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Microsoft

Microsoft Ties DRM Technology To Windows 389

Andy Tai writes: "This InteractiveWeek article describes how Microsoft, without much public attetion, has built multimedia content protection technology into Windows, thus encouraging the movie and music industries to adapt the Windows Media formats for their content. Microsoft's offering is not very different from other DRM (Digital Rights Management) technologies, but MS has the advangage of being able to place it in the OS, which gives it credibility in the eyes of content providers. 'What's novel is that it's built directly into (Windows Media) that is quickly gaining ground on its own, and that the two (DRM and media) technologies are inextricably linked. The technologies, in turn, are being set deeply into the Windows operating system. Other technologies being built into Windows further boost content-protection features, such as the so-called Secure Audio Path, which scrambles output from a computer sound card so that music streams can't be tapped and copied at that point.'"
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Microsoft Ties DRM Technology To Windows

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  • by Ayende Rahien ( 309542 ) on Sunday February 04, 2001 @03:38AM (#458001)
    I only partially agree, the beauty of WMP is that it accept both secure (content provider friendly) data, and open data (cosnumer friendly).

    When the client sees this, s/he won't think, "Oh, Microsoft is evil!" they would think that the one who sold them the media (file, cd,dvd, whatever) is evil.

  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Sunday February 04, 2001 @12:56AM (#458002) Homepage Journal

    I support artists by buying CD's. Quite literally NONE of the music in my collection's come from any source OTHER than my own private CD collection or tape collection (in cases where no CD-version's available).

    I want to be able to move the music that I paid for wherever I want. If that means off my desktop system to a laptop, so be it. If that means off to a CD/DVD for a "compilation album", I have that right.

    Or am I supposed to pay the artist for each and every instance in where I listen to their music?

    Nobody gives a flying fsck about them limiting piracy. But their methods also take away rights given to us to utilize this media for personal use in any way we see fit. They're treating the symptoms, and not the problem.

    THAT is what we're griping about.


    Chas - The one, the only.
    THANK GOD!!!

    • They screwed up Netscape, which in the past had 70% market share

    Huh? They didn't get more market-share then Netscape until they had a better product than Netscape.

  • * They screwed up Netscape, which in the past had 70% market share

    Sorry, but they didn't screwed up Netscape.
    Netscape did it to itself all by its own.
    It started with total ignorance of standards, went on to *two* years (what is that in internet years?) with no meaningful update. It was buggy as hell, heavy, and unfriendly.

    MS had a superior product since 4 versions.
    That Netscape did nothing to improve their browser while MS worked on making IE the best browser they could produce, is Netscape's fault.

    If they hadn't abused their users for so long, this wouldn't have happened.
    I remember using NS 3.?? and I loved it, the only times I would've used IE 3 was to get the superior View Source (open in editable notepad window, instead of the ugly netscape one) feature.
    But since versions 4? IE got better, Netscape didn't.

    It also doesn't help that NS (especially 6)devour memory like there is no tomorrow, minimum requirement for Netscape 6 is two to four times those of IE 5.5.

    And it gets worse if you open several windows at the same time, I've opened three NS6 windows and watched as it ate 65MB. I currently have 5 IE windows open, and IE takes 9MB (peaked at 20MB)
    I sometimes has up to 20 - 25 windows open, I don't feel like buying Gigabytes of RAM just to accomedate NS.

    When I'm on a *nix, it's lynx or konquerer (usually lynx), Netscape doesn't come *near* my servers.

    Isthere lynx for windows?
  • What makes you say that?

    Consumers have accepted encrypted and regional encoded DVD players. As most consumers use Windows, this probably makes perfect sense because it will encourage Windows to be used in home computers and internet appliances.

  • Remember when all the parts in a computer were about Computing?

    Seems that the "Evil© Media(TM) Companies®" want computers to be about protecting them from something I haven't even done to them.

    What are the chances that we'll see price increases in computer parts because of this? :(

  • by Nailer ( 69468 ) on Sunday February 04, 2001 @01:09AM (#458022)
    Now you certainly aren't going to be watching Windows Media under linux...

    Actually, the Windows Media Format is properly known as ASF - Advanced/Active Streaming Format. Microsoft claims the codec is open and documented - which is true, in an MS like way...i.e, without a licensing agreement and NDA, the only publicly avaliable documents descrive ASF version 2. This would bea good thing if 100% of the content found on the Internet wasn't in ASF 1 format, which is is.

    Luckily some smart folk have reverse engineered and documented the ASF 1 format [http] and are using it to make the avifile project (which currently plays DivXs and ASF using thin layer of Wine to implement the Win32 avifile API) actually implement its codecs natively.

    This is a good thing. So help them out.

    And don't make a player. We have enough. Port more codecs and fix the existing players.

  • by whydna ( 9312 ) <<moc.liamtoh> <ta> <andyhw>> on Saturday February 03, 2001 @10:38PM (#458024)
    Why does this absolutely not surprise me? All that it's going to do is stop lamers from copying/pirating stuff. Anybody who really wants to dupe stuff is going to find A Way(tm). All they're doing is pushing Windows Media format which in turn just proves how monopolistic they are.

    Now you certainly aren't going to be watching Windows Media under linux...

    MicroSoft makes me mad sometimes...

    -Andy
  • by cje ( 33931 ) on Saturday February 03, 2001 @10:40PM (#458027) Homepage
    Take a minute and look at how consumers have soundly thrashed other lame single-provider "solutions" such as DivX. If the consumers have demonstrated anything over the past few years, it is that they will not allow themselves to be blackmailed into these kinds of situations. If Microsoft attempts to succeed where Circuit City has failed, then let them try. Their inevitable failure will only be more humorous.
  • I don't know why they're even bothering trying this... the only way to secure streaming media from being copied is to use 100% proprietary hardware, right down to the speakers. As it is now anyone can hook up the audio out of their sound card to the audio in of another computer and record to their heart's content.

    I'm not advocating proprietary hardware, of course, but MS trying to make it secure at the OS level won't change anything; it's like if you put bars on the window of your house if it doesn't have a functional front door lock.

  • anything that's coming out of the sound card itself is not going to be scrambled if you want anyone to be able to hear it through speakers.

    My guess is a Macrovision type method - experiement until you find an inaudible signal that screws up recording. The format could sent lots of data beyond the range of human hearing. Would a large chunk of data beyond the extreme range (say 30khz?) of most mp3 encoders do? Badly written ones might choke.

    Yes, that solution isn't perfect. Make another encoder. But copy protection isn't about making it impossible. its about making it difficult enough.

    Or just start seeling consumers, new cooler `Windows Media Enabled!' speakers which only decrypt on the way to the speaker cones. Add some real features in there so people will but them.
  • by leereyno ( 32197 ) on Saturday February 03, 2001 @10:46PM (#458037) Homepage Journal
    "Secure Audio Path, which scrambles output from a computer sound card so that music streams can't be tapped and copied at that point."

    I think this must be some kind of misunderstanding. I can see how the internal software level stream might be scrambled, but anything that's coming out of the sound card itself is not going to be scrambled if you want anyone to be able to hear it through speakers.

    Got tape deck? Then you too can record your favorite super-duper-crackproof-secure-hollywood-RIAA-appro ved-media-format based music onto a TDK D cassette tape and there isn't a damned thing anyone can do about it. Want better quality sound? Use a metal formula tape and it'll be near-digital.

    Lee Reynolds
  • Ermm.. hardware based attacks are wiretaps to the speakers. Nothing can stop that.
  • by "Zow" ( 6449 ) on Sunday February 04, 2001 @06:37AM (#458041) Homepage

    Okay - I can't just let some broad open-ended statements like these stand.

    1. As others have mentioned, if you don't think that it's worth $20, don't buy it and don't listen to it. Stealing it (and that's what the law says you're doing regardless of how you feel about it morally) only serves to make that artist more popular which in the end stuffs the pockets of the RIAA even more.
    2. Distribution methods outside the RIAA exist. Have you heard about this little web site called mp3.com [mp3.com]? I've never seen an artist there charge more than $10 for an album. This has the added advantage of pissing off the RIAA even more than stealing their music.
    3. Another alternative, if you've just got to have that CD, is buy it used. It's completely legal under the doctorine of first purchace (or whatever it's called exactly) and the money all goes to your local music vendor.
    4. While the mass produced artists like Britney Spears or n'sync certainly fit the description that you've given here, most artists are actually very talented and hard working, but they just aren't hyped the same way these "teen heartthob" artists are, so their album sales are much lower. Here's why that's important: of that $20, artists see less than a dollar, and typically less than $.25. By that model, an artist needs to sell 4 billion albums before they can become a billionare like you claim. I have yet to hear of that happening. More importantly, many of these small name artists will spend months and hundreds of dollars producing an album (studio time ain't cheap) that only sells 10 000 copies. What do they get in return? $2500. They're lucky if they break even. This tends to be the norm for most artists.
    5. So why do they go broke doing this? Here's a newsflash for you: artists actually do something for humanity. We listen to music because we enjoy it and humans have a need to be entertained. It's not as important to us as food & shelter, but given the basic necessities for life, we will tend to seek out entertainment. This is why even the most primitive native tribes around the world play music. So if you don't think that music is important enough to pay for, I'd like to see you live without it.

