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DRM Reduces Battery Life 296

gr8_phk writes "An interesting article over at C|Net claims that playing DRMed music can reduce battery life up to 25 percent. Yet another reason to stick with plain old MP3 files." From the article: "Those who belong to subscription services such as Napster or Rhapsody have it worse. Music rented from these services arrive in the WMA DRM 10 format, and it takes extra processing power to ensure that the licenses making the tracks work are still valid and match up to the device itself. Heavy DRM not only slows down an MP3 player but also sucks the very life out of them."
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DRM Reduces Battery Life

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  • by GillBates0 (664202) on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:16PM (#14944879) Homepage Journal
    In addition to sucking the life out of batteries, DRM has been recently found to cause cancer, kill puppies and make Baby Jesus cry.

    More on these exciting discoveries at 11 (TM).

    • DRM has gone... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ndtechnologies (814381) on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:25PM (#14944948)
      DRM has gone from Suck to Blow. Really, this isn't suprising. If DRM increases the amount of processing needed to play the file, of course it's going to drain the battery. Solution? Don't use DRM, or don't buy music from stores that do use it.
      • Re:DRM has gone... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by soft_guy (534437)
        Or strip the DRM off the files. You can do that with iTunes simply by burning the music to a CD and then ripping the CD. Or you can use PlayFair (Hymm).
        • Meh, what a waste of a CD. And time. I suppose maybe if I can get up a virtual drive as an image writer and then go back through and rip it, it'd be something. But meh, I'll stick to, uhh, other acquisitions. As to Playfair/(j)HYMN, I hope you bought your tracks with iTunes 5 or earlier.
          • Meh, what a waste of a CD. And time. I suppose maybe if I can get up a virtual drive as an image writer and then go back through and rip it, it'd be something. But meh, I'll stick to, uhh, other acquisitions. As to Playfair/(j)HYMN, I hope you bought your tracks with iTunes 5 or earlier.

            Actually there is an easier way you can use a program called tuneabite which plays the file in Itunes (or WMP) at 4x its normal speed while recording it and making a .mp3 file and transferring the ID Tags to the new .mp3
  • Wrong! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:17PM (#14944889)
    The article compares MP3 @ 128kbps, with WMA9 @ 192kbps and WMA10 DRM. Spot the flaw in the methodology yet?
    • Re:Wrong! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dsanfte (443781)
      Good point, they should have compared WMA and WMA-DRM of equal bitrates.
    • Re:Wrong! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Quebec (35169) *
      Actually, the main reason why WMAs are used is because of the DRMs, so it is still true to say that DRMs cause battery life to shorten.
      • Re:Wrong! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by babbling (952366) on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:32PM (#14945012)
        They used WMA of a higher bitrate than the non-DRM file!

        I'm no fan of DRM, but this appears to be FUD. They should have used a WMA with DRM and a WMA without DRM, both of the same bitrate. That would be a proper comparison.
        • Re:Wrong! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by mrchaotica (681592) on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:39PM (#14945055)
          On the other hand, this is a good comparison between a "typical MP3 downloaded illegally from a P2P service" and a "typical DRM-infected WMA bought at a legal online store."
          • Re:Wrong! (Score:5, Interesting)

            by ad0gg (594412) on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:03PM (#14945220)
            AAC,WMA,Vorbis from everything i read use more CPU time to decode then a mp3 track. They also have smaller file size when it comes to the same quality. 128 AAC(or is it 160 i don't remember) itune track sounds a lot better than a 128 bit mp3.
          • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:04PM (#14945229)
            I'd expect at any given bitrate WMA takes more power to play than MP3. Why? More complex format. Same is true for OGG or AAC. They do more advanced processing, and thus require more CPU power to decode. Same holds true for MP3 vs PCM. I remember back in the 486 days, I couldn't play MP3s in full quality mode, but I could play 44.1kHz 16-bit WAVs fine.

            Now it might be interesting to see the difference in drain between equal bitrate MP3s and WMAs, however you then have to factor in quality. While WMA certianly doesn't offer the "CD quality at 64kbps" MS likes to say, it does offer better sound than MP3 at a given bitrate.

            As the GPP said: A real comparison for DRM is to take an equal bit rate WMA file of the same version, and have one with DRM and one without, and then test them. That's the only way to test it's actual battery impact. If you let confounding factors creep in, then the test is worthless.
            • Right, but the format isn't the point. The point (as far as I can tell) is this:

              "If you buy your music legally, your batteries are going to die sooner."

