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'Winston Smith' Speaks Out On MS Reader Convertor 192

Posted by timothy
from the gotta-read-on-my-zaurus dept.
David H. Rothman writes "'Winston Smith,' an unemployed American high school dropout self-named after 1984's hero, told my TeleRead.org site why he and buddies turned out Convert Lit to crack the Microsoft Reader e-book format. Winston makes clear he is pro-fair use and anti-piracy. Alas, new DMCAish legal restrictions in the United Kingdom will force the Dan Jackson Software site to shut off the Convert Lit downloading later this month. Just as in the States, free speech and fair use apparently matter less in the UK these days than they used to. According to Dan Jackson, Winston 'is indeed the real author of Convert LIT.' Meanwhile, if you're in a country without DMCAish thuggery and can host Dan at a new location, email him ASAP."
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'Winston Smith' Speaks Out On MS Reader Convertor

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    On Freenet.
  • What's the point in hacking a format nobody's using anyway?
    • People who like Microsoft, ortherwise idiots.
      -Seriv
    • What's the point in hacking a format nobody's using anyway?

      In case you don't know, there are quite
      a lot of "nobodies" out there !

      In this world of 6 BILLION PEOPLE, about
      6 millions of them maybe counted as
      SOMEBODIES .

      That still leaves us around 5.995 nobodies
      that might be using the
      format nobody's using anyway.

      Quite a lot, aren't they ?
    • So you can write a piece of software easily abbreviated and referred to as "clit".

      Apologies, I'm not noremally this base in nature or humor but this one was begging for it.
      • That's a much better name than nesticle. Though someone might get suspicious if they saw you downloading a file with "clit" and "15" in its name.
  • by DrEldarion (114072) on Saturday October 11, 2003 @10:40PM (#7192605)
    Stop downloads of it later this month? They may as well just leave it up, because by then there will be about a million different sites available to download it from. Especially now that the Slashdotters know about it, people will host it just to spite Microsoft.

    -- Dr. Eldarion --
  • Once Again (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    They spend time cracking ebooks, which I will never read, instead of creating a universal porn site user/password hack. I want my naughty teenage lesbians, I just don't want to pay for it!!!
    • I think that a lot more people would be willing to pay for porn if they could do so anonymously. There have been attempts to make digital cash but, last I heard [slashdot.org], no one had succeeded. Such a technology would be a great help to anyone who wants to sell small bits of copyrighted material on the net. It isn't just porn either, It's all the trivial purchases which people would rather not have spammers and governments with TIA programs keeping track of.
      • "It's all the trivial purchases which people would rather not have spammers and governments with TIA programs keeping track of."

        And it isn't likely to happen, for exactly that reason. They'd get rid of cash today if they could get away with it. /me puts on his AFPB
  • by bconway (63464) on Saturday October 11, 2003 @10:41PM (#7192611) Homepage
    AC has always badmouthed the US as no longer "the land of the free" and made other off-the-cuff remarks, also saying that he'll be leaving his country if such laws were passed. Yet, suddenly, he's become very quiet. Does he have any plans of following through, or does he just make idle threats? I find it sad someone so prominent in this community would be all talk and no walk.
    • I don't remember Mr Cox making any such drastic remarks. And he has been pretty vocal in his opposition to the EUCD [theregister.co.uk] as well.

      In any case, lately he has been too busy breaking, sorry upgrading the SUCS [sucs.org] server... and translating everything into Welsh.
      • Just to reiterate the stuff in the post above, Alan is certainly not fond of such laws and has lobbied against other related laws in just the last month (or did you miss the Alan and Linus protest against software patents [ffii.org]?).

