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DRM Reduces Battery Life 296

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

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  • Wrong! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:17PM (#14944889)
    The article compares MP3 @ 128kbps, with WMA9 @ 192kbps and WMA10 DRM. Spot the flaw in the methodology yet?
  • You don't say! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:17PM (#14944891)
    Adding CPU-intensive tasks such as encryption/DRM parsing requires more CPU, therefore more power, which therefore drains batteries at an increased rate.

    Film at 11! ;)

    But in all truth, it's interesting to see just how much more quickly batteries are being drained. It's not surprising that the average person hasn't really thought about this - modern day desktop processors can do anything, man! So obviously, in the mind of the non-technical person, this is something astonishing.
  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by danpsmith ( 922127 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:18PM (#14944899)
    Why is this in the apple section? I'm no apple fanboy but the windows DRMs cut battery life by 25% and apple's cut it 7%, seems like this should be in some other category cuz it's actually a bigger issue with plays-for-sure files...
  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <akaimbatman&gmail,com> on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:20PM (#14944914) Homepage Journal
    Sometimes you have to ask the right questions. The right question in this case is:
    Is the DRM draining the battery, or the more sophisticated compression algorithms used in the newer formats like AAC and WMA?

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

    by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:20PM (#14944915) Homepage Journal
    The test compares DRMed WMA to MP3s. Different file formats will have different power consumption requirements to decode. I'm sure they'd find that DRM WMAs do consume more power than unDRM WMAs, but will the difference be 25%?
  • Captain Obvious (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:22PM (#14944925)
    This has got to be one of the dumbest article submissions, EVER. I expect to see this kind of crap in a local rag, not on a website geared towards individuals who on average have significantly more technical know-how than the general population.

    Talk about going to extremes to push a political agenda. Gee Zonk, what do you REALLY feel about DRM. Next there will be articles on how DRM prevents you from storing as many files on your media player (699 vs 700!!!!).
  • DRM has gone... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ndtechnologies ( 814381 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:25PM (#14944948)
    DRM has gone from Suck to Blow. Really, this isn't suprising. If DRM increases the amount of processing needed to play the file, of course it's going to drain the battery. Solution? Don't use DRM, or don't buy music from stores that do use it.
  • Re:Wrong! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dsanfte ( 443781 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:25PM (#14944949) Journal
    Good point, they should have compared WMA and WMA-DRM of equal bitrates.
  • Argh (Score:5, Insightful)

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

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

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

    It is; however, the DRM that is locking you into using WMA/AAC vs the power-saving MP3 format in the first place, but it's a bit of a stretch to say that it's the DRM's fault that a player running a more complex codec takes a power hit for doing so.
  • Re:Wrong! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Quebec ( 35169 ) * on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:28PM (#14944972) Homepage
    Actually, the main reason why WMAs are used is because of the DRMs, so it is still true to say that DRMs cause battery life to shorten.
  • Re:Argh (Score:5, Insightful)

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

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

    The problem is like that tag on the mattress. You spent who knows how many tax dollars to put that thing there and the privilege you receive for all that money is the inability to cut the thing off. (Yes I do know you actually can remove the tag -- just not before it is sold.)
  • Re:Wrong! (Score:4, Insightful)

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

    I'm no fan of DRM, but this appears to be FUD. They should have used a WMA with DRM and a WMA without DRM, both of the same bitrate. That would be a proper comparison.
  • Re:Captain Obvious (Score:3, Insightful)

    by grub ( 11606 ) <slashdot@grub.net> on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:35PM (#14945032) Homepage Journal

    Gee Zonk, what do you REALLY feel about DRM. Next there will be articles on how DRM prevents you from storing as many files on your media player (699 vs 700!!!!).

    The difference here is >1. If the hit in your hypothetical scenario was 25% (525 tracks vs 700) it would indeed be news, yes?
  • Re:Wrong! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:39PM (#14945055)
    On the other hand, this is a good comparison between a "typical MP3 downloaded illegally from a P2P service" and a "typical DRM-infected WMA bought at a legal online store."
  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:47PM (#14945111)
    The recording industry finds that their copyrighted material is being pirated, so they implement ways to limit pirating. (No one mentions that most of the piracy is being done in 3rd world countries, costing record producers many times what it costs them in the US, but we'll let discuss that later.)

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

    It's all about balance. If the DRM people want to use technical means to screw us, we should be allowed to use technical means to unscrew outselves. This is no different from us using SPAM filters to fight spammers. We should be able to use anti-DRM programs to fight the recording industry.
  • Re:Wrong! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Toraz Chryx ( 467835 ) <jamesboswell@btopenworld.com> on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:03PM (#14945219) Homepage
    higher bitrate files are larger ergo the disk will be spun up more often, using more power...
  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:04PM (#14945229)
    I'd expect at any given bitrate WMA takes more power to play than MP3. Why? More complex format. Same is true for OGG or AAC. They do more advanced processing, and thus require more CPU power to decode. Same holds true for MP3 vs PCM. I remember back in the 486 days, I couldn't play MP3s in full quality mode, but I could play 44.1kHz 16-bit WAVs fine.

