Apple granted new patent for elusive "Home on iPod" feature

Posted:
in macOS edited January 2014
A patent issued to Apple Inc. this week may breath new life into the firm's once touted "Home on iPod" feature, which prior to being tabled several years ago promised Mac OS X users the ability to tote their home directories and account information around on their iPods.



The 11-page filing titled "Method and apparatus rendering user accounts portable" details several approaches for enabling user accounts to be accessed across various multi-user computer systems. It's reported to be a derivative of a similarly titled patent request that was granted to the Cupertino-based Mac maker last October.



Essentially, the outlined software technique calls for an enhancement to Apple's Mac OS X operating system that would be capable of both reading and writing account information to and from external storage devices such as iPods and iPhones, thereby allowing users to carry their home directories and personal Mac OS X settings in their pocket.



"Hence, by coupling the external, portable data store to another multi-user computer, a user is able to login to any supporting multi-user computer and be presented with their user configuration and user directory," Apple explains in the filing. "Since the data store that stores the user account is not only external but also portable, a user can simply tote the data store to the location of different multi-user computers."



A nearly identical software technology, once dubbed by Apple as "Home on iPod," was originally destined for the company's Mac OS X 10.3 Panther operating system. However, the feature was abruptly yanked from pre-release builds of the software back in October of 2003, and all references to the technology removed from Apple's website.



"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," read the original description.







"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," the description continued. "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."



Apple has never offered an explanation for the feature retraction, and popular speculation was that it would eventually resurface in a later iteration of Mac OS X.



The firm's continued attempts to patent the software technique through multiple filings may indicate that we haven't heard the last of "Home on iPod," and possibly "Home on iPhone."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 33
    Why would I need to carry my personal home files to a different computer. Could someone give a real world example of how this could be useful.\
  • Reply 2 of 33
    dr_lhadr_lha Posts: 236member
    Perhaps they took it out because its a shocking bad idea, and a terrible security risk? I mean - I don't want someone to be able to use my Mac just by the act of plugging in their iPod. Its one of those ideas that sounds great on paper, but in reality would be a nightmare.
  • Reply 3 of 33
    jpellinojpellino Posts: 613member
    OK - well you'd be plugging in your *own* iPod, which would presumably be encrypted with FileVault, I'm sure they went that far down the road. I'm not sure how someone plugging their iPod into a mac would have all my files, maybe I misapprehended that post.



    Couple this with a .mac mirror of my home directory (space willing) and I'll have belt-and-suspenders assurance that I can get my files anywhere.



    If all that plus the world were full of macs that last bit would mean I don't need my laptop everywhere.



    If not it's still a great option.
  • Reply 4 of 33
    How is this useful? Let's see, I have a computer at home and one at work, it would be great to have all my stuff on both, I currently carry my iTunes around on an external drive so all my music is the same on all 3 of my computers. To be able to keep the files I work on most with me so it is the same no matter where I go is a very handy.
  • Reply 5 of 33
    would be great to have a mini-pages (iwork) app for the iphone and work on home dir sync to iphone. portable laptop.
  • Reply 6 of 33
    boss1boss1 Posts: 40member
    I don't see how anyone could not see this as useful. It's the same concept of carrying around all your MP3's with you on an iPod. Except now you can do it with any other files you choose to on your home directory as well.



    Add to that the possibility of upgrades to the iPhone and you might not only be able to use your iPod/iPhone as a transfer device between comps but also use the iPhone OS itself to edit some documents and sync them while away from your destkop.





    However still i don't see the brilliance in this patent now. I would have expected this a long time ago and I kind of hoped this feature would have been released with the iPhone everyone purchased.
  • Reply 7 of 33
    You can burn a dvd with all your iTunes info on it and use it on up to 3 computers (maybe five, I haven't checked the EULA). Why do you need your work information at home? This would cause major security issues with anyone doing any type of work with critical information.

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by roehlstation View Post


    How is this useful? Let's see, I have a computer at home and one at work, it would be great to have all my stuff on both, I currently carry my iTunes around on an external drive so all my music is the same on all 3 of my computers. To be able to keep the files I work on most with me so it is the same no matter where I go is a very handy.