        Heck, after reading the link it may be the case that the law refered to has not even been passed yet (it was put up before parliament on the 3rd and does not come into force until the 31st). For all we know it might be being lobbied against (not everything Alan says or does makes headli
    • USA is the land of the free just look we keep all out criminals in jail.
      Around the world Nations with highest incarceration rates per 100,000 residents
      1. USA 702
      2. Russia 635
      3. Cayman Islands 600
      4. Belarus 577
      5. Kazakhstan 494
      WE'RE #1! Source [motherjones.com]
    • AC is like 98% of all liberals. They make pronouncments about something 'bad'and say they'll leave the country if it gets worse. Yet they never do.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 11, 2003 @10:43PM (#7192613)
    Winston Smith is not the hero of 1984. Big Brother is the hero of 1984. Big Brother has always been the hero of 1984.
  • by bergeron76 (176351) * on Saturday October 11, 2003 @10:44PM (#7192620)
    Uhm, after posting his [unobscured] email address on the Slashdot Frontpage, I tend to think that we might want to find the guy a new email addy first...

  • Do people just sit around and go, "Bob, I feel like taking away peoples rights today."
    But the real bad guy is companies like microsoft that act on the laws.
    -Seriv
  • Normally, this would be a great use for Freenet. It's too bad the network is fucked to hell right now.
    • "fucked to hell" My, what an interesting way to get there.
    • What's wrong with it? After some initial playing around with it a couple months back, I was just about to buy some more ram to run the thing on a constant basis. Figures that a problem would appear given my decision. My ps2 arrived one day before the price drop was announced.
  • I wasnt even aware of this new law until i read the post! I havnt seen a single bit of media attention here apart from one tiny register article. Even dimitry skylarov got attention here.I just hope they will make this more public before the 31st when it goes into effect and i hope that everyone does their absolute best to spread every bit of DRM circumnavigation around as much as they can while its still legal and screw over as many companies as possible.

    Its things like this that make me want to bitch-sla
    • The situation, as far as I can see, is exactly the same in other parts of the world as well. I have professional, and personal, interest in cyber legislation in at least three countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and I can easily vouch for the fact that cyber-law is the last thing tech journos here discuss about.

      Extremely sneaky, and extremely scary.

    • ...i hope that everyone does their absolute best to spread every bit of DRM
      circumnavigation...


      We should definitely publicize this. The DRM seas are still a vast, unknown, and malevolent region to all but the most well-traveled seamen. We can't allow others to circumvent our efforts, or to use circumvention.
  • by TheSHAD0W (258774) on Saturday October 11, 2003 @11:00PM (#7192675) Homepage
    I wonder if it's worth putting effort into distributing an e-book cracking program when e-books are falling out of style. Amazon is getting out of the business and they may be setting a trend. The lack of a decent micropayment system is sounding the death knell for legitimate electronic distribution of content, protected or not. Meanwhile pirates are busy scanning and distributing their own copies which they don't bother placing content controls on.
    • Is Amazon getting out of them? I know Barnes and Noble said they were, but I don't remember Amazon saying so. It would be weird if they did since they sell lots of other things that I can't imagine are profitable for them.
    • by FattMattP (86246) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @12:11AM (#7192854) Homepage
      I wonder if it's worth putting effort into distributing an e-book cracking program when e-books are falling out of style.
      Yes. If they are falling out of style then that is even more of a reason to have a program like this. So that people can protect their investments. If ebooks fall out of style and no one makes software to read these anymore, what do you do when your device to read your ebooks breaks and you can't replace it? At least with this software the ebooks can be converted into other forms.

      • If they are falling out of style then that is even more of a reason to have a program like this

        Makes me believe that big vendors may start to think software DRM is an inherently bad idea over time, since they will find they have to support it. Imagine if 5 years from now, M$ has a few million customers complaining about the fact that they can't read their old e-books anymore. (Not that this will happen with the unpopular e-books; I'm just using it as an example.) The tech support will cost more than the m

        • I doubt it, frankly. That's like asking Universal Records for help with playing your LPs. They'll shrug, say "you bought it, it's up to you to play it", and ignore you. Meanwhile they'll be marketing their current stuff using the new technology.

          • In the case of UMG, they would probably try to sell you a subscription to a content unlocking service that would allow you to play all of the old formats. This would be something like the businesses formed around the mainframe tapes that have to be deblocked to be read.

