Monday, December 26, 2005

Flash Amiga game remakes galore

Monday, December 26, 2005 4

This entry has now been merged with my Amiga game remakes article so will no longer be updated
 
Last Thursday afternoon I was sitting in the office watching the seconds crawl by while I waited to be told I could finish early for the Christmas break. There was nothing to do because pretty much everyone we come into contact with during the course of a more typical day had either already sloped off through the back door or were in no fit state to make any demands of us - apparently there's alc-eee-hole in mulled wine. Who'd have thought?

Bored, tipsy and with time on my hands I started thinking about classic Amiga games, and more specifically, how many of them had been converted to Flash movies and uploaded to the web (it's only a matter of copying and pasting the source code into Swish, right Flash coders?). Finding out ought to kill a bit of time, I thought, so I set about Googling for the answer.

Would you believe some desperados actually go to the trouble of creating Flash buttons with the names of popular games written on them that link to affiliate shopping sites? The web just keeps on giving. Nevertheless, as boredom and idle hands beat spammers every time in the web equivalent of paper, scissors and stone, I emerged - weary and battle-scarred - but victorious.

The list below details all the byte for byte conversions, as well as homage style remakes, I managed to excavate and dust down from the spam-littered detritus of the web. As this appears to be the only list of its kind out there I'm hoping to make it as panoptic as humanly possible. If you can help to fill in any missing gaps please post your suggestions below.

Original game Flash remake / homage
Bombuzal Detonator
Bubble Bobble Bubble Bobble: The Revival

Bubble Boys
Bubble Bobble 2 Bubble Bobble 2
Defender of the Crown Defender of the Crown
Deflektor Reflections
Dynablaster Bomberman in the Land of the Pumpkin
Flashback Flashback
Galaga Hurricane
Gauntlet Gauntlet
Ghosts 'n' Goblins Megaman vs Ghosts 'n' Goblins
IK+ IK+
Ironman Offroad Racer Oversteer
King's Quest Peasant's Quest
Klax Klax 3D
Lemmings Christmas Consumerism

Roadies

DHTML Lemmings - not Flash, but you can still play it in your browser so who cares?
Lost Vikings Lost Vikings (demo)
Marble Madness Gyroball
Micro Machines Nano Machinez

Micro Machines TT
Nebulus Nebulus
Pang Pang 2001

Bubble Trouble

Pang MX

Pang Flash
Prince of Persia Prince of Persia
Raiden RaidenX
Rampage Ravage

Hulk Smash Up

Mutant
Rick Dangerous Rick Dangerous
Robocop Counter Terror
R-Type R-Type (demo)
Sim City Sim City Classic
Speedball 2 Brutal Deluxe Crunchball 3000

X Hoc

Toonami Arena
Stardust Haemorrhoids
Street Fighter Street Fighter

Street Fighter Online
Tanks Tanks

Scorched
Wings of Fury Wings of Fury
Workbench Amiga Demulator

Monday, December 19, 2005

Moles in their midst

Monday, December 19, 2005 0

The PR entourage of the western world's political heavy-weights were sure they had their taskmasters' backs covered from all possible angles. They were wrong. While the spin-doctors were monitoring the brutally omnipotent paparazzi and pundits, a spy operating much closer to home had been surreptitiously recording and podcasting to the masses the nefarious schemes and mortifying goofs of the likes of Tony Blair, George Bush and their closest confreres.

'Whack My Bush' will take you on a white-knuckle journey replete with intrigue and revelations as heard through the ears of a particularly curious, wall-dwelling fly, of sorts. Reality TV... erm radio even, has never been so unsettling, depressing and yet ultimately gripping.

Thanks to this noble exercise in exposing the wickedness of our esteemed 'leaders' we learn that behind closed doors mild-mannered Tony swears like a trooper, has the words "hello sailor" tattooed above his wang and employs Jade Goody as his personal lifestyle coach. Equally sensational disclosures include the discovery that George is mentored by his more intelligent pet dog, Barney, and dreams of doing unmentionable things to gibbons after lubricating them with Vaseline.

Straight-laced Condi Rice, we learn, isn't quite the girl-scout she presents to the media; after spending a trying day on the phone apologising to foreign dignitaries on George's behalf she likes to unwind by smoking class A drugs.

The Governator and deputy prime-minister, John Prescott, do not emerge unscathed either. Arnie is shown to be a sexist Nazi pre-occupied with heavy artillery and stomping down doors for no apparently reason, while Fatty eats everything in sight and is a tad uncouth, just a tad mind. OK, so some 'leaks' are more controversial and shocking than others.

Mysteriously the podcast has yet to be censored by its unwitting stars. Some say this is because its producer can't be tracked down and 'disappeared', though other theories have also been hinted at. When pushed for an opinion, Bush giggled like a schoolgirl at the thought of a fictional president character coincidentally owning a dog called Barney, just like himself.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Salvage Slashdotted or erm... Diggdotted (?) articles

Thursday, November 24, 2005 0

Post a link to a web page on an immensely popular tech news site such as www.slashdot.org or www.digg.com and you may as well start digging (see what I did there? Ho ho, hmm) its grave. Most servers aren't robust enough to cope with such an unexpected spike in bandwidth and so soon become inaccessible. As a result you don't get to read the article, and the author doesn't get to revel in their five minutes of fame.

You can ward off their premature demise by appending '.nyud.net:8090' to their web address before posting them. This ensures they are indexed by the Coral Content Distribution Network, which then bears the brunt of the traffic surge. As long as one person has done this before the site croaks, it will remain operational via the 'Coralised' link.

Free laser-quality colour printouts delivered to your door

As the saying goes, "you don't get 'owt for nowt". Ha, not so if you're in the market for a free printout from the nice chaps over at Konica Minolta who are currently inviting we, the potential consumers, to test drive their range of colour laser printers.

Simply upload your designs, fill in your contact details and submit your request via this web page. They will accept files, up to a maximum of 10mb in size, in any of the following formats: Quark, Illustrator, Corel Draw, Power Point, Microsoft Word, PDF, Microsoft Excel, Free Hand, Publisher, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, zip, sea, lzw, giff, PSD, Tiff, Jpg, hqx, bin and EPS.

It's not every day you get to put nearly £3000 worth of professional grade printer through its paces so I'd suggest you buy yourself a classy frame and send Konica Minolta your favourite holiday snap.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Spice up your putie's TV diet

Sunday, November 13, 2005 0

It's not often that I purchase a piece of computer gear and find that it works exactly as described without having to spend hours devising elaborate workarounds to counteract its infuriating design flaws, Apple kit exempted of course. This is why I feel it's my duty to recommend the Cinergy T2 digital TV Freeview receiver from Terratec.

The diminutive device is clearly inspired by the silver-sided, white-topped Mac Mini, making it the perfect accompaniment to Apple's low-end consumer machine. Placed side by side, the combination serves as a complete Tivo-esque media centre, making your traditional TV, VCR, DAB radio and hi-fi redundant. The technology graveyard will be bursting at the seams!

While the T2 package includes a dinky desktop aerial, there's no substitute for a proper roof-top antenna. You wouldn't expect to get a decent reception using a flimsy, TV-mounted, coat-hanger style aerial with an analogue TV so why some people assume they'd be able to skimp with digital TV is a mystery to me. In any case I'd imagine making do with the desktop aerial would only be a consideration for on-the-road laptop users. For everyone else living in a Freeview enabled area (you can check by entering your post code into the search engine on the Freeview home page), plugging the Mini-Me, Mac Mini, TV gismo into the wall socket should provide a clear picture and crackle-free audio.

Connect the T2 to your Mac or PC via the supplied USB cable and click the 'auto-tune' button within the idiot-proof TV viewing software and you'll have immediate access to almost 40 TV channels and over 20 digital, crystal-clear radio channels. It's not called Freeview for nothing either - once you've bought your TV equipment, there are no subscription fees to pay.

The T2's best feature for me is its programmable recording facility. Granted, any old VCR can be set to record at a given time, but instructing them to do so is fiddely, long-winded and involves lots of tape foraging and swapping. With the T2 you can select channels from a drop-down menu and type in the exact start and finish times of programmes rather than bashing the fast-forward button 200 times as you would with a traditional VCR remote control. Shows are recorded in the DVD quality, uncompressed, MPEG-2 format and therefore take up two gigabytes of disk space per hour, though can be shrunk to a more manageable size later if required. Personally I record, watch and then delete shows so tweaking them to save disk space would be a waste of time.

