May 3, 2007

Boosting Joost

Over at LinkedIn, where I’m a member, I heard about this new service called Joost. It was still in beta but the aim of the service was to provide television on demand, for free, to all users via the Internet. Sounded like a good idea to me and so I wanted to join in and see what the service was like.

Only thing is, Joost is in beta at the moment, as I mentioned, and you needed an invite from an existing member to get in. Fortunately, LinkedIn members were there to help 🙂 Mat Morrison from digital marketing strategists, RMM London had some invites available and was kind enough to send one my way when I asked over at his blog. (Incidentally, I’ve got invites now and if you want one, ask away – you might have to link back to me but I’ll give you an invite :))

The Joost download was not very big and the install went through fine. The video streaming is pretty good, even with the crappy broadband connection you get here in Sri Lanka. The playback is a bit choppy but since Joost appears to cache the program as it is being downloaded, you can simply let it play in the background at the standard choppy rate (if your Net connection is as bad as mine that is) and then play it back when it has a good chunk downloaded.

Actually, the caching goes beyond that. Let’s say you shut Joost down while you were in the middle of playing a show or a song. The next time you connect to Joost, it will continue on from where you left off and it appears to have the cache for the segment you already downloaded intact. I liked that because I can watch a long show without having to go through the download again 🙂

There’s some Indian content on Joost as well and so I’m getting my Hindi music fix :p They even have a couple of shows from the Sci-Fi channel (not available in the US or Canada via Joost though) but that’s where I ran into my first snag. I’m not sure if it’s a Joost issue, a Vista issue at my end or something else (like not enough disk space) but everytime I tried to cache one of the Sci-Fi channel shows, Joost would crash out half-way through. Hopefully, they get that kind of thing sorted out (if it’s a Joost issue) and I can enjoy my television to the max 🙂

Note: If you want a Joost invite, you will need to let me know both your first name and last name as well a valid e-mail address since Joost requires these things to send out an invite. (You don’t have to put the e-mail address in the comment – if you give your valid e-mail address when posting the comment, I’ll be able to get that even though it’s not displayed along with your comment.) If you don’t want to leave those details in a comment, please e-mail me directly 🙂

Due to the number of people asking for invites without providing the details requested above, please note that I’ll be ignoring any requests without all the necessary details.

May 2, 2007

Putting the zing back in sting …

Recently, I’ve been running across a supposedly new compression format over and over again. The format? WinZix or rather, .ZIX files. The name and the extension seems to indicate that they are trying to capitalize on WinZip’s popularity and market share. Their website claims that they have the "ultimate compression". The truth? Now that’s a bit more tricky :p

When I first heard about WinZix, being the software junkie that I am, I was tempted to download it and try it out. However, the name and the way it was branded made me hesitate. I decided to check it out first. There wasn’t much online about WinZix though. There were people claiming that it contained trojans and that it messed up their systems. There were others claiming that it didn’t compress any files at all and in fact, it increased the size of a file that was compressed with it. However, these were all claims made on the Net and you know how that goes :p

So, I downloaded a .ZIX file myself – not the program but a file supposedly compressed with WinZix. I then opened the file in a hex editor and noticed that it had a file header which identified it as a WinZix file. But what was more interesting was to see a ZIP file header a few bytes further in from the WinZix file header 🙂

Now, most files contain a file header (or a signature) which identifies the file type and allows the corresponding program to determine whether it’s a file format that the program works with. I knew the ZIP signature since I’d worked with ZIP files before. Being paranoid by nature, a thought flashed into my mind at this point – what if the WinZix folks weren’t actually compressing files but taking standard Zip files and wrapping it with a new header so that WinZip (or any other program working with Zip files) will not see it as a Zip file?

I decided to test out this theory. I deleted the first six or seven bytes from the WinZix file, removing the WinZix header but leaving the ZIP header/signature intact. I then tried to open the file in WinRAR (which supports ZIP format) and it opened up fine and I was able to extract the contents of the ZIP file.

So there you have it 🙂 WinZix is really a phoney. It doesn’t actually compress any files and certainly might have trojans or backdoor programs or viruses embedded in. Or it might simply be a way to cash in on people’s gullibility and make some cash since apparently they do say that they include adware in their EULA. Whatever else it might be, a compression program it is not :p

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Posted by Fahim at 7:10 am  |  15 Comments