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Users Petition Asus Over Transformer’s Encrypted Bootloader

Asus has encrypted the bootloader of its Eee Pad Transformer Prime, sparking a petition from users who want the freedom to unlock the tablet

Asus users are fuming after it was revealed that the Eee Pad Transformer Prime tablet launched in December last year is running 128-bit encryption on its bootloader.

In a petition started to force Asus to “Free the bootloader”, users said they “were very disappointed to discover that the device’s bootloader will only allow packages signed by Asus to be installed, and thus also does not allow us root access to the tablet’s operating system.”

Blocking open source software

According to technology blogger Tim Anderson, locked-down devices, more pervasive in the tablet era, give vendors more control and place users at the mercy of those who are slow or reluctant to provide updates.

The Prime was launched last month running the Android 3.2 Honeycomb operating system, and a promise of a quick upgrade making it the first tablet to run Android’s Ice Cream Sandwich.

Developers commenting on the petition said the device would have been capable of competing with the iPad, but denying access to root code and kernel source code was a major strike against a device that could otherwise properly level the playing field. “Being part of this community means openness, customisation and flexibility. Locking your device defeats the whole purpose and consumers are better off buying from your competitors,” said Eduardo Sant’Anna.

The xda developer forum has encouraged users to make their voices heard using social media channels like Twitter and Facebook as was done when HTC made a similar move. It also suggested complaining directly to the company using its online escalation mailbox. According to a statement on the forum, the encryption makes it impossible to Flash Roms and kernels. operations which would have “unlock[ed] the device’s full potential through overclocking, flashing Linux Distros, customising and undervolting”. The forum has also asked that Asus fix a GPS problem on the tablet.

Users have taken the campaign to heart, with more than 3,000 people signing the online petition and hundreds more flooding Twitter and the Asus Facebook page with comments demanding that the company unlock the bootloader, or claiming to have cancelled their purchase because of the encryption.