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January 3, 2005 10:32 AM   Subscribe

Anathema, darknets, master rippers, and currys: The Shadow Internet. [via Volokh]
posted by designbot (53 comments total)

 
Wired, I love ya, sometimes you make my life difficult.
posted by Plinko at 10:38 AM on January 3, 2005


I miss the zippies.
posted by meehawl at 10:46 AM on January 3, 2005


apparently this article made some who dwell in the "Shadow Internet" a bit angry
posted by thanatogenous at 10:50 AM on January 3, 2005


This is a pretty moronic article:

"Whatever the original source - stamping plant, movie theater, or local Blockbuster - the film has to be properly prepared for distribution over the networks. Converting analog to digital is a difficult, time-consuming process. And getting it into a form that can be easily compressed into a digital box many times smaller than its original size is an even bigger undertaking."

Someone ought to tell the author about those digital cameras they came out with. And show him that it isn't really that hard to compress a file.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:04 AM on January 3, 2005


Interesting article, hackers amaze me.



I can't even figure out how to download a damned bit torrent!
posted by Hands of Manos at 11:04 AM on January 3, 2005


Oh wow that reporter got snowed. I like the bit about the 350 lb. guy.
posted by Veritron at 11:09 AM on January 3, 2005


from the .nfo image thanatogenous linked to:
"not one member in our group is named frank..."

from the wired.com article:
"When Frank (who, like all the pirates interviewed for this article, is identified by a pseudonym) posted the Half-Life 2 code to Anathema..."

Way to read, poobutts! :rolleyes:
posted by basicchannel at 11:12 AM on January 3, 2005


As a former sysop to a THG dist site who has seen his fair share of lamers over the years, I have to say that the "informant" sounds more like a pissed-off wanna-be than a real insider.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:24 AM on January 3, 2005


Here's pretty much how this "darknet" (wrong word, but whatever) shit works.

1. You get access to some iso of common interest that you shouldn't have.
2. You tell people in charge of a private pirate site that you have this file, and upload it.
3. Now you're allowed to download any of the other illicit files off of the site.

There are some variations regarding pirate site rules (some allow you to join for a fee, etc.) The motivation scheme is set up so that people who contribute illegal content get access to more illegal content, providing an incentive for people who post illegal content to keep posting more. Often, pirates are members of multiple sites, and will do little more than post content from one site to the other - which is basically what the guys in the article did. They got a 4 page article written about them and their bullshit because they possessed the special skill of being able to copy a file from one site to another.
posted by Veritron at 11:26 AM on January 3, 2005




On an only slightly related note: Lokitorrent just reported within the past hour passing the $30,000 mark in user donations towards legal fees. Forget traditional democracy, just vote with your money (you know, like the US runs elections).

$30692 in support so far, $30,000 needed
posted by quasistoic at 11:39 AM on January 3, 2005


I knew some guys in college who were part of a ring that pirated Mac software. This at a time when Macs were decidedly less cool than now. It was kind of weird.
posted by hyperizer at 11:47 AM on January 3, 2005


Civil_Disobedient, is that THG as in tetrahydrogestrinone? Color me confused.
posted by designbot at 11:53 AM on January 3, 2005


I love how it turns a bunch of geeks with a server into friggin' James Bond. Don't these people have anything better to do?
posted by fungible at 12:00 PM on January 3, 2005


When did Wired get bought our by the British tabloid press?

Hilarious article.

1. Kids form pirate networks on the Internets!
2. ???
3. Evil controls the world!
posted by C.Batt at 12:02 PM on January 3, 2005


"Shadow Internet"

See they use the term Shadow internet to make it seem like it is this weird strange new technology that is difficult, and can only be understood by an esoteric understanding of the arcane arts of Packet conjuring.

It's actually called a VPN, and just about anyone can do it.
posted by Freen at 12:03 PM on January 3, 2005


Don't these people have anything better to do?
Better than helping overthrow the tyranny of intellectual property?
No.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:03 PM on January 3, 2005


THG, probably an abbreviation for something like "Thug Hood Gang" with the appropriate ASCII squiggles "-~.-.~-". I have noticed a lot of the "scene" takes its cues from that thuggish inner-city gangster mentality.
posted by thanatogenous at 12:07 PM on January 3, 2005


Or perhaps for something like THanatoGenous?!? HA HA! I have you now, you pirate scum!
posted by designbot at 12:12 PM on January 3, 2005


I read this in the print Wired (my excuse: I was in the airport and needed something to read). I found it funny that the article totally discounted BitTorrent: it came right after an article about BitTorrent's massive growth, how it accounts for 35% of all Internet traffic, etc. A huge torrent could decimate the old FTP courier network. I think this "Shadow Internet" article was shelved for quite some time, and it shows: it also talks about the Hellboy movie being a hot new release.
posted by zsazsa at 12:12 PM on January 3, 2005


Change the names of a few protocols and this article could have been written ten years ago.
posted by gwint at 12:15 PM on January 3, 2005


It's amusing to see groups react badly to this kind of attention, as if their goings-on were actually that secretive or mysterious. Everyone with half a brain knows how piracy groups operate. It's not difficult to figure out, at all, or to become part of one. The delusions of grandeur are quite pervasive in these groups. I'm reminded of Scooby Doo villains: "If it weren't for you meddling kids!"

