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Microsoft patents sudo system used in Mac OS X, Linux?

updated 07:40 pm EST, Thu November 12, 2009

Tech used to elevate user rights

The USPTO recently granted Microsoft a patent, No. 7,617,530, which describes a method for running a command as an administrator. The filing has sparked outrage by many, including Groklaw blogger Pamela Jones, who believe the company has simply rebranded the sudo Unix command developed in the 1980s by members of the Computer Science department at SUNY/Buffalo.

The "rights elevator" patent covers "systems and/or methods... that enable a user to elevate his or her rights." Microsoft focuses on an embodiment utilizing a graphic user interface presented when the current account lacks the proper privileges for an operation. The interface then identifies accounts that have administrative privileges required for certain tasks.

The patent terms have lead to speculation that Microsoft may be attempting to receive licensing revenue from companies utilizing forms of sudo in their operating systems. The technology is currently integrated into GNU/Linux systems and Mac OS X.

Others argue that, while the patent includes sudo references, it is actually based on the graphic interface which only pops up after the user attempts to perform a task outside of their account's rights. Similar systems, however, are common to most operating systems.

By Electronista Staff
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  1. Iritscen

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2009



    ...blazing that trail to 1985. Hold onto your hats, technophiles, innovation slows down for no man!

  1. kirkrr

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jan 2005



    In order for a patent to be enforceable, you cannot have "prior art" either in a sold product or public domain. This function has existed before Microsoft even existed, so prior art defenses should be a piece of cake.

  1. Bobfozz

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2008


    patent office

    You might surmise the patent office would know this.... so there must be more to it than MacNN reported... and it wouldn't be the first time.

  1. mattfromnz

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2005



    They'll have fun trying to enforce that one. A rather ironic patent given Windows was the last major OS to receive this functionality.

  1. leamanc

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 2003


    Not exactly

    It seems they are trying to patent their GUI elements that perform the same task as sudo in Windows. They may be able to do this, as Apple certainly has patents on their graphical implementations of certain common computer tasks. sudo, as we all know, as a command-line tool in a completely different operating environment.

    However, there have been some GUI implementations of sudo in Mac and Linux. One of the oldest Mac OS X apps is "Psuedo," an app that allowed you to drop an app on it and run with root privileges. I talk about in the past tense, because I'm not sure if it's still around, or works with Leopard/Snow Leopard.

    And in the Linux world--specifically the Gnome dektop--gksudo has performed the same function for a while.

  1. tonton

    Senior User

    Joined: Mar 2001


    Just yesterday...

    I decided to enable the 64-bit kernel on my MacBook Pro. I edited the Boot.plist file as required to do this, then saved the edited file to my desktop. I then dragged it into the system library where it goes, and, since I have not enabled the SuperUser account on my system, a graphical dialog box popped up, asking me to authenticate the overwrite.

    Isn't this exactly what M$ has just patented? And I'm assuming this is prior art, is it not?

  1. bufferoverflow

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Nov 2009


    Is Microsoft getting desperate???

    With MicroSoft losing market cap year after year, laying off 800 employees after laying off thousands more earlier, I wonder if MS is getting desperate in its patent suit?

    It looks like now a PC can install a retail version of Snow Leopard using Free Empire Efi, or Rebel Efi, or Boot 132 loader.

    I wonder how many people will forgo the multiple expensive flavors of windows 7? Or for those looking to upgrade to get windoze 7 to work, instead buy a mac, or try Snow Leopard on their PC for $29 to get the retail version? After all, isnt that what a anti-virus subscription costs now a days?

    Apple is making great profits and 2-3 years time, if it keeps growing, it could be bigger then MicroSoft, market cap wise, which is funny considering how many MS mice, MS Keyboards, windows mobile CE, Zunes, flavors of windoze, and X boxes Microsoft peddles.

    Hey, wasnt the PC supposed to do what an X-box does? You bought the PC, then the X box. You bought windows ME, then windows Vista. How many more $$$ are out there?

  1. IxOsX

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Feb 2009


    And people ask me why I dislike Microsoft...

    This article says it all... This is just Pure Microsoft attitude. It is not enough for them use other people work and ask for LOT of money for it, but also try stealing the intellectual property of others. This will be always their way. Try invent something of you own without it buy or steal.

    I say, use it but don't loot it.

  1. Feathers

    Grizzled Veteran

    Joined: Oct 1999


    Not about Microsoft

    This issue isn't ultimately about Microsoft, it's about the sorry state of affairs at the USPTO. It is becoming increasingly clear that those working at the patent office are no more qualified (or motivated) than those working at the DMV. If M$ or anybody else is able to get such things through the patent process, why shouldn't they at least try? Yes, it takes a shameless amount of brass neck but the patent office is supposed to prevent such things not facilitate them through incompetence. Bad Microsoft but even badder USPTO!

  1. fizzy

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Mar 2009


    pieces of GUI

    Are they trying to patent separately each GUI element of each function of the OS?

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