Why hack DSS?
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Obviously, it would be impossible for me to offer an explanation as to why everyone who hacks DSS does so. The reasons are likely as varied as we all are as individuals. And although DTV might like to simply use a broad brush and paint hackers as nothing more than common thieves who are simply motivated by the selfish desire to get something for nothing, the facts often run contrary to that simplistic explanation. For example, if you just take the time to read a modest sampling of the posts in alt.dss.hack over the course of any given month, it becomes obvious that there are some very talented, intelligent, affluent and, believe it or not, ethical people involved in this hobby. It therefore becomes equally obvious that personal gain, the driving motive behind true theft, is not at all a factor in the decision of many people to hack DSS.
Follow the money.
Don't get me wrong! I am certain that there are lots of people hacking DSS who have larceny at the core of their motives. Undoubtedly, there are ex-convicts and future convicts who populate the ranks of our community. Furthermore, if you believe some of the oldest hands in the DSS hacking community, money is the true engine that drives many of the foremost brains in this hobby and if it were not for the huge potential profits involved, DSS hacking simply wouldn't exist. For example, Triton Industries, the Canadian-based company that gave birth to the unlooper, charged thousands of dollars for their "WildThing" unloopers, yet unlooping services flocked to buy them because they knew that even though the hardware was priced at several hundredfold what it actually cost to make the magic boards, they could quickly recoup their investments and reap windfall profits to boot from the thousands of ECMed card owners who were clamoring for a fix for their looped cards! Although I have no idea as to how much money was actually made by Triton Industries as a result of their invention, clearly their profits were astronomical! Evidence of their monetary success can be easily divined by the fact that their invention was quickly "cloned" and that the clone makers and resellers in turn reaped huge profits by catering to the scores of non-professional "hobbyists" who couldn't possibly afford Triton's "original" product.
Indeed there's more gold in these little plastic cards we are all so fond of than that which is found on the contact pad! Not so long ago, Black Sunday answered the prayers of DSS hacking hardware vendors who were suffering from severe post-Euro/Magic sales doldrums. Emulator boards, bootloaders and a new sub generation of flash-compatible unloopers all were quickly spawned by DTV's 1/21/01 killer ECM. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention that prior to Black Sunday, bin-sellers were undoubtedly managing to make mortgage payments and take vacations on the bins they were selling off of their hapless customer's cards... And now, of course, we have the greedy bastards who are keeping HU unlooping (if it does indeed exist) under tight wraps while they milk every buck they can from it.
The Canadian factor
Okay, so greed and huge profits are undeniably part of DSS hacking. But who's really to blame for that dark side of our beloved hobby? From everything I've read, the blame can be clearly laid at the feet of Bell ExpressVu of Canada and DTV itself with some blame left over for the respective governments of the USA and Canada. DTV pukes a signal out of its satellite that it clearly cannot control effectively and which, as a result, spills over into Canadian territory. At the same time, the only satellite provider in Canada, Bell ExpressVu, offers limited programming choices which many Canadians are dissatisfied with. Throw into the mix the fact that Canadians, due to some sort of protectionist governmental policy, cannot legitimately subscribe to DTV even if they wanted to, and you have ingredients that amount to an engraved invitation to hackers.
What I find especially amazing about all this is that despite the fact that I'm just a dumb-assed truck driver, it's so painfully obvious, even to someone of my limited technical expertise, that any sort of signal that ranges beyond the direct control of the transmitting entity will most surely be draw the interest of, and be intercepted and used by someone regardless of its content. There are tens of thousands of electronics hobbyists throughout the USA and Canada who love creating and tweaking electronic devices just for the fun and challenge elements alone. Dangling a signal containing hundreds of channels of TV and uninterrupted music in front of so many such hobbyists is tantamount to leaving a gift-wrapped box in a room full of unsupervised children! Expecting the "integrity" of their signal to remain intact would have been as unrealistic on the part of DTV as it would be to expect the aforementioned gift-wrapped box to remain intact. So, it seems entirely safe to assume that DTV *knew* that their signal's "integrity" would inevitably be compromised virtually at the very inception of the company itself.
