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Networking Operating Systems Patents Apple IT

Apple Patent Hints at Net-Booting Cloud Strategy 156

Posted by timothy
from the steve-jobs-helped-chuck-norris-invent-netbooting dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Apple has received a patent that hints at the intent of providing network computers that will boot through a 'net-booted environment.' It may seem that Apple is moving slowly into the cloud computing age and that it has many assets that are simply not leveraged in what could be a massive cloud environment that could cause more than just a headache for Google and Microsoft. However, it appears that Apple has been working for some time on an operating system, conceivably a version of a next-generation Mac OS or iOS, that could boot computers and other devices via an Internet connection."
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Apple Patent Hints at Net-Booting Cloud Strategy

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  • Has Linux not been able to do this for years using Intel's PXE (Preboot eXecution Environment)?
    • by Skapare (16644)

      Only on your own LAN, without a PXE helper to redirect traffic elsewhere. Presumable a "cloud boot" will go directly to the internet and boot from there. I just wonder if it will be encrypted (assuming you trust the place it boots from).

      • by jc42 (318812)

        Presumable a "cloud boot" will go directly to the internet and boot from there. I just wonder if it will be encrypted ...

        If not, we can trust that it'll only be a matter of a few weeks before people find that their ISP (think Comcast for example) is inserting their own software into the download. And it may only be a matter of days before lots of Windows botnets have inserted themselves into the boot process, making all Windows "cloud computers" part of one gigantic spam/phish System -- let's just call it "skynet" and be done with it.

        Of course, the way most commercial network encryption goes, even if a cloud boot is encrypte

      • by Imagix (695350)
        What's this PXE helper that you speak of? My DHCP server tells the machine "go download the bootloader named X from the server Y" and that's it. After that, the bootloader can do as it sees fit (like install Debian).
      • by mwvdlee (775178)

        Who cares whether it's encrypted.
        Only a few days ago, people were sleeping in late due to a bug on their iPhone.
        Apple, like all others, does not make bugfree software.
        Do you trust Apple enough to push their latest OS update without any control on your side?
        Theoretically, they could break every single iPad/iPhone within a day. Realistically, this isn't entirely outside the realm of possibility.

    • Has Linux not been able to do this for years using Intel's PXE (Preboot eXecution Environment)?

      There are much, much better examples of network booting than Linux. Solaris for one, and it's old as dirt in computing years. The install media has a working PXE grub image which is integrated with their installer, which makes additional DHCP queries for install configuration. SPARC PROMs do the same thing, although skipping the PXE part. Grub itself will make one DHCP query for the location of a grub.conf, and I guess that's how Linux folks manage network installs, by embedding everything in a smatteri

    • by wagnerrp (1305589)
      PXE can't, but I would bet you could rig up such a solution using gPXE/etherboot burned onto a boot ROM.
  • Definitely possible (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KE1LR (206175) <ken.hoover@gm a i l . com> on Tuesday January 04, 2011 @09:38PM (#34761138) Homepage
    Having spent the last decade deploying a very homogeneous collection of hardware around the world, the idea makes some amount of sense as an evolutionary step. I don't see this happening in PC-land (Windows-based or or otherwise) because of huge variations in hardware configuration. I can definitely imagine Apple moving to cloud-booting ipads/iphones/imacs/appleTV's/whatevers. Of course, at that point who really owns (pwns) your hardware? Hmm.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Haedrian (1676506)

      "who really owns (pwns) your hardware? "

      Why are you asking that question on an article about Apple? Isn't it obvious?

      • by c0lo (1497653)

        "who really owns (pwns) your hardware? "

        Why are you asking that question on an article about Apple? Isn't it obvious?

        Le'me guess... AT&T? (the man in the middle?)

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      I can definitely imagine Apple moving to cloud-booting ipads/iphones/imacs/appleTV's/whatevers.

      Of course, at that point who really owns (pwns) your hardware? Hmm.

      Wrong question. The right ones would have been:
      a. who pays for the data transfer when you switch on the iPhone/iPad? A good reason never to switch-off your phone (or a very good deterrent to use a phone that eats your data allowance and a bit over evry time you switch on the phone).

      b. who the hell have enough time to wait their iphone to boot over internet? Or, for that matter, their TV? I still remember the pre-semi-conductors era TV-sets, using vacuum tube - about 1-2 mins for the TV to come alive. Wond

  • by couchslug (175151) on Tuesday January 04, 2011 @09:39PM (#34761146)

    Time Warner Cable.

