Thursday, April 14, 2011

Dasterdly DRM

It's been about 10 years since the fall on Napster, and about the same since the plague of "DRM" (Digital Rights Management) befell the world of men.

I was stricken with a small infection this weekend when I deigned to entertain myself with a romp in the blight stricken world of Dragon Age: Origins, during the April 9th weekend.
Upon clicking "Load Game" I was presented with a screen that basically said "You can not play your game with legitimately bought Online Content [I got the DA:O Ultimate package for my birthday] until you log in with the account you bought it with."

Problem was, I was already logged in, and logging in again, didn't do the trick.
I had been waiting all week for my free weekend time to enjoy some DA:O, and now some bug with the Bioware's DRM servers was stopping me from playing my 100% legitimately bought game. D:<

Thankfully, after about a good hour of using my crazy computer-nerd skills, I bungled together a simple workaround to play my game. -- Log Off my BioWare account --. Apparently when Bioware's DRM servers are down and you're logged in, you can't play. However if you're logged off regardless of the server state, you can go ahead and play all you want.

I'm guessing pirated copies work by running in logged off mode, or by disabling all the "RequiresAuthorization" values in the "~/Documents/Bioware/Settings/addin.xml" file to "0". Which is what I found out many other legitimate owners of DA:O had to do this past weekend, after I read about it on (DRM-Broke-Dragon-Age-Origins-For-Days). The less stubborn or unlucky DA:O (and even some DA2) players had to go 3 days without playing any Dragon Age, all because of a stupid mistake on Bioware's part. I've also read that BW couldn't even tell there was a major problem going on because there are already so many bugs and calls coming in for DA support, that there wasn't even a noticeable difference in bug reports or complaints!

The outage has passed for now, and I'm not really blogging to whine about how bad or stupid this whole little episode was, I thought I"d take some time to discuss (or at least divulge lots of info) the rise and follies of DRM - Digital Rights Management.

On the other hand, since this is already kinda long, and everybody has short attention spans (especially me), I'm just gonna post links (and maybe summaries) to a bunch of articles proving my point. (Otherwise, this blog will never get finished by my procrastinating-self.)

1. Retailer 'Good Old Games' says DRM drives gamers to piracy:
"Independent retro games retailer Good Old Games has spoken out about digital rights management, saying that it can actually drive gamers to piracy, rather than acting as a deterrent. In an interview, a spokesperson for Good Old Games said that the effectiveness of DRM as a piracy-deterrent was "None, or close to none."

"What I will say isn’t popular in the gaming industry," says Kukawski, 'but in my opinion DRM drives people to pirate games rather than prevent them from doing that. Would you rather spend $50 on a game that requires installing malware on your system, or to stay online all the time and crashes every time the connection goes down, or would you rather download a cracked version without all that hassle?""

2. Stallman: eBooks-Are-Attacking-Our-Freedoms:
"Free software guru Richard Stallman claims consumers should reject eBooks until they 'respect our freedoms.' He highlights the DRM embedded in eBooks sold by Amazon as an example of such restrictions, citing the infamous case of Amazon wiping copies of George Orwell's 1984 from users' Kindles without permission. He also rails against Amazon for forcing people to identify themselves before buying eBooks. His suggested remedy? Distributing tax funds to authors based on their popularity, or 'designing players so users can send authors anonymous voluntary payments.'"

3. Russian-President-Time-To-Reform-Copyright:
"While most of the rest of the world keeps ratcheting up copyright laws by increasing enforcement and terms, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev appears to be going in the other direction. He's now proposing that Russia build Creative Commons-style open and free licenses directly into Russian copyright law. This comes just a few days after he also chided other G8 leaders for their antiquated views on copyright."

4. Copyright-Law-Is-Killing-Science:
"Whereas copyright tends to focus on protecting artists' ability to make money from their work, scientists don't use similar incentives. And yet, her work is often kept within the gates of the ivory tower, reserved for those whose universities or institutions have purchased access, often at high costs. And for science in the age of the internet, which wants ideas to spread as widely as possible to encourage more creativity and development, this isn't just bad: it's immoral."

5. Patch-For-The-Witcher-2-Removes-DRM-Shortly-After-Release
"A little over a week after its release, The Witcher 2 is getting its first patch, and with it all versions of the game will now be DRM free. 'Our approach to countering piracy is to incorporate superior value in the legal version,' explained development director Adam Badowski. 'This means it has to be superior in every respect: less troublesome to use and install, with full support, and with access to additional content and services. So, we felt keeping the DRM would mainly hurt our legitimate users. This is completely in line with what we said before the release of The Witcher 2. We felt DRM was necessary to prevent the game being pirated and leaked before release.'"

