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Microsoft Patents Software Linux

Microsoft Applies To Patent DRM'ed OS Modules 134

Posted by kdawson
from the imagine-the-possibilities dept.
wellingj writes "Microsoft has applied for a patent that sounds on the face of it like it ought to improve OS stability and reliability: the patent proposes to modularize device drivers much like Linux does. But, going further, Microsoft would apply DRM to these modules — as Groklaw puts it, 'using modularity plus DRM to restrict and contain and enforce.' The net result is that you might have to pay extra for OS hardware support. Things like USB keys, DVD-ROMS, Raid drives, and video cards might not be supported out of the box. LXer indulges in some dystopian speculation."
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Microsoft Applies To Patent DRM'ed OS Modules

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  • Go go Microsoft (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Yetihehe (971185) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @10:00AM (#17842186)
    I for one would really like for this to happen. At the same time drivers for linux would be painfully(for microsoft) free. And almost for device manufacturers. They wouldn't even need to make drivers for linux, just open source existing drivers and many people would make linux version for free just to have these devices compatible with their beloved system.
    • by Stormx2 (1003260)
      Sounds like New Coke to me. Make it so bad that consumer's won't take it, then bring back the original (in this case, free as in beer device drivers) and reap the rewards. Consumers pay for 2 versions.
      • by kimvette (919543)
        Thanks, but no thanks. If I decide to run Vista (I tried the public beta and removed it) I'll just pirate it (the first time I'll be pirating Windows BTW) and set up a spoofed Activation server [slashdot.org].

        Having run Linux with Compiz and Beryl, the Vista beta, and XP with third party shell enhancements, I can tell you that if you need eye candy, Beryl is the best way to go, with XP + shell enhancements (such as Windowblinds from Stardock) being a distant second.

        And then there is OS X, which is amazingly pretty, but I
        • by yo_tuco (795102)
          "And then there is OS X, which is amazingly pretty, but I HATE how limiting the shell is."

          Huh? Care to elaborate what you can do in your sh/ksh/bash/ Linux shell you can't in the OSX bash shell? It must be pretty obscure.
          • by bicho (144895)
            I think he was not talking about that kind of shell or she/he wouldn't have compared it to gnome.
          • by Laur (673497)
            I'm pretty sure that the GP was talking about a graphical shell, such as Explorer, not a command line shell.
    • by MrCoke (445461)
      Bzzzz ...

      1) Lots of drivers can't be opensourced (IP issues)
      2) The device manufacturers will jump into this new market very quickly.

      Stop dreaming.
    • Re:Go go Microsoft (Score:5, Informative)

      by jimstapleton (999106) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @10:23AM (#17842508) Journal
      While I agree with you on the effects on the Microsoft side of the house, I don't agree with the Hardware Manufacturer side of the house. Simply put: Microsoft making DRMed driver modules does not affect an hardware manufacturers at all in regards to wanting to open-source their drivers.

      Ex: ATi and nVidia cannot open source their drivers because of legal issues with patents and trademarks held by [if I remember correctly] SGI and possibly several others, whose technologies allow the drivers to work.

      What this will do is increase the cost of driver development in the Windows side, a market the manufacturers can neither drop nor ignore. Likewise, this could also decrease the extra cash flow into the company, and potentially diminish the resources available for the in-house drivers designed for Linux/BSD. So this could potentially hurt Linux/BSD in many ways as well. It just depends on how profitable making those drivers available is.

      • by Laur (673497)

        Ex: ATi and nVidia cannot open source their drivers because of legal issues with patents and trademarks held by [if I remember correctly] SGI and possibly several others, whose technologies allow the drivers to work.

        Just thought I'd point out that patents don't necessarily prevent open source implementations, this depends entirely on the way the patent is licensed (and the license which ATi & nVidia acquired the patent rights may very well prevent open source implementations). Heck, the whole point of

        • Just thought I'd point out that patents don't necessarily prevent open source implementations, this depends entirely on the way the patent is licensed (and the license which ATi & nVidia acquired the patent rights may very well prevent open source implementations).

          In general, if you read about a software patent on Slashdot, then the article was probably published because the patent holder declined to grant a license for use in free software.

    • by bberens (965711)
      It's not THAT much different than the Apple model. Apple only supports their hardware (which is not usually manufactured by Apple). Microsoft can get the same deal. Dell, HP, IBM, etc. will all have drivers in the kernel and that is the hardware they (MS) will support. The drivers will be excellent as you would expect from Apple. That way you will remove a lot of the issues with bad drivers hurting stability of the OS. No more BSODs, etc. At least, in theory. Of course, it sucks hard core for smalle
      • by rtb61 (674572)
        Bad drivers, how about bad DRM. Should windows DRM break then every hardware manufacturer would have to upgrade all their hardware drivers. Failure to upgrade means that upgraded Windows DRM would then break the hardware driver.