  • Reply 8 of 33
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    It's VERY useful. I know because I've done it many times. You can do it NOW if you have enough GB to spare.



    Obviously you need the PERMISSION of the computer owner in order to use their computer, and they can let you use it or not via System Preferences. Make your own call who you trust to let on your Mac, just like you already do. I wouldn't let a stranger carry his home account to my machine, but I'd let a friend. They would not, of course, be granted admin privileges on my machine



    When my PowerBook needed repair a few years back, it was right around the holidays (a busy time for my PLUS a lot of travel) and so I needed new portable way to do my work at my parents' (and sometimes friends' or clients') places. So I bought a 60 GB iPod instead of the 40, and copied my entire OS X installation over to it (just a drag and drop). My iPod would then boot any Mac I walked up to (if the owner changed the Startup Disk for me) and it was MY settings, MY stuff, MY work It was like I had my whole computer in my pocket. My bookmarks, my address book, my calendar, my wallpaper and settings, my mouse driver, my games, my apps, my license keys, my emails, my complete file structure (which today would have Spotlight support), my Dock, my 3rd-party utils, my everything. MY COMPUTER--except that speed and screen size would vary! Then later I copied my account back to the repaired machine. It was great!



    It would be great in lots of other scenarios too. People DO like to have their computing mobile--look at laptop sales. Having everything in your pocket is in a way even better. (And yes, some people DO do work at home... in fact it's extremely common, despite the terrifying security risks ) I recommend Carbon Copy Cloner for this, since a manual drag of the OS files worked once for me and then not the second time. CCC is slow but does a better job with hidden system stuff.



    With "Home on iPod" you could do the same thing WITHOUT having to copy the OS onto your device. You'd only need to copy your account. Plus it would be more AUTOMATIC that what I did (a no-effort synch rather than careful copying), more secured, and compatible with both Intel and PPC Macs, unlike my way.
  • Reply 9 of 33
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,191member
    Has a similar function been available for Windows users for years (maybe it's a 3rd party app)? I'm pretty sure I heard about this before... Am I wrong, here?
  • Reply 10 of 33
    kickahakickaha Posts: 8,760member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by BlackSummerNight View Post


    You can burn a dvd with all your iTunes info on it and use it on up to 3 computers (maybe five, I haven't checked the EULA). Why do you need your work information at home? This would cause major security issues with anyone doing any type of work with critical information.



    And this is worse than a laptop... how?



    Seriously - everyone here at work has a company provided laptop that they haul around with them constantly, filled to the brim with confidential information.
  • Reply 11 of 33
    My wife has three offices and goes out on the road from time to time. Right now she keeps all her info on an iPod mini so she can access her info from which ever computer she's on. "Home on iPhone" would make this all the more manageable, once we get iPhones here in Canada :-(>>>.



    ?Security: A:encrypted volume

    ?Reliability: A:automatic updates to local machine and .Mac



    6 years ago: pager & phone & floppies

    4 years ago: phone (with text messaging) & Lacie Pocket Drive

    2 years ago: phone & iPod mini

    next year (I hope): just an iPhone
  • Reply 12 of 33
    noirdesirnoirdesir Posts: 1,027member
    Remember, anybody who has physical access to a computer essentially owns the computer (except for encrypted files). If somebody can plug in an iPod into your computer, she or he can also plug-in any external drive and simply boot from that.



    If they can pull this off, it would be really great. Right now one can in theory run a computer on a 200 GB 7200 rpm 2.5" drive via Firewire 800 and move from computer to computer. With the same computer model this might actually work. But already some trivial differences as the monitor calibration profile will be different from computer to computer and there probably are more of these things.



    With OS X, the operating system became a true multi-user on. For this Home-on-the-iPod feature, user accounts would have to be able to become multi-computer capable.
  • Reply 13 of 33
    frank777frank777 Posts: 5,796member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by BlackSummerNight View Post


    Why would I need to carry my personal home files to a different computer. Could someone give a real world example of how this could be useful.\



    I have been begging Apple for an easy way to sync mail on my Laptop and Desktop hard drives.