Nevertheless, should you wish to edit your recordings, to remove commercials for archival purposes for example, it is possible to do so from within the included viewing software - quite a perk considering dedicated video editing software can have a steep learning curve and a hefty price tag. Likewise, the record facility comes in handy when you want to pause live TV - technically that's what you're doing when you press the pause button; recording a show into the hard drive's allocated buffer zone, although you'd never know as it all takes place seamlessly in the background. Perfect for all those moments when you haven't got the heart to tell your family or friends that the TV is more important to you than what they have to say! ;)

Another thing I found pleasantly refreshing about the T2 is the competency of its technical support staff - something you can't take for granted in the computersphere. I emailed the Elgato team several times regarding feature usage queries and was amazed to receive a reply within half an hour in each case. What's more, they didn't just fob me off with barely relevant FAQ copy-paste jobs; they took the time to answer the questions I'd actually asked! Where I posed a problem, they offered a real solution. Gasp!

The infra-red unit does come equipped with a slick remote control, but I've yet to find a reason to use it. If anyone out there would like to buy me a 40" monitor for Christmas so I can sit a bit further back from my computer when I watch my T2 I'd be happy to post a full review. :|

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Google launches bootleg search engine

Wednesday, October 12, 2005 0

Three and a half seconds ago (if you could arrange for your jaw to drop in awe of my finger-on-the-pulseness it would be much appreciated, thanks) search engine monolith, Google, unveiled the latest widget in their web-taming repertoire.

Google Swag Bag (TM) allows users to locate no-nonsense index listings of illegal booty such as MP3 music files and movies. The service operates by tapping into Google's traditional search engine technology while excluding common web site documents with the extensions html, htm, php, asp and so on to return results consisting only of binary content, aka just the juicy stuff.

To those of you apt to perusing Google's search modifier cheat sheet, this is old news; this feat has previously been accomplished by entering little known combinations of operator strings into the standard Google search box. What's new is the user-friendly, streamlined interface which takes the hassle out of digging for multimedia content.

By default Swag Bag forages for MP3 files while filtering out distracting text documents of various formats and keyword red herrings. To re-focus its search beam you can click on the 'toggle advanced settings' link and check/uncheck the boxes adjacent to the media type(s) you would like Google to ferret out.

Disclaimer: Kookosity does not endorse piratey shenanigans. If, as a direct consequence of reading this post, your soul is irreparably corrupted leading to eternal damnation (and singed eyebrows), it's not my fault. God made me do it. Hey, if it's good enough for George W., it's good enough for me.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

You what?

Sunday, October 09, 2005 0

I'd hazard a guess that you know at least one person who responds to everything you say with "what?", "huh?" or "eh?". In each case they heard you perfectly well the first time, though still insist you repeat yourself before commenting or answering a question. They know it and you know it.

I could cheerfully strangle them to death when I start to repeat myself and become tongue-tied, stutter or get my words back to front because I'm so preoccupied with mulling over how irritating it is to be repeating myself at all. More often than not after you've echoed yourself, the oaf you're speaking to will reply "oh" or "mmm" and then go on their way, or even worse, they'll ask a handful of irrelevant questions and then reply with "oh" or "mmm" and go on their way.

My theory is that they do this to buy themselves some extra time to respond. They seem to think that if they comment right after you've repeated yourself they'll appear sharp or 'on the ball', that they can think on their feet without 'umming' and 'errring'. I'd take half a dozen 'umms' and 'errs' over a "what?" every time. A few seconds of silence would do just as well; this isn't radio, we don't have to revere the 'dead air' taboo.

If you get riled, insist "you heard me the first time" and refuse to repeat yourself, they become defensive, reasserting that they definitely hadn't. They'll actually go so far as to appear insulted at the accusation. Well they're not likely to admit, "yes you're right, I did hear you, but can't shake this ridiculous habit of feigning deafness".

Try this instead: whenever someone responds to something you've said with "what?", pretend you haven't heard them and wait a few seconds. It's very likely they'll answer your question or pick up the conversation as though no 'whating' had occurred. They'll assume their "what?" hasn't registered and so won't feel obliged to wait for the repetition, or get caught up in a "yes, you BLOODY WELL did hear me", "no I didn't" battle of wills.

Turning the tables to wind them up can be more fun still. Pick a topic that you know is close to their heart and broach it with them. For instance, if you know they're waiting anxiously for an important call from their partner or potential boss-to-be (if they've been for a job interview recently), try opening with "so-and-so called earlier". When they reply with "huh?" as though they'd just woken up from a hundred-year slumber, hastily glance at your watch and tell them you're late for a meeting of some sort. As you dash out of the door, turn back and shout, "I'll tell you all about it later".

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Personal Password Policies

Wednesday, October 05, 2005 0

With phishing, social engineering scams and hacking on the rise, it has never been more important to give serious thought to how you generate and manage passwords for your online accounts.

The system I use involves using an online gibberish generator to create lengthy alphanumeric character strings and saving these in an Excel spreadsheet, which is subsequently password protected. I've memorised the ludicrously long password for my Gmail account so I can check it from work, but wouldn't dare attempting to commit the rest to memory - there are simply too many of them, and they're all entirely random and therefore difficult to turn into mnemonics. So not an ideal solution by a long stretch then.

Passwords that are easy to recall are also easy for others to guess or hack, while highly secure ones can be so secure you can end up locking yourself out of your own accounts. Using the 'one password to rule them all' technique isn't the solution - if someone managed to get hold of it they'd have the master key to your kingdom and you'd be up the Dry Creek Quarry without your invisibility ring, bank balance and identity.

Security expert Steve Gibson believes the answer could be to devise your own algorithm, which, when applied to web site domain names, can be used to generate unique, easily retrieved passwords.

Don't run away just yet; this sounds more geeky than it really is, trust me. For example, you could take the URL ebay.com, turn the letters into numeric values (using the formula a = 1, b = 2 and so on), shift 3 places up the scale and convert the numbers back to letters. The result is a seemingly random string of letters. You don't have to remember what they are in each case, just make sure you know how they were generated so they can be reproduced at will.

To ramp up the security rating of your passwords you could employ a second algorithm to generate a series of numbers or punctuation marks and intersperse these with your letters.

For a more thorough illustration of the way in which personal password policies can be implemented, listen to episodes 4 and 5 of Steve's Security Now podcast.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

An A-Z of mainstream and 'underground' computer and internet terminology

Saturday, September 24, 2005 0

I began writing this article late in 1999 when something called 'warez' first piqued my curiosity. For a long while I was fascinated with its intricate modus operandi and associated culture and this is what led me to set about documenting as much of it as possible. I'm no longer such a keen observer, but have in any case revamped the entries below to keep them current. I will continue to supplement them with any new definitions I feel necessary to add, though these will likely lean towards more conventional computer vocabulary.

Have I missed anything out? Have I got something completely wrong? If so, please let me know so I can add it to the list or make the necessary alterations.

This page was last updated on 30th June 2006.

# - A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z

#

0-Day (or zero day) - Usually refers to pirated software or other media e.g. music and movies made available on the same day their official counterparts are released to the public. Also used in conjunction with 'exploits' which are unleashed on the same day a software vulnerability is announced.

0-Sec - While it is clearly physically impossible to make warez (i.e. pirate) releases available to the masses the very second they are cracked, 'pre-ers' would have access to them within such a short time frame. Once distributed beyond topsites, releases are no longer 0-sec so the term is really little more than hyperbole.

A

Ace File - A compressed archive created with WinAce. These can be comprised of either single standalone .ace files or a series of files referred to as a spanned, or multi-volume, archive. The latter variety are used to transport large archives using limited capacity media, or to transfer large chunks of data a bit at a time via a slow internet connection.

Active List - Similar to a mailing list, but uses ICQ to send instant messages to subscribers.

ADSL (aka broadband) - Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line, in other words, high speed internet access. Generally entry level ADSL connections can achieve download speeds that are ten times faster than that of a 56k modem.

Alpha - Software receives this label when it is in the very early stages of development. Usually full of bugs, so don't touch it with a barge pole!

Anti-Leech - A system that uses web scripts to redirect users to downloadable content without revealing the true location of the files stored on a given server. The goal is to deter people from directly linking to downloads from an external web site to prevent them from harvesting files without visiting the host site. In other words, anti-leech systems are brought into play to stifle the large scale theft of web site content.

Appz - Short for applications, for example, Microsoft Office XP, Photoshop etc. The z differentiates official, legitimate releases from illegal, pirate ones.

ASCII - American Standard Code for Information Interchange: a character set that emerged out of the necessity to convey digital information via computers prior to the existence of images and more sophisticated text formats. To view an example refer to any nfo file past or present - the structure remains identical as much to honour a tradition as to communicate information in the most simplistic way possible.

ASF File - An acronym for Advanced Systems Format; Microsoft's proprietry video/audio wrapper, specifically designed for the purpose of streaming digital content over the internet. As speed of transfer is the top priority, quality is usually inferior to that of non-streamable media.

B

Backup - In theory, the word backup refers to a replica of an original CD created for the purpose of preservation and made available by a supposedly reputable supplier. More likely, however, the term is used in a feeble attempt to make illegal software look more legitimate to avoid the watchful gaze of the authorities. Personal backups can also be made on an individual basis using CD/DVD cloning software such as Alcohol 120% and CD/DVD Clone. The authors of these tools are able to remain operational because they work on the premise that their software should only be brought into play to allow people to make duplicates of discs they legally own.

