Protecting Sample Programs

So, here it is, Christmas Vacation. In a few days (on the 2nd), the final two weeks of the semester will begin at my school.

Now, I’ve got a Visual Basic Programming class, and traditionally, this is the time when I start a Final Project. This project is supposed to bring all the skills that the students (should have) learned during my class: objects, variables, loops, decisions, subs / functions, arrays, and files. I’ve found that final projects are far more enjoyable than final exams, from both the students’ and my perspectives. Especially when I allow them to choose (within reason) their own project assignment. Quite often, understandably, students will write a game.

As many out there know, one of my favorite pastimes is writing game programs. Mostly to see if I can set a challenge and accomplish it, but also because I like (or often times "liked") one particular game, and therefore recreate it on my own. I’ve got quite a library of these, and many of my students over the years have played and enjoyed them.

Now that I’m approaching the start of the final projects, and I’d love to put my library out for all to enjoy, but I run into an interesting quandary: How can I, or even should I, limit the students’ ability to copy my games? A few years back I put one such game on a network drive at school, and months later found that most of the students in one class copied to their own network drive, and even discovered a score-enhancing bug in the code by playing it extensively.

This leads me to my current line of thought of a copy-protection scheme. The older members of the audience might recall the hubbub that these things caused in the 80’s, mostly because the schemes tended to punish the valid users more than the pirates! But since there "shouldn’t be" any valid users out there, I could insert a simple check for a certain file in the .EXE’s folder, and to pop-up a blurb of "Sorry, Mr. I doesn’t want you to play this game without his permission" message. This way, any of my students could see and play the games to their heart’s content, but if they "accidentally" put the game on a USB drive or EMailed it home, it would politely not work.

Or would this be too petty / annoying / ridiculous to consider? I’d appreciate your thoughts.

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About Mr. I

After 17 years as a PC Software Engineer I gave it all up in 2000 to become a High School Computer Teacher
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