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The Guy Responsible For Ctrl-Alt-Del 867

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the three-finger-salute dept.
Gannett News is running a story about David Bradley, the IBM engineer who, in 1980, coined Ctrl-Alt-Del. Interestingly, he meant for it to remain a developer-only tool, not something for end users, and certainly not to have Windows users change their passwords or logoff. He also says he chose those keys specifically as it's not a key sequence that can be struck by accident.
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The Guy Responsible For Ctrl-Alt-Del

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  • by tcopeland (32225) * <[tom] [at] [thomasleecopeland.com]> on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @11:50AM (#7094534) Homepage
    ....from the article:

    > He's much too modest. Would Alexander Fleming
    > have said, "It wasn't a memorable event," when
    > he discovered penicillin?

    Crikey.
    • by NaugaHunter (639364) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @11:57AM (#7094616)
      The author's comparing reseting a dead Windows computer with penicillin. Isn't penicillin used on unwanted infestations of bacteria? Not that far off, if you ask me.
      • by jason0000042 (656126) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:05PM (#7094703) Homepage

        The author's comparing reseting a dead Windows computer with penicillin. Isn't penicillin used on unwanted infestations of bacteria? Not that far off, if you ask me.

        But CTRL-ALT-DELETE wasn't discovered, as the article states. It was developed. Bradley made it up. Comparing it to the discovery of penicillin is like saying Tolkien discovered the lord of the rings.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:40PM (#7095115)
          Well, with Pi being proved as infinite and non-repeating, then Lord of the Rings was actually sitting there encoded in Pi forever and would have been sitting there un-discovered had it not been for Tolkien finding it.

          • You don't need pi, a transcendental number that requires calculus-level mathematics to construct. All you need are the integers. Convert LOTR to an integer, then count until you reach it. Presto! You've rediscovered LOTR! Simple enough for a child to understand.
            • by landaker (141792) <wjl@icecavern.net> on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @02:10PM (#7096011)

              Convert LOTR to an integer, then count until you reach it.

              Actually, the other day I was generating some really large numbers to look for potential large primes, when I saw a number that struck me as interesting, so I converted the number to binary and dumped it out in a binary file...

              Then just yesterday, when trying to do some directory maintenence, I accidentally mistyped a command line and ended up calling perl on the binary file mentioned above. Well, you'd figure that would just give me garbage and die... but to my great surprise, it turns out that that number ended up being identical to a bzip2-compressed stream embedded in a perl script with self-extaction code.

              Anyway, to make a long story short, it ended up spitting out the complete LOTR trilogy, nicely formatted in docbook SGML. Sadly, there were some typos, a few dangling reference sto some artwork that I don't have, and oddly enough, it wrote everything into my .gnupg/ directory as files named "bert.smgl", "ernie.sgml", and "bzgbir3.smgl"[sic], so I guess I'll just have to keep looking for interesting numbers and maybe I'll discover a version without these problems.

          • Nice idea, but far from true, I'm afraid. An infinite non-repeating number need not include every possible combination. For example, here's an infinite non-repeating decimal number that doesn't include any combination with the digits '2' to '9':
            1.101001000100001000001...
    • by Mephie (582671) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:19PM (#7094874) Homepage
      Honestly, though, he is modest. The IBM Campus in Raleigh had a career builder seminar once that he attended. He actually showed a video where he was speaking at a small conference where Bill Gates was in attendence.

      On the video, someone made a comment about Ctrl-Alt-Del being a life saver as an easy way to reboot systems after a crash (back when the blue screen stayed up by default). His response was "I just coded the Ctrl-Alt-Del sequence. Bill Gates made it famous." The implication wasn't intentional, but the look on Bill's face was priceless.

    • by Simonetta (207550)
      "Open the pod bay door, HAL"

      "I'm sorry, Dave. But I can't do that"

      "Open the pod bay door, HAL. That's an order!"

      "No, Dave. You only want to hurt me and endanger my mission"

      "Control - Alt - Delete, HAL"

      "No, Dav.... !@#$ !$$%$#@
      .
      .
      .
      YOU HAVE 192734937297382079328374 K bytes RAM.
      press DELETE to set time and date

  • by grasshoppa (657393) * <skennedy@nOspaM.tpno-co.org> on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @11:51AM (#7094548) Homepage
    Just imagine how much in royalties this guy could have made if he had developed that nowadays with our patent frenzy attitude!

    Rich, he would have been rich I tell you!
    • Re:Patent madness? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Zeinfeld (263942)
      Just imagine how much in royalties this guy could have made if he had developed that nowadays with our patent frenzy attitude!

