Archive for the ‘Dildonics’ Category

Trance vibe vs. Windows Vista x64

So I have started getting support emails – “Hey, how do I get your hardware to work in Vista?” Seeming invariably to be the 64-bit version. That’s weird, as far as I know there is a 64-bit build of the drivers included…

Of course, you may have correctly guessed that as an IT semi-professional, I
1) don’t let that poisonous crap anywhere near my home/work machines,
2) am not keen on buying a copy of every Microsoft OS just so I can test free give-away software against some obscure bug(s).

Last night I was able to ‘borrow’ a copy of Vista 64 and set up a test machine. And I discovered the cause of the problem! You can thank our good friends at Micro$oft for this: Vista-64 will not allow drivers to run unless the driver’s author is willing to pay for a digital signature, which starts at US$499 per year :-(

There are some apparent (but ugly) workarounds:

If you press the F8 key right as Windows is beginning to boot, you should get a black screen marked ‘Advanced Boot Options’. Select the last option – “Disable Driver Signature Enforcement” – and press enter. This should allow the driver to operate (bypass the microsoft tax) until the next time you reboot. Unfortunately this means that even if it works, you will have to repeat this step EVERY time you start the computer if you want to use the device.

You could try typing in a command prompt: bcdedit -set loadoptions DDISABLE_INTEGRITY_CHECKS (yes, ‘DDISABLE’ is correct and not a typo). But it appears M$ have disabled this in some later updates.

You could get friendly with hackers and install a sneaky loader on behalf of your customer (sad when forcing a product to work as intended requires “sneaky”) – until you get caught and they not only add your drivers/loader to the global blacklist that gets pushed out to every Vista system with the “security updates”, but revoke your expensive certificate with the CA so you can never program drivers again (or get a new certificate, unless you can find a CA that missed the memo).

You could force your customers to get friendly with hackers to bypass signing more completely – well, until M$ releases a patch around it.

* * *

I wonder if it is possible to hack around on my (hardware developer) end. The hardware is a USB device, the firmware source is published and the device can receive firmware updates. Possibility for special “F***in’ Vista” firmware build: If the device detects a cold-boot, device enumerates as a USB keyboard, sends simulated ‘F8’ keypress and selects the Disable Signing boot option without any user intervention required. Feasible? Legal?…

Some stuff on Paypal

I’ve been using Paypal as the payment-handling service for my trance vibe project, and overall it’s not too bad. I can even print my own postage for domestic shipments, sticky on a label and not have to drive to the post office to send out an order anymore. But there are a few things about it that are really broken.

(more…)

Vibe update

So, Jane and I built the electronics for 30 of them, then I took them home and plugged one in for a test drive. It connected to the USB port, beautifully, then I go to turn up the juice. As soon as there is power going to the motor and it’s getting ready to turn, the USB connection is lost and resets/re-enumerates (Windows makes an unhappy dink-dunk…dunk-dink noise). Try another board, and the same thing happens. The first one built worked just fine (on Jane’s PS2), exact same design and components. What’s going on?

Long story short, scoping on the USB 3V regulator pin reveals a steady 3V when nothing’s happening, but an unstable mess when power is being switched to the motor. Small, almost negligible power dips on Vcc are translating to huge, yawning valleys of undervoltage on the regulator output. This on-chip regulator sucks. Beefing up the storage cap on Vusb does nothing, but another 10uF or so across the power rails seems to solve the problem. The USB specs recommend a power supply bypass cap of no more than 10uF, which is already present in the design, so increasing it further is not my first choice for a solution. Then I had a moment of smartness… I was using the front USB ports on my computer, since they were easily accessible, then I remembered those long, puny little ribbon cables that connect the front ports to the motherboard.

A quick look with the side cover off confirmed that pulling half an amp through one of those puny wires was asking for trouble. Combine that with the new longer, skinnier USB cables, and said trouble answers. Plugging into the rear ports made things much more reliable, as did adding a bit more capacitance across the power rails (reliable rear AND front port operation). But now I have to wonder, just how crappy does USB port wiring in the field come? The last thing I need is a pile of angry returns when people start plugging these things into their eMachines Celerytron craputers, with USB ports wired up using wet cat whiskers and good intentions by China’s most optimistic child labor, and wondering why their vibe doesn’t work…

So, final solution is to add the extra capacitance across Vcc, along with a big dire warning about crappy front ports. Yesterday I also made an enclosure-milling template, basically an aluminum bracket with cutouts in the appropriate spots. Sliding an enclosure into the left or right side exposes only the plastic that needs to be removed for the USB port or vibe connector, respectively. (Yeah, I’m supposed to have made a CNC milling machine for this by now, but haven’t gotten around to finishing it yet…) Now with all this hacking around for suboptimal ports, I need to throw together a long-term automated test script too.

