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A Brave New Modular World - Another MS Patent Application
Monday, January 29 2007 @ 11:54 AM EST

A reader sent me a link to a new patent application by Microsoft. Not the Bluej one, which has been in the news and which Microsoft, commendably, has withdrawn, but another one, for what seemed to me to be a modular operating system, "System and method for delivery of a modular operating system".

Microsoft and modular are two words I wouldn't normally associate with one another, so I thought maybe I'd misunderstood it. Heaven only knows, patent applications are generally written to confuse, not illuminate, and so I sent it to Dr. Stupid to ask if he'd please explain it to me. He did, and his explanation was so interesting, I asked if I could share it with you.

As best as I can understand it, it's not an attempted patent on a modular system per se. That obviously wouldn't fly. As he points out, it's not new. The patent relates to a method of delivery of an operating system where you start off with a very basic operating system, a kind of crippled starter edition, and then you pick and choose (and purchase) additional functionality, with DRM used to make sure you don't self-help. It's like modular copyleft, turning the advantages of GNU/Linux -- modularity there increases what you can do and what you can add and how well everything works -- and instead turns the concept on its head by using modularity plus DRM to restrict and contain and enforce.

The result seems a bit scary to me, and I ask myself, why would anyone agree to something like this? Perhaps I can chalk it up to Microsoft innovating again. They must be testing the outer limits of what a customer will put up with before bolting to Linux, certainly a valuable scientific study from my point of view.

So, using our imagination, let's extrapolate -- how could such a business model, whether the patent is granted or not, be used in an imagined Microsoft Brave New Modular World? Of course, Microsoft doesn't need a patent to use this business model, nor does a patent application prove it will use the model. However, as attorney Michael Geist phrases it, Microsoft's Vista already "seemingly wrestles control of the 'user experience' from the user." And this patent application brings to mind a model that takes it a further step. Another issue: if Microsoft doesn't need a patent to pursue this model, then why apply for a patent? To corner the market in restrictive, controlling operating systems? Well, speaking for myself, Microsoft can have that corner of the market to itself, by all means. When would having a patent on such a system be an advantage? I'll leave all such possibilities to your imagination.

But here's how Dr. Stupid understands the patent and how it could play out as a business model:



The patent is not interesting for its technical content -- all the building blocks of the described system have been used for some time now -- but for the glimpse it offers into the business model envisaged by the applicant. Therefore, I shall not delve into whether the patent should be granted at all in this discussion.

The application relates to a method of delivery of operating systems where one initially obtains a very basic operating system (for example, one that can do little more than display a web browser restricted to one site or domain) and thereafter is presented with the option to select (and purchase) additional functionality.

Some of the examples given echo aspects of the cut-down "Starter Editions" of XP and Vista:

10. The operating system of claim 1, wherein the at least one add-on module corresponds to a number of concurrent windows.

11. The operating system of claim 1, wherein the at least one add-on module corresponds to a number of concurrent applications active at a time.

Now, having a simple starter system to which additional functionality is added and upgraded via software modules is not new: this is the traditional installation approach used by Debian, and the idea goes back further than Linux distributions themselves (one could argue that it is part of the central UNIX philosophy, for example.) What distinguishes the proposed system's approach is the following:

1) Retrograde steps in base functionality.

Some of what is described as "additional functionality" is actually providing functionality which ought to be (and previously has been) standard in the operating system. For example, any modern general-purpose operating system, even a very basic one, should support running as many simultaneous applications as the user wishes, limited only by the constraints of the platform hardware. To impose a limit of, say, 4 simultaneous applications is an arbitrary restriction. More pointedly, preparation of the artificially-limited version requires further engineering effort; there is no "sweat of the brow" argument I can see to differentially price the limited and unlimited versions (in contrast, a multi-processor capable OS kernel does represent additional engineering effort compared with a uniprocessor kernel, and as such could be justifiably offered as a paid-for upgrade.)

This use of an explicitly defeatured system as, one presumes, a loss leader item which the producer hopes the user will pay to upgrade will be familiar to readers as "demoware" (or more unkindly "crippleware"), but to my knowledge this is the first time such an approach is being extended to encompass an operating system as opposed to a few low-cost handy utilities.

The patent application amusingly tries to dress up the removal or impairment of functionality which currently all users enjoy as standard as a benefit:

[0029] The peripheral category may include .... the number of peripherals allowed. A computer 110 functioning with the basic kernel operating system 202 may have limited peripheral support. Add-on modules may allow users to select the types, speed, and number of peripherals allowed and supported.

The purchaser of a new computer might be entitled to expect to be able to plug in all his or her peripherals from the old computer.

[0030] The communication category may include network interfaces, ... Add-on modules for communication may be used to support ... for example, DSL speeds up 500 kilobits per second, or speeds up to the maximum supported by the available hardware. Communication may also be limited by type, such as support for Internet browsing separate from peer-to-peer networking.

So even if your modem, line, and ISP support 8Mbit/s, your internet browsing may be deliberately throttled by the OS unless you obtain an additional "module".

[0031] .... a power user may want specific window and background themes with associated styles, a significant number of concurrent windows, and an unlimited number of concurrent applications, up to the capacity of the hardware.

I would tentatively offer the suggestion that *any* user would want the OS to use the full capacity of the hardware at all times, even when performing simple tasks.

... Users of business support applications may benefit from a support pack including high speed disk access...

The placement of high speed access in a module implies that the standard offering might deliberately throttle back disk performance to create an artificial reason to upgrade.

2) DRM to control system expansion

DRM, in various forms, is used (a) to ensure the new functionality has been legitimately obtained (i.e. paid for) and (b) to only allow "approved" additional modules.

3. The operating system of claim 1, wherein the at least one of the plurality of add-on modules further comprises a certification, wherein only add-on modules with the certification are activated by the operating system....

12. The operating system of claim 1, wherein the at least one add-on module comprises digital rights management corresponding to at least one of a number of uses of the add-on module, an expiration date of the add-on module, or a cumulative uses of the add-on module.

Of these two aspects, (a) can be defended as an anti-piracy measure. (b), on the other hand, serves the main purpose of obstructing third parties from filling in the functionality holes in the basic offering themselves, or (to borrow a popular phrase) removing the computer's owner's "freedom to tinker".

There is a clear signal that the ability to install even non-approved applications (let alone OS components) is controlled:

5. The operating system of claim 1, wherein the at least one add-on module enables installation of a non-certified application program.

Since the ability to install non-certified programs is placed in an "add-on module", the natural question to ask is: will the computer's owner have to pay a surcharge to install the software he or she wants on the hardware he or she owns?

3) DRM to selectively enable and disable functionality

[0039] ....The add-on module 300 may be examined for digital rights indicia .... When digital rights indicia are present and the criteria required are satisfied, the yes branch ...may be followed and the add-on module started .... Should the digital rights criteria fail... for example, if an expiration date has passed.... a notification may be presented to the user indicating the add-on module was not started. The notification ... may further include an opportunity to correct the failure, for example, by purchasing an additional usage allocation.