      Err Apple had the prior art. If you look at any Apple ][ of the original series you will almost always find that there has been an after market add on to cover up the reset key which was placed in a ludicrously easy to hit by mistake location.

      The only thing novel about ctrl-alt-del was that it was in the original hardware rather than an after market kludge. There were similar hac

      • Re:Patent madness? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by nullard (541520) <nullprogram@NosPAm.voicesinmyhead.cc> on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:18PM (#7094868) Journal
        The later use came about because it is the only sequence that cannot be hijacked

        I love that security message from MS. I'm still waiting for someone to make a bootable linux CD (or hell, a DOS disk) that displays the same screen, looking like win2k and harvesting logins. It's not that hard to intercept ctrl-alt-del. I wonder if you could do it by messing with the keyboard drivers too. If you can change the signal the OS sees when ctrl-alt-del is pressed, you could intercept the interupt w/out resorting to using another OS.
        • Re:Patent madness? (Score:5, Informative)

          by rikkards (98006) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:31PM (#7095008) Journal
          You're right it is capable of being hijacked. It uses the MSGINA.DLL and MS even explain how to do it on their website. It is capable of being used with a string of GINAs (Novell has one they use so that a user in a Novell Domain can log onto NDS called NWGINA.DLL)
        • Re:Patent madness? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mamba-mamba (445365)
          I believe ctrl-alt-del raises a hardware signal, so I don't think messing with the keyboard drivers would allow you to intercept it.

          I don't think there is any way to keep the hardware signal from being asserted, although you could certainly install a handler for the signal. To do this under nt/2k/xp-pro you would need to have priveledge.

          I guess what they mean when they say it can't be hijacked is that it can't be hijacked by normal software running on your computer. Any attacker who could install a new in
      • Re:Patent madness? (Score:5, Informative)

        by MouseR (3264) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:22PM (#7094908) Homepage
        Before the reset buttons on Macs, Apple II machines (the //c, the ][e, ][+ and //) had a reset button seated on a hefty spring, and would only take effect if you held down the Apple button (nowadays known as the Command key).

        Although some Macs have had bad placement for the reset button (some Performas and the Mac II line come to mind), most Macs have had their reset buttons on the side of the machine, where it's not as easy to reach by mistake (and quite frankly, hard to locate at times).

        Some of the Macs, also, had reset buttons that were inside the case, and could only be accessible with an externally-mounted, optional button that reached inside of the case for the reset button. Such was the case for the Mac Plus, SE (and SE/30) and the Mac II line (II, II x, II fx).

        The worst placement for the reset button was on the PowerMac 601 (pizza box "G1" if you wish), where the front-mounted reset (and power) switch was at the same height of the (then much) thick keyboard. Pushing the keyboard against the machine could switch it off. Outright stupid it was.
        • by Lev13than (581686) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @01:01PM (#7095334) Homepage
          The worst placement for the reset button was on the PowerMac 601 (pizza box "G1" if you wish), where the front-mounted reset (and power) switch was at the same height of the (then much) thick keyboard. Pushing the keyboard against the machine could switch it off. Outright stupid it was.

          Not only that, but they put it right beside the floppy drive. You could tell if someone was a PC user because they restarted the computer every time they tried to eject a disk...
        • Re:Patent madness? (Score:3, Informative)

          by jerde (23294)
          Before the reset buttons on Macs, Apple II machines (the //c, the ][e, ][+ and //) had a reset button seated on a hefty spring, and would only take effect if you held down the Apple button (nowadays known as the Command key).

          This only applied to the original Apple II and II+. In the earliest versions of those machines, the reset key was the same as any other key, and very easy to hit by mistake. My old II+ has the rubber washer installed under that keycap to make the key very hard to press. In later II+ r
        • Re:Patent madness? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by li99sh79 (678891)
          The worst placement for the reset button was on the PowerMac 601 (pizza box "G1" if you wish), where the front-mounted reset (and power) switch was at the same height of the (then much) thick keyboard. Pushing the keyboard against the machine could switch it off. Outright stupid it was.

          You got that right, i taped over the reset and debugger buttons on my 7100 after reaching for something, hitting the reset button, and loosing a paper. I was so glad when I ditched that 7100 for an 8600, which I still own

      • Re:Patent madness? (Score:3, Informative)

        by grahamlee (522375)
        The Amiga had Ctrl-LAmiga-RAmiga (or Ctrl-CBM-Amiga on some keyboards) at much the same time.
    • Re:Patent madness? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Josuah (26407) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @02:45PM (#7096329) Homepage
      Just imagine how much in royalties this guy could have made if he had developed that nowadays with our patent frenzy attitude!

