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Slashback: Cheats, Entries, Loki 328

Posted by timothy
from the manhattan-bound dept.
Slashback tonight brings you updates to previous stories on computer-class cheating, Smoothwall, AIBO hacking, the Open Source Directory, and the fate of Loki's CVS. Read on below for the details!
Jon Masters was one of the many to write in after recent articles about automated cheat-detection employed in undergraduate CS classes to catch plagiarists. "Hi, cheat detection is hardly new. For example The University Of Nottingham have developed an automated marking/plagarism detection system as part of their CourseMaster software. Personally I don't agree with automated assessment in general, however plagarism detection can be useful."

From the email I've gotten on it, it seems like a whole passel of schools have at least a homegrown solution to CS cheats.

Perhaps the cute dog will end up changing Sony's stance? CodeMonkey555 writes "Here is a story that chronicles Sony's little foray into the DMCA with a hacker who added software for the Aibo robot."

It's nice to see that publications like SciAm are following the results and consequences of the DMCA.

Care to help edit an online software reference? SteveMallett writes "We at Open Source Directory (OSD) have opened the directory to volunteer editors now that we've given app authors and maintainer's a good chance to start and/or maintain their own listings.

Those interested may wish to visit our volunteer page which outlines what we're looking for. Don't worry. We're not that picky. The outline includes guidelines and tips for being a volunteer. Unlike dmoz, which has volunteer editors, we _will_ delete unupdated or neglected editor work in accordance to our Social Contract.

We hope that editors will help fill in the missing apps, take over those listings that they can do a better job of or have become neglected, and find those diamonds in the rough."

See our earlier post about the project if you're not sure what this is about.

Yes, someone has to read all those emails. kcurtis writes "Boston.com's tech site has this AP article about the large response to the Court's request for comment on the MS case's proposed settlement."

Now all they need is a trowel with an emblazoned smiley. enigma48 writes "Looks like the C'T article a little while ago about Smoothwall prompted some changes after all. Juergen Schmidt even gets a little credit. Shadow passwords are now in, but it looks like the ppp secrets file is still open (they describe it as being a "non-vulnerability"). A-patchin' I will go, a-patchin' I will go..."

So you don't have to stop playing your games ... Scott Draeker of Loki has some encouraging words for those who thought the announced (upcoming) closure of Loki would mean the loss of Loki's code and community. Draeker sent word of this a few days ago, but here are more details.

He writes:

"We have prepared tarballs of the public CVS, FAQs, mailing list archives, demos and Loki_Update which will be available for people to host. That's exactly what's going on with icculus.org.

The official repository will be hosted by the SEUL group at MIT. Once that site is set up we'll point the loki domains that direction. They'll also be adding some Loki projects to public CVS which were never completed."

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Slashback: Cheats, Entries, Loki

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  • It seems ubsurd to me that just because the aibo has encrytion protecting the binaries, it is illigal to reverse engineer it.

    I guess this is old news...
    • It is illegal to break into peoples homes, but I still lock my door...
      • It is illegal to break into peoples homes, but I still lock my door...

        Reverse engineering and breaking in are two VERY different things. Sure, breaking in is illegal, but there is an age-old engineering principle that states that it is acceptable to reverse-engineer something as long as it isn't patented.
        • You can reverse engineer something that's patented to discover its inner workings. Having the patent itself will help you; that's the idea behind disclosure of patents. The trick is to build something similar or interoperable without violating the patent.
        • My point was more if you dont want something to happen it is quite acceptable to take precautions. I.e. Sony encryption of the ROMs...
          Just because something is illegal (regardless of what we are speaking) it is not prudent to assume the law will protect you from the event...
      • It's as if the little "no user-servicable parts inside -- do not open" stickers that you see on some appliances were legally enforced. Remove the case from your Nintendo, go to jail.
        • Good thing mattress and pillow manufacturers don't have a stronger lobby in Congress. Othereidr, we could be railing against the DROTSLTOEA (Don't Rip Off The Stupid Little Tag Or Else! Act).
        • I hate these stickers after a really bad experience with a case power supply.

          One day, my trusty case power supply just gave up on me. "Oh well," I thought, "Must have blown a fuse." (I was pulling some serious power through the poor thing.)
          So with gleeful abandon I grabbed the nearest sharp, pointy tool and began to remove screws. I carefully grounded and opened up the power supply to change the fuse- Lo And Behold, the stupid thing was soldered in place!

