It was about 2 weeks ago when I was driving home from work when Triple J’s current affairs program Hack came on the radio. The topic of the day was climate change and it caught my ear not because I’m terribly involved in the movement (although I have blogged around it on 4 separate occasions in the past) but because it was leading up to a program I had seen advertised on the ABC called I Can Change Your Mind on Climate. The show pits Anna Rose, a noted environmental activist, against well noted (and much derided here on this blog) former senator Nick Minchin, a climate change skeptic/denier. The program was to focus on them travelling the world and meeting with experts from their side of the argument, in the hopes to swing them to one side or the other.
The idea intrigued me as whilst I was once a person who could be at best described as a climate change agnostic (I didn’t have enough information to sway me to either side) actual research into the phenomena showed that the evidence was unequivocally for it happening and that us humans were to blame for it. Thus I wasn’t so interested in Anna Rose’s side of the argument as I’m already sold on that, but I was intrigued to see what kind of experts Nick Minchin could dredge up to support his claims. Unfortunately due to work commitments I didn’t catch the show but from what I’ve heard neither gave any ground and objectively Minchin did more harm than good by the experts he chose.
That would’ve been the end of it but the show came up in conversation yesterday. To my surprise it was met with much derision even though I thought that it was for the most part bad for Minchin and great for everyone else. Their issue wasn’t so much the program but with the format in which it was presented, pitting one side of an argument against the other. Whilst this might appear to be the fair and balanced way (snicker) of discussing the material at hand it is in fact portraying a situation that simply doesn’t exist.
The one that there are 2 legitimate sides to this argument.
Anyone who’s not familiar with the current state of climate science watching such a program would believe that there’s still an ongoing debate on whether or not climate change is man made. Scientifically speaking this is far from the truth as 97% of scientists surveyed (of a total of 489) support that view point. Of the 3% that don’t agree with that view point most of them were not in an area related to climate research which takes the overall percentage of climate scientists who believe climate change is man made much closer to the 100% mark. The current debate is around what the impact will be and its severity, but with shows like the former you’d still think that the scientists are out on whether or not we’re at the center of this environmental problem.
This is the problem with representing opposing views with equal standing to a public that only gets its information from a single source. It’s highly unlikely that someone undecided on climate change would come away from such a program thinking that they needed to research it more. Instead such programs would either reinforce currently held beliefs (whether for good or bad) or simply leave them in the agnostic state they were in to begin with. It may be time for the government to go on an climate change denier campaign in much the same way as they’ve done for smoking as there’s just as much scientific evidence to support both.
Realistically I know I’m preaching to the choir here but posts like these (my piece on the anti-vaccination movement being one of them) seems to attract the kinds of crazies that I’m hoping will do a double take and think about their current position. I know that it’s a hard sell for those guys, most will just dismiss this post outright, but if I can get through to some I’ll consider it a success.
Sony really has no tolerance when it comes to piracy on their systems. Whilst in the past they were mostly disinterested (since there was little they could do about it) their reaction to the current state of piracy on the Playstation 3 has been nothing short of full fledged war on those who’d seek to get something for nothing. Still it seems like their efforts might be misplaced as the damage has already been done and any methods taken to try and contain it merely serve as a Streisand Effect, further publicising the efforts of those they’d seek to contain. Still for all the hubbub that’s going on I personally believe that it’s a storm in a teacup, with both sides making a bigger deal of this than it really is.
The roots of this entire debacle can be traced back to one curious hacker, Geohot. Just on a year ago he released details of a hack that basically enabled him full control over the PS3 when it was in OtherOS mode, opening the door for much better homebrew applications that could take full advantage of the PS3’s power. Sony, to their discredit, overreacted to this by removing OtherOS as a feature in the next update. In all honesty Geohot’s initial hack was barely a threat to anyone as it required a very high level of knowledge and the guts to crack open your PS3 and solder switches across vital components. Removing said feature then triggered many other hacker groups to start having a shot at breaking open the PS3, and 8 month’s later we saw the rise of the PS3 jailbreaks.
Most recently however the whole scene went into overdrive after the hacker team fail0verflow released details on how to recover many of the private keys that Sony uses to verify game discs and other critical GameOS functions. It didn’t take too long after that for Geohot to release the root key which, in essence, cracked the entire system wide open. Whilst I’ve yet to dive into the nitty gritty myself it would seem that this round of hacks requires no crazy dongles or anything that’s above the level of the average Windows user. A quick look over some of my old hacking haunts shows there’s quite a spread of tools available, even a nifty little program that can point your PS3 to a share where you can store all your games, neat. Sony has been quick to come down on these hacks and the hackers have been even quicker in response, showing that the arms race Sony is playing against the masses will never be won.
