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HP ProBook x360 11 G1 EE incompatible with grub

From: Michel Bouissou
Subject: HP ProBook x360 11 G1 EE incompatible with grub
Date: Sun, 10 Dec 2017 18:38:58 +0100
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:52.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/52.5.0


In some (south-west) regions of France, high-school students are
currently given (for free - I mean : from our taxes) HP ProBook x360 11
G1 EE (Education Edition) laptop computers.

These computers come with Windows 10 and an HP EFI BIOS v. 01.09 to
01.11 that has no support for legacy CSM boot mode.

I believe that either this UEFI BIOS has been purposely “locked against
grub”, or there is a serious bug.

After having disabled Secure boot, I have discovered that none of the
usual (curent, latest versions as of 2017/12) Linux live USB sticks
(among : Ubuntu, Mint, Debian, Manjaro, PartedMagic) was able to boot on
this machine.

All these live USB keys normally boot using grub.

Symptoms are as follows :

- UEFI BIOS selection displays the USB key as "Windows boot manager"
instead of the USB key make / model one is used to see on other machines ;

- Selecting this just causes the screen to go black with a blinking
cursor and... that's the end.

- After a while I discovered that a rEFInd key
( ) IS ABLE to boot, and that it "sees"
the Linux key if both inserted at the same time.

- But trying to chain from rEFInd to the Linux key fails (black screen
of death with blinking cursor)

- Then I discovered that a Tails Linux key ( )
boots easily with no problem at all on the machine... And this one boots
from syslinux.

- I also tested and found that rEFInd is also able to chain to a Tails
key properly.

- Then I made another experiment and try to "doctor" some Linux keys
that couldn't boot (namely : Parted Magic and Manjaro) to remove grub
from them and replace it with syslinux. It was not an easy task, but
once done, it allowed both distros to boot easily and seamlessly.

- It is worth specifying that, as soon as grub is replaced with
syslinux, the machine's BIOS doesn't call the key "Windows boot manager"
anymore, but properly displays its brand and model.

So I can tell being 100% sure that the HP ProBook x360 11 G1 EE
distributed to students in France will *NOT BOOT* any of the common,
grub-based, Linux USB keys, but that it will happily boot the same keys
when grub is replaced with syslinux.

I cannot tell for sure if this is a purposeful lock on the machine BIOS
or a serious bug somewhere, but I felt that it deserves to be
documented, reported and investigated.

Please copy me on replies, I'm not subscribed to this mailing-list.

Best regards.


Michel Bouissou <address@hidden> OpenPGP ID 0xEB04D09C

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