          I hope this short, true satire shows why I distrust any company handing me the black box syndrome. If you don't want me inquiring as to how it works, don't sell/rent/loan it to me; and don't think strange headed screws are a detterent- I just love a challenge >:-). Furthermore, never scream at me (even in legalese) about how I wasn't supposed to look inside- you aren't supposed to sell me junk. (There may be no legal constraint, but doing so is a good way to get boycotted. Just ask Microsoft, Universal Music, or Intel: they top my list.)
      • Yeah.. but should it also be illegal to break into your own home, say if you forgot the key? Or even if you just want to find out how the lock works, make sure firsthand that it's a reasonably good lock, or whatever?

        I think that was the point.. perhaps I should read the article :)

      • Imagine for a moment that someone walks into the middle of your living room, throws up, and claims that you do not have the right to clean it up because it was his bag of nachos and that the vomit is his property. Or better yet he claims it is his artistic creation and is therefore his intellectual property, even though it is now embedded in your carpet. Are you really going to respect his property rights?
        • nah, this is more like a book publisher suing you because you scribbled notes in the margin of their latest best seller.

          You own the book.
          You own the notes.
          They should have no say about what you should do with your property.

          Obviously, you shouldn't photocopy the entire book and sell it. But is that equiv. to what this guy did? As long as he only shares his "notes" and where he placed them in the book.. I should see no problem with that.

          I still say the DMCA is the beginning of the dark ages which will kill technological advancement throughout the 21st century.. The next "holy crusade" if you will.
    • by image (13487) on Monday January 28, 2002 @08:15PM (#2917067) Homepage
      If I buy a padlock, it is perfectly legal for me to bring it home and pick it open with paper clip. Even though picking it is not the intended use.

      The question is -- is it, or rather, should it be, legal for me to disseminate information about _how_ to pick that lock?

      (The answer is _of course_. The really interesting question is _why_.)
      • That is actually a very astute point. I believe that in Texas, it is legal to own your own pickset, and to open your own locks with it, but if using lockpicking skills to commit a crime, that increases the penalties, because you demonstrated specialized knowledge. And you'd think that lockpicking would have a greater potential for breaking the law than would reverse enginerring.
    • Reverse engineering is perfectly legal as long as it is done correctly. In order to legally do it, a company must employ two sets of engineers. One to analyse the product and document every input and output of it, the other must have no contact with the product. The second team then takes the data collected by the first team and engineers another product that produces the same data.

      Patents must be honored however.
  • damn dog (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    They allready have those dolls that "go tinkle". How long until Sony develops "'Lil McScoopScoop".

    "Teaches kids to clean up after their pets without really cleaning up!"

    I can just see that massivechinned and lipped ron of ronco pimping it now.

    Excuse me while I cry myself to sleep.
  • by Graelin (309958) on Monday January 28, 2002 @08:09PM (#2917036)
    Or does the Loki email imply the release of Loki game source code? And how much of it?

    This is probably wishful thinking, of course it is, but the impact it would have on the Linux gaming world would be awesome. Heh, Loki would do more for Linux gaming dead that it ever did alive...

    Ohh well, it's only karma..
    • by Fnord (1756) <joe@sadusk.com> on Monday January 28, 2002 @08:15PM (#2917066) Homepage
      No it means the preservation of loki's already open source code (SDL, OpenAL). Loki can't open their game code. They licensed the source from the original Windows versions under proprietary terms so they could port them. Unless Loki managed to convince every company they ported a game for to open the Windows versions as well then its not going to happen.
      • Is there any possibility that another gaming house might buy the Loki ports? It is indeed a fantasy to expect that code to be open sourced but it would be a shame if it died entirely. Perhaps a publisher with a better business model can get some milage out of them.
      • OTOH if they do post it, what are they going to do, shut Loki down?
        sure, they'll shut down the site that hosts it, but it would only need to be up for about 1 day before it was spread across the internet.
        So it come down to there ethics that prevent them from posting.
        Ethics can be really short to come buy for some companies *coughenroncough*.
    • There were a few internal Loki "infrastucture" projects that weren't released, like OpenNL (DirectPlay like thing, Network Library).

      No Loki games are going to be open sourced, but I hope their source is preserved by someone. It'd be nice to see Deus Ex revived some day, I really wanted that one game. :(
  • AIBO Hack (Score:5, Funny)

    by doooras (543177) on Monday January 28, 2002 @08:11PM (#2917040)
    Can you hack an AIBO to make it hump people's legs, or micturate on their shoes?
  • We would have taken a lot longer to develop: Rockets Jet Engines Delta wing planes Algebra and so on...
  • by Ieshan (409693) <ieshan@nOSpAm.gmail.com> on Monday January 28, 2002 @08:11PM (#2917044) Homepage Journal
    It seems interesting to me that the DMCA allows no condition of fair use when it comes to breaking encryption on purchases - at least, this is how the article presents it.

    Notice that Aibopet never actually uses the code within the Aibo to make a profit. Someone could argue, technically, that he uses it to make a name for himself, but he hardly even does that. I think it's interesting that Sony would choose to pursue legal action on the basis that the code was cracked, not that something illegal was done with the code.

