Archive for the 'Deadlock' Category

Language Aid: A Postmortem

August 27th, 2011
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

Language Aid is a system-wide text lookup tool I developed and sold for the past couple of years. I recently decided to make it free and release the source code. This is the story behind it.

Rewind to 2006, I was just winding down active development of Vision, my OpenGL Window Sever/UI Framework. I had started work on Vision in college 3 years earlier and had been churning on it full-time for the previous 2 years. I had decided that it was finally time to get a job and so I interviewed around and accepted a position at Apple. I had two weeks until my start date and I wanted to do some programming for fun that was completely different from what I had been doing.

Iron Coder[0]

It was during that two week period of not yet working for Apple that Wolf Rentzsch started the (now defunct) Iron Coder contest. The way it worked was that the organizer announces an API that each of the contestants must use somehow in their entry and then 24 hours later a theme is announced that entries must also somehow incorporate. I thought it was just what I needed. A fun, small-scoped project with a little bit of competition. So the day of the very first Iron Coder arrived and the contest API was announced: The Accessibility API. Accessibility API? What’s that? Until that moment I had not been aware of it but it was actually just what I had been looking for to solve a different problem I had. I started researching it and immediately there were portions of it that were very interesting to me. Specifically, the ability for programs to inspect and copy data (like displayed text) out of other running applications was of particular interest to me.


Language Aid 1.2

August 27th, 2011
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

Language Aid version 1.2 is out! The big feature of this release is that it is free and open source! This will also be the last release supported by Aoren Software. Development has pretty much wound all the way down at this point and the source has experienced some code rot as Core Foundation has progressively become more and more obsolete and Mac OS X has marched forward.

So it occurred to me that the time has come to set Language Aid free. Anyone care to take the code and modernize it? Maybe even release it on the Mac App Store? Let me know and I can work with you to make that happen. Be sure to check out my tell all Language Aid postmortem.

Introducing Deadlock

June 23rd, 2008
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

Deadlock logo

Deadlock is the name for my copy-protection/registration framework that I have been using in Language Aid since version 1.0. It has worked faithfully for me since then and I have have decided to share it with other developers who might be looking for such functionality or looking to bump up their protection a little.

I have long heard many developers argue that most of the time pirates wouldn’t purchase your software anyway and so you shouldn’t bother putting that much effort into fighting it except for the most basic and obvious of protections. In most cases it just isn’t economical. I generally agree with this but the reason that I put so much effort into Deadlock to protect a $20 program was more personal education and entertainment than anything else. I must admit that I had a lot of fun thinking of how to hack the program, come up with a countermeasure, then come up with a circumvention of that countermeasure and then engineer a protection against that back and forth over and over again. I mostly just thought of the kinds of reverse-engineering that I have performed on other software for entertainment and then researched methods to prevent such fun. In the end I thought I had a pretty good setup of minimally invasive mechanisms to prevent piracy for my software.

Deadlock has been refined over the course of Language Aid releases and as of Language Aid 1.1.1 it was built out as its own separate product. I have wanted to refine it and add more diverse functionality to it for a long time. To accomplish this Deadlock needs more clients, preferably applications outside of Aoren Software. In the future I also plan on productizing my payment processing engine (works hand in hand with Deadlock) that makes paying for and registering Language Aid easy, fast and instant (no serial numbers, no confirmation emails, just instant gratification). I wanted to end this post by citing one of the many insightful quips from Bruce Schneier in order to emphasize that security invasion is inevitable and that defenses are simply deterrents. Instead I give you this:

The user’s going to pick dancing pigs over security every time.

— Bruce Schneier

Hehe…dancing pigs…

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