Sunday, January 14, 2007

Definition of stupid

Content protection is good, right? I mean, you don't want people to gain access to what's on your system: your banking details, your personal notes, your passwords. And we all know that Windows is like an open door for hackers, so we welcome Microsoft's measures to protect content, don't we?

Well, no we don't. It turns out that Vista will not be concerned with your passwords, which will be accessible as ever. What it is concerned with is Hollywood movies. Vista's copy-protection measures are astonishing, extremely intrusive and resource-hogging. (And if hardware manufacturers do not comply, their cards will only be able to display low-quality video and audio. The difficulties of complying are enormous and will be very costly to the manufacturers, which means costly to you and me. In effect, we will pay for Hollywood to protect its movies from ourselves. And that includes even those who don't use Vista, because manufacturers won't be making separate cards for other systems.) They will make Vista a nightmare to use. The document I link speculates on Microsoft's motives, which need investigating, because on the face of it, a software company has no good reason to do the bidding of content providers. What's it to Microsoft that I steal a movie from Warner Bros? Why is it important enough to them that they have designed an OS that may not even be able to play the content it is protecting? (Read the section on playing uncompressed content.)

Curiously, as the document also points out, the main benefactors will not be customers or even the content providers, but the pirates. And the Chinese, one supposes. Because your flash new telly and DVD player will not work with Vista to play new-generation DVDs, but the Chinese knockoff, which fakes or simply endruns the copy-protection elements, will. And the hugely complicated copy-protection architecture will be cracked in about three minutes by a schoolboy cleverer than the entire team at Microsoft.


At 9:38 am, Blogger Sour Grapes said...

While it's true that it'll be hacked in minutes, that doesn't mean it still won't affect the sort of people who are wary about using tools from hackers or crackers or whatever they're calling themselves. There are people who are law-abiding to the extent of abiding by rules that are not even laws. And then they'll hear about how the recording industry goons are already taking people to court for ripping CDs and they'll shut up and do as Gates says. And that's why he should be stopped before he goes any further.

At 9:43 am, Blogger Dr Zen said...

Absolutely right. Worst of all, ordinary Joes are going to be sitting there with thousands of dollars of machinery that never seems to work quite correctly but they cannot figure out why. It will all report itself as working properly and Vista (or Media Centre or whatever Windows product you use to sync your home theatre) will be degrading it because of a fluctuation in voltage, or because the driver for one component is not compliant or because it's Tuesday.


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