The first MSX related spyware?

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Door BiFi

Enlighted (4348)

afbeelding van BiFi

31-07-2006, 08:18

Yesterday snout posted this mail to both the openMSX and blueMSX teams. I'd like to know what you think about this:

Hey openGUYZ, (^_^)

You probably might have heard about this idea from Manuel already, but I'd like to know if you would be interested in developing a new feature in openMSX called MSX GameStats (might be a working title).

First, let me tell you what the idea is all about. The idea is to allow people who use an emulator running GameStats to fill in an MSX Resource Center login/pass in order to allow statistics about the games played to the MRC, in a similar way that the audioscrobbler plugin does for the website http://last.fm/. With these stats, we can create charts by user, overall charts, weekly charts, by game/developer, who plays which games the most etc.

I've already contacted Sandy of Generation-MSX about developing this in co-operation, so that users could request game info on the games they are playing directly from their MSX emulator, and we could link directly to the Generation-MSX detail pages from our statistical pages. I assume and hope this will also motivate people to submit missing game info, screenshots and cheats to Generation-MSX more often. He is as enthusiastic about the idea as I am.

The best way of identifying separate games would most likely be the use of - what else - hashes, using the RomDB as a great starting point. There are, however, some difficulties with identifying games on dsk images, as they might contain save data. One way of solving this might be to make a hash of the first 50% of a disk image or the last 50% of a disk image sending not only the hash to the MRC, but also indicating which type of hash is being sent (full, first 50%, last 50%). I think it's very unlikely a game saves data on both the first -and- the last 50% of the disk image, but to be on the save side we could even make 33% or even 25% hashes. (of course this might increase the amount of doubles).

As for privacy, the GameStats will only be submitted when a person has logged in to it by entering MRC username and password. Furthermore, an indication might be given for unknown software (which might be an unknown release, but of course also private or in-development stuff), perhaps even linking to a Generation-MSX page to allow people to submit the title. Naturally, stats on unknown hashes are submitted to, but not processed @ the MRC.

I think that if openMSX and blueMSX both support the MSX GameStats project, we might have a really nice new feature for the emulators, generation MSX and MRC on our hands. Provided that we develop an open standard which uses the same hashing system in all emulators, I do hope and expect that other in-development MSX emulators will implement this new feature as well.

I have sent this same e-mail to the developers of blueMSX as well, and if you all respond enthusiastically I think it will be up to the open/blue team to develop a standardized way of hashing MSX software first, and then to start properly processing it at MRC/GenMSX.

So, after this long e-mail I'd like to ask you at first: what do you think of it? Shall we do it?! And what do you feel is the proper solution to hashing disk-games?

Cheers in advance,

Sander

I think it's spyware. Your oppinions, please?

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Van chaos

Paladin (806)

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31-07-2006, 08:41

The main purpose of spyware is to earn money. In most cases spyware is hidden in software and can't be disabled.
I don't think that's the case with MSX GameStats, so I don't see a problem.

Van BiFi

Enlighted (4348)

afbeelding van BiFi

31-07-2006, 08:48

The main purpose of spyware is gather information, which could end up in earning money. Read this Wikipedia article on the complete definition of spyware.

Van tfh

Paragon (1794)

afbeelding van tfh

31-07-2006, 08:53

@BiFi:

I think you are loosing it. Spyware is more then "The main purpose of spyware is gather information, which could end up in earning money". It owuld mean that even this site itself would be spyware, as it shows you advertisements and when you registered it, you supplied them with info.

C'mon: Just read the above e-mail: You actively have to enter your MRC details into the emulator. So more opt-in than this, is something you will never see. And also: I really don't have the idea MRC will ever get VERY rich of this.

C'mon... Drop the act, get yout act together and delete this way-too-stupid-way-too-simple (and probably giving in to you by a discusion with some people on #msxdev) posting... You are really stretching it now...