              It doesn't really matter if this is due to decoding the encryption or the fact that you can't reencode at a lower bitrate; the point stands either way.
              • no, because I can choose to encode my legal music in WMA, thus unless it is specifically the DRM stuff in the file that is causing the extra battery dranage, it is possible for legally purchased music to take the extra battery life. WMA != napster and the like
              • Well, unless you buy your legal music in MP3 format, which many indy sites sell. Or if you download your illegal music in OGG or AAC format, which you can also do.

                The point is nothing, the point is this study is worthless. Trying to create some kind of false generlization to legal vs illegal music downloads is just as big a flaw in logic.
            • They do more advanced processing, and thus require more CPU power to decode.

              The iPod doesn't use a CPU to decode anything it plays; it's all done by an ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) which handles the mp3, AAC, WAV, Apple-lossless, etc decompression.

              I suspect that the power used to decode equal-bitrate MP3 and AAC files is imperceptible...

          • While I do agree that this is indeed a good comparison between a typical P2P and a typical DRM song, couldn't they have used the same bitrate for both?

            I still buy the occasional CD and have never bought DRM music online - but isn't it possible to choose the bitrate at some stores?

            If so, it would have made more sense IMO to take one song from both sides in bitrate 128k for example, AND one in 192k and do the comparison for both sets.

            Even if the test is 100% valid, doing it this way will at least raise que

            • I'm gonna take a wild guess that most store-bought WMAs are 192k, and that that's why they picked that bitrate.
              • Well, if your guess is correct (which I suspect it is), they still could have used a 192k P2P sample to do their test.

                Like I said before - leaving factors like this one in a test is just asking for reactions about the validity of the test. If you're comparing the maximum speed of two cars, one homebuilt (kitcar) the other a factory model, are you going to use models where one has almost twice the horsepower of the other?

          • No, that would be the wrong way to summarize it since it implies DRM still has something to do with the battery life. The correct conclusion is that protected online music is typically sold with a higher bitrate which tends to reduce the battery life.
        • Ah but you see, the DRM makes it so you can't pick the bitrate, nor the format. So while the article is FUD, when it finally comes down to it and you want to listen to music on your player... the article still sheds light on what you should do.
    • Re:Wrong! (Score:5, Funny)

      by Kohath (38547) on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:50PM (#14945141)
      You people with your facts and scientific methods.

      You must be a DRM supporter. We don't cotton ta that 'round these parts. Are you on the payroll of a record company?

      I also suspect you may weigh the same as a duck.
    • Granted, but if you were a record company, which would you be more concerned about protecting? 128K files or 192K files?
  • DRM suxx0rs (Score:5, Funny)

    by tedgyz (515156) * on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:18PM (#14944894) Homepage
    WTF? Do they do a license check after reading each bit?
    • Re:DRM suxx0rs (Score:5, Informative)

      by jandrese (485) * <kensama@vt.edu> on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:28PM (#14944980) Homepage Journal
      I think the problem comes from the decryption step. DRMed formats don't just have some license bits on the front, they also encrypt the rest of the payload to insure that nobody can just come by and rewrite (or erase) the license info.
      • From my knowledge of fairplay the mp4 wrapper wraps an encrypted raw aac track and at play time the key which is stored in some secure storage part of the ipod decrypts the encrypted payload contain the raw AAC. The extra cpu time is done in the decryption. I assume the decryption is done in realtime. I'm not sure why license information would be a factor but maybe you mean with wma and their subscription service and yet to hear how this actually works.
      • i think the real problem is the article itself. you cant compare two different levels of quality and then say the the one with a higher level consumes more CPU because of DRM. I assume since some work is being done, that the DRM does consume some power but is it really as significant as the article makes it out to be? I don't know, but the article is BS.
      • That, or the fact that they used computationally simple 128kbps MP3 and 192kbps computationally complex WMA. The 128kbps AAC showed an 8% hit, but that can be explained away with computational complexity and not DRM; an easy way to redo this test is to take a 128kbps MP3 and the same song encoded in non DRM 128kbps AAC and see if the same 8% hit occurrs.

