Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Making Closed Software Act Like It's Open

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the latter-day-screen-scrape dept.

GUI 157

The Installer writes "Researchers from the University of Washington have managed to add customization and accessibility options to proprietary software without ever touching the source code. Rather than alter program code, Prefab looks for the pixels associated with the blocks of code used to paint applications to a screen, grabs hold of them, and alters them according to whatever enhancements the user has chosen to apply. Any user input is then fed back to the original software, still running behind the enhanced interface."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

The real question is- (2, Insightful)

mxh83 (1607017) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746590)

Are we really that desperate to continue using closed software.

Re:The real question is- (4, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746660)

'Closed software' is a fact of life for most users. This attempt at 'expanding' the functionality isn't very impressive, though, and won't have very many real world uses. What if you resize your monitor, do your 'customizations' all go to hell?

I always liked using the plugin architecture for applications that provide it.

Re:The real question is- (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31746940)

'Closed software' is a fact of life for sheeple. This attempt at 'stifling' freedom isn't very impressive, though, and will hinder very many real world users. What if you resize your monitor, does your 'customizations' cause your software to go to DRM hell via deactivation?

There, fixed that for you.

Re:The real question is- (-1, Offtopic)

goldenseller01 (1784086) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747026)

http://www.golden-seller.com/ [golden-seller.com] Newest fashion style of sport shoes,strait jackets,hot underwear,NHL, NFL, MLB, NBA Jerseys. sunglasses,wallets,boots,rings,necklace,bikinis,boots,dress shoes,high heel shoes,jeans,t-shirt,outfit,hot underwear,swimsuit,rings,necklace,belts,purse,handbags,caps,scarf, http://www.golden-seller.com/ [golden-seller.com] Jersey $23 Sunglass $12 Purse: $12 Necklace $15 Bracelet $15 handbag $33 Bikini $23 http://www.golden-seller.com/ [golden-seller.com] High quality,competitive price,accept paypal,fast delivery

Re:The real question is- (2, Interesting)

Animaether (411575) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747230)

I can see many uses for this - but then, I've got AutoIt for the sorts of things I'm thinking of already.

I think the article title and summary are completely bunk, though. They're not making the software any more -open- than it was before; If you have a button that writes "Hello World" to a file, then you can replace that button with a contrast-rich enlarged version with excellent text-to-speech functionality, or make it a bouncing spinny glowing orb like something out of Kai Krause's mind... but pressing it is still going to write "Hello Word" to a file. It doesn't make it actually do anything differently from before.

It's fun that they can detect UI elements out of a bitmap, but there's so many non-standard UI elements in play that this is going to fail horribly on a lot of UIs. Maybe that means we should stop using custom UI elements, but sometimes those custom UI elements simply are more appropriate than the widgets that come with the OS/widget provider.

Re:The real question is- (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31747370)

Or software could be released with source code, modifiable by the purchaser just using plain copyright. It's not a new idea.

Re:The real question is- (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31747460)

Yea, And the entire internet will fail when monitors with larger resolutions begin to sell, since everything will look different.......

They don't need to hardcode the position and timing for everysingle pixel coloration for this to work. You know that thing you can do with computers where they can handle dynamic changes, programming I think it's called, it's quite the rave these days.

Re:The real question is- (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747486)

What if you resize your monitor, do your 'customizations' all go to hell?

How often does that happen, though? Personally, I've used laptops pretty much exclusively for the last six or seven years. Which means resizing the monitor means getting an entirely new system, something I only do once every two years or so. I'm more than happy to go through the steps to get this kind of thing working once every two years if it means I can customize software I have to use for work to make it easier for me to do my job.

Re:The real question is- (1)

Fast Thick Pants (1081517) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747632)

Happens a lot if you log in via RDP.

Re:The real question is- (1)

RalphSleigh (899929) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747930)

Watch the youtube video, they have the software running on Vista work on widgets drawn in a OSX remote desktop, this can totally handle you moving windows around/changing screen resolution. I would be more worried if it can work on loads of different Gnome GTK themes, as the widgets will be less consistent.