The thing is though that whilst this enables piracy on a console that has been immune to it for the majority of its life it’s far from being the catastrophe that Sony seems to think it will be. The PC and the Xbox have both suffered from rampant piracy from their earliest days and the industry continues to flourish in spite of them. The fact is that anyone who would be solely pirating games isn’t a lost customer in the first place and many of them would’ve steered clear of the PS3 because of that. Heck even after I modded my Xbox so I could play some “backed up” games I ended up reverting it back simply because I wanted to play online and I didn’t play any of those games for longer than an hour. The simple fact is that a game I’m not willing to part with the money for is a game I wouldn’t play anyway, and I’m sure that’s common across most console owners.
Piracy is often the excuse used for all sorts of draconian measures that publishers use to try and protect their investments. Time and time again however it has been shown that users who can’t pirate aren’t instantly converted into paying customers, they simply do without and move onto another source of free entertainment. Piracy, on the surface at least, appears to be a much worse problem than it actually is and whilst the PS3 may now be wide open for all those who want to exploit it I doubt we’ll see publishers pulling releases for the platform any time soon. Personally I’d love to be able to rip my library of games to a hard drive so I could have them all on tap whenever I wanted them, but with Sony’s rampant anti-piracy stance it looks like I’ll have to forgo that dream until I don’t want to use my PS3 online anymore.
And I don’t think that’s going to be any time soon, either.
I’ve always been one to try and make whatever technology I’ve bought do something it wasn’t originally intended for. Mostly this is because I want to unlock some of the hidden value that the technology has or enable some functionality that had been disabled by the manufacturer. You can then imagine my excitement when my wife’s parents gave us a Navman MY60T for christmas as whilst I wasn’t 100% sure what underlying operating system it had on it I figured it would be either Android or Windows CE and there are plenty of cool things I could do with either. So not a day after getting it I had secured myself a memory card and began a furious google search to see what could be done with this little device.
Initially I couldn’t find much as this particular model is relatively new. Still figuring that most models don’t change too much I widen my search to try and catch hacks that worked on previous models. After an hour or so I came across an application called MioPocket which appeared to be a wholesale replacement for the underlying operating system. After looking around for a while I discovered a forum dedicated to this software and saw that the community was alive and well, so I decided to give it a try.
Installing MioPocket on the MY60T appeared to be a pretty simple affair. After copying across the needed files to my SD card and creating the required folder (the folder name for the MY60T is SEEKER2_T500E) I restarted my device and was presented with the MioPocket install screen. I ran MioPocket and it appeared to install without a hitch, triggering a reboot of my device. However when it started back up again I recieved an error “Application MortScript.exe encountered a serious error and must shut down” and my Navman froze. Removing the SD card and rebooting the device allowed it to come good again but I was unfortunately unable to use MioPocket.
I searched the GPSPassion forums for a good few hours trying to find a solution to my problem. Most of the posts I found relating to this error appeared to be fixed in current releases and attempting to replicate those changes didn’t seem to make much of a difference. Since I didn’t have much of a clue of how MioPocket was strung together (apart from it being a Windows CE application) I posted up my problems and hoped I’d hit someone else who’d had the same issue and managed to resolve it.
Luckily not a day later did a user get back to me with the required solution. All that was required was to delete the toolhelp.dll files in all the folders on the SD card apart from one, the Windows folder. Doing so allowed my device to install and boot MioPocket successfully. A quick test showed that some applications refused to run (although I didn’t thoroughly test it) but for the most part it was fine, allowing me to run all sorts of weird and wonderful programs on my new found toy. Talking with one of my friends (who was one of the fortunate people to have an i-Mate JasJam back when they were hot) revealed that I could also get Warcraft 2 and Doom running on there if I was so inclined.
So after all that effort is it worth unlocking your GPS so you can run other programs on it? For most people probably not as whenever you’re going to be using your GPS the manufacturer’s included software will more than suffice. However unlocking it can provide extra features that might come in handy like the ability to load in eBooks or a simple calculator. Probably those who will get the most out of such hacks would be the modding community as these devices are excellent value for what they provide. I know I would’ve preferred a device like this to the $450 TV screen I bought for my car almost 5 years ago. So if you’ve got a GPS lying around and an hour or two to spare MioPocket could well be worth a look in, especially if you’ve got that hacker mentality.