        If yes, it is the codec and not the DRM.
        If no, it is the DRM and not the codec.
  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by danpsmith (922127) on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:18PM (#14944899)
    Why is this in the apple section? I'm no apple fanboy but the windows DRMs cut battery life by 25% and apple's cut it 7%, seems like this should be in some other category cuz it's actually a bigger issue with plays-for-sure files...
    • So that makes "Plays For Sure" a "Dead For Sure" proposition?
    • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      Not even a remotely fair test. They compared 128Kb/s MP3s to DRM'd WMAs (at 192Kb/s) and AACs (at 128Kb/s). Since both WMA and AAC are significantly newer and use more advanced compression algorithms, they take more CPU power to decode. More CPU load means more power used. If they had compared DRM'd AAC against AAC then this might have been interesting, but they didn't.

      'More advanced compression algorithms use more power[1]' doesn't work quite so well as a headline though, does it?

      [1] Even more when y

    • Why is this in the apple section?

      Because Apple is the market leader with respect to digital audio content delivery, playback, and DRM. I realize it's new and confusing to not be the underdog, but this is the price for being the top dog.
    • At least the article mentions Apple, the submissions talks about the WMA DRM 10 format - hello? That doesn't even play on any Apple product.
    • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Funny)

      by akheron01 (637033)
      Didn't you get the memo? Apple==mp3 now, just like how hacker==cracker and video game==terrorism
  • by notestein (445412) on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:19PM (#14944905) Homepage Journal
    And DRM causes Shrinkage.
  • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <`moc.liamg' `ta' `namtabmiaka'> on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:20PM (#14944914) Homepage Journal
    Sometimes you have to ask the right questions. The right question in this case is:
    Is the DRM draining the battery, or the more sophisticated compression algorithms used in the newer formats like AAC and WMA?

    They don't seem to have tested for that question. If it is the newer formats rather than the DRM, the question arises, "Would you accept a shorter battery life for higher fidelity and/or better compressed files?"
  • Well, not really (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jfengel (409917) on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:20PM (#14944915) Homepage Journal
    The test compares DRMed WMA to MP3s. Different file formats will have different power consumption requirements to decode. I'm sure they'd find that DRM WMAs do consume more power than unDRM WMAs, but will the difference be 25%?
  • Am I the only one to think that maybe WMA is just a more heavy format to decode in general? I bet you that a 128kbps mp3 isn't going to require exactly the same processing power as a 128kbps ogg file would. Maybe they should try comparing a DRM encoded WMA vs. a non DRM encoded WMA(if such a beast exists) before they start making claims that it is DRM alone causing the extra power consumption. MP3 != WMA.
    • The WMA tracks they tested were also at a higher bit rate than the MP3 and AAC tracks. This means more disk accesses were required, which eats a lot of battery. Both AAC and WMA are going to need more CPU than MP3 on top of this. I see a nomination for a bad science in journalism award...
      • Here's another way to think about it, however:
        If there's two choices for a song, 1) regular CD, or 2) DRMed WMA, with choice 1, you could rip it to Ogg, which can achieve similar sound quality with lower bitrates. So in that case it'd be perfectly valid to compare differing bitrates. With choice 2, you simply have no choice about what bitrate, what codec, etc. the song comes in.
  • Bullshit (Score:2, Redundant)

    by mobby_6kl (668092)
    I noticed this story on digg earlier today, but I'll comment here instead.

    As much as I hate DRM, this whole comparison & conclusion is bullshit. They compare DRM'd WMA and AAC to MP3. From what I've noticed from using my underclocked pda, MP3 is much less processor intensive then (warezed, DRM-free) WMAs at the same bitrate. Even if you don't believe me (and I can't be bothered to look for sources), this is still a possibility they didn't address.
    • Given your statement that MP3 is less processor intense than WMA, even of the same bitrate, how then is this comparison not valid?

      If I just want to listen to a song, I don't care what codec it's in. So if my choices are an MP3 and a DRMed WMA, and they sound the same, then it seems like this is a perfectly valid comparison.

      The headline might be a little misleading, however, but the point is that because having DRM requires the use of WMA (or AAC), which is a less efficient codec, it's perfectly valid to co
    • Re:Bullshit....NOT (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mp3phish (747341)
      You missed the point of the article completely. I don't care if the AAC or WMA DRM encryption takes up more processor power than non DRM AAC or WMA files. Or if they use the same, i couldn't care less. What Matters the most is that when you are listening to an MP3, and then you downlaod the same song on iTunes, and the battery life is 8% less.

