Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

The Running Program

Posted by Trixter on March 13, 2006

The Running Program - Title Screen

As promised, The Running Program has been cracked and made available. I can’t take credit for the crack; my good friend Demonlord took the program and what little progress I’ve made and did a proper INT 13 redirect crack for it. (Check the file NOTE.TXT for info, and PROTECT for the “secret data” that the program was protected with.)

Demonlord, for those not familiar with his work, is the hardest-working oldskool cracker still at it today. Nowadays we have windows executables with symbol information still linked to them — this is child’s play.  Way back when, we had 512-byte boot loaders that we had to disassemble by hand. Demonlord still does this, and is the best cracker I know both two decades ago and today. He’s so good that most cracks take him less than an hour, and unlike most hack jobs, they’re quite elegant and graceful. For example, check The Running Program: His crack never even touched the .exe — instead it loads an INT 13 handler that intercepts the request and redirects it to the data saved off of the protected track.

You know how there’s one person responsible for about 95% of all the ATARI 2600 cartridge ROM dumps out there? Demonlord is responsible for cracking 95% of all the bootable PC diskette images out there. The next time you play a bootable PC game in an emulator, say a little howdy for Demonlord.

2 Responses to “The Running Program”

  1. Scali said

    When I was a younger lad, a friend of mine had bought Defender Of The Crown, which came on a bootable diskette, with its own format, so it could not be read by MS-DOS. And because for some reason, the diskcopy command of MS-DOS insists that it has to be able to read the disk’s FAT before it can copy it, you couldn’t make copies of it. No copy program on Amiga or C64 ever complained about copying a disk it couldn’t understand. And on PC I have never seen any alternatives to diskcopy, for some reason…

    So anyway, I decided to just take the same route as the Amiga/C64 programs: I’d just read the raw sectors of the disk and write them back to another disk. Much to my surprise this actually worked: the copied disk would boot and play just fine. Apparently there was no real copy protection, just ‘security through obscurity’.

    I have later found cracked copies of the game though, where the crackers turned the bootable disk into a regular EXE file which could be run from MS-DOS. Now that’s some nice cracking. Reminds me of those C64 crackers who would convert a multi-part game on tape to disk (or vice versa), or some would even take a two-sided disk, and crunch it to fit on a single side.
    I suppose Demonlord is such a guy.

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