The other kind of piracy

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dzanis
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The other kind of piracy

Postby dzanis » Wed Apr 15, 2015 2:48 pm

Search function didn't help me with this question that should have appeared in front of other Referees...

What should I do with software piracy?! Software is expensive. I have got feelings that ships in ports are not searched through and through as well as latency would discourage checking ship software from distance.

What would be some natural obstacles (i.e., why everyone is not doing it?) to pirating expensive software. Copy from someone that has just bought it. Or if you manage three ships, then put that Evade 3 on all three ships for a price of one (or none).

Even if ships are checked in spaceport (or when doing regular maintenance), PC could still routinely delete software before arrival and install it back when leaving.

Have you encountered this nuance in your games and how you have dealth with it?
dragoner
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Re: The other kind of piracy

Postby dragoner » Wed Apr 15, 2015 3:05 pm

Thought about it, but haven't actually implemented anything because it hasn't come up. The more advanced ships software packages are actually written for each ship.
phavoc
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Re: The other kind of piracy

Postby phavoc » Wed Apr 15, 2015 4:02 pm

dzanis wrote:Search function didn't help me with this question that should have appeared in front of other Referees...

What should I do with software piracy?! Software is expensive. I have got feelings that ships in ports are not searched through and through as well as latency would discourage checking ship software from distance.

What would be some natural obstacles (i.e., why everyone is not doing it?) to pirating expensive software. Copy from someone that has just bought it. Or if you manage three ships, then put that Evade 3 on all three ships for a price of one (or none).

Even if ships are checked in spaceport (or when doing regular maintenance), PC could still routinely delete software before arrival and install it back when leaving.

Have you encountered this nuance in your games and how you have dealth with it?
Manufacturers in the future would probably embed some sort of dongle, or it's future equivalent, to stop this. Since we are talking about very complex systems, there would be a number of ways to create this via hardware that would make copying quite hard.

You could tie it somehow into the computer systems fingerprint that makes it pretty ship specific (much like browser fingerprints are pretty unique today). Pulling the entire computer system like through salvage may not bring across the embedded software.

BUT... we all know how PC's like to salvage/steal/borrow as much to keep their credits in their pockets, so it's probable that a ref is going to be asked by their players how they can steal the software they need to upgrade their ship.
hdan
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Re: The other kind of piracy

Postby hdan » Wed Apr 15, 2015 4:22 pm

IMTU, I say that software is in two parts - the installer and the software itself. Once it's installed, it's been custom fitted to the ship's computer, and can't be used anywhere else. Sort of like the old days in Linux distros, where you'd need to rebuild the kernel to match your hardware configuration. But once configured, the "installer" goes away.

I allow difficult computer checks to try to extract software from an existing computer, but any program you "harvest" this way is likely to have picked up a bug along the way, and may fail you in the moment of need.

Players, having too little money, are usually willing to take that risk, which leads to RP opportunities.

If the player writes the program themselves, then they can make installable builds easily enough for other people, and as "treasure", they may sometimes find caches of uninstalled software around.
/hdan
Condottiere
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Re: The other kind of piracy

Postby Condottiere » Wed Apr 15, 2015 5:44 pm

Commercial vessels probably do have to have certified software if only for safety concerns.

I think that everyone else can getaway with DIY programmes, depending on the brilliance of the programmer, or if they salvaged one from a shipwreck, or from a discarded ship's computer. It will be like the Low Berth Lottery.
F33D
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Re: The other kind of piracy

Postby F33D » Wed Apr 15, 2015 6:32 pm

dragoner wrote:Thought about it, but haven't actually implemented anything because it hasn't come up. The more advanced ships software packages are actually written for each ship.

That's how I treat it. Rewriting for a different ship requires a combination of skills sets that is beyond 99.9% characters.

