back to article MS patent looks just like Unix command, critics howl

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 …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is a GUI sudo

    gksudo is one, probably qt has one as well.


    Oh, and there is one based on policykit.

    Come on, MS are so far behind the curve it has become ridiculous, and the patent offices need to wake up as well. Talk about prior art.

  2. J 3
    Thumb Down

    From the snippets here...

    Yeah, that's sudo. If you throw in the GUI, then call it kdesudo or gnome-sudo instead.

    Anyway, obvious idea, if that's all there is to it..

  3. skwdenyer

    Only, err, at least 16 years too late!

    This precise functionality - with a GUI - has been in IRIX since at least 1993 with the introduction of IRIX 5.x. Try to do something that requires root access and up will pop a dialogue asking for - you guessed - it the root password, or the credentials of another privileged user.

    Surely there must be a way of sorting out prior art challenges to this nonsense before it gets granted, isn't there?

  4. Ned Ludd

    A title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    Time to keel haul the patent system.

  5. Qux
    Thumb Down

    More like a blind eye

    "prior art is in the eye of the beholder"?

    Rubbish. My personal experience writing technology patents is that the US patent office is almost _guaranteed_ to overlook any prior art you choose not to identify in the patent application.

  6. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Let's just take it outside and kill it,

    Software patents - ARE STUPID!

    ... and before you go off on me - I help write software for a living.

  7. P. Lee Silver badge
    Gates Horns

    It isn't about whether it will be struck down

    Its whether you want to be the one spending the money to do it

  8. Ben Tasker Silver badge

    Wait for the Claims

    I can see it now, "Linux Definitely infringes on this patent!" will be the next thing out of ballache^H^H^Hmers mouth.

    One has to wonder, if open source software does infringe on MS's IP (not that 'Intellectual Property' actually exists in law), how many of those patents are for things with years of prior art?

  9. Anonymous Coward


    So KDE and Gnome can copy the MS Windows look and feel to the nth degree, but MS does something that makes sense, and two years later we get outrage from Unixers? This is BS.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Now they patent the i) the bleedin' obvious and ii) the bleedin' obvious with a bleedin' obvious ton of prior art. So who are they going to sue first with this?

  11. Andrew Garrard
    Gates Horns

    Nope, I'm with Groklaw

    I only read the patents at a relatively basic level, since I'm near enough to falling asleep as it is, but as far as I can tell the new patent talks about a mechanism for allowing the user to run an task as though they were a user which has more privileges, whereas the old patent that The H talks about is a matter of a privileged server checking the privileges of a client before servicing requests (not that it sounds like this one should have passed the obviousness/precedent test either). I could be too asleep to make the distinction correctly, though.

    Microsoft's new patent adds a GUI to allow the user to select one of several possible user accounts that have appropriate privileges for the task in hand, apparently automatically. Sudo (in its native form) specifies the user to be run for each task explicitly. So, if anything, Microsoft's "innovation" is to search for possible accounts that the user could choose for this program and let the user select them from the GUI, rather than having an explicit option preconfigured.

    Is this innovation enough to have been granted a patent? Not by a long way, in my book, and I'm sure there's plenty of precedent in the open source community for graphical utilities that help set up your sudo settings (I prefer a text editor, so I wouldn't know).

    But then I'd like to see *all* patents thrown out (almost nothing is unlikely to be invented repeatedly, these days, and people aren't going to stop announcing cool stuff in conferences regardless of whether there are patents in the way), and copyright law expanded so that the drugs companies can still defend against having all their hard work stolen.

    Incidentally, support for sudo being "recently" added to Linux as OS X is a little rich. "Recent" as in neither operating system is more than twenty years old, but the functionality has been there pretty much since they gained multi-user support, which is extremely early in the development cycle of either system.

  12. Martin 6 Silver badge

    @Only, err, at least 16 years too late!

    >Surely there must be a way of sorting out prior art challenges to this nonsense

    Yes it's called perjury - when you file a patent you make a legal statement that it is new and novel and that you don't know of any prior art.

    I don't know of anybody ever being prosecuted though.

  13. Lars Silver badge

    @ stupid Anonymous Coward

    This article is about patents.

  14. adnim Silver badge

    Not exactly sudo

    "Systems and/or methods are described that enable a user to elevate his or her rights. In one embodiment, these systems and/or methods present a user interface identifying an account having a right to permit a task in response to the task being prohibited based on a user's current account not having that right. "

    Sudo does not identify an account to the user that has rights to complete the task... An information disclosure security risk in itself. Sudo defaults to root but using sudo whilst specifying the -u command line switch will allow sudo to execute the command as that named user.