What does an OEM shipment of vibrators look like?

Inner pack of vibrators. Bzz!


There you go, an inner pack of 96 electric vibrators. For industrial, scientific and laboratory use of course. The box is just over 1ft by 1ft, but of reasonable heft. It could be worse, a full case is 575 units. It would really suck to be the UPS guy then.

PS. I was home at the time of delivery, so the front door was unlocked. When the UPS guy showed up, he just tried the door and came right inside, dropped the package in the front hallway and left. Maybe that’s normal; I’ve never actually been home to receive a package before.

Why Windows asks you for drivers again whenever you plug a USB device into a new port!

I found this today while searching on another USB-developer-related problem: "Why does Windows not recognize my USB device as the same device if I plug it into a different port?"

For those who can’t be bothered to click the link, this occurs if the device doesn’t specify a serial number in its USB descriptors. They decided in this case to treat each (device@port) pairing as a new device rather than the same device in case you had more than one of them; otherwise they would enumerate in a seemingly random order at each boot, and whatever software that interfaced with the devices would have them swapped half the time. Unfortunately, in solving this problem they created some new ones, namely the ol’ “hunt for the driver disk” everytime the device gets unplugged and you don’t remember which physical port it was plugged into before (or something else got plugged in there in the meantime), and the semi-common case where a vendor tries to avoid the driver hunt by every device the same/dummy serial number (e.g. 000000000) causing bizarre behavior (or bluescreens under Windows).

Which brings up the question of which path to choose for the V2 trance vibe… do I…

  • leave off the serial number field, forcing five-knuckle driver shuffle for every port the device is plugged into?
  • fill in the field with the same dummy value for each device? Thinking not an option since certain crappy OSes can’t handle this if more than one is ever plugged in.
  • create a unique serial number for every unit made? Would require some exhaustive/ugly scripting to rewrite the serial number in the .hex file before programming each device myself… the more likely approach would be Serialized Quick Turn Programming (chips pre-programmed from the factory), but this involves extra work, set-up fees and volume purchase requirements. Either way would require keeping track of used/unused numbers. Not to mention the privacy implications of any given “adult” application being able to uniquely identify a user by their vibrator’s serial number…
  • Create a ‘semi-unique’ serial number for each unit? Same hassles and expense as the previous, but not caring if a number is duplicated eliminates keeping track of the last used number in subsequent SQTP orders / etc., as well as most of the privacy concern. One approach would be to just increment the last byte of the SN on each programming, reducing the odds of n devices on the same machine causing a crash.

CPA / tax jockey needed

To get my small business (sole proprietorship) off the ground and…er, buzzing. Or just provide good answers to a few home-business tax questions. Anyone? …Bueller?

* * *

I spoke to a lawyer yesterday (relax, not due to an unsolicited FedEx…this time ;) about starting that shindig up using a “least-cost least-risk” approach. (I’m not a gambling man, not even with 96 silver bullets on their way to my doorstep, so I’m not incorporating and all that expensive, complex jazz.) Mostly, I was looking to find out the recommended approach to dealing with a SO/HO in regards to the Tax Man, the Zoning Board and other legal ne’er-do-wells. Unfortunately, he wasn’t really able to tell me much aside from “get thee a CPA and ask them”, so that’s the next step. On the bright side, he was able to tell me that if I’m not running a manufacturing facility or brick-and-mortar shop with foot traffic (only online sales), zoning won’t be an issue in a single family home. (Although the same could apply to an apartment/condo too, many rental agreements forbid use of the space for commercial activities.)

It sounds like the most basic approach is to start as a sole proprietorship, will not need an EIN (no employees*), and might be almost as simple as filing a Schedule C / C-EZ profit/loss form with my tax return. There is also a free (beer) version of QuickBooks suitable for microbiz accounting purposes. Catch: To sell stuff under anything other than my own legal name (without having my name legally changed to “Drmn4ea Tech.”), I’ll have to file a DBA (Doing Business As, or Business Certificate) form with the city, for which they “strongly recommend” having your approval from the Inspector of Buildings handy. (The who now?) Per the advice I received, this (zoning stuff) “shouldn’t” be an issue (although in practice, I don’t know of any municipality that can smell pie without lining up for their own cut).