      Nobody in their right mind would use AAC or WMA for non-encrpyted files, so why would that be the only fair comparrison? WMA/AAC files do not work in most DVD player
  • What we need then is some sort of specialized DRM chip-set, something that can do the CPU intensive stuff, but in a very low power way... I wonder if any of the industry leaders have thought about doing that...
  • Unfortunately ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cdrguru (88047) on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:25PM (#14944947) Homepage
    Most of the folks out there are really quite susceptable to the argument that they have two choices:
    • Protect the heck out of it, whatever the consequences to the consumer.
    • Sell one copy which is immediately posted on the Internet for everyone to "share"

    Until that perception is corrected, DRM is a fact of life.

    So how do we correct this perception? Maybe by being responsible consumers and not "sharing" all digital media with the planet without permission. If the artist, composer or whatever releases it with "redistribute freely", then by all means, post it, share it, copy it. But, if it is released with "no redistribution allowed" then nobody shares it, copies it, etc.

    If that were to start happening market forces could then (perhaps) influence the licensing of music, video and other digital media. I do not see this happening anytime soon or even in my lifetime. Therefore, DRM is a live-or-die proposition to content owners. They can either protect it or sell one copy.

    • by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:49PM (#14945538) Journal
      I would like to see copying != doing evil. Just about everyone feels a little guilt when they make copies.

      Give scientists and artists another way to profit from their efforts. Hard for the little guy to do anything more with a total monopoly than sell out for a fraction of its value to big organizations that still can't realize the full value because of all the protective measures and restrictions they feel compelled to use to protect their investment.

      Someday, I hope that for intellectual property we will have something akin to the road system. Free the highway of the information age the same way US Interstates freed the motorist from the tyranny of the little town that would never admit so but actually kind of liked it that their stop lights were poorly timed so nobody could get thru without several long waits at red lights. And before that, the highway numbering system put an end to communities deliberately misdirecting travellers their way. Good for local business, you understand, and safer for the children. There's the occasional tollway here and there but mostly there's no constant hassle about paying tolls every few miles. Saved massively on overhead by not having to pay people to man tollbooths, track time or distance spent on the tollroad with little pieces of paper or maintain accounts for RFID tags that the motorists must carry, and not delaying the motorists, etc. One reason why the Interstate system was built was so the states wouldn't make a mess by putting in dozens of different toll systems of their own, with tollroads to nowhere that didn't meet up at state borders. Rather ironic that the same technology that makes copyright unworkable could remove many of the reasons against a totally toll based road system.

    • Until that perception is corrected, DRM is a fact of life.

      Not so sure about that. When everyone markets these things - they call them MP3 players. Folks trying to pitch them as ACC, WMA, or any other format don't do well. They are trying to sneak the DRM in as 'oh, you want to buy music? Here are your options'... I would not touch Apple if it could not play MP3. Pretty sure it would be a dead end if they tried to sell one like that. I buy CD's just because it is the only way for me to get high quality
  • Argh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GoRK (10018) on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:25PM (#14944956) Homepage Journal
    If it weren't for every site on the whole damn Internet parroting each other so badly perhaps this never would have made the news. Anyway their "study" is deeply flawed, and while it could be argued that DRM does actually cause your player to consume more battery life than it otherwise would, DRM is not making the power impact they claim and anyone giving the problem more than even five seconds of rational thought would realize this.

    The codec is the problem. It takes more power to decode WMA (DRM or not) than it does to decode MP3. Ditto for AAC. The codecs are more computationally intensive and are decoded by general purpose CPU's in many players while MP3 is most often decoded with dedicated ASIC's. Even if all decodes are done in dedicated hardware, the MP3 codec is still likely going to be the most power efficient.

    A proper study would have compared identical tracks with identical compression with and without DRM such as an iTunes track played on repeat vs the same track with DRM stripped out played the same way. I'd bet the overhead of the DRM is more on the order of 1-3% here.

    It is; however, the DRM that is locking you into using WMA/AAC vs the power-saving MP3 format in the first place, but it's a bit of a stretch to say that it's the DRM's fault that a player running a more complex codec takes a power hit for doing so.
    • Re:Argh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GoRK (10018) on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:30PM (#14945000) Homepage Journal
      PS

      I really don't mean to sound like a DRM apologist, but making irrational and flawed arguments against DRM is no way to fight it. There's lots of more rational approaches, such as explaining to the customer that they are paying for their own lockout devices.