Re:The real question is- (2, Informative)

npsimons (32752) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747598)

Closed software' is a fact of life for most users. This attempt at 'expanding' the functionality isn't very impressive, though, and won't have very many real world uses. What if you resize your monitor, do your 'customizations' all go to hell?

Not to mention the legal issues. Or trying to keep up with changes intentionally made to break your efforts (just ask the WINE, SAMBA or iPod-Linux compatibility devs about this).

The first time I saw this article in ACM links I thought "neat, but what a waste of effort; I should send them a note letting them know that open source welcomes this sort of innovation with open arms".

Re:The real question is- (1)

kvezach (1199717) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747822)

I always liked using the plugin architecture for applications that provide it.

And for those that don't, there's always IDA and Olly.

Re:The real question is- (4, Interesting)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746684)

A more interesting question is the legality of this. If I distribute a customization kit for a closed source software, when is it considered like a crack ?

Re:The real question is- (5, Insightful)

tokul (682258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746766)

If I distribute a customization kit for a closed source software, when is it considered like a crack ?

What's the difference between hacker and cracker?

If your customization kit does not break closed source software licensing and you don't distribute it with software that you don't own, it is not breaking any copyright laws.

Re:The real question is- (1)

Razalhague (1497249) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746912)

Couldn't it be considered a derivative work?

Re:The real question is- (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747106)

No it can not.

Re:The real question is- (1)

omnichad (1198475) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747552)

If a magnifying glass or keyboard can, sure.

Re:The real question is- (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746954)

It is most probably breaking the EULA.
And experience has taught me to be weary of what seems rational, logical and full of common sense in the legal world...

When I read such things on the project made to allow OS X to run on a PC :
http://wiki.osx86project.org/wiki/index.php/FAQ#Legal [osx86project.org]
I can only think that someone will complain sooner or later. I can't see Adobe accepting the sale of something customizing paintshop pro without getting some bucks from it.

Re:The real question is- (1)

tokul (682258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747204)

I can't see Adobe accepting the sale of something customizing paintshop pro without getting some bucks from it.

I don't think that Adobe cares about PSP. It is Corel and Jasc product.

You can sell action scripts for photoshop without paying greedy bastards at Adobe.

osx86project is about running MacOS on hardware which is not supported by Apple. Apple might have some legal and not legal thoughs about it, because OSX is add-on to their hardware and running it on other hardware cuts their profits.

Re:The real question is- (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747428)

Sorry, I meant photoshop, not paintshop pro...

Re:The real question is- (1)

Nerdposeur (910128) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747398)

I can't see Adobe accepting the sale of something customizing paintshop pro without getting some bucks from it.

Especially if it uses the commercial product's name in its advertising.

Re:The real question is- (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31747736)

And experience has taught me to be weary of what seems rational, logical and full of common sense in the legal world...

Experience has taught me to be wary of people who misuse the word weary.

Re:The real question is- (3, Interesting)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746770)

I have to imagine that, if this software is intercepting the outputs of legally-paid-for closed source software and altering them, this could never be considered a crack. Then again, I suppose if Hollyweird can sue someone for building a custom version of a movie with the swearing and naughty bits bleeped out, while including a copy of the original version of the movie to make sure the end consumer has actually purchased a license, who knows?

If this is considered a "crack", will software developers be able to stop me from purchasing a larger screen, or better speakers?

Re:The real question is- (4, Insightful)

psnyder (1326089) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747390)

if this software is intercepting the outputs of legally-paid-for closed source software and altering them, this could never be considered a crack.

Here's Facebook threatening a Greasemonkey script developer [slashdot.org] for pretty much the same thing (altering the output after it's in the browser).

Re:The real question is- (1)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747768)

Then again, I suppose if Hollyweird can sue someone for building a custom version of a movie with the swearing and naughty bits bleeped out..

