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Mysteries Of The CDRW and Backups Revealed 231

Talinom writes "Tom's Hardware has a story that details information regarding some of the new (and old) copy protection schemes out there, as well as results from several different CDRW drives. There are a lot of sites devoted to this topic, but Tom's is usually rather thorough."
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Mysteries Of The CDRW and Backups Revealed

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  • by rice_burners_suck ( 243660 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @06:59PM (#3718732)

    There are so many different copy protection schemes out there. Some are really simple, like throwing some file in an obscure directory on the user's hard disk. Others are really complicated, involving the detection of various debuggers that might be present and working around them in such ways that the software can't be broken.

    When it comes down to it, copy protection is just like system security. In system security, as we all know, the programmers have to find security holes before the 1337z h4x0rz do, and close those holes. (Remembering to enjoy a Negra Modelo after each security hole is closed.) Similarly, copy protection is a war between the implementer and the hacker. The only difference between copy protection and security is that the roles are reversed: In security, the implementer is the good guy and the h4x0r is the bad guy. In copy protection, the implementer is the evil force and the h4x0r who breaks it is the good guy. That's a fact, and breaking of copy protection should be rewarded with large sums of money by the implementer. Call it a sort of fine on copy protection that doesn't work. In other words, anybody who implements copy protection will eventually go bankrupt because it will get broken eventually.

    • by SystemFork ( 578511 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @07:06PM (#3718775)
      Agreed wholeheartedly.

      Crackers just disassemble the .exe file of most programs and remove the copy protection check on a assembly language level. It's quite clever how they go about it, sometimes. New schemes always seem to get defeated within days of release.

      The only copy protection I've ever seen that actually worked was the CD-Key method for online games. If your game didn't have a valid CD-Key, then you were denied access to multiplayer, it was checked against the server so the checking routine was unassailable. Even a key generator didn't work because the producers of the game knew which keys they had released, and which ones they hadn't.

      And they had your IP address if you tried war-dialing CD codes.

      Clever as hell.
      • by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @07:46PM (#3718966) Homepage Journal
        "Crackers just disassemble the .exe file of most programs and remove the copy protection check on a assembly language level. It's quite clever how they go about it, sometimes. New schemes always seem to get defeated within days of release."

        I read an article on 'Spyro the Dragon' in Game Developer Magazine. The company that made that game had an amusing protection scheme: They performed several checks in the game for copy protection code. If one of them changed, then one of the 'keys' that the main character (in the game...) had to find would disappear, preventing the player from progressing to the next level.

        This meant that whoever was working on cracking the game had to play the game, level by level, and check for stuff that was missing. Heh.

        It took them an entire month to get the game fully cracked. That's all the team really needed because that's about as long as a game lasts on the shelf. (I think it was for PC, not PSOne...) Any longer than that, and the copy protection wasn't really benefiting them a whole lot.

        Personally, I find this story entertaining because I can imagine the crackers were tearing their hair out. Heh.

        Security by Annoyance.
        • Ooga Booga for Dreamcast had something sortof like that, but easier to crack. See, if it detected that you were using a burned copy of the game, it would instead of starting, display a dancing pirate (one ofthe characters from the game) with the words "PIRACY DETECTED" over its head.

          Needless to say, the DC group that cracked it (I can't remember if it was Echelon or someone else) left the pirate in, because it was absolutely hilarious, and made a bypass for it.
        • by ergo98 ( 9391 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @08:41PM (#3719259) Homepage Journal
          On a similar theme, the game Operation Flashpoint [flashpoint1985.com] has a system they called "FADE", wherein a detected bootleg copy would lead to the player's weapons being much less effective. This is a brilliant strategy given how suggestive human beings are: Even for the times when a dupe is a 1:1 100% perfect copy, a less than skillful player will be sure that the real reason that they aren't hitting the enemy is because of FADE kicking in in the background.
          • That's funny! Hacking the psyche for copy prevention. Comes with a bonus though. Beat the game, then make a copy and beat it again!

            Seriously though, this sort of thing is a whole lot better than all of the error-prone annoying hardware schemes.

        • Not much to say really, but if anyone is interested, here's the link to the article about Spyro - it's a great read. Here it is. [gamasutra.com]

    • The other difference is that once a hole is found in a system, it can be patched.

      Once you've shipped some physical object and the security on it has been breached, you are up a creek!

      One of the best scheme's I've heard of is one where there was a way of spoofing certain keys. The implementer knew this and when one of these hacked keys were entered it turned on the "RANDOM BUG" boolean, which would drop things mid process, panic your machine, etc. etc. He was quite smug when he thought of this.