    For the record, I'm not a musician myself but I have a lot of friends that are. I find it amusing that RMS says [gnu.org], "Programming has an irresistible fascination for some people, usually the people who are best at it. There is no shortage of professional musicians who keep at it even though they have no hope of making a living that way," as most of the professional musicians I know spend their nights & weekends doing music, but they program durring the day to pay the bills.

    My 2 bits,

    -"Zow"

  • by localroger ( 258128 ) on Sunday February 04, 2001 @04:25AM (#458042) Homepage
    The kernel will only pass said data to signed drivers

    Have you ever programmed a sound card?

    Ultimately, there is a 16-bit hardware register which receives this 1/44000sec sample of sound level, which will soon be converted to a voltage, amplified, and fed to your speakers.

    Have you ever designed a hardware peripheral? The CPU puts an address on a bus which announces to any piece of hardware in the machine that there is data on the data bus which might be of interest to it. The CPU does not know and does not care which or how many devices grab the output of a write, and if multiple devices respond to a read there is nothing it can do to stop the resulting data corruption when both devices try to assert an answer at the same time.

    Unless, as another poster has suggested, the decrypter is built into the DAC, which would be a radical change of architecture requiring (at minimum) for everyone in the world to buy a new sound card, there is nothing at all the industry can do to stop you from adding a piggyback card to pick off the outgoing audio stream and make it available to some other totally unrelated piece of software for recording. This requires a board to be built, which is why it is called a hardware hack.

    Picking off the sound at the driver is a software hack, and it is remotely possible that uSoft might prevent you from doing this for, oh, a few months until someone hacks the OS itself and provides a patch which prevents it from realizing that output is going to unsigned drivers. Unless uSoft decides to encrypt the whole damn operating system, there isn't much they can do to prevent this, either.

  • I'm sorry to disappoint you, but MP3 sounds like crap.

    WMA is only just tolerable crap, but it is most certainly better than MP3. A WMA encoded stream at 160kbps sounds about like a MP3 stream at 256kbps.

    Even VBR MP3 doesn't help... the 160kbps WMA stream sounds better than MP3 VBR at 320kbps top encoding.
  • Ermm.. hello?? Real world calling head-in-sand Slashdotter. Have you actually spoken with any people outside the ones who visit you in your basement? Microsoft makes BILLIONS of dollars by selling their operating system. Rather well for a complete failure, isn't it?
  • Actually, it's likely that they are doing us a favor by preventing us from using unsigned drivers. I'm pretty shure that it's easy to get ring zero in ALL microsoft products (Bo2K can do it to 98 and NT right?), so you cna just write a patch for the running code to totally disable to DRM software. This is a superior solution to just capturing the output stream since it will enable to you copy files instantly instead of taking 3 min to play.

    I would bet that the visualization/EQ plug-in authors will have stripped the necissary code from Bo2K to get ring zero and writen hacks to disable DRM long before we ever see much music distributed under Microsoft's DRM.
  • I wasn't talking about using a digital output to begin with. Why is everyone so hung up on digital for? Ever hear what a good tape deck with a high quality cassette can do? Besides, compressed sound formats aren't going to give you 44khz CD quality sound to begin with, meaning that you're already recording a degraded signal.

    As for USB digital speaker systems, they still rely on an analog speaker. If need be you can get one of these, open it up, and tie into the signal going to the speakers themselves. A couple of 7 ohm resistors (or whatever the impedance the speakers are) is all you'd need besides some wire cutters, cabling, and a screwdriver.

    Digital does give better sound, but with a good analog setup its very difficult to impossible to tell the difference.

    Lee
  • Think USB digital speakers, so that the audio is encrypted right up to the speaker.

    A similar technology exists for monitors.

  • Ever use eBay?

    Because the basic cost of hosting an auction is cheap, it works well. Everyone in the world gets US$10.00 in credit. (You didn't used to even have to give them a credit card #, and now they require it mainly for ID, not for payment security.) You post auctions. You are charged US$0.25 each time you do. You are charged more if there is a successful bidder.

    When your balance reaches US$-10.00 you either stop holding auctions or pay up. You can send a cheque, or use your CC. I don't know if they have an automatic CC charge but another "business," a local toll bridge, does -- when my toll tag account gets in breathing distance of zero they run another receipt.

    If the music were fairly priced -- I'd call US$0.25 per song very fair, considering the ease of distribution; much higher than US$0.50 would probably not be accepted, because of the amount of music you're likely to download before finding out how little you like it -- then a system like this would probably be widely accepted.

  • and the sooner the Linux community comes to terms with this the better it will be.

    The next consumer version of Windows will unify the code base. That means that grandma will be using Win2k technology.

    This argument against Windows stability is really getiing old.

  • "anything that's coming out of the sound card itself is not going to be scrambled if you want anyone to be able to hear it through speakers.

    Not true. If the audio isnt being streamed, the secure audio path can simply refuse to play it."

    What on earth does your response mean? The sounds a computer generates come from two source, the internal speaker and the sound card. The internal speaker is good for beeps and such and not much more. Modern sound cards on the other hand are capable of CD quality sound. Speakers are connected to sound cards. The signals used to drive these speakers are analog and cannot be scrambled if you expect normal speakers to be able to play the sound. You might be thinking that USB speakers are different, well they're not. The simply move the digital to analog conversion phase from the computer to circuitry inside the speaker cases, the speakers themselves are still analog.

    At the end of the day anyone with a screwdriver, some RCA cables, a soldering iron, and a couple of 7 ohm resistors can record the content onto a tape deck regardless of any fancy encryption schemes used.

    In fact you don't even need a tape deck at all. A second sound card or at worst a second computer is all you'd need to recapture the sound back into a wav file and from there to an MP3.

    Now I'm not advocating piracy, I'm just pointing out a mistake on the part of the person who said that there was a way to encrypt the signal going to the speakers themselves.

    Lee
  • Macrovision huh? I'd just use my scope on the signal, find the funky frequencies, and come up with a little filter or choke to get rid of them. This is the same thing that many companies sell to get around macrovision.

    You are right though, copy protection isn't about making it impossible. However with P2P around now all it takes is that one person in a thousand with the technical skills to get around that protection before everyone has a cracked version of whatever you're talking about.

    Lee
  • "It doesn't take a stretch of the imagination to see how Microsoft, as the sole "signer" of drivers, to favor its own hardware/software over other third party products. "

    Yep, those Microsoft sound cards will get top priority over anything made by Creative!

    Of course since Microsoft doesn't make sound cards, top priority really isn't all that important, is it?

    Maybe you ought to leave the conspiracy theories to the more experienced kooks.
  • So I rather doubt we'll see the big media companies chipping in their support any time soon. The danger, of course, is that they're going to start building this shit into proprietary hardware and you won't be able to drive that hardware with any open OS. Since no doubt this occured to someone at Microsoft, at some point you should be able to prove collusion. But that's another article.

    The answer, of course, is that the Internet is the great enabler and you don't have to be a big company to provide content anymore. I think eventually we'll start to see professional grade productions being put on the Internet. Again, the danger here is that the industry will try to tie up the formats you can release the content in. I'm sure it'll be quite a fight.

  • by Sabriel ( 134364 ) on Sunday February 04, 2001 @04:35AM (#458063)
    So what happens in 'life plus 70 years' (or, if 'work for hire', 120 years) when the copyright on these protected files runs out? Not that it matters to most folks reading this. Chances ae you'll be dead. But anyway:

    Are the corporations going to hand over the keys to the public so we can copy the music freely? Are they going to fulfill their side of the social contract that copyright is supposed to be - a limited period of monopoly in return for the public good? If their past exploits are any indication, they'll just keep buying politicans to extend the "limited" term of copyright in perpetuity, and if you choose to listen to the music of your ancient forebears you'll pay whatever they demand.

    In Britain in 1534, as the printing press became more available, the Crown made it illegal for anyone to publish without a license. In 1557, the Crown granted a monopoly to the Stationers' Company - only one guild had sole right to publish books, by royal decree, in return for censoring any works the Crown disapproved of. It didn't matter if the authors had been dead for a thousand years, only the guild could publish their work. It didn't matter if the authors were alive and well either!

    See any similarities in where we're heading? It's congress instead of royalty, and corporations instead of a guild, but only the names have changed.

    I found it interesting to discover that the Stationers' Company still exists today, more than four hundred years since its incorporation. Maybe if I manage to live that long, I'll be able to listen to music created today without having to pay a corporation for the privilege. Oh, wait. I'll still need the decryption keys.

  • the one thing that none of these DRM solutions address is the fact that it only takes *ONE* person to crack the system and it all falls apart.

    No. That's what "watermarking" is about. The idea is that cracked, but watermarked, content won't play on an unmodified player. Thus, it can't be widely distributed. The cracker community can play it, but only on a "hacker system", like Linux.

    There's a further step, and we may yet see it. Only signed content will play at all. It's quite possible that consumer tools will never be allowed to create HDTV-quality content that will play on consumer players. Already, Whistler (Microsoft's next OS) doesn't like to run unsigned software.

  • I see, if someone can't think of the mystic google search terms, they must be a moron. *sigh*

  • Why reverse engineer when you can read the ASF patent [delphion.com].
  • Sorry, but they didn't screwed up Netscape. Netscape did it to itself all by its own. It started with total ignorance of standards, went on to *two* years (what is that in internet years?) with no meaningful update. It was buggy as hell, heavy, and unfriendly.