Banner Site - Password and username restricted FTP site. To aquire the correct login details you must click on several banners and search for designated keywords within the web pages which follow. Sometimes you are required to register an account at various subscription based sites because these keywords are otherwise inaccessible. The owner of the FTP site procures payment from these affiliates on a per click or per registration basis.

Beta - Refers to an unpolished, incomplete piece of software that is released to the public for bug testing as a quality control measure.

Bin File - An image of a CD or DVD contained within a single, uncompressed archive file. As these comprise the entire contents of a given disc, their size tends to match the capacity of the format e.g. 700mb for a CD. Often they occupy more space than would the contents of the disc alone if simply copied and pasted to the hard drive. This is because it is necessary to store extra information relating to the data structure of a disc alongside its actual content so it can be referenced when burnt. Bin files can be extracted or burnt with or without an accompanying 'cue' file using a variety of image manipulation tools such as CD-R Win, ISO Buster, Ultra ISO, Nero and so on.

BSA - An acronym for Business Software Alliance, an organisation responsible for enforcing anti-piracy litigation. Similar groups in charge of controlling software theft include SIIA, SPA and ELSPA.

BSOD - Many people read about BSODs on forums and assume that they're being insulted. Fear not, there is no need to get paranoid. It is actually an acronym for 'Blue Screen Of Death', a serious Windows error message which is reported in white text on a blue background. These can occur for a multitude of reasons (old Bill likes to keep us guessing!) and are the bane of Windows user's lives.

Bulletin Board - A virtual meeting place on the web similar to a chat room albeit not in real time. One person leaves a message, then others come along, read it and add a reply. Each separate discussion is called a new 'thread' and has its own link and web page associated with it for organisational purposes. Whenever a new topic is created, the older topics are pushed one place downwards in the list. Whenever someone replies to an older topic it is brought back to the top of the list to make it easy to see at a glance which ones are 'active'. See the bulletin board tutorial for more detailed information.

Burn-proof - CD/DVD writer technology designed and owned solely by Sanyo, which helps to avoid buffer underrun errors. The technique involves suspending the burning process whenever the CD/DVD writer's buffers are empty and resuming the transfer only when the buffers once again contain data which is available to be written.

BW Clone - An nfo site label which refers to software releases made using the CD/DVD duplication tool Blind Write.

C

C?? File - An extension indicating a file is a constituent of a compressed and spanned ACE archive.

Carding - Using illegally acquired credit cards to purchase goods or withdraw money.

CD Key - A serial number most often consisting of a long string of both letters and numbers. Used in place of 'serial number' when referring to games or operating systems such as Windows, originally because they were only issued on the boxes of CD-based software. Without a valid, unique CD key you will not be able to play certain games, or at the very least, you will not be able to play these games online.

CDM - An acronym for 'CD maxi-single', a term used in reference to the MP3 release scene. Designates an extended length CD single, usually containing between two and five tracks.

CD-R - A recordable (hence the 'R') compact disc capable of storing a limited (in the region of 730mb max) quantity of computer, audio or video data. CD-Rs can be accessed by any CD drive, however, a CD writer is required to roll your own. You should note that 'R' discs can only be written to once.

CDS - An acronym for 'CD single', a term used in reference to the MP3 release scene. CD singles are recordings consisting of one or two tracks.

CD-RW - A writable CD that can be formatted and re-used many times.

CGI Scripts - An ellipsis for 'common gateway interface', a scripting language mostly used to create online dynamic web content such as bulletin boards and guest books. Other less useful (annoying even) purposes CGI scripts effectuate include making affiliate programs and voting 'click-throughs' possible. Whenever you click on a link with a '?cgi' reference you are either directed to a sponsor's website, a voting gateway or an anti-leech protected file.

CLSC - A warez scene release tag indicating a movie is a 'classic' rather than a 'coming to a cinema near you, soon' title.

Coaster - If you aren't careful when burning recordable CDs or DVDs it's very easy to make mistakes that will render them useless. If a write-once CD or DVD has been corrupted, the damage is irreversible and all it is fit for is a drinks mat aka a coaster.

Codec - A piece of software that tells your computer how to manipulate an audio or video file in order to present it as intended by the author. Different file formats utilise different codecs and some produce better results than others in terms of file size, media quality, compatibility and so forth.

Cookie - A tiny text file (usually less than 1kb) written to your hard drive when you visit certain web sites. These are used to store your identity so that you can access members-only areas of a site without having to re-enter a username and password each time, or to retain your personalised settings so that they are available right away the next time you visit.

Courier - Someone who is involved in the logistics of transfering new warez releases directly from release group headquarters (aka topsites) to affiliate topsites, or dump sites, from which FXP groups further distribute the software. Couriers are allotted varying degrees of access to releases dependent on their reliability, efficiency, social connections etc. - some are granted permission to enter the 'pre' directories of topsites to allow them to relay releases to affiliate topsites, while others can only enter dump sites situated lower down the distribution network. Those with access to pre directories are known as 'pre-ers' rather than couriers, though you will often hear the terms used interchangeably.

Crack - An executable file used to transform a program's status from shareware to full version software. Also used with reference to replacement main executable files that serve to bypass software copyright protection mechanisms.

Cracked - A seemingly odd nfo site label (you would expect any software appearing on an nfo site to be cracked). Warez releases are tagged in this way to indicate that a previous release of the same software had a defective crack. The current release is presumed to be a corrective measure.

CRC Error - These can occur when you try to decompress a file that has become corrupt during the transfer process, usually as a result of too much resumption (solutions and advice relating to CRC errors are available elsewhere in my blog).

Credits - A figure representing the amount of data you are permitted to download from a ratio FTP site. The more credits you have, the more software you are allowed to download. The number of credits awarded is dependent on the quantity of data uploaded.

Cue File - Tiny, plain text file used by CD/DVD writing software to determine how the data contained within a bin image file should be processed and burnt in order to produce a working replica of the original media it was extracted from.

D

DAP - A quick way of referring to 'Download Accelerator Plus', a free download manager that claims to speed up file transfers by up to three hundred per cent. This is made possible by making multiple connections to the same files and locating the most responsive servers from which to download. DAP is paid for by revolving advertising banners, and most noteworthy - like Gozilla, Flashget and Getright - it supports the resume function.

DAT File - File format used for encoding VCD movies, identical in quality and size to MPG. Not automatically recognised by all movie players without first re-assigning your file associations.

DC - An abbreviation for the Dreamcast, Sega's latest (and now discontinued) console incarnation.

DC - An acronym used in reference to movie releases. Stands for 'director's cut'.

Decompression - Unpacking/extracting files stored in a compressed archive. Unpacked files inevitably occupy more hard drive space than the original archive. Compression allows you to conveniently group together many files and reduce their size making them easier to distribute and store.

Deleter - Someone who deliberately wipes out the files stored on public, anonymous FTP sites (known as pubs) for a variety of reasons.

DoS Attack - Denial of Service attacks are malicious attempts to block legitimate access to web services by flooding them with useless data packets.

Dox - A condensed form of the word 'documents'. The 'cs' of 'docs' is replaced with an 'x' in accordance with the hacker / warez tradition of butchering the English language.

Distro - A concise means of referring to a distribution FTP site. These are huge storage areas that act as a springboard for the transfer of new releases. Where the ones containing illegal releases are concerned, their whereabouts are never publicly disclosed to aid their survival rate. You can think of them as one of the major sources from which software emanates - not the top of the distribution hierarchy, but key players nevertheless.

Direct Downloads - Links to actual files rather than web site pages containing further information.

DivX - The name of the encoding process used to convert video streams into a very high quality AVI video format. The resulting files are much more manageable than their raw (or uncompressed) brethren in terms of file size to facilitate their transfer of over the net.

DIZ File - An ellipsis for description. A very brief text file found inside the compressed archives used to distribute software. They state the title of the software, the number of files that makes up the set and the group/publisher who released it. Much like a miniature nfo file, though designed to be scanned and manipulated by FTP server software rather than humans.

DMG File - Apple Mac file compression format. A contraction of Disk iMaGe.

Dongle - A hardware-based copyright protection device which must be plugged into the computer on which the protected software is installed before it will run. Used very little nowadays as they are costly to develop and easily circumvented by crackers.

Download (or DL) - Copying files from a web server or FTP site to your computer via the internet.

Dump site - The second link in the illegal software release scene distribution chain. Like topsites, dumpsites are fast, private, FXP-enabled FTP sites. Releases are transferred from topsites to dump sites and then onto public, anonymous FTP sites.

Dupe - When the release groups get their mitts on the latest piece of software, their aim is to be the first group to crack it. Obviously they can't all be the first so inevitably many alternative versions of the same game or application are churned out. The version that hits the distribution chain first takes all the glory and is known as the 'proper' release. Whatever remains are termed dupes, short for duplicates.

