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OSX To Feature Portable User Accounts? 245

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the home-you-can-take-with-you dept.
eldavojohn writes "A new patent filed by Apple is causing speculation that OSX is soon to receive a new feature. From the article: '[the patent states] that the user account may be stored alongside general data storage or "other functionality". All of which seems to suggest that at some time soon we may be able to load our user accounts onto an iPod, hard drive or USB keydrive and take them wherever we go.'"
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OSX To Feature Portable User Accounts?

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  • Ultra portable (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @05:37PM (#16401023) Homepage Journal
    So, ideally this would be part of a uber road warrior ultraportable solution rather than an addition to a USB drive or iPod. Since the demise of the 12in Powerbook G4, many of us have had to shlep around larger form factors (15in Powerbooks/Macbook Pros) that are a bit harder to deal with on planes, trains and such.

    I would hope for a little tablet much like the Newton, but running a full version of OS X and given the costs of flash drives, this may in fact be possible at 32 to 64GBs in size which would make for a usable battery life as well. Travel is difficult enough and for really long flights (international ones), battery life simply does not cut it, even with the new MacBooks. And even if you did have a power outlet in your seat, they are incompatible with the current magnetic and oh so cool MacBook power systems.

    Having something like this that one could back up photographs to, give talks from, check email and calendar and address books, read ebooks and mark up pdf documents, be able to link via Bluetooth to your cellular phone and such would all be possible in a small form factor that one would not necessarily want/need the ability to run big apps like Photoshop on.

    And when the trip is over, you plug into your desktop at home and automagically have everything sync up.

    Oh, please... oh, please... oh, please.... Come on Steve! You and I have talked about this going back..... what, years now! The technology is there, the market is there, all the pieces are in place.

    • Considering how much progress they've made with Portable Home Directories, I'd imagine something like this wouldn't be too great of a stretch.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mac Degger (576336)
        It's been in the cards for a while...the idea isn't new (hell, even I've discussed it on- and offline many a time). How they could get a patent on this is beyond me, for all the examples in books, magazines and on the 'net.
    • or a DRM limitation (Score:5, Interesting)

      by doodlelogic (773522) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @05:40PM (#16401047)
      Maybe for movies the studios are demanding only the paying user can view on their iPod - so movie downloads will be tied to a user account on each device.
      • Maybe for movies the studios are demanding only the paying user can view on their iPod - so movie downloads will be tied to a user account on each device.

        That seeems unlikely. They're already tied to an iTunes account (the kind that can be used on up to five computers and an unlimited number of iPods), so why also tie them to an OS X user account? I'm guessing that since Apple manage the former on their servers, it's a lot easier for them to keep track of what you're up to.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mrchaotica (681592) *

      I would hope for a little tablet much like the Newton, but running a full version of OS X and given the costs of flash drives, this may in fact be possible at 32 to 64GBs in size which would make for a usable battery life as well.

      I would hope for a 10-12" (~2lb) convertible tablet, much like a cross between the Thinkpad X-series and the old Sharp Actius MM-10 (it had a dock!).

      But most importantly, I want well-supported syncing between systems. I've got two Macs now (an iBook and an iMac), and it's absurd

  • Impressive (Score:5, Funny)

    by TCM (130219) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @05:39PM (#16401041)
    If only other systems had thought of that. You could implement it so that all the data of one user is stored in a single directory, called home directory.

    We could even invent a new notation specifically for that. Like, I don't know, ~user/ or something.

    Man, Apple users get all the goodies. :(
    • Re:Impressive (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hypnagogue (700024) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @05:50PM (#16401183)
      You may want to consider that the problem is more subtle than that.

      Just because you have your home directory on an iPod connected to a foreign Mac doesn't mean that you can authenticate and log in. Wouldn't it be interesting if you could have, in your home directory, credentials signed by a trustee that you could use to log in to any system, with your access limited to writing to public areas or your own home directory. Furthermore, encrypt that image on the iPod so that it can't be accessed unless you authenticate successfully. I'm not sure what the scope of the invention is, since I refuse to read patents or patent applications, but it might be a great solution to a tough problem. It also has implications for DRM licensing schemes -- licenses that apply to the user, not the computer.

      I know sarcasm is like breathing after a few years on slashdot, but this might actually be an interesting invention. We'll have to wait and see.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by epee1221 (873140)
        with your access limited to writing to public areas or your own home directory.
        Darn! I was gonna put a sudoer account on a jump drive and root every box in sight!
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by GCsoftware (68281)
        Interestingly enough, this is almost identical to the system I implemented for using USB flash drives as authentication tokens as my MSc thesis. I might put up the PDF of the project up if people are interested.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by catwh0re (540371)
        Just a few things about this and your comment.

        The feature was to appear back in 10.3, but was likely pulled because the hard drive based iPods of the day weren't having 100% stability with the hard drives inside. So it would be a bad idea to have your iPod carry around all your irreplacable data when there is a chance that just dropping the iPod could destroy it. Now Apple have significantly large flash based iPods (big enough to support a home directory.) So the idea is back on the table without the fear

      • Re:Impressive (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Lussarn (105276) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @04:39AM (#16405597)
        This is straight from the patent:

        A few sophisticated users have modified operation of existing operating systems, such as Mac OS X, to provide some portability to their user account from a work computer to a home computer. This requires specialized software tools to manipulate and modify the data structures for a user account in a database (e.g., netinfo database). Armed with such specialized tools, a very sophisticated user would first establish a local user account on the multi-user computer (work computer), and then use the specialized tools to edit the location of the default user directory, such that it is made to reside on an external storage device. Then, at the other location where a multi-user computer (home computer) is to be used by the same user, a user account would be again established on such a machine, and then using special tools to render the user identifier the same as that which the work computer used when creating the user account at the work computer.

        So basically they say that prior art do exist. They even admit (in the fscking patent application!) "a few sophisticated users" have already done this, and now they want to steal that work and patent it. Isn't that great.

        These modifications to the multi-user computers are not intended modifications and thus tend to compromise the reliability of the operation of the multi-user computers.

        This would translate to "if something isn't invented by Apple it doesn't count as prior art".

        Further, the required specialized tools, although available, are neither well documented nor user-friendly.

        But they do exists, as you admit in your application. This looks like the kind of bullshit these companies puts in EULAs to make them stand up better against the laws, with the difference that this is a patent application and now it's used to stand up better to prior art.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rjstanford (69735)
          That's because you don't (or at least you're not supposed to) patent a concept. You patent a process. They're patenting a much smoother, more seamless process. That's allowable, and is actually what patents were originally intended to support.
    • Actually, it looks like this might allow you to have automatic access to multiple home directories active at the same time, just plug in a new drive and you can have a new set of user accounts added to the existing list. I'm not a heavy UNIX guy, but I haven't seen anyone do that yet.
    • by slughead (592713)
      If only other systems had thought of that. You could implement it so that all the data of one user is stored in a single directory, called home directory.

      Actually, when going from a Powermac G5 to my mac pro, I had my 'user folder' was actually another hard drive.

      When I switched, I simply plugged in my old hard drive to the new computer, created a user, and pointed the user folder to the hard drive.

      It had preferences for all the programs I hadn't even installed yet, complete with serial numbers and registra
    • Presumably by "User Account" we really mean all the stuff associated with a user preferences and profile and data.

      Windows has always included tools to migrate user data from one system to another, and of course Windows Server has allowed centralised user data storage since the NT4.0 days through roaming profiles.

      Windows Vista contains several new tools to automate migration, backup, import and export of user data, and even more beneficial, Vista is designed from the start to combine the profile data, user f
    • The killer app for this kind of mobility is obviously storing either your ~user/ or Windows profile or MacOS whatever on the internets and synching it when you're online.

      Ideally, internet access should be fast and everywhere.
      When you have internet access fast and everywhere, it is obvious to then store your stuff on it.

      While this is very convenient for us it is also very convenient for the US govt to carefully spy on everyone, so I am surprised this has not been made mandatory by the US world government DRM
  • by dolphinling (720774) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @05:41PM (#16401059) Homepage Journal

    Wheee, I'll put my root account on my ipod and then I can take over any box I want! Woohoo!

    Except wait. I don't run OSX. I run Linux. And I don't have an ipod.

    Oh well.

    • by toadlife (301863) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @05:49PM (#16401175) Journal
      "There are 11 types of people in the world: those who can count in binary, and those who can't.

      So what is the third type? Those who think they can?
      • by ElephanTS (624421)
        [snigger]

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by camperdave (969942)
        Duh! Obviously the guy is one of the ones who CANNOT count in binary.
      • Hmm, that version of the joke might as well have been ""There are 11 types of people in the world: those who can count, and those who can't."

        I don't know where I'm going with this.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by goldmeer (65554)
        "There are 11 types of people in the world: those who can count in binary, and those who can't."

        "So what is the third type? Those who think they can?"

        That would be correct. And you are one of them.

        0 - The unwashed masses that do not realise that you can have a yes/no value represented by one bit
        1 - The clueful
        10 - "Psuedonerds" that almost "get it"
        11 - I can only guess "underwear gnomes with hot grits"

        The joke should have been:
        There are 1 types of people in the world: those who can count in binary, and thos
        • by gutnor (872759) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @08:17PM (#16402753)
          "There are 1 types of people in the world: those who can count in binary, and those who can't."

          No no

          There are indeed 10 types of people in the world:
                      0 - the geeks with 9 fingers who also counts 5 cans in a six-pack.
                      1 - the not-geek with 10 fingers
                    10 - the geeks with 10 fingers

        • 0 - The unwashed masses that do not realise that you can have a yes/no value represented by one bit

          Yes, you can. But when you're talking about real types, you assign them a value. The existance of null-persons is always implied.

  • Prior art? (Score:5, Informative)

    by SIGBUS (8236) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @05:42PM (#16401063) Homepage
    Such functionality is already available in Knoppix [knoppix.org]. Not only can you store your configuration and updates on a USB thumb drive or HD, but the OS itself is portable, too.
    • Re:Prior art? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by lmpeters (892805) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @05:56PM (#16401239)

      I think the idea here is that the home directory is mirrored on the internal hard disk AND an external device of some kind. Then again, I think InterMezzo [inter-mezzo.org] has prior art on that. So this may seem like a novel idea for your average PC user, but it's not novel enough to warrant a patent.

      Of course, it's not like the USPTO hasn't ever issued a patent on something that should never have been patentable...

    • by 2nd Post! (213333)
      I dunno, I've been doing that with Mac OS X since 2001, when the first iPod was released.

      In other words, I could install both the OS or keep my user account on the iPod HDD. In comparison Knoppix has only been around since 2002, hasn't it?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      This patent was actually filed back in 2002 and was slated for OS X Panther but was pulled for whatever reason. It's not uncommon for a patent to take years to be granted, hence the term "patent pending."
  • by dontbflat (994444) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @05:42PM (#16401071) Homepage
    This sure sounds a lot like romming profiles on windows. You can correct me if I'm wrong, but thats just my take on it.
    • by Ark42 (522144)
      I dunno, but when I play musical chairs with various hardware pieces and build myself a new computer with a fresh Windows installation, I never seem to have any trouble just copying the entire folder from Documents and Settings over to the new installation. As long as I install the same programs, things always have worked just fine. Heck, the HKCU part of the registry comes with the user profile as well, so I don't have to re-customize the way I like things.
      • by killjoe (766577)
        Except for the two hours it takes to move all your stuff to the new PC. It doesn't use something like rsync either it copies entire files over. God help you if the PC you are on does not have the exact same software installed either.
    • by mr_matticus (928346) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @05:57PM (#16401253)
      Roaming profiles is a synchronization mess unless the profiles are server-managed. I've never really seen roaming profiles successfully employed outside of the corporate environment. Sure, you and I are capable of handling it, but the devil's in the details, as they say.