Actually that bugs the hell out of me. If a movie comes on TV I want the see the movie as intended, not some hacked up derivative based on someone elses misdirected moral values. I should decide what I can and cannot watch - not someone else. For the most part I've stopped watching movies broadcast on US television because they are so hacked to pieces they are unwatchable. Usually in Canada a movie on TV will have warnings on it stating what the content is, but not be edited.

Re:The real question is- (4, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746906)

While the power of the almighty EULA and(in the case of software with embedded DRM/anti-tampering features, the DMCA) might well cloud the issue, there is an analogy worth looking at.

A while back, there was a company called "CleanFlicks" that operated a movie rental service, aimed mostly at Fundie Mormons and the like. They took DVDs, reviewed them, and produced bowdlerized versions, which they then rented out. They were sued, and lost, on the grounds that they were, indeed, producing and trafficking in unlicenced derivative works.(IRRC, they purchased as many DVDs as they rented out, so they weren't illegally duplicating, ie. 1 purchase to 1 edited rental copy, in any useful way; but they were still smacked down). They exist today with a much reduced catalog of movies that fit their standards without editing.

A similar company "ClearPlay" used a different tactic. They provided specially programmed DVD players that were able to interpret a control file(programmmatic mute/unmute, FF/play, etc.) and rented unedited commercial DVDs, along with matching control files that, when used with their players, automatically "edited" the DVD as you watched it. The MPAA threw a fit; but the company survived legal challenge(it helped that congress, tipping their hat to "the children" passed a law to explicitly clarify the scope of copyright on this point). Since, unlike "CleanFlicks", they weren't actually creating a derivative work, just a control file that modified the behavior of the DVD player during playback, they were judged to be in a different category.

Again, barring the sorts of tricks that can be pulled with even weak DRM+DMCA, this sort of "customization kit" tech would probably fall into the "ClearPlay" side of the analogy. Actually selling edited binaries, even if you purchased a legitimate copy for each edited one you sold, would almost certainly put you in the "CleanFlicks" camp, and get you smacked down; but selling a customization package that modifies the appearance of a binary only at the point of execution on the end user's computer, or even selling a bundle of "copy of commercial software + installer for customization kit" would probably pass legal muster.

The only complication, of course, is that court decisions are, in practice, driven by a mixture of the text of the law and a somewhat emotive sense of "intent" or "desirable outcome". Protecting the kiddies from corruption generally wins you warm and fuzzies. It isn't clear that modifying the appearance of dialog boxes would have the same cultural clout(unless you could, say, find a nice test case involving a bunch of blind kids who are able to use $SOFWARE_X with their screenreaders for the very first time*wipes tear* or something of that sort).

Re:The real question is- (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31746952)

Oops, forgot to mention: Any precedent established by cases surrounding "Game Genie", "Gameshark" and the various other cartridge pass-through modding systems might be even more relevant.

Again, the DMCA can be used in some rather nasty ways; but my understanding (IANAL) is that "Game Genie" and friends, while strongly disliked by the console makers, generally survived legal challenge, because they were pretty clearly only useful for letting people who had purchased cartridges make fair use of them on their own personal systems. Had those passthrough-mod systems also included, say, cartridge ROM dump capabilities, they might well have been smacked down.

Re:The real question is- (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31747034)

Actually, with ClearPlay you buy the DVD player, subscribe to their service and download definitions to use with movies that you have purchased. You do not have to buy your movies from them.

Re:The real question is- (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747402)

How about skipping the nag screen of a freeware ?
To take a real example, last time I clicked on a .zip file on a vista computer, winzip opened and started to count slowly the number of days it was used without being bought. I have the feeling that if I were to bypass this, a court could feel I am circumventing something.

(it helped that congress, tipping their hat to "the children" passed a law to explicitly clarify the scope of copyright on this point)

If they had to do this, it shows that the matter is not evident with regard to the law.

Re:The real question is- (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31747584)

I thought they wrote a DVD software that made the dvd player skip these sections or mute them, but otherwise leaving the original DVD in tact?

Re:The real question is- (1)

silverglade00 (1751552) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747242)

Stardock [stardock.com] doesn't seem to have any legal problems from doing this.