            Of course, a free solution would appear on file sharing networks, so the RIAA would run around trying to end distribution of it via the DMCA. The question then becomes whether the DMCA (if it still exists by then) can be used to cease distibu

    • I think the main reason eBooks, or whatever they are called, don't hit the spot is because most people still have a CRT on their desktop, and as we all know the best thing to do while sat in front of one is to be dicking around with the keyboard doing stuff, not sat back enjoying the view. As soon as LCD's become more widely adopted, which emit a less vivid strobe-like image, we'll see eBooks (or iBooks, whatever) really start to get popular.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The DMCA is good law in any nation. As far as the "thuggishness" comment goes, well I have to say I am saddened by this comment. It demonstrates a lack of respect for the law and the brave officers who enforce the law. The "jackbooted thug" and other comments make me sick and that sort of "speech" ought to be banned. We need zero tolerance policies toward DMCA violators, or any law breakers for that matter who are not in the ruling class. The law enforcement officers have every right to wear whatever k
  • As many have mentioned before me, FreeNET, in its days of glory, would've been perfect for something like this... However, as of late, among other services, it has fallen awry...

    I personally think this is turning into a vicious cycle, much akin to the one found in the rotation of television broadcasting. In the late 80's, there were some quality shows on television... After the 5000th run-down of Power Rangers, or the 1000th joke about the purple Teletubbie, television is finally restoring some quality
    • by Anonymous Coward
      It is a sad day when owning a copy of a song on your hard drive, or a copy of a book on your computer, becomes a crime punished to a greater extent than 'other' crimes

      Stealing your neighbors TV or mugging a little old lady doesn't affect Rupert Murdoch or the like. Ripping a CD so you can listen to it on your iRiver, computer, as well as your CD player "cheats" them out of another $25.
      For which crime do you think they'd like larger sentences?

      Rick DeBay
  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) on Saturday October 11, 2003 @11:14PM (#7192714) Journal
    ...Palm's PalmReader format then. Took about a day to crack and I have only a tiny bit of experience with cracking (last thing I cracked before that was the version of Lotus 1-2-3 that insisted you had the original floppy - so we're talking mid-eighties or so.) I assume that the engineers who design these security systems know exactly what they are doing: pretending to make something secure so that they can con gullible companies into giving them a paycheck.
  • it does work (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gooman (709147) on Saturday October 11, 2003 @11:15PM (#7192718) Journal
    All I can say is this thing helped me out of a jam a little while ago. The program is not polished by any means, but it does work.

    Our company had a document (Employee Handbook) converted into MS Reader format. (Don't ask me why.) The original files were lost in a disk crash. (Don't talk to me about backups either.) Now the document needs editing. I could have re-typed it, but I'm lazy. A quick Google and I find this program with a potentionaly offensive name.

    Hooray! I get to be lazy and violate the DMCA just to retreive a file owned and created by the company I work for. The incident only reinforced to everyone here the value of pdf files and that MS Reader is beyond worthless.
    • Re:it does work (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Now the document needs editing. I could have re-typed it, but I'm lazy.

      Or you could have printed it and had Kinkos scan and OCR it. I just had an old 700 page document OCR'd there and put on a CD in XML format for just over $20.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Or do what he did and pay nothing. What a maroon. No wonder you're anonymous.
      • If the document is protected against printing, Reader won't print it.
      • Or you could have printed it and had Kinkos scan and OCR it. I just had an old 700 page document OCR'd there and put on a CD in XML format for just over $20.

        And then you spend a week proofreading it to find all the OCR errors. 99.9% accuracy (which is better than you'll ever get) is still about more than one per page. Maybe that's good enough for most novels, cosidering few publishers seem to even spellcheck their ms now before printing them.

    • Re:it does work (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      get to be lazy and violate the DMCA just to retreive a file owned and created by the company I work for.

