Generally about preservation, copy protections

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AtariZoll
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Generally about preservation, copy protections

Postby AtariZoll » Sun Oct 09, 2016 8:32 am

There was some little off-topic discussion about what stays in title, so I rather moving it here.
The simpler part: we all can agree that preservation of floppies would be piece of cake if all they would be in regular formats, without special , nonstandard written sections. Then ST, MSA format would be enough in case of Atari ST.
But, as in real life, thanx to unfair people (and here I mean not only costumers, but ...) there is need for measures preventing so called thefts.
Like we need to lock our homes, cars. Bad thing is that it costs time and money, and who pays it ? Not criminals, but ordinary, working people, who respects others property.
Is copying some SW without permission theft ? Usual answer of publishers is: yes. But that is just no good enough. Theft is when original owner will stay without stolen goodie. Copying is not that. Of course, it is still illegal, unfair and so on. But saying that company A lost 2M dollars because pirates spread 100000 copies of SW priced 20 dollars is stupid. We all know that they would never sell so much - this is just an imaginary example. Maybe they should price it lower, and then would earn more at the end. Or just made better game. This was not justifying of piracy, but most of people will rather buy original with manual, some extras if it is fairly priced, good quality - what myself did many tiems, despite being from not rich area.
So, they started to copy protect SW. It was gradual process, starting with very simple, may say primitive protections like hiding files. And as in real life, criminals were always faster, and found a way to copy it. After some time, publishers realized that only good protection is such, what can not be written with some regular Atari ST on floppies. Of course, pirates solved that quickly with so called cracking. The answer was adding checksums, every possible CPU tricks and like to prevent tracing of SW - actually to prevent changing of copy protection checking code.
Most known copy protection designer is Rob Northen. Here I need to add something interesting, according to what I read from his numerous interviews: he never criticized loudly crackers, pirates. I have impression that he was in some way thankful for their "work" - that allowed him to earn nice money :D Inded, his code protections were very good, but pirates, craclers learned quickly how to pass them.
So, at the end there is no SW what wasn't cracked. Except maybe Crown of the Creation ?
In other words, whole copy protection is questionable. Was it worth of all money and time invested in ? I have no answer, should kknow much more details. Interesting is that Atari almost never used any copy protection - maybe that's why company bankrupted :mrgreen:
Just kidding, of course.

So, there is, were discussions about what is real floppy preservation - in case of commercial SW, mostly games. Usually, people involved in says that only full copy, holding complete protection is that. All other is crap - is what can hear often too.
But, and back to written above - most of copy protection is dome by specialized firms, people - what is well visible if you look little in floppy images with some Hex viewer (and I did it a lot) . So, copy protection is actually not part of SW. It is part of release. This is most visible in case of Copylock on regular FAT12 floppy. Copy protection self is only 1 special sector, placed at unused sector in 2nd FAT, what can not be copied with Atari. But more important is protection of code - and that is done by R.N. . Process was described by him - basically you needed to put his encrypted code somewhere in your SW, with unique key, what is then used in duplicators. By time, it evolved, as coders added more sophisticated ways, checksums and like. That gone too far in some cases, by me - delayed protections were usually without any text, just machine crashed. So, owner of original was not aware is it damage of original floppy, bug in SW or HW ... As said, always fair people is who get harmed.

I will try to describe it with example: there is paper with some printed text on. We want to digitize it. So using scanner or camera. Then it is digitized. But file size is huge, while users want only to read text. So, we perform OCR - and getting short textual file instead some BMP. JPG. That would be eq. of some ST floppy image file. While JPG would be something like IPF. BMP something like raw flux image.
And which one is real preservation ? It matters on taste and intentions. If you just want to read txt, then ASCII, Unicode format is OK.
If want to see original shape of letters use BMP. but JPG does the same. Just at price of some generalization - will not hold similar or same parts separately (compression).
But truth is that none of above is real copy of that paper with text. You need to make accurate physical copy of it. And that's just not possible today. Can do something close, but will cost plenty of money. Who will spend it, just to have exact same paper ?

So, the real question is: what we want with that image - image, because it is all we do in digital era. Who wants to use SW will not care about copy protections. Who likes floppy technology will want protection preserved too. At price of larger image.
Copy protections make problems not only in imaging and optional later writing on floppies. but in running of SW, often. It may run significantly slower - some perform test(s) over and over again. It is not rare that right protection part will go bad on some original (myself have 2 of such). and then it works not, while SW self is OK.