While not spelled out in the application, the fact is that the module's DRM attributes are checked periodically and on every system start allow remote termination of access rights for reasons other than expiry of a subscription. Thus, the entity administrating the digital rights framework (the operating system publisher or an appointed 3rd party) will be able to "punish" the user for actual or suspected transgressions of a EULA by disabling the relevant functionality.


All operating system vendors are moving toward a more incremental model of OS delivery. Recent IT press coverage of the Vista release has had as one of its themes the widely-held opinion that Vista will be the last OS of its kind (a monolithically-delivered package) from Microsoft. Here's but one example.

Speaking generally, there are undoubted benefits to both user and OS provider in modularity. From the users perspective, modularity allows him or her to mix and match components, choosing from several providers for each coarse functionality area. Unnecessary components can be disabled, reducing system resource consumption and improving system security and reliability. As previously mentioned, this is not a new technology. From the OS provider's viewpoint, modularity allows the OS as a whole to be sold on a more flexible basis and arguably improves overall OS quality by reducing unnecessary coupling between components.

There are areas, however, where what appears as a benefit to the end user is not a benefit to an OS provider, or at least one trying to maintain a monopoly market position. By its very nature, modularity eases replacement of system components. Other things being equal, one would expect the market to naturally foster the appearance of 3rd party replacements for most if not all the OS components. The operation of the free market would also prevent artificial functionality restrictions (ones where straightforward functionality is being turned off, rather than new functionality being offered through genuine innovation) from being viable as a business model. For example, if the basic window management component of an OS only allowed for 8 top-level windows, then a 3rd-party replacement component would soon appear which removed this restriction.

In the monolithic model of OS delivery, a provider with dominant market position can use the practice of "bundling" to undermine competitors. If the basic installation of an OS has component X pre-installed to deliver functionality Y, this component enjoys an incumbency effect and thus reduces the likelihood of competing components W & Z being investigated, let alone obtained and installed. Switching to a model whereby component X has to be actively chosen (and possibly purchased) by the user would, on the face of it, improve the opportunities for W or Z to be chosen instead. Modularity - real modularity - militates against bundling.

In this context, the ability of the core system to only allow approved OS components to be installed appears to be a mechanism whereby the OS provider can retain the benefits of modularity from its perspective, while denying the end user his or her corresponding benefits. At the very least, 3rd party replacement components could expect to have to pay a de facto royalty to obtain and maintain their "approved" status. The impact on FOSS-licensed replacement components is obvious.

A possible scenario

So let us try to envisage what the total end-user experience is likely to be in such a system. Some years in the future, the owner of a new computer turns it on for the first time and is welcomed by - let's call it "Blister Basic Edition." This OS has almost no functionality. It can run a "get connected to the internet" wizard and then displays an online store in a simplified web browser (the browser does not allow any other site to be visited.)

Although I refer to an online store, the first transaction does involve more user expense. He or she redeems a unique coupon code (received as part of the purchase) which allows him or her to install a number of additional modules. Compromises may have to be made: perhaps the user does not have enough "credit" to have both "enhanced" (i.e. normal) disk performance and connect two printers...

The DRM and certification features ensure that if the user wants additional or improved OS functionality (including security features) these can only be obtained from the OS vendor or a vendor-approved 3rd party.

Subsequently, the Blister Update icon appears at regular intervals to offer the user new, improved functionality. The OS updates are more frequent and less dramatic -- in this respect Blister behaves more like Linux or indeed (to an extent) Mac OSX. These updates are unlikely to be free. Doubtless one will be able to purchase them on an as-is basis, but the pricing structure will be such that it seems much more compelling to buy, say, 3-year subscriptions. One simple regular payment and the user can get all the upgrades he or she wants! However, the total payments spread over 3 years will probably be more than the original monolithic OS price -- otherwise the OS vendor would be making less money. Moreover, the user could now be required to pay for bugfixes, which traditionally have been free upgrades. The application explicitly proposes this and, with no little audacity, claims it as an end user benefit:

[0028] ....In the area of operating system maintenance, service packs, bug fixes, and patches have been included in the original purchase price of an operating system for prior art systems. The use of an add-on module for support of bug fixes, service packs, and patches allows users to selectively pay for only the support that is of interest to them.

Requiring users to pay for security fixes "of interest to them" hardly seems the route to greater overall security on the internet.

Rolling upgrades and upgrade treadmills

If Blister is kept upgraded on a rolling basis like this, then in one respect the user does benefit - no more "big bang" upgrades (rather like Debian, you only install it once.)

From the OS provider's view, the rolling model, as well as yielding a steady revenue stream, has two market position benefits:

i) It gets rid of the "jumping off points". Upgrading from one major version of an OS to another (e.g XP to Vista) is rarely a straightforward experience. It is a situation where a vendor can lose customers -- either because they decide to change platform instead of upgrading, or the upgrade trashes their system and they change loyalties as a result. By removing the "big bang" of a platform upgrade, there is no longer a "natural point" for the user to try any other OS.

ii) If a user pays for 3 year's upgrades in advance, the sunk cost fallacy will deter him or her from switching OS providers during that period. Of course, as the 3 years approaches the end, various tempting special renewal offers will be presented to him or her by Blister Update. There is an obvious analogy with mobile phone contracts here.

iii) Because additional modules have to be certified, the user cannot remove modules whose functionality is purely for the benefit of 3rd parties (e.g. targeted advertising, prevention of fair use of legitimately purchased content) with whom the OS vendor has a business relationship or agreement. The ability -- or threat -- of remote disablement of functionality may also be relevant here.


All in all, it fits with an overall goal of turning your home PC from an empowering tool into a "don't tamper" appliance - indeed, into a device that you effectively lease (rather than own) that is useful for little more than delivering approved partner content and taking part in those harmless online activities that don't endanger the OS vendor's revenue (or those of its approved partners.):

[0040] ... Lastly, service providers or system operators who may be providing computers on a pay-as-you-go or pay-per-use basis may be able to limit installation of potentially harmful applications [DrS: harmful to whom?] or hardware peripherals by restricting the installation of required operating system add-on modules.

A model where the level of functionality of the OS can be purchased on so fine-grained a basis has many other interesting (and disquieting) possibilities, which cannot all be covered in this space. Since all functionality enhancements have to pass ultimately through the gatekeeper of the base OS vendor, this vendor gains a power of patronage. For example, a blogger who passed favourable comment on one of the OS vendor's products could find himself rewarded with a free upgrade of a minor system component. The scope for mischief by a unscrupulous OS vendor is also vast -- not that I make any particular allegation here.


A Brave New Modular World - Another MS Patent Application | 252 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Modular Windows?
Authored by: Sunny Penguin on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 12:00 PM EST
yum remove ie

If you love your bike, let it go.
If it comes back, you high sided.....

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: capt.Hij on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 12:03 PM EST
Corrections hear pleze.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off topic
Authored by: capt.Hij on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 12:06 PM EST
Please put off topic posts here. If you have links please post in html and make
them clicky.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Brave New Modular World - Another MS Patent Application
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 12:07 PM EST
I cite many pieces of advanced test equipment as already existing examples.

The test equipment is general use computing as it has a network interface and
scripts can be loaded onto the equipment and run.