      It is illegal to traffic in circumvention devices. It is not illegal to use them. Even if it were, the DMCA only applies if you do not have permission from the copyright holder.

    • "The incident only reinforced to everyone here the value of pdf files and that MS Reader is beyond worthless."

      Um....interesting story but where was the part that showed MS Reader was beyond worthless? I saw the part where your company got screwed over by not having backups of the original files but not the part where it showed MS Reader to be "beyond worthless".
      • where was the part that showed MS Reader was beyond worthless?

        That'll be the part where they had a version of the document that they could display and read but couldn't save. That's their own document that MSR would not allow them to save. That's called broken software where I come from.

        TWW

    • How does the DMCA comeinto play whne you are dealing with files that you have permission to mess with?

      Hint: It doesn't.
    • I get to be lazy and violate the DMCA just to retreive a file owned and created by the company I work for.
      It's only "circumvention" if you do not have authorization from the copyright holder. Therefore, what you did with the tool, was not circumvention.

      If many people do what you did, then one might be able to make the case that trafficking in the tool isn't a violation, either.

    • Hooray! I get to be lazy and violate the DMCA just to retreive a file owned and created by the company I work for. The incident only reinforced to everyone here the value of pdf files and that MS Reader is beyond worthless.

      and if you'd been daft enough to password protect that pdf file and lost the password??? you would have had to make use of Skylarov's neat little program to crack the pdf... or if the only copy of your data had been in a password protected zip file???

  • by matchlight (609707) * on Saturday October 11, 2003 @11:18PM (#7192729)
    but I the first time I tried to do a little offline, off computer reading I realized that there was no print function. I didn't want to copy the whole thing or print it out for distribution. All I wanted to do is print off a chapter so I could hop in the car and read a little during my 5 hour drive during a weekend visit.

    The people making anti piracy software have to realize that you just can't force people to act in a simple fashion so that it's easier for them. They have to realize that they have to find real and intelligent solutions that work and still allow Joe Legal user fair and useful access to the content that's being provided.

    After doing a small search for a conversion program (this was a while back now) and not finding one, I just ditched it and went another route.
    • I tried to do a little offline, off computer reading I realized that there was no print function...

      I'm guessing your "print screen" key was broken?

    • All I wanted to do is print off a chapter so I could hop in the car and read a little during my 5 hour drive during a weekend visit.

      Which has given rise to new warning labels on books:

      WARNING: Do not read while driving!

    • but I the first time I tried to do a little reading at night during a blackout I realized that the book wasn't backlit. I didn't want to illuminate the whole thing or project it on the wall. All I wanted to do was to do a little reading until the power came back on and I could visit Slashdot again.

      The people making books have to realize that you just can't force people to act in a simple fashion so that it's easier for them. They have to realize that they have to find real and intelligent solutions that
  • by davidstrauss (544062) <slashdot&david,endeavorcomputing,com> on Sunday October 12, 2003 @12:06AM (#7192834) Homepage
    Alas, new DMCAish legal restrictions in the United Kingdom will force the Dan Jackson Software site to shut off the Convert Lit downloading later this month.

    Slashdot may take care of that before they need to.

  • Could not a system (relatively) easily be put in place which uses existing cell-phone networks to transmit the data, encrypted, into the e-books, and never store that data outside of encrypted volitile memory, with the only data ever "stored" in the e-book being a single user-id and private key for access to a database of licenses? All keys would of course be one-time use and hideously long- because it's fucking TEXT. It doesnt require a high-speed connection.

    I know there is most likely some technical reas
    • I suppose such a system can be designed, at least in theory. However, there are some major hurdles in getting people to use it...
      - It means all devices used to read e-books must either have an inbuilt cellphone, or some means of connecting to one. So you could have a more expencive devise, or you can carry around two gadgets.
      - The user is forced to pay not just for a book, but also hand his/her/its money over to a telcom.
      - In Europe - and most contries of the world - there is one standard for cellphones

  • Damnit, they are stopping access to the only clit most of us on slashdot can get.
  • Winston Smith loves Big Brother. Maybe he should have been Guy Montag instead.
  • Oh, where to start? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Call Me Black Cloud (616282) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @02:05AM (#7193241)
    If it wasn't so late I might be motivated to write more - there are so many things wrong with this picture I don't know where to begin.