Armed with that knowledge and the reality that they could not contain their signal within the geographic boundaries of the US, DTV should have had enough sense to realize that electronics hobbyists in Canada would inevitably figure out how to use their trespassing signals. It would have therefore been prudent on the part of DTV to solicit Canada's cooperation from the outset and perhaps obtain franchise rights north of the border. Perhaps an even a better idea would have been to focus their signal from the satellite better in the first place so that there was not so much signal bleed across the border. After all, we are talking line-of-sight transmission, so even if DTV may not have been able to cover the entire US from one bird if they focused the beam better, at least they would not have emerged from the starting line with an entire nation's electronics hobbyists setting their sights on their product... In essence, what I'm trying to say here is that DTV's own greed in wanting to blanket the entire US with its signal was itself the progenitor of the greed that supposedly fuels many of the most innovative north-of-the-border hackers!
Once it became apparent to DTV that Canadians were determined to use their signal, why didn't they take some sort of realistic measures to capitalize on that development? The cat may have been out of the bag, but it still wasn't (and isn't) too late to do something to minimize the losses. Although Canada has protectionist policies that are aimed at preventing foreign competition from undermining their own businesses, it must be clearly apparent to the Canadian government and to Bell Expressvu that the reality of the widespread piracy of DTV's signal in Canada serves neither the government's nor Bell ExpressVu's best interests. At this point in time, the only sensible thing for all parties concerned to do would be to enter into a mutually beneficial arrangement whereby Canadians are offered the option to legitimately purchase DTV's programming. I don't pretend to know how this could be finessed in such a manner as to be agreeable to all parties involved, but I am certain that it could be done. Unfortunately, like the US government's anti-drug policies, all DTV and the US and Canadian government seem interested in doing is treating the symptom by busting dealers and customs seizures rather than curing the disease itself.
What all the aforementioned boils down to is that the birth of hacking can be clearly traced back to DTV's own corporate myopia and Canadian businesses failing to offer an equally attractive and competitive alternative to DTV. The Canadian government might also share some of the blame because I believe (though I am not sure) that it imposes some sort of content restrictions on its cable and satellite providers which may limit the ability of those providers to offer content competitive with that of DTV. Assign percentages of blame wherever and however you like, but it is indeed irrefutable that some combination of those three elements is responsible for the scope of present day DSS hacking.
An irresistible challenge.
Remove Canadian hackers from the mix altogether and some would say that DSS hacking simply would not exist. Yet, common sense tells me otherwise. It is integral to the human psyche to breach impassible barriers, surmount the highest pinnacles, plumb the deepest ocean trenches and explore the vastness of space. Though personal gain may often be a factor in these kinds of endeavors, in many instances, men conquer the seemingly unconquerable simply because, as Sir Edmund Hillary put it; "it was there!" When a gauntlet is tossed at our feet, many of us almost instinctively snatch it up. DTV beams it's signal onto our property and indeed, into our very homes. It then proceeds to bombard us with ads for all the goodies it offers in magazines, newspapers on radio and network television. With a carrot that large and inviting looking already infiltrating our property and homes uninvited, it's not even conceivable that not just a few, but many talented and inquiring minds would set their sights on such beckoning quarry! I have personally become embroiled in flame wars in alt.dss.hack because I dared to assert that if some key members of the DSS hacking community decided to call it quits and walk away from the scene, someone would step in and quickly fill the void they left behind. Understand that I am not an ingrate. I greatly admire the talent and appreciate the effort of the people who comprise both the past and present core of the DSS hacking community and I appreciate the selfless way in which these individuals have freely shared their talents and efforts with us all. However, nobody has ever proven to be irreplaceable in any field of human endeavor, so there's absolutely no reason to believe that DSS hacking is some sort of singular exception to this rule.
DSS hacking is, and will always be, inevitable. Regardless of how sophisticated DTV's encryption techniques become, whatever barrier one man can create, another man will most assuredly prove his ability to breach that barrier. The only hope DTV has is to make breaching its encryption as inconvenient an option as possible in order to weed out it's biggest enemies, the card programmers and their customers.
Sharks among us.
Surprisingly, I'm in DTV's corner in that regard! I have absolutely no use for people who are making money by programming cards for those I call "drive-thru hackers." In my opinion, the only entity that should get paid for card programming is DTV! Card programmers have traditionally been some of the biggest scammers in the DSS hacking community. They have created all sorts of fancy sounding scripts and made some absolutely outrageous claims while offering "guarantees" they knew they would never have to honor. As soon as an ECM would hit their cards, they'd either pack up their web sites and reopen under a new name or would charge "reprogramming" or "updating" fees on top of the $200 - $500/card they charged to program the card the first time. When DTV deployed ECMs that looped the cards with commercial scripts on them, card programmers bailed on their customers in droves! Many of today's hobbyists started out as people who once paid to have their cards programmed and sought to learn more about the nuts and bolts of DSS hacking when they were abandoned by programming dealers or local programmers.
