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AU Government To Build "Unhackable" Netbooks 501

Posted by kdawson
from the smells-like-a-challenge dept.
bennyboy64 writes "In what may be one of the largest roll-outs yet of Microsoft's new Windows 7 Operating System, Australia's Federal Government decided to give 240,000 Lenovo IdeaPad S10e netbooks to Year 9-12 students. Officials are calling them 'unhackable.' iTnews reports that the laptops come armed with an enterprise version of the Windows 7 OS, Microsoft Office, the Adobe CS4 creative suite, Apple iTunes, and content geared specifically to students. New South Wales Department of Education CIO Stephen Wilson said that schools were 'the most hostile environment you can roll computers into.' While the netbooks are loaded with many hundreds of dollars worth of software, 2GB of RAM, and a 6-hour battery, the cost to the NSW Department of Education is under $435 (US) a unit. Wilson praised Windows' new OS: 'There was no way we could do any of this on XP,' he said. 'Windows 7 nailed it for us.' At the physical layer, each netbook is password-protected and embedded with tracking software that is embedded at the BIOS level of the machine. If a netbook were to be stolen or sold, the Department of Education is able to remotely disable the device over the network. Each netbook is also fitted with a passive RFID chip which will enable the netbooks to be identified 'even if they were dropped in a bathtub.' The Department of Education also uses the AppLocker functionality within Windows 7 to dictate which applications can be installed."
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AU Government To Build "Unhackable" Netbooks

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  • Sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gregthebunny (1502041) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @08:13AM (#29555075) Journal
    This needs a "goodluckwiththat" tag...
  • 100 worthless USD for cracking it open in less than 30 days
    • So stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GradiusCVK (1017360) <originalcvk@gmail . c om> on Sunday September 27, 2009 @08:36AM (#29555201)
      What is it with governments and hubris? If they had just shipped all these laptops without any mention of "unhackableness", you know what would have happened?
      1: 240,000 kids would have gotten reasonably secure systems with useful software on them
      2: People would have noticed how secure and safe the systems were, and appreciated the low rate of problems they experienced
      3: Eventually, some smart students would have figured out how to bypass all the security so they can play world of warcraft or something, but nobody would have cared and it wouldn't have gotten any press

      Instead, some asshat announces to the world "Bow to our unhackable laptops! We are awesome! HAHAHA!", and now thousands of hackers and security researchers out there have made it their personal crusade to find a way to totally decimate all the security on the box. You're right... It's gonna take about 1 month for an exploit for these things to make it to the front page on slashdot. Fucking idiots.

      Footnote:
      Yes, I'm aware that security through obscurity is no security at all, but that's not the issue here. The issue is that instead of nobody caring or trying to break the reasonable security they've implemented, now they've got thousands of people working on it. THAT does matter.
      • by Culture20 (968837) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @08:51AM (#29555287)

        Footnote: Yes, I'm aware that security through obscurity is no security at all, but that's not the issue here. The issue is that instead of nobody caring or trying to break the reasonable security they've implemented, now they've got thousands of people working on it. THAT does matter.

        Security through obscurity's little brother? Security through "meh"?

        • Absolutely (Score:5, Insightful)

          by GradiusCVK (1017360) <originalcvk@gmail . c om> on Sunday September 27, 2009 @09:04AM (#29555379)
          And don't discount the importance of it, either. All security, no matter what type it is or how it is implemented, is basically designed to slow down anybody who might try to break it. Indeed, security through obscurity itself does this, but the actual slowdown it provides is minimal, and it adds an extra cost: it is difficult to tell when somebody out there has successfully broken your security. By opening up, you can get a bunch of people working on your security to strengthen it, to help offset the few people who might be interested in breaking it.

          Anyway, why would you go to such great lengths to slow down any individuals who might see a profit in cracking your systems, then go and piss off a bunch of 1337 haxxorz all over the world and get thousands of them working on the problem in parallel? Kinda defeats the purpose of using strong security in the first place, doesn't it?
          • Re:Absolutely (Score:4, Insightful)

            by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Sunday September 27, 2009 @10:11AM (#29555869) Journal

            All security, no matter what type it is or how it is implemented, is basically designed to slow down anybody who might try to break it.