* as much as any of my friends might like to be a full-time, paid part of this balanced breakfast, having employees opens a big huge can o’ tax ID, federal income withholding, health insurance and potentially even OSHA worms.

Drmn’ Vibe netdemo at Intro.Inter.Tech

First off, there is a [Big Photo Album] with pics and videos of many of the pieces. (Audio-centric ones didn’t document well since my camera seems to assume the microphone(s) are just there for the photographer to talk to it, and any sound that occurs in front of the camera is just noise.) Also, the chat log of random strangers from the demo app is posted in case anyone is interested. Not everyone bothered to change the previous user’s screen name setting before chatting in it (or changed it later), so names may not exactly map to people.

For this piece two laptops were set up on tables facing away from each other, with a USB trance vibrator attached to each. The demo application, shown in ths post, was running on each machine, one as the client and one as the server. (Wireless was non-existent on one machine and hosed on the other, so they were connected with a hub and plenty of Cat 5.) Participants were invited to chat with us or one another and drive the vibrators. The whole setup, complete with stark black and white desktop backgrounds, was meant to be cold and anonymous (although in practice, in a 1-room space the participants can see each other if they turn around).

Results: People had fun with it, and a vibrator bullet ratting around angrily on the table is a neverending source of amusement ;-), but the general consensus was that the whole setup was a little eerie, made moreso by the fact that they were on public display with people walking by (as opposed to typing dirty in private), and that the participants could still turn around and see each other. It seemed a majority would prefer complete anonymity in their play, being able to have fun with a wholly unknown user and then disappear, without learning their partner’s identity or divulging their own.

(These sentiments were echoed by some participants in Rebecca’s piece, which was set in the “virtual sex” scenario of many future movies past. The setup was a pair of cameras mounted in acrylic cubes, sitting on adjacent mats representing individual pods that could be physically in the same room or a world apart. After applying a Saran Wrap condom (remember kids, safe cybersex!) to their cube, the users would each use the cube in place of their partner, with the video feeds superimposed on a single projection screen. For example, by each making out with the cube surface the two would appear to make out with one another onscreen. Participants revealed how hesitant they felt engaging in this ‘intimate contact’ with a stranger sitting next to them, even if all they were really having contact with was a plastic cube.)

As a complete afterthought, the built-in Webcam on one of the laptops was enabled, with the video showing in a window on its own screen. It seemed to me to mesh well with the overall theme of anonymous cybersex with a partner you will most likely not meet up with again, since there one is probably in it mainly for oneself (as opposed to, say, pleasuring random strangers without reciprocation)… looking into the on-screen window to see the object of your pleasure, and finding your own face staring back at you.

intercommunicate

Quick ‘n dirty, but my demo for the intro.inter.tech show is almost finished. Powered by maraschino cherries and vodka ;-)

The show will be this weekend, Sat. 11/03/2007, 2-7pm.

ULA Cafe / The Brewery Complex
284 Amory St.
Jamaica Plain, MA
02130

It’s aaaart! Bring your friends!


Figure 1: "oh, beep me again!"

Big e-manufacturing knowledge dump coming “someday”

I haven’t really talked about the Trancevibe project in a while. With the whole moving and vacation thing it kind of got shuffled onto the back burner a couple months ago (have I really lived here that long?) and never revived. There’s also this huge uncanny valley between making and selling a couple of something on the down-low to a small-knit community, and making and selling hundreds to thousands of something, as I’m finding out (er…what is this ‘business license‘ of which you speak? Oh yeah, and the FCC and CE are both full of crap). That kind of burns because this project is the first and only time (including going on four years as a professional EE at an actual company) I’ve seen one of my projects with a clear migration path to volume production. I must say, designing widget after widget in order to build two prototypes, write a report on it, then throw them mostly-working into a box never to be seen again seems like a lot of unfulfillingly wasted effort, which gets old. I have a solidly DFM design chain mapped out in my head, a method for small-scale automated machining (for the enclosures), full modularity, automated assembly, application support in mind (beginning with OhMiWinamp, heh…the plugin SDK is still sitting gathering dust on my hard drive), and even eyecandy that’s sure to be a hit (and could be added for under $1.50 per unit).

