"A cost analysis of Vista content protection"

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Peter Gutmann wrote:

Executive Executive Summary
---------------------------

The Vista Content Protection specification could very well constitute the longest suicide note in history.

This is bad. Vista has been crippled by its DRM. I was already convinced it was for Microsoft's benefit, not mine, but now I'll give up computer gaming before I'll run it.

My executive summary: if you run Vista, you no longer are in control of your computer. It is no longer a general-purpose computer; it has been turned into a large and expensive "Mother May I" device.

This pretty much sums it up:

"Overall, Vista's content-protection functionality seems like an astonishingly
short-sighted piece of engineering, concentrating entirely on content
protection with no consideration given to the enormous repercussions of the
measures employed. It's something like the PC equivalent of the (hastily
dropped) proposal mooted in Europe to put RFID tags into high-value banknotes
as an anti-counterfeiting measure, completely ignoring the fact that the major
users of this technology would end up being criminals who would use it to
remotely identify the most lucrative robbery targets.

The worst thing about all of this is that there's no escape. Hardware
manufacturers will have to drink the kool-aid (and the reference to mass
suicide here is deliberate [Note J]) in order to work with Vista: "There is no
requirement to sign the [content-protection] license; but without a
certificate, no premium content will be passed to the driver". Of course as a
device manufacturer you can choose to opt out, if you don't mind your device
only ever being able to display low-quality, fuzzy, blurry video and audio
when premium content is present, while your competitors don't have this
(artificially-created) problem.

As a user, there is simply no escape. Whether you use Windows Vista, Windows
XP, Windows 95, Linux, FreeBSD, OS X, Solaris (on x86), or almost any other
OS, Windows content protection will make your hardware more expensive, less
reliable, more difficult to program for, more difficult to support, more
vulnerable to hostile code, and with more compatibility problems. Because
Windows dominates the market and device vendors are unlikely to design and
manufacture two different versions of their products, non-Windows users will
be paying for Windows Vista content-protection measures in products even if
they never run Windows on them.

Here's an offer to Microsoft: If we, the consumers, promise to never, ever,
ever buy a single HD-DVD or Blu-Ray disc containing any precious premium
content [Note K], will you in exchange withhold this poison from the computer
industry? Please?"

I guess this is a good time to learn Linux, the hippie operating system.

I think I could give up gaming on the PC if this is bad enough. Truth is, the Wii holds endless promise for me. I imagine RTS games are actually doable now.

But the last game I enjoyed on the PC was Ultimate Alliance, not exactly an exclusive.

Anyway. I hope it's not as bad as they say, but DRM is one thing I hate, and I will steer clear of it, even if it means I'll live like a hermit.

edit: Can we actually *do* anything about this? Besides "Oh just don't buy it"

Tell everyone you know that Vista is crippled. It's not even as good as XP. They've done things like break echo cancellation in chat programs because you might use that function to steal sound.

They are charging you $350 to put you in handcuffs. They're shiny chrome and cool-looking, but handcuffs all the same. They're f*cking up your computer because you *might* misuse it. And the only way to make them back off is to A) not buy it, and B) make sure everyone else knows not to buy it either.

Switching to Linux is only going to be useful for a year or two. Part of this spec is that device manufacturers *must keep details of their devices secret*, which means no open source drivers. It is a gigantic power play to both destroy open source and take control of all media playback on computers at once; everyone will have to pay the Microsoft tax if they want to see 'premium content' on their computers. So you can escape for awhile, but when your computer breaks, no more Linux for you.... you won't be able to buy hardware with drivers.

But yes, telling people about why Vista is so bad will help... if Microsoft isn't selling enough copies, it makes the Vista platform less attractive for hardware makers, and may encourage them to keep some open hardware in their lineups.

Is this the DRM that everyone speaks of?

And how does using Linux help the situation? By not being able to run the DRM-encrypted "premium content" on it to begin with?

Keep in mind this is just for watching HD-DVD or Bluray movies. If you never plan on using them on your PC it won't affect you that badly, though it is still pretty bad.

Linux helps because you don't have a computer that's been made deliberately unreliable. One of the big problems here is that the drivers are supposed to monitor their devices for 'unusual behavior' and set 'tilt bits' when they see something. So a power fluctuation, a game bug, what have you... suddenly, you're 'tilted' and the computer stops working.

Computers are supposed to be at least somewhat resilient to different operating conditions... your video card may be a little out of spec in some way, but it still runs fine. Now, suddenly, being out of spec may be a sign of tampering, so your machine stops working, either partially or completely.

