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And on the 8th day, God saw Examsoft, and it was not good...

So your friendly neighborhood tempter in training is spending part of his day today hacking Examsoft. Or rather, that's a colorable interpretation of his actions.

More specifically, I'm playing around with alternate shells to Windows XP, because I like the way that some of the shells at Deviant Art look, and I'm feeling insufficiently vain about my current desktop setup. Specifically, I'm looking at Deviant Art's BlackBox gallery, for the popular BlackBox shell. (The other option is Aston. Any recommendations are welcome.)

My thought is that it's completely possible to make either of these shells look exactly like the standard Windows interface, but with a bit of tweaking, allow ExamSoft to load whilst enabling Alt-Tab-style switching. Which, of course, would defeat the entire purpose of the program. As long as I'm going to all the trouble of trying to implement a new shell, I might as well see if bugger up the software.

Now why would a rule fetishist like myself want to break ExamSoft, and even more so, why would I admit to it? Well, first of all, near as I can tell I'm not violating any rules. I'm just implementing a shell and making sure all my software still works: certainly the ExamSoft users agreement can't forbid that. But more to the point, I'm doing it because if I can publish a workaround that makes ExamSoft useless, Columbia might just decide to junk the piece of software I want least on my computer.

Ever since I've installed ExamSoft, I've experienced some system instability that I really despise. I can't tell exactly what it changed when it installed, but I have a feeling that it's one of those, "This won't cause problems on a standard machine, but if you've modded anything, good luck" programs. My machine is heavily modified.

And now ExamSoft has made my life even more difficult. I've switched over the language options on my machine so that the default non-Unicode code page is Japanese, the date and time settings are Japanese, the Office XP language is Japanese... basically conviced my machine that all it needs to be a Japanese version of Windows XP is change its Passport. (Sorry, bad techie pun.) But near as I can tell, this means that ExamSoft is going to encode any exam I take in the wrong codepage, and thus may not decrypt correctly when Columbia tries to read the exam floppy.

Trouble is, I can't tell. I know that when I encode two test exams with different Unicode code pages, I get different encryptions even though I have the same text in the exams. But I can't tell if this is a function of the code page, or merely ExamSoft's encryption method. But I don't feel like finding out in the exam itself.

So... if it does appear that the my shell shift will break ExamSoft, I'll be sure to publish it here.

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Comments

Tony, If I recall correctly, there was something in the user agreement about this. Also, keep in mind it was our wonderfully representative student senate that insisted we keep Crapsoft on our computers.
I'd agree there would be, if I were actually setting out to break Exam Soft through some form of reverse engineering. However, I refuse to believe that any user agreement can keep me from: (a) trying to confirm what files Exam Soft has screwed w/ on my hard drive; (b) prevent me from installing a shell; or (c) prevent me from changing my base language. That's pretty much all I'm doing. As for the Student Senate deciding to keep Exam Soft... well, mine is not to question their wisdom, I suppose. I wonder if someone's ever run on an anti-Exam Soft platform?
Now, Ignorance of the Law is still generally no excuse, but have you found some exception for "I refuse to believe"? Cause there's lots of law I'd like to refuse to believe in! (I have not and will not read the agreement for Exams Soft--but your refusal to do so on "common sense" grounds is truly charming). Best of luck bringing down that particular Evil Empire! W
Fr. Bill: Yeah, I'm hoping that a court would buy an unconscionability argument based upon a contract of adhesion. After all, it is a form contract with no bargaining allowed. And the actions given above are either (a) completely legitimate user actions, such as selecting one's own shell, or (b) totally legitimate user attempts to error-check his computer due to the preceding actions. If I were reverse-engineering source code, I'd be worried, but otherwise I'm just hoping unconscionability saves me. :)
(1) I'd like to blame ExamSoft for the punctuation errors in my last comment. (2) If there is a relationship for jurors between "inscrutability" and "unconscionability" you should have no problem winning this argument. But as you probably learned in your contracts class as well, nearly all technology adhesion agreements include arbitration clauses, on the presumption that arbitrators have fewer qualms of conscience, one surmises. (3) I can't wait to see your Blog Posting next semester when they have to pull an Japanese Exam off of your hard drive after a floppy failure... (4) Cheers!
Oh, have mercy, don't even think it. They've already have to pull one off my hard drive because the floppy disk failed. :(
Thank goodness Northwestern uses just word processor documents for papers. I can use my mac and type out an exam with MANY fewer typos thanks to Word's autocorrection! YAY No ExamSoft for me!
I've heard that ExamSoft has a wireless option, and I hope that it does because I don't want to have to lug around an external 3.5" floppy drive to take exams. (Not that any of this is relevant to your argument, just that it came to mind while reading this.)
God I hope you make this work. I HATE SofTest with a passion and hope that you can take it and ExamSoft as a company down in flames!

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