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What can I do?
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Version October 2000

What can I do?
(two tools for seekers)
by Shoki

I am moved. Shoki "figured it oughta be easy to write a program that parsed everything out, so (he) sat down to write one" wish that one reader out of hundred would do that. I am moved. Read and understand why.

What can I do?

Well I sent an email to Fravia+ letting him know about 2 programs I had written. He asked if I would write a short introduction to them for his site. Wow! On the one hand I was honored that I actually got a response from him. On the other, I didn't really want to have to sit down and write something about my programs.

I got to thinking about why I wrote these programs, what they do, why I emailed Fravia+ about them and lots of similar thoughts. (basically I was procrastinating and trying to put off something I didn't really want to do) But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I needed to write this and maybe I might even end up with a usable essay.

It started about a year ago when I first ran across PCHelp's web page on "How to obscure any URL" (Fravia+ has this page mirrored on his site). I had run across obfuscated URLs as links in webpages, but I never knew you could obfuscate the ip. This turned out to be very useful, because the sysadmin at work didn't block hex, oct or dword ips until the middle of this last summer. The thing that caught my eye tho was the phrase on the page that said "I know of no DOS or Windows program made specifically to do a dword conversion" At the time I was plyaing with Visual Basic because I needed some things done for an install I was writing that the install program couldn't handle. I figured this could be a good learning experience, and sat down to write a dword<>ip converter.

Ok, by now you're asking yourself "Where the heck is he going with this?" Well, the title of this essay is "What can I do?", this is a very interesting, powerful phrase. The meaning varies depending on the usage. Follow along and we'll see if I ramble like an idiot or maybe actually have a point to make.

As I was saying, I started writing a dword<>ip converter and soon added the ability to convert hex and oct too. Now why was I writing this program? Well I wanted to see if I had the ability to do it. I also figured it would be a good learning experience. Was I planning to release this program to the world? No.

While I was finishing up the program I thought back to PChelp's page and remembered that the ip conversion was only half the battle. The other half was to be able to take an obfuscated URL and see where it was really going. So I figured I would make my program have 2 functions. The first would take a decimal ip and show the corresponding dword, hex and oct addresses. The second would take an obfuscated URL like


and turn it into a readable format.


In order to define some rules for the program, I ran URLomatic, a cgi script that does what I was attempting to write for the PC, many times using examples from PChelp's page and many I made up. This also let me make sure my program was giving the same results. (Hey this kinda sounds like reverse engineering :)

I finally finished my program and was rather proud of it. I wanted people to see it, but I didn't want to put up a web page to announce it to the world. I contemplated sending it anonymously to Fravia+, but he had just frozen his fortress. So what did I do with it? You guessed it, nothing, nada, zip, zilch, it sat on my harddrive.

Well this spring rolls around and I stumble across Fravia+'s new site, Searchlores.org. Now the farthest thing on my mind was my program. I was thinking, cool more learning material! One day I saw Dark Wyrm's essay on MapQuest reversing. He explained how he broke down the cgi string to see what variables were being sent and with what values. I hadn't used VB for a while, but I figured it oughta be easy to write a program that parsed everything out, so I sat down to write one.

It started out simple, just read the URL and parse out the variables, but, like most programs, there were some enhancements I felt it needed. So I added some features to it. The program stores the variables and their values in different ini files, one for each search engine, and a main one listing the search engines and their "query keys" I called them query keys because I was using altavista to test my program, and they use "query?" to signify, you guessed it, a query.

The program acts as a collector of variables for your search strings. If you know the name and possible values for the variables of a specific search engine, or just want to enter your own to test, you can just edit the search engine's ini file. You can also launch your test urls in your default browser (Opera of course :)

So now that I've finished this program, I get to thinking "Boy now I have 2 programs that someone might find of use, what can I do with them?" Well after letting them both sit around for couple more months, I finally put up a rather small web page for the programs, but I didn't actually upload the programs. Why? Because I was scared someone might actually download them!, haha.

I saw that Fravia+ was back and updating his sight with new material. After some more hemming and hawing, I finally decided I needed to actually upload my programs to my web page, and send them to +Fravia, so I did.

Now we come full circle. Back to the beginning. What can I do?

Well it turns out more than I thought. I wrote 2 tools, and this essay. I think the important thing is I finally kicked myself in the butt and made myself answer that question, what can I do? I can contribute.

The two tools

[mysearch.zip]: ~ 20233 bytes [urlcalc.zip]: ~ 43844 bytes

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