            I think you're confusing real security with poor security. Granted, often real security is difficult or impossible...

            It is possible to create a system which is actually impossible to crack, short of social engineering or unprecedented changes in technology. Example: SSH keypairs. The last major vulnerability in this was due to a stupid, stupid flaw in the implementation. You can argue that such flaws are inevitable, but I'd argue that this is an argument about human fallibility, not about the theoretical limitations of a software system. Depending how much you're willing to invest, it's possible to write a program in such a way that you can mathematically prove it to be correct.

            The only other way SSH keypairs are likely to be defeated is when quantum computers become feasible.

            That said, I think it's unlikely they've created a truly invincible system with all the software they mentioned. There's likely to be a bug somewhere in Win7, CS4, Office, or Tunes.

          • Re:Absolutely (Score:5, Insightful)

            by apoc.famine (621563) <apoc,famine&gmail,com> on Sunday September 27, 2009 @12:17PM (#29557143) Homepage Journal

            By opening up, you can get a bunch of people working on your security to strengthen it, to help offset the few people who might be interested in breaking it.

            But that only works for software you can fix, or you can get the vendor to fix. I highly doubt that's the case here.
             
            Nobody is out to burn my house down, because nobody cares. But if I go out and shout, "My House is UNBURNABLE....MUAHHAHAHA!", there's a chance that some asshat will put a torch to it just to prove me wrong.
             
            Security through obscurity doesn't work. Security through provoking asshats into action really doesn't work, unless you have the power to fix what they break.

        • by lorenlal (164133)

          Security through "meh" vs. Security through "I am INVINCIBLE" provides quite a difference in response. As summary/article/etc points out though, when you tell someone they can't do something, the first thing they want to do is... find a way to do it.

          I suggest they send out flares and try to get others to make the same claim on bigger projects to divert the attention.

          • Security through "meh" vs. Security through "I am INVINCIBLE" provides quite a difference in response.

            After spending that sort of money, did you expect them to say "We've got a bunch of sorta-hackable laptops we're lending to children, and we'd really like you to respect the boundaries that we can't enforce"?

        • Re:So stupid (Score:4, Insightful)

          by hot soldering iron (800102) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @09:35AM (#29555571)

          Exactly. The purpose of any lock is to provide a speed bump. Hopefully a big enough bump that you'll decide the effort isn't worth the payoff. This asshat increased the payoff 1000 fold in notoriety, and social recognition.

        • by ezrec (29765) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @10:25AM (#29556001) Homepage

          The Roku vidio player is an excellent example of security through "meh". It's almost an ideal box for a Boxee or MythTv frontend, but it is pretty much unhackable (cryptographically signed u-boot, kernel, and ramdisk). They've released their sources (but not their crypto key) months ago, yet not one single crack is available for it.

          Why? Because (a) they don't make a big deal of the security features to the public, b) it's stupid cheap ($99 USD), and (c) It Just Works.

          The combination of all three make 'meh'. Due to (a) there is no implicit challenge to the security community, (b) trumped the TiVo problem of trying to get 'more value for your money' out of an expensive piece of kit, and (c) prevents your Average Joe hacker from wanting to break a working (and useful to him) device.

          Good counterexamples are TiVo, Linksys routers, and the Wii.

          For TiVo, it was expensive enough that people wanted to get more value for their money, and felt it was time well spent to hack it.

          With Linksys routers, It just Doesn't Work caused people to spend a lot of time finding a way to make some perfectly good equipment work at all for them.

          The Wii advertised to the community that it was unhackable, which promptly cause all manner of security professionals to take up arms and figure out how to hack it.

      • Titanic Syndrome (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tverbeek (457094) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @09:20AM (#29555471) Homepage

        It's analogous to the Streisand Effect. And when the machines get hacked, the id10t who declared them "unsinkable" will experience Titanic Syndrome.

