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'[OT] Re: reverse-engineering,'
1998\05\28@071617 by Dmitry Kiryashov

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Hello Eric.

> I'll have to side with Bob Blick and David VanHorn on this one.  There are
> many legitimate reasons to reverse-engineer things, without stealing the code.
All depends from a human nature actually. Any action can be addressed
for right
or for wrong purpose.

> In my youth I learned a great many programming tricks by studying other
> people's code, including object code when source was not available.  But
> I have not stolen a single line of code from anyone else.
I agree with you in this at all but I apply the following: It's helpful
to read examples of code written by profy not simply peolple's code ;-)

[some text skipped]
> However, by law I am allowed to study copyrighted works and patented devices,
> and create derivative works by making improvements or changes in order to
> better suit my needs.  By doing so, I don't gain any additional rights to the
> underlying work.  However, I am allowed (for instance) to buy a licensed
> copy, modify it, and resell it.
Eric, what the country you are living on ? I ask my question because you
tell
that you may freely modify licensed code and resell that device under
your
trade mark. BTW in the Russia (pirate country in mind of americans) this
action
are called piracy and may result to large fines or something worst ...
;-)

> The reason that I bring all this up is to point out that while code protection
> bits are obviously attractive to developers, they are actually contrary to
> the intent of intellectual property law, and to the benefits of society as a
> whole.  When a device is created containing embedded firmware that is
> code-protected, the consumer is denied the opportunity to make changes or
> improvements.  Also, while the copyright will eventually expire, the code
> will never be made available in a usable form, so for all practical intents,
> it will not actually enter the public domain.
I disagree. If consumer buy a device under special condition it will
receive
original sources too. But I see no reason to give allthing around
ability to
read my source code if I not wish to allow this. I'm not sure if you
wish to
allow allthing make money with your firmware without any compensation.


WBR Dmitry.

1998\05\28@203605 by Eric Smith

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> Eric, what the country you are living on ? I ask my question because you
> tell
> that you may freely modify licensed code and resell that device under
> your
> trade mark. BTW in the Russia (pirate country in mind of americans) this
> action
> are called piracy and may result to large fines or something worst ...
> ;-)

No, you misunderstood.  I can buy one copy, modify that copy, and sell it to
another party.  I am left with zero copies.  I haven't created any new copies,
except possible a transient copy that was necessary to the process of
modification.

If I want to sell two modified copies, I have to buy two copies to modify.

Also, I did not adress the issue of trade marks at all.

If I buy a Sony VCR, hack the firmware, and resell it under the Sony
trademark, Sony would sue me for trademark infringement.  I would have to
use a different trademark, although I could say that it is based on a Sony
device.

I wrote:
>> The reason that I bring all this up is to point out that while code
>> protection bits are obviously attractive to developers, they are actually
>> contrary to the intent of intellectual property law, and to the benefits
>> of society as a whole.

> I disagree. If consumer buy a device under special condition it will receive
> original sources too. But I see no reason to give allthing around ability to
> read my source code if I not wish to allow this. I'm not sure if you wish to
> allow allthing make money with your firmware without any compensation.

Why should you make money forever on your firmware?  Or Microsoft on
Windows 95?  As I described in my post, the very idea of copyrights is that
they eventually expire and the works become public domain.  I'm not saying
that you shouldn't make money on your product for a fairly long time.

Publishers are always lobbying Congress to extend the duration of copyrights.
The last attempt of which I am aware would have extended the duration for
works of corporate authorship from 75 years to 95 years.  If they had their
way about it, they would make it forever.  We wouldn't have any books or
music in the public domain.  Goodbye, Illiad.  Goodbye, Beethoven's Fifth.

It may be that by the time copyright expires on today's firmware, no one will
care anyhow.  Personally I am interested in historical preservation, and
code protection guarantees that once the bits leak out of the EPROM in a
microcontroller, there will be no way to repair the device in which it is
contained, because it was not possible to make a backup while it still worked.
Several of the early microcomputers in my collection would have already become
just so much junk if I hadn't gone to the trouble of backing up the EPROMs.

Anyhow, I'm not arguing that you shouldn't be allowed to use code protection.
I'm arguing that I shouldn't be prevented from attempting to defeat the code
protection, and use or modify the code for lawful purposes that do not
infringe your ownership rights.

Eric

1998\05\30@165040 by ape

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In my experience, I have come accross several situations in which I
could/would and have done reverse engineering for commercial gain.

1)  I find a product on the market that was put together sloppily and
not well engineered.  It was buggy!  It dies! ETC!!!  I would not
reverse engineer the product itself as much as I would the concept
of what they were trying to do and THEN re-engineer it the right way.

2) A product was on the market but the company goes out of business
and one of my clients asks me "Mark, my supplier is dried up.  Can you
build them for me instead!"