        This idea is about totally controlling the user's PC and with patents being able to charge licence fees to every software manufacturer to access those hardware drivers. It is all about xbox style licence fees for every bit of hardware or software connected to a PC.

        • by Grishnakh (216268)
          Bad drivers, how about bad DRM. Should windows DRM break then every hardware manufacturer would have to upgrade all their hardware drivers. Failure to upgrade means that upgraded Windows DRM would then break the hardware driver.

          Sounds good to me. Don't like it? Don't buy Windows.

          This idea is about totally controlling the user's PC and with patents being able to charge licence fees to every software manufacturer to access those hardware drivers. It is all about xbox style licence fees for every bit of hard
          • by rtb61 (674572)
            I haven't bought M$ since the nineties, I have bought hardware and got stuck with a (P)OS of no choice which I admittedly do use to turn my computers into unreliable game consoles (it is still cheaper than buying a game console as well as paying 20 odd percent extra for the games).
    • by Doc Ruby (173196)
      You would love to see Microsoft patent "OS module signing", so that Linux kernel developers and module developers would have to pay Microsoft a fee to license the patent? On a technique ("code signing") that has long been in use? That Microsoft could use to lock Linux out of the technique that could secure kernels, so Linux is insecure?

      Why would you want Microsoft to be the only OS maker to use code signing to secure its kernel, and screw everyone else?
      • by Yetihehe (971185)
        Erm, they would really patent such an obvious idea? I thought they just want to introduce it. Isn't there prior art for this module signing? Weird. I don't want microsoft to patent it, I just want them to use it.
        • by Doc Ruby (173196)
          Er, the title of the story we're discussing is "Microsoft Applies to Patent DRM'ed OS Modules". Are you reading the same page I am?
          • by Grishnakh (216268)
            You still haven't explained how DRM'ed modules or code signing is in any way beneficial to Linux.

            It seems to me that this patent is probably about as dangerous to OSS as a patent "protecting" Active-X "technology" ("method and apparatus to directly execute binary code downloaded automatically from a web site"). Why should OSS users or developers care about such a patent? It's not something they'd ever want to implement.
            • by Doc Ruby (173196)
              I'm not going to get into a long argument about the benefits of code signing, which has been extensively argued (and established) elsewhere for years. If you don't think it's got any benefit, then what I am saying has no effects. But MS clearly thinks so, and I agree with its arguments, as do many CIOs/CTOs, otherwise MS wouldn't be grabbing for exclusivity in such a technical area. Any benefits would thereby be denied Linux (and other) developers, unless making a deal with MS (right...).

              MS was unable to us
      • by init100 (915886)

        That Microsoft could use to lock Linux out of the technique that could secure kernels, so Linux is insecure?

        Code signing as implemented now does not make the system secure, it just locks out third-party driver developers that can't afford the signing process, which is usually quite expensive. If, on the other hand, code signing was optional and in control of the user, code signing could be used to increase security in the kernel, by only allowing kernel modules signed by the user to be loaded into the kernel.

        • by Doc Ruby (173196)
          Yes, but if Microsoft patents it then Linux can't benefit from it.

          In general, patenting security, especially such broadly-effective security as OS security, is very bad for the environment, though it can benefit the patent holder. Imagine if MS had the patent on key and combination locks...
  • Is there anything else left to DRM?
    • I've got some leftover pasta in the fridge. They'll never DRM that, because it's open-sauce.
    • Is there anything else left to DRM?
      Tons of stuff... they are only getting started. Lets see... Pop tarts, pens and pencils, coffee mugs... OHMYGAWD! Thy're going to be going after the coffee next! Nonono!
      • by Veetox (931340)
        >This package requires you to pull down your pants and grab your ankles to install. Proceed (Y,N)?
    • User input devices? i.e. Keyboards, Mice, etc.
  • DRM leads to DMCA (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    DMCA makes it illegal to 'bypass' the access controls required to add functionality. So Microsoft can charge a fee for every piece of hardware that needs to be supported. Okay, maybe nobody could be that greedy and unscrupulous. Then again...
    • WHQL signing (or the new equivalent) anyone? Which I believe is mandatory in 64bit Vista?
    • Oh noes! You better keep that theory in check or else we're going to have to listen to a bunch of Apple fanboys whining about how Microsoft is ripping off Apple's ideas again...
  • about this as Microsoft has lost me as a customer going forward. Vista was the last straw for me. I'm sticking with XP and seeing where the OS world takes me next. Either OSX, if it is ever released officially supported for the PC (yeah, I'm not holding my breath) or Linux (probably Ubuntu) once they get their polish on.