      I don't think he could get a patent on it. I think the BSOD is an example of prior art!
      • 3D studio max had a similar implementation. They had the dongle pci card protection that the software communicated with to make sure it was legit. Well the crackers just started removing the references to that hardware. 3.0 (i believe) was released and cracked shortly after. About 3-4 weeks after the pirated release on the internet. Hundreds of users started showing up on the 3d forums asking about degrading models. They missed a portion of the copy protection that would end up slowly destorying the models. a few polygons here and there. Kind of a funny and a really impressive solution (technologically and creative wise)
    • by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @07:31PM (#3718901) Homepage Journal
      I personally use www.gamecopyworld.com [gamecopyworld.com] to download nocd patches. Why would I put a cd in when the game is fully installed? To make the game company happy? Um, no.

      BTW, Still have to buy the game to play online, which is really the point. So even if I use nocd patches, I couldnt play-online without a legal serial.
    • by ergo98 ( 9391 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @08:49PM (#3719278) Homepage Journal
      People who break copy protection are "good guys"? Sorry, but as the kind of guy who goes down to EB every month or so to help support my fellow programmer for their efforts and ingenuity, I'm not going to be in line to give them a pat on the back, just as I'm not out there looking to give accolades to people cheating on welfare or collecting fraudulent compensation claims : Theft is theft.

      Having said that, the comparison between security and copy protection is brutally flawed at the outset. Security is to avoid ANY intrusions, copy protection is to avoid MOST intrusions. This is a vast chasm of difference that many people with very juvenile thought processes fail to get on Slashdot. To put it into expanded form: Copy protection is meant to make it inconvenient for the casual "pirate", to the point that they're more likely to just buy a copy rather than screw with 20 different burning softwares, or downloading cracks from the warez sites (indeed, I would say that virus' and trojan horses have done software vendors more of a favour than they could ever imagine: I know a lot of former pirates who won't touch anything that isn't on a retail shelf anymore). Copy protection NEVER has to be absolute to be effective.
  • by Dr. Eric Peters ( 586095 ) <peterse@princeton.edu> on Monday June 17, 2002 @06:59PM (#3718736) Homepage
    Yes, I still remember with horror the "good old" copy protections some amiga games compaines made. Non-dos disks that made the entire amiga shake as the disk drive desperately tried to read the crypted disk. The sound resembled snoring and could be heard miles away.

    I had a friend who couldn't play some games late at night because the drive woke up his parents! Some games could not even be loaded on older drives because of the "shaking". In addition the disks also came with a nonstandard bootblock making all anti-virus software go mad and easy for viruses to destroy the game.

    My drive finally gave up the ghost after a few years playing with them copyprotected games. The same fate happened to all my amiga friends at one point. Some were lucky to still have the commodore warranty still valid. Others had to fork out a fair amount.I was one of the lucky.

    I myself, being a flightsim nut, used to play Falcon. Unfortunately it came with such a nifty copy protection that not even X-copy could make a backup. As a result I lost the game one day when the disk, despite good care, became corrupted. Unable to find a pirate copy I was (and still am) without a good game I paid honest money for. Sadly, I also bought F16 Combat pilot and the same thing happend to that one. Backup could not be made. The disk became corrupted....

    Fortunately a friend of mine had a cracked version... I have yet to see a pirate suffer from a protection that is impossible to crack. The only suffering has been done by the owners of originals ( I am refering strictly to the owners of amiga non-dos copy protected games that were so common in those days).

    These problems persist into today. Another friend of mine lost a hard drive and blames SafeDisc copy protection on a recent game for it.

    So, can anyone here, with hand on heart, really say those copy protections did more good than harm?
    • You're talking about the gronk noise - its got its own entry in the jargon file.

      gronk [tuxedo.org]

      I think it has more to do with the fact more Amiga's used Chinon floppy drives which are noisy as it is, but also most amigas don't have that sringly door flap on them - which just makes them noisier.
    • by vsprintf ( 579676 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @08:14PM (#3719117)

      Yes, I remember Falcon. The disks didn't just get corrupted by themselves. The instructions told you to make a copy of the diskette and only run from the copy because the program had to write game data to the diskette--and just in case it became corrupted, which it did with regularity.

      After dealing with many corrupted disks, I spent weeks disassembling likely sections of code. (I was pissed and had plenty of free time :) )

      Eventually I found a section of code that wrote three bytes into a block of data, modified a couple of bytes of code that had just executed and branched back on itself.

      The self-modified code now jumped into the data, which, with the changes, was now valid code, and there it was, the code that hosed the floppy.

      I never played the game after that. Knowing that they were deliberately destroying my data made it impossible to get into the game again.

