Friday, October 06, 2000

Today's Recommended Downloads

Allows you to e-mail multiple caches of Web pages. Ideal if you have a theme, or, say, a collection of bloggers you want to share with someone else.

Provides handy links that relate to the Web page you are looking at, plus tons of information on the site, how many people are using it, how often it's being refreshed, as well as where it originates.

Another way to collect your favorite sites, and post them if you like----another brick in the wall for your IE bookmarks.

A warning about what not to download
Creates a multi-tasking desktop. But few things in the past year have caused more lag with my machine with this little ditty. And the downloading process, even with my T-1 line, seemed to take an unbearably long time.

Random Java Generators R’ Us

Surreal compliment generator

Random Knowledge Generator

Web Economy Bullshit Generator

The Internet Conspiracy Generator

I think there may be more visually based generators at

The Latest on the Cue Cat Controversy:

Oct. 5

Hackers help determine and evolve the product-DM,1284,39139,00.html

Discussion forum with 110 hits at Newsforge mailing list on scanners, ISBN databases, etc.

Open Sourcery at its Finest

Hackers dissect the Cuecat

Oct. 4

For starters, look at what my workplace, Access Internet Magazine’s Web staff, came up with on this. Check out the coverage at…

ZDNet: Notes a slight problem with Cue Cat’s business platform,5859,2634191,00.html

CMDRTaco at Slashdot says,

Can you make any sense of this stuff, which gets pretty turgid

Posted at by CmdrTaco on Friday September 01, @10:21AM
from the in-a-world-full-of-lawyers dept.
On Aug. 30 several folks who have written Linux drivers and apps relating to the free barcode scanner mentioned here a few days ago were sent cease and desist orders demanding that they stop distributing the code. [updated by timothy 20:00 GMT: Please note that what flyingbuttmonkeys received is not officially a "cease and desist" letter; instead, it merely says that the longer the drivers are available, the "longer damages will accrue," citing "intellectual property rights owned by Digital Convergence."] The barcode scanner is called a CueCat (with some lame marketroid colons that I'm not using because it irritates me when people name things like that). The code included a device driver written by Pierre-Philippe Coupard and a reader/decrypter written by Michael Rothwell. The code is afaik unavailable, but hopefully folks who downloaded it will have mirrors soon. I asked Michael to describe to me what his decoder did, and a few other questions.
> How complicated is the driver/what does it do?
It isn't terribly complicated. There's two programs that I wrote in the package, and one I did not. All are based on the "libcue" I wrote, also in the package. The deocder algorithm is a simple modified base-64 XOR 67. Jean-Philippe 'JP' Sugarbroad figured it out, and Colin Cross wrote code based on it and made me aware of it. I re-implemented it for the learning experience. The program named "decode" reads in a line of output from the cuecat for stdin or as first argument. CueCat output looks like this:
decode splits the Cue output into fields separeted buy ".". It ignores the first field and runs the rest through the base64+XOR decoder. This becomes the first line output. Digital Converegence added some additional "encryption" to their Web service; their program takes the output of the cuecat and inverts its case befoe sending it off to http://[server][activation code].04.[cuecat scan].0
[Server] can be a, o, s, t, or u. [activation code] is supposed to be the activation code you get from your registration, but can be simply "ACTIVATIONCODE", which is actually what my spftware puts there. [cuecat scan] is the raw output of the device, minus the ALT-F10, with case inverted. Their servers send back a little blob of text containing several fields, including a suggested URL and description. Libcue parses those out and makes them available to its clients. Here's the scan of an NADA car-guide book:
The output of decode looks like this
DATA 000000001768443202 IB5 978034533392650599

CUE 0345333926
AMAZON 0345333926
Ringworld Larry Niven
The gnome panel applet reads in CueCat scans, looks up the :Cue at DCNV servers, and redirects Netscape to the suggested site, if any.
> What does their commercial software do exactly?
The same thing mine does, without the amazon lookup and with some annoying GUI features, like a tabbed CueCat panel.
> How many lines of code?
1258 according to "cat cuecat-applet.c cuecat-applet.h decode.c decode.h libcue.c libcue.h | wc -l"
Michael makes another interesting point in a separate e-mail
When they sent the letter (Aug. 30), my software did not touch the DCNV servers to look up :Cues. It simply decoded the data, and if an ISBN number was scanned, the panel applet made Netscape go to the Amazon page blindly:[isbn number here].
So it was not the use of DCNV servers they objected to, but the mere decoding of the output of the cuecat. I didn't release the :Cue and Amazon lookup-enabled version until yesterday (Aug. 31), when the FedEx letter arrived by overnight delivery.
Thanks to Michael for taking the time to answer this stuff. It's pretty scary when the stuff that you have can't be poked at without a corporation demanding you stop. Imagine if Ford had said you can't open the hoods of your car a hundred years ago.
Update: 09/01 02:49 PM by CT: Freshmeat has a perl script CueCat Decoder that will also decode the CueCat's output.
Update: 09/01 02:57 PM by CT: Russel Nelson pointed out that Lineo's Driver has also been taken down following a cease and desist from Digital Convergence (CueCat's parent).