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Muhammad Shoaib Anjum, Ultimus Pakistan

A few days back I was discussing with some friends, “Why open source software cannot replace commercial software?” And the primary reason we ended up with was “Support & Maintenance”.

Open source is great; its the real thing, and it takes guts & passion to develop what commercial software cannot think about doing. But still, I won’t be categorized rational while adapting a software for running my inventory & finance, which doesn’t have any support tickets along with, and hence cannot help with financial reports for the month of April 2008, that went missing because of a random crash. It just doesn’t make sense.

And its the realization of this factor, that has helped some businesses to come into existence: yes by merely providing support for an open-source application. PostgreSQL for example, is not an easy beast to bow. It teaks guts to get it running and get it continuously running, despite the fact that it is the most advanced open source database out there. PostgreSQL Inc. is making money on this realization.

Red Hat is probably the most successful example when it comes to Linux. The source is open, but they charge for packages, support and all that stuff.

So … even if open source is being used by enterprises, its not just an open source software, but along with support provided by a market player. It just doesn’t make sense, otherwise.

And while providing support, a business may start adding market-demanding-features of its own into the product shipped only with the version deployed by them, and charge for these features separately. Going `a step further, it may decide to make the code for these features closed, to keep it closed off course, or another business might pick, the features and the code, up and start making money on the same.

Going one more step further, it may decide to license the software under question, and charge on separate scales. This is exactly what MySQL recently started doing by providing two separate editions: Community Edition & Enterprise Edition, and EnterpriseDB is doing for some time, and not to forget Google, somewhere on the same lines. Yes you are right, Google does not sell support for open source neither does it sell open source software, but its whole empire is built upon open source software. Google makes money using this huge software base.
So far so good.
The problem arises when you take the software, build your business on it, make money and be happy. Period. You do not bother to take the last step i.e. to pay back. If you are kind enough to contribute back to the community whose original footprint, the original product, you are using as the base; that is great. But if you are not, which most of the people are not, its bad. Very bad infact. You are making money for someone else’s man-hours. You do not deserve it. Yes, right, you are providing support, you marketed it, you added features, all true, but its not yours. You decorated it, but you do not own it. Its like making money from your business housed in a commercial plaza, but not paying the rent.

This pay-back may not necessarily mean paying money. You can rather contribute software to main product line, you may provide resources (servers, bandwidth or anything else) to the community, you might spare a few people to test the beta, or anything that comes to your mind and can be helpful for the people who actually did it.
Pay the rent, please !!!

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Aamir Butt, Ultimus Pakistan

Windows

When I first heard someone saying this, I thought it to be a shot at the moon. Later when I delved into Computer Science a little bit, I started wondering if it is possible. I started learning cryptography but soon enough I came to know that I am not the one who can read between the things which is a pre-requisite for any successful cryptographer. This didn’t stop me from discovering my lifelong dream of breaking a windows password.

“Give me physical access to a Windows machine and I can get every inch of information from it”.

On investigating the things further, I came to know of a technique known as “One-way hashing”. To put it in simple terms, this is a cryptographic technique through which you can encrypt almost any data irreversibly. By this, we mean that we cannot decrypt the data. Simple, isn’t it? The question arises that what is the point if we can’t decrypt the data. The answer is that you will get the hash key and you can encrypt your data again with the hash key to see if it matches the original one. If it does, Bingo, you have decrypted it successfully.

Now, back to the point. We were trying to break a windows password. This is nothing but obvious that windows developers must keep a user password somewhere in the hard disk. This leaves us with very few options. Because if you have got physical access to a computer, you have got physical access to the hard disk as well which means that you can put this hard disk into another computer and get everything from it. But, you must precisely know that where this information is kept in the hard disk.

(more…)

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