    • You think that's bad? Imagine doing tech support for the companies that wrote those games! I still have nightmares: Customer: My Lemmings won't go!
      Me: Oh, you've hit the "paws" button, ha ha!
      Customer: No, I click on the Lemmings and nothing happens!
      Me: Hrm... what kind of sound card do you have?
      Customer: I think it's a Cadillac.
      Me: I see. Do you have the disk in the drive?
      Customer: I don't know, this thing says it needs two Emm Bee of Arr Ay Emm, but I only have eight of my hard drive! And there's something about DOS, but I don't speak Spanish!
      Me: Oh, are you running Windows?
      Customer: No, I'm at work.
      Me: What do you see on your screen right now?
      Customer: It says "please insert disk 1 into your floppy drive."
      Me: Ahh. Let's try inserting disk 1 into your floppy drive.
      Customer: Hang on... [interminable pause] The computer doesn't like it.
      Me: Doesn't like it?!?
      Customer: It spit it back out.
      Me: Hrm, sounds like a defective disk. What does it say on the label?
      Customer: It says "Lemmings Disk 1."
      Me: Aha! Turn the disk around 180 degrees, then stick it into your computer again.
      Customer: Oooohhhh!
      Me: So it's working now?
      Customer: Yes! No, now it says it can't find disk 1. That's funny, 'cos it worked for my friend who I copied it from!
      Me: Arrrrrrrgh!

      And those were the *good* conversations. The bad ones involved many more expletives. The really bad ones involved expletives and tricky level 19 (for those of you still stuck there, buy my damn book!).
    • A quick look on my favorite "Abandonware" sites shows no copy of the first Falcon game. Probably due to their method of intentional floppy corruption as copy protection...

      However, take solace in your free copy of the third version of the series, Falcon 3.0:

  • Just the idea of having something available easily, and fully usable- but not able to be copied is somewhat absurd. If something is readable, then it is copyable. I can't see any way to really stop people from copying things.

    The most effective copy protections that I have seen, dealt having to be online to use the product effectively (Halflife) and having an individual serial # for it. Of course, it doesn't always work, but it's better than most.

    The other good protections that I have seen dealt with having to enter in words from the pages of the instruction manual (which could be defeated by copying the whole manual...) but most people didn't go and copy a 100 page manual.

    Overall, i think it's an uphill battle. Any protection will be cracked quickly. Perhaps they should try better (128 bit) encryption instead of weak ones, a la CSS. Who knows... perhaps it should just be open source ...

    • I was just remembering those old C64 game manuals that had a code word at the bottom of each page that you had to enter every time you started the program. I seem to remember that a couple even had some sort of mylar overlay that would "decode" a hidden code word on the page (this was copy protection of the copy protection, in order to prevent photocopying!) That sort of thing would be so easily defeated with the internet now. A text file of page numbers and corresponding code words would be all you need... in fact, I think that some of these were traded on BBS's for the oldschool games, come to think of it...
    • If something is readable, then it is copyable. I can't see any way to really stop people from copying things.
      Well, there are two things that need to be possible to copy stuff - reading you mentioned, but obviously you also need to be able to write the stuff you read. That's the approach many protections take, including the Amiga disk rattling protection someone else mentioned as well as the modern SafeDisk et al protections which are only possible to copy using certain writers, or - as always - using a crack. The latter, indeed, is practically always possible, as long as don't have to rely on other people (as is the case with multiplayer key protections).
      The other good protections that I have seen dealt with having to enter in words from the pages of the instruction manual (which could be defeated by copying the whole manual...) but most people didn't go and copy a 100 page manual.
      Err ... that doesn't help at all. Cracking that kind of a protection (without any further means) isn't a problem even for an assembly novice, or even someone clueless with the help of a tutorial.
      The fact that this kind of protection is easy to defeat even for people without access to cracks, by simply copying a manual or writing down the relevant keywords doesn't exactly speak for it.
      Perhaps they should try better (128 bit) encryption instead of weak ones, a la CSS. Who knows... perhaps it should just be open source ...
      Content encryption a la CSS used on DVDs isn't the same as the copy protection of games ... maybe similar concepts apply, but I doubt it.
    • The other good protections that I have seen dealt with having to enter in words from the pages of the instruction manual (which could be defeated by copying the whole manual...) but most people didn't go and copy a 100 page manual.

      No, those aren't so good. I hacked around one of those in an old D&D-style game on Macintosh II Cx owned by a guy down the hall back in college.

      The "copy protection" was like this: Every time you wanted to cross a bridge, you had to answer a question, 'ere the other side you see. (No flying into the chasm if you got it wrong, though. You just couldn't cross) Well, it had a list of words, paired up with Page 37 word 5 and such. There were maybe 200 choices. What the program did was to look at what you typed in, and then look up the right answer based on page (x) word (y).

      My simple hack was to populate the field where you type in the word with the answer the program looks up one line later to see if you got it right. It worked AND you got to see what the word was, which I think was useful somewhere else in the game.

      I think I did this using (pirated) Norton DiskDoctor and MacsBug, but there might have been some other coding apps involved. It was *really* easy, a fun project for a few hours spread out over a few nights.

