The History of my site, by fravia+
(Revised version: October 1999)
At the bottom you'll also find a red"specific history of the student.htm page". ~ To understand more you may also be intersted in my red"september thoughts" (from software cracking to a reversing lab) and you may find quite a lot of additional info about the most recent developments in my main redMessageboard
[Now reader] [Why I publish] [+ORC] [Knowledge is now free]
[Beyond software reverse engineering] [Censorship attempts] [Censors deserve only contempt]
[Syn-attacks against my site]

Now reader

gold_hall 'Now reader,' said fravia+, 'look upon the programming reality! Breathe the free air again!' From the porch upon the top of the high site they could see beyond the stream the green fields of assembly fading into distant grey. Curtains of wind-blown rain were slanting down. The sky above and to the west was still dark with thunder, and lightning far away flicklered among the tops of hidden hills. But the wind had shifted to the north, and already the storm that had come out of the East was receding, rolling away southward to the sea. Suddendly through a rent in the clouds behind them a shaft of sun stabbed down. the falling showers gleamed like silver, and far away the river glittered like a shimmering glass.
'It is not so dark here,' said the reader.
'No,' said fravia+. 'Nor does the windows OS lie so heavily on your shoulders as some would have you think. Cast aside your "visual" frills!'
From the reader's hand the heavy M$-books fell clattering on the stones. He drew himself up, slowly, as a man that is stiff from long bending over some dull toil. Now tall and straight he stood, and his eyes were blue as he looked into the opening sky.
'Dark have been my dreams of late,' he said, 'but I feel as one new-awakened. I would now that you had come before, fravia+. For I fear that already you have come too late, only to see the last days of real programming. Not long now shall stand the high hall which the great assembly wizards of the past built. OOP shall devour the high sites. What is to be done?'
'Much,' said fravia+...

Why I publish
I decided to publish my "page of reverse engineering" because the inner working of computer programs (and any other thing) has always fascinated me.
Software programs (software operating systems too, for that matter) are being more and more "hidden" from the user (as the growing appearance of "Wizards" and automated installation and de-installation procedures attest) and are more and more using "undocumented" functions and performing "clandestine" activities on user machines.
Such "covert" activities encompass among other things:
- the unashamed spying of the installed software (eventually denouncing it (secretly) in the background during a web connection): Many recent Micro$oft products.
- the gathering (secretly) of information about the user and his choices and preferences delivering it to commercial oriented bastards for spamming ads or unsolicited email (web-scripts, web-search engines and some commercial software)
- the modification (without asking of course) of many user-parameters of the operating system, the deletion or modification or "updating" of user files, the fiddling with the physical locations of the user harddisk and so on (many protection schemes and many installation procedures).

It has always astonished me that so few even cared to check such developments, and that virtually nobody fought against them or tried to counter (or retaliate). I conduced a very lonely fight on my own, which started long ago on a Sinclair spectrum and will probably never finish :-(

There is another reason for my activity: The Web, as you will already have realized, is an Ocean of knowledge... about two centimeters deep. I wanted to show that you can create a non-commercial site that spreads for free REAL knowledge, and I believe that I made my point. There is
not a single ad on my site, and I'm loosing money with all this, not making it. Yet at the time of writing there are more than 30000 hits every day on my pages... which gives a spreading of much more than 100000 new readers every month. More than enough.

As soon as I saw the first lessons by +ORC, back in the winter of 1995, I understood that a new dawn was possible (at least among crackers :-) if enough of us would have understood and carried his tutorial and his simple (but incredibly deep) message: "knowledge is now free at last, everything should be free from now on, enjoy knowledge and life and work for everybody else". I was also struck from the affinities between my own ideas and +ORC's philosophy.

+ORC's approach, in choosing "cracking" (the busting of software protections) as channel through which his ideas could be at least partly diffused was simply genial: There you had on one side a huge community of very clever and talented young people, with an incredible thirst for knowledge, which could NEVER be satisfied by a society mainly intent in transforming them in silly consumer guinea pigs and there you had on the other side our Web, growing with an incredible momentum: the perfect media for free "forbidden" knowledge spreading. An high explosive cocktail indeed!