Re:The real question is- (0, Offtopic)

goldenseller01 (1784086) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747262)

http://www.golden-seller.com/ [golden-seller.com] Jersey $23 Sunglass $12 Purse: $12 Necklace $15 Bracelet $15 handbag $33 Bikini $23 http://www.golden-seller.com/ [golden-seller.com] High quality,competitive price,accept paypal,fast delivery Newest fashion style of sport shoes,strait jackets,hot underwear,NHL, NFL, MLB, NBA Jerseys. sunglasses,wallets,boots,rings,necklace,bikinis,boots,dress shoes,high heel shoes,jeans,t-shirt,outfit,hot underwear,swimsuit,rings,necklace,belts,purse,handbags ,caps,scarf, http://www.golden-seller.com/ [golden-seller.com]

Re:The real question is- (1)

f3rret (1776822) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747792)

I don't think it would be considered a crack. Far as I am aware as long as you do not actually alter the code of the executable and only alter whatever the program keeps in memory (such as the pixels being painted on the screen) then it is legal.

I know of at least one multiplayer game that has a loader available to allow people to play the game through an unofficial multiplayer portal, and far as I am aware it is not illegal.

That being said, I think the only reason it is not considered illegal is because none of the software houses are fully aware of these things yet, soon as one of the larger software companies gets word that this is happening I am fairly sure they'll get uppity and take the developers of the customization kit to court - and win.

Re:The real question is- (3, Insightful)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746776)

No we aren’t. But many (pretty dumb) people have the perception that we would, because they think that others would have that perception, because (1:) they said something alike, because they themselves think that others would have that perception, because... GOTO (1).

Or in other words: Monkey, see, monkey think, monkey parrot. ^^

What most people don’t know, is that it’s all in our head. Like fashion. Why did women think that wearing rubber boots with colorful flowers on them in the middle of the summer would be cool? Because “it was the fashion at the time“. And why was it that? Because some self-appointed “fashion expert” told them so. (Because he sold that stuff. But that’s another story.)

But I think in this case there wasn’t even really a starting point. There was some perception that “that’s how it is”, because the closed source people acted more secure, because, being business people, they were trained that way.

The thing is: Why would you let it just grow on us like a mind-virus, when you can change it just like that? After all, if it’s all in our heads, it only requires some of us to always securely act how it really is: We are gaining, winning, and rolling over them in an unstoppable wave!
Have you ever noticed how a big mass of people switched their mind sets, and started to become a raging mob, or something like that? It’s that exact thing. It only needs a seed (you) who is so secure, that they start to doubt themselves. Then the rest is only a matter of that self-amplifying mechanism above, and time (depending on how strong your reality is).

It’s a big war of psychology and social engineering, for the minds of people. And I don’t let the politicians, mass media or greedy multinational corporations win it. :)
Think like this: You’re a mind hacker. And the mind is by far the most complex computer ever. Isn’t that much cooler than doing it to such a (in comparison) ridiculously simple thing as a computer (network)?

Re:The real question is- (3, Informative)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747234)

No more Snow Crash for you

Re:The real question is- (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31746844)

For certain software, there is simply not an open source alternative that comes close to offering the same features, functionality and intuitiveness.

Standard example: Photoshop. The closest open source has is GIMP, which isn't even remotely in the same ballpark quality-wise.

Re:The real question is- (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747110)

Are we really that desperate to continue using closed software.

That decision will be made by the user. For whom the program is always more than the code.

Re:The real question is- (1)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747720)

I would say the same about open source software. Especially the ones with the licence agreement that forces me to publish any derivative works.

Re:The real question is- (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31747862)

"Polishing a turd" is the phrase that comes to mind. 99% of proprietary software are worse than their open source counterparts, and then we have 1% that is "irreplaceable" - because nobody has written an open source equivalent - yet.

Screen Scraper (2, Insightful)

drrck (959788) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746594)

This is called a screen scraper, and likes to break with updates to the underlying program, right?

Re:Screen Scraper (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746636)

Yep. Great for automating repetitive actions in the meantime, though...

