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Christmas Gift Guide
Culture

Is everyone in this industry cracking?

Loath as I am to bore readers with the particulars of my personal life, I must admit to having spent the past week or so in something of a snit. First I came down with a cold as tenacious and annoying as the Office of the Independent Counsel. Then, in the middle of negotiating this vale of phlegm, I realized that not only my entire family, but I, too, had forgotten a significant personal catastrophe scheduled to happen today. My birthday.

Loath as I am to bore readers with the particulars of my personal life, I must admit to having spent the past week or so in something of a snit. First I came down with a cold as tenacious and annoying as the Office of the Independent Counsel. Then, in the middle of negotiating this vale of phlegm, I realized that not only my entire family, but I, too, had forgotten a significant personal catastrophe scheduled to happen today. My birthday.

Which birthday remains classified information. Suffice it to say that the time of life enjoyed by my 12-year-old son Vermel has become for me but a distant memory, and Grandma DuBaud's state of mind has taken on ominous significance. Perhaps she is energized by the recent news about what her age group is up to, but when I found the Rumor Mill front door defaced by images of cranberries and the text "Hein! Appelle ta grand'mère!" scrawled across the page, I began to entertain some worries about her mental well-being.

It appears that Grandma DuBaud isn't the only one who's cracking these days. Filemine, the Shareware site owned and operated by CMP Media, has been offering for download a neat utility called "CrackLock," which appeared on Filemine with the following description by its creator:

"CrackLock is a utility which corrects a frequent bug that appears in a lot of sharewares: I've recently noticed that many sharewares seem to stop working after a limited period of time, frequently a 30-day period. This bug is so frequent that I use to call it 'the 30ieth day virus.' Thanks to CrackLock, no more problem! With this utility, you can assign a date, a time, and a method to every program that runs under Windows 95/NT 4.0. After that, no matter the actual day or time, these programs are bluffed and they believe to be at the dummy date/time you have assigned. The bug is bypassed, and your sharewares keep working without any period limit."

This so called "bug," or, as the author colorfully calls it, "the 30ieth day virus," is of course the means by which shareware authors let users try out their work for a limited period before deciding whether to pay a nominal fee to have it unlocked. It's a little tough to figure out whether the author above is being devious or just plain stupid in his description, but whatever the answer, CMP certainly riled shareware authors by allowing the menace to be posted on its site.

"It's a sorry day in Sharewaresville when file collections such as FileMine start distributing cracking tools alongside our own products," groused one Sharewaresville resident.

CMP, for its part, quickly yanked the page when asked about it.

"Geez, I can't believe that showed up," said Filemine producer Kerry Krueger. "This was a file entered in June. In July, I disabled it, once we realized what it was."

No great loss, even to crackers, said Krueger.

"It doesn't work," she said. "I tried it out of curiosity."

So it looks like CMP hasn't lost its mind or joined my grandmother on the dark side of cracking. But the media company has gotten a little absent-minded, as the following Business Wire note from CMP demonstrates:

"VARBusiness Names Winners of its 1998 Annual Report Card Awards for Reseller Satisfaction with Vendor Programs, third graph, third line should read Hewlett-Packard (sted Compaq)."

Oh, well, every once in a while something slips through the, um, cracks. But no matter what CMP or resellers think of it, Compaq is still crazy after all these years. So is Gateway, for that matter; both companies have named their products (a Presario from Compaq and a Solo from Gateway) after a California law, famous in the psychiatric hospitality industry, that lets hospitals detain patients on psychiatric hold involuntarily for 72 hours--more than enough time to remove all those cranberries from your hacked site.

"It's my bread and butter," said an old Attrition Valley High classmate, now chief of staff at a prominent local shrinkateria.

Is extreme gullibility a sign of mental instability? If so, we might consider invoking 5150 against those unwitting and witless spammers that keep forwarding emails about how Disney and Bill Gates are going to team up to give away money. Stop it already! We could put a CrackLock in every Crockpot for all the bandwidth this junk is using up.

Slightly more subtle but equally bogus is the email circulating about Kenneth "Porn" Starr's 1987 60 Minutes interview with Diane Sawyer.

"Public media should not contain explicit or implied descriptions of sex acts," the well-funded erotica author is supposed to have told Diane. "Our society should be purged of the perverts who provide the media with pornographic material while pretending it has some redeeming social value under the public's 'right to know.'"

"Mr. Starr has never been on 60 Minutes," said weary-sounding CBS flak Kevin Tedesco, who has fielded calls on the subject from the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Harpers, the Nation, the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and several hundred, if not tens of thousands, of other news organization. "We're 100 percent sure of this."

Shucks, it did seem too good to be true, from a scandalmongering perspective, but what in all of Lewinskiana has not? I think I have the right to know your rumors.