Sunday, December 19, 2010

Viral marketing: the truth behind the .wwf format

What really baffled me the last few weeks is why the WWF insisted on using their driver, although I demonstrated more than once that print-disabled PDF's can serve the same purpose. Why would they alienate the paper industry when there are more than enough really environmentally dangerous industries around. Why would they lie about its effects on rain forests - since most paper comes from tree farms.

Well, it became clear to me when I watched this video:

The driver does not just disable printing it also adds an extra page to the end of the document. They say it's there "just to inform the receiver", but I don't buy it. Marketing, that's what it is really all about. Every time you make and spread a .wwf file, you are making publicity for the WWF. Bottomline.

It gives me an eery feeling. Does it just "phone home" in order to check for "updates" or does it report how many digital advertisements have been spread the last week? It makes you wonder..

Update: According to GizMag the WWF has admitted it is all about viral marketing:
WWF Germany says that the campaign is meant to be viral and an extra page tagged onto each new format document will help introduce new users to the campaign and encourage awareness about how we use paper in our digital lives. If you don't want this extra page added to catalogs, official documents, CV's and so on then you'll need to choose another method of saving files and run the risk that such things may end up in a print queue somewhere.

This also proves the WWF is not too shy to bluntly lie. As I have demonstrated numerous times it is perfectly feasible to create a PDF that cannot be printed.

Update: It's not the first time WWF has launched a disastrous campaign. Remember this beauty?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

How to create a .wwf file (without that driver)
Anyone with can make .wwf files without any additional software. Simply choose: File/Export as PDF. Then turn to the Security tab. Fill in a "permissions" password and disable printing:

Generate your file as usual. Finally, rename it to .wwf.

You can make .wwf files by installing the PDF toolkit. Generate your PDF file as usual. Then open a DOS window and issue:
pdftk myfile.pdf output myfile.wwf owner_pw secret allow CopyContents

For those who don't like to use the CLI, you can download my .wwf toolkit. The installation manual is here.

You can make .wwf files by installing the PDF toolkit, but note that it is included in most distributions as well (pdftk). Generate your PDF file as usual. Then open a console and issue:
pdftk myfile.pdf output myfile.wwf owner_pw secret allow CopyContents

For those who don't like to use the CLI, you can download my .wwf toolkit.

OS/X 10.6 and above
You can make .wwf files by installing the PDF toolkit. Generate your PDF file as usual. Then open a console and issue:
pdftk myfile.pdf output myfile.wwf owner_pw secret allow CopyContents

There have also been unconfirmed reports that you can create an "unprintable" PDF file by using the standard OS/X PDF printer and simply change the security settings. Makes you wonder why the WWF brought out an OS/X version in the first place..

The .wwf toolkit can probably be ported to OS/X as well. If you want to help, please leave a message in the comments.

How to print (or unlock) a .wwf file

You can unlock your .wwf files here (up to 5 MB) or here (up to 95 MB). This one is even dedicated to .wwf files, which is hilarious!

Install Ghostscript on Windows and create this simple batchfile:
set ttt=%1
set tt=%ttt:~0,-4%
gswin32c -dSAFER -dBATCH -dNOPAUSE -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -sFONTPATH=%windir%/fonts;xfonts;. -sPDFPassword= -dPDFSETTINGS=/prepress -dPassThroughJPEGImages=true -sOutputFile="%tt%_noPW.pdf" "%1"

Save it as crackwwf.bat. Now open a DOS window and issue:
crackwwf protected.wwf

Unconfirmed, but it makes sense. Please put any corrections in the comments. For those who don't like to use the CLI, you can download my .wwf toolkit. The installation manual is here.

If you just want to print a .wwf you have to install GSview as well. Start it, load your .wwf file and simply print it.

Install Ghostscript and poppler-tools which most distributions carry. Then issue:
pdftops Presseinfo_SAVE_AS_WWF_-_SAVE_A_TREE.wwf
ps2pdf crack.pdf

You can also download my .wwf toolkit, which comes with a GUI. If you open it with KGhostview you can print it without any conversion at all:

The .wwf toolkit can probably be ported to OS/X as well. If you want to help, please leave a message in the comments.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

World Wildlife Fund .wwf format cracked!

(Quick links to printing, unlocking and creating .wwf files.)

I heard about the new .wwf format this morning. It is an initiative of the World Wildlife Fund to prevent people printing PDF files. As a matter of fact, it is an encrypted PDF format with the "printing" flag disabled.

Of course, everybody wants to save the environment. I, for instance, print very little. I have a Linux BeBook to carry my documents along when I attend meetings and my ancient HP Laserjet 4p is on its second cartridge.

But I don't like it when people are forbidding me something. It is sending the wrong message. Just like that 10:10 campaign which suggested that if you don't participate, you're up for elimination (yes, you can try to eradicate this movie from the web, but so far I've always been able to track it down again. But keep up the good work, I love outsmarting you!).

So I set out to crack it. First step, I simply opened it with KGhostview. You may use any GhostScript viewer for that matter, but this one was simply available. Surprise, I was able to print it right away.

Still, this only fixes the problem for the receiver of the file. If you want to send it to someone else and enable him to print the file, the problem remains.

