Vista, DRM and the slow suicide

As you already know, I don’t like DRM. It seems like the next version of Windows will be full of it. Full of DRM and huge amounts of technology that is supposed to make it more “secure”. Or, to put it straight: limit you and what you can do with your computer. Cory Doctorow is a clever writer and again he has put some words on the situation:

Vista is a disaster. Microsoft is so desperate to get the entertainment industry locked into its platform that they’ll destroy themselves to get there. This is an operating system that, when idle, will have to check itself every 30 microseconds to make sure nothing is still happening, and no hackers are attacking it.

It acts like an unmedicated paranoid.

Well, time will show if this unmedicated paranoid will kill Microsoft like Sony’s content strategy nearly has killed them.

Vista, DRM and the slow suicide

When will this media center thing catch on?

Friday bonus video. Bill Gates from CES 2005 on YouTube.

Okay, so everybody and your grand mother still have no media center at home. Where are they? By now, all of us should own such a magic box. With music, images, movies, broadband and TV in a nice simple interface where everything is available at the touch of a button.

True media centers are still something for the people that are way above average when it comes to interests and knowledge about computers. I have already published my recipe for when gadgets break through. Let’s have a reality check on media centers:

Engineers – is it possible?
-Yes. There are nice boxes out there that offers fantastic capabilities of handling media.

Marketers – have you done your job?
– Partly yes. Microsoft have launched Media Center Edition and done quite a bit of marketing. However, I find most of the marketing pretty lousy. Too much focus on features. They should have focused on the story. What will happen in your home? And, the most important people of them all, the sales people in the shops have no clue. Absolutely no clue.

Economists – is it cheap enough?
– No. Not at all. We need a proper, noiseless, nice looking media center for under $500,- Right now a proper media center is at least $1000,-

Usability – is it easy to use?
Yes. And a huge NO! When it works it is easy to use. As long as it is running I can give the remote of our media center to whomever visiting our living room. No problem. They find music, videos, images, recorded shows, the electronic program guide, the broadband services and the TV channels. It is in fact much easier to use than a traditional setup with separate boxes for DVD, CD, TV and radio. When I have people visiting and they have a look at the media center in our living room just about everyone instantly asks for price and availability.

Trouble is that there are still two major problems with media centers (in addition to price):
1. Setting it up
2. Keeping it running

A couple of weeks ago I attended a conference where we put up a digital living room to show people some of the possibilities. We had the most modern and state of the art components you could imagine. A new media center, an HD capable LCD screen and a multi channel amplifier with 6 speakers.

Getting image and sound from the media center was pretty easy. Setting up the TV channels and program guide was as usual a pain. But, getting the image completely right with 1:1 pixel mapping and the audio in six channels was nearly impossible. With my degree in engineering, huge amounts of experience with media centers and several very clever people around me we did not manage to get proper multichannel sound and a perfect HD image out of the media center.

No offense when it comes to your grand mother, but she’ll have to wait a second before this is possible to use for normal people.

I know that a media center is more complex than a regular DVD player, but the vendors need to work on this. Media centers will not be something for the masses before you can buy it (for under $500,-), take it home and connect audio to your amplifier and video to your screen, turn it on, do some simple setup stuff and then use it happily ever after.

And eventually that will happen. “I want one of these, where can I get it?” is the mantra at home when I show people our digital home. No doubt about it, people want the functionality. When you get used to it it is very difficult to imagine a living room full of several different boxes, different remotes and shelves full of plastic containing digital media. Digital media deserves to live a life on hard drives and in the network.

…and by the way, you find more about Bill Gates and stuff going wrong during presentations over at “Nobody’s perect (redux)” on Presentation Zen.

When will this media center thing catch on?

Windows Media DRM – Cracked!

For quite some time there has been some tools that would let you strip the DRM from encrypted Windows Media files. However, they have been difficult to use and have not worked on all systems.

Now a user called viodentia over at the Doom9 forums has posted a tool called FairUse4WM. It lets you remove the DRM from files that you have a valid license for on your computer.

Meaning that you can now safely buy music on all the Windows Media Based music shops and easily “set it free” so you can play it on whatever device you want.

This is great news for consumers and pretty bad news for some content owners and of course for Microsoft. They issued a patch for Windows Media Player shortly after the first release of FairUse4WM. The patch stopped FairUse4WM, but it took viodentia a couple of hours to release a new version that worked on patched media players as well. Let the good old cat and mouse game begin!

It seems like Cory Doctorow was right. DRM doesn’t work.

I have tested FairUse4WM and it works very well. First you point it to a media file that you have a working key for. You can download this one and play it once so a key is issued. Point FairUse4WM to it and when it has done its wonders on that file you get to the next screen where you simply drag and drop DRM’ed files. When you have added the files you want to make device independent you hit one button and FairUse4WM strips the DRM and saves the new files in a location that you have specified. It adds “[NoDRM]” to the name. Simple as that.

Please note that I am not in any way encouraging piracy here. FairUse4WM should be used on media that you have legally obtained and of course you should never redistribute media that you don’t own the rights to.

However, this tool is great if you have been stupid enough to buy music on any of the Windows Media DRM’ed shops on the net. This means that you can unlock and convert WMA and WMV so you can play it on your iPod, your Linux player or whatever box that has not been blessed by Microsoft. It means that buying music from the MSN Music store no longer is so stupid after all…

More information:

An article on some of the first tools to break the WMV DRM from Chris Laniers blog back in february 2005.

Engadget covers the story and publish an open letter to Microsoft. The Slashdot crowd chimes in. And, well – it’s all over the blogsphere and all over the net.

Windows Media DRM – Cracked!

Who can you trust?

I know that the web is crowded with unreliable info. I know how to always check a story from several sources before I make up my mind. However, I actually trust some of the more serious web sites. Or, maybe not!

I mentioned some roumors about Microsoft and a company called Claria a while ago. I read the story on Ed Bott. Now the story has reached out and it seems like it suddenly, out of nothing has been confirmed that Microsoft actually has bought Claria. Apparently BoingBoing is as trustworthy as an average TukTuk driver in Bangkok.

Ed Bott has summed this crappy piece of journalism up here.

This is actually even more scary than the Microsoft – Claria story itself. It means that I can not trust one of my favourite web sites, BoingBoing?

Who can you trust?

Now this is scary!

Ed Bott: Microsoft to buy Claria?. “The company that Microsoft has pursued is controversial: Claria, an adware marketer formerly called Gator”

Gator, the mother of all horribly intrusive marketing tools. And Microsoft consider to buy it!?

This is hit number one if you do a search for “gator” in Google:
PC Hell: Gator Removal Instructions

Ed Bott deserves to be quoted:
“What is Microsoft thinking? This deal would be a P.R. disaster. The only way it makes sense is if Microsoft buys the company, fires everyone involved with it, has their buildings exorcised, and rewrites every line of code in their product.”

I need my media center! But somwhere I draw the line. Apple, where are you? Where is the Apple Media Center? Crap! It’s not there. Linux and MythTV here I come…

Now this is scary!