      I'm pretty sure the implementation executed by Ctrl-Alt-Del is covered in IBM patent #4,768,149 [uspto.gov], filed in August 1985. This patent describes the basic intentions and implementation of the original Ctrl-Alt-Del keystroke.
  • Heh. (Score:3, Funny)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) <Satanicpuppy&gmail,com> on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @11:51AM (#7094550) Journal
    Where would Windows be today without CTRL-ALT-DEL? I guess they would have had to add a hard reset button to all windows keyboards, which would then be in competition with the letter "e" for the key that wears out the fastest.
    • Re:Heh. (Score:5, Informative)

      by cscx (541332) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:19PM (#7094878) Homepage
      Well, aside from your comment indicating you to be a total jackass, there is actually a good reason behind the CTRL-ALT-DEL sequence in NT. It's a security feature.

      "The CTRL-ALT-DEL key combination in NT disables user mode programs so a trojan program cannot intercept the user's name and password during the logon process. No user mode programs can be run until a valid logon has occurred. This is called restricted user mode. The CTRL-ALT-DEL key sequence indicates that there is a physically connected keyboard that the keystrokes are coming from. During the logon process, the Winlogon service passes the user's point of authentication, name, and password to the client/server (CSR) subsystem. The CSR passes the information to the security reference monitor which checks the Security Accounts Manager (SAM) database against the received information to see if the user is authentic. If so, a valid access token is generated and returned back down the line to the processes that sent the information."

      Read more here [comptechdoc.org].
      • Re:Heh. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Politburo (640618)
        CTRL-ALT-DEL also switches to another desktop that programs are not allowed to modify in any way (Yes, Windows has multiple desktops, see recent Dr. Dobbs article for more info).
      • Re:Heh. (Score:3, Informative)

        by Quixadhal (45024)

        The CTRL-ALT-DEL key sequence indicates that there is a physically connected keyboard that the keystrokes are coming from.

        Is that why it works just fine under VNC? Don't kid yourself, Ctrl-Alt-Delete isn't a single keystroke, nor is it an NMI, it's just three key-down events that the windows event handler pays attention to. While it may disable pure user-mode programs, it's trivial to make a program that will hang onto admin privs if it acquires them (such as the VNC server).

        It is true that trojans

      • by Elladan (17598) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @01:38PM (#7095725)
        This feature is properly known as a SAK - Secure Attention Key. It's an old security feature used to prevent hijacking of trusted consoles, as you said, and is implemented on many systems. The perennial place where it's needed is university computer labs, where logging in and then leaving a fake login prompt running to capture passwords is has always been considered good clean fun. (To implement it properly, one should print a "wrong password!" message, and then exit the user session completely giving the user the real login prompt)

        The basic idea is that the OS traps the SAK and does something obvious (like give you a login prompt) to keep a user from running a program pretending to be the OS. Since the OS doesn't let the user handle the SAK, security is maintained.

        Linux supports SAK, however it's never really been properly deployed by distributions. Part of the reason is that nobody's ever really standardized on what the SAK key should be. If SysRQ is enabled, than Alt-SysRQ-k will cause a SAK event in the kernel. Otherwise, the keyboard driver can be configured by root to use any key sequence. One key sequence I've seen used is Alt-SysRQ-PageDown, but there's really no particular standard.

        When SAK is raised in linux, all programs running on the current terminal are force-killed. It's then expected that init will provide a new login prompt there.

        This leads to the second problem with SAK on Linux, namely that most users run X on workstation machines. If you SAK while X is running, the kernel kill -9's X... Which trashes your video card, leaving the system in an unusable state. Which is probably not what you wanted. Some video drivers and cards in X may be stable enough that, if you're running xdm/gdm/kdm etc., it may be able to restart X and give you an X11 login prompt - but the console will still be trashed, so you won't be able to exit out of X afterwards (or eg. with ctrl-alt-f1). It used to be the case that you could store the video settings for your console and run a program (eg. restoretext etc.) to fix them, but that hasn't worked on any modern video card in years. In addition, if you just escape out of X and then fix the console, X will re-trash your console as soon as you return to it, since it only stores the console settings from when X was started, not the current settings. Hence, X and your console program get in a fight and you probably end up crashing the video card and having to pull the power plug out or something if you do this a lot.