You can pay for additional features for the test equipment
1) get a key, type it in and new features/windows are available (feature was
there all along just not activated)
2) download new feature/update existing (either automatically or user driven)
These sound like the Microsoft claims

DRM exists to the extent that some of the advanced features are signed by the
test equipment manufacturer.

See column "Available Measurement Personalities and Software" here:

On programability:

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Brave New Modular World - Another MS Patent Application
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 12:09 PM EST
This isn't so weird really. You get shareware, that has the
annoying popup saying 'buy me'. Then you do pay the $19.99 or
whatever and type in the secret code. Next thing you know, you
have the full featured version.

I think there is 20 years of prior art for this kind of bad

Patent denied, I hope.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Brave New Modular World - Another MS Patent Application
Authored by: ka1axy on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 12:30 PM EST
Back in the day...when OS and hardware were produced by the same company (a
large, blue, one), I believe this was fairly common. You would lease your OS
and hardware, and the cost of your lease depended on which features you selected
for your hardware (number of processors, how much core, etc) and the features of
your OS (processes allowed to run, stuff like that).

I don't think this is anything radically new, except that you could now change
the feature set by downloading a token.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Nothing new there
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 12:34 PM EST
I use Fedora or Red Hat on most of my machines. Once the release is a couple of
months old, it doesn't pay to do the full install from the CDs, because many of
the packages are outdated by then. The simplest way is to install a minimal
system, and then use yum or up2date to install the rest. It handles the
dependencies, and you get the latest versions right away.

Gentoo Linux actually takes this one step further, by actually building the
target system on your box from the ground up.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Not so new world
Authored by: Jamis on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 12:38 PM EST
IBM has been "modularizing" its operating systems for decades.
Granted, this isn't being done on the desktop, but rather on the servers. The
difference is that the "modules" are typically given different part
numbers, or names, and are separate licenses. The effects are the same as what
Dr. Stupid describes. From the other side of the fence, it can be looked at as
a "You pay for the functionality you want" logic, but it is hardly

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Selectable Units - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 03:07 PM EST
Sounds like what Microsoft would consider valuable
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 12:39 PM EST
And of course, one never need worry that Linux will ever infringe on this
patent. :)

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Brave New Modular World - Another MS Patent Application
Authored by: alansz on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 12:40 PM EST
Sounds like Cygwin's approach to me. Prior art?

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Brave New Modular World - Another MS Patent Application
Authored by: wood gnome on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 12:51 PM EST

Imagine getting W98 modular....98 crashes a module, M$ way.. Um.. hold it, Billy didn't like the free TCP/IP, hm, problem...

You just gotta love open protocols..

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Brave New Modular World - Another MS Patent Application
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 12:52 PM EST
It's used so that you can get it cheap, and then when you pay the whole bill then the whole thing is yours to keep.

There's probably prior art; for a long while, IBM has shipped hardware with processors installed but disabled. Give your credit card number to your friendly salesman, and the extra processors are turned on for you. No engineer visit required.

Once you know how to do that, and figure that it represents a viable business model, the rest is obvious.

[ Reply to This | # ]

not on new computers
Authored by: stites on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 12:52 PM EST

"Some years in the future, the owner of a new computer turns it on for the first time and is welcomed by - let's call it "Blister Basic Edition." This OS has almost no functionality. It can run a "get connected to the internet" wizard and then displays an online store in a simplified web browser (the browser does not allow any other site to be visited.)"

Manufacturers often include demos and crippleware for additional software in addition to a fully functioning operating system. But I cannot see a computer manufacturer selling computers which have no functional capabilities out of the box. So even if Microsoft implements such a scheme for purchasing Windows without hardware I would think that the computer manufactures would continue to sell pre-configured operating systems with their hardware.

If Microsoft were foolish enough to insist on distributing a crippled version of Windows on new computers then the manufacturers would be forced to sell a full featured operating system with each new computer and also include the crippled version of Windows as an optional operating system at the customer's choice.

Steve Stites

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Brave New Modular World - Another MS Patent Application
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 12:54 PM EST
If there is a need to break this as a patent, I can think of a lot of prior art.
However, if Microsoft wants to use this as a sales process, it may backfire.
Most users do not see the actual "cost" of Microsoft's operating
system, since they buy a machine with it pre-installed. If they find out that
they have bought a "crippled" version of an OS, that it is expensive
to upgrade, that the upgrades still break and they have to keep buying extras,
they may finally wake up and discover that they can spend a couple of dollars
and order a DVD from the Internet which has a full operating system and hundreds
of applications.

[ Reply to This | # ]

dispute patentability - A Brave New Modular World - Another MS Patent Application
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 12:57 PM EST
Sorry, I have to dispute whether this patent should be granted, and perhaps IBM
may want to take notice as well.

Unidata is an IBM Data Base product. There is available for study purposes a
trial version that provides two user licenses. In Unix, each login, which
consumes a license is an additional process. To my mind this is like having two
widows available in the initial OS. To open additional sessions, you need to
purchase additional user licenses.

You need to take starting with a limited number of windows and purchasing
additional windows out of the patent.

The rest of the stuff, with my apologies to Dr. Stupid, because I was not able
to stomach the entire thing. It seems a shame to go to the trouble to write the
in depth analysis, when the readers can't stand to read it.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Now we see why some things are "free"
Authored by: hamstring on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 12:59 PM EST
I think this application fits very nicely with many of the common philosophies
at M$.

"For example, one user may purchase and install a suite support pack to
improve the performance of utilities such as word processors"

Like Dr. S said.. there is no reason for this unless the OS throttles an
application to begin with..
Additionally, not only does M$ make money from selling you Word (how convenient
that they have removed most competition from the market), but they can also
charge you to run the application? Charge you to run it at normal speed?

Here is the best one in my opinion though:
"Another user may choose a game support pack that may include 3-D graphics
acceleration, more memory, a game controller driver, and advanced sound

Did any of the coders ever wonder why M$ had garbage OpenGL support? Why they
give development kits and support to upstarts for FREE if they code in DirectX?
All them games developed in DX will generate a ton of money for M$. Gotta pay
for the Xbox somehow I guess..

* Necessity is the mother of invention. Microsoft is
* result of greed

[ Reply to This | # ]

Not about your home PC really
Authored by: Chris Lingard on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 01:07 PM EST

This is more to do with any appliance, Bill Gates has already said that current TV sets will be obsolete in a few years, replaced no doubt by a Microsoft device. Microsoft also have a strategy for the "house of the future"

When you buy your future TV device, you will have to pay to enable various modules. Just a few dollars per month and you will get extra channels showing films or sport or whatever you want

Cars already have computers in them; you want your car radio enabled, just pay the monthly fee.

Taken to extremes. every appliance will be installed with basic functionality, so your humble kitchen oven can have features enabled, as long as you pay.