The developments of the last years with the incredible growth of the "+ORC's students" section, confirms that +ORC has indeed thrown a lot of seeds in the wind! :-)

His tutorial is now (May 1999) in part obsolete (yet it remains a MUST reading for all people that learn reversing skills). The incredibly rash development of the +HCU has given results that went beyond any possible forecast. The +HCU is certainly not "a group of crackers like many other". In fact it is a loose association of more than one hundred reverse engineers, protectors, cryptographical wizards and crackers (lone wolfs or in one of the many existing groups). The +HCU publishes each year (in April) a "strainer" for admission to the subsequent year courses (
this year's strainer is still 'in the making', though.
The +HCU is nowadays, through his many projects and the more than 400 essays, a real free "Academy" of software reverse engineering (the "open university" of software reverse engineering) whose documents are eagerly awaited (and read) by many "professional" reverse engineer around the world. Judging from the postings I have received there is more and more "official" recognition of our work, an activity that a couple of years ago could still be dismissed as simple protection cracking.

+ORC has partly retired. He's apparently gone hyeroglyphologist and dwells at the moment in Egypt somewhere, cracking ancient legends. On 29 October 1997 he wrote a letter about the organization of the +HCU and in december charged +Alistair and +Aesculapius to take over this year courses (and the preparation of this year strainer for 1999) with a vague promise to 'take over' the HCU teaching in September 1998... but he never did :-( I would really like to get at least his two promised 'zen cracking' lessons :-)

Anyway even the +HCU is in my opinion not very important per se. What IS important is the fact that all over the web many (and I mean it: MANY, not few) are learning (and putting in practice) the same principles: "knowledge is now free at last"... since we are dealing mainly with software here, and since sofware HAS a huge importance today, the fact that the average "Joe User" is slowly understanding that he can CONTROL and MODIFY whatever he fancies has already a HUGE impact on the silly commercial bastards that would like to continue to make money out of people kept in ignorance. If you are reading these words of mine buried under the overbloated weight of M$IE 4 or Netscape's 'Communicator' you'll be pleasantly surprised as soon as you download and try the last version of
Opera, a small (yet incredibly effective) browser by an australian genius which lets the huge overbloated 'standard' dinobrowsers by Micro$oft and Netscape byte dust.
This said, the non plus ultra of all web-browsing experiences remains imho surfing with your own modified copy of Netscape 3 (the best version of Navigator so far). We have done it 'manually' a long time ago, reversing the hell out of it, but now you'll be able to 'panzer' and 'fortify' as you wish every aspect of this target very easily, since Netscape, in utter desperation against Micro$oft vicious attacks, has been compelled to given out publicily its source code... which is good: you should receive (or get nevertheless :-) the source code of every app you use, that would spare you a lot of problems...
Browsers are not the only evidence of the fact that "the storm is receding": as anyone that has done 'the great step' knows, noone in his right mind would ever think to go back to the puke called windows after having used Linux (else than for cracking its sofware, that is :-)

Beyond software reverse engineering
Reverse engineering software, as I write elsewhere, is more an "attitude" than a simple collection of techniques. It has much to do with a logical, puzzle-solving, approach, and requires knowledge, luck and "feeling". We have until now cracked mostly protection schemes (and we will occasionally continue to do so), because this allowed to accommodate many talented young people on the bandwagon, (there is an obvious "immediate" reward if you crack a protection scheme and, as everyone knows: "Copy-protection schemes" are nothing else than elegant devices for training the next generation of assembly-language programmers :-), but as you'll be able to see, watching the evolution of the essays hosted on my site, a growing number of "crackers" is already walking along much more interesting paths, and goes already now to incredible lengths in order to reverse engineer a "difficult" snippet of code, not necessarily belonging to a protection.
On the other hand, more and more essays try to 'improve' the protection schemes used in the targeted software. A development that many 'lesser' crackers have heavily criticized on usenet, their pathetical idea being that we should keep among us the knowledge... Why? In order to crack undisturbed the same old boring protections for the eternity?
NO! Life is development, and if a software programmer will trough our essays learn enough to protect his software so well that we will not be able to bust his schemes, that's a very GOOD development. At least a real challenge!