    I can only presume that MS using a GUI and presenting a list of accounts with suitable privileges is what make this idea different enough to warrant a patent.

    Imho they are as bad as Apple at patenting prior art with a twist of lemon. They should not have been allowed the patent because it is just sudo in a dress wearing a name badge.

  15. magnetik

    @Andrew Garrard

    " if anything, Microsoft's "innovation" is to search for possible accounts that the user could choose for this program and let the user select them from the GUI, rather than having an explicit option preconfigured"

    That sounds like a really bad idea to me, as in: "I don't have access to this resouce. Find me a list of users who do so I know which accounts to use when trying to break into it"

  16. Steve John



  17. jubtastic1

    On the Mac

    That description perfectly describes the Authorisation dialog that pops up whenever an action requires an administrator privileges, moreso than the sudo command which is required to be typed before attempting an action, if you don't use the sudo command the admin action simply fails will a boiler plate error, it won't prompt you for a username/pass.

    either way it's old hat.

  18. Daniel 4

    Re: Stupid @ AC 20:22

    The single most stupid post here is yours.

    No one here has said a single thing complaining about MS including this functionality in Windows. In fact, many of us, having to deal with Unix and Windows on a regular basis, are quite happy to see such functionality start to appear over in MS land. What has all us all ready to see Ballmer crushed by one of his own chairs is the notion that MS got a patent for it. If you don't get this now, you're either an MS troll or too stupid to justify further attempts at communication.


  19. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD
    Thumb Down

    End software patents. Now.

    'bove says it all

  20. Anonymous Coward

    gksudo anyone?

    Okay okay, so gksudo doesn't have a nice drop-down box that helpfully points out which users have admin privs (as if that's a good idea). Well done! Very inventive!

  21. Anonymous Coward

    @Only, err, at least 16 years too late!

    >Surely there must be a way of sorting out prior art challenges to this nonsense

    Yes, it's called ``suing'' and that appears to be the only way the merkin patent system operates. Do what you want, patent what you like, and the courts will sort it out eventually, usually in favor of the one with the most money, i.e. can pay lawyers for the longest amount of time, while all others go titsup. The system is broken, people!

  22. Robert E A Harvey


    Even if sudo is not prior art - and it obviously is - surely the policy editor has been around for more than 5 years. WHy on earth are microsoft granted a retrospective patent?

    This whole business of software patents is as foolish as we all said it would be in advance.

  23. Gert Selkobi


    And Microsoft wonder why people detest their business practices? No, wait, they don't wonder, they know and don't give a dam as they are always able to throw enough money at the decision makers to get their own way.

    Utter, utter bastards!

    They steal from OSS constantly, then try to cripple OSS with the patent system. Money comes to money, like flies around shit.

  24. Todd Anderson

    So, where's the EFF?

    Where is the great EFF with a law suit to challenge the legitimacy of this patent?

  25. Giles Jones Gold badge


    Convicted monopolists should not be allowed to patent anything. Abuse of power and all that.

    Patents were originally conceived to help the little guy build up a business.

  26. SkippyBing Silver badge

    Makes a change

    from Apple patenting the blindingly f***ing obvious then...

  27. George 24

    US patents

    US patents, what a joke. I think that the rest of the world should do what the US do, ignore patents that are issued by countries other than itself. US can blatantly and legally ignore patents from the UK or AUS, so why should we respect the US patent system?

  28. Mike Gravgaard

    RE: Stupid

    "So KDE and Gnome can copy the MS Windows look and feel to the nth degree, but MS does something that makes sense, and two years later we get outrage from Unixers? This is BS."

    Not sure if you're trolling but you realise Apple lost their famous case in 80's because they found you cannot patent the 'look and feel' also their was prior art (ie Xerox PARC).. The thing is many people get annoyed with Microsoft about is that they steal ideas and then patent them.

    This patent is only really an issue in the US as I don't believe anyone outside the US acknowledges software patients - the thing is someone like IBM might end up taking Microsoft to court to defend this but I doubt Microsoft would as part of their business is based on this fragile house of cards.

    This shows that software patents are a terrorable idea for this reason alone (i.e. prior art being ignored).


  29. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Gates Horns


    MacOS X has such a GUI. It requests the username and password of somebody with the proper privileges. It can be yourself if you're an admin, root, or a completely different account. It allows administration of a machine without having to log out of a low-privileges account.