I feel no pity whatsoever for those who get burned by card programmers. Being gullible and lazy are things we all should be punished for. We should know better than to believe that someone could promise to deliver something for a fraction of the price it would normally cost and expect good to come of such a transaction. So, despite the fact that a card programmer left me hanging after relieving me of a chunk of my hard-earned cash, I couldn't bear him a grudge for long because I got exactly what I deserved for being gullible and lazy. However, DTV isn't quite so forgiving of card programmers, and rightly so. Card programmers directly compete with DTV for its profits which probably accounts for the fact that many of DTV's ECMs have been specifically targeted at commercial hacks and is also the likely reason why DTV has pursued commercial card programmers through legal avenues.
Right about now, you're probably wondering how anyone could offer any justification for hacking DSS if they genuinely feel that DTV alone is entitled to receive money for card programming. Sounds like a glaring dichotomy in ethics, doesn't it? Yet it really isn't contradictory at all. Paying someone other than DTV to program your cards is indeed deserving of scorn, ridicule and being ripped off because people who pay someone else to program their cards clearly demonstrate that all they're interested in is TV at a bargain basement price. On the other hand, people who take the considerable amount of time and effort required to learn how to hack their own cards are often motivated to do so for reasons that range far beyond that of merely wanting to get cheap TV. And although, as I said at the outset, it would be impossible to offer every hacker's personal reasons for pursuing this hobby, what follows are some of the motivations that I've seen others express or have experienced myself. Perhaps you'll recognize some of your own reasons for either doing so yourself or why you're contemplating getting involved in this hobby.
I'm about to celebrate my 50th birthday. I'm an honorably discharged Vietnam veteran who did a tour and a half in that tropical paradise. I've virtually been supporting myself since I was 16 years old and have never spent a day in jail. I've been hopelessly in love with the same woman for 26 years and my two closest friends have been my friends for 37 and 30 years respectively. The only time I ever stole something from anyone was when I was about 10 years old and I boosted a container of turtle food from a neighborhood Kroger store. You'd never believe how guilty I felt about my dastardly deed and when the turtle died not long afterwards, I chalked it up go God punishing me for my sinful ways.
So how, you might ask, would someone like me come to find DSS hacking such a compelling hobby? Where, oh where was I led astray!? The answer is that I have a dark side which is capable of intense hatred for two elements of our society. The first target for my bile are politicians in general. The second recipient of my rage is American media in all its forms! I won't bore you with details about how many times I've been ripped off by false advertising and deceptive labeling throughout some 38 years of record and CD collecting. Nor will I bog down this document with a litany of my objections to the sexual, social, racial and political pandering and engineering which I firmly believe the American media consciously and deliberately engages at the expense of the truth in order to forward the personal agendas of those who wield influence within the industry. Suffice it to say that I truly believe that television achieved the zenith of its integrity and art within its first 15 years of its existence and it has been in decline ever since.
You've probably guessed by now that I actually do very little in the way of TV viewing. When I do watch, it's generally an old war or sci-fi movie, an old episode of a late '50s or early '60s sitcom or a historical documentary. Stuck in the '50s and '60s? You betcha! My idea of a good time does not include watching people splattering each other all over the landscape in graphic scenes of violence. In fact, I can't fathom how anyone who has ever actually seen another human being splattered in such a fashion could possibly find such vivid depictions of man's inhumanity to his fellow man as being even remotely entertaining, let alone necessary to a storyline! My idea of a good time does not include watching people swapping spit and other bodily fluids with everyone but their legal opposite sex spouses. My idea of a good time is not watching propagandists passing themselves off as journalists. My idea of a good time is not watching an endless stream of socially regressive trailer trash boasting about their multitude of sexual triumphs, bemoaning the tribulations of their litters of illegitimate children and soliciting sympathy for their self-inflicted physical or economic woes. My idea of a good time does not include watching some 105 lb. comic book bimbo clad in a skin tight body suit kicking the shit out of 250 lb. men just so some women's lib types can fantasize that such things could really happen. I also do not include in my list of what constitutes a good time listening to people swear like truckers despite the fact that I drive a truck myself and can swear with the best of my peers. If I thought that was indeed a good time, I'd simply set a lawn chair out at one of the loading docks I frequently stop at and watch the action in real time for free. Newton Minow called television a "vast wasteland" back in 1962 when he was Chairman of the FCC. One can only imagine what he would think of television today...