        Confusing things even more, XFree generally defines its own internal "SAK"-like key sequence, Ctrl-Alt-Backspace. This isn't actually an OS-level SAK though, it just instructs X to quit. And not surprisingly, it often doesn't work due to XFree bugs (and may be trappable by user apps).
  • Thank you (Score:5, Funny)

    by yotto (590067) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @11:52AM (#7094555) Homepage
    As a tech support guy, I just want to give this man a hearty "Thank You"

    "I don't have a control key. I have an alt key and this little wavy square, and next to that is a curtl key. And I hit that and backspace and it doesn't do anything."

    Thanks, man.

    (ps: yes, I know he didn't intend it for the end user. It's a JOKE. Read it, chuckle, give me mod points, and move on)
  • by Sheetrock (152993) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @11:52AM (#7094557) Homepage Journal
    Ctrl-Alt-Del is the only key combination on your computer that has its own hardware interrupt (similar to Ctrl-Open Apple/Closed Apple-Reset on Macs). Again, this was to prevent interception in real mode, however protected mode changes all rules.
    • by l2718 (514756) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:04PM (#7094696)
      Ctrl-Alt-Del is the only key combination on your computer that has its own hardware interrupt ... this was to prevent interception in real mode


      Not quite. Interrupt processing by the hardware is the same for real and protected modes (which are internal to the processor).

      All key press/release events generate the same hardware interrupt (normally the keyboard is wired to the IRQ1 line of the interrupt controller). Standard BIOS setup configures the 8859 to generate Int 0x9 for this IRQ. The keyboard interrupt handler is then charged with identifying the Ctrl-Alt-Del combination and acting on it.

      The default BIOS action is to triger a software interrupt (Int 0x17 IIRC). The motivation for this was not to prevent interceptions. Rather, this conforms to the policy of having BIOS entrypoints go through software interrupts (in this case allowing any program to generate a soft-boot).

    • by jsmyth (517568) <jersmyth@ g m a i l . com> on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:08PM (#7094753) Homepage
      Ctrl-Alt-Del is the only key combination on your computer that has its own hardware interrupt

      Nope. It shares the same hardware IRQ with everything else on the keyboard. The interrupt service routine handles the particular values received from the keyboard, so it spawns a software interrupt for ctrl-alt-del that (OS-specific) suspends user mode code and does something configurable, e.g. Windows Security dialog in W2K, task mgr in W9x, or in Linux configured by what you've got in /etc/inittab.

    • That and SysRq (Score:5, Informative)

      by morcheeba (260908) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:18PM (#7094862) Journal
      SysRq [wikipedia.org] was the original interrupt-generating special keystroke. It doesn't get much use anymore, though.
      • by oliverthered (187439) <olivertheredNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:39PM (#7095090) Journal
        Ok, so I didn't read all of it either, here's howto and ahy to use sysrq under linux 2.6
        /usr/linux-beta/Documentation/sysrq.txt
        Edit ed for lameness, have fun

        "Linux Magic System Request Key Hacks
        Documentation for sysrq.c version 1.15
        Last update: $Date: 2001/01/28 10:15:59 $

        * What is the magic SysRq key?
        It is a 'magical' key combo you can hit which the kernel will respond to
        regardless of whatever else it is doing, unless it is completely locked up.

        * How do I enable the magic SysRq key?
        You need to say "yes" to 'Magic SysRq key (CONFIG_MAGIC_SYSRQ)' when
        configuring the kernel. When running on a kernel with SysRq compiled in, it
        may be DISABLED at run-time using following command:

        echo "0" > /proc/sys/kernel/sysrq

        Note that previous versions disabled sysrq by default, and you were required
        to specifically enable it at run-time. That is not the case any longer.

        * How do I use the magic SysRq key?
        On x86 - You press the key combo 'ALT-SysRq-<command key>'. Note - Some
        keyboards may not have a key labeled 'SysRq'. The 'SysRq' key is
        also known as the 'Print Screen' key.

        On SPARC - You press 'ALT-STOP-<command key>', I believe.

        On the serial console (PC style standard serial ports only) -
        You send a BREAK, then within 5 seconds a command key. Sending
        BREAK twice is interpreted as a normal BREAK.

        On PowerPC - Press 'ALT - Print Screen (or F13) - <command key>,
        Print Screen (or F13) - <command key> may suffice.

        On other - If you know of the key combos for other architectures, please
        let me know so I can add them to this section.