  30. Kevin (Just Kevin)

    Rolled into Linux?

    Why does the world insist on saying "It's been in Unix forever and has recently been rolled into Linux"???

    Linux is an example of one of the many operating systems in the "Unix" class. It's treated like something different when it isn't.

    Or were they talking about Unix(tm), the operating system name often the case of legal dispute between SCO & Novell?

    Either way, it's a stupid phrase. Linux (or, more accurately, "any linux distribution") is just as much "Unix" as Solaris, Irix, HPUX or any other of them.

  31. asdf Silver badge

    the beasts motivation

    M$ knows upfront this is obviously a bogus patent and they have no motivation to sue anyone and get it invalidated in the discovery phase. Instead they will use it as one more FUD patent to throw in big business face about why it has to avoid the evil Linux or get sued into oblivion (via proxy front companies ala SCO of course to avoid the negative publicity). Modern society is having a very hard time providing a living for its people with the massive overhead of our leech lawyers (who write the laws in the ultimate vested interest) and leech money shuffling stealing financial system. Nothing benefits society like discouraging innovation via legal extortion.

  32. Neoc


    When I asked my Ubuntu box to check for updates this morning (prompted by my Vista laptop telling me yet more security updates had been downloaded - I've been getting 1 a day for the last week or so), a little box popped up asking me to confirm my "administrator" authority upgrade by typing a password. It has done so for quite a while now. And does so every time my "normal" user requests an action/program that requires "admin" access.

    Someone explain to me how Microsoft's "new concept" is different from that?

    @Kevin (Just Kevin): Actually, UNIX is technically a trademarked name denoting one particular "flavour" of that OS range. The common naming convention for the entire family is *nix, which denotes any UNIX-flavoured OS, such a Linux, BSD, HP-UX and (yes) OS-X. As such, it is entirely possible for something to be in UNIX (one flavour) and only be recently bundled into Linux (another flavour).

    To make an analogy, your comment is akin to wondering about the statement "it was available for some time in XP and has recently been bundled into Vista" - after all, they're all MS Windows, right?

  33. wa2flq
    Jobs Halo

    Another Me Too

    OpenSesame.App from NeXTStep 3.1 circa 1992.

  34. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Patents: dripfeed for lawyers and civil servants

    >>why should we respect the US patent system?

    We don't of course. A separate patent has to be taken out in the various countries of the EU to be valid. As for the Chinamen, lip service is the order of the day.

    Anyway, the whole patent system - not just the software patents - is total crap. I can't wait for this mistake to land on the scrapheap of history. It started off with the Wright Brothers and Edison going full retard and scuttling their potential commercial success trying to be monopolists hiding under Mama Govnmt's shirts. It hasn't become better since. Yeah, all that "publication of ideas" B.S. and blah blah blah.

  35. frymaster

    fail article is fail

    that groklaw article is utter fail. It's not sudo, (or even a GUI for sudo), and, though I don't know much about policykit other than what the authors say on their main page, it doesn't appear to be that either

    the patent CITES THE SUDO MANUAL. I am not a lawyer, shady or otherwise, but if I _WERE_ a shady lawyer I'd point out to my clients that a reference to the invention you're trying to steal is maybe unwise

    from this I conclude that it's not supposed to be about sudo. despite the gorklaw article mentioning "GUI" about half-a-trillion times, the patent goes to great pains to repeat (say, a quarter of a million times) that the gui implementation shown in the patent is merely that, an example implementation, and that the fact that it's a GUI is also not the point

    whether software patents are a good idea, and whether, assuming they were, what is being described is patentable, are two other, more worthy, discussions that groklaw decided weren't as important as starting their own inane FUD

  36. foxyshadis


    Think a minute before you spout a knee-jerk reaction, there's a much simpler way to do this that has worked since Windows NT: Right click the file/folder and open its properties. The security tab lists all users' permissions if you have any rights to the object at all. The same is true on all operating systems, by various means, or do you think that seeing the owner/group in a *nix file list is any different?

    If you don't have any rights, you won't see the box, you'll just get a generic Administrator default runas box.

  37. Anonymous Coward


    There's a difference here: KDE and Gnome aren't going to sue MS after they copy the UI. MS might probably sue Linux/OpenBSD/Solaris/etc AFTER they copy and patent the process. I'm sure people won't mind if MS weren't so money minded that they're evil enough to sue people for something they copied and then patented.

    Stop. Because M$'s patent must be stopped before they sue other OSes into bankruptcy.