Software reverse engineering is anyway only a part of the more complex task of defending yourself against manipulations and actions that you are not even supposed to see or understand. You'll quickly understand what this means if you have a look at my relevant pages, like the one on
anonymity, or the one (that I love) on reality cracking. In fact I believe that the "reality cracking" section will acquire a more and more important role in the future years, and not only (I hope) on my site. The point, you see, is that cracking, far from being a shady semi-legal activity, is one of the MOST IMPORTANT professions of the world. A cracker (in this broad sense) is a teacher and a philosoph, an acute observer, a talented wise wizard in our oligarchic, democracy-faking world where hidden meanings and continuous manipulation are the norm. Crackers should teach your sons what really happens in a supermarket, why there are so many lotteries, why you are compelled to drink mineral water and what they are doing to your mind every time you watch some apparently innocent publicity ad. And by all means crackers should teach your sons how to search the web, how to avoid leaving tracks and, last but not least where to find (some snippets of) real information about this ugly society that surrounds us.

Censorship attempts
My pages have always spread knowledge for free and have been therefore heavily censored. They have been first censored by Compu$erve (& Micro$oft) on 21/08/1996.
My following main page, at, (one of the "top 1000" pages according to Webcounter's stat) had not much more luck... it was censored as well -by Geocities- after 18 months, on 16 April 1997.
I immediately set up two mirror pages, a new one at geocities and another one at mygale, hoping, optimistically, that the European free pages providers would have been far less bigots and commercially oriented than the American ones. Alas this was not the case, and the "mygaliens" have censored my site on 23 May 1997 as well, as soon as it had mounted among their "top ten" pages (which was very quick, since the "audience" of my site doubles every two months :-). Geocities censured my new site as well the same day, probably in the hope to "squeeze" me out of the web with a 'coordinated' censorship manoeuver... poor sod censors, they still do not seem to understand the "alfa and omega" of Internet!
From that moment I decided anyway to seek asylum among more solid providers, and I continue to thank Mailman and mighty Sharp for having hosted for a long time my "fortress" page at (the "tana")

Unfortunately even this relatively solid server began being attacked for some of my pages (the ones about CGI-script security, i.e. how to nuke a site you don't like, on the web, given some conditions). In fact many servers are OWNED by people running scam commercial smut sites, and they can allow any abominable smut site BUT NOT a site that teaches you how to nuke them.
In November 1997 the situation in my old main page (which still work well thanks Sharp) was deteriorating. The hosting server decided to put a 'default' page catcher for its smut search engines that snapped every time anyone on the server (even people not remotely connected with those sites) found a broken link. An abomination against which Sharp could not do much, which has forced me to crash open my fortress at on the 25th of November 1997, a month before its scheduled openings (you should ALWAYS keep a complete 'sleeping' site up your arms just in case, btw :-)
Short afterward Sharp's part of the server was destroyed by the bigot american SPA association (note that they smashed only 'intelligent' cracker pages and didn't touch the warez sites on the same server... well, no wonder, they are the same lackeys that condoned the blatant piracy of Micro$oft in the Stacker software case...)
For all these reasons I'm now very happy to have a new powerful FORTRESS thank to a gracious donation, and without any ugly sponsoring. I must say that the people at Webcafé are doing a really GREAT job so if anyone should ever come to the thought of sending me money: I don't need money: send it to Netcafé instead :-) Anyway I hope that this relative 'tranquility' from censorship will allow me to deliver a less chaotic fravia's page of reverse engineering to my readers :-)

This continued censorship ("pagewaxing") should not surprise you: there's a growing hostility, on the web, against knowledge that's given away for free: they would like a commercial, mercantile world of stupid publicity ads and irrelevant frills, where the slaves and guinea pigs of their useless advertisements live and work only in order to consume... that's the real reason they despise and hate anything that moves in the opposite direction... but we'll win, because that what we do, we do for pleasure, not for money :-)
I'm proud of the censorship attempts I had to endure: Geocities is an American "puritane" enterprise, which seems to have more or less the same civic courage as an eggplant; Mygale is (was?) the pathetic attempt of a young student in Paris to get himself a job and to "establish a French presence on the Web", as if nationality or language would still matter in our new world; Compu$erve is a doomed dinosaur of the pre-Internet age, and commercial smut site owners should IMHO be hanged at their own servers' towers using their mouse's cable.
Most 'space providers' have ONE common characteristic: they want to make money, and they want to make money in the only way they know of: through awful publicity ads, selling gadgets that nobody in his right mind would ever consider to buy and offering -for money- special "services" that in most cases you could get for free elsewhere... a typical pathetical case, on the web, being the services that 'register' you (for payment) on the 'major' search engines. Ah!
Moreover in order to gain money these lusers believe (wrongly) that they should "conform" to the low-profile trend of self-censorship that pervades our supine society.

Censors deserve only contempt,
on the net and elsewhere.

Yes, I have started a
fight against all commercial-smut depots (against all ugly commercial oriented trends on the web for that matter). I'm not a censor, and I have nothing at all against nude pictures (if given away for free) but there are some Web trends that I feel we must counter (and retaliate).
One of this is the proliferating of the awful commercial smut depots, that deliver (against payment) poor scanned images that anybody frustrated enough to need them could have -for free- on the relevant usenet groups.
This is not only a fraud, but is pestering more and more servers, among others my own old one. Things are so bad that commercial smut owners impose 'smut-default-catchers' on the servers where they dwell, i.e. a smut page that you automatically get every time you run a broken link on ANY site of the whole server. Other common tricks are the opening of one or more new (smaller) pages every time somebody visits a site. Unknowingly to the user, these pages trigger bogus hits on banners that the visitor would never have dreamed of clicking. There are many more (pathetically shoddy) tricks of the commercial site owners... you may want to learn how to rebuke them on my javascript tricks page, or you may enjoy directly destroying (or damaging) those sites through the tricks described on my Antismut CGI-reversing pages, which will be available with the rest of my site as long as the servers where I'm hosted will be able to defend me.
This said, I could not care less about any future censorship attempt... as soon as they censor me, I'll open a new site (or even a couple of mirrors) somewhere else... the exponential growth of the Net is on my side and against all censorship attempts

Censorship on the web hydes its face (geocities: 'no links to craacking tools are allowed'), yet its real visage is easily seen by any reverser: look at cracking itself for instance: there seem to be no real problems for 'serial number' repositories or 'warez' depots, where you can find STOLEN programs for free even BEFORE they are sold in the shops (search for "warez", "gamez" and "appz" on the search engines... you'll find a million of them)... but there are on the contrary continued problems for people that TEACH you for free how those same search engines and those same programs really work.

Yet you have lost, stupid censors. The thronging masses of guinea pigs are slowly disappearing. We are the ones that are growing a generation of computer users that will KNOW (pretty well :-) what's going on inside any program, and that will be able to change them as far as they fancy, all things that Micro$oft and others DO NOT LIKE AT ALL... they would like everybody to produce "toy" applications with stupid overbloated and ineffective languages, leaving them the task (and the rewards) to program "real" applications... no, no, NO! That's incidentally also the reason WHY you should damage Micro$oft's interests wherever you can: this damaging is a good nice thing "per se", seen what they have done to us (you have to wait now up to 5 minutes to fire on a Pentium II a wordprocessor that's far inferior to the one you would have fired in 5 seconds with old dos on a 8086, for instance)

Each one of us will throw, for free, his own sand pebble inside the awful wheels of the commercial society we all live in... that's more than enough to grind it to its well deserved death.

Syn attacks against my sites (January-May 1999)