3) I'm building a device and have a portion of it that I am having problems
with.  I know of a another device that does something completely
different than my device but a small portion fits my needs.  I will reverse
engineer that block.


However, in the situation of taking something (such as a VCR as was
suggested), adding something to it, and then reselling it would not be
a problem in my opinion.  After all, VAR's (Value Added Resellers)
do this all the time.  In fact, I support it.  If you can sell more Sony
VCR's (even tho they are modified), Sony still makes the money from
its product and even increases its sales by that many units.  VAR's
are a nessicary part of todays business.  Just make sure you re-sell the
product as a VAR.

1998\05\30@184042 by Jon V.

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I have never contributed to this list (on thread or off), but since this
seems to be an ongoing issue, I'll add my 2.549 cents (US).

First and foremost, let me say that I have been involved in reverse
engineering projects which were intended to do more than just educate...

As an example, back in '89-91 I worked for a company which reverse
engineered the Nintendo Entertainment system (NES, the first really
*biig* console (home) game machine Nintendo did.) to develop games. This
is significant because Nintendo held several U.S. patents which were
designed specifically to keep competitors from developing games for the
machine.

Patent 1) A "keychip" (small microcontroller, not PIC) was located on
each game cartridge, and talked to a controller in the game machine. If
the two didn't speak the same language (so to speak), the game wouldn't
play.
Patent 2) The shape of the cartridge (a D-shell with a PCB edge connector)

They also, I believe, had several other patents, but they did not as
directly effect us.

Fortunately, our head engineer was able to discover a way around the
keychip which did not violate the patent, and we simply made slim
cartridges which were not D shaped, but would still fit in the machine.

Now, several companies had tried to make "un-licensed" games, including
ATARI. All of them were successfully sued by Nintendo.

We were not. Nintendo several times made modifications to their hardware
to attempt to block our cartridges from working, and each time we were able
to compensate. In other words, it was an unfriendly relationship. Since we
did not use a keychip, or anything which could be loosely termed a keychip
(in fact we used analog circuitry to disable the checking, hard to claim
a passive analog circuit is a microcontroller), they had no handle on us.

BUT.. was it immoral? Well, obviously I'm biased, but probably not.
Nintendo has since been investigated several time by the FTC for
anti-trust violations, top executives at several large toy
retail chains were quoted on camera stating that Nintendo had "hinted
that if non-Nintendo games were sold, there might be supply shortages
which would effect delivery of licensed games to those stores.", Nintendo
game sales at the time amounted to something like 60% of the Christmas
revenue for the large toy stores... I.E. About 40% of the total revenue...
A big fly-swatter to swing at such a little fly. It worked --  The only
people that ever bought games from us were Video rental stores which (as a
previous post mentioned) were already fighting with Nintendo Et. Al. over
renting games.

There are cases when the tools intended to protect free enterprise and
the development of new technologies are abused by people with very good
lawyers. We managed to stay out of court by having a very talented
engineer who was able to bypass the security features without violating
the legal protections associated, but if a suit had been brought by
Nintendo, we would have closed down and been "squashed like a bug."


On Fri, 29 May 1998, Mark Devin Newland wrote:

> 3) I'm building a device and have a portion of it that I am having problems
> with.  I know of a another device that does something completely
> different than my device but a small portion fits my needs.  I will reverse
> engineer that block.

Actually, I must say that this (to me) violates both the letter and the
spirit of the laws involved. If I need a car, I am not allowed to just
*take* one. I need to either buy one, or convince somebody who has one
that they should let me use it -- If I need a snippet of source code or a
bit of hardware, the same restrictions apply. Fortunately (or un), the
default conditions are reversed. (the intellectual property must be
specifically claimed, and ownership has been deemed temporary, unlike the
car where once you build/buy it, its yours until you specifically give it
away.), the moral implications of taking the car or taking the design are
identical. It is theft. Additionally, the idea that it makes a difference
that the product you are stealing from is not a direct competitor to yours
leaves me a bit cold. Is this like saying that it is OK to steal car
parts, as long as you will be using them in a boat?

Everything in intellectual property discussions is made difficult by the
lack of a tangible asset, but to the extent that we honor the idea that an
idea has value, and it's creator should be able to be the sole collector
of that value (for some time at least), then we must treat the idea as a
real item.

> However, in the situation of taking something (such as a VCR as was
> suggested), adding something to it, and then reselling it would not be
> a problem in my opinion.  After all, VAR's (Value Added Resellers)
> do this all the time.  In fact, I support it.  If you can sell more Sony
> VCR's (even tho they are modified), Sony still makes the money from
> its product and even increases its sales by that many units.  VAR's
> are a nessicary part of todays business.  Just make sure you re-sell the
> product as a VAR.