      • by JAlexoi (1085785)
        WoW on S10e will not run in any capacity.
        • WoW on S10e will not run in any capacity.

          Best. Security. Ever.

          With crappy hardware, all they can do is browse porn, and, uh, use cs4, apparently.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ultranova (717540)

        Instead, some asshat announces to the world "Bow to our unhackable laptops! We are awesome! HAHAHA!", and now thousands of hackers and security researchers out there have made it their personal crusade to find a way to totally decimate all the security on the box. You're right... It's gonna take about 1 month for an exploit for these things to make it to the front page on slashdot. Fucking idiots.

        Perhaps. But then again, this is Australia we're talking about. You know, the country who's government is despe

      • Re:So stupid (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Johnny Loves Linux (1147635) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @11:53AM (#29556913)

        >What is it with governments and hubris? If they had just shipped all these laptops without any mention of "unhackableness", you know what would have happened?

        Here are some clues for why they announced such a thing. From the article: 'There was no way we could do any of this on XP,' he said. 'Windows 7 nailed it for us.' *and* the cost to the NSW Department of Education is under $435 (US)

        Care to make a wager as to whether or not a certain large corporation in the Pacific Northwest gave them an extra special deal on the hardware & software on the condition that they praise Windows 7 over XP? I mean, they're purchasing netbooks and running Windows 7 on them instead of the lighter weight XP? Anybody else see anything wrong with this picture?

  • It runs Windows.

    Your setup is flawed from the start.

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      True the OS will be at risk ( regardless of the OS ), but getting into the firmware ( TPM/DRM/Call for help ) will be much harder. Not impossible of course, but the people that can do that wont be stealing 400 dollar school laptops.

    • by Xugumad (39311)

      Forget Windows, in security terms if someone has the hardware, you can fairly much consider it merely a matter of time. There are some hardware systems that are essentially unhackable, but... not in this price range. Consider that "unhackable" smart cards cost $100+ a piece, and infer from there...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 27, 2009 @08:21AM (#29555121)

    ...when Slashdot news beginning with "Australian Government" won't necessarily end with a rephrasing of "shows off its technological naivety".

    • ...when Slashdot news beginning with "Australian Government" won't necessarily end with a rephrasing of "shows off its technological naivety".

      ....when Slashdot news about any government won't necessarily end with a rephrasing of "shows off its technological naivety".

  • Same Govt. (Score:5, Informative)

    by retech (1228598) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @08:22AM (#29555125)
    This is the same govt. that put a guy in jail on child pornography charges for having a Simpson's parody porno on his computer.

    Ignorance and arrogance seem to always walk hand in hand.
    • No, it's not actually. This is the New South Wales government, whereas the "child abuse" case (I don't believe he was actually accused of distributing child porn) was the Queensland government.

      Australian government is much like US government in that we have separate state governments plus a federal government. The states are technically sovereign over the federation, but like the US, there's constant to-ing and fro-ing about how much power they've chosen to hand over to the federal government.

      We in NSW ha

  • by AHuxley (892839) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @08:23AM (#29555127) Homepage Journal
    Lunch or deal. Some state politician and/or bureaucrat must be getting a nice thanks later in life.
    The PR reads like pure MS marketing slop with a cute upgrade hint.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by kayoshiii (1099149)
      MS currently has the NSW school system eating out of its hands I remember talking to a highschool teacher a few years back who was sharing his concerns that MS had basically brokered a deal with them where they could not teach competing products. I have not seen the actual agreement so I don't have anything solid to back it up with.

      Reading between the lines when talking with the IT head of TAFE in my region of NSW basically told the same story. (We were trying to reach an arangement for Tafe to use some fac
  • And thus, the FAIL. How does this prevent anyone from RUNNING other applications, i.e. via the classic "download the exe with IE but tell it to run instead of save" trick, or from a non "installed" Firefox, etc from a USB drive?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by MikaelC (584630)
      AppLocker restricts which applications are allowed to run, not which are allowed to be installed. See e.g. this review [4sysops.com].
  • Too late (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 27, 2009 @08:23AM (#29555135)

    I just spoke to a friend in Australia.. its been pwned already using the nuke the bios and boot from a livecd method.