        On all - write a character to /proc/sysrq-trigger. eg:

        echo t > /proc/sysrq-trigger

        * What are the 'command' keys?
        'r' - Turns off keyboard raw mode and sets it to XLATE.
        'k' - Secure Access Key (SAK) Kills all programs on the current virtual
        console. NOTE: See important comments below in SAK section.
        'b' - Will immediately reboot the system without syncing or unmounting
        your disks.
        'o' - Will shut your system off (if configured and supported).
        's' - Will attempt to sync all mounted filesystems.
        'u' - Will attempt to remount all mounted filesystems read-only.
        'p' - Will dump the current registers and flags to your console.
        't' - Will dump a list of current tasks and their information to your
        console.
        'm' - Will dump current memory info to your console.
        'v' - Dumps Voyager SMP processor info to your console.
        '0'-'9' - Sets the console log level, controlling which kernel messages
        will be printed to your console. ('0', for example would make
        it so that only emergency messages like PANICs or OOPSes would
        make it to your console.)

        'e' - Send a SIGTERM to all processes, except for init.
        'i' - Send a SIGKILL to all processes, except for init.
        'l' - Send a SIGKILL to all processes, INCLUDING init. (Your system
        will be non-functional after this.)
        'h' - Will display help ( actually any other key than those listed
        above will display help. but 'h' is easy to remember :-)

        * Okay, so what can I use them for?
        Well, un'R'aw is very handy when your X server or a svgalib program crashes.

        sa'K' (Secure Access Key) is useful when you want to be sure there are no
        trojan program is running at console and which could grab your password
        when you would try to login. It will kill all programs on given console
        and thus letting you make sure that the login prompt you see is actually
        the one from init, not some trojan program.
        IMPORTANT:In its true form it is not a true SAK like the one in :IMPORTANT
        IMPORTANT:c2 compliant systems, and it should be mistook as such. :IMPORTANT
        It seems other find it useful as
  • by gunne (14408) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @11:53AM (#7094576) Homepage
    When quake first was released, i didn't want to use the mouse, only the keyboard. However, after doing the shoot-strafe-left-look-down maneuver one time too many, i decided to switch to mouse... (shoot-strafe-left-look-down = ctrl, alt(gr), left arrow, delete)
    • by A_Non_Moose (413034) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:30PM (#7094999) Homepage Journal
      Accident...sure. {kidding, of course}

      Though it could be worse, here's how:

      Clippy: It looks like you're about to have your ass handed to you in Quake and you pressed ctrl+alt+delete.

      Would you like to:

      1) Reboot and look like a llama?

      2) Like me to write an apology for you (after reboot, of course).

      3) Let you continue playing, while I stay on as a background task laughing at you and sending l33t /\/\3$$4G3$ for you?

      4) Suggest you use a mouse, you dork, as this is not Doom or Doom ][.

      5) Launch minesweeper...c'mon, you know you want to! No pressure though....muwahaha...errr.

      /end clippy
  • by burgburgburg (574866) <splisken06@em a i l . com> on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @11:54AM (#7094586)
    Who is he kidding? Just the other day, my gorillas and I were playing soccer in the lab. Why we must of hit ctrl-alt-del over a hundred times just in the first half. After that, we moved the game over to the kitchen, just to be safe.
  • Was it first? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Shamashmuddamiq (588220) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @11:54AM (#7094592)
    ...or was the Apple ]['s openapple-control-reset first? I know that the Apple ][ came out in 1977, but I'm not sure if it had implemented the three-key sequence yet or if it had borrowed that idea from the alt-ctrl-delete that was noted here.

    Anybody wanna fill in on the details here?

    • Re:Was it first? (Score:3, Interesting)

      ..or was the Apple ]['s openapple-control-reset first? I know that the Apple ][ came out in 1977, but I'm not sure if it had implemented the three-key sequence yet or if it had borrowed that idea from the alt-ctrl-delete that was noted here.

      Apple ][ Plus shipped with a hard "RESET" button not requiring any additional keys in combination. It had to be pushed pretty hard to make it depress, though. Unfortunately, it was somewhat close to "ESC" and occationally did get hit inadvertantly.

      Then on the Ap

  • by malakai (136531) * on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @11:54AM (#7094593) Journal
    It was not a memorable event," said Bradley, a longtime IBM employee, speaking of that day in 1980 or '81 when he discovered control-alt-delete.

    ...

    He's much too modest. Would Alexander Fleming have said, "It wasn't a memorable event," when he discovered penicillin? Would Albert Einstein have said, "I really can't recall when I discovered E=MC squared?"

    uh huh...