I’m making (small, incremental…need non-people-time) progress toward picking it back up, but still not sure when that will actually finish. I’ve still got stuff to do on the whole house thing before I can even start unpacking my EE stuff, let alone set up a work bench (let further alone a production facility), and some other projects stacking up besides. Lastly, a new gf, who when I let slip about the existence of this project (which loosely translates to non-EEs as “I sell homemade sex toys on the internet!”), seemed pretty visibly squicked. She’s seeming more tolerant of the concept now, but still…

A peek inside the Trancevibe “factory”

…mostly in photo album form. Click on the thumbnails for a larger image with description…

Trance Vibe Assembly pics

Not pictured: us Fluxing-off our actual panels, or screwing the depaneled boards into the finished product, or QA testing (with a pluggable test jig and motor…get yer minds out of the gutter). It turns out these vibe motors vary in strength somewhat from one to the next… any that scores particularly weak on the vibe-o-meter gets binned (only a couple so far). Luckily, a 2-bullet unit is only a couple bucks more than a single-bullet unit when procuring the raw materials, so there are some extras to substitute as necessary.

(And no, I had no idea that (electrically and mechanically identical) vibrators came packaged as separate gay and straight versions.)

(And I definitely had no idea that stripping USB cables took so stinkin’ long :-P )

RezVibe l’arnins, pt. 1

Ok, so I now have a Dildonics tag for all the trancevibe stuff. It’s an exciting informative journey through the no-man’s land of small volume electronics production.

I’m going forward with this project (and documenting it) mostly for my own personal edification. I’ve never developed and commercialized something before (unless you count my childhood four-leaf-clover stand, which, incidentally, had comparable sales volumes), and it’s probably not going to happen without getting my own sweat involved.

How it usually works (or I’d like to think so) for gadget geeks is, you work by day as an engineer at a respectable technology company–you develop cool gadgets… you see your babies through from conception to mass production (and occasionally help your landlady carry out her garbage). By night, you use the vast product-development knowledge and connections you’ve acquired to fuel your own pet projects, which will of course revolutionize the free world and put sliced bread back in its place. However, I work at an R&D company that does mainly SBIR contracts, so there we develop technology and run experiments; we don’t mass-produce things.

Since the last vibe-related update I have done a couple “production runs” of 3-8 units at a time (since that’s how many I had parts on-hand for), and thrown in a Digikey order for parts enough for a mind-boggling 25 more. Did I say Digikey? YES, I SAID DIGIKEY. For those not in the know, think of Digikey as sort of a really big Radio Shack store online. Except that they still sell discrete electronic components (not cell phones), albeit at an often substantial markup. It would be funny if you went to the Verizon Store to buy a phone, and when you made your purchase, the guy behind the counter sprang up, ran to the Radio Shack next door and bought the requested model retail, then came running back to stuff it in a Verizon Store box and resell it to you.

Some things discovered lately:

Mailing Stuff
First class mail (letter post) isn’t just for letters; you can mail up to 4 lbs of stuff (in a bulky padded envelope, or even a tube or a box) for a few bucks.

There is a class of mail called “media mail” specifically for media, which can be big and heavy but mailed ridiculously cheap. This applies ONLY to media however, which specifically means records, CD/DVDs, videotapes, sheet music, and bound printed matter which does not contain advertising. The USPS is actually pretty strict about it (according to research), and will occasionally open up media mail packages for inspection if they think someone’s cheating.

You can mail stuff across the pond for just over $5. 7-day Air Mail. However, these shipments involve a green Customs Form, PS Form 2976 (items under $400), which requires a duplicate writing of the sender AND receiver’s full name and address; description, weight and value of goods (2x), and two dated signatures. This makes one sore hand if you ship a large batch of stuff overseas. I still have no idea whether “value” equals “price paid”, “Bill Of Materials cost”, “BOM + labor”, or “retail, but there’s an implicit understanding that shippers mark the goods as a gift, or substantially undervalue them to avoid socking the recipient with a huge tax”. Anyone? (Ahem, trying to be legal, mainly to avoid fines / jail / siezed packages.)

You can’t ship adult materials to Uzbekistan.

You can’t ship “obscene articles” to the UK.

Actually, there are a fuckton of countries with restrictions on spicy materials. (Not to mention a zillion other things such as alcohol, money, pork, live bees, and “All foodstuffs if the time left until the “use-by” date is less than 70% (calculated from the date of manufacture)”.)