And if you want a similar feature to today's PC, you can have your TV/entertainment centre enabled to provide office facilities/education stuff/whatever

Indeed not a Brave New World, more 1984, double bad bad.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Vista is the Titanic and DRM is the iceberg
Authored by: kawabago on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 01:09 PM EST
Ufortunately for the passengers, the iceberg was built directly into the ship.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • More like.. - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 02:30 PM EST
The Sanat Cruz Operation
Authored by: rsteinmetz70112 on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 01:11 PM EST
The Santa Cruz Operation had something very similar with OpenServer. You have
user certificates which allowed a maximum number of concurrent users and you
have various levers of "Layered Products" which added functionality.
There was a Host System, Enterprise Systems and optional Layered Products which
added functionality. These were all shipped on a single set of CD's and the
modules were loaded and activated using a serial number and access code. The
process included registration over the Internet.

Maybe that's what Microsoft licensed from SCO.

Rsteinmetz - IANAL therefore my opinions are illegal.

"I could be wrong now, but I don't think so."
Randy Newman - The Title Theme from Monk

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • lucky you - Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 31 2007 @ 12:11 AM EST
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 01:13 PM EST
To me this sounds like something that would be done for closed hardware. You
buy your XBox from Microsoft, say, and it comes with some basic OS that allows
you to browse the web. Then if you want to do word processing you buy the XWord
module. And so on.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Exactly Right - Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, January 30 2007 @ 05:02 AM EST
Prior art abounds
Authored by: darkonc on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 01:24 PM EST
This is just a description of an old system of license managers which did almost precisely this. You would have a program running in the background which would have a list of keys for various pieces of software. If the appropriate key was present the software would allow you to do whatever was associated with the key. On SGI's in the early 90's it was called Net-something or other ... and even allowed functionality to be controlled by a central key controller so that you could access the functionality needed from any of a number of computers on your network.

In this context, I'd say that there's nothing special that separates an Operating System from a program or application. An operating system is simply a subset of programs.

Powerful, committed communication. Touching the jewel within each person and bringing it to life..

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Brave New Modular World - Another MS Patent Application
Authored by: fava on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 01:27 PM EST
Maybe Microsoft sees it as a way to compete in the poorer markets.

A user can start with the third world (ie crippleware) version and upgrade when
they need more features. Microsoft could see it a way to "finance" a
more expensive package for those who cannot afford the up front cost.


[ Reply to This | # ]

A Brave New Modular World - Another MS Patent Application
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 01:32 PM EST
Uh - specifically on the pay-to-play (recently) with the OS, does Linspire (previously called Lindows) with the CNR service sound the least bit familiar?

Actually, no. Linspire releases the security updates free of charge - it's the remaining updates (OS updates, etc) that are pay to play.

Clicky example to Linspire

[ Reply to This | # ]

Nickel-and-diming the end user
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 01:35 PM EST
It sounds to me like Microsoft is getting ready to drop the base price of a
basic, deliberately crippled Windows installation, as a response to the zero
cost of installing a Free Software OS that is currently beginning to attract
margin-hungry PC builders, but then to claw back all that and more by
nickel-and-diming the user directly for each feature they need: ten dollars
here, fifty dollars there...

[ Reply to This | # ]

What about Linspire?
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 01:37 PM EST
Seems that this is awfully close to what Linspire already does with their
version of Linux. It's still Linux, but you purchase additional components and
applications as you want them. In a Twisted Microsoft World, Linspire could be
a first target. Just a thought...

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Brave New Modular World - Another MS Patent Application
Authored by: Tsu Dho Nimh on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 01:38 PM EST
Already exists/existed ... mainframe OS features depended on what you bought.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The new Microsoft TAX?
Authored by: hAckz0r on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 01:42 PM EST
By patenting and enforcing their own brand of software distribution business model they stand little to gain on the whole, other than the fact that they could now force all other software vendors to use a special API and pay their Developers/Distributors TAX, on top of what the customers already pay. This also would give Microsoft a price advantage for each product where competition currently exists. Only by using “Microsoft certified partners” signed binaries, which are then distributed by brick and mortar stores, could the competition even have a chance of selling to their potential market. The convenience of Microsoft's online purchase program, and its easy software updates, would clinch the deal for most users. The hassle of running to the store for physical media, or downloading and patching all their other products one by one would send many users running for the Microsoft Internet Software Store.

DRM - As a "solution", it solves the wrong problem; As a technology its logically infeasible.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Brave New Modular World - Another MS Patent Application
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 01:45 PM EST
Regarding limiting functionality, even if it costs more, then requiring
customers to pay for the unlimited version: this is quite old, Mictosoft
certainly isn't first.

One example I remember from the telephone company was when DTMF (Touch Tone)
came out. Due to the design of telephone central offices, it turns out that
because DTMF dialing is faster then rotary, it was cheaper for the phone company
for more people to have DTMF. However, they turned this around and used it to
make a lot of money by calling DTMF a great new feature and charging premium
prices for it. There are still areas where it costs more - per month - to have
it, despite the fact that from the first day of implementation all the systems
were capable of using it. It had to be specifically disabled
customer-by-customer for those who wouldn't pay the extra.

Thinking about that brings to mind cable TV. Around here the cable carries what
is called the "family package." This is about $50 a month. If you
want the lesser "basic" package they come out and install a filter to
limit what you can watch, then they charge something like $16 a month.
Obviously is costs them money to install the filter. In this case, though,
there are royalties they have to pay so it is not so clear cut even though the
marginal cost of having you get those extra channels is nothing.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Sometime in the future?
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 01:45 PM EST
The future may be closer than you think. The sidebar article about Vista not
allowing fresh installs from an upgrade, along with the multitude of versions
for Vista and WGA activation present opportunities for the mindset embodied in
this patent.

Imagine: You currently have a fully legal version of Win98 (still between 20-30%
of the Windows out there). Realizing its a bit long in the tooth, you decide to
upgrade to the new, just released Vista (we'll assume for simplicity's sake that
your hardware is Vista capable). Not being wealthy, and not reading the fine
print, you purchase the least expensive option, go home, pop it in and voila,
immediately get informed you need either Win2000 or WinXP to upgrade. Hmmmm,
which is cheaper, buy XP just to upgrade, or buy Vista full install...

Ok, you get a break here... your spouse remembers that Aunt Tillie gave you a
WinXP install disk last Christmas. So you fire that up, install it, then pop in
the Vista disk again. Fails again, tells you the old install isn't validated.
Darn, you forgot to logon to M$.com and activate XP...

SO fire up your trusty 56k, off to M$ where you are told that before you can
validate you must first install a few critical patches and upgrades (including
the WGA validation patch). A few hours and phone calls later (you also got
lucky and found the one line to M$ help that goes through the first try AND has
a real, helpful person on the other end to explain why Aunt Tillie shouldn't
have shopped at BestBuy), your XP is up to date and you're ready to start the
REAL upgrade again.

This time it works, does the upgrade, and then sends you right back to M$ for
validation. This (luckily and fortunately) works, and you're all set for a new
safe and exciting computing experience. Except... none of your apps work, and
reinstalling them fails. You try to pop in a music CD to sooth your shattered
nerves, but are informed that you need the premium Vista edition for that.

Ok, this is all hypothetical, but its clear that most, if not all, the pieces
anticipated by this patent are already out there. This patent merely describes
a method of streamlining the madness. What M$ wants is a pay, pay and pay some
more model of computing. They've already built the basics, now they're looking
ahead to the delivery (and patenting it).