    This is something like purchasing a refrigerator, dismantling it, using the fan to cool yourself, and using the shelves inside to hold books. Sure, it wasn't the intended use of the product, but who's the seller to determine the intended use and then legally enforce that use? Encryption was brought about for a variety of reasons, but one of the reasons wasn't to make sure that a product was used in a specific way - rather, it's primary ability is to keep other people from making a profit on someone else's ideas.

    As long as Aibopet isn;t doing that, I don't really understand Sony's original position on the issue.
    • Your comment applies well to other DMCA things, e.g. DeCSS. But, unfortunate as it is, what more can you expect in the way of consumer rights with a law that was all but purchased by corporations in the first place?
    • Sony didn't (or hasn't yet) pursue legal action. They did hold out the threat of legal action under the DMCA, but they have since reached an agreement with this guy allowing him to put most of his software back on the web. The SciAm article only makes that they still could start legal action, but this seems unlikely given the agreement.

      They do make money from sales of Sony-produced software addons to the Aibo ($150 per upgrade, according to the article), so this guy's software could potentially cost them some revenue. Of course, this might well be offset by the increased sales of hardware AiboPet's software generates. I imagine some Sony bean-counters figured out the balance between the two, and decide it was in their interest to let AiboPet keep at it.
      • So? Why should we care that some corporation might lose some revenue?

        Should MapQuest be able to force gas stations to remove their maps because it cuts into their revenue streams?

        Should Ford Motors be able to specify that only Firestone tires are to be used on Ford vehicles?

        A few years ago "lost revenues" were called "failed business plan" and it was the fault of the company. Now it's like the public is liable for .COMs (and existing companies caught in that mentality) losing money because their business plan involves banking on unfounded assumptions.

        Bah. We don't live in a welfare state, we live in a corporate welfare state.
    • by Cato the Elder (520133) on Monday January 28, 2002 @08:31PM (#2917127) Homepage
      "Encryption was brought about for a variety of reasons, but one of the reasons wasn't to make sure that a product was used in a specific way"

      Yes, but the DMCA was designed so that products can only be used a certain way. A really really stupid, really really bad law, yes, but that's how it is.

      As for Sony's original position, the Scientfic American article leaves out an important factor. Originally, the AiboPet site had backups of Sony's software, obtained through crecking the encryption, available for download. Sony had a legitimate concern that these would be used improperly. Sure, no other hardware platform will run the stuff now, but it does make it easier to make clones or illegal copies of the code. Once Sony turned the lawyers loose, I think they went overboard, basically demanding that the entire site be shut down, originally. After the protests, they moderated their position quite a bit, but the "backups" are still gone.
      • The lawyers (or someone with half a brain) probably realized in the end that it was a mistake to let loose all the dogs of war.

        The removal of the backups sounds more like a case of "copyright protection" than anything, and not really related to DMCA, itself. As my understanding of copyright/trademark laws go, if you don't protect your (c) or tm, you basically give up all rights to it, so they had no choice but to at least go after the backups. I'm sure at some point the clones will come out, though...
        • The lawyers (or someone with half a brain) probably realized in the end that it was a mistake to let loose all the dogs of war.

          I think that the key factor is that overly threatening openings are just par for the course in legal matters like this. It's like any kind of negotiation; you always ask for more than you want or need so that you can give something up as part of the bargaining. Sony probably didn't want to shut down the site completely, but threatening to do so was very effective in getting the owner's attention. You may not like it, but that's the way that things are done.

          • Sony probably didn't want to shut down the site completely, but threatening to do so was very effective in getting the owner's attention. You may not like it, but that's the way that things are done.

            It was also very effective in getting the attention of potential Aibo customers/boycotters. Perhaps the legal department should listen to the public relations department and change "the way that things are done." If Sony had just asked for Sony programs to be removed, then blessed the Aibopet site, Sony would be in exactly the position they are in now with a lot less anti-Sony resentment in the marketplace.

        • Copyrights do NOT have to be defended in order to be protected. Similarly, patents to NOT have to be defended in order to be protected.

          Trademarks must be defended, however.
          And trade secrets cannot become public (some exceptions apply) or else they are unprotected.

          The closest thing to what you're thinking of with regards to copyright is an estoppel theory. I.e., if Sony encouraged Aibopet to infringe, then sued, essentially having lured him into it in bad faith. This virtually never happens, but if it did, Sony would've shot themselves in the foot.

          So remember: copyrights and patents need not be defended.
    • Sometimes I use Lego to build things not illustrated on the cover. And I do not add the correct supplements to my Rice Krispies to make it a true "part of a complete breakfast".