DVD - Shorthand for Digital Versatile Disc. DVDs are visually indistinguishable from CDs, though use higher density storage protocols to dramatically increase their potential capacity. A typical DVD can hold between 4.38 and 8.54 gigabytes of data.

DVD-R - Writable DVD media. Can be read using a DVD-ROM drive, but only written to using a DVD writer.

DVD-RW - DVD media that can be formatted and written to approximately 1000 times prior to replacement. Limited to a capacity of 4.7 GB.

E

Easter Egg - A game, message or presentation hidden in a piece of software activated using a specific key configuration sequence. What more can I say? Programming can be a tedious job.

Emulator - An application that simulates another computer system or console using a PC. Long-dead, vintage systems can be 'recreated' without the need to buy the - often difficult to acquire and expensive - original hardware.

EP - An ellipsis for 'extended play', a term used in reference to the MP3 release scene. An EP is defined as any recording longer than a single - yet shorter than a full album - usually containing four to six tracks.

F

FAQ - Stands for Frequently Asked Questions, an inventory of questions with subsequent answers to common quandaries.

FAW - Abbreviation for 'Files Anywhere', a popular web storage service.

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) - The method used to transfer files from one computer to another via the internet.

Final - An nfo site label indicating that a release is not a beta version. Often used if the same warez group releases a beta as well as the finished game or application.

Fix - Not all warez releases work - after all pobody's nerfect! Whereas the original developers of a game would call something that corrects their initial mistakes, a 'patch', the release groups are much more honest about it; in contrast, to them it is a 'fix'.

Flaming - A general net term for 'verbally' attacking someone. This can be done via email, web forum, chat room or any medium that facilitates electronic communication.

Freedrive - Now defunct, virtual, hard drive storage area on the web which was once relied upon very heavily by the http file swapping community. Several years after the service came into operation a monthly subscription fee was introduced, hence the dramatic exodus of uploaders.

Freeware - Unrestricted software that is downloaded from the net and is completely free to use. Often paid for using advertising or spyware unfortunately.

FTP Client/Browser - A program used to access, upload and download data from FTP sites.

FXP - The art of transferring data from one FTP site to another using the connection speed of the slower of the two computers - see my FXP tutorial.

G

Gamez - Pretty self-explanatory this one. The z differentiates official, legitimate releases from illegal ones.

Getright - One of the best and longest established download managers available.

GI File - GI stands for Global Image; yet another proprietary archive format used to store the contents of audio and data discs (as if we needed any more!). GI image files can be burnt directly using either Sonic Record Now or Primo DVD. Alternatively it is possible to convert them to the more flexible ISO format using Magic ISO Maker, Ultra ISO or ISO Buster and then burn the output to disc via your favourite writing software as usual.

Gold - A piece of software is said to have 'gone gold' when the final version is complete and it is ready to ship to the public. If you want to keep an eye on the latest game releases visit Games Tracker.

Gozilla - Another excellent download manager, one of the top three for the Windows platform in fact.

H

Hacking - Gaining access to a remote computer without the authorisation to do so, usually for the purposes of stealing confidential information or the malicious destruction of data. An older definition of the word alludes to the modification of software.

Hacks - This term falsely gives the impression that something destructive or malicious is involved. This isn't the case; a hack is a customised piece of programming code or hardware designed to improve the functionality or appearance of a piece of software or equipment. In the context of forum software, for instance, the 'quick reply' hack (one of the most popular ever created) appends a text box and submit button to the foot of forum threads to allow members to reply to them without having to visit a separate reply page.

Hammering - Repeatedly trying to access an FTP site using an FTP client or download manager.

HTTP - Stands for 'Hypertext Transfer Protocol'. The method you use to view a web page. Always comes before the address of a website in your URL bar.

I

ICQ - Derives from the term 'I Seek You'. A program used for real time chat, instant messaging and transferring files over the internet.

Internal release - A release (usually a movie) intended to be kept within the confines of the group who produced it. Because these releases do not conform to scene specifications they are not given a mention on scene news sites or traded for credits.

IP Address - A series of numbers separated by dots used to identify computers on the Internet.

IRC - Stands for 'Internet Relay Chat'. Used for real-time chat and transferring files over the internet. One of the earliest forms of instant messaging. See the IRC tutorial for more information.

ISO - A single file image containing the entire contents of a CD or DVD. ISO is a generic warez term used to indicate that all the multimedia components and other extras of a game or application are uncut, thereby distinguishing them from 'rips'. Not to be confused with .iso images since warez ISO releases generally make use of the bin/cue format. See the ISO tutorial for more information.

IVTC - Condensed shorthand for 'inverse telecine', the art of reducing the frame rate of movies from 30 to 24 frames per second. The goal is twofold - to reduce the file size of the movie making it less cumbersome, and to ensure that it conforms to scene movie ripping standards.

J

Java - A programing language used to create applications known as applets, which can either be used offline (or at least independently of your web browser) or be embedded into web pages for online use. Examples include chat applets, virtual hard drive interfaces and file sharing clients.

Javascript - A scripting language similar to HTML code used to add functionality to web pages or bring them to life with flashy effects. These can include animation, menus, buttons, pop-ups and so on.

K

Key Generator - An executable utility capable of creating a valid - though fraudulent - serial number, often from a specified username. These are specific to particular applications or utilities, so a serial number created with one key generator will only work with the program for which it was developed.

Kiddie - An nfo site label referring to children's software releases i.e. educational titles or games designed specifically for under sevens (or thereabouts).

L

Lamer - An annoying and hackneyed general derogatory term used within online communities to insult people.

Leeching - Downloading files without giving anything back in return, or copying other people's links.

Leet/l33t/1337 speak - Take one perfectly intelligent, legible English sentence, lightly sprinkle with an assortment of numbers which vaguely resemble letters and you have the makings of an elite or 'leet' sentence. To complete the ensemble, splurge your creation out into the electronic medium of your choice and leave to boil. Soon enough other cerebrally limited creatures of your ilk will gather round to pat you on the back for being devilishly cunning. Some may even contribute their own witticisms if they are feeling particularly creative.

It is thought that leet-speak emerged as a way of bypassing the text censors of IRC or bulletin board systems, or as a means of facilitating communication between close-knit, secretive groups. Initially leet-speak would have baffled outsiders and so provided a useful mode of conveying a message intending for a limited audience.

Limited - A term used in reference to movie releases. 'Limited' movies are ones that are shown in five hundred or fewer cinemas.

Lost Race - See 'won race'.

LP - An acronym for 'long play', a term used in reference to the MP3 release scene, designating a recording of full length i.e. a full album CD.

M

MD - Shorthand for 'mini disk', a term used in reference to the MP3 release scene.

MDF - File extension sported by Alcohol 120% CD/DVD image files. Also a kind of particle board used to make cheap furniture. Downloads of the latter are harder to come by - Ikea or MFI would be a safer bet if you're in the market for a new cabinet.

MDS - A kind of initiation file used by the cloning tool, Alcohol 120%, to determine how to process and burn a proprietary MDF image file. Akin to bin's little brother, cue.

Mirror - An exact copy of a web site stored on a different server. Using multiple locations for web sites allows the site to be accessed using a different address if the main site is removed, hacked or becomes unavailable due to technical difficulties. Limited bandwidth FTP sites are often mirrored to aid the distribution of ISO images e.g. Linux distros.

Modchip - Very common web site sponsor found on sites of dubious legality. They are especially nonchalant where the site contents of their affiliates is concerned seeing as they are hardly lilly-white themselves - their products represent one of the 'grey areas' of the law. Modchips are small pieces of electronic circuitry that allow copied games to be played on games consoles. If a console has been fitted with a Modchip it is said to have been 'chipped'.

MP3 File - The most popular, near CD quality, compressed music file format. Average track size is between 3 and 4 megabytes compared with the 40-ish megabytes an uncompressed wave format (.wav) track would occupy.

MPG - An abbreviation used to group together a set of standards for encoding digital audio-visual streams in a compressed format. The protocol for structuring such files was developed by a group of 350-ish people collectively known as the Moving Picture Experts Group.

Multi Web Space Faker - A tool once used by file sharers to create lots of free web space accounts simultaneously.

N

Name Zero - An organisation that at one time offered free web site domain names. The main drawbacks were that you had to put up with a very bulky banner residing at the bottom of your pages and the fact that you never actually owned your chosen address. Name Zero counted on you becoming so attached to your loaned URL that you would be willing to pay over the odds to have ownership transferred to yourself once the trial period had expired. These days domain names are so cheap to register that free ones aren't such a catch unless you're a real miser. Go Daddy are a tough act to follow if you're in the market for a new domain name.