    IE has little to do with standards, too -- most of pages that don't display properly in Netscape but display in IE, are complete bullshit from any set of standards' point of view. It's possible to make standards-compliant page that doesn't work in Netscape, but in reality I have yet to see it (not to mention that MSIE by itself supports standards poorly, too -- a lot of things will display in Netscape or Mozilla, but won't in MSIE).

    And it gets worse if you open several windows at the same time, I've opened three NS6 windows and watched as it ate 65MB. I currently have 5 IE windows open, and IE takes 9MB (peaked at 20MB) I sometimes has up to 20 - 25 windows open, I don't feel like buying Gigabytes of RAM just to accomedate NS.

    You counted your memory wrong. Mozilla (that you without any doubt ran on Linux) is multithreaded, so all those processes that you have seen occupy the same memory.
  • Ever cracked open an ASIC and poked around with a logic analyzer?

    I can just see it now, "all you need to copy music illegally is an EE degree, an ASIC burner and some software that's been banned - build your own ripper - yours for only $1,299.95"

    Alternatively, maybe the price of CDs will come down when people stop ripping off the labels...

  • I think someone will eventually reverse engineer the `Doze media audio format, as was done with the Fraunhoffer(sp) MP3 encoder codecs.

    That is, if `Doze media ever gets that important. Sure, it sounds better than does the typical real audio stream, but it doesn't sound as good as MP3 streaming.

    I think that you are right, this is more about M$ trying to monopolize audio formats. But, their scheme sounds to me that what they are proposing is no better than SDMI, and probably worse (less secure) in fact. After all, Microsoft has not, will not, and never will release ANYTHING without some significant bug or security exploit...

    The real world has already chosen MP3 as the standard format for audio and for streaming audio. If the RIAA can't do a thing to stop it, neither can Microsoft.

  • ...and while we're at it, we'll help some of our friends in other industries get their share of your money, since we're buying them next year anyway and then it will be our money too.

    MSFT: Or you could just save us the trouble and send us all your money now. We're going to get it anyway, so why make things hard on yourself?

  • > There are actual laws to go after the pros.

    "So what are you in for?"

    "I disassembled my speakers"
  • "What pisses me off more than microsoft's antics, and their apparent disregard for the government's wishes, is that people in general don't see anything wrong with these shinanigans(sp?). (And by people, I mainly mean the corporate IT guys, and by corporate IT guys, I mean my boss.)"

    This should suprise no one. Microsoft is where they are today because of slick marketing than anything else. The average IT manager knows far less about IT than the people he/she manages, it's just a fact of life, because working with the stuff isn't the manager's job.

  • Unless, as another poster has suggested, the decrypter is built into the DAC, which would be a radical change of architecture requiring (at minimum) for everyone in the world to buy a new sound card, there is nothing at all the industry can do to stop you from adding a piggyback card to pick off the outgoing audio stream and make it available to some other totally unrelated piece of software for recording.

    First, we all know how very reluctant MS is to require hardware upgrades in order to run their OS. Second, the eventual idea is to use USB sound where the decoder is embedded in the speaker along with the DAC, the amp, and the speaker leads in a glob of epoxy. The OS drivers transact with the DAC in the speakers to enable sound.

    Personally, I think any scheme which adds consumer cost and triples the complexity of the driver->hardware interaction for the sole benefit of a few corperations is just WRONG.

  • When it is sanely priced. $4.00 for a song is pure stupidity, and the record companies/microsoft know this. This is one of the reasons why napster/GnuTella and all the other music sharing systems that existed before it came about. Example: A cassette costs more to make than a CD, yet a CD is more expensive? now here's a digital transport that removes any manufacturing and the price jumps higher? If My kids could buy the latest Nsync (Yuck) cd for 10 bucks, they'd buy it. Now? they record it off of the radio,DMX,friends,etc... because $20.00 to a $9-13 year old might as well be $1000.00. (Except for you spoiled rich kids out there twenty bucks is alot of money to a child, and most adults that work for a living)

    No matter what they come up with, it will be hacked minutes after release (Time registered WMA's can be converted to wav and then MP3 by using winamp - copy an older version of winamp over the current version and voila, the file out works again!)

    I hope thy keep trying, as it will keep us real hackers entertained.
  • Ever try to play one of these in Win98 with Windows Media Player? No sound.....
  • by Sir_Winston ( 107378 ) on Sunday February 04, 2001 @02:42AM (#458095)
    Sorry, but you're making the all-too-common on /. mistake WRT Windows. Not that I blame those who make it, because you're already living with Linux, so you don't come from the same perspective as a Windows user or even a (shudder) Mac user.

    So, here's your mistake: you think most end users care about stability and an overwhelming breadth of apps and the ability to make custom changes thanks to access to the source code. Well, sorry, but we don't care about any of that.

    Here's why--but first, some background, so you can see where I come from. I've been using computers since my first day at college in 1995. I started out at the lab with a 20MHz 68k Mac running, I think, System 7 with a plethora of tools like Netscape 1, Fetch, and NCSA Telnet to grab my e-mail off the campus VAX. Being a Mac campus, and having no previous computer experience, I learned to use Macs and was happy with them--except that they always seemed to lock up every hour or so whenever I was doing more than one thing. OS 8 and PPC 7200 Macs in the lab changed that in coming years, and things were stable enough. When I graduated I needed my own computer, so I bought an old used WinBook XP laptop running Windows 95, because I couldn't afford a Mac. Soon after I started being actually interested in what the computer did, what settings I could tweak and why, etc. So, I became computer literate under Windows. I started collecting and using lots of apps. When the laptop dies of old age, I bought a brand-new k6-2 400, based in part on a dislike of Intel's P!!! ID number and its possible misuse if adopted, which I learned about by reading /. This was ~late 1998/early 99. I'd been reading /. based on the recommendation by a Linux-running friend. For more than two years now, I have known about Linux, and have dabbled in Linux, but never switched, even though I agree with much of the philosophy behind it and would on some levels like to switch. So, I just got my new computer, a KT7-RAID with a proc that easily overclocks to 1GHz without even getting as hot as my old k6-2 did at its measly 400MHz--in honor of the occasion I backed up all my data files onto the new HD and reformatted my two old small ones. What operating system did I choose to install as my main one? I had copies of Windows 98SE, Win2k, Win 2k Advanced Server (pirated, of course), and recent versions of Mandrake, Corel Linux, BeOS, and some other various stuff.

    I installed Windows 98SE as my primary operating system, although I cheated a bit and used 98lite to allow me to install it without Internet Explorer and most of the other useless crap, and I use Powerdesk 4 as my file browser instead of Explorer/IE. But why would a partially-sane, fairly computer literate guy like me, who's played with all the operating systems I listed above on spare drives and what not, do such a thing?

    Because, like most people, I don't need uptime measured in months, weeks, or even days--an uptime of 3 or 4 hours is more than sufficient, unless I'm leaving the computer on all night to download something huge in which case it isn't doing anything that will make it crash. I turn my computer off whenever not in use, as do most people. Giving the computer a minute to boot up isn't at all annoying to me or most people--press the button, go get a soda or take a wee-wee, and by the time you get back it's ready to go.

    Now, even so, why on Earth would I install Win98SE, out of all the possible choices? Simple: It has all the apps I like to use, and is compatible with almost every bit of software and hardware I would like to use, without much fiddling about and such. End users don't care about having all the software that's available with Linux--we just want to use what's easy and familiar. Linux apps are usually neither. Every app I'm running on my machine, and almost every app I could possibly download for it, uses the same key combos, and most of them have a consistent and predictable UI, and consistent and predictable install options. We don't want to apt-get-make-etc-etc anything; we want to download it or browse to the CD that has it, and double-click. The vast majority of people never ever ever would want to compile something even if they knew how, so the source code is meaningless to almost all end users. And the breadth of software available to end users with Linux is also largely useless--most of it has incomprehensible names which are useful if you're a hacker typing all day on your CLI but a total hindrance if you're an end user who just wants to download and click on something intuitively-named, like "Media Player," or something whose name is common parlance like "WinAMP" or "Napster." There's no wondering, "uhh, what's slrn do?"

    The most important part of all that is that end users value consistency, both amongUI features and shortcuts and the ability to cut and paste between apps and the like, and consistency with whatever software they're used to. Which gets me back to why I chose Win98 from among all possible worlds: It runs every app I have ever used. Win2k may be more stable, but it won't run all of my old games, even though most of the other apps I use will run or have versions for it. People don't like to throw out stuff they like, and that goes for software. I mean, I *could* change to an open-source or Linux-supporting word processor like Star Office or WordPerfect, but why give up the same Word97 I've been using for years? When in college even, I was using Word for the Mac. It's comfortable. I'm used to it, and everyone can read it, though if sending to a guy who uses Linux or is mindful of security I just save in .rtf or text. Likewise, betwen Media Player and RealPlayer I can open all the audio formatsI'm likely to run across--but even so, since I'm used to WinAMP and have used it since before it was bought by AOL, I still use the latest WinAMP to play mp3s. And even though any of the three players I just mentioned can now play audio CDs, I still install Virtuosa to play them for me, because it's what I've always used, I like it, and it works and is pretty while doing so. I use ACDSee to view image files, IrfanView to open weird formats that ACDSee can't decode, and have done so for years. I edit images with an older version of Photoshop, though I do use the Win32 port of GiMP for some of its special script-fu. I use Scramdisk for security and GetRight for managing downloads, WinZip and WinRAR to uncompress stuff. It's what I'm used to and I can operate any one of these apps without even thinking about it, andsince I'm just an end user who only needs a few hours at a time with his computer I haven't seen a single BSOD in over a year if you discount the few times I've put a badly damaged CD in the drive and ejected it while Windows was still trying to read it since it was taking too long to try. Even though I do video capture and use my PC as my DVD player, I still never have BSODs or conflicts or any other stereotypical Windows ills, except for that CD problem I mentioned. Now, with all this experience invested, why would I want to switch to Linux and have to pick out apps all over again, basically starting from scratch and throwing away all my former computer experience?