      That mac (and his roommate's mac, and playing Oids, and Spectre over appletalk) is why my GPA plummeted from 3.3 to 1.6 in my second semester. I only wish I'd stayed with coding, now I can't code hello world unless it's in HTML. Such is the life of the Microsoft Certified Professional.

      I wish terrorism would hurry up and surrender.
  • *Whoosh* (Score:4, Funny)

    by decipher_saint ( 72686 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @07:00PM (#3718740)
    Scientists are baffled by the seemingly improbable disappearance of Tom's Hardware from reality.

    The RIAA is quoted as saying:"There is no spoon"
  • the only way to... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TweeKinDaBahx ( 583007 ) <tweek@n[ ]edu ['mt.' in gap]> on Monday June 17, 2002 @07:00PM (#3718742) Homepage Journal
    keep copies protected is to not give them out.

    Maybe these companies should stop selling the programs entirely. That would stop the piracy.
  • I agree that they should take off the protection in case we want to make back ups or the ability for the cd rom to read it in my box. But then again, lotsa people burn em and give em away to friends. Even my parents...(i trained em well, the never question why my 2400 baud apple modem burned out every 3 months or my collection of 500 f 1/4 floppies with software). I have been looking around alot and with all my computerphile colleagues and friends in and out of the industry(and it is a broad spectrun indeed) is one common scenario. phone rings" Dude, wazzzup?" "Wazzup?" "You got the new(insert music or software" "No man, been meaning to check it out." "Dont sweat it, I'll burn it bro" Happens all the time, and more frequently with everyone I know in our beloved industry. We all do it. We all vehemently deny it. Cuz I know after this post there will be ten posts vehemently denying it. What can we do?
    • It always cracks me up how everyone here takes the moral high ground and denies that they've ever Kazaa'd Photoshop for their own personal home use. It's kinda like the guys that used to take a couple of days off from work to go see a Dead or Phish show, then came back on Monday morning and tried to act like they didn't puff the magic dragon over the weekend. Riiiight...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Friends don't give friends proprietary software.

      I only distribute Free Software to my friends.
    • the animation people (ILM, Disney etc) all pirate software. lately that really high end stuff has been becoming affordable for the noncommercial user. But they had no option in the past. they needed to learn and become better, and not pay more than their car cost for a program. There companies obvisousely had legit copies
      • The animation people (ILM, Disney etc) all pirate software.

        Actually, they don't. I've sold into that market, and piracy hasn't been a problem with the major studios. Since animation houses tend to want features added to the big animation packages, there are often people on-site from the vendor. This keeps piracy down. Some of the smaller effects houses have trouble coming up with a credit card number that won't bounce, though.

  • Especially the ones that you can defeat with Post-It (tm) or a permanent marker (German). Brings back memories of the Old Times when phreakers hacked phone lines by whistling connection tones...
  • Tom's Hardware (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sivar ( 316343 ) <charlesnburns[ AT ]gmail DOT com> on Monday June 17, 2002 @07:09PM (#3718788)
    "Tom's is usually rather thorough."

    Yes, Tom's Hardware is usually thorough, but it is also usually thoroughly wrong--at least, the reviews written by other than Tom. Read through them. Look at the numbers shown on, say, the CPU articles and see if they have anything to do with the conclusion. I'm serious--not trolling (at least, not intentionally :)
    • Agreed fully, I stopped reading completely when I got to the FUD campain about software Pirates (ARRGGH!) and the poor record compaines and their huge decline in sales..

      Sorry, but any site that repeats those lies loses any and all credibility.... as if Tom's hardware had any credibility to begin with...

      In today's day and age, I expect to read about hardware, not political opinions (as if anyone believe's anything that is spewed forth from any corperation today anyways...)
  • Moot Point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by echucker ( 570962 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @07:10PM (#3718796) Homepage
    99% of the people who want copies of software don't have to worry about copy protection- someone else has broken it for them.

    They merely need to use their P2P client of choice to download a cracked image of the CDs.
  • Remember last April when Andreessen said "If a computer can see it, display it and play it -- it can copy it,..."

    Article found here [siliconvalley.com].

    As Dan Briklin [bricklin.com] says "With ever changing technology, in order to preserve many works we will need to constantly move them ahead, copying them to each new media form before the previous one becomes obsolete. Also, as we create new media, we need to preserve the knowledge of the methods of converting from one media to another, so we can still access the old works that have not yet been moved ahead. This is crucial. Without this information, even preserved works could be unreadable.

    The most famous example of that type of translation information was an inscribed slab of rock from 196 BC found in 1799. It contained a decree written in Greek that was also written in two forms of Egyptian. It's called the Rosetta Stone. It let scholars finally read ancient works in hieroglyphics that they had physical possession of but whose language had been a mystery for 1,400 years (despite being common for the 3,500 years before being superseded). Cuneiform, a form of writing used by many ancient civilizations, was similarly opaque to scholars until they found a text in multiple languages carved into a cliff -- the Behistun inscription."
    • The duplication of information isn't at stake here. What is at stake is HOW we are allowed to copy information.