[ Reply to This | # ]

Prior Work
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 01:51 PM EST
Is it just me or wouldn't the modularity they're talking about really be in the
form of applications? It would seem to me all of the core of an operating system
would have to be there for the system to function. So any of the optional stuff,
say like Internet Explorer, is just an application.

If so, downloading and installing applications is prior work.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Brave New Modular World - Another MS Patent Application - Some Remarks
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 02:04 PM EST

Are we sure this can't be applied to net installs of Linux distributions?

On the face of this, it seems as though an attempt could be made to use this against Debian, Gentoo, and other Linux distros that initially install a "restricted" environment ("restricted" because the useful stuff just plain ain't there) and then download the rest.

And just what do they mean by "a metered disk drive"?

Is M$ planning to charge you for access to YOUR OWN hard disk?

The summary in the description seems to fit the typical GNU/Linux system quite well.

[0003] According to one aspect of the disclosure an operating system is composed of a small basic kernel, often given away for free. The small basic kernel, may be used for simple operations and for basic application support. A user of the computer system may then have the opportunity to add specific modules supporting the functionality required for his or her particular interests. While some add-on modules may be free, others may be available for a fee or as part of a subscription.

IIRC, this is exactly how most GNU/Linux systems are set up. This is more or less what apt-get, yum, and emerge do.

[0004] According to another aspect of the disclosure, multiple users may each build from the small basic kernel to personalize and customize the operating system for their individual needs on the same computer. For example, one user may purchase and install a suite support pack to improve the performance of utilities such as word processors. Another user may choose a game support pack that may include 3-D graphics acceleration, more memory, a game controller driver, and advanced sound support.

While packages are normally installed system-wide on GNU/Linux, it is possible to install programs in a user's home directory--making the program available only to that user.

And just how is all this different from, say, Gentoo or LinuxFromScratch?

[0005] According to another aspect of the disclosure, digital rights management may be used to manage add-on modules. As opposed to the prior art, where the operating system is available in perpetuity, add-on modules may be available for limited periods of time, based on the license terms. It may also be possible to allow only certified or authorized add-on modules to be installed, enabling digital rights management to allow selective purchase by users, fraud control for providers and also to restrict unauthorized operating system extensions from being installed that may support unauthorized hardware and/or software.

"Freedom to Tinker"? What the hell's that? Are you some kinda hippie?

But "mem=<size>" was put there for troubleshooting...
[0006] According to yet another aspect of the disclosure, add-on modules may allow extensions to initial basic functions, such as, the number of windows allowed, the number of processors in use, the amount of memory available, and the number of concurrent applications running.

So now you have to pay extra if you actually want to USE however many GiB of RAM you paid for?

I lost track of anything resembling meaning in the fog of obfuscation that begins around "DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF VARIOUS EMBODIMENTS".

[ Reply to This | # ]

this marketting ploy only works if Linux is dead
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 02:08 PM EST
It strikes me that, should they be granted this patent, they could not only ensure that no FOSS application ever works on their system again, but they could sue every Linux distribution out of existence. They all use one kind of package system or another. And MS could do this without attacking Linux itself, or most FOSS developers.

Other than the threat from a bogus patent, I wish they'd do this. I can't imagine too many people would put up with this for long once they twigged to the game. They'd switch en mass to something else.

So the implication is this only works if you can prevent Linux from being a viable alternative.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Patent question
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 02:30 PM EST
IANAL - Patents exist to entice inventors to disclose their inventions in order
to extend technology by giving the inventor exclusive rights to the invention
for a period of time. But the inventor is supposed to disclose complete
information on how to impliment the invention. Correct?

Suppose I write a program that someone claims to have a patent on some part of
what I have written. Would a defense to that be possible through the following
1. Give the patent to 3 indepentant programmers and tell them to impliment the
"inventions" disclosed in the patent application.

2. When the come back with either 3 different things or say simply that there is
nothing described in the "invention" that can be implimented based on
the information disclosed. I expect the last item to be the likely result from
software patents.

Could it then be described as a point of law that since there is not a specific
invention (when there are more than one thing) or no invention at all disclosed
in the patent that the holder has not done the required obligation of disclosing
his "invention" as required by patents that there can be no
infringment since there is no "invention" disclosed? Thereby making
the patent invalid.

[ Reply to This | # ]

One of the better patents
Authored by: Aim Here on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 02:50 PM EST
If I read this article right, Microsoft wants a monopoly on implementations of
DRM-crippled operating systems.

Normally patents are bad n'all, but I'm tempted to let Microsoft have this one.
Which genius at MS came up with the idea of forcing everyone else make software
that's designed to actually work, leaving Microsoft alone to attack it's
customer base by selling them overpriced software that artificially breaks

[ Reply to This | # ]

Can't install anything else
Authored by: J.F. on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 02:55 PM EST
Seems this would take care of that problem MS has of people buying cheap Dells
and putting linux on them in place of Windows. The system described in the
patent certainly won't let you go to a linux site and get the latest linux.

"That's okay. I'll just order the CD or DVD."

Sorry, you haven't bought the module that allows you to use the CD or DVD yet,
and that module certainly won't let you install other OSes via it.

"I'll go into the BIOS setup and tell it to boot the CD first."

Sorry, but the DRM won't let you into the BIOS setup as only hackers trying to
circumvent the DRM would need to go into the BIOS setup.

See? Buy a cheap PC with only Windows SY (Screw-You Edition) and you're stuck
with it forever.

Plain computers with no DRM control and/or no initial OS will be hard to find
(or made illegal by MS) and cost big bucks.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Anyone else notice...?
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 02:57 PM EST
This patent completely contradicts most of their arguments in the antitrust
trial(s) for why they couldn't separate IE and all the middleware components
from the OS.

In court they claimed it couldn't be done. All part of the larger picture.
Technologically impossible.

Here they claim its not only possible, but patentable and marketable! Modular!
What a concept!

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 02:58 PM EST
Couldn't the modular approach be a defense against anti-trust bundling problems?
i.e. the IE & Media player troubles Microsoft got into.

"No, your honor we aren't bundling things into the OS."
"Its not our fault there isn't a third-party app/bundle that provides

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • This is pro-trust - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 03:19 PM EST
  • Anti-trust - Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, January 30 2007 @ 01:51 PM EST
Authored by: tangomike on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 03:11 PM EST
1. Microsoft is testing the limits of the USPTO term "non-obvious".

2. Some people at M$ have way too much spare time.

3. M$ really has locked up some people in dungeons, and this is the result.

4. There's a large number of people at M$ who believe that the Windows monolith
is the only kind of software that exists, so this really is 'new'.

and finally

5. Why would anyone bother to try to patent this?

I bought new cars, new RV's and (surprise) new pc's from long lists of options.
I then retrofitted other options and accessories, as needed.

Somebody check the water, air, and cafeteria food in Redmond; something's wrong

Deja moo - I've heard that bull before.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Truly innovative
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 03:12 PM EST
So, the OS concept is old hat. So, crippleware is old hat. So modular systems are old hat. So, the internet is getting to be old hat.
But it takes a technology innovator (like Microsoft, say) to do this:
OS+crippleware+modularity+Internet=patentable innovation

[ Reply to This | # ]

Tax on hardware too.
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 03:25 PM EST
> Add-on modules may allow users to select the types, speed, and number of
peripherals allowed and supported.