May be interesting to talk about what is proper format for not copyprotected SW. Ijor says that should do Pasti images of such too. That may be OK in case of people with low knowledge about floppies. But my opinion is that it is best to do ordinary ST image, with good SW, what will give error message if some part is not well readable. When all is OK, just zip, rar that file, and spread - latest is best guarantee that it will preserve it for long, long time :D For more, some maintenance from time to time is required.
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Re: Generally about preservation, copy protections

Postby AtariZoll » Sun Oct 09, 2016 4:20 pm

In some other thread someone talked about about some 30 years old law, what forbids "hacking" of copyrighted SW, reverse engineering . But that persona obviously has no knowledge what is reverse engineering. And I don't remember seeing such warning, demand in some Atari SW package, manual. Seen only once that some older PC BIOS wrote that disassembly of it is forbidden. What made me laugh. Excuse me, how you think to prevent me, or even knowing ever that I did it ? It is known that companies are first buyers of some new product - and what they do with it: disassemble immediately - in both meanings - physically and it's SW/firmware.
OK, what is more real is: forbidding of modded SW without permission. But I still don't remember some commercial Atari SW with such note.
Saw it in case of some freeware, not open source, of course.
By that unnamed persona (everyone should know who is in question) making STE improved Pacmania is illegal. Or Great Giana Sisters. Later is more interesting here, since I know for sure that it is not disassembled, so there is no reverse engineering done. It may be called rather hack. And that was done with only then available source - crack. The result is need for 2MB of RAM, although it was shrunk to 1MB later by some.
With original you can make it better, and we have images of it now. I made some simpler fine scrolling version of that game, without changing sound, no clouds, etc. Whole scrolling code is less than 512 bytes. And game does not need more than 512KB RAM. All can fit on single sided floppy, or even in 128KB cartridge without title screen music (org. is on 2 SS floppies). I don't think that someone of developers, publishers will now come and demand to remove it and like. Especially after all troubles with Nintendo, they had. I expect rather that they will be grateful.

Fixing bugs in games is special something, and I did it several times. If you read what Klapauzius says on his site, will see that he did it too often.
Some may not like it, as it points on their not flawless work. That's their problem - I prefer interest of users.
I do all this partially because I like old SW, 68000 code (ASM), and is good to see what good SW can pull out of not so powerful HW - like SW solutions for fine scrolling (using only CPU). That's part of history too, of course not interesting for average user. And if all that knowledge can be used to make some things better, I would be last idiot if not used it. So much about my "nefarious" activity and "illegal" hacking.
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Re: Generally about preservation, copy protections

Postby EmpireAndrew » Mon Oct 10, 2016 1:48 pm

I can understand why publishers love copy protection.
It hurts to think people are using your work without paying for it and also affects your bottom line.

There are a lot of studies on the net that cover how well this works in terms of sales so I won't go into it but...

I, like probably many people, have experienced several sides of the situation.
When I was in school I literally had enough money for some blank floppies from time to time and that was it.

Buying a game for £25 was completely out of the question. It would take me like 6 months to save for. As for an £80 word processor it would take me over a year. Handing someone a blank floppy disk and receiving a copy was do-able and I did. In terms of financial loss to the publisher there was none. As you said, making a copy is not a zero sum game, the original still exists. Now, if I didn't have that copy I wouldn't have bought the software either so it didn't change anything from the developers perspective.

Years later I hah a job and could afford to buy software so I did. The most expensive of which would have been Adobe Creative Suite (after years of using a pirated copy of Photoshop) so the developer ultimately got their money from me. I could have easily downloaded a pirated version, I didn't as I knew the product was good so there was no financial risk, and the developers deserved to be paid.

To this day I buy all the software I use on both my Windows 10 PC and my Mac laptop.

At all times though, pirated, cracked versions of any software I want has been easily obtainable, it was back in the days of trading floppies and it is today in the online world. Copy protection doesn't work. The sensible publishers know this, they also know they make most of their money in the first few months of the product going on sale so they realize any copy protection needs to only last that long (so they can make their money) before it is inevitably broken. There is a published story somewhere about Dungeon Master iirc that stated just that.

Copy protection has caused honest buyers more problems than pirates.
Back in the day, Lotus 1-2-3 needed a key disk. A floppy you had to insert into the machine to use the software that was actually installed on the PC's hard drive. When they released version 2.0 of this pricey package ($500?) they offered a cheaper ($100?) upgrade option, simply send them a cheque and your key disk and they shipped you back version 2.0. But version 2.0 had serious problems, mainly around memory, it often couldn't load large spreadsheets that version 1.0 could because there was less free memory available. And users couldn't fire up their old version 1.0 to access their work or save it out in 2 smaller pieces or something because they no longer had their key disk. A user with a cracked version of Lotus 123 1.0 would not have had that problem.