    My personal wish is that all the contributors of the various Linux distributions would put together a core team and put their combined strengths behind Ubuntu. They could finally slay that

    • by babbling (952366)
      Ubuntu needs Debian and vice-versa. [ubuntu.com] However, I agree with you that developers should focus on Ubuntu and Debian. They're very well established, value Free Software, and tend to work better than a lot of other distros do. I don't really see why anyone would want to devote their time elsewhere.
      • by giorgiofr (887762)
        Apparently *they* see why they want to spend their time elsewhere. I like Debian, too, but the problem/beauty with OSS is exactly that it gets fragmented easily: this provides for both agility/flexibility and unnecessary waste at the same time.
        It's kinda like freedom, come to think of it :)
        Anyway, I don't think that those guys who work on their pet distros in their basements would make a noticeable difference, if they were to join big projects like Debian or Gentoo.
        • by babbling (952366)
          Don't get me wrong, I think it's a great thing that those developers have the freedom to work on whatever they want. I just think it's unfortunate that the community is so divided rather than everyone choosing to work on the same thing. It would certainly be a worse situation if everyone was forced to work on the same thing, though.
          • by Grishnakh (216268)
            It's good to have competition, however there is too much of a good thing. Many other industries have found that customers are best served when there's 3 dominant players, not dozens. 2 or 1 is too few, because they become a monopoly or duopoly (almost as bad), and dozens is too many because there's too much overhead that not much progress is made.

            This is where I'd like to see Linux go; 3 or 4 dominant general-purpose distributions, along with lots of other distributions focused on very specific applicatio
    • If you just want an open-source Windows, there's always ReactOS [reactos.com]
      • by AusIV (950840)
        I think the point is that when XP becomes to outdated, they're not going to Vista. ReactOS is a novelty operating system. Functionally, it's behind Windows 95. It's fun to play with and see how far they can get, but it's a long way from being an upgrade from XP.
    • I wouldn't mind seeing a "core team" for Linux as well. All my problems I've had on Linux can be attributed to the very non-standard nature of the OS, with so many things going in so many different directions, making it often a challange to put the pieces together properly.

      It's the reason I use FreeBSD - the BSD teams tend to be a bit more focused on gettinging everything there working together nicely, rather than adding everything they can with reckless abandon. Pro: Things just work (as long as you check
      • Pro: Things just work (as long as you check the hardware compatability database before buying your hardware).

        So how do I get relatives who buy me hardware for my birthday to check the hardware compatibility database if the specific make and model that I specified is not available in a local store? Non-profit institutions that rely heavily on donations, such as some schools, have the same problem.

    • by backbyter (896397)
      I agree.

      If there were a few distributions of Linux, heavily promoted, with new users in mind there would probably be more adoptions of these OS's. After someone has made the switch and gotten used to Linux, then they could switch to another distro that either more aptly suited their needs or they felt they might like better.

      As a new user to Linux (Ubuntu), I know the driver issues were one of the things that kept driving me back to XP.
  • A drm-protected blackbox with credit card reader as dongle for software. Like in the old day of the videogame halls, you have to pay for the time you play - or work - with your software. Would make it easy for the companies to sell their software, the xould be freely distributed, shared and downloadet, because the software runs only by paying to start it. Ehm... how much does a worldwiede patent proposal cost?
    • Go to Las Vegas, you will have more chances of getting rich.

      Such a system will cost millions to build but hundreds to be cracked. Honest consumers (and in particular corporate IT) will refuse such a system because they either want to own the damn thing or have a predictable cost, dishonest ones will run anything for free while black hats will use it to steal the CC# of anyone stupid enouth to use it.

      With such a bad expected outcome, only M$ is big enough to try something like that and survive.
  • by gillbates (106458) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @10:08AM (#17842290) Homepage Journal

    Those who want to run a proprietary OS get to pay for one.

    Suppose, for example, that you want to use the latest and greatest video card. You already pay for the drivers - there's a reason why cheap video cards crash the system more often than expensive ones. Now, apparently, you'll need Microsoft's permission to write drivers for your own device. So now you get to pay a little more for hardware and drivers.

    Perhaps one of the last compelling reasons to use Windows is hardware support. Every PC device made today comes with Windows drivers, and most can be installed by even non-technical people. Take that away, and there's not much reason for the average user to run Windows - Linux is more stable, and does things like email, websurfing, and document editing just as well, or better than Windows, and at a fraction of the price.

    This is great for Linux. I would love to see MS apply DRM to drivers. The first time I can install HW under Linux that doesn't run in Windows, I'll know that it's the beginning of the end for MS.