Newsgroups - Virtual meeting places assembled for the purpose of discussing particular topics. More than likely there exists at least one newsgroup devoted to any hobby or interest you care to name. The exchange of messages takes place via the Network News Transfer Protocol, and conversations can be tracked using an email client, dedicated news reader application or even via the web. Refer to the newsgroup tutorial for further information.

NFO File - Short for info or information; a basic text file containing all the pertinent details relating to a particular release, such as number of files, release date, copy protection system employed, installation instructions etc. There exists a time-honoured tradition of decorating nfo files using ASCII art - this allows release groups to stamp their personal identity onto their work and make them stand out from the crowd.

NFO Fix - Sometimes if inaccurate information is provided in an nfo file a group will release a new one to set the record straight.

Nuked - A release is said to have been nuked if either it is completely unplayable or it contravenes the rules and regulations laid down by the relevant governing consortium. Usually when this happens another group re-releases the software or movie, preferably within 48 hours of the original. Providing these replacements abide by the release rules, and function as intended, they are known as 'proper' releases. Complete re-releases are avoided if a simple 'fix' can remedy the problem.

O

OEM - An acronym for Original Equipment Manufacturer. OEM software titles are repackaged versions of the full retail product. They are often re-branded to suit the needs of the particular vender and are much more reasonably priced because they lack excessive packaging and a hard copy of the manual.

OST - An acronym for original soundtrack. Used in connection with the accompanying music of a movie or TV show.

P

Patch - We all know games and applications aren't perfect. When they are released we would hope that they have been thoroughly tested for bugs and incompatibility problems, but you can guarantee that many of these will still slip through the quality control net. Once the program is released to the general public, the bug reports start to flood in. A patch is an executable 'sticky plaster' which takes these known problems into account and attempts to apply fixes to resolve them. A patch can remedy incompatibility issues, prevent crashes or improve the performance of a piece of software. Phishing - Speculative email sent to usually random people with the aim of deceiving them into visiting phony web sites or parting with their cash. Such messages often masquerade as genuine public safety warnings from legitimate companies you are likely to have registered an account with e.g. eBay or Pay Pal, and will encourage you to enter your username and password into a form to 'verify' that you haven't been a victim of fraud. Herein lies the irony - any details entered into a fake web site will be passed along to scam artists, not your bank or an online retailer.

Phreaking - Using a computer to discover the inner, secret workings of telephone systems in order to exploit them i.e. to make free calls or have calls charged to someone else's account.

Piracy - The replication and distribution of movies, audio or computer software via physical means e.g. on CD or DVD, or by way of digital transmission over the internet. Regardless of whether or not money changes hands, piracy is a serious criminal offense punishable by a fine or even imprisonment.

PM - Stands for private message. Much like email except they are passed back and forth behind the scenes of web forums. Unlike public posts they are only intended to be viewed by pre-selected recipients.

Pop-ups - Irritating browser windows triggered automatically when you visit badly designed, amateurish web sites - that includes plenty of supposedly respectable corporate ones! The vast majority of pop-ups are easily blocked by modern web browsers providing this feature is enabled.

Port - A term often - but by no means exclusively - used in reference to FTP sites. Port numbers are an essential extension of the addresses used to access remote servers and facilitate the routing of data through various protocols. If, for example, the port number of an FTP site isn't specified, the default value of 21 will automatically be utilised. Each remotely accessible aspect of your computer is assigned with a port number. Your email POP and SMTP servers have port numbers, your ICQ interface uses another port number, as do any file sharing clients you may have installed.

Pre - Short for pre-release: the name given to a warez title which has been packed and tested, but not yet distributed beyond topsites.

Pron - A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away someone posted a request for porn on a bulletin board, only because of a typing error, what he ended up asking for was 'pron'. Since then this has become a ubiquitous, running joke and so is now deliberately misspelt for comic effect. Browse through enough web forums and you will also come across the variation 'pr0n', with a zero instead of an 'oh'. Another typo I expect; zero and 'oh' are very close together on QWERTY keyboards after all.

Alternative etymology: the word porn was deliberately mangled to evade IRC-based text censors, or as a way of clearly labeling x-rated content without it being identified as such by network-scanning bots or human administrators.

Proper - If a release is deemed to be unplayable or it breaks the rules of conduct it is abandoned (or 'nuked'). If another group re-releases the software, thereby ironing out all the problems, their replacement release is said to be the 'proper' version. This tag will appear alongside the title of the game on nfo sites to make it clear who gained the credits for releasing a particular title.

Proxy - A third party server that acts as an anonymous go-between whenever you request a web page or contact a remote server. The message from your computer is first passed through the proxy server before being relayed to the final destination. This makes it appear as though the request emanated from the IP address of the proxy server rather than yourself. Proxies can be employed for the purpose of maintaining your privacy online or to bypass IP address based restrictions that prevent you from accessing particular sites. Much more detailed information on this subject is available in my anonymity tutorial.

PSX - A quick way of referring to the Sony Playstation. PSX2 and PSX3 obviously refer to the subsequent generations of the Playstation system.

Pub - A free for all FTP site where anonymous access is permitted. Refer to the FTP/FXP section of my FAQ or FXP tutorial for further information.

Pub Scanner - Someone who scours the net for anonymous access FTP sites, which permit the creation and deletion of files. Once found these are exploited by uploading software for others to share.

Pub Stealer - Someone who posts the IP address of a public FTP site which they themselves did not build. Some pub stealers justify this by claiming that the elitism of private FXP groups discriminates against those people who do not have access, yet others simply post other people's 'work' to try to claim the credit for themselves. Either way, pub stealers are despised by the FXP groups and praised by those who would otherwise not have access to them.

Pubstro - A hacker comes along and illegally gains entry to a computer connected to the internet (duh, that's the most common definition of the term isn't it!). He or she then sets it up as an FTP server, creates a username and password for themselves and proceeds to upload data to it. The resulting 'hacked pub' is known as a pubstro. These are kept totally hush-hush because they are like gold dust in that they only present themselves once in a blue moon. Software is transferred from pubstros to non-FXP-able pubs, which are subsequently advertised. It's all about protecting the source and 'spreading the wealth' - large oaks from little acorns grow and all that malarkey. Nevertheless, creating pubstros is extremely controversial as it involves hacking, rather than relatively harmless squatting (as is the case with pubs). For this reason posting pubstros is forbidden on many FXP forums.

Pub Tagging - When a public FTP site is discovered by an FXP group they will name a directory after themselves. This serves as a calling card to let other groups know that the hard drive space has already been claimed and will soon be filled. Doing so avoids duplicate uploads and disputes over the 'ownership' of a pub.

Q

Quarantine - Viruses are often moved to a quarantined or protected area of a hard drive before it is decided how they will be dealt with. While they reside in this isolated area of a drive they pose no risk to your data.

QuickTime - Apple's own proprietary movie format which comprises text, animation, video and sound. The file extensions .qt, .mov or .moov indicate that a file has been created using the QuickTime format. Such files can either be viewed using the official Apple player or the much more versatile, multi-platform VideoLAN Client.

R

Rar File - Either a self-contained, single compressed archive or the first file in a series of compressed archives (the one you double click to decompress all the files simultaneously). Usually decompressed using a program called Winrar on the Windows platform (although WinAce can also handle the task remarkably well). On the Mac side UnRarX is equally capable.

Ratio - Two numbers separated by a semi-colon. Indicates how much data you must upload to an FTP site before you are permitted to download anything.

Ratio Buster - An ancient, official Microsoft DOS program that allows you to specify the size of an empty file. Many moons ago these pseudo-files were uploaded to ratio sites to gain credit at a much faster rate than usual.

RCNT - A scene release tag used to indicate that a movie is a 'recent' as opposed to a classic title. Likely used in the case of remakes. Otherwise pretty much redundant I'd imagine.

Real Proper - A rare nfo site label used to indicate that a release intended to correct the previous mistakes of the same or another group did nothing of the sort, and so had to be replaced with a proper proper release.

Reget - Yet another free download manager. At one time the only obvious advantage this one offered over Getright and Gozilla was that in a few mouse clicks you could add all the linked files on a selected web page to the download queue in one go - a huge time saver where image repositories are concerned. The interface has been translated into many different tongues so if English is not your first language this may be a better option for you.

Reg File - Tiny text file with a .reg extension used to add essential configuration details to the registry of Windows operating systems.

Release Group - A collaborative crew of talented programmers involved in cracking and/or ripping software or re-encoding and initiating a distribution chain for leaked audio or movies. The incentives for doing so are numerous and diverse, though the principal ones include inter-group competition, the pride garnered from successfully bypassing a complicated copyright protection mechanism, social interaction with like-minded individuals and so on.

Request - A plea for help in finding a piece of software, a movie, an MP3 file or whatever. Usually posted on web forums, newsgroups, in IRC channels etc. Not a welcome sight within most law-abiding communities as fulfilling requests constitutes aiding and abetting piracy and is liable to lead to legal repercussions, or at the very least, the closure of the organisation involved. Suppressing requests is not the challenge it once was now that peer to peer software, by and large, makes them redundant.