      What copy protection attempts to do is to limit HOW you are able to copy data. Copy protection attempts to limit you in such a way that any duplication would be too costly, too time consuming or too laborious to be attempted on a large scale. It is the copyright owner's attempt to prevent redistribution that would cause financial losses to their property.

      I personally don't like the idea of draconian copy protection. I think that a lot of people are downright horrified that their livelyhood is in jeopardy and new copy protection schemes are the result of this fear. It is complete overreaction on behalf of the media industry.

      At the same time, I'm not too worried though. Where there is a will, theres a way. If I want to copy data and I'm willing to spend the time/money/energy to do so, there is no 100% way to stop me.
      • What copy protection attempts to do is to limit HOW you are able to copy data. Copy protection attempts to limit you in such a way that any duplication would be too costly, too time consuming or too laborious to be attempted on a large scale.

        But that isn't what usually happens. What it does, is prevent the home user from making a copy of CD to use in the car, but those wanting to make copies on a large scale have the resources to find away around the protection.
  • Tom's? "thorough"? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Namarrgon ( 105036 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @07:12PM (#3718807) Homepage
    "...Tom's is usually rather thorough."

    So you say, but I certainly haven't seen any evidence of this, not in the last 3 years.

    Before then, THG was one of the better sites on the web (that I knew about at least). Now I will only go there if I'm really bored or looking for a laugh. www.tech-report.com [tech-report.com], www.aceshardware.com [aceshardware.com] or www.realworldtech.com [realworldtech.com] are SO much more informed.

    • When the headlines and the photos take up more space than the article itself, something is clearly not quite right.

      When I go there I'm always half-expecting to see a half-naked girl holding a CPU (ATHLON 2300+ HOTTER THAN HOT - WE PROVE HOW AMD'S NEW CPU CAN SET FIRE TO YOUR HOUSE - DOWNLOAD OUR 745 MB VIDEO).

      P.S. - To your list of reliable sites I'd add Anandtech [anandtech.com]. Yes, the articles are 20 pages long and each page only has about 5 sentences, but they are usually objective and well-written.

      • Yeah, Anandtech is pretty good.

        If you want to read the whole article on one page you can either use the "print the article" option, where it removes the ads and concatenates it, or modify the URL...

        http://www.anandtech.com/guides/showdoc.html?i=1 63 8
        http://www.anandtech.com/printarticle. html?i=1638

        Change "showdoc" into "printarticle" and remove the directory, if there is one. You can also trim the ?page=xx if you wish, but that's optional.
  • In tom's review, clonecd was not able to handle the safedisk 2.51 (the disk2 cd) copy protection. If you check the clone cd compatibility page ( http://elby.ch/english/products/clone_cd/writers/ L.html ), you'll notice a "correct efm encoding" heading. Any burner that has two stars (well actually sheep) under this heading can handle safedisk 2.51 with no problems WITHOUT the use of clonecd's amplify weak sector feature, as the burner itself handles this at a hardware level. I have personally tested this on my computer, backing up Medal of Honor, using a liteon 163-dvd drive as the source drive and a liteon 24102b as the writer. I used Clone Cd 4.013. Tom's also used a liteon 24102b and was unable to copy safedisk 2.51 . I am not sure what they did wrong, but i suspect the source drive might of been the problem.
    • I also managed to copy CD2 of MoHAA with no problems... Can't remember if I used my CD-ROM drive (some cheapy brand... maybe Delta) or my Plextor 8432T burner as the source, and obviously I used the Plextor to burn the image.

      Forget which version of CloneCD I used, too... my system's been through a format & reinstall since then. Point is, I had no problems copying the CD either...

      - Jester
    • Maybe slightly OT, but how well does dd measure up to apps like clonecd? Any one tried to copy these disks in linux?

      BTW, Even on disks I have purchaced, I have a habit of copying them to a custom cd I make along with the latest patches and game cracks under a /addons dir. In this way, 3 years from now when I want to play a game, I don't have to hunt down patches and the like. The only reason I have to put the crack in there is because the games won't play on my backup disks.
  • Plextor and CloneCD (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dlur ( 518696 )

    My Plextor [plextor.com] CDRW drives coupled up with CloneCD [elby.ch] has yet to fail me in making "personal backups" of any Audio of Game CD that I've purchased.

    • Same here (Plexwriter 10/12/32A).

      The great thing about Plextors insn't the reading, though, it's the writing. I've never seen a CD burned in a Plextor fail anywhere. Which is more than I can say for a lot of other drives I've tried (Philips, HP, Sony, etc.), regardless of the CD-R brand.