...as if the Wired article were at all informative to anyone who wasn't completely oblivious to piracy to begin with.

On preview: Actually, some of the Scooby mysteries are probably harder to understand than piracy operations.
posted by odinsdream at 12:29 PM on January 3, 2005


Or perhaps for something like THanatoGenous?!? HA HA! I have you now, you pirate scum!

AVAST YE SCURVY DOGS! I would have gotten away too if it weren't for you meddling kids!. I can assure you though, nobody in "THanatoGenous" is named Frank.
posted by thanatogenous at 12:39 PM on January 3, 2005


THG, probably an abbreviation for something like "Thug Hood Gang" with the appropriate ASCII squiggles "-~.-.~-". I have noticed a lot of the "scene" takes its cues from that thuggish inner-city gangster mentality.

The Humble Guys. Along with INC, the largest pirating group from the late 80's until the Internet era.

And as for the matter of language. The proper order of events was: 1. ANSI.SYS allows file uploaders to post pictures and TXT files resembling graphics. 2. Message users start substituting numbers and ASCII symbols for letters. 3. The internet opens the floodgates; newbies start emulating the wizened old. 4. The media and pop culture adopts the what the "kids" are doing these days.

I remember "Sys0ps" and "3l33t" from back in the late 80s -- it's more pervasive now (and more annoying), but certainly nothing new. Of course, deliberate language bastardization has been going on for a long, long time; probably thousands of years.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:41 PM on January 3, 2005


It seems surprising that so many pirated movies originate from projection rooms. Is there no way for distributors to somehow watermark films so they can immediately identify the source of a "leak" and shut it down accordingly?
posted by wrongbutton at 12:42 PM on January 3, 2005


wrongbutton, they already do that on several movies. It's extremely annoying once you know to look for it and actually see it once during a film.

It's repeated several times throughout the film. You'll see a sequence of orange/red dots in a pattern. It seems to be a 3x3 square with a dot turned "on" or "off" in a particular location. Somebody else do the calculation on how many unique codes this is. Something like 2^9th?

Anyway, it's like noticing a faucet is dripping while you try to sleep. You don't hear it until that first drip, then every single drip thereafter bugs the hell out of you.

It does seem like a rather stupid way to go about it, though. If you know it's there, you could easily drop out those frames and encode the movie without them.
posted by odinsdream at 12:52 PM on January 3, 2005


Fascinating. I have never noticed the cap codes before, but something tells me that I will never miss them again. Just like the "cigarette burns" I learned about in Fight Club.

I understand that cap codes serve to identify copies and to deter pirates. But I would thank that a more subtle (and not consciously detectable) scheme would work better since the codes would not bother the audience and would not be obvious to pirates.
posted by wrongbutton at 1:09 PM on January 3, 2005


Yeah... its quite a paradox. It has to be obtrusive enough to be caught by low budget camcorders, and yet subliminal enough that people wont notice it / someone wont just cut the few milliseconds of frames that it appears in.
posted by thanatogenous at 1:10 PM on January 3, 2005


It does seem like a rather stupid way to go about it, though. If you know it's there, you could easily drop out those frames and encode the movie without them.

Or maybe insert a few frames with a different code to throw the studios off the scent (or torpedo a "rival" group)?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:15 PM on January 3, 2005


[em]It does seem like a rather stupid way to go about it, though. If you know it's there, you could easily drop out those frames and encode the movie without them.

Or maybe insert a few frames with a different code to throw the studios off the scent (or torpedo a "rival" group)?[/em]

They just fuzz them out. Not. That. I. Would. Know. (or). (something).
posted by basicchannel at 1:16 PM on January 3, 2005


blast the hybrid bbcode+html >:(
posted by basicchannel at 1:17 PM on January 3, 2005


From the article: "Oh my God. Look at that reflection. Do you have any idea how hard that is to capture?"

This may be 'hard' for the codec (to whatever extent software can experience anything), but is it really hard for the guy who presses the 'encode' button?

It sounds like the interviewer got hold of a bunch of mostly earnest but not too bright kids ("computer science is impossible"), and totally misunderstood everything they said. Or they just pumped him full with BS.

BTW, is Bruce Forest a pseudonym? There should be enough info about him to identify him if it is and if it isn't he seems to be rather open about breaking the law and tattling.
posted by spazzm at 1:19 PM on January 3, 2005


Change the names of a few protocols and this article could have been written ten years ago.

That's why I referenced the zippies above. It's good to know that 10 years later Wired is still able to credulously and breathlessly report molehills into mountains.

We could all be guilty of this. I wrote some pseudo-intellectual analysis of NFOs and cracker groups back in the mid-90s.
posted by meehawl at 1:43 PM on January 3, 2005


"Oh my God. Look at that reflection. Do you have any idea how hard that is to capture?"