For many years my fortress has been continuously attacked by young crackers with the Billy-the-Kid syndrome ("hey, I have nuked fravia's!"). Most of these attacks were weak and easily rebuked (in some cases even punished :-) either by my system administrators or by myself. Some of them were nevertheless quite interesting and ingenious, and have been analysed in the essays that you'll find in my
porn site busting section.
In January 1999 however, a massive a well organised syn-attack against my fortress at (hosted graciously by netcafé) frigged the local router and brought the server on its knees.
The fortress was taken off until 21 april 1999
With the help of +Alistair, I went on a very difficoult hunt for my enemies, but from the few gathered pieces of the puzzle we could draw only some vague hints.
The third week of April my old fortress reopened onto a stronger server, but -once more- a massive syn-attack frigged the router after less than a week on 26 april 1999.
Since the attackers began a serie of syn-attacks against my mirrors as well (forcing the columbia university mirror to close in April 1999), some friends decided to set up a "mirror jungle". I have to thank +tsehp and Jeff (and all the others) for this endeavour, that underlined once more the superiority of our "web of knowledge and solidarity" against all commercial oriented zombies (I now know that this definition qualifies exactly my syn attackers).
You'll be able to find lists of my many mirrors (not all of them working) at Tapu's and especially at Jeff's special pages.
Some of these mirrors have been purposely set up as "lure" on locations that allowed me to triangolate my attackers.
This solution was nevertheless not very elegant, and I wanted to re-set my address on a "panzered" server. Luckily I found the help of a great wizard of old (nonetheless than Kevin!), that graciously (and cleverly) set up a very powerful multi-servers configuration just to hold my site. This new fortress has withstood so far (October 1999) all sort of vicious attacks and is being heavily guarded and defended by Kevin. At one point the attackers went so far to download microcode to a Cisco router, which is not an easy, nor very common, trick at all, but to no avail! :-)
The attacks have never stopped and are currently (October 1999) being routinely carried out, with slightly different patterns against my new fortress. As you are probably reading this on my new fortress, you can imagine how frustrated the silly syn-attackers probably are. Since we know now that the most attacks were stardet from the West coast of the States (where the attackers have been documented using 8 machines from a M$-stream at one given time :-) some visitors from that area may experience some problems (basically heavy automated trackwork :-) when accessing from West coast USA backbones (a "backbone" is the high-traffic-density connectivity portion of any communications network)
I'll publish an essay on the debunking of these attackers that should be of some interest for the whole reversing community... in fact as it appears, a part of the attackers are nothing else that commercial oriented 'mainstream' crackers... come to think of that, I should actually thank these clowns, since they gave me the opportunity to learn quite a lot of tricks I did not know of.
This is my answer to the attackers (sensible souls and minors: don't click)
my answer

And if you want to READ my answer instead (will vary every time) then click here, eheh (courtesy of Scott Pakin)
Note however, that some (non-disruptive) attacks are "nice" and extremely useful, for instance on 01 October 1999 the main page of my new fortress (index.htm) has been hacked... a nice lesson for me and Kevin... (yeah, NT-boxes are a nightmare to defend...)

<--- from fravia's own "crackers' posters" collection...

Censorships attempt and useless attacks like these do not mean nothing for me. Since I'm not making any money with my sites, I'm not loosing any either.
The nature of our web is such that knowledge will always continue to flow through it, notwithstanding advertisement, commercial interests, censoring agencies and all "special governmental bodies" attempts :-)
Fravia fluctuat nec mergitur, eheh
Specific history of the student.htm page

History of the student page and of the academy

The "Academy", started in March 1997, carries the best short essays from all +ORC's students (and other friends) and it has quickly developed in one of the most interesting places of the whole net (at least this is what people keep writing me). Reading the material offered on the academy's databases you'll gain an incredible amount of knowledge... (I myself did).
+ORC pushed my way some of the essays he had received, the other just followed once the first one were publicised... +Swann has the merit to have started the whole snowball (Swann, you'll land on all history books :-)

+ORC charged me to publish useful material for the +HCU and I believe that nothing proves the effectiveness of +ORC's teaching more than his students findings

The problem with the protections

You see, the problem with protection schemes, is their "intrinsic" nature: they have to remain 'secret' (else everybody would be able crack them...) but 'secretness' is very stupid in this new age of information... therefore the protectionists COULD NOT use (until now that is :-) the real MIGHT of Internet! They could not get in contact AND exchange their findings... building on the shoulders of others and I mean of people that THEY DO NOT EVEN KNOW TO EXIST... poor bunch of confined "I know you already" people! At most they could PGP each other some already well known tricks... everything among people they (thought they) could trust... so they never got "fresh blood" on protection work and development... But WE CAN! Alone we are nothing, but joining forces we are like fingers in a fist! (Kurt Tukolsky's image... a GREAT MIND... read his books! not easy to find, though).