    Like most end users, I wouldn't. There has to be a compelling reason to upgrade, to make me throw away all my beloved apps and go wandering around for new ones. Sure, I like reading /., and do it every day, for more than 2 years. Yes, I agree with most of the philosophy expressed here against the practices of certain patently unethical corporations. I don't buy Intel, beause I can just buy AMD and still run the apps I'm used to. I hate Disney, so I don't buy Disney stuff--I get other types of toys for the kids. I support the EFF monetarily. Etc. etc. But, even though I dislike the tactics used against Netscape and OS/2 and the other tresspasses of Microsoft, I still use Windows because it works, it's unified, standardized, and above all else it's what I'm used to and I don't have to throw out years worth of apps.

    That's why end users aren't flocking to Linux and never will. End users don't flock--they just use what they're used to and what works. Windows works well enough. You're never going to woo most users with technical superiority. Lots of superior tech ends up in the dustbins of history. The only way to get most users is to get in touch with new computer users. Get into as many schools and universities as possible, and you'll indoctrinate fresh users who have no predisposition, and they'll probably use Linux for the rest of their lives. The only way to win over old users, people who already have used Windows or Mac for a long time and have a bunch of software they're happy with, is to have a very compelling reason to undergo the upheaval of change. Being able to run your PC rock-solid stable for a month without rebooting isn't a compelling reason, since Windows is stable *enough* and Mac OS X will probably be nearly as stable as Linux. You mentioned having to wait ages for tech support for Windows--also not a compelling reason, since most people either learn Windows or Mac in school, or have a knowledgeable friend to help them learn. The same can't be said about Linux--I have only 1 friend who uses it, and most people have none.

  • Harlequin's comment about the consumerware being crippled is well taken, but there's also the fact that, in large measure, it really isn't about the music. It's about an industry that creates mass movements around artificial archetypes so that, ultimately, they can sell you stuff.

    I have heard acts in Holiday Inn bars that were clearly more talented than some pop stars. Some of them weren't interested in fame, but most simply lost out in the lottery that leads to superstardom.

    You said: Obviously talent is still required on the part of the musicians.

    Well, duh. The same is true of writers, actors, directors, and many others who create entertainment media. The middleman distribution industry we all love to hate does, unfortunately, serve a useful function, by directing us to artists who have been pre-selected out of the vast sea of wannabe's as being superior and worthwhile. The fact that this industry is biased, self-serving, and rapacious is irrelevant; we still need it.

    Look at the situation with books. Now that the publishing industry is consolidated into abou 1.5 houses it is nearly impossible for an unknown to get a novel published. But wait, you say, you can publish your novel on the Web! Well, that's true -- if you don't care about getting paid -- but have you read much of the free fiction that's out there on the Web? Most of it is bad. Even though some of it may be worthwhile, without an editor to preselect it -- even a biased, greedy rapacious editor -- it just isn't worth the effort. Which is why I still buy the latest Grisham instead of surfing up free entertainment. At least I can expect the Grisham to be entertaining.

    What we really need is a replacement for the entertainment industry. But we also need a way for artists to be paid. It takes a lot of time and effort to write a novel or a set of decent songs. (The shareware software industry can give you a good idea of the rate of payment in voluntary systems. We studied it in Calculus under "limits.") Perhaps there is a way to do this over the 'net, with volunteer editors and some kind of honor system for rewarding the good artists, but I haven't seen it yet.

  • couldn't you just feed the line out to some recording device's line in?

    --8<--
  • by tswinzig ( 210999 ) on Sunday February 04, 2001 @07:34AM (#458110) Journal
    Microsoft doesn't have to invent an uncrackable scheme; they just have to invent one that makes it a bit more difficult and annoying to steal, while at the same time they make it as easy as possible to just pay for the song. I'm all in favor of this. (I want this to work on Linux too, so I don't really want Microsoft to control it. But the idea itself isn't evil.)

    I disagree. The best way for the record labels to make money off of their music on the internet is to release high quality, unencrypted digital music that can be played on all hardware, all OS's, everywhere. Currently that format is MP3.

    They bundle the music, they use Akamai so the downloads are fast, and they sell an album or a song for a small fraction of the price they charge for an album or a single.

    They stop worrying about Napster and other P2P because they know that real fans of the music won't mind paying for it if it's EASY TO DOWNLOAD THE ENTIRE ALBUM, EASY TO PAY FOR, and most importantly, EASY TO PLAY ANYWHERE THEY WANT!

    All encryption does is prevent honest people from using the music they paid for in the manner they wish. It doesn't stop the lamers who want to steal the music, because they will still circumvent the protections and encryptions.

    ALWAYS.

    -thomas

  • As for USB digital speaker systems, they still rely on an analog speaker. If need be you can get one of these, open it up

    And in the process, breaking the tamper-evident seal, which is detected by the hardware, and the speaker no longer decrypts audio.


    Like Tetris? Like drugs? Ever try combining them? [pineight.com]
  • How aboot a more stable OS for the consumers?
    Is this really helping anything at all? Maybe they should spend more time making there OS better rather than try to monopolize the OS market even more.
  • by -Harlequin- ( 169395 ) on Sunday February 04, 2001 @03:04AM (#458121)
    What happens when technology advances to a point where high-end music making equipment is dirt-cheap?

    Ain't gonna happen without a fight. Four years ago, I thought the same thing about video/film/animation when I saw what technologies were under development. Today, those technologies are (barely) starting to reach the market, but the cripples that have been put in place (ostensibly to prevent piracy) have been placed such that you still pretty much have to buy production rather than consumer gear. For example, while computer equipment is normally the exception, even that wonderful DVD writer in the new Apple computers that allows you to make your own DVD movies is so heavily crippled that you can't even use it master your own work.

    Think about:
    1) there is a huge financial incentive to preserve the huge price difference between consumer gear and production gear.
    2) there is a huge financial incentive to avoid a world where a consumer can either pay $5 to see the latest hollywood drek, or tune his cable to the latest commercial-quality yet free content (imagine productions like "Troops" at DVD quality, instantly availible on your big screen TV).
    If amature content ever became dirt cheap to produce and dirt cheap to distribute, content sellers would not be unaffected. I sure as hell already prefer intelligent material made by people like me over most of the crap hollywood spews. Currently however I don't have a choice. Hollywood would like to keep it that way.
    3) the difference in the actual technology between consumer and production gear is now sometimes non-existant - the only change is that the production gear has a plug wired directly to the digital output of the circuitry, wheras the consumer version interposes a DAC between the plug and the digital output purely to deny the consumer digital reproduction. (Sure, you might try to make a case around the SCMS for something like a sony minidisc doing this, but it is also happening in devices that would comply with the SCMS regardless).

    I'm not suggesting the industry is going to make blood pacts and send in the troops to keep content production and distribution out of consumer hands, but I think it is already the case that industry players are taking advantage of the "happy coincidence" that anti-piracy measures can be so easily tweaked to also discourage commercial quality production and distribution. Discourage is the word here - the price of production will fall, but not as far as technological progress would suggest, and it will be a major difficulty to set up a rig from consumer gear such that the units can talk to each other with few enough copy control cripples to allow commercial quality content production. Production gear will remain the way to go, despite consumer gear being same tech inside a different case (just fewer plugs).
    Be it for reason (1) or reason (2), almost everyone has a good reason to make sure their content control goes above and beyond what is needed to deter piracy.

    It's also a mistake to think that we'll always be able to get around copy-control. Sure, that might be true, but it's irrelevant - it's opting out of the fight and letting them win, because it doesn't matter if we (the tech elite) can enforce our rights (or whatever) if no-one else can - we will never achieve that world where there is a free, commercial-quality amature alternative to Hollywood if cheap content production is availible only to us, and not to all the people out there would actually make great films and music and the like.

    The "All Purpose Magic Cure-All Elixir" salesman never lets his customers know how to make it themselves. Indeed, he goes to lengths to prevent people finding out. As the copy-control mechanisms increasingly exceed what is actually needed to enforce copyrights, I think it's looking less and less paranoid to suspect a wider agenda. An agenda that is defintiely not in our favour.
  • Watermarks can be removed by point-and-click tools.

    There's also the likelihood that someone will design another point-and-click tool that disables the D"R"M in your average user's system, even if just to restore the fair use rights that have been stolen from us.
  • As I was writing, you said you wanted to go on fact, not FUD. Well, those are the facts. Most of the advantages of Linux are irrelevent to the average end user, while most of Linux's shortcomings are in areas end users need to have strong, like program standardization and interoperability and in a clean and serviceable GUI that behaves predictably and has standard features adhered to by most apps.