Re:Screen Scraper (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746692)

It's like AutoIT (or any of the others like it) but with far less functionality.

It's also kinda like what you'd supposed to be able to do with COM, VBA, Rexx or any of the other similar mechanisms from past decades, but easily breakable.

Re:Screen Scraper (5, Informative)

BarryJacobsen (526926) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746690)

If you RTFA or WTFV, you'd know that it's detecting the input elements using an algorithm and not hard coded to the specific application (they even demoed VNCing into an OS X machine and having it detect the UI elements there and applying the processing).

Re:Screen Scraper (2, Insightful)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746798)

And if you've worked with screen scrapers, you'd know that most of them are based on UI elements, and an upgrade to the underlying software almost always causes problems because the UI elements frequently change when software is upgraded.

So, yes, this is a screen scraper, which means it will survive some small alterations to the UI, but you're usually looking at upgrading/rewriting the screen specs when the underlying screens change.

Re:Screen Scraper (1)

Joe Random (777564) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747334)

And if you've worked with screen scrapers, you'd know that most of them are based on UI elements, and an upgrade to the underlying software almost always causes problems because the UI elements frequently change when software is upgraded.

Screen scrapers fail when the UI is updated because they need to be able to find and scrape specific bits of data. They need to know which widgets map to which values. By contrast, this software only cares about locating standard widgets on the screen. End of story. It doesn't care what values are represented by those widgets, because that's not relevant to its functionality. So it should work just fine for any application that uses a known set of widgets, since all it needs to do is be able to say, "Ah, that looks like a checkbox!" and "Oh, that's clearly a text input box". Changing widget graphics would likely break it in a similar way that rearranging them would break a screen scraper, but just moving them around would have zero impact (unless you start overlapping them or something else funky like that, I guess).

Anybody got the equivalent for web pages? (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746634)

Now they just need to make a tool for web articles like this that customizes the UI to just show the article, without all that crap around it.

Re:Anybody got the equivalent for web pages? (4, Informative)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746646)

Yes, it’s called GreaseMonkey.

What's this about you libelling others here? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31747042)

Re:What's this about you libelling others here? (1)

StuartHankins (1020819) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747660)

Grow some, kid. Posting as AC just makes you look even dumber.

Re:Anybody got the equivalent for web pages? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31746672)

Yes, it's called adblock.

Re:Anybody got the equivalent for web pages? (1)

DrVxD (184537) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746786)

Yes, it's called Lynx

Re:Anybody got the equivalent for web pages? (3, Informative)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746816)

Combine the two previous posts, and add NoScript in for good measure.

Greasemonkey + AdBlock Plus + NoScript = The Web, the way YOU want it to be. :)

And, just like the tool above, if a company changes their web page, you're looking at some redo on at least the Greasemonkey site. Be sure to add Greasefire in addition to Greasemonkey - lots of people have lots of great scripts that are at least good example code to pull from.

Re:Anybody got the equivalent for web pages? (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747072)

Thanks for the Greasefire tip, I didn't knew it.

Re:Anybody got the equivalent for web pages? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31746818)

Now they just need to make a tool for web articles like this that customizes the UI to just show the article, without all that crap around it.

Now they just need to make a tool for web articles like this that customizes the UI to just show the article, without all whining it.

T, FTFY

Re:Anybody got the equivalent for web pages? (1)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747000)

Yes, it's called jQuerify.

Redefinition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31746644)

"Behave like open source": Freely customizable. "Open source" (FOSS) is sufficient for customizability, but not necessary.

If the original program's operation is not modified, then there is probably a second process which does the extra stuff. Perhaps the modification of the UI is innovative, but the act of using a second program to do stuff for another is not (at least not to anyone with 10 minutes of programming experience, even for a non-CS (math) like me).

"Manipulating software at the pixel level" (2, Funny)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746662)

This quote really made my day...

Re:"Manipulating software at the pixel level" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31747420)

Finally, we can now create a GUI interface in Visual Basic to track an IP address!

Re:"Manipulating software at the pixel level" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31747488)

So that's how they tighten up those graphics!