    They even disabled the RFID.

    • Re:Too late (Score:5, Informative)

      by poetmatt (793785) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @08:28AM (#29555161) Journal

      yeah, nuking the bios from a cd is ridiculously easy. It's actually a feature that people can do so. Hirens boot CD [hiren.info] comes with very simple methods for that.

      I bet someone will just make an app that unlocks the laptop and wipes the firmware for them so that the laptops can have actual use.

      • by nurb432 (527695)

        That is if you can boot from a cd. If they let you, then their admins are a waste.

      • by Tony Hoyle (11698)

        Depends if it's BIOS or EFI. The tools to nuke EFI really aren't there yet (although they'll likely appear in the next few months).

        Of course with EFI if you can break into the shell you've got command line access the machine is basically hosed.

    • Re:Too late (Score:5, Funny)

      by Proudrooster (580120) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @08:45AM (#29555259) Homepage
      There were these guys that made this ship that was "unsinkable" which on its maiden voyage ran into an iceberg and sank. Compromising the BIOS in this case is analogous to the iceberg. "Unsinkable, Unhackable, Waterproof." BTW, isn't the Thinkpad supposed to work underwater?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        BTW, isn't the Thinkpad supposed to work underwater?

        You're thinking about the Panasonic Toughbook. Weatherproof, waterproof, dustproof, drop-proof. For a while, British Gas / Transco were sending them out with gas engineers -- from what I was told, they used them for work tracking (read: glorified Filofax) and for storing gas equipment service manuals (beats carrying a dozen A4 binders around with you, even if the machine weighs about as much as a concrete block).

        From what I've heard, the US and UK Military like them quite a bit, and they tend to get feature

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ignavus (213578)

      I just spoke to a friend in Australia.. its been pwned already...

      Australia's been pwned already!?!

      Well, yeah, any Aboriginal person can tell you that.

  • This looks like a pretty well thought out plan. The fact that the entire application suite will be getting automatic upgrades is great; this is something that Linux users have enjoyed for many years. The "unhackable" claim is PR fluf, sure, but making such a claim should inspire their budding engineers to explore the edges of their new boxes. Since the boxes are tagged with RFID, I certainly hope no student keeps them after graduation (not that they're likely to -- 4 years is a long time to keep a netboo

  • From the summary:

    Each netbook is also fitted with a passive RFID chip which will enable the netbooks to be identified 'even if they were dropped in a bathtub.'

    What's the relation between RFID [wikipedia.org] and water immersion? RFID will allow knowing where the netbook is and can pass along some information, but it is not by itself the RFID chip that will tell you you took swim with your netbook! No?

  • "Tracking software embedded at the BIOS level"? Last I checked, those "tracking schemes" just force-fed Windows some driver/app at the BIOS level. Install any other OS and it becomes useless (not to mention that BIOSes these days aren't even hard to hack). As for the RFID, I don't see how disassembling it and taking it out is rocket science. Nevermind that the students themselves are going to be owning any kind of app installation protection in the blink of an eye.

    Sorry, using software to secure a platform against its physical holder has never worked for long, but even just trying to do it on an insecure platform like an x86 PC is beyond useless. None of this is has even a remote chance of working without the heaviest-handed TPM-on-CPU-die functionality and signing of each and every piece of software, but that has no chance of working because no one would want such a platform, it would be painful and expensive to develop, and it could never exist given the buggy and insecure nature of PC software in general.

    Video game consoles with strong hardware security and tightly controlled software environments with little interoperability requirements get cracked all the time to run homebrew and/or pirate games, what makes these people think their little netbook won't be?

    For what it's worth, Linux vs. Windows here makes little difference. The entire scheme is doomed to fail from the start due to the nature of a PC solution like this. Sounds like Microsoft just sold these guys a bunch of nonexistent security.