    It's a nice patent. One which would never get implemented by an astute company. Honestly, now that Windows costs more than the machines on which it runs, I'm wondering where they could possibly go with this.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Suppose, for example, that you want to use the latest and greatest video card. You already pay for the drivers - there's a reason why cheap video cards crash the system more often than expensive ones

      Maybe that used to be true, but today the trend is towards unified drivers that are the same on every GPU that is supported. So that 3-year-old card that cost you $30 new uses the same drivers as the $700 brand-new, top-of-the-line card for that manufacturer. Why people buy a better graphics card is mostly just

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by lcarstensen (130248)
        Let's be honest here - just because you're installing the "unified driver" doesn't mean you're following the same code path under the hood for your new card vs. your 3-year-old card. It's more like a unified installer with common shared objects statically linked in and specific code for each and every GPU and special card feature. New code is added for new cards, old card-specific code is abandoned in-place. There is very little actual unification where it matters for stability - folks doing enterprise g
    • by mpcooke3 (306161)
      How will Nvidia and ATI spending *more* time on making sure the windows driver are stable/compliant free up time to work on the linux drivers?

      Microsoft can do this because there is no chance in hell the linux drivers will be released before the windows unless there monopoly is destroyed.
    • by westlake (615356)
      Perhaps one of the last compelling reasons to use Windows is hardware support. Every PC device made today comes with Windows drivers, and most can be installed by even non-technical people. Take that away, and there's not much reason for the average user to run Windows - Linux is more stable, and does things like email, websurfing, and document editing just as well, or better than Windows, and at a fraction of the price.

      OEM Linux disappeared from Walmart.com because a) sales were poor b) and the price unc

    • The first time I can install HW under Linux that doesn't run in Windows, I'll know that it's the beginning of the end for MS.

      It's been done. There was an HD tuner card that only ran under Linux, and was available as a commercial device, albiet directly through them, not through retail. I never checked to see how long that group stayed afloat, I don't remember the name of the company.

      Others are out there, but I think they are mostly hobbyist or research projects.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 01, 2007 @10:10AM (#17842318)
    This sounds like a replay of IBM's MCA system, where devices were 'signed' and wouldn't work unless the system recognised their 'credentials'. I wonder if this could count as prior art, although the 'software module component' would probably allow it to slide by.
    • Back when IBM was doing this, we stopped buying IBM kit completely. Being locked into the vendor and paying 4x the price of a replacement component than the current market value was the deciding factor. Adding that sort of markup to the average IT budget will force more companies to make the switch to something a little more open.
  • The net result is that you might have to pay extra for OS hardware support.

    Or perhaps your hardware manufacturer will have to satisfy Microsoft for the "right to let users run its hardware".

    I don't see much other use for this. I've never heard of a hardware manufacturer charging its customers extra for a Windows driver.

    Looks like another tool for a monopoly, and not much else.
    • by kimvette (919543)
      HP has been known to charge for XP drivers for certain all-in-one fax/printer/scanner devices.
    • by Kazymyr (190114)
      "That's a nice scanner driver that you have there, wouldn't it be a shame if something happened to it"...
    • Re:Or... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by level_headed_midwest (888889) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @10:48AM (#17842858)
      It's not another tool for a monopoly as they already have that. This is a tool for getting the Holy Grail of sales: constant revenue and the ability to present a very low "teaser" price that virtually NOBODY can call you on (as they have to spend much more to get a workable system.) It also gives them extreme control over your computer, both the hardware and software. This allows for guaranteed ability to always be in the position to sell you something, even sell you things that are free. I'll give a few examples:

      1. There could be a module that is required for non-Microsoft applications to use system resources like disk drive access, RAM access, network access, display access, etc. Microsoft would of course make people pay for this and it would automatically add whatever the fee for this is to the cost of whatever non-MS software to the cost of running that software. (Of course, MS software will run for free on your system.) This could be used to price competitors out of the market and MS could hide behind some shady "quality assurance" reason for doing this if they are sued.

      2. Microsoft could sell subscription-based modules for HDD access beyond merely running certain programs, and if you do not keep the subscription current, then the module (which contains the drive) gets locked and encrypted.

      3. You could be forced to pay for more modules if you change your hardware. Say a $2/month module supports 1GB RAM, but if you want 2GB, than you have to buy another module or your extra RAM is dead in its tracks.

      4. Microsoft would be free to change the price of their modules at will and if you don't pay, your computer would be locked up and completely unusable, the data on it inaccessible by any means, even yanking the HDD out and putting it in any other machine.

      All of these scenarios are possible with this plan. Will they happen? My guess is it will be like the frog in the pot scenario, where there is a little bit of this at first and then as people accept it, it gets ratcheted up.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AusIV (950840)

        My guess is it will be like the frog in the pot scenario, where there is a little bit of this at first and then as people accept it, it gets ratcheted up.