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

    As the GPP said: A real comparison for DRM is to take an equal bit rate WMA file of the same version, and have one with DRM and one without, and then test them. That's the only way to test it's actual battery impact. If you let confounding factors creep in, then the test is worthless.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:15PM (#14945313)
    Why is this in the Apple category? Last time I checked, Apple doesn't use Windows Media Player for their store or audio playback.

    Or did I miss a memo?
  • Re:DRM has gone... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by soft_guy ( 534437 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:23PM (#14945366)
    Or strip the DRM off the files. You can do that with iTunes simply by burning the music to a CD and then ripping the CD. Or you can use PlayFair (Hymm).
  • On the plus side (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Overly Critical Guy ( 663429 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:33PM (#14945427)
    On the plus side, content creators' rights are protected from rampant piracy.

    That is a plus side...right? Guys? Hello? *crickets chirping*

    I forgot, nobody gives a shit about the artists, so we have to invent cute little experiments where files with non-equivalent bitrates are compared, so we can scream "DRM REDUCES BATTERY LIFE!" in some vain attempt to bash DRM yet again. My bad.
  • by Trogre ( 513942 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:48PM (#14945528) Homepage
    Just use Ogg Vorbis and get better quality for less bitrate.

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

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

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

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

  • Re:Argh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drew ( 2081 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @07:50PM (#14945845) Homepage
    The decoding speed of a codec on an Intel x86 processor probably has only minimal bearing on the power usage on another unrelated processor (or even necessarily on that processor) for a variety of reasons, even assuming they use the same decoders. The two codecs would use completely different combinations of instructions for the decoding, and without knowing what those instructions are, how they translate between the 2 ISAs, and how many cycles they take, correlations between speed and processing power on different ISAs is almost meaningless, especially when you consider that many hardware MP3 players implement some or all of their supported audio codecs in hardware as ASICs.
  • a reason?? (Score:3, Insightful)

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

    ?!?! Was there ever a reason *not* to choose mp3 (or ogg, e.g.)?
    More importantly, was there ever a reason to choose WMA+DRM (or WMA even w/o DRM...)?
  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportlandNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Friday March 17, 2006 @09:02PM (#14946101) Homepage Journal
    While the 'DRM reduces Battery life' is a non issue, DRM has exactly nothing to do with artists. It is a vain attempt to save a business model, nothing more.

    Guess what? every song no the radio can be downloaded off a p2p network right now, and it's been that way for at least 6 years.
    Artists are still getting paid, and the music company is still making money.
    Don't make the mistake that this can, in any way, help artists. It is a waste of money for the record companies to even try, since it is impossible to completly lock people out of any data stream.

    I wonder if the music company charges the artisits for the 'DRM Servicing' of their music?

    Nt to mention, many songs are engineered towards what the label wants to here, not what artists want to sound like.
    If anyone in this scenerio doesn't care about artists, it's the label.

    iTunes has had a billion downloads, clearly if those people were predisposed to get music from the internet for free, they could ahve done so.
  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @09:08PM (#14946127) Journal
    > Funny. The "music industry" seems to have done fine for
    > the last 90 or so years without any sort of DRM.

    Yes, but human's ability to share and copy around music is just a few angstroms away from total virtual reality manipulation ability. They could swap and copy alboms in minutes, if not seconds.

    The sheer ability absolutely dwarfs the '70's with cassette copying.

    To look into the future a bit, imagine a teleportation/duplication type device. It's the difference between the current, "Well, you can go make or copy your own car" by getting out welding equipment, and pushing a button.

    [b]We are at the button-push stage for music.[/b] That is the difference.
  • by Kittie Rose ( 960365 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @09:27PM (#14946186) Homepage
    Argh! I got the idea after the first 142489.4 replies. Can people are least quickly flick through comments when they've made such an obvious observation, thinking they're so clever, and explaining it in that calm but nerdy +5 manner? How can something be "Insightful" if every bloody person sees the same thing!
  • by Alien Being ( 18488 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @10:22PM (#14946345)
    The RIAA, the MPAA and you say that it's necessary. But no matter how many times you say it, millions of us remain unconvinced.

    You can stick your head in the sand if you want, but some of us won't "get used to it". We'll continue to protest against it. We'll disclose the dirty little secrets that the Sonys of this world don't want people to know. We'll keep the DRM vendors honest.

    Eventually we'll win, because once most people understand how DRM really affects them, they'll rule with their dollars. Circuit City's DIVX is a good example. I know several people who steered clear of those players once they had heard the arguments against them.
  • by Moe_Fugger ( 960991 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @10:57PM (#14946431)
    Make the oblivious end user think that DRM is evil and with enough idiots it could make a difference. Just imagine all the pod people: WHAT?!! YOU MEAN DRM STUFF DRAINS THE JUICE OUT OF MY IPOD FASTER??!!!! ITS EVIL AND HAS TO BE STOPPED!!!!!!111! Maybe then the people could steer the impending DRM overlords away from the subject by brute force.

Bell Labs Unix -- Reach out and grep someone.