But, if you want to trust your ship and life to a hacked Jump program, be my guest...
Reynard
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Re: The other kind of piracy

Postby Reynard » Wed Apr 15, 2015 7:44 pm

Book 6 Scoundrel has a section on computer hacking which could include software theft as a more complicated data theft. At least it can give you the Traveller game mechanics of computer crime.
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Re: The other kind of piracy

Postby Epicenter » Thu Apr 16, 2015 11:18 am

dzanis wrote: Even if ships are checked in spaceport (or when doing regular maintenance), PC could still routinely delete software before arrival and install it back when leaving.
With our current technology, it's very difficult to actually delete something off of storage. Forensic data recovery is big - they were able to read the data off the Challenger's hard disks after it crashed, various law enforcement organizations can take hard disks that have been overwritten and still get enough information off what was previously there to do interesting things with it. As a counterpoint, in our modern age, we also have programs that will write over a hard disk many, many times to make data recovery like this practically impossible.

Now if we carry this model forward into the future, and assume they do forensic data recovery on various ship's computers during maintenance and certification, and are able to do it non-intrusively (perhaps using SQUID equipment or something similar) they might be able to find those deleted copies of the software (or enough evidence of it to get your hypothetical captain in hot water). Another way might be by perusing other activity logs and other ship's records might be inspected by expert systems; they might be able to deduce you're running Evade-3, Anti-Hijack, Fusion Drive Calibrator AD by looking at your ship's performance, then if they don't find it on your ship's computer when you bring it in for inspection... "we understand you might have deleted it for whatever reason, but can you please produce the records of sale of this software?"

Now, if you add in criminal penalties (like having your ship operator's license revoked) and/or hefty fines, it might just be easier and safer to simply buy the software free and clear; it's a small cost compared to everything else involved in running a ship. Even if you're clever and careful, your opponent is the Imperial Ministry of Starship Certification. These boys and girls are not brilliant, however, there's a lot of them and certification is every year. They have long records of every single trick in the book that starship captains that think they're clever use to try and evade the law; there's certainly nothing you've tried that they haven't run into, not just a few times but hundreds, even thousands of times. Like any criminal, you need to be lucky all the time.

"Joe you deleted the hard disks before turning the ship over for inspection"
"Yea...wait, To'pok did you remember the backup drive calibration computer?"
"Err...I...I think I did."
"Oops."
CosmicGamer
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Re: The other kind of piracy

Postby CosmicGamer » Thu Apr 16, 2015 12:56 pm

Just some rambling thoughts

Pirating software for redistribution is typically done by copying the original software not the installed copy.

It's one thing to hack my computer to get access to my Word document. It's many magnitudes harder (task difficulty and time) to hack into my computer to somehow get the copy of office on my computer to work on other.

Try taking the copy of my print driver and use it to make your printer work. (may be 100% impossible unless you have an identical model with all the same features)

Now imagine much more complicated software that is custom installed to interface with a variety of ships systems.

Very complicated software is often numerous files and programs. Perhaps attempting to hack/steal ship software would require numerous successful "hacks" to get all the pieces.

Software this complicated is likely designed by large teams of developers with the support of expensive high tech hardware, development and other support programs and is not done overnight or even in a week or month. It is tested on advanced simulators to find the bugs. Keep this in mind when a character wants to write the software from scratch to save some credits.

This type of software is perhaps not easily uninstalled and reinstalled - if it is even possible without the "boxed copy of 5 1/4 floppy disks".

The "boxed copy of 5 1/4 floppy disks" with software could be controlled and installed by the seller who does a custom installation and may not provide a copy of the installation disks to the "owner". For current day comparison, maybe think of computers with pre installed software or installing software via the internet or for many complex business solutions a tech comes out and does the installation and does not leave behind the material that would allow reinstalling.

Even if the "boxed copy of 5 1/4 floppy disks" is provided to the purchaser, you don't get the ship software by hacking the computers. You need to break into the ships locker. Ok, maybe you can do this by hacking the computers to get into the ships locker.