      If Apple pulls this off, it will be seamless and invisible and mostly foolproof--three adjectives you'll never hear associated with roaming profiles.
    • Uhmm, no. Roaming profiles is a client-server model. You have to have a dedicated authentication server (a PDC in the windowz case) for authentication.

      Drat - I just feel for your flamebait...

    • by rtechie (244489)
      Since you can stick a user profile anywhere, all you have to do is change your profile directory to the thumb drive. Wah. You can do this with the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard, User State Migration tool, a bunch of admin tools, or by manually hacking the registry.

      What you CAN'T do is plug in a thumb drive and have Windows automatically detect the user information and add the user information to the OS. You have to use the Wizard, etc. Though you could probably hack this somehow with autorun.inf files.
  • So when... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Quaoar (614366) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @05:43PM (#16401083)
    ...does Apple release their 5TB iPod to help make my porn collection mobile? Or am I going to have to carry around a backpack full of them?
  • by bubba451 (779167) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @05:44PM (#16401087)

    This was actually once promised and even advertised as part of 10.3 "Panther" and then was inexplicably removed. Here was the marketing blurb:

    Home away from home

    Ever thought you could carry your home in the palm of your hands or in your pocket? You can. Panther's Home on iPod feature lets you store your home directory - files, folders, apps - on your iPod (or any FireWire hard drive) and take it with you wherever you go. When you find yourself near a Panther-equipped Mac, just plug in the iPod, log in, and you're "home," no matter where you happen to be. And when you return to your home computer, you can synchronize any changes you've made to your files by using File Sync, which automatically updates offline changes to your home directory.

    Mac Rumors [macrumors.com] has some of the history.

    • Ever thought you could carry your home in the palm of your hands?

      I know that I can carry my entire genome in the palm of my hand... about 15,000,000 copies of it. Beat that!
    • by NatasRevol (731260) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @06:40PM (#16401763) Journal
      At the time, according to some, the real problem was the hard drive of the iPod it isn't/wasn't designed to be used as a real HD, running for hours continuously. Hence the cache and spin up/spin down. Yeah, it saves on battery life, but it also saves the HD life.

      But I still put OS X, drive utils & my home dir there. Very nice if you have accounts on your work & home mac. And my iPod is still going 4 yrs later, so I guess it wasn't too hard, or I got lucky.
      • Absolutely correct (Score:5, Informative)

        by mbessey (304651) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @08:30PM (#16402857) Homepage Journal
        The original iPod hard drives (from the 5 and 10 GB models) had a very short guaranteed run time. That wasn't a problem for the iPod as a music player, or for occasional file transfer, since the drive was turned off 90% or more of the time. OS X likes to write to the home directory frequently, though, so "Portable Home Directories" (as they were known at the time) had the potential to wear out the iPod's hard drive very quickly (a matter of weeks or months).

        It turns out that the ACTUAL run time to failure for those drives was typically much longer than promised, so lots of folks have had success with using them as "live" drives. I have no idea what the specs on the current generation of iPod hard drives are, but I'd bet they're considerably more durable.

        Hey, what do you know - Toshiba has published the specifications for the original 5GB iPod drive online:
        http://www3.toshiba.co.jp/storage/english/spec/hdd /mk5002.htm#relia [toshiba.co.jp]

        That page claims a "product life" of "5 years or 20,000 POH (Power-On-Hours)". 20,000 hours is just over 2.25 years of continuous operation. Given that you can get a 2-year warranty for an iPod through AppleCare these days, that doesn't sound like a very good risk.

        I don't happen to have a copy of the original spec sheet we got with the first-generation drives, but my recollection is that the quoted life span was much shorter - short enough that warranty returns for worn-out drives was a real concern if they were kept running all the time, even with the shorter warranties offered at the time (anybody else remember 90-day iPod warranties?).