        I'm pretty doubtful Microsoft could pull that off. Microsoft has lots of customers, but I hardly know anybody who likes Windows. Many of them aren't aware of alternatives, but Apple has become a house-hold name with iPods, and lots of people know they also make computers. I can't tell you how many people I know who are planning on a Mac for their next c

      • by init100 (915886)

        There could be a module that is required for non-Microsoft applications to use system resources like disk drive access, RAM access, network access, display access, etc. Microsoft would of course make people pay for this and it would automatically add whatever the fee for this is to the cost of whatever non-MS software to the cost of running that software. (Of course, MS software will run for free on your system.)

        Such an example already exists in the patent application. It mentions an add-in module that would allow third-party applications to be installed. Like "You need to pay extra money if you want to run non-Microsoft applications".

        Microsoft would be free to change the price of their modules at will and if you don't pay, your computer would be locked up and completely unusable, the data on it inaccessible by any means, even yanking the HDD out and putting it in any other machine.

        Good point! I didn't think of that.

  • I don't recall using a scheme like this for the OS, pre se, but haven't there been applications that were distributed on a CD which provided basic functionality but had additional functionality code of some sorts ("module"?) on the CD that could be activated after paying a fee to the publisher, who would then send a key to unlock the added functionality? Extrapolating this to a web enabled model doesn't seem to be an unobvious step.

    Neither the specification, nor the Information Disclosure Document (That onl
    • by init100 (915886)

      I don't recall using a scheme like this for the OS, pre se, but haven't there been applications that were distributed on a CD which provided basic functionality but had additional functionality code of some sorts ("module"?) on the CD that could be activated after paying a fee to the publisher, who would then send a key to unlock the added functionality?

      It's called crippleware. You download a demo for free, but the demo contains all the functionality of the full application. If you buy a serial number corresponding to the full version, the demo version suddenly becomes the full version. It is quite common actually. One such well-known program is Nero Burning ROM.

      • by r3m0t (626466)
        To some extent, this is already true for Windows Vista: all the DVDs are from the same master (although they do look different on the non-data side). When you enter your product key, it picks the right version to install. After purchasing an "authorisation" from Anytime Upgrade, all you need to do to get Windows Mobility Centre, Tablet PC features, Media Centre, ability to join a domain and other features is to re-insert your original DVD. (Actually, I'm not sure even that is necessary.)

        I always understood
  • Someone at MS comes up with an idea for DRM drivers. MS decides to patent it, because their policy is to patent any patentable invention.

    As a result, Microsoft is now going to start charging everyone who ever uses Windows for the right to use drivers, or something. Come off it. There's no indication they're even going to use this, and they're certainly not going to make it mandatory. They could lock out driver developers in all sorts of ways without relying on DRM if they wanted to. They prefer to ha
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Patents are privileges to _prevent_ someone else making something, not permission to start making something.* Microsoft holding this patent also means that they can _stop_ other companies (e.g. sony...) from locking down their hardware - i.e. Microsoft could even use this patent for arguable "good", stopping any "decommodified" computing platform (because microsoft _like_ the commoditised PC platform, they just dislike when commodification happens in software (i.e. open source))

      * e.g. Sky [Fox] has a UK pa
      • by 91degrees (207121)
        Yeah. So are you suggesting that MS have the intention of preventing their competitors from doing what would appear to be anti-consumer behaviour.

        Well, okay. I see how there's an issue of priciple here, but I really can't get all that riled up about MS preventing its essentially non-existent competitors from doing something they don't have any interest in doing, and would hurt me if they did.
        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          So are you suggesting that MS have the intention of preventing their competitors from doing what would appear to be anti-consumer behaviour.

          No, I'm saying they could if they wanted to. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for microsoft to do anything particularly pro-consumer...

          Actually, microsoft, unlike most companies, are convicted monopolists. Why the _hell_ keep handing them copyright and patent monopolies on a silver plate? Financial penalties are relatively meaningless - the _first_ penalty for a mo
          • by 91degrees (207121)
            Oh right. I think I see what you're saying. Because this patent might or might not be used, you disapprove of patents in general, so Microsoft should have all its patents taken away for a completely unrelated reason.
  • One more step... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Speed Pour (1051122) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @10:17AM (#17842414)
    I'm going out on a limb here, but I suspect this is much less about charging money for drivers (though it could be an additional step to charge money for OS add-ons). I think this is supposed to be an anti-piracy step. In this way, not only does a person have to crack the serial number for the OS, the license activation, and the WGA piracy detection...now they are also forcing you to crack the DRM mechanism preventing you from installing drivers for your hardware.

    I have to give them credit. The serial number, license activation, and WGA software were all really obvious and easily broken protection methods...but this one would possibly be pretty tough.