Resume - The ability to stop and start downloading/uploading a file whenever you choose without having to start again from the beginning.

Rip - Pirate software that has had all the non-essential gubbins removed making it less cumbersome to transfer via the internet. Movies, music and speech are typical casualties, though these can be re-applied much like patches if the user so wishes. Rips are a dying breed in the age of high speed internet connections and BitTorrenting (the BitTorrent protocol serves content from user's own computers rather than a central storage area).

Raped - A warez release is branded with this term if it has been damaged beyond repair during the ripping process. Used interchangeably with 'nuked'. The political correctness police clearly haven't infiltrated warez communities yet!

RM File - Shorthand for Real Media, an unhelpfully inaccessible, proprietary video file format. Can be played back using either the spamfest that is the official Real Player client or the more minimalist, Real Alternative media player derivative. Video clips produced using this format are not of the highest quality, but do have the advantage of a relatively small file size and are endowed with the streamability factor.

ROM - Software-based 'dump' of a game originally designed to run on a console or an arcade machine. Played on a computer via emulation software such as MAME or SNES9x. On the whole this is done to breathe new life into antiquated - and therefore inaccessible - platforms, though it is also possible to mimic more contemporary hardware.

RSS - Acronym for RDF (resource description framework) Site Summary; a means of syndicating web site content so it can be viewed beyond the confines of the author's home page e.g. from within news clients or via feeds inserted into similarly themed sites.

S

Screener - A movie release boasting very high quality video and sound, usually ripped from promotional videos.

SE - Acronym used in reference to DVD releases. Stands for 'special edition'.

Serial - A valid username and code number combination (or just the code on its own) used to register a shareware program or activate a retail product, thereby removing any restrictions imposed. Can be found on serial database web sites or in the accompanying nfo file of a particular piece of software.

SFV File - See the ISO section of my FAQ.

Shareware - Try-before-you-buy software downloaded from the net or distributed via computer magazine cover discs.

Shovelware - Extra junk bundled with retail software to fill the disc capacity, making it appear that you're getting more for your money.

Slashdot Effect - Slashdot is an immensely popular technology discussion and information web site. Whenever a site is referenced in a Slashdot article it is rapidly inundated with visitors. Often this results in the site becoming inaccessible as it can not cope with the enormous surge in traffic. When this happens the site in question is said to have been Slashdotted or /.ed for short.

Spam - Unsolicited junk e-mail. Supposedly stands for 'Stupid Person's Annoying Message'. How appropriate!

Sponsor - To make some moolah, webmasters can place adverts on their sites. Each time you click on these adverts or banners they receive a few beans for ushering in potential customers to the sponsor's web site.

Spyware - Any software installed on your system - with or without your consent - capable of transmitting information regarding your browsing habits to market research companies. Spyware files are usually installed along with seemingly harmless shareware or freeware applications and operate in the background while you surf the net. These uninvited gremlins can be eliminated using spyware removal programs such as Ad Aware, available from Lavasoft.

STV - An acronym used in reference to movie releases. Stands for 'straight to video' i.e. movies not considered to have wide enough appeal to be shown at the cinema.

Superbit - A perfectly legitimate DVD variant endorsed by Sony Pictures. All the extra features are cut to optimize the available storage space on the disc. This allows the video and sound to be encoded at a higher bit rate, resulting in the production of superior quality movies.

SuprNova - Was at one time the largest Torrent file repository and community web site around. Shutdown kind of voluntarily in December 2004 because the gaffer, Sloncek, could hear the rapidly approaching footsteps of the MPAA who during this period mounted a major crackdown on sites facilitating the distribution of pre-release movies via the BitTorrent protocol.

Surfer Friendly (SF) - Surfer friendly sites supposedly have no blind links, pop-ups or porn banners. Not the most trustworthy self-imposed insignia - many webmasters are not opposed to tellings fibs to get you to visit their sites.

Sys Op - A System Operator is the person responsible for administrating a mainframe computer, network of computers or an online service. They often regulate access to servers, manage their contents and monitor and sustain their online status. A commonplace challenge faced by Sys Ops in the heyday of FXP groups was to keep their servers (or 'pubs' in the eyes of the uploaders) clear of illegally traded, copyright protected material.

T

Tagging - A term used in reference to the claim of ownership of a public FTP site by an FXP group. When a 'pub' is located, the group who discovered it name a directory after themselves so that other groups know not to use the space for their own uploads. This is really just common courtesy - a good example of FXP etiquette.

The Faction - A now defunct organisation composed of three of the largest release groups (Razor 1911, Class and Paradigm). They originally joined forces in 1998 in order to produce a 10 point document detailing the rules and regulations release groups were expected to follow when ripping a game. This document has now been superseded by a revised version devised by Myth, Divine, Vace, and Instinct known as the Standard Rip Rules.

Top List - A chart which lists in rank order the best sites in a particular category, worked out on the basis of votes.

Topsite - The pinnacle of the warez distribution hierarchy. Topsites are extremely fast, private FTP sites stuffed to the gills with freshly cracked software. Initially they are used to receive pre-release software supplied by computer industry insiders. When this software has been cracked, packed and tested it is placed in a 'pre' directory where it is pounced on by 'pre-ers' who race the booty to affiliate topsites. Subsequent to the awarding of credits, couriers distribute the software to dump sites and so on.

Trading - Swapping data file for file via FTP or IRC. Generally ostracized by 'the-data-wants-to-be-free' types.

Trainer - A small, executable program which resides in your task tray while you play a game. Hot keys are associated with cheat commands which, when activated, provide you with extra ammo, weapons, lives or the ability to toggle between invincible/mortal modes etc.

Trojan - Lightweight - and therefore stealthy - nasty, virus-like attachments often merged with executable files for camouflage. When executed they allow hackers to take control of the infected computers of unsuspecting web surfers and wreak havoc on a global scale. Mostly computers are commandeered and put to work like mules as part of a cumulative denial of service attack or to propagate spam. Trojans are often found latched onto files shared using peer to peer software, though can also be contracted through visiting a malignant web site via an insecure browser. They can be guarded against proactively using an up to date virus checker or a dedicated trojan remover such as The Cleaner.

Trolling - Posting controversial messages to web forums, newsgroups, mailing lists etc. with the intention of inciting smouldering arguments.

U

UBB - Shorthand for Ultimate Bulletin Board, the second most popular internet forum script available. See the bulletin board tutorial.

Undeletable Pub - An anonymous access, public FTP site where the permission attributes are set to allow uploads and downloads, but not deletions.

Unzipping - Unpacking or decompressing files stored in a compressed archive. Originally only used in connection with zip files, however, it is now commonplace to make reference to unzipping .ace, .dmg or .rar files too.

Uploading - Copying files from your computer to a remote web server or an individual's computer via a web browser, IM, IRC, peer to peer or FTP client.

URL - Stands for 'Uniform Resource Locator'. The internet address you type into the address bar of your browser in order to visit a specific web site.

Usenet - The global or collective term for the many thousands of newsgroups hosted on servers dispersed throughout the world.

V

VA - An acronym for 'various artists', a term used in reference to the MP3 release scene.

Vapourware - Conceptual software that is unlikely to ever see the light of day, or over-hyped, long-awaited software that doesn't live up to expectation.

vBulletin - A professional, PHP / MySQL message board script which has rapidly overtaken UBB in the popularity stakes - see the bulletin board tutorial.

VCD - Stands for Video Compact Disc. Essentially these are MPG movie files distributed on CD media. VCDs can be played back in compatible DVD players or using a number of software-based media players.

VLS - An acronym used in reference to the MP3 release scene. Stands for 'vinyl single', a recording consisting of just one or two tracks.

Voting - When web sites represented 'unconnected' people's most efficacious source of illegal software and other media, warez site webmasters were very keen to reach the pinnacle of top lists such as Sub List and Top 100 and would therefore do whatever it took to coerce them into voting. The more votes a site received, the higher it climbed up the top list. An elevated, prominent position resulted in more visitors, and in theory at least, more sponsor clicks, which equated to extra financial reward.

W

Warez - Illegal, counterfeit, full version software or other media either distributed freely via the internet or sold on physical media such as DVDs.

Warez Board - An online, virtual meeting place used to share links and discuss anything and everything related to warez.

White Label - Independently issued music / promotional discs distributed by unsigned bands to gain exposure. Such media can be identified by the text scrawled on their plain, white labels using a marker pen, hence the term 'white label'. Printer ink costs money, don't ya know.

WinAce - The original ACE format, archive compression / decompression tool. Now also handles all the most prevalent compressed archive files, though is eclipsed by WinRAR as it cannot be used to manipulate ISO images.

Wingate - A system through which a number of computers are permitted to access the internet via a single computer connection providing they are all networked together. The computer acting as the go-between routes all the incoming data and so functions as a proxy server as well as a firewall.