      I think it's ludicrous that Sony can do this.

      Unfortunately, nobody disagrees with me so I can't really get going...
  • the fall of Sony? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by motherhead (344331) on Monday January 28, 2002 @08:14PM (#2917057)

    I wonder if a projection exists in the corporate organs of Sony that demonstrates how much loss of revenue and market share Sony Consumer Electronics Division stands to loose in the next five years thanks to the aggressive lobbying, litigation and posturing of the Sony media and content creation divisions.

    It just seems to me that the money in consumer electronics is going to go to companies like Phillips and other (smaller) manufacturers that help consumers exploit and enjoy content any damn way they want.

    Sony makes some marvelous and high quality components and gadgets, but revenue will go to the companies that offer devices that accommodate the way consumers want to use them, rather then devices that will accommodate the way a company wants to use consumers.

    Trying to have a market created and tamed through legislation and ill conceived laws damn well should torpedo your empire.


    • by kellin (28417) on Monday January 28, 2002 @08:29PM (#2917117)
      Why is it people like you seem to think so narrowly? Is it because you're surrounded only by fellow geeks who think the same way you do, and therefore you can't possibly imagine people purchasing products that don't allow the freedom you want?

      This isn't a troll, just a criticism.

      There are SO many ignorant people out there (And yes, thats ignorant, not stupid, there's a difference), that don't know any better and buy whatever the moronic sales guy says at Circuit Shitty, CompLoser or WalFart.

      Hell, I'm a geek too and prefer things that can give me more flexibility, but that's not the case with most people. Proof in this comes from a friend who works at Tower Records. People bitch about the price of CDs, she TELLS them there's a record store down the street that sells the SAME CDs cheaper, and they STILL buy at Tower. Go FIGURE. (ok, in this case, it is stupidity, but most people just don't know better.)
      • Hell, I'm a geek too and prefer things that can give me more flexibility, but that's not the case with most people. Proof in this comes from a friend who works at Tower Records. People bitch about the price of CDs, she TELLS them there's a record store down the street that sells the SAME CDs cheaper, and they STILL buy at Tower. Go FIGURE. (ok, in this case, it is stupidity, but most people just don't know better.)


        I beg to differ. It's most likely habbit more than anything else. If people usually buy from one store, they may bitch and complain about the store every now-and-again, but they'll still buy from it.

        Most people are creatures of habbit.
      • The "average" person may well be slow to notice trends, unable to see where things are headed, not understand how badly they're being played by the big companies, but after a while of buying products with no real use they will stop.

        When all you sell is useless crap, what happens to you when the market for useless crap dries up?

        • by Saeger (456549)
          When all you sell is useless crap, what happens to you when the market for useless crap dries up?

          You change the sugarcoating.

          Stupid people will always buy useless crap (like the latest dietpill fad under a new name) as long as the marketroids can continue to tittilate them with packaging. These people actually WANT the illusion; it fills empty lives.

          --

      • Couldn't agree more. Everyone has a habit of assuming they are correct, that their opinion is representative of 'the majority' until they are told otherwise, repeatedly, for about 20 years.

        I know my opinions differ from most of my peers - most of my friends don't have computers - or if they do they only ever use them to buy books and stuff.

        This wont hurt sony at all.
      • Let me get this straight, there are two boxes sitting on a shelf, one is from sony one from phillips, they are both cd burners, the phillips box has a bright yellow sticker that says, "phillips does not inhibit the legal copying of digital data" or better "the only 30X cd burner that lets you copy audio CDs and MP3 files!!!" and you are saying that Joe Consumer will still be too stupid to make an informed choice... who exactly is being ignorant (as opposed to stupid, thanks for filling me in on the difference Northwestern isn't that great of a university)?
    • 1. apple has been the most vigilant prosecutor of anything that violates their copyrights yet they seem doing better and better 2.SONY did not like people decrypting their software and puting it up for downloads. Anyone, including competing companies could download it and use it to their liking. Now I dont really see anything wrong with that... End of Sony really seems a little bit premature ;-)
      • by motherhead (344331)

        apple has been the most vigilant prosecutor of anything that violates their copyrights yet they seem doing better and better

        Interesting, I have a a couple of G4 Towers and a G4 TiPowerbook. I have been useing Apples for many a year. Never once have they prevented me from burning MP3s onto my Nomad Juke or duplicating copywritten digital data (for my own personal use) to and from any other medium.

        What Apple won't let me do is this: 1. Duplicate Apple system design or software for resale 2. Use Apple Logos and Branding to confuse or perpetuate myself as haveing affiliation with Apple or Apple corp Information.