        Of course, for Flash devices (like those in the Shuffle and Nano) the lifetime is specified in terms of a certain number of write operations, rather than total time "turned on". The expected lifetime for an iPod Shuffle used as a home directory is probably very very long - dozens of years.
  • by d0n quix0te (304783) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @05:45PM (#16401119)
    ... to turn on a new business model. I am pretty sure that Apple is waiting for two things before they release this feature. First, next generation EFI based PCs and second for 8GB flash memory to come down in pricing.

    This way, you could safely run OS X off the portable device (mini-hard drives in iPods are not meant to take repeated read/writes...). Apple will then make a business of selling a 'home to go' device that you can take with you and plug into any next gen PC. Voila! Instant access to all your Apps and files.

    This way they can make up any lost sales of OS X/Mac by selling us a portable device.

    -S
    • I agree in theory, it would be a nice device.

      But this makes you choose between your 8GB of music and your 8GB of apps+docs. Not a whole lot of room if you start sharing that space.

      I would assume that they would allow, or maybe require!, the music directory to not be synced, since in theory it's on the music side of the iPod. Mine, however, is on a separate, larger partition.
    • Apple will then make a business of selling a 'home to go' device that you can take with you and plug into any next gen PC.

      Apple doesn't want you to have a pc, Apple wants you to have a Mac for use of OS X. {insert 3.PROFIT!!!-comment here}

  • In the 90's (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LennyDotCom (26658) <Lenny@lenny.com> on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @05:56PM (#16401243) Homepage Journal
    I used to have an external SCSI HD that I booted from on my mac. Back then I could plug it in to any Mac and boot to my Desktop with all my software I thought that was so awsome. Someone had a boot problen or what ever I just plugged in my HD booted then fixed it.

    I life was so easy then
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eclectic4 (665330)
      "I used to have an external SCSI HD that I booted from on my mac. Back then I could plug it in to any Mac and boot to my Desktop with all my software I thought that was so awsome. Someone had a boot problen or what ever I just plugged in my HD booted then fixed it. I life was so easy then"

      I don't understand this statement, or why it was modded up. Go out and buy a 100 GB Firelite (or any external FW drive, FireLites can just fit in your pocket and are bus powered meaning no external power whatsoeve
  • by ccandreva (409807) <chris@westnet.com> on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @05:59PM (#16401269) Homepage
    Amazing. To bad nobody thought of that 20 years ago.

    Oh wait.
    • ...automounting home directories where there isn't a user account. It's the where clause that no one has quite come up with before. Maybe thought of it, but never figured out how to implement it. Even Apple has struggled with it for a couple of years now.
      • by joe_bruin (266648) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @07:03PM (#16402037) Homepage Journal
        It would be fairly simple to create a PAM module and daemon that, when detecting a USB device with certain information on it (say a passwd file), could mount that disk in /home/thatuser (overriding file permissions so that all items are owned by that user and nodev, nosuid), and allow that user to log in. It would not take any more modifications than that to make any Linux or BSD system be capable of doing roaming profiles on a removable drive. Quick, someone implement it!
        • by Theatetus (521747)

          It's yet another case of

          Mac fanboy says: "UNIX could have implemented it but didn't bother"
          UNIX user says: "UNIX could have implemented but didn't because it's a stupid idea."

        • by Nikker (749551)
          Thats a good idea, you just have to remember Linux is designed to side to the physical computer. This means if I plug in a homedir of my root account at home would Linux allow me to have root access to my files on the usb drive or the ones on the physical disk? It does depend on what you want to do, because of the last point using this for root-kitting may not be efficient but using it as a live cd would work
  • by fermion (181285) *
    .mac provides some of this functionality. I have most of what I do on a daily basis on .mac, so it does not matter what machine I use. My mail, documents, etc can be easily synched between machines. This also means that I have three copies of everything, which is not as good as backup, but it pretty good. I can even sync my safari and camino bookmarks

    What is missing is my library files, x-windows config and the like. So much is stuffed into the library files, mine is over 2GB, that I don't see how I c

  • This is brilliant. I can imagine some sort of program which could archive [gnu.org] all your files and configuration information, and then.. perhaps some sort of compression [gnu.org] could be applied to allow for greater portability. Great idea! Someone should try implementing this for Linux.
  • by billdar (595311) * <[ ] ['yap' in gap]> on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @06:12PM (#16401403) Homepage
    Put a complete Yellow Dog Linux install on your iPod [linuxjournal.com] and reboot any PPC mac into your entire OS with all your settings and applications. When on the move, it still plays your music and can be used with iTunes.