WinRAR - The number one utility used for decompressing RAR, ACE and ZIP files (amongst other lesser known compressed archive formats) and extracting the contents of ISO images. Also very useful for decompressing many archive files simultaneously - a marvelous time / RSI saver!

WinZip - The original archive compression / decompression tool. Whilst WinZip was once considered an essential component of any PC user's toolkit, today it is largely outflanked by the multi-talented WinRAR.

Won Race - References to won and lost races can often be seen adjacent to the releases listed on scene news sites. If two groups release the same game, movie or whatever, the one that is able to transfer it to their affiliate's topsites first wins the race. This doesn't necessarily mean that the winning group managed to crack or rip the release ahead of the losing group. It could simply be a reflection of their superior distribution network.

Workprint - A very early rendering of a movie leaked by the production crew. Often they contain extra scenes, which will later be cut from the final release due to time restraints or simply because the director thought they were inappropriate etc. Other defining attributes include the presence of markers used to jump back and forth between scenes, counters, studio logos, date stamps and post codes. If you compare the workprint release of a movie with the final version you may also notice changes in the soundtrack and a whole host of other more subtle modifications. While these early incarnations are highly sought after by movie enthusiasts as they offer a glimpse into the movie that could have been, they do not hold much sway on scene release sites.

X

Y

Z

Zip File - One of the most commonly used data compression formats. Archives compressed using the Zip format are assigned the extension '.zip' and can be manipulated using a multitude of freeware and shareware decompression tools.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Throw them away; the future's legless

Monday, September 12, 2005 1

Last week I visited Monkey World in Dorset, as you do when nothing else can slake your yearning for simian-based entertainment. You know what the first thing which occurred to me upon walking into the park was? (I mean besides, "gosh, what a lot of monkeys there are"). The sheer number of people scooting about in motorised wheelchairs. I stopped dead in my tracks and scratched my noggin in wonderment at the sight of this - partly because I thought it was particularly appropriate considering the setting, and partly because if I hadn't I might have lost a toe or three under the wheels of one of these pedestrian pulverisers.

"Hang on a minute", I mused, "there are more disabled people here than there are in the whole of the country, what's going on here?"

It then dawned on me that 75% of them are probably perfectly able-bodied, just unbelievably lazy. Being the inquisitive type I looked at the park's disability policy - it stated that electric wheelchairs are free of charge to anyone in possession of a disabled ID badge. Does that mean anyone who isn't disabled can rent them too as long as they pay a fee?

As each death-cart swept past me in a cloud of dust I began scrutinising the occupants as though I'd somehow be able to discern the genuinely disabled from the merely indolent. It stands to reason that the idea of effortlessly zooming about in an electric chair rather than using those antiquated, posterior-protruding limb things would appeal to a large segment of the population when you consider the lengths some people will go to avoid exerting physical effort of any kind: double-parking on busy narrow streets right outside cash points causing mile-long pile-ups to save walking 20 yards is the best example I can think of (though I once saw a documentary which showed a morbidly obese woman driving to the end of her garden to collect her mail!).

The fact that lots of the people at Monkey World in electric wheelchairs were also obese doesn't really provide any clues as to their authenticity - if you're wheelchair-bound then you're not likely to be getting much exercise - as if the disabled didn't have enough to contend with! I won't stoop so low to use the "some of my best friends are paraplegics" gag, but I am on good terms with one wheel-chair bound person, which is why the disdain some able-bodied people show towards their fully-functioning legs winds me up so much.

This particular theme park is tiny yet they still lay on novelty trains to get people from one end to the other - trains populated mostly by young, fit people. So why would you stop there? Why not hire your own personal carriage to escort you to all the exhibits, toilets and snack bars in between?

I don't visit theme parks very often so I wouldn't know how common this is elsewhere. Maybe you do and would. If so feel free to share your experiences below.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Geeks are doing it for themselves

Saturday, September 10, 2005 0

Blogs gave we the little people a soapbox from which to preach, prophesise and disseminate information. These rapidly evolved into more intimate, full-bodied podcasts, and yet this development marks only the beginning for homebrew, digital creatives. As subscription-based, audio-on-demand approaches its first anniversary, independent bedroom broadcasters are once again raising the stakes by turning to full motion video to convey their message. Veejays, not deejays are the flavour of the month!

Video blogs - or vlogs for short - allow enthusiasts of all kinds to create their own digital content and broadcast it to the world via the web. All that is required is a camcorder or webcam, an average home computer and a dash of technical know-how.

The practicalities of directing, editing and starring in your own 'TV' show are mere formalities; the main challenge as I see it is capitalising on the extra visual dimension, or in other words, offering something over and above a typical, podcast audio feed.

Some early adopters of the vidcast format have been content to film themselves - with a static, tripod-mounted camera - sitting on a sofa delivering their commentary or conducting interviews, while others are beginning to produce content which wouldn't look out of place in the line up of a national TV network.

I seem to be in the minority here, but I really don't see the point in offering video for video's sake. If I'm watching an internet TV broadcast I want to see some computer graphic overlays, screenshots, out-in-the-wild footage and so on - something, anything to justify the extra bandwidth and hindrance of having to be tethered to my computer instead of getting some exercise while I absorb my techtainment fix.

By failing to do this, many vidcasters are shooting themselves in the foot; when you're out and about, making your way from A to B and back again, you're a captive audience - you're looking for some form of entertainment to fill the void of your monotonous journey and so your expectations are lower than they would be if you were at home with a broader range of things to do. In effect a vidcaster has to work much harder to grab your attention than a podcaster, even if the material is virtually identical.

When it comes to releasing pointless video feeds, Kevin Rose and Alex Albrecht of Diggnation take the biscuit. Their weekly round-up of the most dugg Digg stories began life as a podcast, and an excellent one at that, don't get me wrong. The video-on-demand feed (vodcast), vidcast, IPTV series, or whatever you want to call it, soon followed, but to what end? It features two guys sitting on a sofa, chugging beer and discussing the latest tech news (and goofy, highly dubious animal 'research'). Why we need to know they're sitting on a sofa in a living room is a mystery to me. I don't know about you, but my imagination can just about stretch to filling in these blanks. For any listeners struggling to picture the scene perhaps there could be a public service announcement at the beginning of each podcast. Thereafter they could adopt the style of a police interrogation recording; "for the benefit of the tape Alex just took a swig of beer and Kevin scratched his backside".

Moaning aside I really enjoy the hyperactive banter, insight and insider annecdotes. Kevin and Alex make a great team - they ooze with enthusiasm and truly know their stuff. Diggnation is so captivating you can even forgive the constant Bill and Ted-esque exclamations of cool, awesome and dude!

They must be doing something right because every other vidcasting upstart is trying to emulate them at the moment. 99.99% of tech vidcasts seem to have covered war driving at one stage or another (a topic Kevin addressed in great depth in an episode of The Broken, one of his other internet-only shows). It's not just subject matter the copycats are borrowing; many have also incorporated identical props, namely beer. I'm not sure if the inclusion of booze is supposed to lend a 'guy's night in' feel to the shows or if they're merely trying to shake off the geeky image associated with knowing a lot about computers. Either way it's quickly becoming a tedious gimmick.

Traversing the vlogosphere (don't you just love these hip buzzwords?) I couldn't help noticing how cliquey the vlog community is. Nine out of ten vidcasters appear to be either ex/current TechTV presenters or friends of an ex/current TechTV presenter. When they're not plugging each other's shows they're making guest appearances on them. This may have become a turn-off but for the fact that all the best shows are hosted by this circle of friends and colleagues: Patrick Norton's Digital Life TV, CommandN courtesy of Amber (and brother Jeff) MacArthur and Mike Lazzazzera, the aforementioned The Broken and SystM, yet another Kevin Rose brainchild. Incidentally this phenomenon isn't limited to vidcasts: refer to TechPhile, TWiT, Security Now and so on, for their podcast counterparts.

The common thread running throughout is superior production value and highly polished, professional presenters (well all except for the self-proclaimed 'hot stuff Lazzazz' who sounds like a creepy version of Mickey Mouse and makes me squirm in my seat). I can't make up my mind if his super-perky co-host, Amber, is cute, annoying, or both at the same time, but I digress. Even when a segment is so geeky your vacant eyes begin to glaze over (the whole of SystM for me) you can't fail to admire how much work has gone into preparing the demonstrations and CGI. If you happen to fall into the niche target demographic you'll think you've died and gone to mod-heaven.

While the vlogosphere (teehee) is currently dominated by tech talk, there's at least a handful of shows dedicated to each category you would expect to find listed in a more traditional blog directory, and the number is set to rise along with the availability of broadband connections.

You can subscribe to vidcasts in the same way you would a podcast e.g. using iTunes (4.9 or above) or a similar podcast client. Many of them are released in multiple video formats (Windows Media Video, QuickTime, DivX, Xvid, H.264) and so are equally accessible to Linux, Mac and Windows users.