    Bradley chose the control and alt keys because he needed two shift keys to make the operation work, and he chose the delete key because it was on the opposite side of the keyboard. He didn't want people to hit control-alt-delete by accident.


    It's more complicated than that, of course, but most people don't have a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Purdue University, as Bradley does


    oh please. He picked a key sequence that's difficult to accidentally set off. So what? It could have been shift-esc-break. If this is what a Ph.D. in electrical engineering is good for, I'm glad I don't have mine.

    And the reason MS used it for login in NT 3.1 was for security. It negated the possibility of a impersonation client that displayed an image which looked like the NT 3.1 login, but just stole Passwords instead. If such a client was written to DOS or Windows it would simple reboot. So it was a sanity check, at the time.
    • More than you know (Score:3, Insightful)

      by stewby18 (594952)

      Would Alexander Fleming have said, "It wasn't a memorable event," when he discovered penicillin?

      If you'd asked him not too long after, then yes, he probably would have. Most of the Fleming story is a myth; yes he discovered it by accident, but after relatively little lab work he gave up and stopped researching it. He didn't think it had a future as a useful drug, because it retained almost no effectiveness in its raw form. There's lots of evidence that he couldn't have cared less about penicillin for m

  • by kabocox (199019) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @11:55AM (#7094596)

    "I actually have a real job, but I enjoy doing this," Bradley says. "I'm as close as you get to a rock star within IBM."

    That's just what the world needs IBM Rockstars. All he needs are groupies.
  • by bazik (672335) <.gro.ootneg. .ta. .kizab.> on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @11:55AM (#7094599) Homepage Journal
    When I read 'the guy responsible for Ctrl-Alt-Del", I thought you ment Tim Buckly - author of the awesome Ctrl-Alt-Del Webcomic Series [ctrlaltdel-online.com].

    I love this Comic :)
  • by legLess (127550) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @11:58AM (#7094628) Journal
    ...certainly not to have Windows users change their passwords or logoff.

    Many people rag on this, but it actually made some sense at the time. Microsoft has removed it from later versions of Windows for convenience, not security, purposes.

    For people who don't know, WIndows NT 4 (and perhaps 3.5 and earlier?) required one to hit CTRL-ALT-DEL to get a login prompt. Many people complained, not seeing the logic in it, but logic there is.

    CTRL-ALT-DEL is can never, ever be trapped by an application -- unless Windows has hosed completely, it's guaranteed to get the OS's attention. Having to hit it to get a login box means that no other application can fake a login box. If they tried, CTRL-ALT-DEL would bring up the task manager instead of a login dialog.

    So regardless of whether you like it, the minor annoyance served a good purpose and was actually a fairly clever design decision. Much smarter than, oh, allowing macro viruses to execute by default.

    • by Telcontar (819) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:14PM (#7094813) Homepage
      Your reasoning does not apply to Windows NT4, as DirectX allows application to intercept any key combination, including the three-finger salute.

      The same goes for remote desktop applications such as "PC anywhere" etc.

      So it really is a major annoyance and serves no purpose.
      • Your reasoning does not apply to Windows NT4, as DirectX allows application to intercept any key combination, including the three-finger salute.

        His reasoning was, "it actually made some sense at the time." I.e. *before* DirectX came out.

        The same goes for remote desktop applications such as "PC anywhere" etc.

        I've used PC/Anywhere (v8-10) a fair amount and have seen no such thing. In fact I've observed exactly opposite your point. PC/Anywhere has a special button to generate a CTRL-ALT-DEL on the

      • by Keeper (56691) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @03:04PM (#7096505)
        DirectX allows application to intercept any key combination, including the three-finger salute.

        Please show me how you can intercept ctrl-alt-del using DirectX. All of the documentation I've seen indicates that it can't be done. The lack of login-screen spoofing apps would tend to back the documented side of things.

        It is possible to capture ctrl-alt-del on Win9x, however I haven't seen a way to do it using DirectX on Win9x.
    • CTRL-ALT-DEL is can never, ever be trapped by an application

      I mapped it to something like ``xset s activate'' on my Linux box. I kinda laugh every time I hit it just because I think it's funny that I mapped my lock to a key combination that ``can't be trapped by an application.''
    • Errmmm...maybe I'm using some other Windows, but here I have to press Ctrl-Alt-Del to login to my W2K and XP boxes too. Did I miss something? You say they removed it? Err?

      ps. I know you can set an auto-logon into the registry, but that hack does more than disable Ctrl-Alt-Del, and works on very old versions.
  • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @11:59AM (#7094650) Homepage Journal

    If he could come up with a micro-payment plan for using his idea he could make millions off the Windows users in a couple of months.
  • exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @11:59AM (#7094651)
    Bradley says the "strength of the country" is at stake because relatively few students go into science or technology

    Why should they when engineers can't find jobs, salesmen are making 6 figures and MBAs are stealing all the money.
  • Ummm... (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheShadow (76709) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:00PM (#7094659)
    Why is it that everyone thinks that Ctrl-Alt-Del has some special hardware interrupt, or something else that makes it magical?