Stopgap at best. (2, Funny)

headkase (533448) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746666)

Open Source as a development methodology has already won. It is more scalable: more features, custom features, localization, error removing all work better with it. It is also a lateral organization like a web which avoids some issues that the "Mythical Man Month" talks about which results from hierarchal organization. Close software will never go away but it's utility has already been greatly compromised by Open software. With Open software this extra translation layer is unnecessary you would just modify the source and have a more reliable program intrinsically. Code is Free, get over it.

Re:Stopgap at best. (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747076)

Open source may technically be a better development model for those reasons, but you need to have interested developers to work on your projects, and the only way to get people interested in some projects is simply to pay them. It won't matter how open or closed the source is if nobody is interested in helping out. So closed source is just as good if not better than open source for that type of scenario, because it will get the hours of work it needs put in there. Even if a closed source equivalent does become available, it will probably be months or years later if only one guy is interested in the project rather than a team of contracted developers (yes I'm aware that more coders is not always a Good Thing for getting a project finished quickly, or at all).

Re:Stopgap at best. (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747308)

Open Source as a development methodology has already won.

Not in all categories of computer programs. Can you show me evidence that open source has won for, say, video games?

Seriously? (3, Insightful)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746698)

That has to add a lot of overhead to the already running process and to what benefit? If it's reading the code "as many as 20 times per second" that is going to add tons of CPU and RAM usage to the system that just isn't needed. F/OSS ftw!

Re:Seriously? (2, Insightful)

Chris_Stankowitz (612232) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746834)

hat has to add a lot of overhead to the already running process and to what benefit? If it's reading the code "as many as 20 times per second" that is going to add tons of CPU and RAM usage to the system that just isn't needed. F/OSS ftw!

With i7 chips, SSD HDs, 64bit OSes that support 4+ gig of triple chan memory (any or all of those in one machine are huge improvements in desktop computing power) you'll still not push it to capacity with 20 such apps running. We are at a point where we have an abundance of CPU/memory to spare, I see nothing wrong with developing such apps (if only as stop gaps) until such time that a suitable replacement arrives. These apps very well may be the impetus for the development of those open apps once it proved that a user/market base wants it.

CS-

Re:Seriously? (3, Insightful)

edbob (960004) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747664)

This sounds like the same sort of attitude that software writers have had for ages. Just write bloated, inefficient code and let processing power eventually catch up to run the software. I think that this needs to be a legitimate concern or we will wind up back to the point where a new version of Windows would come out and barely be able to run on the technology available. Yes, this may not add much to a computer running a Core i7 with 6 gigs of memory, but that sort of system is pretty rare in the real world. Most people use computers that are a few years old.

Re:Seriously? (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747700)

my own is about 8 years old (though still pretty beefy IMO, PIV 2.4GHz, 1.5GB ram, does the job)

Re:Seriously? (1)

nmg196 (184961) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746922)

> If it's reading the code "as many as 20 times per second" that is going to add tons of CPU and RAM usage

Why? 20 times per second is nothing. Our PCs can do billions of operations per second. I doubt a few basic UI tweaks will make even a 1% difference to CPU loading unless it's very badly written. The way it works isn't even that different to how skinnable applications work natively. Sure there's an extra step - but those steps will only a take a couple of milliseconds out of every second.

Re:Seriously? (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747662)

There is an exponential difference between "20 times per second" and "20 instructions per second". I don't know how much headroom this would generate, but I know it would likely be a few million times more than "20 instructions per second".

Re:Seriously? (1)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747272)

I waste a ton of time at work manually interacting with a closed source ActiveX program. I've been looking for a way to automate refreshing the data screen and parsing the info.

Having a 500$ computer do this is FAR FAR cheaper than hiring a person to do this.

Yes, using F/OSS would have been the second best alternative. The best alternative was the original software tool that was developed in-house, which was tossed out.