6. Apple-Camera-Patent-Lets-External-Transmitters-Disable-Features:
sticks_us writes with news of an Apple patent application, recently published by the USPTO, for an on-board camera system that would include circuitry for processing external infrared signals. The data received from these signals could then be used to present information to the user of the device, or even to modify the device's operation.
"For example, an infrared emitter could be located in areas where picture or video capture is prohibited, and the emitter could generate infrared signals with encoded data that includes commands to disable the recording functions of devices. An electronic device could then receive the infrared signals, decode the data and temporarily disable the device's recording function based on the command. ... In some embodiments, a device may apply a watermark to detected images as an alternative to completely disabling a recording function."

We're in one of the those times (or even an "Era of Digital Revolution" as the historians may one day call it), where the waters are churning and new things are being churned out and old things getting sucked under faster than most people can keep up with. Even Weird Al can't make covers fast enough anymore these days, well, when he isn't bogged down be l issues that is. While most of us are embracing the wondrous new coming into this world, many can't keep up, let alone fathom what to make of it all, and are quite afraid and fearful of it all.

History and evolution has shown that those who can quickly adapt to change will survive and grow stronger, but those that can't, are left on the side, clinging to old fossilized structures that were once Anchors of Safety, but are now rusting away and falling apart, getting sucked down into the bleeding profit margin's of a raging whirlpool's dreaded depths. (yay analogies =p)[Anchor = DRM; Whirlpool = The Fail Zone; old fossils = old fossils;]

The winds of change are blowing and netizens such as ourselves now hold more power and access to vast reaches of the influential tides of the people of the world, and even the few yet wild radicals [read: LulzS3c; Anon] who know how to make explosive use of (some of the) powers available are actually only beginning to exert their influence, and make known, their positions and goals, to the weary dinosaurs that thought them naught but flies or paupers ripe for picking.

I believe that the many, the downtrodden, and even the forgotten, have long since grown tired of being held by the few, the "deaf, blind and mute", but only recently have they learned of the capabilities of these new "tools" (combined with the will of the many, and not just the individual), that are now evermore available and accessible to us. However, it's not just those that are faraway, or unknown to us, that are making use of these "winds of change", but even recently. many of you and even me, signed a petition (via facebook or email) that actually made a difference, and stopped (for the time being) a thing like "Usage-based-billing" (i.e. excessive over charging to service providers and consumers alike for a service that's 25 times cheaper to provide for the supplier, to pay for a problem that could easily be fixed with only a fraction of investment.), which was something I didn't believe we could do until it happened.

I'm not much of a vocal activist, so I'm not going to tell you what to do. Just read and learn what you can, because there is so much you can do with even a little information, and then maybe you can add your own gust into the "winds of change".
And if my selected articles seem biased or one-sided, feel free to mention others in the comments section (I may even include it up here, if it's solid material).

So go forth and set sail, yet be wary of history and learn from it (unlike the music/tv industry did with recordable cassette tapes and VCRs a few decades a go), because it oft repeats itself. The foolish will folly and flounder many times, but the clever and keen will continue to flourish and fly free over the churning waters of the sea.

Friday, August 14, 2009

SQL says it doesn't like to be 'Squeezed'.

I just had my first experience installing SQL Server 2005 yesterday at my current "volunteer" job, and again at home. I had initially thought that after first installing Visual Studio 2008, that it would have already been fully installed along with it, but apparently VS 2008 can't see it's own locally run SQL Server, when I tried adding a database connection within the Server Explorer side tab.

After researching several help files and Microsoft MSDN pages, they all said I should download and install SQL Server 2005 (Express edition being the smallest and easiest). So I went and downloaded the "SQL Server 2005 Express Edition SP3" (the newest '05 express version I could find), and ran the easy to follow wizard.

However, on my home PC (both work and Home are XP 32-bit machines, just the work one is an old P4 w/ HT, and barely 512MB ram and 20GB HD. Home one is an Intel Quad-core Q6600, 4GB ram, over 1TB HD, with both XP pro 32 and 64-bit. ), I got an error when trying the installation wizard tried starting up the SQL Server service. The error message said check the Event Viewer's System log for details, but that was just a copy of the same message. Thankfully, the Application Error log gave me an answer saying that:
"The SQL Server service failed to start because the file: [~long SQL file name and address~] is compressed even though it is listed as uncompressed. This file must be deccompressed."
I compress my files often at home, so I guess the SQL files got flagged for compression by some errouneous scan in my daily disk cleanup, and squeezed down when they weren't supposed to be. It was easy to fix this, by just copy pasting the folder address (without the filename), highlight all the compressed files in the folder (in case they all needed to be decompressed), goto properties, click the "Advanced" button beside the "read-only" and "hidden" check boxes, and uncheck the "Compress files to save disk space" checkbox, and you're done.