    The BIOS traps that combination (through the normal keyboard interrupt) and initiates a system reboot.

    Problem is, if your OS isn't using the BIOS for keyboard input (pretty much every modern OS uses it's own keyboard handling code) then the OS determines what this key combination does.

    In either case, it is software that determines what that key combination does.
    • Right. In fact, (Score:5, Informative)

      by TrekkieGod (627867) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:21PM (#7094898) Homepage Journal
      If you'd like to trap the Ctrl-Alt-Del combination in Linux, and use it for something else, edit your inittab. Look for a comment along the lines of #trap CTRL-ALT-DEL. Below it there will be a command such as

      ca::ctrlaltdel:/sbin/shutdown -r now

      Yep...you might recognize that as the reboot command. You can go ahead and change it so that it shuts down your computer or run anything else you desire (although it'll run it with root privileges so, don't put something stupid in there unless you're running Lindows and therefore are always root, I guess)

  • Rumour has it... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by swordgeek (112599) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:02PM (#7094676) Journal
    ...that the real reason Microsoft used Ctrl-Alt-Del for the NT login was that everyone was already familiar with it.

    (Yeah, it's a hardcoded interrupt, but in protected mode that's pretty much irrelevant)
  • by Kynde (324134) <kyndeNO@SPAMiki.fi> on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:04PM (#7094692)
    ...but there's a reason why Windoze uses that for logging in. That is, that key combo cannot be intercepted by applications thus making it impossible to create infamous fake logins for grabbing user credentials mere looks-like-login-screen. Naturally such preventive measures could've been done a bit more elegantly than just using ctrl-alt-del to log in, but still, it's a very windowsy way of overcoming obstacles.

    In many unix systems however, there are little or no protection for fake-login local attacks, eventhough preventive measures would be quite easy to implement using some key combo deemed ungrabbable by user software (little like say ctrl-alt-backspace is in X). It's all too easy to display a xdm/gdm look-a-like screen on university/public-office displays and grab logins and then display some sort of segfault crap an logout back to the real xdm/gdm. Average (l)user hardly takes much of a notice.
    • Using Ctrl-Alt-Del for a login prompt doesn't mean you can't have a Trojan password gatherer. It just means you have to code it in Linux/*BSD where you can control the interrupt yourself. Make it bootable from floppy (grabbing extra data from HD or net if needed) and after a few login tries it 'reboots'. The floppy is long gone, and now it's back to the real NT (or 2k/xp) screen.

      Nothing is secure when you can get physical access to the machine.
    • by AT (21754) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:56PM (#7095278)
      That is, that key combo cannot be intercepted by applications thus making it impossible to create infamous fake logins for grabbing user credentials mere looks-like-login-screen

      This is actually untrue. There are several ways to capture ctrl-alt-del in Windows. One is by remapping the keyboard with the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Contro l\Keyboard Layout registry entry. This changes the key mappings before the system processes ctrl-alt-del.

      The idea of a secure access key is a good one, but MS has a broken implementation since they allow it to be circumvented.
  • On Tech TV (Score:5, Funny)

    by pr0vidence (562808) * on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:05PM (#7094711)
    I actually saw a video clip on Tech TV with him and Bill Gates (and someone else but the name eludes me for the moment). They were in some sort of conference and he goes (not a word-for-word quote)"Yes well I'm the one who created CTRL-ALT-DEL, but Bill here is the one who made it famous" ... rousing laughter from the crowd, Bill has the embarassed grin on his face. He allows the laughter to die a little and says "...For Windows NT log-ons!" it was a CLASSIC moment.
    • Re:On Tech TV (Score:4, Informative)

      by _xeno_ (155264) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:46PM (#7095178) Homepage Journal
      I found a video of it on the TechTV site [techtv.com], but if you look closely at it, you'll note that whoever encoded this video swiped some other video and encoded that. Look closely and you'll notice the original progress bar on the bottom of the movie sliding under it, as well as text from where the video was originally from. (The movie is the "video highlight" for the day, and requires JS and Windows Media Player. Works under Mozilla, though. You'll need to look at an ad, too.)