    When those issues are resolved--hopefully soon, with Ximian seeming to gain steam--Linux will be ready for most end users. That's when there needs to be a real push to get Linux into every school and university possible.

    Now, with all my naysaying above and my tacit approval of Microsoft by virtue of using Windows, I have to throw this in as a counterweight: I do think that Linux will reach the stage where people like me, even us people who have been using certain software for years and don't want to have to switch to something new, will upgrade to Linux. It *will* happen--but how quickly depends on how quickly people start realizing that technological superiority means absolutely nothing against an entrenched marketplace in which the competition is *good enough* and easier to learn. End users used to MS and Apple aren't going to switch over in droves to something which asks them weird questions about whether to install emacs or xemacsor vi or slrn etc. etc. End users are not going to be happy with something in which the file menus and widgets are very different from app to app, and where not all apps can cut and paste between each other. This of course means standardization on a particular set of desktop components for end-user oriented distros, which seems a very contentious issue still.

    So, it'll happen--but how soon is enturely dependent on how soon the Linux community can resolve petty bickering over whether this or that is an acceptable inclusion with certain distros and such, and decide that taking control of the desktop away from Microsoft is more important than arguing ad nauseam over whether such-and0such should go into free or nonfree on the Debian CD or whether Gnome or KDE or Ximian should be the desktop shipped as standard on consumer oriented distros. Up to y'all...

  • by TheInternet ( 35082 ) on Saturday February 03, 2001 @10:54PM (#458131) Homepage Journal
    Take a minute and look at how consumers have soundly thrashed other lame single-provider "solutions" such as DivX.

    Unfortunately, DivX is fundamentally different than Media Player in two ways:

    1) DivX didn't sneak into the TV
    2) You can get rid of DivX without getting rid of the TV

    - Scott
    --
    Scott Stevenson
    WildTofu [wildtofu.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I don't think that the DRM is more secure because it is tied to the OS; it is more secure because it is buried under megabytes of mess. Competitor's DRM technologies could be hidden in a big mess too, but people wouldn't appreciate having to run a 64MB binary. Microsoft's advantage comes from the fact that they already have a mess installed on every desktop they can use to hide stuff.
  • Speaking of AVI, do you know any way of converting MPEG to AVI in Linux?

    I know of avi2divx and mpeg2divx, available here [emulinks.de].

    They use a similar WINE based interface and motion JPEG as an intemediary format, using a Morgan Multimedia demo codec.
  • Actually it can be hard, specialised work being an artist, but you're not talking about that sort, you're talking about MTV 'divas' and boy bands and manufactured stars etc.

    In addition, it can be hard specialised work being a _plumber_, or a toilet maintenance expert, or a long distance truck driver, or a pallet loader at UPS. Nobody behaves like these people are deities, but they sure are useful.

    In my way I am an artist [besonic.com]. I can honestly say that I work at it as hard as any top-of-the-line plumber, or UPS pallet loader. There's a lot that goes into it, and it costs a lot for equipment, and requires some pretty serious dedication to learn the craft. I think it is absolutely absurd to expect to be treated like Picasso just for being _an_ artist (thing about Picasso is, not only was he an absolute virtuoso but he kept it up his entire life), but I do expect to get as much respect as a UPS pallet loader or long distance trucker- and, in turn, extend it instead of getting all haughty and Mick Jagger about it ;)

    The fact is, any artist who's any good either is a bit of an idiot savant or put a lot of work into their craft or both. I admit to both. But I only want the _chance_ to earn respect over my lifetime as a music creator (not 'career', music business careers are about 2 1/2 years now if you're lucky).

    That isn't the same thing as saying I want the chance to earn _money_. If digital copying means almost nobody makes or is forced to spend lots of money as a musician, I can accept that. But in order to have the chance to earn respect I need to continue to be able to produce digital music myself and have people download it. That's what's at risk now- the danger is, the content controls will lock down so much that people won't be _allowed_ to listen to what I'm able to produce unless I go through channels. That's bad.

  • >rationalize your 40 gig divx/mp3

    Sure, why not. My collection includes:

    - Free promotional material.
    - Fair use MP3 backups of all my CDs.
    - Time shifted videos that I still need to watch.

    If that ain't legal then sue me.

    >but please don't ignore the fact that you are really stealing.

    Huh? Say what? Oh, I see. You're confused about the distinction between format (MP3/DiVX) and the content.

    Okay, I'll clear it up for use in terms you might understand.

    A long time ago there were these "VTR Format Wars" in which the Beta format (owned by Sony) and the VHS format (freely licensed by JVC) were competing. I'm sure some people confused the VHS format with stolen content, since VHS was used for many things, including Home Recordings, and "unlicensed" distribution of movies [as JVC was fully open with their format]. Sony, on the other hand, preferred a stranglehold grip on the market (at first). So, if one couldn't make the distinction between casette size, then YES, Beta only held "legal" movies.

    But once consumers got over these hangups in the late 70's/early 80's they realised how much nicer it was to have the _format_ abstracted from the _content_ and simply chose VHS.

    Another example:

    TVs vs. Theaters. At a theater you'll notice that only licensed content is shown. On a TV any content can be shown, legal and stolen. So one might, erroneously, conclude that the Theater format precludes the possibility of showing stolen material.

    Let me clear that up. If you were to purchase the equipment to make your own ceullulite movie strip, then all of a sudden the theater is a "stolen" format only, right?

    Nope, because you have to make the abstratction between content (stolen vs. legal) and format (VHS, Beta, TV, Teater, DiVX, MP3).

    Does that clear it up at all for you? I'm sure I can come up with more examples if that doesn't explain it.

    >just because a post has the word "microsoft" in it doesn't necesarily mean you need to bash it.

    I was looking for the keywords "Rights Management", "Secure Audio Path", "scrambles", and "content-protection", simply because I don't agree with these ideas. I couldn't care less if Linus integrated these into Linux. These words make anything they touch suck, IMHO.

    Microsoft chose to use them. Their problem, not mine.
  • Please. If IBM hadn't handed MS a monopoly in the PC market and MS hadn't spent a lot of time squashing the alternatives they would have disappeared a long time ago. The appalling quality of their software is made up for by their brilliant marketing and their pushing alternatives out of the market.
    BTW how do you know that your blue screens were caused by bad drivers? Does Win2K have core dumps and a good syslog? NT4 certainly doesn't.
    I hate Microsoft because so many better alternatives have been crushed due to their abuse of their monopoly.
  • They are mostly interested in people making copies of the media that are undiscernable from the original

    I can hear the quality degradation from a CD to a 128 Kbit/s MP3 stream, even with the excellent LAME and Fraunhofer encoders and cheap-@$$ Sony Walkman headphones. 128 Kbit/s MP3 files are common on Napster, but they're not "undiscernable from the original." So, from your argument, why in the world is RIAA going after Napster?


    Like Tetris? Like drugs? Ever try combining them? [pineight.com]
  • People aren't downloading music to listen on their PC speakers. MP3 would never have the popularity it does, nor would digital music have any validity at all, if the only place you could play it were your PC speakers.

    People want that audio on their stereo, on headphones, on their belt as they jog, and they aren't gonna buy it if they can't get it there. And as soon as you put a headphone jack on your secure digital speakers, they aren't secure any more. Even Joe Doofus can run an attenuating patch cord from the headphone jack back to the input of his real sound card, and sure he'll lose a little quality (the .MP3 compression doesn't bother him though, does it?) he won't lose any more quality when he passes further copies to his 12,000,000 closest friends on Napster.

  • Unless your line out is in a digital format, that's lossy.

    (It won't be digital because of Secure Audio Path.) But the quality degradation from using an audiophile-quality analog setup is still a couple orders of magnitude less than the degradation from encoding to 128 Kbit/s MP3 format (the most popular format on Napster) even with excellent LAME or Fraunhofer encoders.

    Even then, you run into the SDMI watermarks on new content.


    Like Tetris? Like drugs? Ever try combining them? [pineight.com]
  • Linus doesn't give away the source to his kernel,

    That is EXACTLY what Linus did, you ignorant fuckhead. That is why Linux is called

    drumroll please

    an OPEN SOURCE operating system.

    What Linus doesn't do, it turns out, is put his personal blessing on hacks/mods that don't meet his personal standards. This doesn't mean that you or I can't download the code and do whatever we want with it under the GPL.

  • somebody never took econ as a kiddie. price is set by demand and supply, not cost.

    In a truly competitive market with unlimited supply, cost does indeed becomes the driving factor in price. As you point out, the music industry is not competitive. You'll notice that as much as the new copy prevention schemes battle fair use and piracy, they also raise the barriers to entry in digital music. The latter is probably the real point, since otherwise, their market maigh (GASP) become competitive.

  • You must register your legally licensed copy of Whistler if you want to run it at all. Either by phone or by web (at least this is the current plan).

    This on itself is bad. But check out this story [theregister.co.uk] to find out what might happen with your mandatorily provided registration data...

  • Two years ago, Microsoft had a USB speaker system that didn't require the use of a sound card at all. So yes, THAT Microsoft "sound card" WILL get top priority over anything made by Creative.

    Or do you think that Microsoft will oh so nicely refrain from exercising this power they create for themselves?
  • Also, I disagree with the common-GUI is easier theory, and I think the Web provides decent proof for that. I rarely have to help a newbie navigate a web page, even though web pages all use completely different widget sets and look-and-feels.