This is almost exactly what we were doing when we made games for the
Nintendo machine...  You must be careful of *how* you add accessories, or
make modifications, but it is legal.

There is no car maker on the planet who could keep after-market accessories
off of their cars using (the old) the intellectual properties laws (of the
U.S., anyway.). Instead they must convince the states to bar modifications
for other reasons.

Now, the new copyright law... Well, it don't seem right to me... But
I'll spare everybody the torture of my pontification on that subject.

All trademarks property of their respective owners.

"I would like it to be know that the exhibits we have shown are exclusively
our own...", or however that song goes.

=============================================================================
Jon Valesh - Implementor    |
 the Valesh group          |   Witty quote available upon request.
spam_OUTjonTakeThisOuTspamvalesh.com       |
http://www.valesh.com/~jon  |
=============================================================================

1998\05\30@184910 by William Chops Westfield

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While we're at it, let's not forget that the luctative and advantageous
(to nearly everyone) PC Clone market was all enabled by the lawful but
"unethical" reverse engineering of the IBM PC BIOS...  (A somewhat fuzzy
case since IBM also published the full source of their BIOS.)

One can argue levels of ethical behavior, of course, and perhaps the ends
does justify the means...

BillW

1998\05\30@191615 by Bob Blick

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At 03:19 PM 5/30/98 -0700, you wrote:
>I have never contributed to this list (on thread or off),
********entire message snipped*******
>   Witty quote available upon request.

Very nice contribution, especially this part :-)

http://www.bobblick.com/


'[OT] Re: reverse-engineering,'
1998\06\01@130331 by Gary Crowell Sr.
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Jon V. wrote:

> As an example, back in '89-91 I worked for a company which reverse
> engineered the Nintendo Entertainment system (NES, the first really
> *biig* console (home) game machine Nintendo did.) to develop games.
> This
> is significant because Nintendo held several U.S. patents which were
> designed specifically to keep competitors from developing games for
> the
> machine.
>
> Patent 1) A "keychip" (small microcontroller, not PIC) was located on
> each game cartridge, and talked to a controller in the game machine.
> If
> the two didn't speak the same language (so to speak), the game
> wouldn't
> play.

Interesting.  Back in that same time frame, I worked for a company where
it was my task to create a clone of the HP printer memory expansion
cards.  The HP2P came out with a new form factor card than earlier
models, and that card also had a "keychip" microcontroller.  I wonder if
they were violating a Nintendo patent?  However the controller was also
doing a minor configuration task [nothing that couldn't have been done
with a GAL], so maybe that got around it.  But its main task was
obviously to make it difficult to copy the card.  HP viewed the memory
cards as a significant profit center.  It allowed them to cut the list
price of the printer, by selling it without enough memory to do a full
page of graphics; and then make up the profit on a memory expansion card
that sold for about 4X the prevailing price of memory.

We knew from previous experience that HP employed 'traps' to make it
difficult to make a totally compatible card [secret addresses in the
address decode GALs], so we knew that it was absolutely necessary to
decode the micro completely to look for secret commands.  We suspected
that there might be commands that were only called once every 1000 hours
of operation or somesuch.

We decoded it by acid burning off the top of the package and reading the
masked ROM with a microscope.  Not the most fun job, but not as hard as
you might expect.

The 'trap' that we found was a command that, when executed, would cause
the microcontroller to repeat back the HP copyright notice, and the
first 256 bytes of the ROM.  Nobody could duplicate that command without
including the notice and the HP code within their own code.  I don't
know that HP ever implemented that command; IBM et al, were being hit
with 'restraint of trade' suits at about that time, so they may have
backed off.  I know that other clone card makers did not include that
command.  [I also know that at least one other clone card maker {a
*very* big memory card name} copied the HP code byte-for-byte, just
rearranged a bit to hide their dirty work.]

We did our copy 'clean' with a spec written from the original
disassembled code, a separate coding team, and a different
microcontroller.  We did include the copyright/code command, by encoding
it within our ROM.  It didn't become the HP copyright/code until it was
decoded when the command executed ['your honor, its just a bit stream
required by the command... we don't know its significance...'].

GC

1998\06\01@143216 by Jon V.

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Just to keep the thread alive (or... If you've posted once, you might as
well do it again.)

On Mon, 1 Jun 1998, Gary Crowell Sr. wrote:

I wrote:
> > Patent 1) A "keychip" (small microcontroller, not PIC) was located on

> Interesting.  Back in that same time frame, I worked for a company where
> it was my task to create a clone of the HP printer memory expansion
> cards.  The HP2P came out with a new form factor card than earlier
> models, and that card also had a "keychip" microcontroller.  I wonder if
> they were violating a Nintendo patent?

