[ubuntu-uk] Reverse engineering data files

Bruno Girin brunogirin at gmail.com
Sat Nov 22 23:58:00 UTC 2014


On 22 November 2014 at 22:12, Gareth France <gareth.france at cliftonts.co.uk>
wrote:

> I am a PAT tester and have found over my time in the role that the
> software is a total rip off! If you purchase a digital camera, scanner,
> webcam or anything else that interfaces with a PC you get the software to
> make it go. Spend £1,000 on a PAT tester and you are then expected to pay
> £300 on top just for the privilege of being able to download the data!
>
> The latest version of the software in question is even worse, it costs
> £109 + VAT annually! And of course it doesn't work on Linux. I have methods
> of accessing the basic data required but have just found out the latest and
> greatest machine I would love to have has several features which are only
> downloadable in their custom format which is not text readable. My machine
> has the old version of this custom format and the machine I would like uses
> a revised version. I am told it is very difficult to reverse engineer it.
>
> An example of the older file format is here:
> www.cliftonts.co.uk/SSS
>
> So my question is this, how does one go about accessing a file like this
> when they do not know the format? I have worked with text based files, CSV
> etc but never something which does not load in a text editor.
>

Load it in a hex editor like Bless Hex Editor, available in the software
centre. By doing that, you will realise that some of the data is actually
readable and that it's probably a fairly simple record format. Then it's a
case of searching for patterns of known data in the file, bearing in mind
that numeric value will be encoded in binary, as well as control characters
and suchlike.

This  SO post has a few pointers to tools that can help:
http://stackoverflow.com/questions/492751/tools-to-help-reverse-engineer-binary-file-formats

Bruno
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