    It's slow as old folks fucking, and yes I've done a personal comparison.

    • -1 Ewww...
    • TWC, (at least the Austin, TX market) has an extremely good back end. I suspect you have a physical signaling issues across your coax segment. So just to be clear, I suspect its the level of customer/technical support you're not properly receiving. Because a well working TWC connection should provide exceptional bandwidth results.

      • by couchslug (175151)

        Different markets, different levels of investment in cable infrastructure. SC is an impoverished backwater outside of Charleston.

  • and then... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday January 04, 2011 @09:48PM (#34761224)
    Apple will spend $50 million in advertising and after 2 years they'll have the majority of the world convinced they invented net-booting. (This article representing the first $20k of that.)
    • Re:and then... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jo_ham (604554) <joham999 AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday January 04, 2011 @10:01PM (#34761326)

      The article is nonsense.

      Apple has had network booting for some time now (hold N while booting, or select "network" as your default startup disk). I think the article is after some cheap clickthrough, or some cheap FUD. This is from a site linking to a related article citing OS X as "the most dangerous OS [in terms of malware issues] to use in 2010", based on some security company that "won;t give details, but claims the 'penchant for secrecy' and the '644Mb OS update' are sufficient reason to crown it the riskiest OS to use in 2010.

      So, ignoring the detailed security knowledgebase articles that accompany every update, including more in depth ones for people who want more detail is "secretive", and let's not forget, the lack of any serious malware outbreak on OS X in.... well, ever, let alone 2010. No one is claiming OS X is immune to security threats or malware/trojans/viruses, but calling it "the most dangerous OS of 2010 [in security terms]" is just nonsense.

      So, in my opinion, move along, nothing to see here.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Sarten-X (1102295)

        Conceivably Tech is one of the most detrimental "journalism" outfits I've yet encountered. I'm fairly certain their writing method is as follows:

        1. Find an event or patent from a big company.
        2. Pick a Fear Of The Week or a Competitor Of The Week.
        3. Pick a Technology Of The Week.
        4. State that the company is aiming for the Fear/Competitor by using the Technology.
        5. Pick a related image that doesn't explain anything.
        6. Publish.

        We've all seen this kind of system before, used by psychics to predict various catastrophes. "There w

      • by sco08y (615665)

        The article is nonsense.

        Apple has had network booting for some time now (hold N while booting, or select "network" as your default startup disk).

        To be specific, since Mac OS 8, as in classic Mac OS. And it's been in OS X since an early version of OS X Server.

        Best evidence I could find is here [lowendmac.com]. This was part of the reason the classic Mac OS installer would allow you to do an install with a universal set of drivers.

    • by bonch (38532)

      What technologies today do people think Apple invented rather than perfected? Or is more this lame "I'm so cool, I'm going to bash Apple fans for being sheep" propaganda?

    • ...after 2 years they'll have the majority of the world convinced they invented net-booting....

      ... because the version they cooked up is actually useful.

    • by Tuoqui (1091447)

      Yeah too bad booting from a network was/is already done... I guess Apple is the first company to throw the term CLOUD in thus they clearly deserve another patent

    • If they can do that with only $50 million, then they have the best, lowest paid marketing division on the planet. Microsoft should offer to triple their salaries and get the same effect.

      Apple doesn't get sell devices because of marketing. They sell them because people like their products. Really, their ads are cool, a shadow person dancing, or a girl sitting down using the product, but you really think that's why they do so well? And if it is, why can't they dominate the PC market the same way they domina
  • by olsmeister (1488789) on Tuesday January 04, 2011 @09:57PM (#34761296)
    No need to install aftermarket botnets.
  • by smash (1351)
    Apple has been offering cloud services since around 1996 when they ditched floppy drives and offered online storage instead. Sure, this is new, but to imply they're playing catch up by "moving slowly" when they offered cloud services before MS or any other consumer OS reseller and are offering new services like this first is a bit retarded.
    • by puto (533470)
      It was 1998. Which two years in "internet" time is eons. Webobjects from Next technology, was used by Dell and a few other companies for their online presences before Apple bought them to save Jobs ass.
    • See, this is how the Apple RDF works. You think that this is a new service and that Apple is offering it first when neither are true. There has been a multitude of hardware vendors offering network and internet boot appliances for a long, long time now.