Now when it comes to preservation consider the likes of C-Lab Notator which required a hardware dongle. Over the years a lot of those will have been lost and without it preserving the app is pointless. A cracked version that passes the dongle check allows preservation.

So morally I have no issue with people reverse engineering stuff.

However, and I didn't see the post in question, doing so can be illegal depending where you're from.
Because we sat back and let such a stupid law be passed that serve no-one but the movie industry who hate it when their latest format (DVD, Bluray etc) gets inevitably cracked. We didn't look at the bigger picture, or the smart ones that did were drowned out by the money from those pushing for the law.

For me, when it comes to vintage stuff, I don't see a problem with cracking anything that is no longer actively sold. For example it would not be cool to hack HDDriver or use a pirated copy of it. We should be grateful for it's continued development and cough up for it. As for some old game for the ST that you cant even buy anymore, whether the company exists or not, I see it as fair game to crack it and distribute it at this point. But that's just my personal view, it's not the law's view.
1977 VCS Heavy Sixxer (Boxed)
1990 Atari 1040STE, 4MB, UltraSatan, TOS 2.06, TT Touch -> Atari SC1435 Colour CRT Monitor
1991 Atari TT030, 2/64MB, Int 8GB Gigafile SCSI2CF, TOS 3.06, CaTTamaran Accelerator -> Atari TTM195 19" Mono CRT Monitor
1993 Atari Falcon030, 14MB, Int 4GB IDE2SD, TOS 4.04 -> Atari PTC1426 Color CRT Monitor
Amiga, Mac, DOS, Newton, SGI, Sun, NeXTStation and more!

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Re: Generally about preservation, copy protections

Postby EmpireAndrew » Mon Oct 10, 2016 2:34 pm

On a side note, I've now found the thread you mention re copy protection and 30 year laws...

I don't particularly want to comment on every point in that thread as arguing on the internet is pointless but I will say this:

1. Preserving software floppies via flux images is not the same as a museum preserving paintings. They have the actual painting. And generally there is only one original, all purchased software is a copy from a master. So unless you ideally own the actual master, or for the purposes of preservation have flux copies of that master you are already on a 2nd generation copy.

2. Preserving cracked version *in addition to* the original protected versions is not "bullshit". It's important so that the software can be run on an actual machine. Any museum would want to be able to run the software on an actual machine. Only preserving a copy protected version that can only run on an emulator is not really preservation of highest order. It's a good thing to do but being able to run the software on the machine on the correct media is also a worthy endeavor, even if it means a version that has been cracked. There is value to that. There is also value to preserving cracked game discs due to their menu's which have a cultural (in terms of the real users of the day) significance. So while I can understand SPS wouldn't necessarily want to preserve them themselves, calling such activity "bullshit" shows nothing more than small mindedness.

3. Trying to win any internet argument by stating you work in the finance industry or get paid a lot or have xx number of people working under you is simply employing several classic "fallacies". I work as an SRE in the financial industry and get paid a lot for doing it but that doesn't mean I'm always right even on tech matters, nor does it mean I and everyone I work with are geniuses. In fact there are a lot of incredibly incompetent people in this industry. Backing away from arguments doe snot mean you lose, it shows maturity and clear headed thinking by not resorting to these tactics. Sadly I also lower myself at times.

It's sad to see people in such a small community in-fighting.


Personally I like the idea of preserved Flux images *and* useable (if necessary cracked) images alongside.
It doesn't have to be (and imho shouldnt be) either/or.
I will also preserve (in whatever way allows me to run them on original hardware) cracked games, compilation discs with their menus, demos, newsletters and anything and everything else.
1977 VCS Heavy Sixxer (Boxed)
1990 Atari 1040STE, 4MB, UltraSatan, TOS 2.06, TT Touch -> Atari SC1435 Colour CRT Monitor
1991 Atari TT030, 2/64MB, Int 8GB Gigafile SCSI2CF, TOS 3.06, CaTTamaran Accelerator -> Atari TTM195 19" Mono CRT Monitor
1993 Atari Falcon030, 14MB, Int 4GB IDE2SD, TOS 4.04 -> Atari PTC1426 Color CRT Monitor
Amiga, Mac, DOS, Newton, SGI, Sun, NeXTStation and more!


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