Van Manuel

Ascended (15686)

afbeelding van Manuel

31-07-2006, 08:54

I don't see why you think it's spyware. If I decide to give you some information, are you then spying on me? I don't think so.
And this is exactly the case with the MSX Game Stats proposal. A user of an emulator can decide to share the information which software he is running with other people (he can also choose who). What does it have to do with spying?
And how on earth could someone make money with this? Are people making money with polls about which games are most popular? I don't think so. And this is just something similar.

Nah, please stop the FUD.

Van BiFi

Enlighted (4348)

afbeelding van BiFi

31-07-2006, 10:03

C'mon... Drop the act, get yout act together and delete this way-too-stupid-way-too-simple (and probably giving in to you by a discusion with some people on #msxdev) posting... You are really stretching it now...
As if I don't have a mind (and therefore an oppinion) of my own. I felt like this once I read that mail for the first time.

Also, the feature can have the emulator fetch the relevant login data from the MRC cookie.

I don't see why you think it's spyware. If I decide to give you some information, are you then spying on me? I don't think so.
And this is exactly the case with the MSX Game Stats proposal. A user of an emulator can decide to share the information which software he is running with other people (he can also choose who). What does it have to do with spying?

The fact that this info is sent to a server the user has no control over is one thing. This info can be used for more than just such stats. Also there's the part in the proposal of Generation-MSX being an online software recognition system which probably automatically pops up a browser window with the relevant page of info. The server log can be quite valuable to people all of a sudden.

Believe me, people don't want to have a browser pop up when they're playing their favorite game.

Van HansO

Paladin (672)

afbeelding van HansO

31-07-2006, 10:19

The main purpose of spyware is gather information, which could end up in earning money. Read this Wikipedia article on the complete definition of spyware.
The Wiki article starts with this definition:

'In the field of computing, the term spyware refers to a broad category of malicious software designed to intercept or take partial control of a computer's operation without the informed consent of that machine's owner or legitimate user'

Since in this case the user is at least informed, this is not spyware. Also malicious is a bit too harsh a word for this feature.

Van sjoerd

Hero (593)

afbeelding van sjoerd

31-07-2006, 10:28

How to handle disks with mutiple games?

Van boblet

Master (188)

afbeelding van boblet

31-07-2006, 10:49

charge for each disk Smile

I think folk are concerned because this has the potential for a charging metric, and of course there's the licensing issues, while I'm sure that some folk have several thousand boxes of software with msx written on them, not all do, the existence of this system could open the way to some liabilities as most everyone has some level of piracy going on and despite the age of most of the material, rules still apply, and when there's a big happy database of potentially illegal software usage containing specific details someone litigious may have some interest in it.

And plenty of spyware has lots of nonsense hidden away in eula's and often times is described as optional when the option is ignored and gets put in anyway, and besides, folk click "I agree" most times without concern.

It would be sad to see openMSX forked over this

Anyway, to paraphrase j-war, (as I don't know if nawty words are banned on this family show) "POOSTORM"

Van snout

Ascended (15187)

afbeelding van snout

31-07-2006, 12:26

Hmm, it goes to show that BiFi is selectively reading the openMSX-devel mailinglist to create an image that is far from real. I'm glad to see that most of the readers here easily spotted that. Still, I'd like to summarize some of the highlights I've been sending ppl privately or to the openMSX-devel mailinglist with some additions to that.

- The user has control over whether or not to use GameStats and the system will naturally be disabled by default. If you don't like or trust the system, simply don't use it. Your loss.

- The emulation-side of GameStats will be GPL and I'm willing to release the stats-side of GameStats under GPL as well. This will allow anyone (even C64/Atari/whatever-emulators) to implement GameStats and run their own GameStats server. If you don't trust MRC just use a server you do feel comfortable with, or create one on your own.

