2008 year-end link clearance

Time for the semi-annual link clearance.

Finally, we have the traditional plug for my column in TechNet Magazine:

Comments (20)
  1. John says:

    TSA is a fraud; get rid of them.

    Take On Me video has been removed due to copyright concerns.

  2. John says:

    I’ve been curious about the Bob stowaway on the XP CD ever since I read about it, but I don’t think there’s any realistic chance of recovering it.  You would need to know A) the encryption algorithm and B) the size of the encryption key.  Even if you know those things, the key is more-or-less random so it would take quite a while to brute-force it.  Or maybe a really simple cipher was chosen.  Either way, perhaps this could be a project for one of the distributed cracking teams.

  3. Neil (SM) says:

    I know this is entirely out of your control, Raymond, but I wanted to point out that the link about the snipping tool didn’t work out.

    The author of the claimed that the Experience Pack would run on all versions of XP, not just tablets.  However, it would not install on my XP desktop — I just got a message saying I could only install the program running XP for Tablet PCs.

    I also tried downloading the installer directly from MS in case they had a newer version, with the same results.

  4. Reinder says:

    John said "I’ve been curious about the Bob stowaway on the XP CD ever since I read about it, but I don’t think there’s any realistic chance of recovering it.  You would need to know A) the encryption algorithm and B) the size of the encryption key.  Even if you know those things, the key is more-or-less random so it would take quite a while to brute-force it."

    Things that might make recovering the software (and thus verifying the story) easier:

    • The encryption program might have left a magic number indicating the algorithm used.
    • Find someone who dares to confess to own a copy of Bob (Google gave me some promising leads, probably not all legal across the globe). Having a copy would make this a known-plaintext attack. Chances are that that would make the task much easier.

    • If what Raymond tells is true, the key will be far from random. It may especially be worthwhile to hunt down the person who typed that key, and ask him to repeat this a couple of times.

    I am not sure that I believe the story to the letter, though. There are two reasons to doubt this:

    • the cost/benefit ratio. On a CD already filled for 95% with, largely, compressed installer data, adding 5% noise would not increase download size much. When I programmed something similar somewhere around the same time, it was for a product taking less than 2MB on a CD. For such a size, the effect of this trick is much larger.
  5. the "and verify that it is there" part. I used some pseudo-random number generator to generate the data, so that I could not only check the presence of a file, but also do some checks on file content (at installation time, generate say 5 random offsets into the file, read four bytes at each of these offsets, regenerate the data that should be present there, and compare the two). When using a copy of MS Bob, such a check would have to be less thorough, as the installer has no way to check that the data that is there matches that on the real CD.

  6. Because of these, I would find the story more believable if it stated that someone just added some Bob-generated almost-white noise to the CD image without modifying the installer to check for its presence.

  • John says:

    "he just smashed his hand haphazardly across the keyboard"

    I think it’s unlikely he could reproduce the key.

    As for the snipping tool, I was able to extract the binaries out of the installer and get them to run on non-Tablet XP.  However, I can’t actually use the mouse to select / annotate anything.  Perhaps it is expecting different API/messages that happen only when running on a Tablet.  It is written in .NET, so you can use Reflector to decode it to source form and see if you can figure it out any further.  I got bored after about 5 minutes, so I gave up.  Perhaps the installer puts some crap in the registry that the snipping tool depends on for proper operation.

  • ton says:

    Ha that Microsoft Bob story was hilarious! I always wondered what became of MS BOB. Now I know that he was buried as digital noise. I’m curious though the "marketing" team that cooked up the ad campaign were fired right?

  • manicmarc says:

    Happy New Year.

    I am eagerly awaiting a new suggestion box since I have a question to ask :)

  • Yuhong Bao says:

    "The dying breath of the Alpha AXP was not breathed in vain"

    Yep, the death of the Alpha AXP version of Win2000 did not go very well. Pulling an arch 3 months before the RTM of Win2000 looks ridiculous.

  • Nat says:

    The "can but won’t" article is a more exhaustive summary of the issue than I’ve ever managed to give to (UNIX, typically) people who complain about Windows having to reboot after patch installation.  (I typically used the possibility of data structures in shared memory as the motivator.)  Thanks.

    It’s worth noting that Ubuntu’s automatic update often updates shared library without requiring a subsequent reboot.  Something tells me that the decision not to reboot isn’t founded on a safety analysis, but who knows?  The odds that anything will go wrong for lack of a reboot are probably vanishingly small (perhaps–for a variety of random factors–smaller for Linux than Windows) and most people–unaware of the risk–are simply happy about the lack of "annoying" and "unnecessary" reboot and aren’t interested in any "blah, blah, blah" about software hygiene.

  • MadQ says:

    I still have an Alpha AXP motherboard lying around, including CPU. I’m pretty sure I have a few SIMMs too. It probably still works. I keep thinking that some day I’ll actually play around with it. Nice shiny hex nuts holding the heat sink in place, too.

  • asf says:

    For lossless mp3 editing, I have used http://mpesch3.de1.cc/mp3dc.html for ages (free)

  • anony.muos says:

    My parallel port-attached-using-USB-to-parallel-port-converter HP DeskJet 200 (300 DPI) of the Windows 3.1 era is still going strong with compatible-but-not-original cartridges. No paper jams of the newer redesigns, no ink sensor at all, fast printing speed.

    My other XPS and logoed printer on the contrary nags me from time to time about low ink levels in big ugly letters.

  • Yuhong Bao says:

    BTW, the special compiler and linker mentioned in "Windows 95 Unplugged" was briefly mentioned in the book "Windows 95 System Programming Secrets".

    BTW, what was the object file formats that the special linker accepted as input?

  • stalepie says:

    Thanks for mentioning the Light Bots game – fun!

  • jeffdav says:

    If you like Fantastic Contraption, there’s a new game that’s also Engineer oriented: http://www.zachtronicsindustries.com/alchemy/alchemy.htm

  • It's free and fun, therefore I complain says:

    The Light Bots game is a great idea, but I was expecting this to work:


    It didn’t. I lost a bit of interest on it because of that. The interface could use some work too.

  • Cheong says:

    Something maybe unrelated: I found that when viewing in IE6, the leftmost 3-4cm part of the screen cannot be seen. (The screen starts at the middle of "e" of "Confidential" in the title)

    I guess it’s clear message from Microsoft suggesting that IE6 is outdated for developer. //joke

    Unfortunately we developer working with government PCs do not have right to update browser / install another browsers… so I’ll check the links at home.

  • jeffdav says:

    Yeah, I was disappointed when recursion didn’t work too.  I mean, come on, all the little things got lit up; you never said my program had to terminate!

  • Gwyn says:

    For translation purposes, Cilantro is the name of the herb that is also known as Coriander

  • Leo Davidson says:

    Recursion in Lite Bot: The lights have to be lit *and stay lit* for the level to be complete. Recursion does work but if you’ve got a recursive robot then it’s probably turning lights off again and so the level isn’t complete.

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