It seems to me that this could be (ab)used to double tax peripherals too. The
manufacturer pays to have his driver approved for use in Vista and then MS sells
the module to the user that supports that driver for the partcular model. When
you buy a printer, or a scanner, or a USB flash drive, then you also need to pay
MS to have it enabled.

In fact the DRM could be serial number sensitive. You pay MS for that specific
printer unit to work on that particular PC. Warranty replacement, or buy a new
model, then pay again to MS. Put that printer on a different PC, or simply have
a switch between two and pay again for the other machine to enable that printer.
Sell the printer and the new owner has to pay MS for the module.

Not only that but if the system needs to be reinstalled (HD failure or reformat
required) then you lose your DRM certificates and have to pay MS yet again to
enable your additional modules.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Have I got this right?
Authored by: Alan(UK) on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 03:28 PM EST
Nail + thread module = screw

unicycle + wheel module = bicycle

unicycle + 2(wheel module) = tricycle

frame + 2(monocle module) = spectacles

go-cart + go-faster module = drag racer

girlfriend + DRM module = wife

Last time I installed Dapper from my original CD, it then made 200+ updates - I
claim prior art.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Alice in Wonderland Claims Language
Authored by: david_koontz on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 03:52 PM EST


[0014] It should also be understood that, unless a term is expressly defined in this patent using the sentence "As used herein, the term '______' is hereby defined to mean ..." or a similar sentence, there is not intent to limit the meaning of that term, either expressly or by implication, beyond its plain or ordinary meaning, and such term should not be interpreted to be limited in scope based on any statement made in any section of this patent (other than the language of the claims). To the extent that any term recited in the claims at the end of this patent is referred to in this patent in a manner consistemt with a single meaning, that is done for sake of clarity only so as to not confuse the reader, and it not intended that such claim term by limited, by implication or otherwise, to that single meaning. ...

Is it normal to reserve the meaning of the language of claims in a a patent? The paren quoted clause acknowledges that they don't reserve the meaning of the claims. The next portion claims they can, as in the case of "we reserve the right to find new meaning of our claims in the future".

This reminds me of President Bush writing disclaimers on bills he signs into law. In the claims:

1. An operating system for a computer comprising:

a core function module;

a license validation module; and ...

Nothing restricts the definition of operating system to a kernel. This patent could be (for purposes of threatening unsuspecting companies) used to claim coverage of any licensing scheme for any organized software system.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Prior art
Authored by: Wardo on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 04:11 PM EST
Just a reminder, and a question sort of...

Prior art has to exist before the patent was filed, which was June 8, 2005. How
long have the Linux distros been using the web update/package selection?

The really old prior art from IBM and others would probably do it, except the
Internet wasn't part of the model back then.


[ Reply to This | # ]

A Brave New Modular World - Another MS Patent Application
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 04:11 PM EST
I cannot believe that they (Microsoft) seriously believes this can pass the
prior art test! Most of these add-on "modules" are simply kernel and
sub-system configuration options. As for the add-on modular concept, this has
been an integral part of the QNX operating system since the early 1980's. You
want support for specific network interfaces (bluetooth, dsl, ethernet, arcnet,
isdn, whatevernet) you load the appropriate module. You want a GUI windowing
user interface, load that as a separate add-on module (X-Windows, Photon,
whatever). If this isn't concrete proof that the patent system is broken, I have
no idea what may be. Personally, I don't see what the DRM aspects buy them - it
certainly doesn't pass the non-obviousness test, IMO. Again, operating system
vendors (including QNX) have been doing that for a long time, including
enforcing expiration of licenses, validating the installation, etc.

So, all I can say, is that I am totally boycotting Microsoft products, as I am
Sony products, until they stop insulting my intelligence and treating me like a
criminal and/or idiot.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Boy, wait until McBride gets a hold of this gem...
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 04:33 PM EST
PJ said:

"...and so I sent it to Dr. Stupid to ask if he'd please explain it to me."

I can hardly imagine the mileage they will try to get out of that one...

[ Reply to This | # ]

    OLPC Competition
    Authored by: john-from-ct on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 04:37 PM EST
    I see this as an attempt to get into the OLPC stream. As part of the patent - a
    "free" os, followed by a subscription for 'enhanced services. "
    Section [0003]: According to one aspect of the disclosure an operating system is
    composed of a small basic kernel, often given away for free. The small basic
    kernel, may be used for simple operations and for basic application

    I would think that MS is terrified of OLPC and its long-term impact since the M$
    monopoly is nowhere to be found.

    Just another greybeard geek!

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Fit for purpose? Anti-trust?
    Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 04:56 PM EST
    UK consumer law states that when you buy something, it has to be fit for purpose
    or you get your money back. This business model does imply that you can have
    removed any modules that are not fit for purpose, rather than the entire OS.
    Internet Explorer anybody?

    How are the boundaries of "Operating System" defined. Is it just what
    MS says it is? Can they prevent the installation of any program, unless payment
    is received? Anti-trust.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Is this a patent on the software or the "business method".
    Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 04:58 PM EST
    I note lots of comments regarding prior art, but is the patent regarding the
    software or the business method?

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    "...arbitrary restriction"
    Authored by: PSaltyDS on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 05:34 PM EST
    "To impose a limit of, say, 4 simultaneous applications is an arbitrary restriction."

    Like, say, an arbitrary limit of 10 simultaneous network connections? Hmmm... sounds familiar, except you couldn't even pay to upgrade Microsoft's "Workstation" OS's beyond that.

    "Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced." - Geek's Corollary to Clarke's Law

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    A Brave New Modular World - Another MS Patent Application
    Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 05:39 PM EST
    Yawn. Another "ancient" practice resurrected. In the days
    of "big iron" computing (aka mainframe), computer
    manufacturers built a machine model, say, Super 31. Then
    they added a small PCB called "the Slug." There were DIP
    switches (or hard-wired links in place of DIP switches for
    the cheaper computers) that set the "feature set" for the
    Super 31 _range_ of models. Yep: one computer with
    "hard-wired" enabling of capacity. The "Slug" board was
    read by the OS. The OS burnt CPU cycles (spun its wheels
    in timing loops) to achieve the slower clocks and
    peripheral controller data-transfer rates of the less than
    top-of-the-range models, and it had a look up table to see
    how many peripherals of each type it was allowed to
    access, and what types.

    If the customer wanted to "upgrade" their Super 31 BM to
    the Super 31 MM, then they paid the manufacturer $100,000
    for the "upgrade" and the manufacturer sent in a computer
    engineer (at $500 per hour for 4 hours ... and this was
    over and above the $100,000 "upgrade fee") to apply the
    upgrade. This would involve setting the DIP switches (or
    the wire links) to the configuration for the MM model. The
    machine would have been installed with enough RAM to cater
    for 2 model upgrades (say 512kB), but only 128kBytes would
    have been enabled for the BM model. Magically, from the
    computer operator's point of view, the machine would now:
    o be clocked at 4 times the original clock rate
    o have twice the original RAM size
    o access disk drives and tape decks at twice the
    original speed
    o be able to manage 4 times the original number of disk
    drives and tape drives
    o be able to manage up to 4 line printers instead of
    only one

    and for another $100,000 dollars plus 4 hours of
    engineer's time at $500 per hour, it could be upgraded
    again to the AM (increase in RAM, CPU clock speed, faster
    peripheral controllers, more peripherals that could be
    added ...). Repeat for however many models the
    manufacturer wanted to market for the Super 31 until you
    reach the TM. Remember: it was the OS that was actually
    doing the limiting. You couldn't just pull out the Slug:
    the computer wouldn't run without it.