      Here's a table comparing the BLER (block error) ratio of several CD writers:

      http://www.digit-life.com/articles/cdrw5/ [digit-life.com]

  • ...what CD has TAGES on it.
  • I know this may seem just a tad off topic, but I've read a ton of articles at Tom's Hardware, and I think I must mention something about the format of his web site. I don't particularly like that articles are split into a number of pages, and you have to wait for each one to load. Why can't the whole article be on the same page. Download it once, and read the whole thing from beginning to end. I believe that is the better way to do it, as it reduces the number of requests to the web server, and allows you to save an entire article for later reading, when you're possibly disconnected from the network.

    As far as this particular article is concerned, I think it's quite detailed, and I like that. It's all about reading about the old technologies that made the computing industry what it is today. Makes me want to have a Negra Modelo.

  • by zulux ( 112259 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @07:48PM (#3718972) Homepage Journal

    Next Page-->
    to Toms Harware where we
    Next Page -->
    Discuss the new anti copying
    Next Page -->
    schemes that affect your CD-R


    Spock I never (pause) wanted (pause) you to dress (pause) like a (pause) tribble (pause) and tracktor beam (pause) me from behind (pause) you burning hulk (pause) of Vulcan (pause) man meat

  • by Dr_Marvin_Monroe ( 550052 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @07:53PM (#3718996)
    Remember "CIA", "Disk Assassin" and even "Copy II+".....wow, that cool new color copy program on Tom's sure takes me back....all those cool things...like modified TOC's....Half tracks....Modified sector headers....having to use the nibble editor.....

    [salty sea pirate mode]
    ....there beeeen pirates in these waters since there was waters.....
    [/salty sea pirate mode]
    • > Remember Copy II+"

      What, no mention of COPYA, Muffin, Disk Muncher or Locksmith ? ;-)

      I still remember how Copy ][+ had 1 BIG sector on tracks 2 and 3. The thing loaded *FAST*.

      "Cracking Techniques" was a bunch of text files describing how to break each game protection. It even had a 'tut on Copy ][+. Copy the ROM over to the language card. Modify the RAM so that reset would enter the "monitor" (built in disassembler on the Apple), and then finally make the 16K language read only. Copy ][+ never checked for the language card, so voila, you had a memory image. Moving the memory down so that DOS 3.3 wouldn't clobber it, and then BSAVE COPY ][+, A$800,L$8E00 :) (Dos3.3 started at 0x9600)

      > all those cool things...like modified TOC's....

      Sad, that I still remember that the DOS3.3 TOC was on track 17 after all these years. I like how some games would embed control-chars in the filename.

      My 8-bit Apple had 20 character filenames. Who's the dumbass that limits filenames to 8.3 in CPM and MSDOS ?

      > Half tracks....

      The Apple drive was actually capable of 1/4 tracks. I believe Broderbund games made use of it. Write a small section on track 0. Increment to track 1/4, write another small section. Repeat. Normally, tracks were 4 quarter tracks apart, due to interference from data written on quarter tracks.

      > Modified sector headers....

      The thing that made Apple games disk so much fun to backup was that the drive couldn't write 2 consequetive zeros (aside from Sync Bytes, which was 0xFF, followed by two zero bits.) Ah, the days of 5+3 (13 sector tracks) and 6+2 encoding (16 sector tracks). For 6+2, you expand a sector of 256 bytes out to 384 bytes.)
      Some interesting technical info here http://www.enteract.com/~enf/afc/apple2 [enteract.com]

      Little bit of history here http://apple2history.org/history/ah15.html [apple2history.org]

      Then someone figured out that you *could* write a few "illegal" bytes, such as C5.

      > having to use the nibble editor

      Copy ][+ had a ton of options for it's nibble editor. And if you still couldn't make a backup, there was always the option of boot tracing the program. Remember how the first sector had to be delimited by D5 AA 96 because thats what the Disk Prom checked for.

      Some interesting cracking technique from yore:

      Wildcard and Replay were 2 interesting products. They generated a NMI and let you enter the disassembler. I wanted one, but found out that I didn't really need one after I learnt about that language card trick.

      The other trick to "stop" a game, was to search for 30 C0, since that was the address of the speaker! (I was *so* thankfull Copy ][+ ver 7 added a search bytes function!) Change a few bytes, and now the game will stop when it tries to play a sound. ;-)

  • Ever since I got an 80 gig hard drive. I just burn CloneCD images of games I buy and use Daemontools to create a near foolproof virtual CD drive with which to run the game. I don't look around for CDs anymore, I just select the image from the menu and off I go.

    The downside is that it takes about twice the space because the install program usually installs the whole kit and kaboodle and then you've got the CD image.