Don’t ship a damned thing to countries ending in “-stan”.

Manufacturing

“Bad boards” do exist, and can’t reliably be detected by visual inspection (by the board house or otherwise). As I found out recently in a project at work too, even expensive houses (Bobby, I’m looking at *you*) release severely fscked-up boards now and then. For that one, about half the vias (small metallized drill holes that pass a signal from the top side to bottom side, or vice versa, manufactured by drilling the hole out of the fiberglass board and letting metal grow inside it) didn’t connect. A couple of the DrmnVibe boards had either shorts or open traces (where the metal of the trace was etched all the way off/through; the opens were cleverly hiding under white silk screening). I now have a simple test jig to verify DTV boards with a real ‘bullet’, even if one is never soldered to it.

Stripping USB cables by hand takes a long damned time. The “USB-A to bare wires” Digikey part went out of stock, so I searched for a replacement and found it was cheaper to get a ‘real’ cable (USB-A to mini-B) and just cut the B end off. I think manufacturing-wise I’m going to either stick to pre-stripped cables from now on or add a B connector to the board. Otherwise it’s cut the end off, strip back insulation, strip 4 tiny signal wires, then deal with the ground shield consisting of braided metal (like the stuff in steel wool) that’s a bitch to cut off cleanly, and leaves bits of fine metal wire everywhere to short things out and/or embed themselves in your thumb.

Manufacturing PITAs, in decreasing order:
Soldering boards
Reassembly of COTS vibe, aligning 3 screws at once while holding a board in between
Stripping USB cables
Packaging and shipping
Drilling holes for cable (PITA factor doubles on discovering someone lost the chuck key…)
Disassembling COTS vibe, removing guts
Batch programming with PIC programming jig
Final testing with Tezt.exe and bullet jig

Yep, it’s finally come to pass…

It’s official, I peddle adult toys on the internet. My folks would be so proud.

(*Yes, I still have a day job. Hopefully I’ll still have it if this ever gets around the office ;-)

TranceVibe Take Two: So, what are they doing that I’m not doing?

After getting busy with all kinds of other stuff for…heh, a year…, I started thinking back on the Drmn’ TranceVibe project. My grandmaster plan was to “mass” (qty: 20 or so) produce them and see if they’d sell. Anyway, since the original design, a few small cost and manufacturability enhancements have been made: smaller SMD oscillator clocked down to 4MHz (cheaper, sucks less current, and most importantly doesn’t poke through the board where the PIC goes), programming jig (eliminates program connector with same pokeybit problem*), smaller (less flash memory) PIC (I’m still only using a fraction of it), so now the whole thing could theoretically be reflow soldered. The board is still original, since I got a batch of about 30 of them and haven’t really used any. They still need to be cut by hand.

Sort of by chance, I also stumbled on OpenDildonics, which has a photo of the original ASCII vibe’s innards. Holy overdesign Batman! I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or buy one off Ebay so I can figure out just what the hell it’s doing. Unless it serves double duty as a trance vibrator and some bizarre harmonic mind-control device, there are far too many parts on this board.

Actually, it looks like they’re putting out the 1-byte “how much vibration” level, converting it to an analog value and driving the motor linearly. I can’t think of why they’d take this approach over a simple PWM controller (which is what the Drmn’ Trance Vibe does) except to avoid the recurring voltage kickback as the motor power is switched on and off, but this can easily be snubbed with a fast diode (indeed, most FETs, including the ones used on the DTV, have a built-in body diode). Maybe microcontroller technology hadn’t advanced to that point by then where they could just run a PWM loop and handle the USB port at the same time.

* note to self: beer and CAD do not mix.

Nine times out of ten it’s an electric razor…

After much slacking around and procrastinating, we now have Rez Vibes! Lots and lots of them, if I feel like making more and selling them on ebay. The nitty gritty details are written up here.

Take Your Sex Toys To Work Day

I have a pretty cool workplace. I can wear “stupid people in large groups” or “duct tape in the bedroom” or even my dildo shirt without worrying about somebody complaining; there’s a beer fridge in our conference room, and you can often find a small gathering cracking a couple cold ones after hours. They tolerate my geekish tendencies, even occasionally come and talk to me when they don’t want something. I could probably dye my hair blue, if I wanted to.

