CueCat and the Red Light of Progress.

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From: Tom Whore (
Date: Mon Oct 02 2000 - 16:02:16 PDT

Ive been hearing about the Digital Convergence cuecate tempest over on
Slashrot and Ars Technica.

There is a good summary of whats happending here [1], basicaly CueCat is
giving away a little hardware bar code scanner that runs off your keyboard
port which in turn passes thru to your keyboard. When you run the cat's,
yes its shaped like a cat, glowing red scanner nose over a bar code the
code is sent into your keyboard buffer.[3]

From here you are supposed to have the Offical Software decode the bar
code and send you to a web site or give you the upc/isbn infromation. They
do this by passing the decoded barcode info thru a browser up to the DC
servers and sending you the results, in the meanwhile capturing a serial
number your Cuecat sends with each scan and what your looking for.

This pissed a lot of folks off so they found a hardware fix for the
genrated serial number and a software way to send the decoded string to a
browser or thru other software to do the upc/isbn lookup.[4]

DC has been handing out cese and desist letter to any and all web sites
with any pages showing hwo to use this device for any other purposes than
what they want it used for.[5] why?

"Digital:Convergence -- in case you've missed the howls of protest and the
hilarious hacking incident -- is the Dallas company that brings us the
CueCat, a little barcode scanner that links magazine ads to Web sites."

They are making thier money by you using their give away devices and
sfotware thru thier servers, thus giving them marketing edge of your
habits and personal info.

Privacy freaks...freaked. Hackers..hacked..Lawyers...lawyered.

Im having fun scanning things using the "third party" software.

Im also seeing lots of the cue cat infromation sites vanishing {2]

When i walked into radio shack and asked for the "bar code scanner thing"
they asked how many I wanted. "2" i said. They handed me two packages.
they never asked my name or for any id. When i got back to the office i
handed one package to an unsuspecting office mate and said "open this and
dump the contents on my desk..please" they did. Therefore I did not open
the package and I have nto used or opened the software included. No eula
has been seen by my eyes in connection with this model cue cat.

Im goign to get a few for the kid. They look cute:)- They also glow real
pretty, it can be used as a Computer Night light, handy for 6 year olds.

Let me know if any of you folk are playing with this thing.


[2] --CueCat Hacks -- Uscan Translation Site -- Dissecting the CueCat --Catscan homepage -- CueCrap- Crap About CueCat --The CueDog, a CueCat Decoder for Win32

[3] Basically it hooks inline with your keyboard the same as any other
'keyboard wedge' type of scanner. The difference is that it doesn't send
out a plain barcode. Instead it sends the following: It sends four
sections seperated by periods, including a trailing period. ALT-F10 is
sent as a wakeup signal The serial number of the wand is sent. The type of
barcode (UPCA, ISBN, etc). The actual barcode information. The last three
fields are encoded using a simple scheme to both send a full 8-bit ASCII
value as printable letters/numbers and to obfuscate the output to make it
less useful for other purposes. Take each block of four characters and
convert them into six bit values by indexing into "[a-z][A-Z][0-9]+-"
String the four six bit fields together to get a 24bit value containing
three bytes. Exclusive OR each with 67 and you have three decoded bytes.
Strings that aren't a multiple of three characters are zero filled and
they should be stripped out if it isn't being processed by C code which
takes a NULL as the end of string. Update 00/09/28 According to the driver
from Lineo, some cats don't encode the same. For these odd beasties you
index into "[a-z][A-Z][0-9],/".



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