The greed of the artist...
Now that I've revealed my opinion on the content of modern television, let me add to my list of grievances that I could never grasp the justification for paying for anything twice. Yet, only in the strange world of mass media are consumers expected to pay for the exact same product over and over and over ad nauseum! Actors are not only paid handsomely when they originally perform a role in a movie or television show, they also receive residuals each time a that their performance is rerun, a percentage of the box office receipts and a percentage of tape and DVD sales. The same kind of perpetual payment system exists in the music and print media. If I'm not mistaken, I believe that actors and recording artists also divvy up a piece of the profits from recording device and media sales such as VCRs, tape decks, CD recorders and blank tapes and discs. How this particular twisted formula for compensation got started is a mystery to me but it certainly defies any logic I can think of. Imagine that buying a car carried with it the stipulation that you also had to pay monies to the auto maker every time you drove it, allowed someone else to drive it or carried someone as a passenger in it! Imagine buying a sofa and then having to pay the furniture maker each time you or anyone else sat on it? Even businesses which make money by renting cars don't pay any sort of royalties or residuals to auto makers any more than hotels pay a percentage of their profits to the makers of the beds, chairs and televisions their guests make use of.
There's never really been any such thing as free television. From the start, television networks made us pay for the shows we watched by forcing us to spend time watching commercials. That was fair enough. They were paid by the sponsors and we paid with our time and our support for the sponsor's products. So why should anyone my age feel any guilt whatsoever when we watch an episode of the Andy Griffith Show on DTV today that we first watched and paid for 30+ years ago? Why should we have to pay again when watching "In Harm's Way" on DTV today when we paid admission to a theater 30+ years ago to see it and paid for the blank tape and VCR to record it on? Why do we feel no guilt whenever we watch an episode of the Dick Van Dyke Show on DTV when many of us own shelves of that show's episodes purchased via Columbia House? Why should anyone feel guilt when watching a channel like the History Channel with it's frequent commercial interruptions? And how can DTV expect guilt from any of us when we pay $10 for a theater ticket and subsequently have to sit through 10 minutes of commercials before the feature is shown not to mention the subtle and not-so-subtle commercial endorsements contained within the films themselves?
and the government's complicity.
There's a place on the web called Project Gutenberg where thousands upon thousands of books by the greatest literary giants of all history can be downloaded for free and freely redistributed, quoted from or otherwise used as one wishes. Yet, though Project Gutenberg transcribers spent the better part of the '80s working on bringing the Bible and the works of Shakespeare to the masses, believe it or not, they actually ran into a problem regarding copyright where the Shakespeare texts were concerned! As a result, it wasn't until the mid-'90s that the works of Shakespeare could finally be released via Project Gutenberg!
Think about that for a moment!! The Bard died in 1616, yet copyright laws interfered with the free distribution of his words nearly 400 years after he assumed room temperature! Obviously old Will, nor any of his descendants had anything to do with the copyright problem Project Gutenberg ran into. Instead, it was a claim by someone who merely had repackaged Shakespeare's works and republished them! That's essentially all entities like DTV and other cable and satellite providers are doing today whenever they offer old movies and television shows and demand payment for them!
And what about the copyright laws themselves? Have they been bastardized from the purist intent of our forefathers who were seeking measures that would insure an author obtain a reasonable return on the investment of their time and talent in creating their works of literature etc.? Let's take a quick look at the devolution of copyright law, shall we...?
Excerpted from the U.S. Copyright Office web site... (salient text bolded by me)
August 18, 1787
May 31, 1790
February 3, 1831
July 8, 1870
July 1, 1909
January 1, 1978
May 24, 1982
June 26, 1992
October 28, 1992
Reading the above history of U.S. Copyright Law devolution should be enough to anger any working stiff! From the fair ideal of giving authors a reasonable period of exclusive financial benefit (14 years - 28 years), U.S. Copyright Law has degenerated to the modern aberration of its present term provisions (lifetime of author + 50 years)! Why?? The answer is simple. Greed!
There has always been big money and prestige in the arts. Authors, playwrights, composers, musicians, actors etc. etc., have always been held in high regard and premium value has traditionally been placed on their works, especially by those who hold power over us and make arbitrary laws we are all bound by regardless of whether or not we view those laws as fair or had any voice in the law's creation.... Remember what Juvenal (Decimus Junius Juvenalis) wrote back around 100 A.D....