        What I am speaking to isn't just Sony coming down on people that Hack the doggy or the PS/PS2 boxes, It's that Sony has positioned itself through it's commanding leverage in say, the MPAA and the RIAA to lobby legislation such as the DMCA and of course the misguided attempt to get the RIAA almost federal authority in the "Patriot" anti-terrorism bill.

        That is just vile. Show me how my beloved Apple has done anything anti-American other then force fruity flavored beachballs on it's consumers.

        • apple has been the most vigilant prosecutor of anything that violates their copyrights yet they seem doing better and better

          Interesting, I have a a couple of G4 Towers and a G4 TiPowerbook. I have been useing Apples for many a year. Never once have they prevented me from burning MP3s onto my Nomad Juke or duplicating copywritten digital data (for my own personal use) to and from any other medium.

          This paragraph doesn't suggest violation of Apple's copyright. Unless Apple joined the RIAA when I wasn't looking...

          What Apple won't let me do is this: 1. Duplicate Apple system design or software for resale 2. Use Apple Logos and Branding to confuse or perpetuate myself as haveing affiliation with Apple or Apple corp Information.

          In other words, Apple prosecutes anything that violates their copyrights. Right or wrong, anti-american or counter-revolutionary, I dunno. But it's still anal.

          But then again, your Macs are way bigger and faster than my little iBook, so what do I know?

    • how much loss of revenue and market share Sony Consumer Electronics Division stands to loose in the next five years

      I am guessing you did not mean that Sony might "let loose or release" loss of revenue and market share. The word you are looking for is lose.

      Congratulations! You are participant #1 in my campaign to rid Slashdot of this error.

  • One must wonder (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Restil (31903) on Monday January 28, 2002 @08:23PM (#2917091) Homepage
    Why does sony even care? I mean, maybe they're hoping for a long history of upgrades in the future that they can charge end users for, but in the end, if there is other software available for AIBO, people will still have to buy the product to use them. And if more poeple are buying AIBO's so they can use the hack than those who are purchasing it for the original intent, WHO CARES!

    Sony still gets their money from it.

    -Restil
  • by Drake42 (4074) on Monday January 28, 2002 @08:26PM (#2917107) Homepage
    If the illegality is in breaking the encryption, could some secure 3rd party break the encryption and send me the results. Posetion of cracked data is not an offence, is it? Maybe some Ukranian crack-boy could make a living cracking the encryption on popular items and then selling the results back into the US. What is anybody going to do if I release some code for something, based on publicly available specs. (Even if those specs are the result of some work done elsewhere that couldn't be done here.) Isn't that how PC cloning got started with Clean Room reverse engineering?
    • Isn't that how PC cloning got started with Clean Room reverse engineering?

      Yes, reverse engineering IBM's BIOS is what gives us the power and low prices we enjoy today on x86 computers. It was totally legal to do this reverse engineering. However now we have the DCMA, which takes away some of the liberties we previously enjoyed. Under the DCMA, in some circumstances it is illegal to even TALK about how to circumvent digital "protection" (i.e. encryption). The US government is a wholly owned subsidiary of USA, Inc.

      • Only roughly. PC clones came about
        becuase somebody sat down and coumented how something worked, then handed it off to a virgin to implement. That's different than
        re-implementing something as you look at it.
  • by Kasmiur (464127) on Monday January 28, 2002 @08:28PM (#2917115)
    "Meanwhile, back in America, some owners delight in replacing Aibo's soothing beeps with the voice of Cartman, the potty-mouthed South Park character. "

    I can see it now.
    Me: Fetch fido
    dog: AAaaaah my ass is on fire!!
  • by hack0rama (253610) on Monday January 28, 2002 @08:41PM (#2917176) Homepage Journal
    Even if Loki donates all the code to the community. The community cannot port games. Since the game publisher needs a company to license the code under some contract.

    I hope another company picks up everything from Loki. Does all the contract/licensing stuff, but unlike Loki try and make use of volunteer work from the community to save money. I am willing to provide few hours of my time, for getting games on Linux and I sure hope there will be others.

    I am aware of the issues of volunteer work vs full time employees. The contarct/licensing issues of closed source games. Maybe its all just wishfull thinking. Sigh ..
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The problem is, you don't need a bunch of people with a few hours to spare. You need a few, dedicated people with a particular set of talents, who spend months with the code base, learning its ins and outs, to bring the code base to Linux. If the game is really portable, it might come up in a few days, but if it makes heavy use of C++ you might burn months on STL issues alone.

      And then there are library/compiler/pthread versioning issues, and much, much more!

      • Agreed. This is one of the things that "the community" can't do well. Porting existing games aside, It appears to me that there aren't enough artists, writers or musicians willing to get involved to produce games that are up to 21st century production values.

        All the very good and fun "me too" games like FreeCIV, maelstrom, gnometris etc. prove that there are plenty of coders who are interested in producing free(speech) games, but not enough creative people.