  38. jake Silver badge

    @Kevin (Just Kevin) &@Neoc &prior art

    Kevin scrive: "Either way, it's a stupid phrase. Linux (or, more accurately, "any linux distribution") is just as much "Unix" as Solaris, Irix, HPUX or any other of them."

    Nope. There is no Linux distribution qualified to wear the name "UNIX". Same for BSD (although I could make a case for Apple's Darwin being a "real BSD based UNIX", whatever that means ... and part of the reason I run Slackware is because it's closer to the AT&T UNIX that I grew up with in the early '70s than any other distribution).

    Neoc contributes: "Actually, UNIX is technically a trademarked name denoting one particular "flavour" of that OS range. "

    Not correct. There are a wide variety of OSes, ranging from AIX to True64 to z/OS to Apple's own OSX 10.5 (and several others) which are qualified to be called UNIX.

    Linux & the BSDs are properly called "unix-like", or in the vernacular, "*nix".

    Adding to the "prior art" comments, I seem to remember pre-solaris SunOS 2.x-ish in the early or mid '80s popping up a dialog box (the GUI was Motif) asking for the root passwd when ordinary users tried to do root-only stuff. It MIGHT have been a local implementation; we had access to Sun's source where I was working at the time.

  39. Hugh_Pym


    "the patent CITES THE SUDO MANUAL. " It doesn't matter what they state in the application, Prior art is not taken into account at the issuing of the patent. A third party has to pony up to challenge the application and prior art is one of the options. Only obviousness and patentabilty count and the US patent office don't seem to look very hard at those.

    This is patent poker. Microsoft have opened the bidding and the other players have to either follow or fold. That give me a thought....

    SCENE - wild west saloon. A tall lean stranger is in town. He faces Microsoft across a smoky table. The other players are out of the game only these two remain. The cards have been dealt Microsoft has a huge pile of gold, dollar bills and land deeds. The stranger is down to his last few dollars. All is silent and tense.

    Microsoft - I'l raise $1000

    stranger - All in

    Microsoft - 'read 'em and weep

    stranger - You cheated!

    Microsoft - That's a lie!

    the gun smoke clears and Microsoft lies dead on the floor. The Stranger blows the smoke from his gun as the piano strikes up and the party gets back into the swing.

    ... Well we can dream can't we.

  40. magnetik

    @ foxyshadis

    " The security tab lists all users' permissions if you have any rights to the object at all"

    Sure, that just proves my point. If you *don't* have rights to an object you can't see who does, but this MS GUI will give you a list of users who do have rights so you can pick one to authorize with.

  41. brudinie

    What a joke.

    This is a perfect example of why software should not be patentable.

    Maybe Microsoft will try to patent the wheel next.

  42. Daniel Pimley
    Jobs Halo

    Rabid Dog

    "Makes a change from Apple patenting the blindingly f***ing obvious then..."

    One could argue that Apple have learned their lesson, having played fair and been bitten too many times in the past. Now they are the IP rabid dog that few dare to approach. It doesn't make it right, but it makes it understandable.

  43. Steve X


    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.

    I do vaguely remember such a superuser popup in SunView, but I'd have to boot my Sun 386i or 3/80 to check :)

  44. Scott 19
    IT Angle

    Was thinking

    About inventing a motorised sort of wheel based transport and patent it, if the only criteria is you have to get the patent to the patent office first i could be onto a winner. I'm aware that people are making transport like this at the moment but no-ones claiming patent rights.

    Does anyone know if you have to have a working model (i'd probably call it model-t for some reason) or is a paper based design good enough.

    IT Icon for El-Reg for fixing your comments problem.

  45. Andrew Garrard


    Actually, hands up, I'll admit that I'd not read the references and noticed the link to sudo.

    This does, perhaps, raise the question of what the patent is actually for. If it's for the elevation of privileges, then sudo covers it. If it's for the GUI selection of accounts, there's plenty of precedent, and the patent - as you say - claims that the GUI is just an example. If it's the autogeneneration of a prospective accounts list then - as magnetik says - it's a bad idea from a security perspective, and probably still not new.

    It would be better for the reader if the patent had to point out the novel step, rather than restating the functionality of prior art and burying the novel step in it. Of course, it's in the interests of patent lawyers to try to make the patent covers as much ground as possible, in the hope of pulling in unrelated infringers.

    I don't think Microsoft are entirely evil in this - the corporate culture encourages people to get patents monetarily, so you can't blame them for trying - but I still claim there's no way I'd have permitted this one, because the innovation step, if any, isn't significant enough even compared with the prior art that they state (never mind what's actually out there).