      The problem is like that tag on the mattress. You spent who knows how many tax dollars to put that thing there and the privilege you receive for all that money is the inability to cut the thing off. (Yes I do know you actually can remove the tag -- just not before it is sold.)
    • Re:Argh (Score:5, Interesting)

      by 0xABADC0DA (867955) on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:14PM (#14945305)
      Who's to say that non-DRM WMA files are not just restricted with a known key? This actually makes sense because WMA was designed to be a digital restriction format from the start. In a post treacherous-computing world it would then be possible to identify creative-commons files versus files encoded before pervasive restrictions were in place. And it would offer the benefit of DRM files not 'costing' anything over free ones. So clearly there is motive for making non-DRM files use a known key rather than being just the raw data.

      So unless you know differently then your suggestion could be *masking* the cost of DRM by doing an invalid comparison. Instead this comparison is between formats that a reasonable person might choose, a known-free format and a known-restricted one. They could have compared ogg vs wma for instance, but comparing wma to drm-wma is actually even worse than mp3 vs wma. I think it's a good comparison, definitely not worth the scorn so many have dumped on it.
    • Re:Argh (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DeeKayWon (155842) on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:52PM (#14945558)
      It takes more power to decode WMA (DRM or not) than it does to decode MP3. Ditto for AAC.

      Speaking of parroting, this has shown up several times in the discussion, with only assumptions and no evidence to back it up.

      Take a look here: http://www.foobar2000.org/foospeed/ [foobar2000.org]

      That's a collection of decoding speed results from various machines using foobar2000. It doesn't include WMA, but AAC and MP3 are on there, and the results are rather consistent in showing that AAC decodes faster than MP3. Not overwhelmingly, but definitely noticeable. Regardless, it disproves the whole "newer codec, therefore must be more complex, therefore must take longer to decode" assumption.

      • Re:Argh (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drew (2081)
        The decoding speed of a codec on an Intel x86 processor probably has only minimal bearing on the power usage on another unrelated processor (or even necessarily on that processor) for a variety of reasons, even assuming they use the same decoders. The two codecs would use completely different combinations of instructions for the decoding, and without knowing what those instructions are, how they translate between the 2 ISAs, and how many cycles they take, correlations between speed and processing power on
    • Re:Argh (Score:4, Informative)

      by mp3phish (747341) on Friday March 17, 2006 @08:17PM (#14945957)
      Anyway their "study" is deeply flawed, and while it could be argued that DRM does actually cause your player to consume more battery life than it otherwise would, DRM is not making the power impact they claim and anyone giving the problem more than even five seconds of rational thought would realize this.

      That depends, when you say rational thought, would you consider the scientific method to be rational?

      The codec is the problem. It takes more power to decode WMA (DRM or not) than it does to decode MP3. Ditto for AAC ... the MP3 codec is still likely going to be the most power efficient.

      I agree this is probably true. Yet still supports my below points.

      A proper study would have compared identical tracks with identical compression with and without DRM such as an iTunes track played on repeat vs the same track with DRM stripped out played the same way.

      Incorrect.

      In any scientific process you must have a control group. In this case, they picked the most popular format which is the most widely compatible, most used, and has been out the longest: MP3 CBR. Why should the control group be forced to use a proprietary format which is not readilly available for use and is not going to be used in the real world? If you set the control group to be WMA or AAC files in the same bitrate which you download off music stores, you would be covering likely less than 1% of all music being used on portable players (because you won't find many people using non-drm WMA or AAC files on ipods and mp3 players)

      You missed the point of the article completely. It doesn't matter if the AAC or WMA DRM encryption takes up more processor power than non DRM AAC or WMA files. Or if they use the same. What matters is that when you are listening to an MP3 in the control group (which covers somewhere around 99% of all nonDRM music on portable players), and then you downlaod the same song on iTunes or walmart.com, and the battery life goes to 8%-25% less.