The actual idea behind the keychip was that it was a challenge protocol
with arithmetic processing needed to generate the reply. As I remember
it, the patent was written in such a way that the data-changing nature of
the reply was the sensitive part, not the microcontroller. They may have
even used wording like 'digital electronic component' to try to block all
technologies.

I also believe the patent would have been proven invalid if challenged.
The U.S. Court system of that time wasn't quite computer savvy enough to
know what the prior art was in that field. Had a judge been forced to
think about it for a few weeks, it would have been clear. (Just the idea
of Nintendo getting a patent on a D-Shell connecter shows how messed up
things were... And no, the patent was not a design patent on *that
cartridge*, it was the general shape.)

> However the controller was also
> doing a minor configuration task [nothing that couldn't have been done
> with a GAL], so maybe that got around it.

I believe the hashing the Nintendo key chip was doing could also have been
done with a GAL, or even a small ROM. My personal belief is that Nintendo
was simply smart enough to realize that if they picked a fight with an HP,
they'd loose. Anyway, HP was not the competition.

[snip: price fixing schemes]
same with Nintendo, and everybody else who can get away with it.

[snip]

> We decoded it by acid burning off the top of the package and reading the
> masked ROM with a microscope.  Not the most fun job, but not as hard as
> you might expect.

No clean room for you guys! Now that is courage.

[snip to end]

Fun fun fun... Now it would only make my PIC code work. (Better.. yeah,
that's it, it works but needs improvement... That'll buy me some time...)

Once again, all Trademarks are the property of their owners, all comments
are mine, and if anybody files a lawsuit, I better not be named.

=============================================================================
Jon Valesh - Implementor    |
 the Valesh group          |   Witty quote available upon request.
.....jonKILLspamspam@spam@valesh.com       |
http://www.valesh.com/~jon  |
=============================================================================

1998\06\02@065734 by alex_holden

picon face
> I also believe the patent would have been proven invalid if challenged.
> The U.S. Court system of that time wasn't quite computer savvy enough to
> know what the prior art was in that field. Had a judge been forced to
> think about it for a few weeks, it would have been clear. (Just the idea
> of Nintendo getting a patent on a D-Shell connecter shows how messed up
> things were... And no, the patent was not a design patent on *that
> cartridge*, it was the general shape.)

Which brings us to Intel and it's patented slot 2 cartridge which
effectively prevents the likes of Cyrix from producing a Pentium 2
compatible processor. I suspect they haven't just patented the shape,
but also the pin-out. Does anyone know any more about it? Would it come
foul of monopoly laws, their not allowing competitors to produce rival
processors for PCs?
Not that I'm too bothered anyway. The 8086 family has lasted too long in
my opinion, and it's getting time for a more advanced design to take
over (running Linux of course ;).

--
--------------- Linux- the choice of a GNU generation. --------------
: Alex Holden (M1CJD)- Caver, Programmer, Land Rover nut, Radio Ham :
---------- http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Lab/1532/ ---------

1998\06\02@122817 by Martin McCormick

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       It's utterly amazing what is patentable.  Kodak patented gravity
in their Carrousel slide projector, the one with the round tray that holds 80
or 130 slides.

       The tray's bottom has a slot that is normally in the 0 position where
no slide is stored.  Mounting the tray atop the projector releases a latch
on the bottom of the tray such that the bottom rotates freely and moves the
slot under each position.  In operation, the bottom is clamped firmly such
that the slot is always over the slide gate mechanism.  The slide-change
mechanism moves the tray around one position at a time and the slide which
is over the slot is allowed to fall down in to the gate where it is held
still for showing.  When it is time for the slide to change, the gate opens,
a lifter rises and pushes the slide back up in to the tray and stays there
to make sure that gravity doesn't let the slide drop back down until the
tray turns and the slot is under a new slide at which time the lifter drops
back down and gravity takes over.
I have never read this patent, but I imagine that what was actually
patented was the use of gravity as the force to move the slide in to the
gate.  I saw many other brands of slide projectors that used other mechanisms
for doing this.  about all one could say is that they would be the ones of
choice on the Space Shuttle if you could get them to work long enough.
About the only thing that ever happened to Kodak's mechanism was that it
sometimes got out of time due to dirt mixing with the grease on the cam
stack and the levers would then operate to late or their springs couldn't
fully return them to their proper rest position causing slides to get chewed
or bent when the tray tried to turn with a slide stuck halfway out of the
slot, but it was a generally very reliable mechanism.  The autofocus servo
used in those projectors is a brilliantly simple but effective bit of analog
electronics which probably got some engineer a good promotion, I hope.

       The slide change mechanism would be the perfect sort of device to
modernize with a PIC and a few solenoid levers since the key to its operation
is mechanical timing and not actual complexity.

Martin McCormick

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