    Even IBM does this [slashdot.org] to recover dead PC's.

    Does this mean I can declare prior art? Get my lawyer on the bat-phone

    • You're missing the point.

      Take your iPod, plug it into another Mac, and log into that home directory. Where there has never been a user account for that home directory on the host Mac.

      What you described can be done with OS X as well. I've done it on my iPod for about 4 years now. Install a bunch of disk tools on the iPod, and you have a great troubleshooting device.
  • Thats what it sounds like to me, except you can store it on a removable device instead of a server.

    Still, would be nice to have, if they can solve the massive security risks.
    • The risk is what's being touted as the "feature".

      Come on, seriously: a portable device establishing system authentication policy after system boot? If the whole thing talks to something like LDAP, fine (but whose directory? and under what circumstances?), but then there's no need for the device except as a drive. If it doesn't talk to something like LDAP it's essentially by definition insecure.

  • This definitely sounds like something the iPod would win at and would still be apple-style. You can just picture the keynote where Jobs has 2 iMacs and an iPod with a user account, he removes the iPod from dock 1 and places it in dock 2, clicks around, "...and boom. I'm logged in with all my settings, bookmarks, and files." I think I could see myself using this functionality.
  • That'd be a 12GB home directory on my iBook G4 - better pony up for the non-flash iPod.
  • evil (Score:3, Informative)

    by oohshiny (998054) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @06:46PM (#16401821)
    This feature has been available under UNIX for more than two decades. For Apple to patent this is really evil.
    • In UNIX, user accounts are managed through either flat files or a shared database. Neither of which involves moving user accounts around via external storage devices.
      • by oohshiny (998054)
        In the sense that you can make any combination of user id mapping, storage device, and authentication work, and that people do. One common example is things like Knoppix and flash drives.

        Don't get me wrong: this feature makes sense for the Mac environment. But Apple didn't invent storing accounts on removable media, and their particular combination of features represents a policy choice, not a new invention.
  • by beefstu01 (520880)
    For what it's worth, I believe that this was meant to be a feature in 10.3, but it got cut. As I recall, when Steve Jobs first announced the OS, there was a small blurb on the "Sneak Peek" page about a "Home on your iPod" feature. It was up for a month or so, then disappeared. Guess it's been in the pipeline for a while. Source. [macrumors.com]
  • Damn. The Patent Office take a good look at this before a patent is granted.
    • Which operating systems allow user accounts to be stored on portable devices?

      Not applications. Not data. The account - including all security information and preferences.

      In *NIX operating systems, account data is stored in a single repository, usually files in /etc. In Windows, account data is stored in the registry. In OS X, it is currently stored in a database.
  • ``All of which seems to suggest that at some time soon we may be able to load our user accounts onto an iPod, hard drive or USB keydrive and take them wherever we go.''

    And we aren't able to do that yet?
    • No current operating system can handle the permissions/security structure needed to have user login data on an external portable device.

      For example: If the user's encrypted password is stored on the external device, what permission/rights does that user get to files on the internal hard drive? What rights are granted to the host computer for accessing the data on the external device?