    But, no matter how different the HCI of the web page, you're still going to be able to highlight something and hit Ctrl-C to copy it in Windows; You're still going to have a file menu with filey-stuff on it, and an edit menu with edity-stuff on it.

    The web page HCI is only layered on top of the familiar HCI of whatever desktop you are running, and I think the author has a valid point.
    -

  • by Johnath ( 85825 ) on Saturday February 03, 2001 @11:04PM (#458166) Homepage

    Well, if you're at all like me, the phrase "Secure Audio Path" raised a lot more questions than it answered, so I've done a little digging around the msdn site and found some information. My apologies for the blockquote spam, but I think they explain it quite well:


    In the current digital rights management model, when protected digital music is played, the encrypted content passes to the digital rights management client component. The DRM client verifies that the application and the DRM component incorporating the Windows Media(TM) Format SDK are valid. If they are valid, the DRM client decrypts the content and sends it to the application, which then sends it to the audio components. At this point, the decrypted music is available to applications and plug-ins that can intercept the music, leaving it susceptible to hacking.
    ...
    In the Secure Audio Path model, the content is not decrypted by the application, but rather is passed in an encrypted state until it reaches system components in the computer kernel. Before decrypting and passing the content on to any other components, a DRM kernel component verifies that all remaining components in the path to the sound card are valid and authenticated.


    The best information seems to be in their SDK documentation for windows media:



    A quick glance at the latter's diagrams shows that, if nowhere else, they are clearly vulnerable to hardware based attack, but of course, the whole scheme, as has already been pointed out in this forum, is also vulnerable to a $15 tape recorder. :) At any rate, just some extra info for those similarly piqued.

  • by roca ( 43122 ) on Sunday February 04, 2001 @05:39AM (#458167) Homepage
    > Of course, clever intelligent people will be
    > able to hack it. But the question is whether
    > your average Joe Punter is going to.

    All it takes is one clever, intelligent person writing a little tool that does the hack and making it available for Joe Punters everywhere to download (somewhere out of the reach of the DMCA).

    The "economic argument" just doesn't hold up in a world where everything can be automated.
  • So run WIndows 2000 in a virtual box on VMWare and write a hardware emulation of an "approved" soundblaster soundcard (ie: with signed drivers).

    It's almost always possible for programs to discern whether or not they are run under emulation (VMWare is a virtualizer, that is, a motherboard emulator). For example, check out this four-line 6502 assembly segment [everything2.com] that determines to 99.x% certainty whether it's running on a real NES or the NESticle emulator. There will probably be several similar flaws in VMWare that Microsoft can detect, and Windows will refuse to enable the Secure Audio Path in those cases.


    Like Tetris? Like drugs? Ever try combining them? [pineight.com]
  • Windows Media Player runs pretty well under Wine, oddly enough...
  • by Ryu2 ( 89645 ) on Saturday February 03, 2001 @11:04PM (#458173) Homepage Journal
    An important part of Microsoft's kernel level DRM is the authentication of drivers, to be sure that you aren't using a hacked driver that simply takes decoded audio and writes it to a file. Drivers will have to be "signed" by Microsoft to ensure they're "compliant", in order for the appropriate codecs to output decoded audio to them.

    It doesn't take a stretch of the imagination to see how Microsoft, as the sole "signer" of drivers, to favor its own hardware/software over other third party products.

    Same goes for software -- since visualization/EQ plug-ins, etc. need access to decoded raw audio, you can bet that MS will enforce a similar signing policy for such software before allowing API-level accesss to decrypted bitstream.

    MS could oh so conviently "delay" signing of say, WinAmp's plugins, while MS's own Media Player can work with these formats right out of the box!

  • Nah, they've just redefined "Bipartisan" as totally agreeing with them. As in "We want bipartisan support for our ideas". Kind of like how "uniter" basically means "unite behind whatever I want or I send the thugs after you"
  • IE & standards: Up to NS6, IE 5.5 (& IE 5 for Mac) was the most standards complaint browser. (If this doesn't mean much to, this mean that it supported standards very well.) Netscape has a tendecy to freak at non-100%-correct(-to-netscape's-standards) HTML. I don't know about you, but while I think that 100%-correct is a Good Thing, I don't think that the browser should *force* it on you. Not everybody can be bothered learn HTML, and WYSIWYG isn't perfect either.

    All MSIE does is guessing, what author could mean -- it's impossible to parse correctly all the crap that displays in MSIE without wasting huge amount of time and effort on doing it. While Mozilla supports most of broken HTML, it's impossible to make it work exactly like MSIE does without having precisely the same parsing+guessing algorithm -- precisely because that broken HTML wouldn't be broken if it was not ambiguous.

    If I write a page for IE4, I can be reasonably sure that it would display correctly on IE4+ (that is why most people use document.all for IE, instead of the standard way, btw)

    If you are so dumb that you can't write a page that complies with standards and doesn't trigger known bugs/incompatibilities in IE and Netscape, you write a page "for IE4+", and this is why it doesn't work everywhere else. But that makes you a moron.

    Mozilla & memory: I've tested NS6 on 2k machine.

    I neither know nor care how NS6 works on W2K. Mozilla .7 on Linux takes 25-30M, and I don't think that MSIE with all its DLLs uses less. I still would prefer a better browser, but MSIE isn't noticeably better.

  • IE has little to do with standards, too -- most of pages that don't display properly in Netscape but display in IE, are complete bullshit from any set of standards' point of view.

    So? The rule of thumb is "be flexible in what you accept and strict in what you produce". IE is following that well, better than Netscape. Of course, if IE was claiming to be an xhtml browser, and ignored errors from pages claiming to be xhtml, then there would be a problem with this, since xml requires valid, well-formed documents, and the standard explicitly states "no guessing what the author meant". The sgml-based html does not have this requirement.

    It's possible to make standards-compliant page that doesn't work in Netscape, but in reality I have yet to see it

    Does that include ns4 and the css standard?

  • Just remember what happened when CDs were released. We were told "the price will go down as they gain acceptance and producing them gets cheaper". Now they're almost universal, and I don't see a price cut anywhere nearby, do you? The music industry seems to want to be able to force people to buy their products and only their products (want to be that, to be able to distribute properly encrypted audio, you're going to have to wade through enough red tape to make DVDs seem open?) for insane prices. One has to hope that they'll die, and die fast.


    -RickHunter
  • You say that when costs fall, prices always fall... This is not how the music industry has worked to date - the production cost of CDs is tiny compared to vinyl LPs, but a typical CD costs the same as an LP. So why should they massively reduce costs for online delivery?

    Of course, if copy protection works badly enough, these higher prices create an economic incentive for hackers to get round the various mechanisms.
  • Luckily some smart folk have reverse engineered and documented the ASF 1 format and are using it to make the avifile project (which currently plays DivXs and ASF using thin layer of Wine to implement the Win32 avifile API) actually implement its codecs natively.

    Of course Microsoft could claim DRM is a copy-protection scheme to "effectively" enforce the copyright on the works, and this effort would become a felony under the DCMA. (Running somebody ELSE's software under WINE might skate by, but doing your own would run right into the Feds.)

    This strikes me as Microsoft trying to sweet talk the move studios into putting all their content out on their proprietary format. (It shouldn't be too hard, given the association in the studio execs' minds between Linux software and DeCSS.)

    If they succeed, they've set up a situation similar to the way VHS pushed out Betamax: The Beta format was better, but VHS had all the movies.

    Linux as Betamax, Windows as VMS, and the DCMA to make it a federal felony to fight back.
  • "Using one monopoly to gain another", I think it means. They're using their O/S monopoly to establish a digital media monopoly. Playing digital media content is definitively an application function, not an operating system one, more clearly so than the browser thingy IMO.
  • >I don't think that the DRM is more secure because it is tied to the OS; it is more secure because it is buried under megabytes of mess.

    Good point. I was about to quote from the article - the point that Microsoft has credibility when it comes to "[...] securing music within the boewls of the computer".

    (Hey, as if we didn't already know that Microsoft, RIAA, and MPAA were swimming in gallons of their own shit ;)

  • > I don't see why would anyone would want to put decryption on the sound card, I don't think that many will do an update that:
    > A> require them to use dos.
    > B> maim their sound card.
    >

    So take DOS out of the picture. Rather than "boot from a floppy and run this utility under DOS", package it up as a Windoze-style .EXE.

    The .EXE puts up a window that says "Insert a floppy". It then dumps a floppy image to the floppy, tweaks some registry settings, and tells the luser to reboot.

    The floppy comes up, does the DOS magic from a batch file, and tells the user to remove it and reboot. When 'doze comes back up, the registry settings tweaked before say "Your DVD-ROM is now fixed!" and the utility deletes itself.

    To me, that'd be a crock - I don't like tools that don't need Windoze demanding them. But if the goal is to make it easy for Joe Luzer, hey, ya gotta do whatcha gotta do.

  • Actually, Microsoft already has verification built into the operating system. If a driver is missing or damaged, the kernel can sense this via a checksum. This checksum routine can esily be upgraded to a crypto algorithm of some kind.

    This prevents, not only some viruses, but also legitimate hacking.
    Of course, the crypto algorithms may be bypassed, but what if Office 2004XTR verifies that the kernel hasn't been modified? What if the the encryption/checksums/annoyances are not built into the local kernel, but are accessed remotely?