- Implying that an emulator would "probably automatically open a popup" only shows that you have been reading the discussion on openMSX-devel very selectively and that you're desparate to find counter-arguments. It gives a nice insight in your objectives though Tongue I can imagine that an emulator would use a potential feature to automatically get (updates on) MSX software information, but I'm quite sure that all emulators doing that will add a function to their oftware to disable just that as well. That part of gamestats is just CDDB for MSX, that's about it, and I think many people will like this geature. Are you scared of automatically getting the titles of the artwork and tracks on the CDs that you play in your mediaplayer? I rest my case.

- The marketingvalue of the stats gathered is limited, as there are numerous other ways to find out which games are liked by the audience. GameStats merely adds a 'fun'-part to it all, by adding an exhibitionist "look what I'm playing!" and voyeurist "lets see what snout's been playing" touch to it. Info like this is barely interesting for commercial market-research, if at all. Sales figures of services like EGG, i-Revo and (in the future) WOOMB are. Besides, as it is right now Generation-MSX is already offering quite a detailed selection of statistics on their website use, and the most popular games. I never saw anybody worry about that.

- Implying that the system might be used to track and trace warez is quite silly indeed as there is no way to find out whether or not someone playing a game in an emulator actually owns a game or not. Apart from that, with the multi-billion-dollar record industry not chasing a single member of the last.fm community, I'm sure the MSX community will have little to worry about.

- Full source code of blueMSX and openMSX are available; if you don't trust what data is being submitted all you have to do is check the source code. Especially with the "freedom"-spirit of openMSX, the team would be completely out of their minds if they go spyware. If you don't trust MRC, then at least trust the lads of openMSX. Although I feel the MRC deserves more credit than you are giving it, the openMSX team certainly do.

- As you could have read on the openMSX-devel mailinglist twice already, I'm prepared not to be involved in the implementation of this project if there are too many people that do not trust my role in it, even though it's my idea. Just like I did with Guru Logic, as I feel the realization of the project is more important than my personal ego. Something tells me that if someone else had come up with the very same idea, you would have an entirely different opinion about it. But that's not a first, is it?

Also, lets not forget about the positive points

- It's fun

- With a lot of MSX software being released as freeware these days, I think it will be very nice for developers to see that their MSX releases are actually being played.

- Many people will appreciate the possibility to get extra game information on the games they are playing. (Those who don't just don't use it)

- The system will probably contribute to Generation-MSX becoming an even more complete overview of MSX software released.

- Stats! I love 'em, many people do. Smile

$0.02

Van arnold_m

Master (173)

afbeelding van arnold_m

31-07-2006, 12:33

Allow me to quote myself from the openmsx devel mailing list

Op zondag 30 juli 2006 17:44, schreef Sander Zuidema:
> First, let me tell you what the idea is all about. The idea is to
> allow people who use an emulator running GameStats to fill in an
> MSX Resource Center login/pass in order to allow statistics about
> the games played to the MRC, in a similar way that the
> audioscrobbler plugin does for the website http://last.fm/. With
> these stats, we can create charts by user, overall charts, weekly
> charts, by game/developer, who plays which games the most etc.

Last.fm takes audioscrobbler data from users and provides them with
personalised music streams. Last.fm lets its user listen to songs
they probably like, many of which they would learn about if it were
not for last.fm. This is possible because there's a large number of
songs that may spread around and a large number of users who have
provided data about which songs they like.

If emulator users send their GameStats data to MRC, they'll only get
some charts, which are presumably more interesting to those who
want to sell games than to those playing them. I don't think you
can let people taste computer games the same way last.fm lets
people taste music.

As a user I would keep GameStats disabled and as a (occasional)
developer I would say it's not worth the effort.

Arnold
Now would it be spyware? I'm rather confident that the official openMSX packages would have GameStats turned of by default and that they would contain appropriate warnings for those who activate it. However Less scrupulous people could spread versions that nag for GameStats to be enabled or even worse enable it by default. Such modified versions would qualify as spyware.
Even more problematic than the potential for abuse is the lack of advantages for the user; GameStats is likened to last.fm, but it cannot give its users a similar bargain.

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