Simply issue these commands:
pdftops Presseinfo_SAVE_AS_WWF_-_SAVE_A_TREE.wwf
ps2pdf crack.pdf

The resulting file is a true PDF and fully printable. In the meanwhile, I've embedded this procedure in the .wwf toolkit, so if you happen to use Linux or Windows you're lucky.

Ok, now go figure another way to save the world. This is certainly not a good thing to spend your donors money on.

Update: This WWF gadget becomes more pathetic by the minute. Many wonder why they didn't bring out a Windows version. Easy, the output is generated by the default OS/X 10.6.4 Quartz PDFContext engine. Windows doesn't feature such an engine, so they would have to add one. The few FOSS Windows PDF writers I am familiar with all use the GhostScript engine, so keep your eyes open. We might have a GPL violation on our hands before we know it.

Update: The futility of this initiative is illustrated by this video:

I always loved Penn & Teller!

Update: Members of the FOSS community, who also participate in the WWF, have sent the following letter:
With regard to your WWF file format. You need to be aware that this "file format" is in fact merely an encrypted .PDF file, with the print flag set to false (so the document can't be printed).

What you should also be aware of is that any documents saved in this document "format" are trivially printable.

Yes, trivially printable.

All one needs do is open the document use The Free Open Source Software application GhostScript on Linux, and print the document. GhostScript by default ignores the Print Flag, and allows all documents opened with it to be printed.

You should also e aware that most of the free (as in no cost) PDF viewers for Mac and Windows, use the Free Open Source GhostScript back end, so they too will ignore the Print Flag.

Because your so called file format is in actuality simply a PDF document with a different file extension it is also trivially easy to create documents that look like your so called document format, but which don't function in the same way (ie the print flag not being set to false), which could lead to further degrading of your good name... as if this bit of silliness, and gross waste of your supporters money has not already done so, at least among myself and my friends, who have up until now been strong supporters of WWF

If you really want to make a strong statement about conserving trees, reducing landfill (with toxic waste, like old computer parts) etc. Start promoting strongly the use of Free Software (FOSS) and the Linux Operating System for personal Computers.

Free Open Source Software and particularly Linux based Operating Systems (such as Fedora, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Mandriva, openSuSe, PCLinuxOS, etc) are exceptionally Eco Friendly, because unlike their proprietary counterparts they do not arbitrarily change in ways that require, for example; the purchase of a new computer, thus making the old on redundant, and no longer usable (and eventually having it scrapped, and the parts sent to landfills), because Linux based Operating Systems will still function well, often exceptionally, on computer hardware that is 5 or 10, or even more, years old - that's a lot of computer hardware that would otherwise have ended up in landfills, and it's a lot of computer hardware that doesn't need to be manufactured.

Our (myself and my friends) support of WWF is now, in light of your wastage, and frankly, quite silly solution to reducing deforestation, contingent on your actually doing and recommending sustainable, and effective means of reducing deforestation and toxic landfill.

Please consider this letter carefully.

I honestly hope this is the end of this fruitless initiative.

Update: Obviously, the administrator of the Facebook page cannot distinguish between making it and breaking it. To prove my point, I posted a valid .wwf file, made by using standard Linux tools. "Wired" also mentioned it, not too favorably. Read the comments on that page for yourself.

Update: Proof that the WWF was deliberately out to frustrate less savvy users (Translated from German):

That's what it's all about. Of course you can specify that a PDF cannot to be printed. However, many people are not familiar with this feature. But those who are not computer savvy should be made aware of their choices.

It's about as ethical as a car manufacturer who disconnects a cable to "raise awareness" of carbon emissions. Real petrolheads can reconnect such a cable in an instance while ordinary users are left frustrated. Deliberately preying on the ignorance of people is simply despicable.

Update: People are wondering why I did it and why I'm so persistent.
Everywhere charity organizations like WWF are getting less donations. Consequence is that they're getting more aggressive and are shoving their ideology down our throats.

It may be obvious that the ideas of WWF in this respect and FOSS are incompatible. It is the duty of the FOSS community to expose this scam and provide alternatives to give users back the control over their computers, so they can use it in any way they see fit.

Furthermore, it exposes how the WWF are using their precious funds for a cause that is highly debatable in itself. We hope this will deter other organizations to walk similar paths.

That's why.

Update: There have been unconfirmed messages on the Facebook page that the OS/X version of the WWF driver "phones home". Is the WWF spreading spyware? And if it isn't, why doesn't it ask permission first - like any decent program?

Update: It is confirmed by WWF that the OS/X driver "phones home". Allegedly only to check for a new version. The program did not explicitly ask permission when it was installed, neither did it inform the user in any way, form or shape of this behavior. It cannot be disabled.

Update: The best tip of 'em all. How to remove the driver from OS/X. There's no uninstall option, but it's simple:
Delete /Applications/SAVE AS
Delete /Library/PDF Services/SAVE AS WWF

Finished. The world is safe again. If you're lucky.. If not, maybe this helps.

Update: Bad news for the "Save as WWF" campaign. According to it has caused a rift within the WWF itself. WWF International director of corporate relations Maria Boulos warned that the campaign was "misleading" and might "cost them a partnership in France". Boulos requested that the english-language site be shut down "immediately and temporarily" until the necessary amendments could be made.

Update: Yup, it has entered Wikipedia, featuring yours truly. Note I had nothing to do with it. Just added a few missing citations.