  • The Boston article is ambiguous as to whether the complete comments that the public sent in will be available online.

    I, for one, believe that reading those comments would be a very instructive exercise.

    It seems reasonable to expect that comments solicited online should be published online and not just printed onto thin paper in 3-point type and filed in boxes in the storage room of a courthouse somewhere.
  • So, how long till the damn links are fixed?
  • but its demise forces developers to make their own Linux binaries if Linux binaries are to exist. This would (hopefully) make more developers port the code themselves, and keep the Linux gaming industry alive (unless another company like Loki starts up, in fact this may be better in the short run as then all of the porting knowledge would be concentrated in this company and allow them to make better ports)
  • by berzerke (319205) on Monday January 28, 2002 @09:24PM (#2917361) Homepage
    I hope the open source directory takes off and actually takes in editors. I applied to DMOZ for a not too large category and got an instant rejection saying new editors should apply for a smaller category. Ok, I reapplied on for a much smaller category. That was about 2 months ago. (Both categories needed an editor, BADLY). Still haven't heard back. I begin to wonder if DMOZ is even using editors anymore.
    • Maybe a problem with the email system? Try logging in, see if it works. I never got notification of my acceptance. Any apply first to a small category, get the hang of it, then go big. Most people start small. :-)
  • Most owners treat their Aibo affectionately, as they would a real pet. When Aibos break down, we treat them at our 'clinic.'

    I found Mercerism easier to swallow than a populace doting on their robotic pets, but I must now admit that PKD was right.

    [Yes, I know that this wasn't the *main* thrust of the article -- it just continues to amaze me. Hack value, yes, but pet, no.]
  • Now if it wasn't the Open Source Directory, I'd say it sounded like one of those "we-want-you-to-help-build-our-site-for-free-and-t hen-charge-you-for-looking-at-the-content-when-the -site-gets-big-enough" deals.

    Some people say that the internet is all about money these days(or maybe the lack of) but I think that the spirit of helping each other still is there. You just have to pick our work and that one is not a bad choice.
  • by periscope (20296) on Monday January 28, 2002 @10:54PM (#2917646) Homepage
    Hi,

    One of the reasons that I submitted the link to the software used at my University was to point out how routine this kind of thing has become.

    The idea of automated cheat detection is fundamentally a good one, it helps to remove complete weeds from around us. However, at the same time we must remember that software is only as good as what you put in to it. False positives and other negative aspects quickly displace the usefulness of such applications in my mind - especially when you may find that the analysis of "similarity" between submissions is publically available for all to see.

    The problem in my mind is when automated cheat detection develops in to other forms of automated assessment, which in my opinion are wrong. I do not believe that even the best current AI software is able to judge submissions in quite the same way as a human being, we should remember this.

    In any case, I suggest that you guys take a look around at the information each organisation has on its assessment software - it's become quite an interest of mine of late.

    --
    Jon Masters
    http://www.jonmasters.org/
    • CVS it (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bcrowell (177657) on Monday January 28, 2002 @11:27PM (#2917761) Homepage
      The best solution I've heard of is simply to require the students to maintain their code on a public CVS repository. Then their changelog will tell the story of whether they really wrote the code themselves, or copied it wholesale from someone else the night before it was due. If they also GPL it, then plagiarists are also breaking the law by violating the license.

      Without such a changelog, honest students are vulnerable to a situation where someone else gets their code by dumpster-diving for printouts -- then it's one person's word against the other as far as establishing who really wrote it.

      This solution also has the benefit of showing that the issue is plagiarism (not giving credit where credit is due), not code sharing. Code sharing is ok -- it's the programming equivalent of using a properly attributed quote in an English paper. After all, nobody expects students to rewrite glibc from scratch for use with their class project!

      • The best solution I've heard of is simply to require the students to maintain their code on a public CVS repository. Then their changelog will tell the story of whether they really wrote the code themselves, or copied it wholesale from someone else the night before it was due.

        Another option would be to force them to use a specific working directory, and get the admin to set up a shell script to mass-archive all studuents' work every 6 hours or so. If the script just picks code files (as opposed to object and binary files), the space required will be miniscule.

        This would require less knowledge on the part of the student to implement, and would accomplish the same goal.
  • by grahamsz (150076) on Monday January 28, 2002 @11:23PM (#2917746) Homepage Journal
    In my first year of university they had the bright idea of running some plagurism detection software against our classes submissions. I believe 127 people were accused of cheating by the CS [ed.ac.uk] department - including me.

    I was sent a letter telling me that I had been accused of conspiring wiht one other person and consequently my mark would be halved.