The most serious rippers encode the movies with mspaint and a hex editor. Everyting else is just a toy.
posted by recursive at 1:44 PM on January 3, 2005


Without this duplication and distribution structure providing content, the P2P networks would run dry.
Whaaa? Isn't P2P designed specifically so that it would work well without a hierachical structure? Why is this guy obsessed with topsites? What happened to IRC ? I've seen how fast (legal) files spread on that, I don't think illegals would be slower.
posted by pantsrobot at 1:56 PM on January 3, 2005


Man, I credit one of the THG demos for absolutely hooking, hooking, hooking me on computers when I was about nine or ten years old. It all hit a turning point when I found out the demos were cooler then the apps.
posted by bhance at 2:21 PM on January 3, 2005


Better than helping overthrow the tyranny of intellectual property?

I also love this image. I'm imagining someone tied down in a room, electrodes attached to their balls. "You WILL pay $8 to see Christmas with the Kranks." "NEVER!!"
posted by fungible at 2:28 PM on January 3, 2005


Wired magazine is the equivalent to Highlights Magazine for the iPod set. Do you know how hard it must be to make-up find honest-to-god stories of the non-fiction, sci-fi variety that the average TiVo owner can relate to??

All they seem to do is get Richard Redstate all agog and rile up us pasty, know-it-all types. Content?... naaah.
posted by basicchannel at 2:40 PM on January 3, 2005


So these super camcorders that are only available in Japan, are they like the fabled Canadian girlfriend?
posted by Tenuki at 2:41 PM on January 3, 2005


Well, fine, then I'm NOT posting my home porn of my Canadian girlfriend I shot with my Japanese camcorder if you're going to be that way about it...

I'll just put it on Kazaa...
posted by Samizdata at 2:54 PM on January 3, 2005


There is a war between the hackers and the studios.. it is a war for the hearts and minds of the public. Do we condone this activity as acceptable? Or do we relegate it to a shadowy world. It is just like the war on drugs, there is no way to get rid of drugs, but you can stigmatize, and keep it from growing unchecked. That is what the Wired article is all about. It is educating people on what goes on, demystifying the hacker mythos and calling it what it is: a major criminal enterprise. This will keep the activity from spreading, relegating it to those who are rebels and out of the mainstream.
posted by stbalbach at 3:32 PM on January 3, 2005


basicchannel said:
Wired magazine is the equivalent to Highlights Magazine for the iPod set.
My nomination for MeFi Quote of the Day. Good stuff.

/has an iPod... feels conflicted now... :-(
posted by C.Batt at 3:36 PM on January 3, 2005


What happened to IRC ? I've seen how fast (legal) files spread on that, I don't think illegals would be slower.

It's still around, and it's still popular as ever.

There's also USENET, which has always been the single most-reliable source of quality distributions.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:36 PM on January 3, 2005


Yep. The HD newsgroups are impressive...or so I have been told.
posted by gen at 4:31 PM on January 3, 2005


But I would thank that a more subtle (and not consciously detectable) scheme would work better since the codes would not bother the audience and would not be obvious to pirates.

How do we know there isn't one? It's a not-uncommon ploy; give some semi-obvious security feature, so you don't bother looking for the real one.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:19 PM on January 3, 2005


I saw a guy wearing a Razor 1911 shirt at the second E3. Ballsy.

Pity about this article.
posted by NortonDC at 7:21 PM on January 3, 2005


Razor 1911

I love to see the old crackers kickin' it old school. Kids these days... (waves cane menacingly)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:50 PM on January 3, 2005


Dumbest. Article. Ever. My brain hurts reading it.

Civil - Avoid those Sundevils? :)
posted by fet at 9:08 PM on January 3, 2005


The most serious rippers encode the movies with mspaint and a hex editor.

On an OS they coded themselves, running on an overclocked Texas Instruments calculator.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:13 PM on January 3, 2005


I don't know anything about "the scene," but this article, while mildly entertaining, seemed to me to be about as believable as the movie Hackers.

Which of course was the gospel truth.

(Threadjack: my favorite part of that movie is when he tells Jolie's character that RISC chips are great: talking about a Pentium).
posted by teece at 11:16 PM on January 3, 2005


My, MeFi looking a little jaded on this article. I agree, nothing rocket science about it, these are the same "shadow distribution" (and social hacking) dynamics that have been in play since the '80s.

One side note -- to people who really care about video quality, codex tweaking is (in fact) a complex artform and just hitting an "encode" button. Since the results are perceptual, it's hardly an exact science (and one set of encoding choices doesn't work well on all scenes.) The rule of audio codex manipulation are simple in comparison, even video professionals are forced to non-real-time experimentation on problematic scene encodings. So that part isn't quite as unbelievable from my perspective as you might think.

But then maybe all that intellectual property tyranny might have dumbed down my tech savvy, eh?
posted by bclark at 5:49 AM on January 4, 2005


codex tweaking is (in fact) a complex artform

Agreed. Here's the latest Doom9 codec comparison. Raindrops are still one of the most challenging effects to encode at low bitraqte.
posted by meehawl at 6:15 AM on January 4, 2005


Encyclopedia Brown cracks another one.
posted by mek at 6:27 AM on January 4, 2005


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