"Now that no one buys our votes, the public has long since cast off its cares; the people that once bestowed commands, consulships, legions, and all else, now meddles no more and longs eagerly for just two things--bread and circuses."
The government knows that the masses care most about "bread and circuses" as do the artists and authors. Thus, as time has gone by and our society has become more materialistic and self-centered, the artists and authors have lobbied the government for greater and greater periods of protection of their works thereby ensuring their wealth as well as the wealth of their heirs. The political hacks that comprise our government, ever fearful of the scorn and potential high-profile public ridicule that artists and authors could bring to bear against them, have meekly acquiesced to their ever-increasing demands. The devolution of our copyright laws bear mute witness to this grim reality. While most people realize the indolence of resting on one's laurels, artists and authors have seen to it that they can make a handsome living for themselves and their heirs by doing so with the meek compliance of the government to assist them....
Understand that I clearly realize and acknowledge that artists invest much time, effort and emotion in their works. I further acknowledge that in today's technological society, stealing their works has never been easier. But, regardless of how much of a personal investment they've made, reaping rewards for a single work for nearly a century and a half as opposed to the original 14 years the founding fathers deemed fair is waaaaaay out of line! Hell, a physician invests 8 years of his or her life in higher education (college and medical school) plus 2 years of internship before they even begin making money and yet, even they must continually practice their profession in order to support themselves. It is, therefore, nothing short of outrageous (at least to my way of thinking) that an artist's or author's investments should reap them a century and a half of continuing dividends regardless of whether or not they ever lift a finger in their profession again...!
Paying for commercials.
Back when cable TV made its debut, subscribers initially thought they had finally seen the end of commercials! Apart from ads for upcoming features, early cable contained no commercials whatsoever. Subscribers actually felt that they were getting their money's worth because prices were relatively low while the service being delivered was content intensive. However, the inevitable soon happened. As more and more people flocked to cable as a refuge from commercial- laden network television, advertisers, desperate to recapture their rapidly dwindling market audiences, likely began beating down the doors at the cable provider's offices and begged, bribed and browbeat them to be allowed to pollute the new coaxial highways with commercials. At first, the cable providers eased commercials into their domain by allowing only a few of them and only permitting them between features. The features themselves remained intact and uninterrupted. Gradually, the cable companies eased more and more commercials into their venue and it has now become literally impossible to tell the difference between watching pay-TV of any type from ordinary network TV!
Pay TV providers boast that they offer such an incredible variety of viewing choices for their customers. Yet, how many times have the same movies been cycled through each of the so-called "premium" channels year after year after year? Of the thousands upon thousands of movies that have been made, why does it seem that movies like the "Poseidon Adventure," "Back to School," "Airplane," "Risky Business," and "Fat Man & Little Boy" are always playing on one so-called premium channel or another? And let us not forget that pay-TV saturates all its channels, including the so-called premium channels, with its own ads.
The thrill of the chase.
All of the aforementioned possible motivations for hacking aside, hacking can be just plain fun! That's where the hobby aspect of DSS hacking comes into play. There's something very satisfying about hacking DSS. Once a person finds out that hacking DSS is within their ability and their resources, it becomes a personal challenge to learn how to do it. Then it becomes an ongoing game of chess where one has to keep up on the opponent's evolving strategy to stay on top of the game. What often starts out as merely a quest to find out why their "drive-thru" hacked cards stopped working and whether or not they've been conned by the person who originally programmed them can easily evolve into the notion that one can coax the magic from the cards again by themselves. The frequent messages in alt.dss.hack with titles like "SUCCESS!" or "I did it!!" or "FINALLY!" reveal the excitement and satisfaction derived from accomplishing something that one probably initially thought was beyond their capabilities.
I'll grant you that the possible motives I've presented for hacking DTV may not apply to most other hackers and I’m not trying to romanticize or legitimize DSS hacking. I have no delusions that most people who reside south of the US-Canada border hack DSS because they want to rip off DTV. Probably sports enthusiasts are among the largest segment of this genre of hacker followed closely behind by PPV movie enthusiasts and, of course, the porno addicts. But then again, these aren’t the types that comprise the core of the DSS hacking community either. Rather, they are the types who only show up in the forum when something happens that interrupts their viewing and threatens their enjoyment of some upcoming “Wrestlemania” event, PPV movie premiere or the next showing of “Debbie Does Dallas XXIV…” But this document wasn't written with them in mind. It is instead about those few who have far more than larceny at the core of their motivation for hacking. It is about the true DSS hobbyist...