To be thorough and safe, I also decompressed all the other files in the nearby SQL folders since there were only a handful of them, and the folders were flagged as un-compressed even though the files in them weren't, just as the error message had warned me they'd be.

After that, the SQL service was successfully started and the installation completed. I also didn't have to exit the install wizard while doing this either. There is a "re-run" button on the wizard page where I got stuck, so I wasn't required to start the installaion all over again.
Now going back into Visual Studio 2008, when clicking on the Server name tab while trying to add a database connection, my SQL Express server was finally listed (as "[computername]\[servername]"), and I was able to add the Server to my database connection list, even though I have yet to actually create any database files, diagrams, schemas, tables and whatever in the new database.

With that done now, I'll be off to design and create a database or two for this application that I'm working on, which I'll describe later. (A new project just for work, and the continuation of an old one at home.) Although now I'll probably have an awkward fear of compressing files on my PCs for quite some time....blahg... it's the birth of a new PC superstition. >_<

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Way of the Coder

Have you ever wished your code would just tell you how to fix it?
Perhaps in the future, they'll have debugging AI's that could talk to you and tell you just what your doing wrong with your code. Then again, witty programmers just might make them come up with new ways to declare your stupidity to the world every time you crash your program.

Well since it's still the bug-ridden present, I've been spending time, doing what programmers do the most: debugging.
Mostly integrating a debugging log, sensible exception catching, and editing out possible fault-points within my code. Of course, it all started out with just trying to figure out this one bug, but now that I've past that one, with a few new bugs, I'm exercising more caution to catch them before they can add to my woes.

Just thinking about all these preemptive safety measures, makes me wonder if I should also do some kind of exercises so I don't get carpul tunnel...*crack*...
or slow it down at least.

release version 0.3?.? (I'm not sure what to number a release made with just easy-to-read code and nice debugging messages.)

Sunday, February 3, 2008

New platform for Open Source?

The past few days, I've been happily enjoying the pleasures of a gadget that has become quite hard to find in stores over the past couple of months. With the help of a local "gadget" vendor that sets up shop in the York Cafeteria, I've landed myself a brand new Nintendo DS. But this post isn't about high scores or fun games, because after doing some research on these "homebrew" applications and firmware, I found that along with software for storing and playing music, videos and text files (like e-Books), some of these "homebrewers" have enabled the use of the Opera web browser on the DS.

Now you could also order the official "Nintendo DS Opera Browser" online, but where's the Open Source in that?
From what I've read about this "Team Cyclops" developer crew, they managed this by using firmware that utilizes both of the game cartridge slots (each with slots within the cartridges to insert mini/micro SD memory cards multiple gigabyte capacity), to get enough room to install and run the browser with the memory-eating firmware running at the same time.

More specifically, the memory card expansion slots (that can take either any MicroSD or MiniSD camera memory card) that allow (so far) anywhere from 1GB to 32GB of memory to be stuck into a DS, opens up the possibility of getting Firefox and other Mozilla applications to run on another very popular (and relatively cheap) handheld system. Some of you are probably perfectly happy with your Blackberry handhelds and whatnot, but for "economically challenged" people and students, this may be the shining answer we've been looking for to satisfy our need for more affordable portable Open Source computing entertainment.

Number wise, a DS costs about $130, and depending on the homebrew developer, a cartridge with firmware costs about $50 on average. Then if even paying for the firmware is too much, one group of developers (albeit the unpopular ones) have made their firmware code Open Source. Unfortunately, the other homebrew teams (that' I'm aware of so far) are still relying on the funds from selling their firmware, to pay off their own "economical challenges". In comparison, your average Blackberry lists at over $300 with 2-year service plans going for about $150 (if anybody knows much cheaper prices that still let Firefox work, please tell me), which doesn't look friendly at all to Open Source wallets.

I won't even bother with going into laptop prices, if only to spare myself from another "large-digit" induced depression.

Looking back on the optimistic side of things, wouldn't it be wonderful if we could spread the development of Firefox and Open Source in general, to the millions of young (or young at heart) minds that spend their usually unproductive hours, tapping away at their handheld games? With already versatile features such as WiFi connectivity and text reading and writing (through homebrew apps), I will be dreaming pleasantly of the day when I can connect with people not just with games, but with my own extensions (or other Open Source software) on one little versatile handheld device.

...Now if only I could find those watches that can do video calls. (futuristic Dick Tracy watches anybody?)

--View Andrew's project work at: OSD700-> Favicon Extension

Friday, December 14, 2007

Something a little better

Just for convenience's sake, I'm putting a link up here for my extension that now actually installs properly.
(Yeah I know, I should've fixed that a while ago. But at least it's better late than never.)


The code's improved too, although I can't seem to find a workable solution to get images to load in both Firefox 2 and 3. The new Favicon Service for FF3 is still be worked on (The API isn't finalized yet, and there's a lot more of it undocumented).