    So there's nothing new in what MS are doing. They're
    trying to do with their software what the old mainframe
    manufacturers did with their hardware (through their
    proprietary software) ...

    BM = Basic Model
    MM = Medium Model
    AM = Advanced Model
    TM = Top Model

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    This is coming NOW in Vista
    Authored by: jjon on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 06:06 PM EST

    See this Yahoo news article:

    Here's how that will work. For consumers, Vista will come in four flavors, Home Basic, which retails for $199, Home Premium ($239) Business ($299) and Ultimate ($399). Though consumers will pick one version when they buy a computer, higher versions will be embedded on the machine's hard drive or packaged on discs that come with it.

    Anyone who wants to move up the chain — from Home Basic to Home Premium for another $79, Home Basic to Ultimate ($199), Home Premium to Ultimate ($159), or Business to Ultimate ($139) — will be able to click a new "Windows Anytime Upgrade" function, pay for the upgrade online and then receive a coded license "key" that will unlock the more expensive edition.

    Obviously the technology described in patent is much more general (e.g. it contemplates upgrading from the "Starter Edition", and it contemplates a much more general modular system), but that's just how patents get written. When you write a patent you need to consider not only what you're doing now, but also all the things that you (or your competitors) might want to do in future, and also all the ways that a competitor might get around the feature. I suspect that writing a more complex patent also helps avoid prior art, too. (MS can tell the patent office "no, registering shareware/crippleware is not prior art because there's only one 'module', but we have multiple "modules").

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    A Brave New Modular World - Another MS Patent Application
    Authored by: UncleVom on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 06:49 PM EST
    Perhaps they want to go after Apple, see "Update 3" for "current art". Clicky My prediction, they are setting the stage for a BSD based OS. Windows NT4+++ is quite obviously at it's end, Apple may make a good model for them to copy once again. UncleVom

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    A Brave New Modular 'phone
    Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 29 2007 @ 08:48 PM EST

    One thought repeatedly bounced around my head while reading this: they're not talking about a computer in the sense you're used to, they're talking about your mobile 'phone, your set-top box, your internet-enabled fridge, your plethora of other devices that some think shall soon rise to prominence – but, above all, your 'phone.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    A Brave New Modular World - Another MS Patent Application
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, January 30 2007 @ 01:15 AM EST
    "So let us try to envisage what the total end-user
    experience is likely to be in such a system. Some years
    in the future, the owner of a new computer turns it on
    for the first time and is welcomed by - let's call it "Blister
    Basic Edition." This OS has almost no functionality. It
    can run a "get connected to the internet" wizard and
    then displays an online store in a simplified web
    browser (the browser does not allow any other site to
    be visited.)"

    As if there's no prior art on this patent. I could SWEAR
    you're describing any rape-job mobile phone out there
    these days...

    I only wonder if there's an infinite enough supply of
    stupid out there to fuel such a business model...mind
    you cell phones are doing well, especially with

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Secure operating system?
    Authored by: mtew on Tuesday, January 30 2007 @ 03:38 AM EST

    In the late '80s or early '90s there was a US Federal Government specification for computer security.  If I recall correctly it was called 'The Orange Book'.  It specified four classes of operating system security.  The lowest class (D) had Little or no security.  The next level (C) had Discretionary Access Controls.  The next level (B) had Mandatory Access Controls.  The highest level (A) was provably secure.

    Within each class there were a number of certification levels.  The number of levels was different for each class.  A lower level number meant that the certification process had found fewer faults.  And no, I do not remember the details.

    One particular version of DEC's VMS achieved a C2 rating.  For a few years it was the only commercial operating system with that good a rating.  All the other commercial operating systems had lower ratings.  There was also a special version of VMS with a B rating.  It was considered theoretically possible to get an A rating, but you would need to design the operating system from scratch and be able to prove the software and hardware implemented the design specification properly.  To put it simply, a class A rating was well beyond the state of the art at that point.

    What makes the subject of this patent interesting is it has all the ear marks of a class A secure system.  One of the harder requirements of the class A systems was the absence of 'covert' communication channels between processes with different security specifications.  Two of the known covert channels were artificial variations in the computational load which could be detected by the amount of CPU time that was available to processes with other security parameters, and variation in disk transfer requests which could be detected by other processes by timing the rate their own disk transfer requests took.

    One of the few ways to close these covert channels was to deliberately limit the resources available to each process so that the delays became more uniform.  Simply the OS was carefully crippled and that crippling was part of the basic design.  Much like what Dr.Stupid said about the system in the patent.

    The limits on trusted code are also significant requirements for the more secure security classification.  Similarly, assuring that response times could not exceed some bound and that the software meets proper certification tests makes such a system usable for safety critical applications.  All in all, this looks more like something aimed at secure government and industrial systems than it looks like something a normal consumer would put up with.

    There is a niche for this kind of operating system, but it is not in the consumer sector.


    [ Reply to This | # ]

    A Brave New Modular World - Another MS Patent Application
    Authored by: Vaino Vaher on Tuesday, January 30 2007 @ 03:51 AM EST
    Some of what is described as "additional functionality" is actually providing functionality which ought to be (and previously has been) standard in the operating system. For example, any modern general-purpose operating system, even a very basic one, should support running as many simultaneous applications as the user wishes, limited only by the constraints of the platform hardware. To impose a limit of, say, 4 simultaneous applications is an arbitrary restriction.

    Isn't this 'limited' functionality already implemented in the special version of Windows that is marketed in Asia? I seem to recall that it has this exact feature: It can only have a limited number of open windows. This limitation is imposed by the operating system, not the hardware it runs on.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Advantage of such a modular system - Tannenbaum
    Authored by: larsmjoh on Tuesday, January 30 2007 @ 04:14 AM EST
    I believe Tannenbaum did something similar in his Amoeba distributed operating
    system, except he had a (sane) system security/integrity perspective instead of

    IOW, patent should not be granted because of prior art.

    This ofcourse brings us back to the age old question of wether technology is
    good or bad or if it's the people using it who are..?

    The underlying tech of DRM could be used to create a close-to-ubreakable multi
    user system where even the most malign user would have a hard time doing any
    actual damage...
    ...not that I'd trust MS to do it!


    "Do not try to think outside of the box. That's impossible.
    Instead, realise the truth. There is no box."

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Online Games
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, January 30 2007 @ 04:49 AM EST
    The patent relates to a method of delivery of an operating system where you start off with a very basic operating system, a kind of crippled starter edition, and then you pick and choose (and purchase) additional functionality ... why would anyone agree to something like this?
    In principle, it doesn't sound very different from the plug-in/java applet/activex model of software delivery - giafly.

