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Thursday, May 17, 2007

First look at MOKA5 - not impress

A colleague of mine drew my attention to this little seemingly cute piece of software called MOKA5, which was touted to allow you to carry the OS around in your portable devices, such a USB drive, etc.

It also has a familiar name called LivePC, which UBuntu uses to allow potential users to boot the machine up on a CD ROM to have a taste of UBuntu prior to committing oneself. This is a very nice feature but don't let the UBuntu's LivePC be confused with this LivePC.

To be a true portable piece of software for portable device, it has to
  1. behave something like Torpark, Portable FileZilla, or anything from Portable.com that you do not need to install anything in a pc.
  2. that, it must be able to run in LUA because you do not have administrative rights in Internet Cafe, public PC or corporate desktop.
These are my guidelines to evaluate this product.

So what better person to check this out than a LUA-devotee. To save you from the suspense, I can tell you that I am sorely disappointed because this thing will not run without administrator privileges. So it is wrong for calling this a piece of software for portable devices.

Below are some of the investigation into why it needs administrator's privilege and that it is not a software for portable device or portable software.

At the core of it, is that it demands administrative rights to start LivePC, even after installation. Hence it fails the above 2 conditions completely.

Evaluation of the product

The installation of the downloaded package livepcengine-setup-1.0.8949.exe proceeded fine in LUA because I was installing this to a portable device. However, it was stopped because I was installing this to a portable hard drive with NTFS and standard user did not have rights to create files in the root directory.

This program placed autorun.inf, m5launch.exe, m5launch.log, and m5uninstall.exe in the root directory. To help this program to install and to learn what else this needed, I decided to open up the ACL for this to allow user full rights to the root directory - dangerous but what the hack.

It also created the mok5 directory and placing "program files" and "document and settings" underneath it. Of course they did not possess the same ACLs as the real ones.

Since I'd developed a healthy distrust of autorun even prior to the Sony Rootkit saga, I did not have to eject and reattach that drive to fire up the autorun. It wouldn't work anyway.

When I ran m5launch.exe manually, it told me that it needed administrative rights to install VMWare Player. Oops! The penny dropped. Could this be just a dodgy way of running VMWare Player, which was free, and a way to hoodwink people into subscribing the VMWare images? What is the license implication of the OS in those images?

Anyway, of course it did not start and I thought it must be because I did not have VMWare Player installed. At this point it became very clear that this was not a portable software, even ignoring the security demands. Or even software for portable devices.

It should be 'installed' (almost like xcopy) onto a portable device, plugged that device into any machine and it should run without any problem, even in LUA. But this thing would not meet this demand.

Since I was interested to see what it was doing, I ran the m5launch.exe from an administrator's account and this triggered the installation of VMWare Player. I could watch before my eyes with Process Explorer the installation and starting of the following services:
  • VMNet.exe
  • VMNetDhcp.exe
  • VMWare-authd.exe
They were required to provide internet connectivity. Without them started LivePC would still start, of course in administrator's account, albeit without network connectivity.

Eventually, LivePC fearless browser came up and inviting me to participate to a survey. Of course why would I miss an opportunity to provide some truly garbage!

The other thing that I dislike LivePC's installation was that it forcefully installed the VMWare Player to my C:\.

The other area that I thought LivePC did poorly was that it could not run in LUA. There did not appear to have good reason requiring administrative rights after everything was installed. VMWare Player ran fine in LUA. Streaming down image from their server should work in LUA, if you avoided writing to the real "Program Files" or updating HKLM.

I did not have any trouble running VPC or VMWare to host OS in my standard user account, including creating images. Perhaps the LivePC developers should try to develop this in non-admin account and it might then be able to run in LUA.

When I finally terminated the LivePC it asked me if I wanted to uninstall VMWare Player. I presumed it would do that cleanly if I said yes but I did not.

The bottom line is that, it is no different than you carrying around VMWare images on a memory stick and run it on a PC with VMWare player installed. It is NOT a portable solution or solution for mobile warrior.

Time to uninstall this thing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Right on! I have tried testing Moka5 for 3 months now & they just don't seem to get it. I have NEVER gotten this to work, on any of my WinXP or Vista machines. I've also had the erstwhile experience of getting to meet some of the engineering team & none of them have any experience shipping commercial software before (all Stanford Ph.D's). They're super cocky & continue to be oblivious to the fact that VMWare is going to squash them.

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