    I think another comment was on the right path, suggesting that this will drive a lot of people off of windows and onto linux. All MS is doing is cutting down on the number of pirates using windows. Less users means less people pirating and using other software on windows. Less pirates using the software also means more people who are telling all of their friends about a different (and legal) way to have free software. Obviously, as more people switch away, it's that many more people that will also encourage their friends to switch. If microsoft ever uses this technology on actual drivers and not just special case software, it'll likely drive people away at a pretty alarming rate.
    • ...I suspect this is much less about charging money for drivers (though it could be an additional step to charge money for OS add-ons). I think this is supposed to be an anti-piracy step.
      Agreed. I wonder if the intent is to prevent someone from installing a hacked video card driver that would write a copyrighted hd video stream to disk, thereby enabling easy copying of hd dvds.
  • They do this kind of stuff on the Xbox360 already, with nickle and dime'ing you to death to get extra content for games. Mostly content that other platforms get for free, Xbox360 players sometimes have to pay for. Notably from EA.

    While not the same issue, the similarities, and the fact that 360 is Microsoft's console, and the marketplace encourages this type of behavior, almost seems like M$ went "Hey, if this works with our console, why not with our OS?".
  • Will this work now? Given that Apple is running pretty much "standard" PC hardware now, any manufacturer who wants to also sell to an Apple audience will need to create drivers that work on a Unix-like system. As long as Apple don't sign up to the same (or any) DRM-for-drivers type system, then it will still at the very least, be possible to reverse engineer these. Surely?
    • by toddestan (632714)
      Will this work now? Given that Apple is running pretty much "standard" PC hardware now, any manufacturer who wants to also sell to an Apple audience will need to create drivers that work on a Unix-like system. As long as Apple don't sign up to the same (or any) DRM-for-drivers type system, then it will still at the very least, be possible to reverse engineer these. Surely?

      There hasn't been much luck reverse engineering the binary blob drivers we have on Linux right now (for example, ATI and nVidia's drivers
  • DRMing OS modules (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DrYak (748999) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @10:34AM (#17842666) Homepage
    Microsoft's logic :
    - customers who switch to Linux say they want, among other, modularity, freedom to tinker and configure their machine at will and possibility to strip out everything unneeded.
    - other detractors of Microsoft's products and more specifically of Vista point out the confusingly high number of variants (1 for developing markets, 2 variants for homes, 2 variants for business, 1 additional "has everything inside" version, then add again the additional variant for European markets... )
    - a lot of criticism was drawn, mostly from makers of competing products like anti-virus, browsers and media players, but also advocates for open-source alternative, that Microsoft forces it's own solution and doesn't leave enough room for alternatives.

    Their conclusion :
    - Just make 1 single version, the Starter one, and let everyone upgrade by buying additional functionality modules. (Witch will be even easier given the fact that they hope that Next-Gen windows will be ture-microkernel+servers and capatbility based). They'll stop complaining and will get everything they need true modules.

    Their hope :
    - Earn even more cash because of selling more modules.
    - Try earning cash by selling license to competitors making alternative components.

    The future truth :
    - Most certain result : DRM will be cracked by virus/spyware/botnet makers and most malware will run as protected services... ...if they haven't already moved to the hypervisor layer by then.
    - Most consumer pissed of because "Opening more than 3 windows", "Extending multi-CPU support from 4 cores to 8,16 or 32", etc... will be paying components regardless of technical justifications and artificial limitations.
    - Either anti-trust suits by McAffee, Real et alii or clean-room reverse-engeneering by Samba et alii. will crack open the DRM infrastructure and Microsoft won't be able to restrict/make pay for 3rd party components.
    - Most governments, corporation handling secret information, medical informatics staff, etc... complaining because the EULA states microsoft may at any time revoke the rights of any component and make it useless (HD-DVD devicekey-style) even if it is a critical one.
    - Consumers pissed off because they have to re-buy again some components after just upgrading the RAM.
    - Consumers pissed off by long chains of dependencies, requiring a lot of expensive upgrades from DirectX 12Pro to Hispeed BUS drivers Ultimate, just to be able to make backups of their data on a HD-DVD.

    Results on consumers :
    - more widespread adoption of alternative operating systems (Linux, *BSD, OpenSolaris, Darwin...) Specially in EU governments.
    AND/OR
    - People get only the most basic striped-done Windows version. And then use open-source and other free(beer) software to provide most of the additional components. To the point that a Debian GNU/BlackComb distros seems almost possible.

    Side effect :
    - Replacing the small striped-down central component of "Windows Starter edition" will be much more easier for Wine and ReactOS projects than their current goal of having to rewrite the whole system.

    The only positive point :
    - Cheaper starter addition (if open-source component are allowed/manage to provide the additional functionality)
    - Less virus using bug exploits due to higher heterogeneity of the various components. But as said before, by then the virus will be either other system components (complete with faked license) or even a whole level above inside some hypervisor or VM wraping.