    • "Tracking software embedded at the BIOS level"? Last I checked, those "tracking schemes" just force-fed Windows some driver/app at the BIOS level.

      That is the 'consumer level' sort of protection. There is another level that is available to 'special customers', but i do agree that you wont see it on some cheapo school laptop.

  • by dncsky1530 (711564) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @08:30AM (#29555173) Homepage
    Setting aside the fact that I don't think giving students laptops is the most efficient use of resources (smaller class sizes, more funding for teachers, arts and science programs etc would be better)... I can't help but wonder if this will be as unhackable as $84 million porn filter [slashdot.org] released a couple years ago.
  • AppLocker WILL make it more difficult to run unauthorised apps, even if they're distributed/run via USB. It won't block things entirely but just like every security measure, it will make things more difficult, and that's all you should be able to expect. Give Microsoft some credit - I'd love to get a hold of one of these netbooks.

  • Our evil plan to control the students has become reality. Muahahhahaa!

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @08:42AM (#29555245) Homepage

    While the netbooks are loaded with many hundreds of dollars worth of software, 2GB of RAM, and a 6-hour battery, the cost to the NSW Department of Education is under $435 (US) a unit.

    The netbooks have hundreds of dollars of software loaded and still only cost $435 a unit. So the cost of the unit is being subsidized and the department is hailing this as some big leap forward in cost of ownership? And some of the big changes are related to the BIOS.

    Already, the department has noted the loss or damage of just six netbooks out of the 20,000 rolled out since August - and have tracked one teacher using their device on a field trip in New Zealand.

    Yeah, really cool that the school can track and potentially monitor everyone using one of these devices, even if the machine is not physically turned on via the RFID tags. Now there's a big win.

    DET also uses the AppLocker functionality within Windows 7 to dictate which applications can be installed on the device.

    Even better. Add McAfee filtering to control content and MSFT's own antivirus technology...add up what all that would cost in a real world enterprise. Just the software costs alone would dwarf the cost of the device.

    I look at the cost of the device, the software and all the centralized control and think, "Or just install Linux and get 95% of that functionality right out of gate." And the 5% you don't get is the spying and monitoring part. What lesson is the school teaching here?

    This is certainly a win for someone, but I'm not sure it's the students and teachers.

  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by whisper_jeff (680366) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @08:43AM (#29555249)
    Why would anyone issue a challenge like that over netbooks for students? Unhackable? Bullshit! Some hacker out there is going to take that as a challenge and hack into the thing in, I'm guessing, less than a week. And some poor student is going to have his netbook hacked because some nimrod decided to talk smack about how awesome-sauce these netbooks are and described it a "unhackable." Unreal...
  • Haha.. no (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 27, 2009 @08:52AM (#29555299)

    I work for one of the departments involved, hence the anonymous post.

    This is typical government posturing, and has nothing little to do with the what's actually going on.

    From what I've seen, the RFID chips are redundant, they're using the machine's BIOS UUID to track machines through software, I don't think they even record the embedded RFID codes at all, as that requires a physical reader device, and they're not handing them out to schools. Normally, RFID tags aren't used for anti-theft, but for inventory tracking.

    The BIOS tracking is pretty standard and off-the-shelf, it's not designed to stop professionals, but it will catch stupid thieves. Software protection is not huge, but most 'problems' will be met with an F12 network boot and a fresh system image, so the harm students can do will be limited and easily reversible. Students get limited space to save their work, and that is backed up centrally, so they shouldn't lose any data. On top of that, most questionable sites are blocked by the internet proxies, so that cuts out lots of potential sources of harmful stuff.

    Really, the true protection the laptop gets is that every student receives one for free, but a replacement laptop has to be paid for out of their parent's pockets. Students will learn to be careful with them or face punishment from their parents.

    There's lots of other silliness going on though, especially as it's my tax dollars going to waste.