    One interesting application would be online games, like World of Warcraft or Second Life, where you would buy-and-download additional OS features as the game world grows and becomes more sophisticated, instead of buying them on CD.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    US Govt has Prior Art on this
    Authored by: Wesley_Parish on Tuesday, January 30 2007 @ 05:53 AM EST

    The US Govt, specifically the Dept. of Defense and the State Dept., and McDonnell-Douglas do have prior art on this.

    In the 1980s, they sold Australia on the F-18 Hornet fighter-bomber as a Dassault Mirage replacement. What they didn't say was that they would sell only what they wanted to sell, as regards the radar and avionics. Which were not a complete set, particularly not for Australian conditions, and of course, Australia could upgrade at McDonnell-Douglas' pleasure and the DoD and State Dept's pleasure, not according to Australia's necessities.

    This concept - that a company can do that sort of thing, indeed has the right to do that sort of thing - is hardly news.

    Of course, the idea that one has the right to constantly redefine what one means by a product one has sold, isn't that new either - I believe most judges pass down severe sentences for such innovation, and also that it is found defined mostly in the Crimes Acts of various countries.

    It will definitely be a first to have it protected by patent.

    finagement: The Vampire's veins and Pacific torturers stretching back through his own season. Well, cutting like a child on one of these states of view, I duck

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    No problem with modularity
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, January 30 2007 @ 09:01 AM EST
    The current Windows is one big chunk of code for which most people would pay to
    remove certain unwanted features. This modularity basically offers the reverse.

    I can imagine my Windows' experience becoming better with a modular OS; no
    browser module, no office module, no mediaplayer module and a lot of other
    "no *** module" stuff that currently isn't just installed, but is
    actively annoying me.

    There is one statement though: "DRM to selectively enable and disable
    functionality" that is scaring the living s*** out of me. Does this mean I
    may one day loose access to my own data because MS's authenication server goes
    down or because I didn't pay my rent (they mention a subscription model for

    If these are the options Microsoft will be offering, I'd better start
    researching if I want to go with OS-X or *NIX for my next computer; I'm willing
    to buy features. But after I bought them, there should be no way for microsoft
    to ever retract them.

    Quite frankly I'm scared to think what would happen if needed to reinstall that
    OS. If Microsoft goes this way, I'm quiting on them completely.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Could this be an attempt to forestall a Google approach to OS?
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, January 30 2007 @ 11:37 AM EST
    Don't have much tiem to expound on this - but.. could MS be trying to stifle
    Google with this patent before Google comes up with a better unified
    Seems like Google is sort of heading that way - currently all within the
    confines of a browser.
    Need the fucntionality of mail - well there is the google mail module. Need
    picture publishing and editing - welll there is the Picasa module... Need the
    functionailty of a word processor - well there is ( whatever googles
    wordprocessor is) module...

    Just a thought.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    it doesn't always work
    Authored by: Humphry on Tuesday, January 30 2007 @ 01:11 PM EST

    there are many examples here where crippling products has worked. But, sometimes
    it back-fires. I remember an ICL machine many years ago where a major upgrade
    was made by replacing a crystal with a higher frequency. It cost them at least
    two major accounts that I know of. Then we have the good old 80486SX which cost
    far more in goodwill than it ever earned

    maybe its the cynicism people don't like, or maybe they don't like being treated
    so obviously like complete idiots

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Reasons for M$ doin this
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, January 30 2007 @ 02:14 PM EST
    I believe there are some simple reasons for M$ doing this.

    Imagine M$ shipping the OS as "free of charge", but charge money for
    the "extra" features.

    There would be a number of reasons for this.
    1. To compete with free OS's like GNU/Linux and make sure all desktop computers
    are installed with Windows.
    2. The extra features can be charged annually - steady revenue,
    3. The customer will only see a small cost for each of the extras, he will
    probably not buy all functionality at the same time. $7 to get the scanner
    working... i can do that. Two weeks later... Need faster USB?..... $3... not
    to expensive.
    4. If you sell things separately you can charge a higher total.


    [ Reply to This | # ]

    A Brave New Modular World - Another MS Patent Application
    Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 31 2007 @ 01:50 PM EST
    I'd guess that MS' motivation is around virtualization and splitting OS
    functions into the host and guest components relative to not just the OS and
    hypervisor markets but also virtualization management markets.

    Simply modularizing the OS and delivering it in smaller "chunks" ought
    to fail a prior art test pretty fast if one goes back to Mach and other
    micro-kernel OSes.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    A Brave New Modular World - Another MS Patent Application
    Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, February 01 2007 @ 01:41 AM EST
    I think Vaino Vaher hints at one thing that is really going on here: This
    modular model may seem to make no sense in a wealthy market like the US, but
    worldwide it is a big improvement over the current situation.

    Microsoft can't sell XP for $12 in Vietnam without admitting that XP is
    outrageously overpriced in the US, so right now Microsoft is having a hard time
    coming up with an affordable operating system it can offer to OEMs in developing
    nations. OEMs can't afford to pass on $200+ to their customers in costs for a
    legal version of XP, so they just install pirate versions instead. One attempt
    M$ has made at resolving this problem is to release special crippled discount
    versions of Windows for developing markets, like the 4-windows-only version in
    (I think) Thailand. The problem with these versions is that they are seen as
    insults to developing nations, basically saying "Here's a piece of crap for
    you pathetic beggars, cause you can't afford the real thing."

    With a modular system like the one described, Microsoft would be able to claim
    that they were selling the same operating system at the same price worldwide,
    and everyone would be able to afford to play. OK, the developing nations user
    is only going to be able to cough up for 4 windows and dialup, while you can
    affort the whole shebang (even get it pre-installed that way), but Microsoft can
    claim that it is the same software at the same price.

    No embarassing discrimination. No separate products for separate markets.
    (Perhaps only "This module not available for sale in your area" for
    some security software.)

    This solves at least one real marketing problem for M$.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    ms is already selling prior art
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 06 2007 @ 04:11 PM EST
    last year i bought an ibm laptop with ms xp installed. first thing i wanted to
    do was installing slackware beside xp, so i had to resize the win partition.
    most howtos on this topic are telling you to defrag your disk first.
    i tryed to start the ms tool to do this (partition/properties/extra...)
    suddenly a window poped up telling me that diskkeeper cant be started because i
    havent activated it and that i can buy this programm online now.....

    beside the fact that an operating system from ms without disk defragmentation (a
    core part of such an os) would be a reason to bring the computer back to the
    store and get back your money because they sold you an obviously broken product
    this patent looks very similar.
    substitute operating system by win xp and diskkeeper by additional module (and
    all the mentioned modules are more or less core functionallity of an operating

    the only difference was that i got this programm to work without paying more
    money after some time of tying to start the programm, thats the reason i still
    own this laptop(ok if you belive in the equation time=money i lost money another
    point which is similar to this patent).

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    A Brave New Modular World - Another MS Patent Application
    Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 11 2007 @ 07:50 PM EST
    Tech is improving and becoming cheaper faster than Microsoft can bloat their OS.
    On to plan B.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

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