Nearly every device that happens to make its way into my home ends up being modified in some not-intended-by-the-manufacturer way. Usually this is because there’s some cool feature I can unlock by doing so and the process of modifying the device is usually quite enjoyable, for an engineer like myself at least. There are of course two notable exceptions that have managed to avoid the mod stick and they are my PlayStation 3 and my iPhone. Both of them were expensive pieces of electronics to purchase and whilst the former has long been out of warrenty the iPhone is still good for another 8 months. Additionally I haven’t had a compelling reason to jailbreak the iPhone yet and probably won’t since I’ll be fiddling around with at least 2 other handsets very soon.
The PlayStation on the other hand has been immune to any attempts to modify it for a long time. You could up the hard drive size (with instructions directly from Sony) and even run some homebrew in the form of Blu-ray Disc Java that allowed people to use emulators for a short time. Sony eventually clamped down on it limiting the functionality only to actual Blu-ray discs but you can still run the emulators should you have the inclination to burn a disc for the experience. Such behaviour is typical for any company wanting to protect their systems from piracy as these small chinks in their armour eventually lead to cracking the system wide open, but it was still a long time before we heard anything about the PS3.
Early in the year we saw the first steps towards a full blown system hack of the PS3 in the form of an incredibly complicated bus glitching memory allocation attack from GeoHot, the prolific iPhone hacker. At the time I dismissed the ideaof pirating PS3 games as doing so would be quite an extravagance considering the cost of discs, burners and bandwidth. In the time between then and now my ISP upped my cap not once, but twice to a grand total of 240GB/month for the exact same price I was paying before. Suddenly the notion of downloading a PS3 game didn’t seem like such a waste of bandwidth, in fact I’d be struggling to use such an immense amount of data without downloading a few massive files like Blu-ray disc copies.
However such an idea was still curtailed by the fact that there wasn’t any way to actually backup or play backed up games on the PS3. Sony managed to get a lot of people off side when they removed the Other OS functionality triggering GeoHot to work towards fully cracking open the system (and thus enabling the piracy nightmare that Sony had thusfar avoided) but many months passed and we heard nothing from the hacking scene. It seemed that the PS3 would be one of the first platforms to resist all attempts to crack into it.
That was until just recently.
The hack was met with a healthy dose of skepticism when it was first shown by the guys over at OzModChips and rightly so, the system has been unhackable for quite some time and every hack that we’d seen so far turned out to be fake. Still they assured us it was real and further reports showed that it in fact was the first legitimate hack of the PS3 to make prime time. The fact that it required no physical modifications to the console made everyone even more curious as to how the hack actually worked as just plugging in an USB stick seemed far too easy.
As it turns out whilst it isn’t a direct clone of the JIG module used to enable the service mode of the PS3 it does in fact contain parts of the JIG code in order to enable the hack. The device itself, whilst looking like a USB stick, is in fact just a USB controller board. Plugging this into your PS3 and then powering it will first establish a connection to your console. Shortly after it begins to load the JIG code which then enables it to load a custom application under the games menu part of the XMB. Once this has been installed you can then rip games to the internal hard drive or an USB storage device. This is exactly what Sony had been fighting against for a long time and now the walls that once stood so tall are crumbling underneath them.
Sony’s initial volley against this hack is to stop the distribution of the devices in Australia where thanks to a small loop hole in the law such devices are in fact legal. There are a multitude of them already out in the wild and Sony has picked up on this and begun banning those who are using the device. No doubt the next firmware release will stop this hack in its tracks and the game of cat and mouse that Sony has been playing with the PSP will begin in earnest on the PS3. I believe that this hack shows a missed opportunity for Sony, one that would’ve struck a major blow against the true pirates whilst rewarding their real customers.
To me: a loyal Sony fan, avid gamer and part time device tinkerer I’ve always wanted to have my large trove of games available on a hard drive, just like I do on my PC. Whilst the beginnings of this are starting to show with online stores like the Xbox Marketplace and the Playstation Network store they still charge me for the privilege of doing the format shiftingfor me. I’d happily pay for a backup application and/or emulator in order to cover for the costs of development and would even accept DRM in the form similar to that of what Steam has so that I could keep my purchases safe on an external drive. This also has the side effect of dismissing the backup excuse that is often used to legitimize the hacks used to pirate games in the first place. Sony could then argue their point from a moral high ground, although the homebrew scene would probably still kick up a stink.