      Nobody in their right mind would use AAC or WMA for non-encrpyted files, so why would that be the only fair comparrison? WMA/AAC files do not work in most DVD players. WMA/AAC files do not work in most in-dash mp3 players in cars. WMA/AAC files do not work on most portable devices such as phones and PDA's. WMA/AAC files do not work on almost ANYTHING other than their respective x86/PPC operating system/applications combinations and their respective portable players (Sandisk/Creative -> plays4sure and ipod -> Fairplay)

      Sure, you could make a control group which uses WMA files and then compare it to the variant group which uses DRM WMA files, but then you would be focusing your study on about .01% of the population rather than pretty much everyone who is already using MP3's.
  • Not because of DRM (Score:5, Informative)

    by default luser (529332) on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:25PM (#14944957) Journal
    Mp3, as it turns out, is a lot easier to decode than wma and other later-generation formats. The fact that you have to use mpeg4 or wma with your DRMed purchase is just an unwanted side-effect.

    That said, it is one reason I only play mp3s on my portable player. LAME has brought a level of quality to the mp3 format that none thought possible, and it keeps up suprisingly well [rjamorim.com] with "more advanced" codecs. I see no reason to use anything else...it plays everywhere, and uses less battery life.
  • by moochfish (822730) on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:33PM (#14945020)
    Finally, a true "iPod Killer."
  • by Theovon (109752) on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:47PM (#14945111)
    The recording industry finds that their copyrighted material is being pirated, so they implement ways to limit pirating. (No one mentions that most of the piracy is being done in 3rd world countries, costing record producers many times what it costs them in the US, but we'll let discuss that later.)

    As far as I'm concerned, LET them. The problem is not the DRM. It's the fact that it's illegal to BREAK the DRM. Wouldn't that defeat the point of having DRM, you ask? For many people, yes. For many people, no. DRM would discourage many people from breaking it simply because it's inconvenient. But being allowed to break it when necessary allows many people to make "fair use" of the recordings in ways that the DRM would otherwise prevent.

    It's all about balance. If the DRM people want to use technical means to screw us, we should be allowed to use technical means to unscrew outselves. This is no different from us using SPAM filters to fight spammers. We should be able to use anti-DRM programs to fight the recording industry.
    • But being allowed to break it when necessary allows many people to make "fair use" of the recordings in ways that the DRM would otherwise prevent.

      There is no reason that a properly designed DRM system would prevent fair use. iTunes/FairPlay tracks, to use the best example, are intended to have the DRM removed for those fair use purposes where the DRM cannot be preserved -- the only caveat being that you can't do it losslessly. This, I think, is probably the right way to go. Is there some fair use precede
  • in China.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by victorvodka (597971) on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:47PM (#14945119) Homepage
    I am reminded of the Chinese policy of charging the family of the executed for the price of the bullet used in the execution. In other words, something bad is done to you and you are asked to pay for the price of the administration of the badness as well as experiencing the badness itself.
  • ...... use this as another reason to Open iTunes! [slashdot.org]
  • by GiSqOd (793295) on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:53PM (#14945161)
    A good summary of the CNet study is at http://www.cdfreaks.com/news/13193 [cdfreaks.com].

    The Slashdot headline/summary is a little misleading. The test showed that Apple's FairPlay DRM caused about an 8% battery life penalty. It was the Zen Micro with the WMA DRM that caused a 25% drop in battery life. In this case, (if you HAVE to have DRM'd music), it seems Apple's scheme is the way to go.

    Some people have raised the issue that they compared 192kbps WMA files with 128kbps AAC (i.e. iTMS) files. AAC, in general, sounds pretty good at 128kbps. (Geek Disclosure Time): I've run a few double-blind, multi-listener tests, and most people put 128 AAC about equal with 192 MP3 (constant bitrate). I have no idea whether 192 WMA is overkill - if that's what Napster provides, well, I'm assuming that's comparable sound quality.

    I'm not an engineer, so I can't say whether or not the bitrate difference could reasonably account for that great a difference in battery drain. I will, however, note that if you choose to use a less-efficient codec, that's your fault.
  • Not so! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:41PM (#14945475)
    My MP3 player doesn't play WMA with DRM, so DRM increases my battery life almost infinitely.
  • by Trogre (513942) on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:48PM (#14945528) Homepage
    Just use Ogg Vorbis and get better quality for less bitrate.

    Oh, and forget about DRM or the need to pay evil patent royalties to Fraunhoffer/Thomson.