Some software may require a key to operate properly. This key could be a physical smart key. Maybe multiple pieces of hardware are included and installed to help the software interface with the ships systems.

Perhaps the thief isn't able to look through their crystal ball to see the results of some dice rolls. Want to be the one to take a ship out with some untested hacked together software?

As I always say, if you knew exactly how some futuristic system worked it would be today tech not future tech.

FYI: I use "boxed copy of 5 1/4 floppy disks" because it is just as good a comparison as any current day tech which will be obsolete in a century let alone the tech thousands of years in the future.
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Re: The other kind of piracy

Postby Condottiere » Thu Apr 16, 2015 10:44 pm

Computer forensics may be a great deal harder.

BD drives, flashsticks and SSDs make the destruction of data or wiping clean the hard drives a great deal easier, though it's possible that at TL15 you could examine the shadows cast at subatomic levels.

And whatever happened to Open Source? Even if Microsoft had extended it's patents and trademarks, like Disney, you could run it on Linux.
CosmicGamer
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Re: The other kind of piracy

Postby CosmicGamer » Thu Apr 16, 2015 11:23 pm

Condottiere wrote:And whatever happened to Open Source?
Don't understand the question. Please expound.
GypsyComet
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Re: The other kind of piracy

Postby GypsyComet » Fri Apr 17, 2015 1:45 am

By the time of the late Third Imperium, I suspect the Vilani "happened" to the idea of Open Source. The idea of a development not deriving money from later developments that use it is anathema to Vilani social mores. Patents are not intended to expire, and there are long chains of patent license fees that have been around for millenia.

Take the currently trending idea that those software packages in the store are merely rental agreements and run that idea to its dystopian conclusion. Looking back at you will be the 6,500 year old Vilani Megacorps. They've thought of it. Yes, really. Your "original" piece of code has been in their libraries for at least a thousand years, ignorance is no excuse, and you will owe them licensing fees if you use that code to make money, or if someone else uses your "released" code to make money.
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F33D
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Re: The other kind of piracy

Postby F33D » Fri Apr 17, 2015 3:40 am

GypsyComet wrote:By the time of the late Third Imperium, I suspect the Vilani "happened" to the idea of Open Source.
Open Source isn't a viable model for something like complex flight control software. For the same reasons it cannot work now...
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Re: The other kind of piracy

Postby GypsyComet » Fri Apr 17, 2015 4:10 am

F33D wrote:
GypsyComet wrote:By the time of the late Third Imperium, I suspect the Vilani "happened" to the idea of Open Source.
Open Source isn't a viable model for something like complex flight control software. For the same reasons it cannot work now...
We've been writing code for less than 200 years and embedding it in systems for less than half that. The Vilani started proofing flight control and jump software 10,000 years prior to the current setting. Hotshot pilots don't use rogue software, just the native wetware.
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F33D
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Re: The other kind of piracy

Postby F33D » Fri Apr 17, 2015 4:27 am

GypsyComet wrote:
F33D wrote:
GypsyComet wrote:By the time of the late Third Imperium, I suspect the Vilani "happened" to the idea of Open Source.
Open Source isn't a viable model for something like complex flight control software. For the same reasons it cannot work now...
We've been writing code for less than 200 years and embedding it in systems for less than half that. The Vilani started proofing flight control and jump software 10,000 years prior to the current setting. Hotshot pilots don't use rogue software, just the native wetware.
So? That addresses none of the huge problems/reasons as to why you don't have open source s/w that I mentioned.
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Re: The other kind of piracy

Postby GypsyComet » Fri Apr 17, 2015 5:55 am

F33D wrote:
GypsyComet wrote:
F33D wrote:Open Source isn't a viable model for something like complex flight control software. For the same reasons it cannot work now...
We've been writing code for less than 200 years and embedding it in systems for less than half that. The Vilani started proofing flight control and jump software 10,000 years prior to the current setting. Hotshot pilots don't use rogue software, just the native wetware.
So? That addresses none of the huge problems/reasons as to why you don't have open source s/w that I mentioned.
Notice that I was agreeing with your statement and move on.
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Condottiere
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Re: The other kind of piracy

Postby Condottiere » Fri Apr 17, 2015 9:30 am

Unlike, say jump drives, how computers work is something most of us have an an inkling of.

