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GUI Software Technology

Making Closed Software Act Like It's Open 157

The Installer writes "Researchers from the University of Washington have managed to add customization and accessibility options to proprietary software without ever touching the source code. Rather than alter program code, Prefab looks for the pixels associated with the blocks of code used to paint applications to a screen, grabs hold of them, and alters them according to whatever enhancements the user has chosen to apply. Any user input is then fed back to the original software, still running behind the enhanced interface."
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Making Closed Software Act Like It's Open

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  • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @08:32AM (#31746684) Journal
    A more interesting question is the legality of this. If I distribute a customization kit for a closed source software, when is it considered like a crack ?
  • by natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @08:40AM (#31746770) Journal

    I have to imagine that, if this software is intercepting the outputs of legally-paid-for closed source software and altering them, this could never be considered a crack. Then again, I suppose if Hollyweird can sue someone for building a custom version of a movie with the swearing and naughty bits bleeped out, while including a copy of the original version of the movie to make sure the end consumer has actually purchased a license, who knows?

    If this is considered a "crack", will software developers be able to stop me from purchasing a larger screen, or better speakers?

  • by hweimer ( 709734 ) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @08:42AM (#31746780) Homepage

    Chances are that such "enhancements" constitute a derivative work of the proprietary user interface. In many jurisdiction even using such a thing is illegal and distributing the enhancements without permission from the copyright owner most certainly is. Which, of course, is very different from free and open source software, where people are encouraged to share and improve the code.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @09:02AM (#31746952)
    Oops, forgot to mention: Any precedent established by cases surrounding "Game Genie", "Gameshark" and the various other cartridge pass-through modding systems might be even more relevant.

    Again, the DMCA can be used in some rather nasty ways; but my understanding (IANAL) is that "Game Genie" and friends, while strongly disliked by the console makers, generally survived legal challenge, because they were pretty clearly only useful for letting people who had purchased cartridges make fair use of them on their own personal systems. Had those passthrough-mod systems also included, say, cartridge ROM dump capabilities, they might well have been smacked down.
  • by Animaether ( 411575 ) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @09:31AM (#31747230) Journal

    I can see many uses for this - but then, I've got AutoIt for the sorts of things I'm thinking of already.

    I think the article title and summary are completely bunk, though. They're not making the software any more -open- than it was before; If you have a button that writes "Hello World" to a file, then you can replace that button with a contrast-rich enlarged version with excellent text-to-speech functionality, or make it a bouncing spinny glowing orb like something out of Kai Krause's mind... but pressing it is still going to write "Hello Word" to a file. It doesn't make it actually do anything differently from before.

    It's fun that they can detect UI elements out of a bitmap, but there's so many non-standard UI elements in play that this is going to fail horribly on a lot of UIs. Maybe that means we should stop using custom UI elements, but sometimes those custom UI elements simply are more appropriate than the widgets that come with the OS/widget provider.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @09:55AM (#31747460)

    Yea, And the entire internet will fail when monitors with larger resolutions begin to sell, since everything will look different.......

    They don't need to hardcode the position and timing for everysingle pixel coloration for this to work. You know that thing you can do with computers where they can handle dynamic changes, programming I think it's called, it's quite the rave these days.

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern