with Yoga BIOS update supporting Linux installs"

      That one was obviously come up with during an early liquid lunch (12:21 - very early)

      1. frank ly Silver badge

        Re: "Lenovo downward dogs with Yoga BIOS update supporting Linux installs"

        The 'downward dog' is a yoga pose but the article picture shows a different pose. Come on people, use Google, that's what it's there for. Come on El Reg, use a correct picture.

        1. W4YBO

          Re: "Lenovo downward dogs with Yoga BIOS update supporting Linux installs"

          I suspect that photo was chosen for the cleavage content. I fully support the editors choice.

        2. Sparkypatrick

          Re: "Lenovo downward dogs with Yoga BIOS update supporting Linux installs"

          That's Cobra pose. Nearly the opposite of Downward Dog.

          1. TomParke

            Re: "Lenovo downward dogs with Yoga BIOS update supporting Linux installs"

            The pose in the photo is also known as "dog face up" so the headline is half right, or if you prefer, half wrong - depending on which side of the bed you got out this morning...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Megaphone

    FU Lenovo you Wifi BIOS whitelisting wankers.

  9. chordonblue

    Lenovo also doesn't like you updating their crappy 1X1 WiFi internal cards. The BIOS rejected three different ones that support 5 Ghz because... It didn't like them. NO ONE should be selling a laptop these days with 2008-class WiFi - especially when It can't be upgraded.

    I'll never buy a Lenovo again. Ever.

    1. herman Silver badge

      So stick a USB WiFi dongle in it.

    2. Donn Bly

      Since the internal antenna aren't calibrated for 5 Ghz, you would have had sub-optimal performance anyway.

      +1 for pointing out that their stock cards are a decade out of date, but -1 for not reading the specs and thinking that you can just slap a different radio in it and make it work.

      1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        I just did that on my low-price Acer laptop, and it works smashingly!

        Wrong antennae or not. Since 5GHz is almost half the wavelength of 2.4GHz I think it will work ok.

  10. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Not all Lenovo's fault

    Whilst the locking of the BIOS and any alleged deal with Microsoft doesn't look that good, Lenovo aren't the only ones at fault here. Perhaps Lenovo should pick their hardware partners more carefully in future and avoid shysters like, oh ... er, Intel. (Ref: http://mjg59.dreamwidth.org/44694.html):

    "The real problem here is that Intel do very little to ensure that free operating systems work well on their consumer hardware - we still have no information from Intel on how to configure systems to ensure good power management, we have no support for storage devices in "RAID" mode and we have no indication that this is going to get better in future. If Intel had provided that support, this issue would never have occurred. Rather than be angry at Lenovo, let's put pressure on Intel to provide support for their hardware."

    (Emphasis mine.)

    1. AdamWill

      Re: Not all Lenovo's fault

      Intel have in fact contributed fixes for this now:

      https://marc.info/?l=linux-ide&m=147709610621480&w=2

      with those patches, you can install to the affected systems even without updating the firmware and changing the controller mode.

  11. jonnycando
    Mushroom

    Windows must die! Utterly, completely and forever!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not until we have a suitable replacement!!

  12. Mikel

    It is good to see times have changed

    Once upon a time their response would have been: "So?"

  13. sdalton

    Actually, I quite like lenovo. I have a Y570 or something or other (too lazy to check) that is one of my two main linux machines, and it works rather well out of the box with Debian Sid and Arch. The hardware is good, and funky raid issues aside, it seems to work well with linux (mine came with a 5400 rpm drive which was replaced with a small ssd). I do, however, have a strip of electrical tape covering the logo (but that's not exclusive to that machine, I just don't like branding).

    I recommended one of their ideapads to my friend, and it's no old-school thinkpad, but it gets the job done and had pretty good specs for the money, plus one of the best laptop keyboards I've used (thinkpads excluded ofc). He's happy with it, after wiping w10 in favour of w7.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    (untitled)

    Please can we have more tasteful pictures of beautiful women like this in The Register.

    I'm so tired of reading about Bios, storage, containers, viruses, software, consultants' asinine ramblings, what Microsoft did or didn't do next and so forth. There's no beauty in IT any more. But I don't think I'll ever get tired of seeing pictures of women doing yoga.

    1. Not Terry Wogan
      Go

      Re: (untitled)

      Bring back the Asus Eee girl!

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/10/16/asus_launches_eee_pc/

      (Bloody hell - was that really nearly ten years ago?)

  15. W. Anderson

    Lenovo Redmond lapdog

    Even 12 months ago several former IBM systems Integrators has issues with Lenovo on the x86 Server business they bought from Big Blue.

    Every request for Redhat Enterprise Linux pre-install - a popular and almost standard fare for IBM, was turned down, with Lenovo even disavowing whether RH Linux was tested satisfactorily nor was certified on newly acquired X86 Server line.

    How lame and Microsoft slavish is that?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anti-Trust again ?

    Remember back in the day when MS got accused of hogging the Browser market ?

    So is locking your Bios not doing the same thing ?

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Anti-Trust again ?

      There is saying "Never put down to malice what you can put down to incompetence".

      MS and friends are finding it all too easy to exploit that one!

  17. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

    You're seeing conspiracies where they don't exist

    This is not a mass conspiracy against Linux, it's very simply because non Windows OS do not make the manufacturer sufficient money to create a decent BIOS.

    This is endemic in PC hardware - what is supported is only what is required at that moment, this means that sometimes functionality improves over time, and other times it degrades.

    My favourite was a custom modem (a while back) that didn't work when tested, further investigation found that it did not return any data in numeric response code mode! It was specialist enough I could ring the supplier, and they confirmed they hadn't put it in because 'no-one used it or had asked for it'. A revised firmware fixed the issue.

    Modems are a great example - at first they had to be programmed with custom command set strings, then TAPI came along and made things a lot easier (on Windows), but towards the end of their life functionality degraded as TAPI profiles were only written to work for dial up Internet - if additional features were needed, it was often necessary to edit the profile.

    Good luck finding a PS/2 keyboard that works well with scan set 3 - many don't. Most CD writers don't support selecting a particular session because it's very rarely used.

    VTd was, until recently, broken on many BIOSes mostly because it wasn't used at all in Windows, and rarely elsewhere. The latest versions of Windows start to support it, and suddenly there's a reason to create a half decent BIOS.

    This is not necessarily all bad; server motherboards usually have decent firmware, but for instance even many of those no longer support MPS tables (ACPI supplanted it, and is much more useful). Given that NT 4 and Warp Server SMP are used by few people these days, it's not really a huge loss.

    1. W. Anderson

      Re: You're seeing conspiracies where they don't exist

      It appears that BinkyTheMagicPaperclip does not understand the English language, particularly in regard my comment.

      IBM sold" many thousands" of their X86 servers with Redhat Enterprise Linux pre-installed, and that particular Server line had been "certified" for Linux support if purchaser wished ti deploy their own Linux via subscription, e.g. for SuSE Linux enterprise.

      There are many large enterprises, and small ones that run "banks" of X86 servers - for Website hosting, Large database farms and for several other functions. Lenovo are in conspiracy with Microsoft to prevent this type deployment/purchase, since large sales volumes/$$$dollars are involved, which nullifies the excuse.

      1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

        Re: You're seeing conspiracies where they don't exist

        Lenovo don't even support Windows 8 on their more recent hardware, so unless you're spinning this as being in the pockets of MS and forcing W10 adoption, I'm still calling it cockup or poor business decision.

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