history, technology, cyberculture and nostalgia find a place to meet and mix

An Endnote to Paper Books

Books made of paper will go extinct. It is the inevitability of creative destruction, the same road that saw LPs and gramophones become fixtures in antique shops. Inertia and economics are the only reason paper books still exist. It is awfully hard for the 500-year-old technology of the printing press to vanish overnight, with so many generations of baggage to get rid off. But the wheels have been set in motion. Now we just sit back and watch.

Like most fads of the past, paper and ink will expire its longevity, and be replaced by matters of convenience. The e-book readers have already made an entry. The prices are high, but they will drop soon. The Amazon Kindle has already sold out in over 100 countries. Vague figures by the CleanTech Group tell us that the the Kindle is more eco-friendly than buying books. And a dozen other companies are competing with the Kindle to ensnare the literate public. For now, they will attempt to mimic paper books as closely as they can, to allow smooth transition without the unnecessary hangovers and claims of the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it.

But the nostalgia will soon fade, and the e-book readers, so far shackled in the conservative nature of people to dwell in the "good times of the past", shall break free from all the constraints and pursue a path of efficiency and optimization. It is what engineers do, create new technologies and hope that people alter their behaviors to keep up with the added conveniences that the inventions provide. Keeping up with the times, reading habits will change. Slow changes but incremental over generations.

People will find it easier to instantly download new books. With costs of distribution low, economies of scale will ensure that the costs of books fall, almost like in the music industry. A new generation of authors will evolve who don't require publishing houses and a new generation of interactive books evolve to cater to the entertainment needs of millions.

But then attention spans might fall too, because too much freedom can also be too much distraction. The internet has already conditioned users to read shorter blocks of text. Other effects would include complicated copyright issues. Piracy might take over the literary world in ways unimaginable before (but then some people will always argue that piracy is actually good for authors because it allows greater exposure to their readers).

Nevertheless in the future, the newer e-book readers will seem so normal and natural, that people would wonder about the backwardness of the times when trees were cut to create those cumbersome un-interactive visual mediums of information transcription. And people will shake their heads in pity at their technology-challenged ancestors. This is how it has always been - the future always pitying the past.

But of course this will too soon be replaced by newer technologies. My best bet is electrodes in the head that download information directly to the brains. Two hundred years from now is my uneducated, vague and random guess. And then we shall talk about the anticipated extinction of e-book readers.

Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo ma.gnolia squidoo newsvine live netscape tailrank mister-wong blogmarks slashdot spurl

History of Software Cracking - Part X

Disclaimer : This article may not be completely accurate and is not extensive. It is based on my understanding of the topic, which in an ideal world, is kinda limited.

Software cracking uses reverse engineering. Reverse engineering involves taking a mechanical device, software program or electronic device apart, understanding its workings, and then attempt to create something out of that. It has been a common practice in the world of mechanics and electronics since a long time.

It has been the greatest challenge for most innovating tech companies (like Sony) for a very long time. The military has been using it for centuries, attempting to analyze the enemy's weapons and creating their own versions to combat them.

In the software industry, a very popular case was San Jose-based Phoenix Technologies Ltd. reverse engineering the IBM BIOS to create their own compatible version. (You can read about it in this great article by Mathew Schwartz, Reverse-Engineering, Computerworld, November 12, 2001)

Software Cracking

I need to first differentiate between software crackers and 'crackers', the latter referring to malicious hackers, while the former referring to programmers who used reverse engineering to remove copy protection from the software.

Now that I have made that distinction, let me move on to the history of software cracking. It began in the 1980s with disk-based software copy protection schemes on the Atari 800, Commodore and Apple II systems. The software manufacturers used hardware schemes to prevent people from making copies. Game developers had to use the most innovative of solutions to prevent any form of copying. (Some of the methods are listed on - Experiencefestival, Copy protection for computer software)

Circumventing such schemes was the biggest challenge out there, and it spawned the cracking scene. Soon software protection schemes would include hardware dongles, registration keys, keyfiles, internet activation, etc. Crackers were always one step ahead, and all for the glory and challenge.

As I have mentioned in an earlier post, the apparent disregard for laws to go one up against rivals in the cracking scene was interesting. It was the strive to possess the intangibles of social esteem and prestige, over any materialistic goods. It almost proved to the world that a coherent social structure is possible where materialism is not the reward. But moving on to the more technical aspects.


The most common software cracking involved altering the binary file to prevent a key branch from occuring. In assembly language, it often meant simply altering a je (jump on equal) command to a jne (jump on not equal) command. Finding the right branch was the challenge. But that was for the earlier simpler programs.

It has always been a race out there. The software industry trying to stay one step ahead, and for good reason. It is said that piracy has cost the software industry over 20 billion dollars in revenue, every year. That is more than the GDP of any developing country.

Reverse Engineering Tools

Some of the tools of the trade were -
FileMon - Monitors files
Regmon - Monitors the registry
W32Dasm - Windows Disassembler
SoftICE - Windows Debugger
Hiew - The coolest hex editor out there
Windows API Reference, etc.

Back in the late 90s, you started off with a disassembler and hex-editor. And then you moved on to SoftIce, a kernel mode debugger that ran underneath Windows. It was a tool so powerful it was used to crack itself.

Numega, the creator of SoftIce is now gone. The plug has been pulled from under Softice too. Most software vendors had anyway implemented measures to make it harder to use SoftIce as a tool.

Crack Groups

The most famous ones are International Network of Crackers, The Humble Guys (THG), PhrozenCrew, UCF, Core, ViRiLiTY, etc. I shall talk about each one in short articles soon.

I shall also talk about how the 'demo scene' came into existence. A spin-off from the actual cracking. Actually a lot more fun.

Old Resources

The resources are old and probably will not help anyone who intends to be a cracker nowadays. But it is history. And it needs to be read -

The best resource for tutorials on cracking Cracking 4 Newbies
The New2Cracking website download
Reverse Engineering Team
Reverse Engineering Resources
The Art of Assembly Language - The most comprehensive and famous guide in the history of software cracking.
CrackZ's Reverse Engineering Page
Methods to prevent cracking - Cracking, The Anti by Dorian Bugeja

Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo ma.gnolia squidoo newsvine live netscape tailrank mister-wong blogmarks slashdot spurl