RE: Help: Microsoft patent covers package download and upgrade
I would tend to agree that the MS patent is fairly limited on its face,
although I am not speaking as an attorney (due to my inactive Texas bar
card, retired status, darn near zero patent experience, and so forth). I am
also not speaking for my current employer TI (which seems regrettably more &
more in bed with M$ lately - WinCE? WinMedia? c'mon....). I believe there
are quite a few differences in the update process and underlying technology
which anybody who has used both MS-Windows and GNU/Linux can appreciate:
1. MS stores its .DLL/.EXE/etc. version/date information in the
all-encompassing Windows Registry - thus the "registry key" references in
the claims. Debian uses DPKG (sorry, but I'm not very familiar with
apt/dselect/dpkg inner workings) and RedHat/Mandrake/clones use RPM
databases. These are analogous but probably not infringing, since they rely
not on dates but on version numbers (e.g. aspell-.30.1-1.deb,
gaspell-.30-2rh61.i386.rpm) (see also
) to uniquely identify packages. In any case you really don't even need a
package database - just have e.g. 'rpm -Uvh' compare version number[s] of
existing installed package[s] vs. available package[s] (as long as they
increment sanely ;-). Of course, version numbers sometimes are constructed
from dates, but usually only for devel snapshots...
2. As Anne mentioned, MS uses a server-side database to compare against,
while the Linux utilities use a client-side database. This is probably the
best argument technically speaking, since the Linux way doesn't require any
intelligence on the server side - just throw the files up there, and let the
client sort them out. (Kinda like "Kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out"
[even though I am a pacifist agnostic] ;-p).
3. Debian and RHAT use ftp/nfs/localfiles/(http?) for net transport whereas
MS uses HTTP and DCOM/ActiveX (inside IE) I believe. Fortunately, you don't
need an "integrated" web browser running to update Linux. Unfortunately
something like MandrakeUpdate might blur the lines....
4. Linux does not use "software program module components" - we like files,
executables and libraries just fine thank you very much ;-) Yes, mere
semantics I know (but even retired lawyers like stuff like that). But MS
does tend to look at everything differently, whereas in UNIX-like OS's we
know "everything's a file"... this kind of also gets back to the Registry in
5. Other stuff I'm sure we can come up with... any real practicing patent
attorneys out there?
Eric R. Sherrill, WF Software Systems Engineer
Texas Instruments HFAB1 Automation Systems
Stafford, TX 77477-3006
From: J.A. Bezemer [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, May 02, 2000 5:59 PM
Cc: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Re: Help: Microsoft patent covers package download and upgrade
On Tue, 2 May 2000 email@example.com wrote:
> Hi all,
> Microsoft was recently granted a patent that covers a core
> part of Debian, and probably Red Hat too. (If you have
No, it doesn't. See below.
> Filed Nov 14. 1997, granted Oct 26, 1999
> US5974454: Method and system for installing and updating
> program module components
> Installing and updating a software program module component.
> A determination is made whether the current date is on or
> after a date stored in a registry key on a computer. If the
> current date is on or after the date stored in the registry
> key, then a computer transmits a database query via the
> Internet to a database server. At the database server, a
> determination is made whether an upgrade package for the
> software program module component is available, such as by
> performing a database lookup. If an upgrade package for the
> software program module component is available, then an
> upgrade package message is sent from the database server to
> the computer. At the computer, a determination is made whether
> the user wants to download the upgrade package. If so, then
> an upgrade package query is sent by the computer via the
> Internet to a package server. At the package server, in
> response to receiving the upgrade package query, the upgrade
> package is retrieved and sent over the Internet to the computer.
> The upgrade package is then installed on the computer to update
> the software program module component.
I've followed a course on patents at our Univ, and learned that formulation
EXTREMELY important. And M$ happily formulated things in such a way that
Debian and RH are not affected.
In the M$ way [translated2debian], the FTP server would determine if there
were newer package versions available. In the Debian way, the FTP server
sends a list of _all_ available packages, and the _client_ computer
if there are new versions.
This is clearly a different solution to the underlying problem, so Debian/RH
do not infringe M$'s patents.
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