      Have you ever heard the phrase "The network is the computer."? If you don't know it's Oracle's slogan. Oracle released a diskless network booted workstation in 1996, the same year that Apple only started offering online storage.

      Somehow in the Apple world this

      • by hjf (703092)

        OK I'll bite. Are you saying Oracle did all that, or are you being sarcastic about Sun now being Oracle? I'm confused.

      • by sco08y (615665)

        See, this is how the Apple RDF works. You think that this is a new service and that Apple is offering it first when neither are true. There has been a multitude of hardware vendors offering network and internet boot appliances for a long, long time now.

        Have you ever heard the phrase "The network is the computer."? If you don't know it's Oracle's slogan. Oracle released a diskless network booted workstation in 1996, the same year that Apple only started offering online storage.

        Somehow in the Apple world this means that what Oracle did 14 years ago, and that other hardware manufacturers have been doing all along, somehow magically didn't happen.

        Yes, it is their slogan and has been for about a year and a half.

      • Not only that but, being true visionaries, Oracle even put a SUN logo on their JavaStations.

      • by smash (1351)
        Oracle / Sun != *CONSUMER OS*
      • Ever make one of those posts where you just want to bang your head on the desk? Obviously I have the Sun / Oracle names backwards and I apologize for that glaring error.

  • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Tuesday January 04, 2011 @10:03PM (#34761336) Homepage

    The last thing we need is more patent FUD. The patent [uspto.gov] is quite clear on what it's intended for:

    2. Description of the Related Art

    Most organizations currently employ local area networks (LANs) of thick clients, e.g., personal computers. While this represents an improvement over the disconnected computing environments of a decade earlier, many limitations still exist. In current LAN environments, each client computer has its own local copy of operating system software, application programs, and user customizations to the desktop environment. Typically there is no centralized mechanism for maintaining a consistent system configuration in such a computing environment. Consequently, individual user workstations often get out-of-sync with each other as one or more users upgrade to newer versions of the operating system, upgrade their application programs, or install application programs that were not part of the original system configuration. Additionally, in this type of uncontrolled, decentralized environment, the operating system of a client computer can easily become corrupted. This is especially true with the Microsoft.RTM. Windows.RTM. 95, 98 and NT operating systems where user modification of a single system file can have undesirable consequences and require significant downtime. For example, editing the Windows Registry file could render a client computer unusable thereby requiring reinstallation of the computer's operating system software and all the application programs.

    In view of the foregoing, it should be apparent that administration and maintenance of current computing environments is complex and time consuming. Therefore, what is needed is a reliable computing environment that can be maintained more easily and at a lower cost.

    This has nothing to do with cloud computing. This has everything to do with managing a large net-booted environment, like a large corporation with a few thousand workstations. From reading the patent's claims, it's a design for a net-boot server that maintains separate boot volumes for each client class. Those volumes can be modified on the fly, without the need for carefully creating images.

    TFA implies that this may be a technology for Apple to have more control over iPods and other devices, by keeping the OS internal and possibly charging a subscription fee to keep the device booting. With today's systems, that's ridiculous. Downloading a whole working OS is impractical over current residential networks, and it kills one of the best features of handheld devices: they're ready at a moment's notice. It simply doesn't make sense for Apple to expect users to wait for a half an hour every time they turn on an iPod.

    The more reasonable in TFA speculation is that this is a push to have a bigger corporate Apple presence, but that's glossed over in favor of more outlandish claims.

    • iSCSI operation against a writable snapshot of a lun. Or various nfsroot solutions for linux. Or probably a number of other things...

      This patent was filed in 2006, back when Apple was taking enterprise semi-seriously. Expect the validity of this one to be a moot point as Apple ignores it.

      • by Sarten-X (1102295)

        Regardless of whether the behavior could have been done before, the patent would still be valid unless the average professional in the field would have done it as a matter of course.

        Given that I've never seen a system with exactly this combination of write permissions, deployments, and automatic configuration, I certainly think it's novel enough for a patent.

    • by msobkow (48369)

      The claims indicate they've never actually worked with a MicroSoft server environment used to push software installs to the desktop. I've even seen sites that instead of a mere weekly reboot, do a full weekly re-image of the desktops.