    And all that's based on the assumption that Microsoft *will* be able to release a componentised successor. See what happened to WinFS and similar to guess what are the odds...
  • by dsanfte (443781) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @10:35AM (#17842678) Journal
    DRMed. What is it with slashdot and misplaced apostrophes anyway? They're turning up all over the place. They must be fleeing the Quebec language laws.
  • Er so you do know that all the versions of Vista ship on exactly the same dvd. The only difference is the license key. And you can upgrade anytime. Presumably they use some form of DRM to lock your Vista Home Basic from accessing the Ultimate edition features and will unlock it when you pony up the upgrade fee. Thats probably what this patent is trying to cover. A lot of it sounds like a patent covering next gen xbox 360/media center combos, in which case yeah the non-certified application install, and the
  • by JoeKilner (930306)
    This is just Microsoft making sure that you can't run unsigned drivers. It will lock out (if they can do it properly) root kits and crappy device drivers. As someone who has worked with "expert" windows driver developers in the past, this is a good thing (e.g. people who have allegedly produced drivers for big companies cutting and pasting sample driver code in to production code despite the fact that the sample code explicitly details a load of cases it doesn't handle properly...).

    I would have thought ther
    • by JoeKilner (930306)
      Ignore that - got the wrong end of the stick. It is crap. Ah well, there was a reason I switched from XP to Ubunt.
    • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)
      As someone who has worked with "expert" windows driver developers in the past, this is a good thing...

      Of course they said the same thing about TNT, it was a good thing, enabled them to build railroads and highways and what have you. Of course, then somebody got the bright idea of using that good thing to build artillery shells turning it into not such a good thing.

      DRMed drivers are neither good nor bad. It's how the technology is going to be used that will dictate that. Patenting the idea of having a DRMe
  • by DrDitto (962751) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @10:41AM (#17842758)
    I hate to say it, but the Linux device driver model is inferior to Windows. Many device drivers directly access things in task_struct. Of course fields often change between Linux kernel releases. You ever wonder why nVidia drivers are so problematic across different kernel releases? Yes, this is no problem if every device driver is open-source and recompiled with each kernel release. Sorry, but the entire world does not accept open-source, including nVidia.

    Windows isn't perfect, but the Windows 2000/XP/Vista device driver model is fairly good. For the most part, nVidia device drivers released in 6 years ago will still work with the latest "service pack" of Windows XP.

    Furthermore, Microsoft has worked hard on static model checking of device driver code. Anything that gets Microsoft-certified (or whatever) has passed the static model checker.
    • I think the point was that the driver system was more modular, but I thought the idea of kernel modularity preceded Windows and Linux by a fair decade or so.

      Windows had a modular driver system since NT 3.1, at least for the NT lineage, which I suppose goes up to Vista now. I think NT 3.1 might have predated a modular Linux kernel.
      • I think NT 3.1 might have predated a modular Linux kernel.

        Yeah, it did. The guy who introduced me to Linux was running an NT 3 server alongside his Ygddrasil (I know I spelled that wrong...) distro. Modules came along a year or two later.

        That linux box was the first unix I had root on, so I'm not sure what older UNIX's looked like.
  • "5. The operating system of claim 1, wherein the at least one add-on module enables installation of a non-certified application program."

    Either:

    1) You pay more for software because all your software has to be certified by Microsoft, or

    2) You let Microsoft take away your right and sell it back to you - i.e. you pay for this add-on module, or

    3) You crack it and live in fear of Microsoft pulling the trigger
  • And call a spade a spade.

    Vista is not an OS, it is a Extortion tool for little whiney spoiled rich brats (content and computer industry) that want to force other people what they can do and what they cannot without taking any notice what the law grants what people can do.

    I think Vista should be declared forbidden because it undermines the current legal system.
    • Aren't they trying to pawn it off as an OS for gamers, too?

      Who the bloody hell wants an OS that sucks up so much of your system resources?

      An OS for gamers would be an OS that provides the bare minimum support to keep a computer running, and run your game, and would allow you to easilly terminate anything/everything not related to the task you're currently running.

      Worse, my company recieved a memo today that we all might be upgrading to Vista soon. I almost cried... They say it's because clients will soon be
    • by ToriaUru (750485)
      Yah, calling a spade a spade is a good thing. More people that step up and say this: maybe the news organizations will stop showing fan boys and Microsoft paid employees to hawk their crap. Let's get some "fair, balanced" reports out there. Yah, there are some.. but they are few and far between.
  • Somewhat Orwellian? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by name*censored* (884880) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @10:54AM (#17842934)
    Years and years ago, people would have vomited IN TERROR at the thought of paying so much for firstly the hardware, then the OS, and then applications, then the internet connection, and then the electricity, and then having ads on the screen that they've paid for, and then paying more for content/plugins for the applications, and then paying more when the system breaks down from all the bloat to have it upgraded. Oh, and this cycle repeats itself every 2 to 8 years. This octuple-dipping nonsense smacks of 1984 - people are slowly being more and more screwed over whilst not doing anything about it; and attempts to do are looking nigh impossible. Microsoft wanting to be cut in on the hardware installation process makes sense (at least from an incredibly evil standpoint) - users have demonstrated for years that they're willing to put up with spending thousands of dollars to make their computers work. Having said that, it's a little stupid of Microsoft to do this on the launch of this particular OS - there haven't been any features (that I've heard) that makes this a must-upgrade-to OS in comparison to XP (Microsoft seem to be entirely using their momentum as a monopoly for this one); especially since they've released a 64 bit version of XP, which XP-packrats will jump to when applications start to switch to 64 bit and 32 bit CPUs fall fully into obscelence.

