Ryan passed this along early this morning (really early for Ryan, seeing that we’re not even in the double digits of the morning hours!), and while this issue is only likely to affect a very small subset of users, anything that can completely brick a laptop in a matter of seconds is worrisome enough that we wanted to pass it along. File this one under the "things that should never happen" category.

You can read more of what is known at H-Online, but the short summary is this: Samsung’s UEFI implementation appears to be faulty. It was most likely tested with Windows only and found to work, but thorough testing with other operating systems doesn’t appear to have been a priority—or perhaps a consideration at all. At present, the bug appears to affect Samsung 530U3C, 300E5C, NP700Z5C, NP700Z7C, and NP900X4C series laptops; if you have one of those laptops, we recommend you exercise extreme caution if you have a need to boot into a Linux environment.

The bigger picture here is that this is what happens in a race to the bottom: corners get cut, which means less testing and validation, which can in turn lead to some catastrophic failures in specific circumstances.  What's really scary is that these Samsung laptops aren't even budget offerings, so the budget race ended up impacting higher priced offerings! Granted, in the increasingly complex world of computer hardware it can be difficult to test all of the likely scenarios. UEFI represents a fundamental change in how many low-level aspects of the computer function, however, so it needs to be thoroughly tested; not properly testing any OS besides Windows would be a gross oversight.

Long-term, we expect Samsung to release BIOS and firmware updates for the affected laptops, though how long that might take is unknown. Short-term, the workaround is for Linux to boot these Samsung models using the Compatibility Support Module (CSM), which basically bypasses the UEFI bootloader, but dual-booting via CSM appears to be a bit complex. Ubuntu’s development team has worked with Samsung and identified the kernel’s Samsung-laptop driver as the prime suspect, and there are other workarounds proposed already to address the issue. However, these fixes have not yet been merged into the main Linux development tree, so again we recommend Samsung laptop owners who use Linux exercise caution.

Update: It appears the problem stems from NVRAM corruption. Removing power, opening the laptop up, and disconnecting the CMOS battery appears like it will clear the problem, but that's a pretty serious set of steps to take for most laptops.

Source: H-Online

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  • powerarmour - Friday, February 01, 2013 - link

    Your car engine might have a sticker for mineral oil too, but doesn't mean you couldn't/shouldn't put synthetic in it ;) Reply
  • Alexvrb - Friday, February 01, 2013 - link

    Slightly OT: But the oil has to be compatible and meet or exceed specifications laid down by the manufacturer. If you stick 15w50 Mobil 1 in a vehicle calling for 5w20 conventional oil, don't be pissed at the manufacturer when you encounter problems down the road.

    Way, way OT: Funny enough though, nowadays even "conventional" oil is really a blend. Modern SN grade oils use a decent amount of Group II+ (hydrocracked) base oils so they are essentially part synthetic. The better base oils also allows them to use less VI modifiers, which are expensive and break down more rapidly than the base oils they improve. That's a big part of why even "conventional dinosaur oil" is significantly better and more durable, allowing for longer change intervals.
    Reply
  • Notmyusualid - Saturday, February 02, 2013 - link

    Ha ha!

    Well pointed out.
    Reply
  • 6tr6tr - Thursday, January 31, 2013 - link

    Does the update you posted mean this is not a complete bricking but that it can be fixed by:

    1. Unplug

    2. Open the back of the laptop

    3. Disconnect the battery (is it soldered on?)

    Can you link to a source for that?
    Reply
  • Sahrin - Friday, February 01, 2013 - link

    abandon this false narrative that lower prices mean shitty products? I get that Apple has told you prices shouldn't fall over time, because they are never able to make efficiencies in design or engineering - but the truth is it is possible to build something good for less money.

    Samsung made a mistake. You generalize and say it's because they hate Linux. As likely/unlikely as that may be, the reality is that people make mistakes all the time for reasons other than negligence and they will continue to long after computers can only be afforded by the top 1% of income earners.

    EG: Antennagate. No one at Apple ever held the phone in their hand? Ever? Maps? These aren't signs of releasing a shoddy product even when a cursory examination would've shown that they weren't ready? And you certainly can't use the 'race' to the bottom' argument for a phone that costs $650. But it's a new technology? Yes, UEFI is too.
    Reply
  • embzyk - Friday, February 01, 2013 - link

    It's a race to the bottom when hiring engineers, programmers, and doing QA. Higher prices just mean more profit - something investors demand from all corporate machines Reply
  • lopri - Friday, February 01, 2013 - link

    What appears to be corrupted BIOS by unintended usage gets this much wall of text (w/ conspiracy theory added to it) is amazing. Things like this happen all the time on $300+ motherboards all the time. The fix is likewise simple, simple enough for those who were capable of messing it up to begin with.

    OMG it's a crisis! My phone rang at 4 AM! Blah blah blah. I hope the lives of AT editors were a bit easier. You have my sympathy.

    Samsung doesn't treat you well, I guess?
    Reply
  • Notmyusualid - Saturday, February 02, 2013 - link

    Most who find themselves with a MB in their hands might be able to work it out.

    But my mother, father, / etc.

    I don't think so.
    Reply
  • tuxRoller - Friday, February 08, 2013 - link

    From Matthew Garrett's blog (http://mjg59.dreamwidth.org/22736.html):
    "It also seems likely that it's possible for a userspace application to cause the same problem under Windows."
    Reply
  • sabrefresco - Wednesday, March 06, 2013 - link

    "Update: It appears the problem stems from NVRAM corruption. Removing power, opening the laptop up, and disconnecting the CMOS battery appears like it will clear the problem, but that's a pretty serious set of steps to take for most laptops."

    I tried disconnecting power (by unplugging the battery connector on the mobo) and disconnecting the CMOS wire from the mobo and waited around a minute with no fix. Am I doing the steps right? Am I missing something?
    Reply

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