When the mainstream media networks catch on to the IPTV concept, where will that leave the traditional goggle box, and will anyone care?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Identify and zap rogue background processes

Saturday, August 27, 2005 0

If you open up your Windows task manager and take a peek at the list of programs running in the background you might be surprised to see how much memory they're sucking up. Are they all absolutely necessary? Are they malevolent or benign? Often it's difficult to tell because Task Manager only displays their truncated file names. Rarely do malware authors label their wares, 'enormous memory-hogging computer destroying virus.exe', which if you ask me is rather cheeky of them.

One way to find out for sure what these processes are up to is to search for them in the Process Library database. The results will either put your mind at rest, or inform you of the level of threat the parasitic code poses if left to lurk on your system.

Anti-spyware tools should eliminate such gremlins, but since no single scanner is capable of detecting them all, I'd strongly advise you to run any remaining suspect processes through the above search engine to keep your system healthy.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Dyslexic eBayers bag the best bargains

Friday, August 26, 2005 0

Pudgy digited sellers are rife on eBay. They hammer out their listings' titles and descriptions faster than the speed of light and submit the resulting gibberish without proof reading it first. Unless you're as stupid as the sellers * you aren't going to find these auctions, and they will predictably end with no bids.

Fat Fingers has the solution; type in a smattering of keywords and the site will scour eBay for any auctions containing their mistyped variants. Because so few people will think of searching for 'praystayshon' (unless they're Chinese that is - oops, there I go again) when they're seeking a Sony Playstation, you may find you're the only bidder and win the auction for a rock-bottom price.

It really works. Only last week I managed to pick up a 'jundred [ound bote' for a fiver!

* not that I want to equate stupidity with dyslexia you understand - some of the most brilliant thinkers throughout history were dyslexic. Phew, that ought to keep the baying PC mob from clawing at my throat.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Google fills in the blanks

Thursday, August 25, 2005 0

I couldn't tell you if this search refining feature is new, or just new to me, but it's one well worth adding to your info mining arsenal.

If you want Google to forage for a particular phrase, though can't bring it to mind in its entirety, you can replace the tip-of-the-tongue, missing words with stars and let Google fill in the blanks. This might be a useful way to look up song lyrics, amongst other things. Note that you aren't required to enclose the words in speech marks to instruct Google to search for them in the order they were entered.

Stars are useful for finding quick answers to concise questions too: try entering the text the capital of paraguay is * and you'll be told in no uncertain terms - two million times no less - that the answer you seek is 'Asuncion'. Great for pub quizzes then... if you happen to have a laptop with you, and your local boozer is equipped with WAP, and the other participants are too drunk to notice you furiously bashing away at your keyboard, coincidentally right after each question has been posed.

You could also use stars to quickly assess the general consensus of opinion on any given topic. For instance, if you submitted the text george bush is an * you might be given the impression that Darth Bush isn't exactly dynamite in the popularity stakes - in fact you'd have to click through to page five before you struck upon a positive adjective... and even these ones look conspicuously sarcastic/ironic.

Other Google search modifiers to have escaped my notice until now include:

filetype: (or ext:) - extremely useful for tracking down PDF journal articles or technical manuals e.g. ipod user manual filetype:pdf

allintitle: - limits search results to those containing your specified keywords in the title of the pages e.g. allintitle:charlie and the chocolate factory

allinurl: - limits search results to those containing your specified keywords in the web address e.g. allinurl:extras ricky gervais

Still thirsty for more? Try Google Guide's advanced operators reference page.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Gmail gets even more bettererer

Wednesday, August 24, 2005 0

With every newspaper and mainstream media outlet covering the story, you can't have failed to notice that today Google unveiled their shiny new instant messenger software. While this is great news, there's not a lot more I can say on the subject which you haven't already heard, so instead I will focus on a lesser known improvement to have sneaked in Gmail's backdoor minus the fanfare.

'Send mail as' allows you to send email from any of your assorted accounts (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail or whatever) via a single Gmail web interface.

Picture the scene: you're logged into your 'hot4u.xxx@gmail.com' account, pumping out lewd messages to complete strangers based on the other side of the globe. Out of the blue it dawns on you that you need to submit an important, and probably overdue, report to your boss. Traditionally you would have to end your current session and log back into Gmail using your 'firstname.surname@gmail.com' username before sending your attachment, and groveling apology.

Not with the 'send mail as' gizmo! You would simply compose a new message in the usual way, and using the drop-down 'from' menu, select your business/formal correspondence username from the list. Your real name and formal address is appended to the message as though you'd sent it directly from that account.

To enable the feature, log into your account and click on the 'settings' link followed by the 'accounts' tab. Make the 'add another email address' page your next port of call and enter one of your alternative email addresses and the name you would like to be associated with it. To verify that you are the genuine owner of the address entered, an activation email will be sent to it. Click on the link contained in this message and you're ready to rumble.

I have two Gmail accounts; one for my blog, message boards and other online subscriptions, and another one I use when I want people to think I'm a real, reasonably normal human being. The 'send mail as' feature was ready and waiting for action under my 'please take me seriously' account, but absent from my ever-so-slightly older nickname account, so if you can't find the 'accounts' tab in your settings menu you're (probably) not blind, stupid or both; your account may be one of the ones awaiting an upgrade.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

When full blast isn't loud enough

Saturday, August 06, 2005 0

My Creative Rhomba MP3 player came loaded with European firmware (so I'm led to believe). Because some EU directive or other dictates that the volume of portable audio devices has to be restricted (presumably because some people are too feeble-minded to turn it down when their ears start to bleed) I'm unable to listen to certain audiobooks without editing them first.

The problem is that music files are encoded using various 'gain' (i.e. decibel) levels. Some have the maximum volume set very low, while others are set high enough to hollow out your cranium faster than a mutant, flesh-eating virus. If you've ramped up the volume to the maximum and still can't hear your track over the environmental background noise don't trash it just yet - keep reading to discover several potential solutions.

Some manufacturers release multiple, regional firmware updates - US and EU varieties at least. If you are able to flash your EU player with the US firmware you can often eliminate the volume restrictions. Unfortunately this didn't help in my case. I'm told this could be because the US and EU firmware is identical, or that there were no restrictions on the player to begin with - the power output could simply be very mediocre. This coupled with a subdued MP3 track is enough to leave you straining to hear what sounds like a game of Chinese whispers.

The next thing to try if that didn't help is to edit the tracks, turn up the gain (or 'normalize' them) and then re-encode the MP3s. This can be accomplished using the cross-platform audio editor, Audacity.

Here's how:-

- Run the application and open the track you wish to amplify.

- In the left hand panel next to the waveform display there's a slider with a minus symbol at one end, and a plus symbol at the other. Drag the marker which intersects the line towards the right to increase the decibel level. Go overboard and you will create nothing but painful distortion. I chose to boost the gain by 12db. This turned out to offer an ideal balance between sound quality and audibility, but your mileage will vary depending on the track used.

- Select 'File' > 'Export as MP3' to re-encode the corrected track. A new file will be created, leaving the original one intact, so don't worry about corrupting it. You can always try again with different settings if something goes wrong.

Windows users may like to give MP3Gain a shot instead. A Mac port exists, but it wouldn't behave itself when I tried it - probably because it's not been updated for nearly two years and so doesn't take into account the many OS X changes which have occurred in the mean time.

Another problem I had is that I couldn't get my MP3 player to play the ridiculous number of bitty files my audiobooks were split into in the correct order. They should automatically be organised in alpha-numeric order - should. Hmmf! In reality they play in the order in which they were transferred to the memory, so unless you want your book to read like the disjointed, though head-spinningly superb movie, Memento, you will have to drag each file over individually in sequence. Try doing that with an unabridged, epic novel like Lord of the Rings, split into 1mb chunks!

Luckily help is close at hand in the form of the Mac-only, labour-saving gizmo, ReJoiner. Select the folder containing your serialised audiobook, hit the 'ReJoin' button and the program will launch iTunes and use it to merge them together into a single MP3 file. Note that it can struggle to combine hundreds of files at once (most likely due to memory limitations) so you might like to separate your audiobooks into folders on a per chapter basis and combine them one at a time. Most flash-based MP3 players don't have the capacity to store such huge files in any case so this isn't really much of a drawback.

For Windows users there's ReOrganize which, if you have a compatible MP3 player, will allow you to re-arrange the playback order of your tracks once they have been transferred to your portable audio device.

Before researching these infuriating design flaws, the other option I seriously considered was hurling my MP3 player at the wall, kicking the furniture and cursing quite a bit. My ickle, oblivious Rhomba doesn't know how close it came to meeting its maker. Who knows? Maybe it could have asked Creative why it was born with half a brain and return from the other side to pass on this newfound, otherworldly knowledge. For now it has been granted a (temporary?) reprieve.

 
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