    I believe the latest Office upgrade already calls up Microsoft.com during the registration process... This can be bypassed, but for how long?
  • (note: I'm not going to even go near the ethics of using a method like this to pirate media. I'm just commenting that it's possible)

    "Secure Audio Path" will not work. All I have to do is play whatever godawful WMA+DRM "content" I want, connect the line-out of my sound card to my line-in, and hit record. Quality is not an issue here (at least not with a good sound card); I'd wager that the quality loss would be less than that sustained by the watermarking/compression process.

    Even if they somehow manage to mess with this (disabling recording to a sound card while it's playing their shit), there are solutions... two sound cards... two computers... Sure, using two computers (or even connecting line out to line in) isn't something you're average Joe will do... but that doesn't matter. Once a few people defeat the DRM and make Ogg Vorbis / MP3's out of their WMAs, everyone else can get them via Napster or whatever peer-to-peer method they want. (Side note: The day they start charging for Napster, www.napigator.com is going to suffer an unintentional DoS. Opennap can't be sued out of existence so easily.)

    That last hop from computer to speakers is an unencrypted analog one, and will likely remain analog for a long time. That means that it can be redirected and recorded. The *ONLY* way for the XXAA to stop people from copying their "content" (how I hate that word) is to make piracy not worth it. There are two ways of doing this: increase the (opportunity) cost of piracy and decrease the cost of music/videos. The opportunity cost of piracy keeps going down, and attempts like DRM won't stop it... there's only one solution left to them. If their "business model" can't stand up to the Internet, it should die an ungraceful death.
  • For the most part, I agree. Windows users will not move to linux in a big way in the forseeable future.

    There's something you didn't mention though. Of all that software you use, all the familiar apps, how many have you paid for and not pirated?

    This is an issue, i guess it's fine to use windows as long as you simply use warez, crackz and serialz to keep it all running. This is not an issue for linux.

  • Or just attaching a listening device to the S/PDIF output of a SB Live or Trident soundcard, which gives lossless digital output with, as I understand it, no means for encrypting or securing the data.

    ----
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "Napster is not an evil thing for content owners," [..] "It's just that it doesn't have any DRM in it."

    Translation: We're not making money out of it, but we want to.

    It's hard to start charging people money for things that they can get for free. But if they're already paying for something, it's easy to get them to pay a little more. If digital content management is deeply embedded into the OS - figure in the .NET distibuted application framework and their upcoming "one CD-key per computer" licence model - and I can just imagine the next step:

    "With your Windows Subscription(TM) [a mere $40 per month, major credit card required for automatic paperless billing], just point and click to download and listen to music - and the fee will automatically be charged to your account!"

    And then what next? A small fee for each and every time you listen to a song - even if you've already downloaded it? As far as I can tell, this is spookily close to being possible, and there could be some messy privacy intrusions if that was the case. 1984 and "Big Brother"? More like Win2k and the omnipresent Willy G... it's not hard to imagine.

    (Posting anonymously because Microsoft [indirectly] gives me money. I'm so sorry..)
  • Actually, there might be software hacks which do not require faking a signed driver. Specifically, Windows has never been very good about keeping ring zero to it's self. BO2K (open source) can get ring zero in 98 and NT right? Anyway, it's highly unlikely that they will monitor the checksum of running code, so you can just disable all the rights managment stuff in the OS on a running system.

    You could also just use protected mode to redirect the sound card IO ports, but I'd consider this and hardware hacks to be inferior solutions compaired with just "fixing" the running DRM code since you could only transfer music from secure to insecure at playback speeds. If you just fix the DRM then you can copy anything that you want to copy.

    BTW> I will laugh my ass off if they try to add runtime monitoring of code. That would be so much work for such a bandaid fix for the fact that they can not improve their protected mode handling.
  • "
    1) there is a huge financial incentive to preserve the huge price difference between consumer gear and production gear.
    "

    In my experience there is a huge quality difference between pro and consumer gear. Pro stuff is designed to be taken apart and fixed, not chucked and replaced. It comes with big size circuit boards, screws with standard heads, steel cases and rack mountable. They also often come with controls that can be read in the dark and don't break when dropped on the floor.

    The build quality between pro and consumer gear is substantial.

    Also, pro gear never ever has a big logo on the front labelling it a pro version :)

  • Maybe include a loud constant 20 kHz tone that's filetered out on "protected" hardware, thereby causing people listening to the raw source to get headaches...

    That's exactly what I meant - I'm wasn't talking about the sameple rate, I was talking about introducing a noise at a pitch that would screw up most mp3 encoders....30khz was chosen because its beyong human hearing rage and beyond most mp3 encoders...
  • Don't forget the proposed changes to the ATA (IDE) protocols, and accepted changes to the SCSI and Firewire protocols, which allow third parties to control access to sectors on your disk. With compliant software (and you can be damn sure Windows 2002 will support it!) sectors can be rendered unreadable, even un-deletable, to every other program.

    On my darker days, I suspect Windows will flip that secure bit on the boot sector for "protection" from "malicious" software such as Linux or *BSD. But I digress..

    It's clear that this is a nearly end-to-end solution for "secure" media - you <b>can't</b> read the data from the disk without one encryption key, you can't read the bitstream without a second encryption key, and while first-generation drivers will decrypt the datastream in software, it's not hard to predict that the decryption will be pushed onto the sound card in the near future. You don't have to modify the codec itself, all you need is a bit of silicon between the bus and the codec which handles the decryption.

    Looking just a wee bit further ahead, why do you need a sound card at all? USB speakers, with decryption and codecs in the speaker itself!
  • Interesting that you accuse me of trolling.

    Maybe you should go educate yourself before posting as an Anonymous coward.
  • "Don't be obtuse. "

    Yes, I forgot... In order for a conspiracy theory to have any validity one must ignore all facts to the contrary.

    Kook
  • I'm aware that someone has written an audio driver that is able to copy any digital output directly to a .wav file. Since any developer can create audio drivers, this must be what the "Secure Audio Path" protects.

    ...but what's even scarier, if this scheme is going to work, then the manufacturers of sound cards are going to require some sort of encryption keys in order for their audio drivers to "stay the path", so to speak. Looks like we just lost another one to the DMCA.

  • Unless your line out is in a digital format, that's lossy.
  • MicroSoft makes me mad sometimes...

    What pisses me off more than microsoft's antics, and their apparent disregard for the government's wishes, is that people in general don't see anything wrong with these shinanigans(sp?). (And by people, I mainly mean the corporate IT guys, and by corporate IT guys, I mean my boss.) They just eat it up!

    And by the way, does anyone else think that if microsoft were not the office suite leader already, they'd be moving to include Office into windows, preaching about "it's what consumers want"?

    oh well...


    --
  • Ultimately, there is a 16-bit hardware register which receives this 1/44000sec sample of sound level...

    Actually, I was under the impression that DMA is used, not PIO-style writing to a register.

    Unless, as another poster has suggested, the decrypter is built into the DAC, which would be a radical change of architecture requiring (at minimum) for everyone in the world to buy a new sound card, there is nothing at all the industry can do to stop you from adding a piggyback card to pick off the outgoing audio stream and make it available to some other totally unrelated piece of software for recording. This requires a board to be built, which is why it is called a hardware hack.

    In the (ugly) world of windows, any new sound card is "installed" by running a program that came with it on a disc, and that program could easily load a driver that supports end-to-end encryption. Almost all modern consumer sound cards have one large mixed-signal chip, with the DMA controller, mixer, and DAC, so if folks like Crystal/Cirrus include decryption, you'll have a lot more hardware hacking to do!

    Well, I'm not in an arguement mood... my point in this slashdot post is:

    Do not underestimate the Power Of The Dark Side.

  • by Elgreco ( 57355 ) on Saturday February 03, 2001 @11:31PM (#458271)
    The difference until now is that content providors did not side with content producers. If Sony makes music available only through a secure format tied with the OS the is little you can do if you want to hear it come from your speakers.

    Microsoft has two problems ...

    One is that too many people have CDs. So Sony will produce for that market.

    The other is that MS cannot force people to buy their OS. They have secure ways to destibute windows and make sure everybody that has it pays for it. If they do that you would probably get half a billion more people using Linux because they can't afford Windows. (Windows becomes more expensive if you have to pay for everything you use like word processors)

    That may trigger a new eara in open source were a new generation of programmers and contributers come to open source.

    If it wans't for Linux, the computer/music industry would be very different.

    I pray for the day MS windows becomes subscription only and veryfiable via the internet :-)

    George

  • by Chris Johnson ( 580 ) on Sunday February 04, 2001 @10:22AM (#458291) Homepage Journal
    Absolutely. Right now I'm trying to operate in the 'indie' sphere, and I can't be too bothered about the fact that the industry has most of the world well brainwashed to not listen to 'garage' music- because I can see the danger that it will get even _worse_.

    Let me put it this way: I have music at besonic.com/chrisj [besonic.com] for free downloading. There's a lot there- put a lot of effort into it because it's what I love to do and I can't get music like what I want out of the major labels anyhow, gotta make it myself.

    That said, there comes a point where I don't even care if people go listen to this music- what I am appreciating is a situation where people can go listen to it, if they like, without costing me anything. I can't maintain a distribution network that would put physical CDs in people's hands all over the world for pennies or for free- the CDs that I have made are white elephants, physical media isn't as popular as it used to be, it's a losing deal. Internet distribution is so much better because it's so much more flexible...