    For example, the enterprise agreement for the Adobe CS4 suite was a big deal. They spent millions purchasing the software before anyone had actually tried running any of it on an actual laptop. Only after the government had signed the contracts did they bother, only to find out that the screens were too small. All of the Adobe dialog boxes were designed for a vertical height larger than the physical screen resolution, so the OK/Cancel buttons are cut off. The workaround was to install a driver that supports a larger virtual desktop and pans the screen around. It's hideous. This is what happens when you let politicians make technical purchasing decisions.

    Similarly, the laptops are rather anemic, which is expected for a netbook, but a lot of the software and content they want to publish is very video-centric. Apparently some types of video, like Flash content and h264, don't always play well, and high-res content is a slide show.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MrKaos (858439)

      There's lots of other silliness going on though, especially as it's my tax dollars going to waste.

      I wonder how many 10's of millions of dollars will be spent on licencing fees? The entire infrastructure could have been built upon Linux distributions and tailored to the education departments requirements. As it stands I wonder if they even looked at a Linux distribution.

      What waste of money.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Maelwryth (982896)

      "Really, the true protection the laptop gets is that every student receives one for free, but a replacement laptop has to be paid for out of their parent's pockets. Students will learn to be careful with them or face punishment from their parents."

      A couple of thoughts on that. The first is that my daughter went through six cellphones one year (not paid for by me). Children have no idea how much things cost because generally they don't have to work for them. The second is that the loss of your lapto

  • From Lenovo? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @08:54AM (#29555311)

    If I recall, China's People's Liberation Army is part-owner of Lenovo.

    Exactly why do the Aussies thing there won't be back doors built into the hardware or BIOS?

    • Re:From Lenovo? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @10:23AM (#29555973) Journal

      If I recall, China's People's Liberation Army is part-owner of America.

      Fixed that for ya.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wvmarle (1070040)

      If Lenovo would build in back doors, and is found out, then at best they go bankrupt. I think that is enough of a reason for any company NOT to build in that kind of back doors. And they will be found: non-standard chips present in the hardware are a prime target for further investigation, and BIOSes can be flashed (or, presumably, the original software checked against known-good implementations or at the very least decompiled for investigation).

      So even if the PLA is part-owner of Lenovo, why would you thi

  • by Chief Crazy Chicken (36416) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @09:00AM (#29555347)

    etch-a-sketch!

  • by Informative (1347701) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @09:22AM (#29555487)
    ... give the impression that Austalia's governors are stupid fucks.
  • "Stephen Wilson said that schools were 'the most hostile environment you can roll computers into.' While the netbooks are loaded with many hundreds of dollars worth of software, 2GB of RAM, and a 6-hour battery, the cost to the NSW Department of Education is under $435 (US) a unit. Wilson praised Windows' new OS: 'There was no way we could do any of this on XP,' he said. 'Windows 7 nailed it for us.' At the physical layer, each netbook is password-protected and embedded with tracking software that is embed
  • All I get is an "interstitial ad" that counts down from 40, then starts over again. And again.

    WTF?

  • that thing is very under powered for that and they they want windows 7 on top of that?

  • i will flash the bios and wipe win7 off and have Linux running on it in less than an hour.
  • How much work will IT have to do for each itunes update? how about all the ipod updaters?

    also will they be unlocked should the student finish his or her studies at the school. So the student can install what software they want.

    or are they left with system with The update service switches off once a student finishes Year 12 and that has a lock of lockdown carp still on with no way to get rid of it or any way to update any software left on it?

  • I've used one (Score:5, Informative)

    by bbqsrc (1441981) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @10:58AM (#29556359) Homepage
    Right, well, I actually attend one of the schools who have a deployment of these laptops.

    There's a label on the bottom that threatens you that if you steal it the police will find you. There's tamper-proof screws, so normal phillipshead's wont do the job. The BIOS is obviously passworded, and I managed to break the bootloader of Windows 7 by pressing ESC twice. No OS found apparently.