    It works over great over LANs too. We put images of commonly used network games(starcraft, red alert 2) on a simple fileserver(my old P-75 w/6 gig HD). Whenever my roommates and I want to play a game, we all point to the same CD image on a network drive and off we go. No digging up CDs or anything. Most times, the games just check the image on startup and never look at it again so the server doesn't get overworked or anything.
  • I suggest... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by linuxpng ( 314861 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @09:02PM (#3719344)
    Using an Apple. Since Apple will not allow copy restricting software into their machines. Good or bad, you can at least make legit copies of your software with zero issues.
    • Re:I suggest... (Score:2, Informative)

      Rubbish. In the ten or fifteen years I've been using audio software on the Mac, practically all of it has been copy-protected. The protection used to be all floppy-disk-based, with special bad sectors to indicate the keys, and this only went out of vogue when Macs ceased to have floppy drives, and then only under protest from the vendors (some of whom, until relatively recently, instructed users to buy USB external floppy drives to authorise their software).

      These days, vendors use machine-specific licence keys generated via a challenge/response system. So, you can backup your software against distribution media failure, but you're potentially screwed if you lose the hard disk because any replacement disk will have a different protection key, and you'll need to convince the vendor that, yes, your disk is dead (or that you've upgraded your machine) rather than wanting to give the software to a friend.

  • Anyone else remember the dark red code sheets that came with the original Simcity? They were dark red to prevent photocopying. You had to match the symbols with the population and give them the name of the city (I think).

    My Grandfather had a copy of the game that we both wanted so my grandmother and I spend an afternoon copying the damn sheet out onto graph paper. It was like a game then (I was...12?). I wouldn't be caught dead doing that now.

    I find it interesting that when Maxis rereleased the game on CD they killed the protection. I almost would've liked them to include it for the history of it. Almost.

    • Ah, memories. Funny thing is that this only worked on black and white copies. They came out solid black. But a color copy worked just fine, and only $5 a sheet back in the day.

      As long as we're on memory lane, I remember tweaking my city to the hilt until I had to go to sleep, then checking in the morning to make sure it survived the night alone and then after school revamping and expanding the place with all the money and population it racked up while it was running all day.

    • The original civilization game had you go look up a symbol from the pages of the manual (which was pretty thick..it would've cost an arm and a leg to copy) every once in awhile

      Back in the early 90s alot of games used the 'look on page so-and-so in the manual and complete the phrase' method of protection.

      • Circa 1995 I bought a PC game, I think it was Alone in the Dark. It came with a stack of these special cards. They were about the same size and material as playing cards, but they had rows and columns of abstract symbols in various colors. Each card also had a few holes punched out in random locations, and each card was numbered. The game would ask you to put card X on top of card Y and then enter the symbol that was visible at a certain row and column location. I can't remember how elaborate the procedure was but I do remember that it was not too cumbersome.

        This certainly falls in the category of "certainly not impossible to duplicate but would be a real pain in the ass."

        I also remember buying the game Serf City (around 95-96) and it came with a page full of symbols, and when you ran the game it displayed a palette of these glyphs and you had to enter the proper sequence from the specified location on the sheet of paper. The funny thing was that the game came with this sheet of codes as a PDF file on the CD! The game had been out for a while when I bought it, and it had apparently just been re-released on CD. (This was around the time when getting games on CD was still new.) I'm assuming the original packaging came with a manual that had these codes in a photocopier-unfriendly manner, but the game had been repackaged for the bargain bins as just a jewel case/CD, no manual. They didn't want to rewrite the game to remove the protection so they just included it as a PDF file on the CD.
      • The symbols in Civilization were icons for different technology advances, and you were asked which earlier advances you need to research the advance the icon stood for. The funny thing is, after a while you knew what all the icons meant, and you knew what technology advances were needed, without looking in the manual.

        Goddess, I must've spent thousands of hours playing that game.
    • Re:Sim City (Score:2, Funny)

      by (trb001) ( 224998 )
      By far the most annoying (and probably best) copy protections were for Empire and Bard's Tale III. Empire had you look up words in the manual (120+ pages) and enter the xth word on line y.

      Bard's Tale III had a code wheel...with three wheels and around 20 entries per, with cutouts that showed through...truly annoying, but the best part was that they didn't ask you for it until, like, 5 hours into the game, so you could be playing for awhile and then start cursing them.

  • by symbolic ( 11752 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @09:18PM (#3719412)
    I purchased a product called the Opcode Sequencer (some early MIDI fans might recognize this). It had one of the most obnoxious schemes I've seen. First, it limited you to two installs. After that, either the master floppy had to be in the drive, or you weren't going to be using the software. I think Performer used something similar for a while (and it still may). I was never one for actively trying to circumvent copy protection for the purpose of using software without paying for it, but it really ticked me off that companies made it overly difficult to use the software that you HAD paid for. In this light, I was glad to see that someone had hacked thorugh this particular scheme. Legitimate owners should not have to worry about this kind of nonsense.
  • by RelliK ( 4466 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @10:06PM (#3719643)
    I can't stand the expression "copy protection". It is the propaganda slogan dreamed up by the RIAA/MPAA. You see, the so-called "copy protection" does not atually "protect" anything -- it prevents you from copying. The proper term, then, is copy control. Of course the word "control" doesn't have nice ring to it. RIAA/MPAA much prefers the word "protection", just like mafia likes to call their racket and extortion a "protection".