      • by Sarten-X (1102295)
        Installing anything to the desktop rather defeats the purpose of a net-boot environment, no?
  • As with so many Apple "features", this is about control. It does mean that you can run the main part of the OS on a powerful server somewhere, but in this case it would be Apple's server. Think you didn't own your iDevice before? Hard to jailbreak a device when the OS isn't even local anymore.
    • by jo_ham (604554)

      No it isn't. It's a design for a server infrastructure that manages network clients, for example in a large corporate environment, with the ability to have custom OS images ready to go depending on the type of client without having to set up and prepare a whole load of specific ones. It has absolutely nothing to do with "cloud computing".

      Seriously, read the actual patent. The article is just FUD and buzzwords and baseless speculation.

  • It may seem that Apple is moving slowly into the cloud computing age and that it has many assets that are simply not leveraged in what could be a massive cloud environment that could cause more than just a headache for Google and Microsoft.

    Holy run-on sentence, Batman! Buzzwords aplenty, too.

    On-topic: meh. This has existed for ages in local networks, as have the means to secure this over the Internet. I would guess the reason it hasn't been done yet is that it's just not very practical, bandwidth-wise. So,

  • http://www.google.com/patents/about?id=I8V6AAAAEBAJ [google.com]

    The article is wrong with the dates as you can see in the patent described in the article it was filed in 1999 and granted in 2006 but the article stated it was filed in 2006, and granted recently. This gave the author reason to believe that this has something to do with what apple is doing next which seems unlikely since they have had the idea for over 10 years and have done nothing with it.

    Also from the article it sounded much like a Net-boot Linux distri

  • Plan9 anybody? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mevets (322601) on Tuesday January 04, 2011 @10:18PM (#34761456)

    Anybody remember Plan9? A not fully developed idea in it was of an anonymous workstation. The workstation would behave like a caching terminal which could run applications. Since it merely cached from the file server, and the same apps ran on all hardware, you could move from station to station without an active sync.

    The hierarchical storage mechanism in Plan9 was almost instantly recognizable in TimeMachine. Basically, all data from workstations dribbled towards file servers which snapshotted to optical storage. To go back to where you were yesterday, just involved mounting your workspace with a /yyyymmdd/ in the path.

    That would make alot more sense than an internet wide bootp....

  • by rickb928 (945187) on Tuesday January 04, 2011 @10:21PM (#34761474) Homepage Journal

    And that means a nontrivial bandwidth requirement.

    If these do come out, and and get popular, then the ISPs get to decide if they like the bandwidth usage...

    Nice. I like being able to boot without a network, thanks.

  • BOOTP over a Cloud, or an Internet Server via HTTP? Is this truly innovative? LAN cards have been able to do it for years as well. Yes, not a "Cloud" but an Intranet..

    Wait, DEC VAX Workstations could boot into a VMS Cluster across a network..

    Again, how is this truly innovative other than the image repository is "not on my local network" and the transport "can be unreliable?"

  • Given Slashdot's track record predicting Apple's imminent failures, I'd bet on this being a success based on the number of people in this thread claiming it's nothing new and that no one would want this.
  • My Apple IIgs has the ability to boot via an AppleTalk network-hosted boot image. Apple has had this on the Macintosh since the late '90s with Mac OS 9, and Mac OS X has supported it since its introduction. Just hold down 'n' during boot on any Open Firmware or EFI-equipped Mac, and it will try to netboot. And netboot.me provides a minimally-assisted INTERNET-based netboot for any gPXE computer. It is even possible to configure an OpenWRT-compatible WiFi router to send the proper netboot.me assistance, so you don't need any "infrastructure" on your premises at all, just your internet modem and router.

  • According to Apple fanboys, like multitasking, cloud computing and network booting is a disaster, horrible, awful... until Apple invents it first!

  • My computer (Fedora 12) already does this. It involves putting a boot strap image onto the harddisk of my laptop. I then boot it up, and it downloads the bits of the OS it needs. It caches these parts to disk, for faster booting next time. Now I come to think of it, even Windows does this. I don't have any Apple computers, so what do they do? ;-)

  • Hasn't everyone been trying to guess what the big data center they are building is for? Well, this could be the answer you're looking for... TFTP booting has been around since the days of Xterms, maybe even before then.

    It makes perfect sense for user-recovery as well. Imagine this: You've dropped your macbook, and now it won't boot from the HD, but can automatically default to net-booting into a utility that will attempt to repair the HD. It will also allow you to boot into a stripped down OS that allows yo

  • ... what in the world would make me want to trust an operating system that isn't even located on my computer and is being loaded onto my computer without my at least having had a chance to check it? Am I supposed to just trust Steve Jobs? Ri-i-i-ight.

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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