      By the way, it's closer to:

      Bradley: "Now I have to share the credit. I may have invented it, but I think that Bill Gates is the one who made it famous."

      Roaring laughter, shot of Bill Gates looking a bit miffed.

      "When you used it for NT logon! That's what I meant."

      Shot of Bill Gates shrugging and acting as if maybe he believes Bradley.

      All in all, Gates too it rather well, you need to see the video because my description makes it sound like Gates got really upset and he took it in stride quite well.
  • Frightening (Score:3, Funny)

    by not_a_george (687840) <introv8ed_undera ... m ['oo.' in gap]> on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:07PM (#7094734) Journal
    Good thing this guy doesn't work for SCO
    Can you imagine paying $699 everytime you have to ctrl-alt-delete?
  • by allanj (151784) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:09PM (#7094757)

    From when Win95/98 reigned supreme - CtrlAltDel stick [webpsico.nl]!

  • fysically impaired? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by valentyn (248783) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:09PM (#7094764) Homepage
    I once worked at a help desk. One call I remember is a man who, after my suggestion he should press "control alt del" went silent for a moment, then told me he only had one hand.

    (It's sad to see that an option that was originally meant for engineers, made it all up to the login screen of an operating system. Well, maybe Larry presses the "eject" button to start his plane, what do we know? ;-)
  • by Ewann (209481) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:16PM (#7094847)
    Here's one [com.com] that has some more quotes from Dr. Bradley about inventing Ctrl-Alt-Del, as well as interviews with others on the team that invented the first IBM PC.

    Googling on his name along with "history of IBM PC" yields other good tidbits.

  • by WalterSobchak (193686) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:16PM (#7094848) Homepage Journal
    I can vivedly remeber unpacking my first Macintosh, must have been 1984 or something. The package included a little, user installable switch, and this is what the Mac Handbook had to say about it:

    "Programmer's Switch
    The switch causes a reset or an interrupt. If you do not know what a reset or an interrupt is, you do not need it.
    "

    I could not have said it better...

    Alex
  • by br00tus (528477) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:23PM (#7094915)
    It's about time Slashdot got around to honoring this man.

    David Bradley, I give you a three finger salute. Microsoft, I salute you as well, minus two fingers.

  • by antirename (556799) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:25PM (#7094936)
    So, this guy thinks that too few students are going for science or technology degrees? I wonder why... lets see, scientists dont make much. Manufacturing is moving to the third world, and taking a hell of a lot of engineering jobs with it. IT is moving to India. Yeah, I'd be sure to pick one of those fields if I were trying to decide on a major. You can't blame the students for the decline in "the strength of the country", they're just looking out for themselves and trying to pick a career that might actually have a future.
  • by harks (534599) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:27PM (#7094963)
    When playing quake, using Ctrl for shoot, Alt for strafe, and del for looking downwards simultaneously! It has happened to me.
  • by RainbowSix (105550) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:36PM (#7095058) Homepage
    Here's a webcomic that's just over a year old that some of you might like, it is called ctrl+alt+del :)
    http://ctrlaltdel-online.com/ [ctrlaltdel-online.com]

    The main characters are a few crazy gamers, and a linux guy who has a live-in penguin named Ted. Hillarity ensues.
  • by jpvlsmv (583001) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @12:40PM (#7095108) Homepage Journal
    I mean, why isn't there a Ctrl-Alt-Gateway or Ctrl-Alt-Compaq? What makes Dell so special?

    --Joe
  • by PotatoHead (12771) <dougNO@SPAMopengeek.org> on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @02:03PM (#7095940) Homepage Journal
    They did not want users just performing the action, so they made it both non-accidental and hard to remember.

    Called it the Vulcan Death Grip

    Pressing the following 4 key simultaneously will cause the kernel to
    kill the Xserver. Under normal circumstances it will get restarted
    again automatically.

    left-shift
    left-control
    F12
    keypad-/

  • Escapes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Animats (122034) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @03:01PM (#7096484) Homepage
    Related to this is the mess at startup. You know, "Press DEL to enter setup", "Press any key to select boot image", "Press ESC for altboot", all with delays.

    The cleanest setup for this was on the Apollo Domain, which had a "normal/service" keyswitch. In normal mode, the system booted up with no intervention messages and no delays. In service mode, the machine booted up into a menu of service options. But that was before ordinary people knew about computers.

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