    So, my primary concern here is not to get better access to major label stuff (I don't even care- it basically sucks, who wants it?) or to gain equal access for my stuff. I'm perfectly happy to have a situation where my stuff can only thrive on its own merits, always out-publicised by other stuff. What I don't want is to be outflanked- don't want to lose the distribution media (redbook CD audio, mp3, internet file distribution) that I _do_ have available at this time.

    I consider that a very serious risk- after all, every single one of those taken-for-granted technologies is under attack, up to and including redbook CD audio (see BMG's attempts to introduce a copy protected version). So from my perspective, I totally, completely agree that the music industry wants to be able to force people to buy their products and only their products. As an independent musician, studio owner, recording and mastering engineer not affiliated with the RIAA, I really don't like the idea of the general public being forced _not_ to buy/use _my_ products. Call that capitalism? *spit*

    It's a 'boiling the frog' problem- do it slowly and steadily enough and the general public doesn't really notice, particularly when they're not told. The general public does not, for instance, understand exactly what 'music CDRs' are, or why they are more expensive, where the money goes, why some newer players may refuse to play music off 'data CDRs'. None of this is done in daylight- it's done in scheming silence as a fait accompli. It's done through totalitarian processes rather than capitalistic processes, and the intended result resembles state socialism as practiced by the USSR rather than capitalism.

    It's funny how much respect I've gained for capitalism once I figured out we Americans don't have it. I'd like to see us have more of it, in addition to the socialist tinge that moderates our government. There's no freaking point in proceeding with a corporate oligarchy totalitarian state and then grudgingly slapping a coat of social-policy socialism onto it to cover up the uglier bits. If we expect to be considered 'capitalist' by history we'd better shape up and start considering the nature of power and where it settles, and take steps to establish that we do have something at least vaguely resembling a free market.

    I'm here to tell you that a world in which the only way you can distribute music content to consumers is through corporate-controlled encrypted formats backed by law is not even vaguely resembling a free market from where I'm standing. Please do everything possible to prevent things ever getting to that state, even to the point of boycotting the RIAA labels and intentionally pirating their wares to injure their profit, which is being used against capitalism and for totalitarianism.

    I won't be doing that part because I have my hands full simply taking care of my side of things- upgrading my studio, producing music intended to be circulated freely, keeping informed of how things are in the music business. But because of the direction I see things going, I have to say I completely support and respect anyone who's actually trying to use music piracy as a weapon to hurt the RIAA labels. Hey, name one other weapon we have? I don't see any other defense against them, and just because it's not being fought in _your_ trenches doesn't mean it's not a war.

  • by Mihg ( 2381 ) on Saturday February 03, 2001 @11:43PM (#458311)

    Its interesting how many of these media access control architectures that the various large corporations are pushing are built around software.

    What these big corporations are forgetting is that software is just a bunch of bits stored on some magnetic media somewhere. These bits can be looked at, pondered over, duplicated and modified.

    Yes, your operating system may verify that your software is special in some way. Perhaps your programs must be signed by one of these corporation's master keys before the program can even begin play with the imprisoned audio and video. But your operating system itself is just a bunch of bits, and bits can be changed. How can an operating verify it has not been altered or even verify that it verified itself?

    Of course, there is always hardware. Sure, your hardware may insist that your software meets some specific, magical criteria before the software gets the privilege of looking at that imprisoned song, book or movie, but the hardware still depends upon the software. And software is just a bunch of bits. And bits can be learned from or changed. And hardware can be deceived.

    And then there is the hardware itself. The opaque, unchanging, mysterious hardware. Or is it? Opaque? No, hardware can be studied as well. Logic analyzers, in-circuit emulators, oscilliscopes and other toys allow for the exploration of the depths of the machines. Unchanging? Also wrong. Flash memory, EPROMs, and soldering irons abound. Nothing is immutable. Mysterious? No as well. Someone designed it. Somewhere out there exists the source code to the firmware and the VHDL for the chips themselves. Nothing can go undiscovered forever.

    So where does this leave us?

    No matter what obstacles are thrown at us by those who espouse the ideal that absolutely no action should go uncharged, they will be overcome. There will always be a Jon Johansen or a Julien Stern and Julien Boeuf that step out of the corner and say "Hey wait, your system isn't so special at all."

    Then those big corporations will start all over again. They will come up with their Next Great Thing, their New Magic Bullet, their Unbreakable Secure System. Their marketing departments and PR flaks will crow about how wonderfully great their new system is. Until someone else steps out of the depths...

    Information is unstoppable.


    ---
    The Hotmail addres is my decoy account. I read it approximately once per year.
  • by dimator ( 71399 ) on Saturday February 03, 2001 @11:44PM (#458312) Homepage Journal
    You got that straight. The music industry has been ripping off the masses for years now. The only reason we accept CDs for $20 is because we've been trained to think thats how much they're worth, just like we've been trained to think how impossibly special and talented "artists" actually are.

    Please don't preach to me about hard working artists. It's not hard work being an artist. Some record exec decides what songs you'll sing, what look you'll have, what demographic you'll be targetting. Some dip shit writes your songs. All the "artist" has to do is sing(wow, that's real hard to learn how to do) and go on Leno once in a while to demonstrate his/her stupidity in an interview ("I've been singing since I was 3!"). It's hard work being a pediatrician, or researcher, but instead, the artists are becoming billioners instead of these people, who are actually doing something for humanity.

    And please, no business majors preaching about "supply and demand". $20 a cd is theft, in my book, and I dont care about anyone else's book.

    gnapster and opennap is all I need. it will take a long while before the lawyers smash these up. poetic justice.


    --
  • by steveha ( 103154 ) on Saturday February 03, 2001 @11:51PM (#458330) Homepage
    "They're making it as easy to buy music as it is to steal it." -- Jay Samit, in the article

    Jay Samit seems to get it.

    Microsoft doesn't have to invent an uncrackable scheme; they just have to invent one that makes it a bit more difficult and annoying to steal, while at the same time they make it as easy as possible to just pay for the song. I'm all in favor of this. (I want this to work on Linux too, so I don't really want Microsoft to control it. But the idea itself isn't evil.)

    But it won't work while the record companies try to charge too much money for the songs. $4 each? That's one-fourth the cost of a CD!

    Whenever I consider copy-protection issues, I always remember the example Borland set in the mid-80's. At a time when other companies were charging high prices and using copy protection, Borland charged low prices and didn't use copy protection, and sold a ton of products. The lesson is clear: if you charge a fair price, most people will pay you instead of ripping you off.

    So if Microsoft or anyone else can make a system as easy-to-use as Napster, which makes payment so easy it's automatic; and if this system is then loaded with music the average person thinks is fairly priced... it will be a gold mine.

    But what makes a fair price?

    Serving up music via the Net should reduce costs for everyone. No need to pay for warehouse space to store piles of CDs. No need to pay a CD manufacturer; no defective CDs to throw away. No guessing wrong what the people want, and having to destroy thousands of CDs no one would buy. No retail markup. The band makes the music, the web page sells it, the consumer listens. Not a middle-man in sight, which (as Scott McCloud says) is great news as long as you aren't one of the middle-men.

    When costs fall, prices always fall too. If they can make money now selling a CD for $15, they ought to be able to make money charging a heck of a lot less just for a copy of the bits.

    Well, here is the kicker: the record companies seem to want to lock the prices in where they are now, despite costs that will be lower to them. In other words, they want their profit margin to go up, a lot. And they seem to think that just by using the right copy-protection technology, they will be able to do it. It won't work.

    In the future, the cost of music will fall. It's going to happen. The record companies can get on board and make money, or they can try to use copy-protection to prop up prices and go broke.

    steveha

  • by geomcbay ( 263540 ) on Saturday February 03, 2001 @11:54PM (#458332)
    the one thing that none of these DRM solutions address is the fact that it only takes *ONE* person to crack the system and it all falls apart. When confronted by this fact, the proponents of DRM systems will say 'well, yes, but we just want to keep honest people honest...This is to stop the casual copier'.

    Which is just bullshit. The 'honest people' are going to get the decrypted versions of these files over systems like Napster or, since Napster is going full-on-corporate gnutella, cutemx, or whatever pop up to replace these if they disappear. They won't know or care that the original file had to be hacked using some obscure hacked Windows kernal with 'Secure Audio Path' code disabled. And I'm ignoring, for now, the fact that anyone can still just rip the original CD and ignore the music company's 'approved' digital version of the file (at least until they supplant CDs with something that has more protetion built in).

    The core problem is this: Many people have already gotten used to the free distribution of this type of media...Since this is the case, systems designed only to keep 'honest people honest' are doomed to failure because the 'dishonest' people (the hacker/cracker/whateveryouwanttocallthem) will disable any protections and then get the unprotected versions out onto these distribution channels where the honest ignorant people are.

  • by spongman ( 182339 ) on Saturday February 03, 2001 @11:54PM (#458334)
    clearly vulnerable to hardware based attack:

    I doubt it. The kernel will only pass said data to signed drivers. In order to get your driver signed you'll need to talk to Microsoft. Your driver certificate and probably freedom of movement will be quickly revoked if you break their license agreement. Especially if they're in cahoots with the FBI, which, since this is a legal issue, they probably are.

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