How do software crackers make money

There are many cracks or keygens for pricey software, but do those crackers work for free or they are up to something else? Here is one side of the story I heard from a user on a torrent site:

Yes a lot of people do not understand that Key Generator developers are paid by malware distributors/programmers to place worms and viruses into their programs. Do you think they key gen developers do this all for free? Pity that people fall for this trap all the time. I am a Security Engineer for a 3000+ client work office and this is just the way these developers make money by help distributing malware for the benefit that malware programmers most of the time put your computer into a silent Zombie state. Wake up people there is more behind they key generators popping up saying it found a signature of a virus.

This quote is from a discussion whether to trust a keygen when an anti-virus program flagged it as a danger. Some said it was necessary to temporarily disable anti-virus software before running the keygens, because anti-virus software naturally consider keygens illegal and harmful despite their neutrality. This opinion is stupid. Because anti-virus programs are not innately hostile to keygens, after all, keygen method does not work very well with non-free anti-virus software, which requires to be constantly updated for virus definitions. There is no reason for this alleged animosity.

When a keygen is flagged as a Trojan or a virus, chances are that they do pose a threat to your OS security. Like the “Optimized Windows XP” versions widely used in China, users never know what changes have been made to the system files and what dangers they have invited by choosing to install these “free, fast and streamlined” Window versions.

The solution to the villian keygens include using Linux, buy the software, use a virtual machine to run the keygen or use the text format registration information. The bottom line is never use a cracked anti-virus or firewall, which serves as the last line of defense for the computer.

Right now I am using Saftety.Net as the firewall and AVG 8.5 for anti-virus — both are doing an excellent job.

Side notes

The zombie machines are called 肉鸡 (Meat Chicken) in China. Millions of such meat chickens are mainly targeted by the Internet Mafia for online game accounts and other sensitive data. Meat chickens could be sold by the organized groups at the price of cabbage, i.e. very cheap price. This has become an underground industry with profane revenues.


Family DVD authoring in three steps

By using Sony Vegas Pro 8.0 and TMPGEnc Authoring Works 4, I finally created the long-overdue family DVDs for the 80th birthday celebrations of my grandfather.

Editing the original files

The original videos were taken by a Sony hard drive Handycam, which creates video files with MTS extensions. I have about ten gigabytes of these files, and I need to find an efficient way to edit them — mainly taking out the shaky footage.

Sony Vegas Pro is made for such task after opening the file in the trimmer: either use “add media from/Up to cursor” or draw a region on the media and drag or copy it to the editing zone. This is the most time consuming task, and every second of the media needs to be watched for highest editing quality, which is not an easy job for a long footage.

Out of the treasure of functions sported in Sony Vegas Pro, I employed two features for my task: overlap the media for smooth transition between scenes; creating text media to preclude certain videos as an introduction or explanation. The first feature is especially useful, and I can overlap clips in the same track or even overlap videos on different tracks. I use this feature for smooth transition between the scenes, but it seems possible to create a man walking in the sky by merging a walking scene with a clip of the blue sky.

Exporting the files

After finishing the editing, the next step is rendering the media into certain formats. I choose DVD PAL format to create a mpeg 2 file for DVD. Make sure to check the audio settings because some DVD file rendering does not have audio enabled by default.

I believe I made a mistake when rendering the media. Since the original MTS files are NTSC format, it is better to choose DVD NTSC for the mpeg file to save the conversion time, though I haven’t tested the conversion speed with or without the format conformity. It took about six hours for a 1.5hr MTS video being converted into DVD mpeg format on a HP DV2000T with a Core 2 Duo T7200 CPU.

At hindsight, I should also have wasted time on setting transition effects between clips because I can do almost the same much faster under TMPGEnc DVD authoring program.

Make the DVD

The converted file is approximately 4.7GB, tailored by Sony Vegas for the size of a common DVD disc. The next move is turning the mpeg file into DVD files, create a menu and burn it into the disc.

Just add the video file into TMPGEnc Authoring Works as a track, and split the long file into chapters. I am amazed how easy to quickly navigate though the whole video, and pinpoint the exact frame to split into chapters. Right or left click on the video strip can quickly move forward or backward, which is faster and accurate than seeking with cursor.

With a long video split into chapters, I added transitions between them, and used a menu template for the navigation menu. All this can be done quickly and intuitively under this amazing application. TMPGEnc Authoring Works is also good for creating photo slide shows, and I decide to use it to replace Proshow Gold for my future photos slide projects. Proshow does come with more lens movements for the photos, and even with more transition effects. Unfortunately some transition effects of Proshow Gold is not suitable for photoed people.