    Naturally I was outraged and got on the phone to the head of department. He explained that my submission was unacceptably similar to one other person and either someone copied it or we had collorated - I hadn't collaborated, copied or let my work be copied.

    I arranged to meet with the course organiser and they showed me both submissions. Mine had originally been given 34/35 and the other had been handed in 2 weeks late and even then given 0/35. The other submission looked virtually identical to mine but had oddities like capital I's as loop control variables (suspiciously as if it had been typed into M$ Word). My guess is that he'd picked my code up from the recycle bin in the lab and typed it in.

    However faced with this, they still argued that I could have allowed this person to copy my code (even hinting that I might have accepted payment for it) and if I had any further evidence to prove my innocence then I should draw it to their attention.

    My father and I responded that it wasn't right that I should have to prove my innocence since it's a basic human right to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. We suggested we would seek legal council, and they were quick to write back reinstating my original mark.

    What frustrated me further was that the other party involved (who was never identified to me) was punished equally - by having his mark of 0 halved!

    Cheat detection systems are fine as a mechanism to prompt staff to possible problems but they certainly shouldn't be used as the judge and jury.

    Given that CS typically has large class sizes - mine was over 300 at one point - and CS assignments are often quite short and often closely related to textbook examples ... it's infeasible to hope that no two students will produce very similar results.

    The other thing that's NEVER been made clear to me is the distinction between permitted collaboration and plagurism. Every university document is fairly vague about what's acceptable and what's not. And as one of my other professors put it - "In the real world before you embark on any assignment it's worth asking, searching, begging and borrowing as much of it as possible"
    • You shouldn't be surprised by this reaction.

      Human nature is to avoid responsibility.

      "You cheated"

      "Did not"

      "You must have. The computer caught you"

      Then they devise an elaborate and fanstastic scheme to justify their own lack of initiative and apparent incompetence.

      Years ago, people formed committees if they wanted to avoid personal responsibility. Now they use a computer. Same game, different decade.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 28, 2002 @11:48PM (#2917838)

    MIT holds an important part in the history of the Free Software Foundation, GNU/Linux distributions and the General Public License and Lessor General Public License. Despite this, Loki games intends to pass redistribution of binaries which violate the LGPL on the MIT and as such get MIT to violate it's own policies [mit.edu].

    The Loki demos and updates contain executiables which are statcially linked to glibc, libSDL and OpenAL. Each of these libraries are covered by the LGPL. Unlike the GPL, this license does allow for both dynamic and static linking with close-source binaries. But unlike a BSD or X style license, there are still other requirements which must be followed. For example, a statically linked work which displays copyright banners must also display the copyright information for the statically linked libraries. Each update contains a statically linked executiable which displays either an about or title screen with copyright information. But for whatever reason Loki has decided to exempt itself from the reasonable request of displaying copyright notice. None of the statically link binaries will ever display the copyright notices for glibc, libSDL or OpenAL.

    Then there is the primary reason for the LGPL, to ensure modification of the library is possible by allowing the modified library to be relinked with the programs that use it. Loki has choosen to only partically follow this. They do provide an execitable which is dynamically linked to glibc. But honoring this part of the LGPL for libSDL and OpenAL is something Loki again choose not to follow. There is no way to relink modifications to libSDL to HereticII including the updated one from the Loki ftp site. There is also no way to relink modification to OpenAL including the latest update.

    So is all of this theoretical problems? Not really. Violating the LGPL has practical problems. For example, all joystick handling in HereticII is passed through libSDL. The Logictech WingMan Extreme Digital 3D has five axises of which HereticII only recognizes two (X and Y-axis). It would be desirable to be able to use the other axises such as the third axis which registers twisting the joystick clockwise or counter-clockwise to control strafe left and strafe right. The HereticII layer which uses the libSDL layer will support 15 joystick buttons where the Wingman Extreme normally has 7 and the libSDL layer is capable of recognizing all the joystick axises. So, if the additional axises are each translated as two additional buttons (one button which is on when the axis is negative and another button which is on when the axis is postive) then strafing using the twist axis would be possible.

    As a proof of concept, I have written kernel code to present the axises as additional buttons and HereticII does then allow strafing left and right using the WingMan twist. But this code will never be released and will never be accepted into the kernel. It suffers from too many probelms. Such as it only effects USB joysticks, to generically support these "virtual" joystick buttons would also require changing the serial and game port joystick code to also "create" them. And in addition to having to modify three different locations in the kernel, the creations of virtual joystick buttons in kernel space ends up being messy. Finally, this type of modification bloats the kernel with code that really should be handled in user-space.

    According the LGPL, Loki must allow that this type of modification be permitted in user-space by allowing a "virtual joystick button" version of libSDL to be relinked. I even have such a version of libSDL. But Loki has decided to lock the user into one specific implimentation of the libSDL thus locking the user from making joystick code modifications in user-space code. A modification lock-out that the LGPL says can't legally be redistributed but Loki and MIT appear to be willing to do so anyways.