In theory, if calculating jumps was so hellishly complex, each ship would have a super computer mainframe aboard. Certainly figuring out fire control at Adventure class encounters wouldn't be.

Open source relies on a lot of volunteers, willing to give their time and expertise to write programmes for common hardware and platforms, and you've had thousands of years and billions of people, known classic hull configurations.

Now, it's possible that each jump drive from each manufacturer has it's eccentricities, but that why they were alphabetized into standard templates.
dzanis
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Re: The other kind of piracy

Postby dzanis » Fri Apr 17, 2015 11:01 am

Thank you everyone for your opinions.

I gather and agree (and will use) that there are significant reasonable obstacles of taking software out of the ship and using it elsewhere.

But that's installed software. From what I gather, if the PCs actual get their hands on "Installer" software (for example - stealing it from dealer) then they can put it on many ships, right?


P.S. Disclaimer: I'm not an IT guy, and may have misused some of terminology.
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Re: The other kind of piracy

Postby CosmicGamer » Fri Apr 17, 2015 1:22 pm

Condottiere wrote:Open source relies on a lot of volunteers, willing to give their time and expertise to write programmes for common hardware and platforms, and you've had thousands of years and billions of people, known classic hull configurations.
I personally believe that some cheap open source software solution is not a logical viable option as far as the rules go, whatever the reason may be, as the software has a very hefty price.

There is absolutely no reason you can't do what you wish within your games or maybe have additional options not covered by the rules. But to coexist, they likely include additional risk/complications.
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Re: The other kind of piracy

Postby CosmicGamer » Fri Apr 17, 2015 2:13 pm

dzanis wrote: From what I gather, if the PCs actual get their hands on "Installer" software (for example - stealing it from dealer) then they can put it on many ships, right?

P.S. Disclaimer: I'm not an IT guy, and may have misused some of terminology.
There may be (to me, logically will be due to the books listed cost for such software) measures in place to help reduce the risk of such.

Numerous possibilities based on what we know now but also things unimaginable today. For example
- Like I suggested before, hardware may be needed in addition to the software at installation time. It could have unique integrated identifiers. Like every networking device made today is supposed to have a unique hardware MAC address. So maybe you need to steal some hardware too. But this "uniqueness"is registered/owned and tracked so it will be reported stolen. Use some electronics skill to modify it? Maybe reuse the unique identifier from another ship and hope the duplicate isn't discovered? Maybe hack the database that keeps track of the unique identifiers? Bribe someone to get what is needed done? As almost is the situation, there are multiple ways to tackle a problem.
- Maybe a "password" is needed to authenticate installation. No not "password123!". It could be the following, and likely a combination of several as well as futuristic things we can't imagine yet. Rotating password system that is hard to hack. Scanning an employee ID. Needs and records biometrics of the installer. Might need two or more authorized representatives to enter authorization.
- May need to "connect" with an authorizing/verifying source to get installation codes.
- May need to register the installation with some authority (starport authority?) that tracks and verifies such. Ship such and such with registered transponder such and such has passed certification with Jump software such and such...

Not saying it is impossible, just that lots of time, money, extremely talented people and other resources were probably put into making sure the gazillion credits of software revenue is protected. It probably should require appropriate (in the eye of the GM) time, financial, technology, talent, equipment, and risk to overcome.

For starters, people are likely not even going to know where to even start in overcoming all the obstacles without insider information. The players/characters may very well think all they need to do is steal some installation disks, installation hardware, and hack or otherwise acquire some passwords but...

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