    This feature not only brings this into play, but raises the spectre of a 'PowerBook Duo-style arrangement' where one's Home folder can reside on the laptop, but can be used when connected at home to the Desktop.
  • Reply 14 of 33
    salmonstksalmonstk Posts: 560member
    I am hoping this is scrapped because Apple has decided to partner with google via .Mac. Every mac can sync thru Googles servers all home folder information. Not just what .Mac does now. Of course this requires massively more space but Google has it.
  • Reply 15 of 33
    macztermaczter Posts: 5member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by salmonstk View Post


    I am hoping this is scrapped because Apple has decided to partner with google via .Mac. Every mac can sync thru Googles servers all home folder information. Not just what .Mac does now. Of course this requires massively more space but Google has it.



    sounds great as long as you have internet access on every machine you want to use at every location you want to use it and aren't behind a corporate firewall that blocks you from getting to those proposed servers.
  • Reply 16 of 33
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by salmonstk View Post


    I am hoping this is scrapped because Apple has decided to partner with google via .Mac. Every mac can sync thru Googles servers all home folder information. Not just what .Mac does now. Of course this requires massively more space but Google has it.



    I agree - using the iPod is a cute idea, but I'd rather do it seamlessly and online (preferably in the background) than having to track down my iPod and iPod cord every time I wanted to do the sync. If I understand it, BackToMyMac (in Panther) basically does this for .Mac subscribers, but unless .Mac either gets a ridiculous upgrade or goes free (not a stretch considering that it's basically inferior to a lot of free services), I'm not too interested!



    Of course, all of this is a bit pointless when Apple sells more laptops than anything else.
  • Reply 17 of 33
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ericjames View Post


    I agree - using the iPod is a cute idea, but I'd rather do it seamlessly and online (preferably in the background) than having to track down my iPod and iPod cord every time I wanted to do the sync. If I understand it, BackToMyMac (in Panther) basically does this for .Mac subscribers, but unless .Mac either gets a ridiculous upgrade or goes free (not a stretch considering that it's basically inferior to a lot of free services), I'm not too interested!



    Of course, all of this is a bit pointless when Apple sells more laptops than anything else.



    Some of us might not like the idea of syncing GBs of data over a slow connection. You may, this would make it easier for a lot of people. For example, if I was at school and wanted/needed to use my files from my home computer and not have to use the 'default' account with a whole bunch of junk on it, I could just plug in an iPod/Ext. HD and go. See, you can do it your way and I can do it mine, so everyone wins, including apple because they could sell more.
  • Reply 18 of 33
    lafelafe Posts: 252member
    This makes a lot of sense. It's the wave of the future. I was so impressed by it that I joined the site just to comment! (Been lurking for months.)



    I've administered hundreds of macs in a school setting, and this would make tremendous sense there. A student could walk up to any mac in the lab, plug in a USB drive or iPod, and access all of his/her own files, desktop look-and-feel, system prefs, etc. instantly.



    There are other situations like this in which a laptop is not the best option, but you need mobility and your personal files at your fingertips.



    If it catches on, look for the halo effect to seduce more public libraries into buying iMacs, more schools (already a strong market for Apple), and similar places.



    Of course you'll want good encryption and a back-up, in case your iPod is stolen or lost. I wonder if we'll start seeing biometric access devices on iPods soon . . .
  • Reply 19 of 33
    I figured Apple would do something like this for the iPhone. Make it part of the .Mac package.



    We already know that .Mac in Leopard will have the ability to keep track of the IP address of your Macs at home so that you can grab a file if you are away... So it seems obvious that they would allow you to make a .Mac connection to your home directory from your iPhone. Maybe in the future, even stream music from your home computer to your iPhone, as an excuse to keep the capacity down on the iPhone and users happy with the ability to connect to their home library.





    Even further in the future, if people are still clamoring for a way to purchase music while away from home, a manner that allows the purchase to complete and the music to be pushed to your home computer. (And ofcourse, then streamed to your iPhone )
  • Reply 20 of 33
    pmjoepmjoe Posts: 565member
    LOL! Apple want's royalties for copying your home directory to a flash drive.
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