But maybe bringing the vibrator to work was a bad idea. Continuing the aftermarket trance vibe project, a toy was acquired this weekend, carefully stowed in my office, then brought down to ELAB after hours so I could dissect it and find out how much current the motors drew, attack the control box’s mounting hole pattern with a pair of calipers, and throw together a little USB PIC test jig to write the firmware on while I wait for the official boards to come back. Anyway, it’s well after 6, and I’m enjoying the relative quiet and privacy of the deserted basement area, when all of the suddent there are footsteps in the lab. I look up just in time to see a face pop around the corner of the doorway. It was VH*, probably one of the most sweet & innocent women I know.

And there I am with a soldering iron in one hand and a vibrator in the other. I palmed The Big Egg as best I could, then spent probably 20 uncomfortable minutes trying to explain, “Well, there’s this game called Rez, and it comes with this vibrating peripheral that goes in your, eh, shirt pocket, but it’s discontinued, so I’m re-engineering a replacement…”, without letting on that the particular off-the-shelf vibrating attachments I had with me were designed not for pagers or game controllers, but for use in places where they couldn’t be solar-powered.

Anyway, the verdict on the eggs: Holy crap, these things are powerful…and that’s just with me holding one in my hand. Most likely explanation is that I’m actually operating them way over spec by testing on the bench supply instead of batteries (an ideal current/voltage source as opposed to a heavily limited source with about 50 ohms series resistance per cell). At 3VDC a single motor drew nearly an amp; the device, as it comes off-the-shelf, has 2 of these wired in parallel. Holy exploding USB ports batman! That’s no good. When put in series, they draw a slightly more reasonable 400mA, which is within the USB spec (500mA max. per device).

Interestingly (but, I guess, not surprisingly), the current drawn by an egg was very load-dependent: less when hanging free, and significantly more when held tightly in the hand (which would constrain its motion, putting a higher mechanical load on the weighted motor as it fought its own inertia).**

* there are people you don’t really worry about, and people you try not to offend because they might stick it to you somehow, e.g. get you canned or sued; then there are people you try to avoid being crass in front of on principle alone – she’s one of the latter.

** I never really considered that before – this could technically be used to measure the..er..snugness of wherever it was placed. Imagine your USB dildo reporting stats back to some kind of “am I tight or not?” site! heheh. Patent!

Words of the day: Rez, teledildonics

This weekend I was at J.R.’s place and we installed a hard drive in her PS2. Jordan supplied a memory card containing exploit code which executes from the card when the PS2 begins running most PS1 game discs. From there, you can run arbitrary code, including loaders for the network-attached hard drive, FTP servers, Linux kernel… We obtained a copy of waRez and played it.

It’s an interesting game. Reminds me of a futuristic, hackery version of Starfox (the first polygon-based rail shooter I ever played. Yes, I’m sheltered), but with thumping techno music and synchronized vibration. In Japan, it comes with a “trance vibrator”, which they suggest putting on your neck or something, although I’m sure an innovative gamer could think of other places to put it.

Considering these things are no longer for sale, and to my knowledge, no longer manufactured, discussion inevitably turned to… “hey, you’re an EE… how hard would it be to make a USB-controlled Rez vibe?” (Somebody’s been reading too much Slashdong!

Not that hard, it turns out; someone already hooked an official unit up to a USB analyzer and reverse-engineered the protocol; armed with their code for the linux driver, I could easily (heh, as much as I’d like to be known as “that guy who makes USB dildos”) reverse-reverse-engineer (er.. would that be forward-engineer?) compatible hardware to the original. I could even add my own software extensions for blinkylights and such.

As always though, lawyers would likely spoil all the fun. Specifically, making a compatible aftermarket device (that the game will actually recognize as compatible) would require copying the original manufacturer’s Vendor ID and Product ID, which probably precipitates a visit from the original manufacturer’s and/or the USB-IF‘s legal heavies. (OTOH, I can no longer find any evidence that the original manufacturer, ASCII Entertainment Software, still exists; a URL listed as their official website returns a portal-potty landing page.) This copying could be seen as either ‘an open and shut case of passing-off’ (as one opinion online put it), or a necessary step for interoperability. I tend to see it the latter way, considering we’re talking about 4 bytes, far less than the 42-byte ‘program’ whose duplication spawned Lexmark vs. SCC. I would liken interest-group ID assignments to the service provided by ‘star registry‘ companies, e.g. more of a polite suggestion without actual legal teeth, but that’s just me.