CueCat Decoder mirror list
This is the beginings of a cuecat decoder software mirror list. If you have a mirror, or if you know of a mirror of the cuecat software, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org so that I can add it to the list.
Please mirror this page. Please. I can't tell you how important that is.
The CueCat is a barcode scanner passed out with subscriptions to Forbes magazine and the Radio Shack catalog. The idea is that consumers will install the CueCat software and use the scanner to scan in the bar code associated with certain advertisments. Once the bar code is scanned into the computer, the software will direct the users browser to the products web page.
Essentially it is a way of giving the user of the CueCat immediate, up to date information on a product the user is interested in. If I am, say, interested in Radio Shack's televisions, I can scan in the bar code associated with the television I am interested in and be immediately directed to that products web page. Voluntary, targeted marketing. The CueCat is the retailers dream device.
There is a hidden side to the CueCat however. With every scan of a bar code, the CueCat gives out a unique serial number. When you receive a CueCat at Radio Shack, or from Forbes for that matter, this serial number can be associated with your name, address, phone number, or whatever else Forbes or Radio Shack happens to know about you. This information could be used in other, involuntary marketing campains. I could get junk mail or spam from television companies for instance. The CueCat can not only just direct you to the product you are interested in, it could be used for involuntary data mining.
The CueCat is being given out for free at Radio Shack and from Forbes. A person does not have to sign a form explaining that the device is techincally on "loan" from Digital Convergence (The company which markets this device). In fact, it is only after one has dug through the documentation for the product that it says the device is still techinically the property of CueCat. As far as the costumer is concerned, they own the CueCat.
For this reason various members of the open source community set about to write software for the CueCat which would mimick the proprietary windows software provided. This process is called reverse engineering. Reverse engineering is a legal process by which a device or software component is duplicated without the aid of the originating company. When a device or software component is reverse engineered for use with another set of devices or software it is called reverse engineering for purposes of interoperatibility. The purpose of reverse engineering the CueCat was to allow it's use with the Linux operating system. Reverse engineering for purposes of interoperatibility is protected in the laws of most countries becuase it encourages competition and innovation. Clearly, the reverse engineering of the CueCat so that it could work with the linux operating system qualifies for this distinction.
The first steps to reverse engineer the CueCat were clear. They needed to decode the CueCat's weak encryption. Most bar code scanners do not have encryption, the CueCat is not just a bar code scanner, however. The CueCat sends along a unique serial number for the device every time something is scanned. Decoding the encryption was trivial. Some simply scanned in a large number of bar codes, finding patterns in the output from the CueCat. Not a stretch for an interested mind.
After the encrption scheme was decoded (One hesitates to call it encryption, as weak as it is) developers began working on extending the CueCat's functionality. One developer is working on software which, like the windows software, directs the user to a specific product page when it's bar code is scanned. This software expands the user base of the CueCat from windows to users of the linux operating system. The CueCat scanner was given out for free, and the opensource community responded by developing software which opens up their market share.
Recently, cease and desist letters were sent to the developer of this software, Michael Rothwell, which forced him to stop distributing the software. The reasons for limiting a linux implementation of this software are unclear. Any software which expands a companys market share would normally be praised, unless that software limits a companys revenue in other ways, such as preventing that company from conducting data mining using the unique serial number on each CueCat.
This mirror list, and others like it are an attempt to demonstrate that a device, reverse engineered in a perfectly legal fashion will ultimatly be enhanced by opensource development efforts. That is the long term goal of this mirror list. The short term goal is to increase development and distribution of the CueCat software drastically in order to dampen the effects of whatever legal action Digital Convergence might take against developers. If you have the ability, please, mirror this software and help us coordinate efforts against this affront on innovation.
Perl CueCat Decoder/ISBN (Kevin Fowlks)
cat.py / Python (skiprosebaugh at email.com)
cat.pl / Perl (skiprosebaugh at email.com)
CueCat decoder - Linux (Michael Rothwell)
read_cuecat - Linux (skiprosebaugh at email.com)