Samsung Laptops Bricked by Booting Linux Using UEFIby Jarred Walton on January 30, 2013 2:20 PM EST
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.