Transition effects and culture

Proshow Gold has some transition effects which may slit a person in the picture into halves or make that person’s head detach from the body — certainly not good for sensitive viewers. Unfortunately I couldn’t find an option to exclude these cutting transitions and apply the rest to the batch of pictures. Checking and changing the transitions for every single picture is just too time-consuming.

When watching the DVD, my mother complained about the ‘blackout transition effects’ between scenes, although that transition is widely used in documentaries and other TV programs. She might think that it’s not good to darken a person in the video into a black background.

I am not sure if the westerners have the same perspective.

Misc USA

Capitalism and freedom explained in one minute

The following is a comment made by Gabe at Engadget. I like the incisive insights, so I gleefully copied it here:

Constant conflicts (economic or warfare) is necessary to maintain stability in our society. Capitalism necessarily expands to avoid collapse. It’s what Joseph Tainter called a “runaway train”.

The amount of attention given to, dogmatization of, and religious adherence to the idea of “freedom” might as well be philosophical slavery – anything that does not conform to an arbitrary set of criteria that defines “freedom” is automatically “evil” and rejected, regardless of any practical benefits it may have.

Knowing half of the truth and thinking you know the whole is far worse than knowing nothing at all. We can at least acknowledge and deal with our ignorance in the second case, whereas in the first case we become so secure in our biased perception of the truth it “becomes” the truth.

Who is Joseph Tainter

From wikipedia:

A professor in anthropology. His best-known work is The Collapse of Complex Societies. This 1988 book examines the collapse of Maya and Chacoan civilizations, and the Roman Empire, in terms of network theory, energy economics and complexity theory. Tainter argues that societies collapse when their investments in social complexity reach a point of diminishing marginal returns.

My take

Hope I can know more about Dr. Tainter’s theory. I would question his theory by asking this question: can a study of three civilizations be enough to prove the correlation between the burden of complexities and the collapse of a society? How would this theory be applied to the longest sustained civilization in China?


Plone is superb but resource-hungry

Plone rocks but certainly doesn’t suit for budget hosting solutions.

Minimum hardware requirements

Minimum 256 MB RAM and 512 MB of swap space per Plone site
Minimum 512 MB hard disk space

This is way too much for my VPS with only 64M of memory. Instead I think I’ll give CMS Made Simple a try.

A nice skin

Quintagroup seems to offer some nice free plone skins. Out of the list, Lite and Schools impressed me most. I’d choose Lite for a technical site and Schools for a university site.

Flash video plugin

I always wondered how to insert a flash movie into a webpage, and in this case, for plone. It turned out to be quite easy — Flash video plugin serves the purpose well. The back end player for this plugin FlowPlayer, and I particularly like the screen size options of this player.

The author of this plugin is also a fan of the movie Office Space, and have just ran the entire lag of the London Marathon race. Interesting guy to know.

After thoughts

I would definitely run Plone for any site if the hardware resources suffice. Clean, elegant and well-ordered is the impression I have for Plone.

No, I won’t pay for the Premium themes or CMSs. For me the GPL licensed programs and artwork are good, although I will find other means to support the contributors — for example clicking their ads.

Life Misc

Insistence on Email and phone communications

Has it ever happened to you that your phone calls and email messages to someone go unanswered. What would you do? Thinking that person chose to ignore you and drop the initiation of communication, or trying to reach that person again? My recent experience taught me to always opt for the second option.

If you try to call someone and the phone is not answered, try other means to contact that person, be it sending email or paying a personal visit. A phone can go wrong in numerous ways and sometimes its owner is not even aware that their phone is not working. Or perhaps the person is traveling and forget to carry the phone. There are many possibilities for unanswered phone calls, and the last thing you want to do is holding a grudge believing that you are deliberated ignored.

The same applies to email communications. There are numerous reasons for not receiving replies for your email inquiries, and in most cases, it is not because of the receive choose to ignore you. As reliable as an email system is, glitches do occur and some electronic particles still go astray and fail to reach the destination.

Especially when you are requesting some information or favor through electronic communications, you may be inclined to believe your unrequited communication is an indication that its receiving end does not want to be bothered, and you give up. The right thing to do is writing or calling again just to confirm if your request has been received or not, and politely show your understanding if the person really can’t attend to your request.


A lightweight free firewall for Windows XP

I regretted that I just started using it today, and I already like it very much. It is the free and efficient firewall I have been looking for — Safety.Net Free Version from NetVeda.

All I need to do in order to download Safety.Net is writing down my email address. After downloading it, it installed without any nagging pop-ups about registration and you-own-me-money stuff. It just started working right away.