    You'll notice, when you follow the link, that you're really getting submitter David H. Rothman's weblog, where he states, "Winston in effect provides some great insights into why "Microsoft" is a hated name among millions and why e-books sales for the whole bloody industry are a pathetic $10-million or so a year--a fraction of Tom Clancy's annual income."

    Rothman has what's known as "target fixation" - he's so focused on the target (MS and DRM) that he'll fly his plane into the ground. Of course revenues are so little - no one wants to read books on a screen! Even in a convenient easy-to-carry PDA with super-font-res technology [microsoft.com].

    If you read all the material relating to "Winston", you'll find Rothman seems to hold him up as a sort of hero of the cause, whose insights we should all read and heed. If you read Winston's writings, you'll find he's rambling, immature, and ill-informed. He does have one real insight: "Lack of a college degree is a true impediment to getting hired."

    I don't know how this stuff ends up on the front page of Slashdot. A link to a guy's weblog...timothy strikes again.
  • Sealand (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xanadu-xtroot.com (450073) <xanadu.inorbit@com> on Sunday October 12, 2003 @03:00AM (#7193393) Homepage Journal
    Is Sealand [sealandgov.com] still an option?
  • Speakers Corner (Score:3, Interesting)

    by atcurtis (191512) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @05:14AM (#7193602) Homepage Journal
    Due to ancient laws of the land, there is one place in the whole of the UK where you cannot be sued or prosecuted for any spoken word.

    That place is Speakers Corner in Hyde Park.

    Just gather up the source for DeCSS and any other cracking algorithm and security vulnerability and read it out loud to the 'audience'. You may need to invest in a megaphone or PA system to be heard above all the other people there (which nowadays includes Taliban sympathizers, Pro Saddam activists, IRA/PLO/Islamic Jihad fundraisers, BNP/Neo-Nazi recruiters, Triad/Mafia/Organised Crime reps).

    You cannot be prosecuted for saying something there, political or otherwise.

    The only problem is trying to get someone to listen.
  • by MikeBabcock (65886) <mtb-slashdot@mikebabcock.ca> on Sunday October 12, 2003 @12:53PM (#7194695) Homepage Journal
    If you can't get to a website for one reason or another, don't forget to check web.archive.org.

    http://web.archive.org/web/20030118042411/http:/ /m embers.lycos.co.uk/hostintheshell/ is the most recent link to the above site, and the .tar.bz2 source download link seems to work as well. Make sure to replace that date with a '*' to see other possible copies from other dates.
  • You say:

    >Update (2003/10/07)
    >The UK's implementation of the European Union
    >Copyright Directive means that, starting from
    >October 31st, it will no longer be legal to use
    >or distribute Convert LIT in the UK.

    The fact is that the copyright directive had an implementation deadline at the end of last year. The UK has just been 10 months late. However, legal precedence in the EU means that until a state has implemented the directive, then it is possible to enforce the directive through the princip

    • The fact is that the copyright directive had an implementation deadline at the end of last year. The UK has just been 10 months late. However, legal precedence in the EU means that until a state has implemented the directive, then it is possible to enforce the directive through the principle of "direct effect".

      This means that your material is already - and has been for some time - a copyright violation.


      My understanding (I read the directive once, although it's quite a while ago now) is that the directi
  • Alas, new DMCAish legal restrictions in the United Kingdom [...]

    OK, I've just finished a brief scan of that.

    Its rather a big document to receive less than a week's worth of debate before enactment, but I guess I only have my MP to blame for that.

    One thing that concerns me substantially is that the phrase "effective technological measure" and a number of similar phrases are used in numerous places in these regulations, but are not defined anywhere. Nor, it would seem, are they defi

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