    On the other hand, you've got to like the patent office doing their best to get themselves put out of a job. What's not clear is how one could possibly get rid of the software patent system (internationally) without a logistical nightmare for everyone who's already in financial negotiations relating to patent deals - although I'm in no doubt that it would be better if every software patent (and possibly a good many others) were immediately invalidated. Maybe someone should find a solution. And patent it.

  46. Dan Wilkinson
    Gates Halo


    You can only patent methods, not ideas. This patent is for achieving the sudo like functionality via a specific method. You can't just say "it's the same as sudo!" and not allow it, because a) there is (in all likelihood) no patent already in place for sudo, and b) the prior art has to me for the method, not the functionality.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not a new feature in windows

    Being doing this for years.

    Assuming you're usual logon account is a power user/restricted user one try and install something outside your priviledges and you get this sort of interface already. Alternatively right click something to run it and choose a different account.

  48. HFoster
    Thumb Down

    What really irks me

    isn't that this is new, or "looks remarkably like sudo", but that it's being patented. Patenting is going to kill the software business dead, or at least keep it to the large software houses who can afford the licensing.

    Truely novel algorithms (e.g. new and revolutionary approaches to graphics, video/audio encoding, compression) I could understand, but GTFO of here with patenting a fucking security interface.

  49. Ben Bonsall

    MS can't sue for sudo.

    The patent mentions sudo as prior art... MS can't sue someone for implementing the thing they have said it is based on. This looks a lot like the part of UAC that allows you to have two accounts with the same username and password, one with limited access, and one with full access, so to do an admin task you must specifically authorize it to happen.

    The reason for the patent would be to prevent anyone from retrospectively applying for a patent for sudo and suing MS for implementing privelege escalation in UAC, which would be a brain dead idea, legally trying to force MS to release an insecure OS...

    Software patents are a stupid idea, as are ones for business methodology, but while they exist, companies wil have to protect themselves from trolls. Even if they have a reputation for trolling themselves. In fact, ESPECIALLY if they have a reputaion for doing it themselves.

  50. Ben Bonsall

    @scott 19

    Karl benz patented the motor car in 1866, the patent expired more than 100 years ago and you'd be laughed out of the patent office for failing to notice that.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ jake

    Your comments on Linux vs. UNIX are largely correct. However, OSX is actually a registered UNIX apparently and it even has a recognised UNIX admin certification all of its very own. Weird, I know, considering its architecture. But there you are ... OSX is proper bona fida UNIX.

  52. The BigYin

    @Ben Bonsall

    Although I think someone in Australia did manage to patent the wheel.

    Ah yes, here we go:

    Funny old world, innit?

  53. Bill Gould
    Gates Halo


    ...the "free for the world yaaaay" hippies didn't bother patenting it. Sucks to be them.

  54. John F***ing Stepp

    super user do.


    If I wanted to be SU I would.

    # microsoft all you want, well do.

    I don't think they feel that the retarded feel pain.

    And I believe they might be locked into that concept loop.

  55. Jacqui Smith's DVD Collection!


    As well as SUDO in Unix/Linux this describes exactly the user elevation process in Mac OSX, Mac users get this when they install/update software or make a system config change.

    Are they fucking serious????

  56. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

    You cant blame the USPO

    Yes, I said it.

    They didn't make the laws, they just get stuck with them.

    And they are not software engineers with 20+ years of experience.

    You want prior art, you have not just sudo but also su. This is Unix. You want to go back the Vaxen days and RSTS, you had the same thing.

    So the concept isn't new, and its obvious.

    A GUI prompt? Try running Yast from a non-root account on SuSE linux.

    OSX? Its got a Mach micro kernel at the heart of it. (Gee, didn't Jobs start a company called NeXT? Didn't it get bought by Apple when Jobs returned to take control of Apple?)

    But I digress. The point is that in the world of software and OSs, there is so much out there, so much that may have been developed in house and not released to the public, that you can almost always find prior art. The problem is that you have to know where to look. The patent grunts don't always know and with the whole 'business process' argument, they're swamped with people trying to get patents on ridiculous things.

    The US Supremes should get their collective heads out of their collective arses and solve this problem once and for all.

    A fail not for the article, but for American Law!

  57. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    US patents dangerous anyway

    If I remember correctly, the US patent office does not allow a third party to provide prior art during the investigation phase of a patent being granted. What has to happen is that if a third party has information about prior art, they must wait for the patent to be granted, and then challenge it in court.