  • When Jobs brought out NeXT in the 1990, he refused to have harddrive in NeXT and insist everything on the 250MB Optical/Magnetic disc. The idea was the students can carry everything they have on the disc and use any machine available.
  • From 2002? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by catdevnull (531283) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @08:47PM (#16403015)
    From TFA:

    Inventors: Bowers; Robert T (Cupertino, CA), Ko; Steve (San Francisco, CA)
    Assignee: Apple Computer, Inc. (Cupertino, CA)
    Appl. No.: 10/304,291
    Filed: November 25, 2002

    Maybe I don't know how to read these legal eagle documents and stuff, but it seems like this was filed some time ago. I don't think this has much bearing to 10.5 when this was filed when 10.2 was fresh on the shelves.
  • One of the "features" of NeXT computers was an optical disk that could hold, I believe, 250 megabytes. You could store your desktop, etc. (basically your home directory) on that disk, taking it with you as you went from machine to machine.

    What was that? Late 80s, early 90s? Of course, with Apple owning NeXTstep and morphing into OS X, it's no surprise they'd eventually roll out a similar feature. I am surprised by the patent. And, it begs the question, can this feature from NeXT be used as prior art against
  • You can boot a Mac off of an iPod. I know carrying around a whole system on your iPod is a bit of a waste of valuable music storage space, but it is possible. OS X isn't like Windows where the OS is tied to a particular hardware configuration. It is nearly one size fits all with OS X. You can even make a universal system that will boot either an PPC or Intel machine (I've done it). You could easily write scripts to synhronize your desktop with your iPod. I believe Carbon Copy Cloner will do it. Although
    • by Ash-Fox (726320)

      You can boot a Mac off of an iPod.

      You can boot Windows off a iPod or any other USB device too. To be able todo this simply, one usually gets WinPE [runtime.org] and the few of it's many plugins that lets it boot off USB devices.

      OS X isn't like Windows where the OS is tied to a particular hardware configuration.

      Actually windows isn't... Infact there are options in Windows that let you setup multiple hardware profiles, so when you boot you can be asked which specific profile you want to use... Or you can just use one profi

  • ... I must say I am totally looking forward to a super-secret feature that allows me to move my home directory between ... oh. I only have one machine. Never mind.
  • How exactly is "syncing your home directory to removable media" an exciting new feature?

    I've been doing this, using rsync, for years. On sane operating systems where your whole account lives in one directory (as opposed to insane ones where it's spread among half a dozen locations) this is just something that automatically works. What's the big deal?
  • Unix 10 years ago? (Score:3, Informative)

    by katorga (623930) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @11:21PM (#16404179)
    Hmmm. NIS, automounter, and NFS file servers for /home. I could log into any system I was allowed to and my home dir, files, .profiles and X windows config was just as I left it.

    Hmmm. Active Directory roaming profiles.

    Hmmm. Linux, LDAP, automounter, and a remote home directory.

    Hmmmm. Knoppix + ~/user on a flashdrive.
  • OK, so as a number of users have said, this isn't very interesting if it's a home directory. Other users have, correctly imo stated that this becomes much more interesting if the directory contains the information they authenticate against. I think this is true, but what if taken one step further -
    1. ipod phone will almost certainly have a camera - how nice would it be if you could "automatically" log in with a quick iris scan?
    2. what if the device autmated "synced" snapshot backups? If the
  • What I want is a cell phone that has a USB plugin, and when on the "charger" which is also a USB hub and connects to a printer/monitor/mouse/keyboard/joystick/camera/sp e akers/mic. That way, I've got my hard drive, apps, games, music, movies, data, letters, business papers, email, and chat all on the interface they are best on, but I've got it with me at all times, too.

    I'm sure some of the latest phones have at least pentium functionality. Now can I get my USB hub with VGA out and bad ass (windowsmobile/w
  • This concept has already been implemented in a way. Whenever you bind a Tiger installation to a Windows Active Directory, the user's home folder containing most of their information is actually stored on the network (H Drive for us) and becomes portable. As long as you're on that Active Directory and log in with the right credentials, your profile moves to whichever Mac you use. It's almost like the framework for these portable profiles are already in place, just wasn't implemented.

A language that doesn't have everything is actually easier to program in than some that do. -- Dennis M. Ritchie

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