My one, feeble attempt at being a cracker of software.

Ah, the heady days of fall-1994. I was 16, hopelessly obsessed with my computer, and my dorm room had dial-up Internet access.

This meant my roommates and I spent far more time hacking (in the good way), and downloading and playing Mac (System 7 for life!) games than attending class.

The gaming went through a number of phases.

Phase 1: Myst. There were four of us in the room and one of the four (not me) almost flunked out because of his Myst obsession.

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Phase 2: Civilization. I got hooked on this in high school. In the end, I think we all lost equal amounts of time to this one.

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Phase 3: Network games of Spectre. 3D tanks! Virtual-reality-esque! This was back when Lawnmower Man was cool. (OK, Lawnmower Man was never cool but I still loved it).

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Phase 4: Network games of Marathon (OK, technically this one didn’t come around until early 1995.)

For the network games, we bribed a facilities maintenance person to drill a hole through my closet so we could run Ethernet cable into the room next door.

Phase 5: Emulation! I was mainly a fan of 8-bit Nintendo emulators with the occasional Sega Genesis* game thrown in for good measure.

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*I loved my Sega Genesis in high school. I, unfortunately, sold it to my then-girlfriend’s little sister who proceeded to never pay me for it. When said-girlfriend and I parted ways, any hopes of collecting my money disappeared.

My preferred Nintendo emulator at the time was a little Macintosh shareware app called iNES. There’s still a iNES emulator in active development that’s cross platform, I have no idea if it’s the same one I used.

This old version, iNES 7.7, had a copy-protection scheme where it would lock itself down after a certain number of uses unless you paid for it.

Thanks to Zen and the Art of Resource Editing, I spent a fair amount of time poking around in the guts of my Macintosh LC and its various applications.

It turned out that the mechanism by which iNES locked itself was pretty simple. First, it made a modification to the iNES preferences file, then made the file locked and invisible. Second, it added a special resource to the resource fork of the iNES application which flagged it as “expired".

After manually unlocking iNES a bunch of times using ResEdit, I decided to learn enough Mac programming to write a little program to do the unlocking for me.

The app itself was pretty simple:

  1. Popup a File Open dialog so the iNES application can be located
  2. Unlock and delete the preferences file. This was annoying because you had to reenter all of your prefs the next time you launched the program. My goal for phase two was try to preserve the existing prefs and just remove whatever bit it was that locked the app.
  3. Open the resource fork of iNES and delete the offending resource. I was especially proud of the function that did this part because it was called URiNES(). You’re never too old for potty jokes, right?

My first Macintosh application! I was very product of my 3l33t h4x0r skillz and, of course, wanted to show off.

I figured the best thing to do was to share the app with the guy who ran the emulator site where I had been downloading iNES (and ROMs) from. Little did I know that this same fellow was the guy who wrote and maintained iNES!

As you can imagine, he was less than thrilled with my accomplish and I, of course, felt like a giant moron.

In the end, I swore to him that I would never distribute my little crack to anyone and I also purchased a licensed copy of iNES.

Given that this was almost 20 years ago and that version of iNES doesn’t exist, I think it’s probably safe to share the source of my one and only attempt at being a software cracker.

UnPirate iNES: http://pastebin.com/YJQd916j