And crackers are NOTHING else than the other face of protectors, of course. And the Net, despise all censorship attempts, still gives us reverse engineers PLENTY of possibilities of joining knowledge, data and forces FOR FREE! Our work is studied (and often ameliorated) by others! So crackers grow ("evil" lone wolf crackers and "good" teaching +crackers... that's just a matter of individual taste and leanings :-)
protectors grow ('greedy' protectors and "good" teaching +protectors... that's just a matter of individual taste and leanings :-) and, -at times- even mighty "tools-makers" and "reversing wizards" appear.
Anyway my page is only ONE of the many sites on the web that are giving out knowledge... and this is VERY important! Information spreading (coupled with a certain degree of anonimity :-) is ALREADY cracking the fundaments of this awful -TV drooling zombies and commercial idiots- society...
Look: as soon as people can do what they like... they do it FOR FREE, and for everybody else to enjoy... they do not do it for money... funny isn't it? But true: Look at the web! Everything is for free! Millions of hours of work by millions of people that DO NOT KNOW each other... all this developed into pages where knowledge is given away for knowledge's sake! It's incredible, but true... and all commercial attempts have (until now, let's cross finger) failed miserably because of this enormous mass of people that seems to have come from another planet!
People that do not care for money? The slave masters cannot even understand what's going on under their suspicious noses... What? People giving something away for free? What's that? What's wrong with them? Cant be true!
Poor sods! For free we give, yet not without some GREAT advantages for every one who spreads knowledge and works on it...


you see that on this very site of mine! The contributes of all others ARE advantages for each one of you... and that's exactly what the commercial minds hate... That's why our enemies keep trying to grind all Internet wheels, in order to get a "dependent" Internet, with some Micro$oft "TV-channel-MSN" awful systems and all other "push" attempts (where people will get only what the slave masters have chosen), that's the reason of much censorship and that's the reason behind all other PASSIVIZING Internet efforts they are working on... our enemies do not like at all people CHOOSING what they want, DECIDING ALONE what they would like to do, able to MODIFY (or refuse or rebuke) the technology they use everyday... our enemies need CONSUM SLAVES in order to make money... people that think are dangerous... they could even come one day to the dreadful idea to ACT POLITICALLY and put an end to an absurd society where money, not knowledge, means power (why?), where millions of human beings are closed in urban ghettos to pray on each other (and eliminate each other physically) instead of being helped to develop themselves. A ugly society where men and women are kept running inside guinea-pig wheels, idiotized by useless TV-channels that are OWNED by their masters. Our planet has been transformed in an awful place, where you are compelled to spend your whole life in order to "earn" it... where poetry and philosophy are judged irrelevant and only money (and bad taste) rule.

The "slave masters" cannot therefore understand us, they understand only the old (scary) pre-Internet world, a dim grey world of people "hiding" knowledge in order of taking advantage of it... instead of spreading it for free to anybody who cares ...

BAD LUCK! Poor stupid slave masters... You DO NOT OWN INTERNET! And therefore you have already lost! LOOK HERE! :-) Look at the intrinsic and evident "development" of the essays! Nothing on the Web demonstrates better than this the MIGHT of common people joining forces WITHOUT repulsive "sponsors", dirty "lobbies" or useless publicity ads! No money at all... yet HUNDRED of individual like us, offering away THOUSANDS of hours of (difficult) work to people that may not even care to thank... we are offering a knowledge, as you will be able to see by yourself, that you will NOT find elsewhere, no matter how much you would pay for it... therefore, see... "free" beats "commercial" in spades!
(Besides, the web was built in order to resist ATOMIC BOMBING, it will easily resist any ADVERTISEMENT BOMBING as well :-)

I like it A LOT!

A rare collector item
The collectors' sector grew more frenzied in the run up after the appearence of a rare exemplar of fravia's famous "cabezon" (main cover), composed in march 1997 by the Web-author himself. The lovely masterpiece, reproduced on the left, has been sold for $ 3.6 billions to Sotheby, a venerable British auctioneer.
The immediate and expressive approach, coupled with fantasy, inventiveness and wealth of culture is an integral part of the spirit of those times.

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"Copy-protection schemes": elegant devices for training the next generation of assembly-language programmers