Re:Seriously? (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747670)

):

ResEdit on System 7? (1)

mystik (38627) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746712)

I remember doing hacks like this to Mac applications -- back when they had resource + data forks. The resource forks contained all their sounds, graphics, icons, forms, etc. With ResEdit you could simply open up (most) applications and tweak them to your hearts content :)

Re:ResEdit on System 7? (1)

walshy007 (906710) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746924)

Mac applications -- back when they had resource + data forks

They still do.

Re:ResEdit on System 7? (1)

omnichad (1198475) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747824)

Applications don't really use them anymore, except to store icons. OS X applications are folders named with a .app extension, which the OS abstracts to a single icon. The reality is that the executable is just one file inside this folder somewhere. None of those files are in the resource fork anymore.

Re:ResEdit on System 7? (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747096)

From the summary I thought this sounded more analogous to writing a GUI front end for a command line program rather than simply changing the graphics.. you add another layer on top that takes a high level command then performs the intended action in the application, but with less needless tedium.

Re:ResEdit on System 7? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31747320)

Most OS X programs (but not all) are actually directories with the .app extension.

Want to change the "burn done" sound in burner.app? ctrl-click or right-click, select "Show package contents", navigate to what you want to edit, and edit. It's even easier in the console, if you're so inclined, since the console doesn't know it's supposed to pretend to think the directory is a file.

(And when you're done and want to test from the console, 'open burner.app' works great!)

Headline once again (2, Insightful)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746768)

The headline seems completely disconnected from text of the summary

Re:Headline once again (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746830)

You can add "features" in terms of "laying things out slightly differently, or providing highlights and other feedback, all of which still interfaces with an identical feature set of the app underneath".

Or "it is acting like it is open in the same way as straping stabilisers to a motorbike makes it like a sports car".

Copyright infringement (2, Interesting)

hweimer (709734) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746780)

Chances are that such "enhancements" constitute a derivative work of the proprietary user interface. In many jurisdiction even using such a thing is illegal and distributing the enhancements without permission from the copyright owner most certainly is. Which, of course, is very different from free and open source software, where people are encouraged to share and improve the code.

Re:Copyright infringement (2, Informative)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746848)

It's only a derivative work if you distribute the proprietary software along with your enhancement. If the enhancement simply requires that the user already have a copy of the proprietary software in order to use it, then it's not a derivative work.

Re:Copyright infringement (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747592)

It's only a derivative work if you distribute the proprietary software along with your enhancement. If the enhancement simply requires that the user already have a copy of the proprietary software in order to use it, then it's not a derivative work.

Depends. If the enhancement has significant chunks of the original app's UI included within it (e.g. for purposes of recognising specific dialogs, etc.), it could be considered derivative. This is the same theory as states that an app compiled against a library, even if it's dynamically linked to it, is also a derivative of that library, because it's designed specifically to fit around it.

Re:Copyright infringement (1)

time961 (618278) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746942)

This is sorta like ClearPlay--software that automatically excises the "naughty bits" from commercial DVDs (e.g., turning R-rated flicks into G). There was a lawsuit, of course, but they seem to still be in business, so they must have won in some sense. As I recall the argument was that the software was NOT a derivative work because it was distributed completely separately and contained none of the original work. It only knows about the time (location) of the naughty bits so it could skip past them, and was thus no different, except for being automated, from a printed list that would tell the viewer when to hit fast forward.

On the other hand, it seems that some services and software which involved copying the DVD but leaving the naughty bits out didn't succeed--even though the customers could prove that they owned the original DVDs.

This technology seems like it could be considered a wrapper in the same sense as ClearPlay--it doesn't have to contain ANY of the original software, just observations about it.

Re:Copyright infringement (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747160)

Chances are that such "enhancements" constitute a derivative work of the proprietary user interface.

No, it isn't. If I buy ten copies of LOTR and write in the margins and resell those books, I have not created a "derivative work". If I reprint those ten books with the extra notes, even if I include the original copies, then I have created a derivative work and have infringed copyright.

No way is changing the output of a program a "derivative work"; it's writing in the margins, and not even reselling the books. You would have whoever sold me the pencil be called a pirate?

