Did Microsoft Patent Sudo? Apparently Not
The friction between Microsoft and the open-source software community has been palpable for years, so it's hardly surprising that the Internet was buzzing yesterday with news (apparently originated at Groklaw that had people in the know quivering with anxious anticipation: Microsoft had patented sudo, so could the end of the world be far behind? The real story, however, is far less salacious.
Sudo is a powerful command in Unix- and Linux-based operating systems (including Mac OS X) that lets a user run programs with the permissions of another user—usually root. (Translation for Windows users: Think of it as the ultimate "Run as administrator" command.) With sudo, a user can bestow elevated access on many commands without directly requiring the administrator's say-so. So ubiquitous is the command among hard-core Linux users, it's even a frequent punch line in the popular webcomic Xkcd.
So it's not surprising that so many eyebrows shot skyward yesterday, when word filtered into the tech press that Microsoft had received U.S. patent 7,617,530, which is described as a "Rights Elevator" with the abstract reading as follows: