MS patent looks just like Unix command, critics howl
'Sudo for dummies'
Microsoft has won a patent that covers functionality closely resembling security features that have been at the heart of Unix for more than two decades and more recently been folded into the Linux and Mac operating systems.
Patent 7,617,530 describes system software that "presents a user interface in response to a task being prohibited based on a user's current account not having a right to permit the task." The interface includes "an authenticator [that] comprises a password, and the authenticator region comprises a data-entry field configured to receive the password."
To Linux defenders at Groklaw, the claims describe nothing more than the sudo command that's been a core part of Unix since 1980 and dates back even earlier to the mainframe days. The feature, which has more recently been rolled into Linux and Mac OSes, is designed to prevent unauthorized commands from being issued by requiring users to enter a password before they can be run.
"It's sudo," Groklaw argues here. "With a GUI. Sudo for Dummies. That's what it is."
Technology publication The H says that interpretation "appears to be incorrect" and it cites a patent Microsoft was granted in 2004 for sudo-like functionality. Instead, the site says the Microsoft patent issued this week appears to cover the functionality of PolicyKit, which is used to fine tune user permissions for various Linux systems.
Microsoft's patent comes as the US Supreme Court wrestles with the issue of business methods, such as those included in software, and whether they qualify for patent protection. Critics contend only physical inventions should be eligible, while a large swath of technology companies maintain that software-driven features such as Amazon's one-click checkout and Priceline's reverse auctions are fair game.
According to Groklaw, the earliest reference Microsoft's application made to sudo is from 1997. Critics have long maintained the the US Patent and Trademark Office fails to adequately take into account prior inventions that render a patented technology obvious or non-novel. But prior art is in the eye of the beholder, which is why software patents will continue to clog court dockets for years to come. ®
What I was trying to point out, and what you did point out, is that it's a misnomer to suggest that OSX is solely based on BSD. I know it can be construed as pedantic, but it is worth pointing out. The link I posted explains it quite eloquently for those that don't understand (you clearly do!) - the book is interesting reading too, if that kind of stuff floats your boat. It was only FreeBSD, 4.3 FWIW, that NeXT (this is a distinction that is often missed too) used to develop Xnu along with Mach, as you said the rest is all proprietary NeXT/Apple work (I/O Kit etc.), of which some is open source I believe. Way off topic now!
@Steve X @Pablo Mayfield @Simon Banyard
Steve X contributes: "The GUI on SunOS in the mid 80's was never Motif, which was only released around 1989.
"SunOS originally came with SunView, and later Sun released an X-windows version called OpenLook. The first official Motif-based GUI shipped by Sun was on Solaris 2 and based on CDE, sometime in the 90's."
You are correct, of course. I must be concatenating time again ... It's a hazard of living long enough to become a crusty old fart, I guess :-) We did have Motif on SunOS before Sun officially shipped it ... Pre-Solaris, even. Not as early as SunOS2, but probably late 1889 or thereabouts (one of our devs came over from the fledgling OSF around then ... Sun was furious, and temporarily pulled our access to their source). Anyway, right around the SunOS 4.0.x/4.1.x boundary, definitely in the 4.3BSD era, but pre-SPARC (I don't consider the SPARCstation 1 to be a proper computer).
Steve adds: "I do vaguely remember such a superuser popup in SunView, but I'd have to boot my Sun 386i or 3/80 to check :)"
I'd check my always-on dual-pedestal 3/470 "Pegasus", but I chopped the GUI out of it almost 2 decades ago (not needed for running email, Usenet, ftp or those new-fangled Web servers), and besides it's too new for this conversation, running a much hacked & mangled OS that could be loosely called SunOS 4.1.3 U1B, if you squint at it ... Unfortunately, I sold my 2/170's power supply to a client in need about a decade and a half ago and haven't bothered replacing it yet ... One of these days I'm going to have to go thru' all my racks & scrap the junk that's not historically useful.
Pablo Mayfield scrive: "However, OSX is actually a registered UNIX apparently"
Not apparently. OSX is a UNIX. I know. Re-read mine.
Simon Banyard adds: "It's actually based on the Mach kernel from Carnegie Melon University"
Yes. The kernel is Mach ... but the system on top of it is comprised of a melange of the BSDs, with proprietary Apple derived stuff where appropriate.
And yes, the US patent system is broken. Beyond broken; it's decomposing.
@ Simon Banyard
Thanks for the clarification there, Simon.