    Maybe it is Scott Draeker/Loki's inablity to read/follow licenses and contracts that contributed to them going out of business?
    • For the exact purpose you mention (compliance with the terms of the LGPL license), Loki started to release both static patches (on which technical support was available), and dynamic patches - dynamically linked binaries against all the LGPL libraries like SDL, OpenAL, glibc, etc...
      Of course those were unsupported because it's just goddamn impossible to try to support the zillions of possible combinations.

      Call it a trade-off if you wish, but Loki was doing their best to comply with the GNU licenses, while still trying to make everybody's life easier on the support side of things...
      • by Anonymous Coward
        The funny thing about "compliance" is that you are only in compliance when you meet all the requirements. LGPL does not give an exception to LGPL Section 6 requirements to statically link binaries just because a dynamically linked one exists. Prominent notice was still required for the statically linked work and not given. During execution the statically linked work display copyright notices without including the copyright notice for the Library among them. The availablity of dynamic use of glibc does not provide compliance for the statically linked binaries. The statically linked works is not in compliance with LGPL Section 6 and is still be redistributed without permission provided by the license and is still a copyright violation.
  • by hyrdra (260687) on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @02:59AM (#2918277) Homepage Journal
    IMO, the real reason for cheat detection is not because of some moral reason to stop cheaters, but because of laziness.

    What I'm getting at is really, how many professors actually look at the code to a program and not just run it to make sure it does what it's supposed to do? I had a CS teacher once tell everyone to make sure we output to a file so he could run the programs in batches and compare the outputs to what should be the output easily. Then he would run the source through a cheat detector and viola, he's done for the night.

    I'm not saying professors are lazy, but programming is a rare example where this kind of detection could proove useful because often times it doesn't matter what the source of a program is, how poor or good it is, just that it does what you want it to do. This may seem like bad engineering, but its a real life fact in CS. English teachers are required to read the papers of their students -- thus they'll know a cheater off bat. But CS professors are not held to the same requirements, or let alone standards.

    The problem with computer cheat detection is that there is, currently, no match for human cheat detection. You don't hear of a cheat detection system for English papers, why for CS?

    The solution I think will be to have professors that actually go through the source code of each student. A particular case that I know of is a professor that would go through a project and comment on the source line by line, right along with your comments with things like "Good idea, great OOP use." or something like "You might try a linked list like this...". Not only was this invaluable assistance leading to better programmers, it was VERY easy to spot cheaters, because...he actually checked the source.

    Why am I saying cheat detection is bad? Well, I'm certainly not a cheater. I know of several people who love CS -- not for actually liking programming, but for rushing through with assignments and turning them over to those who are helplessly lost for a quick profit. I don't like cheat detection because it not only can implicate those who don't cheat, but it allows professors to be lazy. If I was a suit at a university, I would bet on the professor I mentioned earlier who goes through source commenting than one who analyzes outputs and then runs the source through the latest cheatdetect.pl script.
    • You don't hear of a cheat detection system for English papers

      No, they have those too. The prof requires all papers to be submitted by email, and the software searches through all of them to check for papers with long strings that are identical. Anything that shows up over the "similarity threshold" is flagged as possible plagerism. I hear on the first test of the software they found several students in a large class had copied papers or sections of papers off eachother. This software is useful because in a large class (200+) the papers won't all be read by the same grad students so the "human cheat detection" wouldn't always work.

      The lesson is here if you plan to copy either someone's paper or their source code, make sure to make tiny modifications all through it so it doesn't get caught by the software. ;-) I guess you could just do you own work, but defeating the cheat detect software might be a more interesting challange than many of the CS assignments I've seen...
    • Don't forget, it can take a long time to read through and understand code that even you have written, let alone what someone else has done and not commented. If the students can be lazy and cheat, then surely the proffs. can be lazy and use software....
    • The solution I think will be to have professors that actually go through the source code of each student.

      You've never taught at a University, have you?

      Speaking as one who has, forget it. It's simply not possible for the prof to do it alone. Grading 50 students in an advanced chemistry class took several days per assignment. I didn't even attempt it in my general chem courses with anywhere from 180-700 students- everything was graded automatically.

      Sure, you can get TAs to do it, but now you open a bigger can of worms since they won't grade equally, and if you give each TA a single assignment it will take them weeks to get it done for a typical intro class of 200.

      The idea of hand-grading is wonderful, until you're the hand grader. You can't imagine how mind-numbing it is.

      Eric

"The pyramid is opening!" "Which one?" "The one with the ever-widening hole in it!" -- The Firesign Theatre

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