    I personally call it copy prevention since it describes the technology in question and has the same acronym. Every time I read the term "copy protection", I cringe. Just count the number of times it's been used in the article...

  • while i generally subscribe to the "if you build it, they will crax0r it" school of thought, as far as i know bleemcast (bleem for dreamcast) was never successfully cracked. i don't know all the details of it's protection scheme (i haven't kept track of "the scene" in a while), but as i remember it involved tons and tons of bad sectors that rendered it practically impossible to copy.
    i'm sure someone else knows/will correct me if i'm wrong...
  • With regard to the review, it was ok, but really did little except sell the cheap sleeper drive over the more expensive ones....

    I think we need copy prevention for games. Not so much with online ones though because you can do things at the server that discourage casual copies. (Flame suit on :)

    However, I also demand the ability to make backups, or take advantage of the hardware I own. (Putting several games onto DVD, or HardDisk really should be possible.)

    So given the cost reductions in media production today, why not offer people a choice?

    If you purchase the game through your standard shrink wrap vendor, then you get to live with the copy prevention methods. Same battle different day.

    If you purchase from the publishing house directly, or better yet the game developers, you get unencumbered media with a catch:

    Your name and address becomes part of the game as they burn a copy for you on demand. You get to make any copies you want, and they get to know if you start distributing them irresponsibly.

    I did this long ago with a utility program I wrote for CADKEY. (Ez-Shapes BTW.) I did put a lot of time into the program and wanted my return, but also did not want to invest a lot more into something that had very little to do with my program just to get that return. Why? Lets just say that copy prevention schemes have caused me enough grief in the past that I did not want to be associated with them.

    Each copy went out with the buyers name on it. I figured that the incentive to keep ones name clean was as good as any to prevent copies without undue restrictions on the buyer. I never did encounter how I was going to handle transfers because it never came up, but that could be a concern.

    Maybe a worthy tradeoff though. What if your media was damaged? Since they *know* you are supposed to have it, maybe they can just make another for a small fee.

    Something to think about anyway.

  • It amazes me that for all of our advances in technology over that past 20 years, we are still fighting some of the same battles with the same tactics.

    The tactics I am referring to are, of course, copy protecting the distribution media of the software. 20 years ago it was apple ][ software on floppy disks. The apple ][ disk controller didn't really process the data. It fed the raw flux transitions to the disk operating system. The software for the DOS was contained in the boot sector of each disk. To make a disk difficult to copy, you tweak how the DOS functioned to include things like positioning the heads between tracks or working around intentional imperfections in the disk media. These imperfections would cause errors for the standard DOS read routines, but the modified DOS would know to just skip around certain sectors.

    To combat these and other copy protection schemes, many disk copying programs appear on various BBSs. Over time people built up a list of which copy programs to use against which type of protection scheme.

    In the end, bit by bit copiers could copy most everything that was out there. Over time software publishers went the route of tying software to something that was less easily copyable like a word or number from the paper manual. Just like the licensing schemes of today.

    As time went on, the apple ][ (][+, //c, ...) were superceeded by Macs and PCs. I don't remember if the same issues appeared in software distributed on floppys for PCs; they may have learned something from the earlier apple ][ experience and tied their copy prevention system to something that was distributed in addition to the electronic media.

    From my point of view, we are repeating those same old steps. The difference is that users will probably accept some sort of copy protection scheme for software, such as software activation keys (the shareware world lives on this model). While this model is quite workable for software, it fails miserably when it is applied to pure data such as CDs. CD copying will continue, because it is data and not an executable program which can check for some sort of authentication or activation model.

    Audio CDs are data. I repeat this because that is what sets them apart from software. That is also what sets them apart in the mind of the public.

  • Ah I remember the days. Playing X-Wing on my old (386? 486?)...

    That game had very stupid copy protection. The game would start, and would ask you a question by giving you a symbol that you had to find in the manual and type in its name.

    Of course, one young teenager with a hex-editor (remember Norton DiskEdit?) was easily able to find all of the 'names' in one of the game's data files, and it was rather trivial to replace all of them with a single space. At the time it was all I knew how to do, because it was before my programming days.

    It was quicker to do this than to try to find a crack on the BBSs out there. And yes, I have my own purchased copy of that game - I just hated having to keep flipping through the manual.
  • If only Tom reviewed how well Linux cd recording software (cdrecord, et. al.) fared under the same circumstances...

    Not everyone's primary box is a Windows machine, Taco...

Mathematics is the only science where one never knows what one is talking about nor whether what is said is true. -- Russell