    For "secure" laptops, you can right click pretty much anything and run it as an admin. We ran cmd.exe as an admin to create a proper Admin account. Completely bypasses AppLocker. Apparently, according to the laptop admins, the government wont allow printer drivers that aren't already part of Windows 7, so no printing for you.

    The laptop maintainers don't even have administrator access. They have to box the laptops up and ship them to a centre to be "fixed", even if it's as simple as reinstalling a driver. Pathetic.

    It's only early days, and the nuking of the bios can be done easily, through Wubi or other means, but USB boot is disabled so you'll have to find alternative means. And I know it's likely moot to post so late after the rush, but I had to say it.

    Btw, it's CS4 Elements, it's not the true suite. And it includes Dia, the open-source diagram editor, which I found odd. Open source deployments always amuse me.

    To finish, Firefox is not included by default and has many issues when installing, as you don't have access to Program Files, so it confuses the installer to no end unless you change where you're installing it to.

    These laptops require ethernet access to activate and are mapped to a single username, so good luck using it if you don't have a Department of Education account. The all have filtering software so no porn for you kids, even when at home. Myspace and Facebook are blocked even from home connections. It's a rather horrible crippled setup that I'd wish upon no-one.

    Welcome to the future of computing. Homeschool your kids.
  • by DaMattster (977781) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @11:38AM (#29556759)
    Stephen Wilson and New South Wales were supposed to be pro open source. I guess Microsoft and a bunch of others ridiculously discounted their software again to get them to bite. Stephen Wilson was reputed to be pro Linux. I guess the powers that be got to him. Too bad, so sad. Notice how these netbooks are eerily Orwellian in their surveillance. Also, no computer is unhackable - given a short length of time, we will see the Slashdot posting that these netbooks have been hacked. The only unhackable computer is the one not connected to any outside network.
  • From a Students View (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LifesABeach (234436) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @12:37PM (#29557315)
    OK, let's ignore for now, the "Un-Hackable" nonsense. What if I want to learn Physics Modeling using LISP? Sign Language? I have to go buy it? But it's free software! Wait? I have to wait to have some faceless multinational corporation "grant" permission? My homework is due next Thursday, and my teacher says, "no excuses". How about my paper due on Shakespeare's Histories? Bing says, "do you mean Shake Spears? Sorry, no matches" I can get extra credit if I make, and submit a short video on the properties of a Candle Flame; YouTube uploads are now blocked? What Educator said, "It's OK to only learn a tiny subset of knowledge."
  • by w0mprat (1317953) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @04:24PM (#29559229)
    "If a netbook were to be stolen or sold, the DET is able to remotely disable the device over the network. Even if the hard drive of the machine was swapped out or the operating system wiped, it would be useless to unauthorised users."

    It may be hackable yes, /. groupthink even posits how easy it may be. I think we've seen 'Windows' mentioned and somehow assumed they would inevitibly make obvious mistakes like allowing booting from usb/cd.

    They appear to have some kind of kill switch at the BIOS level, which sounds pretty potent and difficult to circumvent to me. I would presume when the stolen machine connects ot the internet, it calls home, if it's been nuked, it then bricks itself and refuses to boot of anything.

    Doesn't mean you couldn't strip the laptops for parts if stolen. That is if you didn't go the trouble of replacing bios chip (if not flashable)

    Despite that, they do seem to have to gone to significant lengths to thwart theft more than anything. However whatever IT outfit told them that the product would be 'unhackable' is guilty of telling lies, that kind of statement smacks of marketing department (not engineers) of some company telling it's ignorant client what it wants to hear (yet can't reasonably expect to get) just to get paid.

    So it will be hacked, of course and the blame will fall everywhere (ie students) except the marketing people who made the claims.
  • by PhunkySchtuff (208108) <kai&automatica,com,au> on Sunday September 27, 2009 @07:52PM (#29560775) Homepage

    These machines will be as unhackable as the Titanic was unsinkable.

    All the Government are doing is putting out a challenge and ultimately proving that a committee of "IT Experts" will be no match for a determined teenage schoolboy who wants to look at porn.

Swap read error. You lose your mind.

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