    This means that someone like the EFF cannot just slap a dossier of well-known information onto the desk of the patent examiner when a dodgy patent is applied for.

    This strikes me as being a stupid way of doing things, as a small inventor with a patent, who is already being stung to maintain the patent, cannot prevent an infringing patent being granted when it would be cheap, but must wait and take out a costly lawsuit after the fact. This means that the US patent system unfairly favours large companies or other people with deep pockets.

    This works another way as well. If a large company wants to steal a patent owned by a smaller organisation or individual, they can make their application sufficiently vague so that the patent gets granted, and then they challenge the validity of the earlier patent. These get argued out in court, so the owner of the original patent has to either stump up the cash to defend their legally granted, prior patent, come to terms with the large company (which normally involves them getting less than it is worth) or completely abandoning the original patent.

    This make US paten law the proverbial ass. But then again, the original law was probably drafted or influenced by US large industry anyway, so why would they not build a patent system that was to their advantage!

  58. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    UNIX vs. Linux

    There is a verification suite owned by The Open Group which allows you to test your UNIX-like OS, and if it passes, actually call it UNIX(tm). This used to be based around the SVID (System V Interface Definition) and was called the SVVS (System V Verification Suite). The standard has developed through POSIX 1003, Spec 1170, XPG, and UNIX 93, 95, 98 and 03, and there has been a verification process for each of them.

    It has been passed around a bit, but I believe that The Open Group has maintained UNIX branding (since the demise of USL, UNIX System Laboritories), separate from all of the UNIX IP and source ownership arguments.

    I thought that the Linux Standard Base consortium were attempting to get UNIX 95 or 98 branding some time back, but I could be mistaken.

    I personally prefer to think of a UNIX(tm) OS as being a derivative of the original Bell Labs code (a so-called Genetic UNIX), but I know that I am out of date. I know that Open/MVS and z/OS on mainframes (definitly NOT genetic UNIX) have achieved branding, but as far as I am aware, this is the only non-genetic OS that has achieved any UNIX branding.

  59. kain preacher Silver badge

    @ Pablo Mayfield

    Here the Reason why Pablo OSX is based on BSD. BSD has contribute a large chunk of code to the official Unix OS.

  60. William Towle

    Re: fail article is fail

    frymaster> "

    the patent CITES THE SUDO MANUAL. I am not a lawyer, shady or otherwise, but if I _WERE_ a shady lawyer I'd point out to my clients that a reference to the invention you're trying to steal is maybe unwise

    from this I conclude that it's not supposed to be about sudo.


    I'm with you on this one. If I run `sudo foo` for some command "foo", then I'll be running the command with elevated privileges both *at my request* and *regardless of need* (I'm thinking `sudo ls /`, but `sudo ifconfig eth0` fails if /sbin isn't in $PATH - something that could be checked before the password prompt).

    If their implementation causes "the device to present 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", then it implies some part of the system is waiting for the need for privilege escalation before it intervenes; 'sudo' clearly doesn't check for "[the] user's current account not having a right to permit the task" first. The two are different, QED.

  61. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    @Ian Michael Gumby

    Sorry to be picky, but UNIX pre-dates VAX by close to a decade (at least from GA), and probably RSTS as well (DEC never really embraced RSTS. I often felt that they only reluctantly accepted it due to customer pressure). I must admit, I don't remember any form of user ID switching in RSX/11, but it is over 22 years since I last used that OS.

    I'm sure you could look at MULTICS to find some form of privilege escalation that is older than the lot of them.

    By the way, like the knotted hanky. Weren't you a brain surgeon some time ago?

  62. Keith Oldham

    Re : Apparently...

    ""free for the world yaaaay"

    Point is if I invent a new drug, say (which in a previous life was my job for 38 years) and don't patent it but publish the information about it ( structure, utility, synthesis), no-one else can safely obtain a patent on it or anything rather like it - it's OBVIOUS.

  63. Anonymous Coward

    OSX is not 'based' on BSD...

    It's actually based on the Mach kernel from Carnegie Melon University . The kernel of OSX is called Xnu (Ironically this is an acronym - "X is not UNIX", I say ironically because it IS certified UNIX!). The BSD layer gives Xnu its POSIX API and the network stack, as well as a couple of other processes. See for the really geeky details.

    OT: Meh. We all know theUS patent system is broken.

  64. Anonymous Coward
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    @ Simon Banyard

    Thanks for the clarification there, Simon.

  65. jake Silver badge

    @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.

  66. Anonymous Coward
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    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!

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