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