Microsoft Points algorithm cracked… they’re out $1M

Looks like someone figured out the algorithm that Microsoft uses to generate unique codes for their alternative currency: Microsoft Points. We were always a bit baffled by the need to do this sort of thing (Disney dollars, tokens at arcades, etc.) but figured it’s just a grift to get you to spend more dough. Looks like this time it may have come back to bite them in the ass with early loss projections somewhere in the $1-$1.2 million range.

But as most of you know, it’s not just an algorithm that can cause this kind of havoc. Whomever figured out how to crunch the numbers apparently packaged the method into a nice GUI and distributed it over the Internet. Check out the video after the break to see that not only will it give you a code, but you can verify that it works at the click of a button. Microsoft is taking steps to invalidate all of the ill-gotten redemption codes, but we wonder how effective they can be at it. Surely they already had contingency plans for this and we wonder if the company didn’t also carry insurance against this kind of loss.

Try as we might, we couldn’t turn up a press release on the subject. If you know of any, please be kind and leave a link in the comments.

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CES: Microsoft Hacks Up Next OS as SOC

With the Pre-CES Keynote made by [Steve Ballmer], the announcement came that the next iteration of their operating system being available in SOC specific form.  This will lead to windows being able to run a very diverse hardware set in a much more efficient manner than it does right now.  Microsoft displayed 4 different versions of what the next generation prototypes are from 4 different manufacturers but there has been no work done yet on the GUI for SOC as [Ballmer] was very clear to mention that more than a couple of times.  Some photos of the prototypes can be found after the break!

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Open Source Kinect contest has been won

Adafruit Technologies has announced the winner of the Open Source Kinect contest. [Hector], who we mentioned yesterday has won, providing both RGB and depth access to the device.  Some of you were asking at that time, why the contest was not over yet. Well, Adafruit had to verify. The image you see above are of another user[qdot], verifying the drivers on his machine.

What is interesting is how Adafruit has chosen to close this contest. Not only are they giving [Hector] his prize money, they are also donating an additional $2,000 to the EFF who fight for our right to legally hack and reverse engineer our own equipment.

[Hector] is being generous as well, using his prize money to help pay for gadgets to hack with some teams he is involved with, mainly the iPhone Dev Team and the Wii hacker team “Twiizers”

Kinect open source driver demo and hacking

The competition for the first Open Source driver for the Kinect is heating up.  [Marcan42] has released a driver that does video and depth.  He was able to do this without an Xbox and you can see it in action after the break. [LadyAda] has been hard at work as well, recording and dumping the data, and even writing a “hello world” that utilizes the motors in the Kinect.
We don’t know for sure how [Marcan42] recorded his data, but we can see [Ladyada] is using a high speed Beagle USB 480 to record the data going both ways between the Xbox360 and the Kinect.  That’s the kind of toy we would like to have sitting around. For those who don’t know what all the fuss is about, there’s a contest to see who can get an open source driver out there first. The prize has grown every time Microsoft says something bad about it.

[thanks Rapps]

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Woot lights and mice transplants

[Nathan Long] sent in two fairly simple mods he’s been working on. The first is the control of Woot-off Lights via LPT port. A computer checks Woot for the Woot-off logo, and if the logo is spotted, on go the lights. It’s really just a twist on the LED/Arduino email message system, but the creativity is nice.

His other modification is the stuffing of a Microsoft Intellimouse inside of a Logitech Wingman. With the goal of giving the old PS/2 mouse USB capabilities and removing the terrible ball. For those that are asking themselves “why bother? Terrible ergonomics, no scroll wheel, etc.” [Nathan] claims it’s for Quake 2 nostalgia, to each their own we suppose.

DRM causes vulnerabilities

This image is from Microsoft's DRM page.

We often hear people touting the evilness of DRM, but usually they are talking about the idea of ownership. In this case, DRM is actually causing harm. It turns out that Microsoft’s msnetobj.dll, which is supposed to enforce DRM on your computer, stopping you from doing certain things like saving files you don’t “own” is open to 3 attacks.  Vulnerable to buffer overflow, integer overflow, and denial of service, this sucker is riddled with issues.

The vulnerabilities in this file aren’t groundbreaking. Buffer overflow is a common method to get to many systems. The problem here, according to some commenters at BoingBoing, is the fact that this DLL is called every time you open a media file.

[via BoingBoing]

Microsoft engineers reinvent the Optimus keyboard

Looks like Microsoft has come up with a pretty slick little keyboard. It’s very much like the Optimus, which has an OLED screen in every key, except that it doesn’t have a screen in every key. Instead there’s just one screen on the whole unit and they keys have been overlayed on top while allowing the image to show through. Brilliant really, since this should drastically reduce the $2400 price tag of the original. That is, if you could buy the device. Microsoft’s not selling this hardware (yet anyway), but offering it up as test hardware for the UIST Innovation Contest. It will be interesting to see what the students come up with. This keyboard should be easier to program for since it involves manipulating just one screen. There is also extra space at the top that is touch-sensitive. See for yourself after the break.

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