Like any application filtering firewall, it alerts me about the network activities from the programs. However, what makes this program great is that its filtering features are easy, I mean really easy, to manage and edit. This is the feature I like about Safety.Net the most, and it is better than any other firewalls I ever used, be it Comodo Firewall, Nod32 Smart Security and AVG Internet Security.

Safety.Net also has features of a gateway firewall. It can filter website addresses and phrases, controls applications, as well as enforce parental control — far advanced than the [expletive] Green Dam Youth Escort program in China.

Most of all, Safety.Net has really small footprint and I highly recommend anyone who is running Windows XP. This is the ONE.

Other thoughts

I noticed that this NetVeda wasn’t very active in developing their products, and it is a great pity. But I’ll stick to it as much as I stick to XP. I really don’t want to upgrade to bloated Vista or Windows 7.

Update: I no longer use Safety.Net and now Comodo Firewall is my choice.


A quick word about Uighur riot — who were killed?

The official report says 156 people were killed in the Sunday riot in Urumuqi. The question remains who were killed in the riot and why they were killed.

Most western media, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are very vague about the ethnic background of the victims. Irresponsible site like RFA reported that the victims were Chinese Uighur minorities. These media knows nothing about China and the relations between different ethnic groups. Many westerners can be misled by the biased reports of these media and might have the wrong impression that the rioters or so nicely called ‘demonstrators’ were the victims.

The truth is: the rioters are criminals and murderers who ruthlessly killed innocent local people — most of them are Han Chinese. Here is what Los Angles Times says:

Chinese authorities accuse Uighur rioters of going on a savage rampage Sunday in Urumqi in which civilians were pulled out of cars and shops, beaten and stabbed for no other reason that being Han, the ethnic majority in China.

I bet the western media know little about the underlying geopolitical and economic political causes of incidents like this.

I also want to correct a widespread misconception in Western mind. Chinese people consist of 56 ethnic groups, not just Han Chinese.


Beer and durian, a dangerous combination?

OK, I confess. I had a piece of durian and a sip of Tsingdao Beer tonight.

I like eating durian, even though it is expensive. Its smell is tempting and its flesh is more delicious than a delicate cake. In contrast, I am never a fan of alcohol and I even think I am allergic to it. It’s so hot today, and I decided to break my beer-fast and had some.

I drank a couple of sips of beer, and I had a piece of fair-sized durian. Thinking of how to finish the overwhelming remainder of the beer, naturally as a Chinese, I also became curious to learn if the durian and beer conflict in their food nature.

Real threat or toxiphobia

After searching the net, I did saw a few reports about the danger of eating durian with alcohol. For example, this durianvorous guy says:

I have been told by a number of people that beer can be fatal, if drunk within a few hours of eating durian. This is apparently on account of some fermentation process, which causes your bowels to explode. However, based on my own experiments, this rumor appears to be totally untrue.

So why do some people say the combination is fatal?

Because durian and alcohol are both believed to be very ‘hot’ in nature, and eating the two together will produce too much heat in the body:

Don’t have durian with alcohol. Both are hot and dry in their food nature, and if you eat them together, your blood vessel will be blocked and even explode. A stroke may also occur.

I also found some testimonials, as the one already quoted above, which say that it is absolutely ridiculous to believe that durian and beer can kill. Nothing happened, says the brave ones, after they took the two together.

How to enjoy the King of Fruit

Many durian lovers shared their experience about how to bring the best of durian.

  • A durian is as much nutritious as three chickens.
  • Cook durian with rice and some coconut milk.
  • Mix durian with sugar, milk and cream to make durian ice cream.
  • Stew durian with chicken to make some chicken soup. (I guess the soup should be called ‘Six-Chicken Soup’)

  • Put durian in the freezing compartment of the fridge. It tastes greatest when chilled. (This one is my favorite)
  • Eating durian with the Queen of Fruit — Mangosteen — to neutralize the heat of the King.

So how to pick a good durian

A good durian should look yellowish, bulging and spiky. It should also emit with a strong sweet scent. The following account seems more professional:

My parents like to smell the bottom of the stem. If it emits a strong smell, then it’s ready to consume. Some people prefer the tapping method. Hitting the fruit with a stick and hearing the appropriate slightly-hollow “thunk” sound. Of course, this is something you’d have to learn from a durian jedi.

My decision

I decide to stay on the safe side and stop drinking the rest of the beer. I don’t like drinking beer anyway. I’ll try some chilled-tea next time.

How people describe durian

It is of such an excellent taste that it surpasses in flavour all the other fruits of the world.

Durian’s taste divine! It’s soft and mushy and has a very unique taste that you can’t really describe. Kinda apple custard, kinda longan, kinda something else. It tastes very different when cold, defrosted or preserved.

The fruit is fucking horrible and the only thing that will kill you is the stench of public toilets that it produces…