As always it comes down to an argument of perceived value. The product being provided by this hack is perceived as being a higher value than the legitimate product provided by Sony. Indeed it is as it allows you to back up your original media and keep them in storage whilst you reap the benefits of faster game load times and the knowledge that should the media fail you have a backup ready to go. It’s quite possible that the next generation of consoles will end up being entirely digital but until then we’ll be privvy to these games of cat and mouse that the console giants play with the hackers and history shows that they’ll always end up being the loser.
Take any piece of modern hardware and guaranteed its locked down in one way or another to make sure it’s not used in a way that the vendor didn’t intend, expect or desire. Take Apple for example, they strictly control what can and can’t be run on their entire range of hardware products to make sure that their brand name isn’t tarnished (and they fight fervently when there’s even the slight hint that it might). Such restrictions give rise to the hacker community dedicated to unlocking the full potential of the hardware. To them it’s not so much the potential of having unrestricted access, more it is about the challenge that is presented with these restrictions and finding that loophole that lets them circumvent it.
To date nearly every major console and handled game device had been hacked into in at least some form. A couple days ago however the king of the unhackable hill, the Playstation 3, has apparently fallen from its perch:
I have read/write access to the entire system memory, and HV level access to the processor. In other words, I have hacked the PS3. The rest is just software. And reversing. I have a lot of reversing ahead of me, as I now have dumps of LV0 and LV1. I’ve also dumped the NAND without removing it or a modchip.
3 years, 2 months, 11 days…thats a pretty secure system
Took 5 weeks, 3 in Boston, 2 here, very simple hardware cleverly applied, and some not so simple software.
As noted in the quote above its been quite a long time coming for such a hack to appear. So long in fact that I doubted that it was legitimate considering that the site itself is extremely new (well under a month) and was proclaiming something that had been tried before and failed spectacularly. My mind was changed when I checked out who the hacker was, George Hotz, who’s claim to fame before his PS3 shenanigans was unlocking the iPhone. So his street cred checks out.
I put off posting about this for a couple days so I could glean a little bit more info about the whole thing before posting about it. The hack itself doesn’t appear to be too complicated however what is going to be complicated is making anything of it. Whilst the original “phat” PS3s were quite capable of running Linux (albeit quite horribly, I don’t even bother with my install anymore) many of the higher level functions, like access to the full set of GPU instructions and the SPEs, was disabled. This meant that anything running on the PS3 that wasn’t sanctioned by Sony was inherently crippled. Getting access to these extra bits of functionality would make allow people to create games without forking over for Sony’s developer kit ($10,000 FYI). You can see why they tried so hard to keep people from doing such a thing.
There’s also the darker side to this hack appearing: piracy. Sure there are legitimate reasons for blowing open access to a console like this but for the most part any successful cracking of a game console has ultimately lead to a rampant piracy scene. Whilst it would be difficult to judge the actual financial damage to Sony and the publishers who have games on the PS3 it would still be there, and you can bet your bottom dollar that it would be cited as a reason for any bad financial quarters. GeoHot’s hack is a far cry from this however, so there’s still a long time before any real piracy scene appears for the PS3.
Still I can’t help but wonder, will anyone really bother? A typical game on the PS3 can be anywhere from 10GB to 25GB something which, especially in Australia, would be rather hard to swallow when your download cap is a mere 75GB such as mine. Additionally with many games appearing cross platform you’re really only going to be pirating the exclusives and if you bought a PS3 its not really worth your trouble just to pirate those. Would you really spend the cash for a blu-ray burner, discs and bandwidth in order to play a few games a year? I’m guessing not.
So whilst I was initially excited at the prospect of some intrepid hacker finally cracking the PS3 code it wore off pretty quickly. With my secret addiction to collector’s editions that have things you can’t pirate still running rampant I have no inclination to pirate games on my PS3, nor do I have a need for yet another computer in my house (there’s 5 in the same room as the PS3, I’ll be damned if I need the PS3 to do their jobs). With this hack taking so long to come out I can’t help but feel that the majority of PS3 owners are in the same boat, happily residing themselves to never thinking about home brew or piracy on the PS3.
Still I’ve been wrong before so I’ll be watching the developments pretty closely. It certaintly has made for interesting reading at the very least 🙂