What's actually new here? (3, Insightful)

time961 (618278) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746832)

Tools like this have been around for ages, although they are usually called "GUI test frameworks" or "automation assistants". Such tools provide a way of scripting interactions with an existing GUI. However, they really only focus on mimicking pre-recorded user interactions--it seems like it would be quite time-consuming and fragile to reverse-engineer an arbitrary program's dialogue boxes in a robust way that would allow control to be significantly enhanced.

Also, on Windows, at least, there are tools that enhance the operation of dialogue boxes (for example, adding history and options to the File Open dialog). Those tools work at a more abstract level than snagging pixels, which is a lot more efficient--but that means they are ineffective on applications that have already customized those dialogues.

It seems like the fundamental non-breakthrough here is that the application actually must already include the functionality that you want to express in your modified UI--otherwise, you can modify the UI all you want, but the app will only do what it's capable of. So if you want it to display a bunch of different renderings in sub-windows automatically (to use their example), it had better be capable of that display already.

Look, not act (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31746920)

It seems to me the title should be "Making Closed Software Look like it's Open". But what do I know. Maybe the looks is all that's important in software nowadays.

Get off of my lawn and all that.

wallhack, aimhack, maphax (3, Insightful)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746960)

this is nothing new

one question... (1)

flahwho (1243110) | more than 4 years ago | (#31746998)

WHY!!??

And next week... (3, Insightful)

lxs (131946) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747002)

We show prisoners how to paint the bars on their windows the color of the sky and pretend that they are free.

Game Genie (1)

Chameleon Man (1304729) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747036)

Isn't this similar to how the old Game Genie and Gameshark systems used to work on console games, or am I way off mark here?

Reverse Engineering (1)

dandart (1274360) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747094)

Some closed source software explicitly prohibit modificatiion (unknown whether it counts in memory) and reverse-engineering. This is probably illegal.

Screen scraping... (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747102)

Screen scraping is a very common activity. Everybody needs to use the Print Screen function eventually and it is a simple step to edit the result in the Gimp.

thats like claiming McDonalds is a 5* restaurant (1)

kubitus (927806) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747104)

I wish them a lot of of fun - to make user input result into an improved software!

Scammers have done this years ago. (3, Insightful)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747112)

Exploits that do this are in the wild.

They hijack your client display when you access a banking page, fill in the account details and amount for you, while presenting you with interface to enter your target account, then replace the data on the confirmation page with whatever you entered while obscuring the data they entered. You sign the transaction with a token or OTP and instead of sending $15 to your aunt, $10k money gets transferred to the hijacker's account in Nigeria.

Nothing new about this.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31747208)

Method of "hooking" draw-calls and substituting those with your own methods has been around for as long as there have been "windowed" user interfaces.

What was the point of this article? Someone just found several decades old stuff and just assumed being the first?

Unce upon a time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31747322)

Once upon a time, back in the dreaded days of America OnLine... we did something very similar to this. We would use a windows api hook along with a few other api tools to add menus to AOL's interface. This menu would basically link to our "proggies" (i.e. our collection of mass mailers, "punters", scrollers, faders, chat bots, TOSers, etc.) There's a lot you could do with the windows api.

All of this was between 10 and 15 years ago by a bunch of bored, VB programming teenagers. Those were the days.

Very common already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31747560)

I believe this kind of sourceless modifications for accessibility are very common indeed. Just download nocd/nodvd-crack to any game and you'll have the game a whole lot more accessible and playable. Though recent trends have been mostly to make games less accessible (with more DRM) and some games have evolved to a point where no amount of work can make them playable (ref. latest Ubisoft DRM).

Sounds like a new twist on (1)

mswhippingboy (754599) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747642)

the age old technique of screen-scraping, only probably a lot more error prone (if that's possible).

YAWN, Nothing New... (1)

ckaminski (82854) | more than 4 years ago | (#31747784)

I did this years ago back in 1998 when I had an issue getting my MAPI service provider working to provide an interface to my companies calendaring tool. I hijacked the Outlook calendar to create items in my software, while supporting regular Outlook email. Good stuff.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?