Linux, or one of the BSDs, or OSX, will at least not deliberately make your computer fragile to protect the interests of Hollywood.

Edwin, that's not at ALL the case. This is for all 'premium content', and premium content is whatever Microsoft says it is.

So by Premium content they mean HD content? Is Vista basically the next generation of Media Center?

Ever since XP came out with its 1-charge of Install OS, I leaned towards the anti-MS crowd, but the Xbox 360 was just too tempting to pass up. Now I'm starting to feel even more anti-MS after hearing this

I said way back then that Microsoft, by releasing Vista, will make millions of people switch to Linux the moment they drop support for the latest non-Vista OS (XP ? 2003 server ?).

Windows Vista is just a huge, huge oversight. While I could see and justify the increased system requirements in every Microsoft OS since DOS 3.1 to Windows XP, the jump between XP and Vista offers absolutely nothing new or revolutionary that would justify such bloat.

People aren't total morons. Microsoft and hardware makers made good money on increased system requirements before, but this time it will be just too blatantly obvious. Buy our fancy hybrid hard drives because our OS is just too god damn bloated to even start up on a reasonable amount of time !

Do as I already do.

Build a Windows PC for games. And absolutely nothing else. No office software installed, no media player. Only has a web browser for acquiring game patches.

Then run a Linux laptop (or get a MacBook) for actual day-to-day computing.

Well, a lot of people aren't morons, but they're ignorant of computers and if that's the way computers they are, that's the way they are, and they learn them.

And since you're gonna get Windows Vista with every new computer, I'm wondering what one can really do. I'm not a preacher, and I hate to sound like a linux hippie to other people.

This can go either way, I think. People will get used to this, or people will switch to ubuntu. Here in Mexico, most people will go for Vista, I think.

Mex, you are right, most people are just going to just roll over. The question is, if you know that you have a choice, is which choice can you stand to live with? I'm on record: Microsoft doesn't get another dime from me. I'll roll Ubuntu, I've been putting Freespire on my in-law's systems....I'm on my roof facing Redmond giving the dual bird salute.

mateo wrote:
I've been putting Freespire on my in-law's systems....

Not to hijack the thread too much, but how is that? I heard the head of Linspire on LugRadio when they announced Freespire, and he seemed to say all the right things, but I haven't seen anything on it since then (granted, I haven't been looking either)

*Legion* wrote:
mateo wrote:
I've been putting Freespire on my in-law's systems....

Not to hijack the thread too much, but how is that? I heard the head of Linspire on LugRadio when they announced Freespire, and he seemed to say all the right things, but I haven't seen anything on it since then (granted, I haven't been looking either)

It's quite good.

It's exactly right for the Windows expat set: the KDE menu has been thoroughly tamed, there are only as many applications as the basic user would need, it's very well thought out, has a nice look, and is stable.

Some of the applications (and the kernel) are a little old...frankly, I doubt anyone really cares. Unlike Ubuntu, which tries to keep up with the bleeding edge, Lin/Freespire takes the "it has to just work" approach. Nothing wrong with that.

I'm waiting for them to finish the current beta before upgrading my mother in law's PC.

Remember that you can generally stick with XP, too. If you've paid for Vista on a new computer, pirating XP so that you can actually use it properly seems entirely reasonable to me. Microsoft got paid.

Very interesting, sounds great. There is a definite need for a distro to fill that niche.

mateo wrote:
Some of the applications (and the kernel) are a little old...frankly, I doubt anyone really cares.

Not for a simple browser/email/office box, which is all most people need a computer for.

How's the pesky non-free software/codec situation?

Malor wrote:
Remember that you can generally stick with XP, too. If you've paid for Vista on a new computer, pirating XP so that you can actually use it properly seems entirely reasonable to me. Microsoft got paid.

Yeah, XP is going to be supported until when? 2012? I would argue that it is getting harder and harder to keep Vista's features out of XP. Give them time, they will release a SP or update that requires Defender, or some other piece of crap from Vista, to "secure and update your system."

*Legion* wrote:
How's the pesky non-free software/codec situation?

They ship 2 versions: one completely FOSS, and another that contains proprietary codecs and drivers. Your choice which to use.

OS X is also a perfectly good alternative for most folks. Apple is doing a little bit of DRM, basically to prevent you from running the OS on non-Apple hardware, but not very much (and it's relatively easily removed: there are a number of OSX distros out there that you can run on any recent Intel chip. AMD is harder.) There's no differentiation between bits in OSX... bits are bits as far as the OS is concerned. iTunes does some DRM, but it's easy to just not buy any DRMed tracks.... and it's not like the computer has been hijacked to make sure that iTunes tracks are uncopyable. It's just... a normal OS, that works like any sane OS would.