    What would be nice is if Microsoft's OS department was in the same boat as Microsoft's XBOX department - since there's fierce competition between PS3 (Mac?) and Wii (*nix?) we haven't seen a single "let's screw with the consumer" initiative by any of the three.
    • Years and years ago, people would have vomited IN TERROR at the thought of paying so much for firstly the hardware, then the OS, and then applications, then the internet connection, and then the electricity, and then having ads on the screen that they've paid for, and then paying more for content/plugins for the applications, and then paying more when the system breaks down from all the bloat to have it upgraded.

      Several of those items are FAR less expensive today then they were years and years ago. :-)

  • Hah! Microsoft is "innovating" again. They applied for a patent to strip down their kernel and make it light, then to build support for extra hardware in the form of loadable kernel modules. (Putting all the arguments about monolithic vs. modular vs mach kernels aside) This would improve performance and efficiency. But they add an extra wrinkle: The modules will use Digital Rights Management which would allow for a model to charge money for access to drivers.

    I suppose they are really innovating this tim
  • Weren't there plans to have the Linux kernel driver interface somehow unified with Windows' ? If so, and this interface was relied upon (some graphics cards come to mind), then this could be bad for the future of Linux. I know, Linus doesn't like it, but he's not the only one who has something to say about it.
  • They can have it. Honestly, I'd love to see them pull off something like this.

    I have so many people ask me for help with their older machines - both for support and OS installation. And most of the time it's a copy of Windows that they got from someone. (Granted, the machine probably originally sold with Windows, so it's morally gray if still illegal). And I always remind them of the legal status of their actions, and that there are legit alternatives. And nobody wants to hear it.

    Just once I'd like to b

  • Microsoft to add modular drivers to windows.
    Its funny how every day microsoft are stealing more and more old ideas from Gnu/Linux and Unix in general, and claiming they are innovating.
    I hope they'll get rid of the registry next.
  • Imagine a computer with all the restrictions turned on. The user gets a single unmovable 640x480 window and 300 Baud of bandwith from any device. It would run forever if it were not for the DRM trip bits and checks that require 4GB of RAM and a quad core processor to make the magic happen.

    Vista is going to sink M$ for good.

  • As far as i know, the idea of combining two technologies to create a new one, is not patentable. Like a bed on wheels, whoopy!
    When is this nonsense is going to make everyone realize that this sucks resources out of this nation, like a leech sucks blood.
  • There is prior art all over this.

    Linux kernel does a string compare and sometimes won't load or take other actions if the module isn't GPLed. This is a form of DRM, as the kernel is imposing it's digital license requirements on extensions loaded into it. (i.e. they must be GPLed or it'll log it or refuse to load it depending on how it was built).

    Basically some guy tried to get around this by making his license string "GPL\0Not really GPL" and he was caught. Linus then changed the code to check the entire
  • They apparently think that they can ratchet up their profit infinitely.

    Economics doesn't work that way.

    Once these dolts are charging for every line of code in their bloated OS, people - INCLUDING corporations - will simply stop buying their product and switch to Linux.

    Microsoft is already at nearly the tipping point for this with the ridiculous prices on Vista. Why do they think everyone is looking for "academic" editions of the product (as the comments attached to the "Vista install work-around" article pr
  • and how long before Microsoft start insisting that peripheral and I/O card manufacturers require that 'Vista-certified' vendor products only function when attached to DRM'd driver modules by making them put DRM locks on their products? To protect from use in non DRM OSs? To protect content owners from piracy... To protect them from competition.....

    This would certainly make life more difficult for Apple, Linux and others. It should raise the red flag of monopoly again though too.....

    -I'm just sayin'
  • Couldn't this be an attempt at MS to actually make their OS more secure, by leveraging TPM to verify that trusted modules/applications can communicate with each other but not with untrusted ones in order to maintain system integrity? In the world of OSS, the same thing could be done, except of course the trusted modules/applications would be signed by the administrator, and any modules/applications not approved by the administrator would be ignored in communicating with these. Granted, that is probably no

"The eleventh commandment was `Thou Shalt Compute' or `Thou Shalt Not Compute' -- I forget which." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

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