  • by DJScrib (768050) on Friday March 17, 2006 @07:37PM (#14945779)
    When you first open up a DRM file to play it, yes a little bit of processing occurs right then doing public/private key decryption to unlock the RC4 encryption key used to decrease the rest of the file. This however is probably about the same amount of juice as is required to play 1/10 a second of audio. During actual audio playback the players are doing an RC4 block cipher decryption operation. That's a linear time operation on par with generating a modulus for 8 bits. Meaning it's basically nothing compared to the horsepower needed to convert from compressed audio to waveform pcm audio. The article review is a crock of crap.
  • by AeroIllini (726211) <aeroillini@@@gmail...com> on Friday March 17, 2006 @07:55PM (#14945864)
    Putting aside for a moment that the article itself is more about battery life of various players than about the affect of DRM on battery life, the few statements made about DRM and battery life came from a very flawed test. The authors never tested un-DRMed AAC or WMA, to account for the higher processing needed to decode the more complicated file formats.

    But, in the interest of science, I would like to see DRM's real affect on battery life in portable music players. Here is the test I propose:

    Purchase a 128kbps AAC/Fairplay track from iTunes.
    Purchase the same track as a 192kbps WMA/DRM 10 from Napster.
    Rip the same track from CD, and create five versions:
    - 44.1kHz wav
    - 128kbps mp3
    - 192kbps mp3
    - 128kbps AAC (clean - no FairPlay)
    - 192kbps WMA (clean - no DRM 10)

    Now we have seven tracks to test, two with DRM, two identical without DRM, one as a control, and two for bitrate studies. For each track:
    - set the volume on max
    - turn off the backlight
    - plug in a set of standard earbud headphones
    - load the track on the player while the player is plugged in
    - make sure the track is the only thing on the hard drive
    - place the track in its own playlist and set to infinite repeat
    - press play at the moment you unplug the power cord
    - time how long it takes for the battery to run out
    - plug the player back in and charge to full

    Ideally, this test should be run several times for each track on the exact same player, in the same order every time, to correct for possible changes in the amount of charge the battery can hold. It might be interesting to run the test on many different players, as well, and see how they fare.

    Does anyone at Slashdot own a player that can handle all three formats, and would be willing to conduct the tests?
    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @12:29AM (#14946711) Journal
      Ideally, this test should be run several times for each track on the exact same player, in the same order every time, to correct for possible changes in the amount of charge the battery can hold.
      That's complete and utter overkill.
      Why fuck around with a battery?

      Plug the rat bastard iPod into a power supply and measure the current drawn. If you have to butcher a USB connector to pull it off, so be it.

      If decoding DRM'ed files takes more 'power' then you'll see the difference immediately. If it makes you happy, you can run it for a few loops and take an average, but if your power supply isn't putting out dirty power, it shouldn't matter.

      If someone from Slashdot is going to do those tests, that's how they should do it. Lessened battery life is merely a by-product of more current being drawn. So the question isn't really "will this kill my battery," but instead, it's "do DRMed music files require more power."
  • a reason?? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 3.14159265 (644043) on Friday March 17, 2006 @08:58PM (#14946091)
    "Yet another reason to stick with plain old MP3 files."

    ?!?! Was there ever a reason *not* to choose mp3 (or ogg, e.g.)?
    More importantly, was there ever a reason to choose WMA+DRM (or WMA even w/o DRM...)?
  • by Kittie Rose (960365) on Friday March 17, 2006 @09:27PM (#14946186) Homepage
    Argh! I got the idea after the first 142489.4 replies. Can people are least quickly flick through comments when they've made such an obvious observation, thinking they're so clever, and explaining it in that calm but nerdy +5 manner? How can something be "Insightful" if every bloody person sees the same thing!
  • by Moe_Fugger (960991) on Friday March 17, 2006 @10:57PM (#14946431)
    Make the oblivious end user think that DRM is evil and with enough idiots it could make a difference. Just imagine all the pod people: WHAT?!! YOU MEAN DRM STUFF DRAINS THE JUICE OUT OF MY IPOD FASTER??!!!! ITS EVIL AND HAS TO BE STOPPED!!!!!!111! Maybe then the people could steer the impending DRM overlords away from the subject by brute force.
  • by Qbertino (265505) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @05:18AM (#14947276)
    Ogg Vorbis, due to it being a superior compression format needs quite some CPU power to decode. That's the reason not all players support it - because not all have the electronics to do it. FLAC is easiest - for obvious resons. The others are all spread somewhere inbetween.
    However I'd kinda expect Sonys ATRAC, the MiniDisk Compression format, to be the most power saving.

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