I'm running a Mac Pro here, and while I'm usually in Windows because of gaming, OS X is quite good after some retraining. It's a little painful for awhile, especially for us old power geeks who've been using Windows a long time, but once you're over the hump it's a very pleasant operating system. It feels a touch slower than Windows or Linux, but it's very solid on any of their Intel boxes. And you can even play WoW and Second Life on it natively.

There's an app called Parallels that will do amazing things to virtualize Windows apps. With the hardware virtualization support in the most recent chips, it FLIES. I/O is still a little slow, but run speed once things are loaded is really excellent, close to 95% as fast as native Windows.

They have a method of embedding Windows applications into your Mac so that they become a seamless part of the desktop, rather than being on a separate 'Windows screen'. It's actually running in a separate virtual machine, but it looks like just another standard window. You can even have dock icons for your Windows apps.

Doesn't work well for games, though. They claim that they will eventually be able to virtualize the graphic hardware to support gaming, but honestly... that's something I'll believe when I see. That's HARD. And I have no idea if they can support DirectX that way, it might be OpenGL only.

One possible problem: I'm concerned that this Vista move may lock Apple out of the driver market just as effectively as Linux.

I'm looking at OSX as a possibility....WoW runs on OSX, and that is my digital crack of choice. Then again, it also runs on Cedega, although I bet it's much purtier on a Mac.

I'm going to send a copy of this link into the Windows Weekly podcast and see if they're willing to talk about it. In their almost universal praise of Vista, it's DRM is something they've been quietly dodging around.

mateo wrote:
*Legion* wrote:
How's the pesky non-free software/codec situation?

They ship 2 versions: one completely FOSS, and another that contains proprietary codecs and drivers. Your choice which to use.

HALLELUJAH

A very simple, very obvious way of appeasing both the hardliners and the more flexible users that want Flash MP3, etc.

Parallax Abstraction wrote:
I'm going to send a copy of this link into the Windows Weekly podcast and see if they're willing to talk about it. In their almost universal praise of Vista, it's DRM is something they've been quietly dodging around.

It's Paul Thurrott, Professional Windows Cheerleader. Don't count on it. He could embarrass Steve Ballmer with his unabashed, unshakable Windows enthusiasm.

I think I'll have to look into Apple, also. They're allright I guess.

I myself recently switched over to Kubuntu, not as an out-cry against Vista, but more as an outcry against not needing Windows anymore (my hardware is pretty low-tech, hence, no gaming.) After messing around a bit, i'm more than satisfied with it, it would almost please me to see Vista go down in flames just so I don't have to dual-boot.

Do you think something of this nature could get Microsoft noticed again by Congress? (iE Anti-Trust laws?)

mateo: the only real drawback to running WoW on OSX is that you don't get surround sound. Macs don't seem to do multichannel sound, from what I've been able to determine. Some people have told me that they're capable and that WoW will support it, but I haven't seen any USB adapters that would work. (most Macs don't have slots).

Other than that, it's pretty much seamless. The most recent WoW builds take advantage of the new multithreaded OpenGL code in the Mac Pros, and folks say it's amazingly fast. That code should come to the other dual-core systems when the next version of the OS ships.

On the Mac Pro, for Windows gaming, I use a USB Turtle Beach Audio Advantage Roadie. It only has Windows drivers, but does very nice surround sound. I have to reset it (unplug/plug cycle) every couple of days, but it's been otherwise great. I presume it would work equally nicely for any other Mac running Windows.

Remember, folks, XP is still fine... you don't have to instantly switch or anything. Just don't buy Vista.

Oh, and as far as antitrust goes: not while Bush is in office. By the time the new elections come around, it will be too late. We'll have to handle this ourselves.

Oh, edit to add: Full Screen Glow in WoW really hurts frame rates on the Mac, for whatever reason. Leave that off.

The problem with not buying Vista is that all the OEMs are going to be selling it and everyone who wants to buy their crappy HP, Gateway, eMachines or Dell system will get it whether they want it or not. Therefore, Microsoft and the record/movie industry will get their draconian DRM in the world and it will gain acceptance. It's fine for us enthusiasts to not buy it, but people in general need to know what they are getting themselves into. It looks like I won't be able to send my query to Windows Weekly. You can't use the forums unless you donate to the TWIT network and I stopped donating when they started incorporating multi-minute advertisements in their shows. If anyone is still donating, make sure to point this article out to them.

All I really want from Windows is DirectX. If we could get that going for Linux, I'd be happy.

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