Sunday, April 27, 2008

Amazon MP3 Downloader

I just tried out the new Amazon MP3 store and the accompanying MP3 downloader.  So far, it seems like a nice piece of unobtrusive software (unlike that evil, evil iTunes POS).  Although I was not a fan of the Unbox service, I think I have found where I will be downloading music from now on...

Friday, March 9, 2007

HD DVD Commentary

I have been following the saga of the folks at decrypting the AACS protections found on BluRay and HD-DVD discs.  In my mind, I wish them the best of luck.  I know I won't bite on either HD format until I know that I can copy, transcode, or move the content to any format or device of my choosing.  The entire concept of DRM is pretty non-sensical if you think about it.  We have encrypted content and the keys needed to decrypt it are either in the media player or embedded in the content itself.  Anyone spot a problem here?

This is just Security 101:  You can *never* secure your content if also have to distribute keys to decrypt your content to the same parties you want to keep your content hidden from.  The logical fallacy of the scheme is really stunning to consider.

Anyhow, I just read this post over on the DVDFile website.  At first, I thought it was an obvious parody, but then I realized that the author really believes that people that hack AACS are terrorists!  Wow.  He believes that HD video now is at risk because of a few people that believe in their rights to use the media they purchase in any device or manner they choose.

In a follow up to the hate mail he received, he gives an analogy that he is not allowed to drive a sports car 150 mph (its against the law and could hurt others), so hackers should not expect to be able to use their HD media on non-HDCP capable devices (because now the studios might revoke the media for others).  Yeah, I am still scratching my head on that one - the analogy sucks.

If we must keep with crappy car analogies, perhaps a better one is that you have bought an expensive sports car (your computer, monitor, HD player, TV, etc.) and also paid for the private use of a high speed race track anytime you so choose (the media).  Only, you find out later that unless you completely replace your car (new monitor, trusted OS, new "secure" player, etc.), you either cannot drive on the track you paid for (unauthorized players!) or your car has to be fitted with a governer to keep you from exceeding 5 mph (ICT or downrezzing).

The best thing that ever happened to consumers was the day that DVD protection was broken.  Now you can copy your DVDs to any format of your choosing and play it on any device anywhere (phone, iPod, etc.).  That day would never have come if the CSS protection was not broken and your only options for getting content in the form or device you want would be to purchase it again.  History tells me that AACS being broken is a good thing for everyone.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Jobs speaks out on DRM

Steve Jobs put an open letter out today outlining his position on DRM.  While commendable, it rings a bit hollow.  Jobs certainly comes across as being anti-DRM.  He points out that if music labels would license the music DRM-free, Apple would "embrace it in a heartbeat".

Uhh... yeah.  So let me get this straight:  If music labels made available unrestricted content, that we know consumers want, you would offer it?  It has nothing to do with the fact that you would be forced to because your user base would immediately defect to the competition if you didn't?

A more honest approach would be to simply to admit that the popular iPod has an exclusive eco-system due to DRM that you would be loathe to give up unless barriers to entry (aka DRM) were removed.  In which case, you pretty much would be an idiot to offer DRM (a feature no one only idiots wants) when your competition has no such restriction.

Well, here's hoping that the endless mass of i-lemmings listen to the almighty Jobs and push harder to free your music.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Vista Upgrades No Longer Allow Clean Installs

It has been widely reported in the last few days that upgrade versions of Vista will require a previous (and eligible) version of Windows to be on the hard drive during install.  As someone that always reformats the drive during installation, this kinda bothers me.  I have a bunch of XP licenses that I have purchased over the years for my family and their computers.  I dread the idea of having to deal with any hubris that is on my various family member's machines no.  I just want to be able to backup the files they need and blow the whole machine away.  I know they don't practice safe computing and I don't want to deal with any crap they have installed currently.

Anyhow, today I read of a workaround for this problem.  The gist of it is that you have to install Vista twice - once with the upgrade key and once without.  It is a hassle to be sure, but better than having a stupid side-by-side install.  I am not sure this really works, but I would be interested in hearing of any success stories.  If this turns out to be true, this is a major (and I mean major) oversight on Microsoft's part.  They really won't be able to fix it either since these DVDs have already shipped.  What a waste...

Friday, January 19, 2007

When DRM doesn't support your OS

Tried to install SealedMedia's Unsealer to get access to some DRM protected content.  I was greeted with this:

Of course, their useless support site makes no mention of not supporting Vista, nor any mention of a timeline when it might support it.  I guess if you can't figure out how to support a new OS, you should make no mention of it.

One more reason why Zune will fail

It won't be the hardware that sinks this device - it will be crap like this.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Amazon Unboxes Crap

It is a little known secret that my father works for Amazon, so I generally buy everything I can from them and root for them when possible.  I remember him telling me a few years back that Amazon was purchasing an amazing amount of storage capacity.  I forget the exact amount he told me, but I told him that it was pretty much a mind boggling amount of storage and that a.) he must be wrong or b.) Amazon is going to rent/sell every video known to man digitally.  I guess it was b).

As I was casually inspecting the Unbox service (before I knew the TOS), I found that I could try any TV show or rental for free the first time with the $1.99 credit.  After quick download and install of the Unbox player I struggled to find a movie I could rent for $1.99.  It turns out that they are differentially pricing rentals depending on how old or popular the movie was.  I finally settled on ‘The Matrix’ because I thought this would be a good test of a feature length film and not some crappy TV show.  The first thing I noticed was the restrictions:

Usage: US customers only. Your rental video can be stored on your PC for 30 days. Once you press play, you have 24 hours to watch the video before it expires”

I might have interpreted this incorrectly, but this seems to me to be saying you can watch it only 1 time in 24 hours.  What happens if I miss something – can I rewind?  Pretty sucky terms at any rate.

I suppose all the terms are really moot since I never got to try the thing anyway.  After selecting ‘The Matrix’ and starting the download process I walked away around 6% downloaded.  I came back several hours later to find… nothing.  The movie was gone from my media library (I never closed the Unbox client) and no trace of it could be found on my hard drive either.  There was $1.99 down the drain (though I didn’t know the extent of it yet).  Naturally, I dug around the Amazon site to determine if I just screwed it up.  I sent an email to support and told them what happened.  I suspected that the damn thing had downloaded, played, and deleted itself unattended while I was away.  Two days later, support finally got back to me that it should not have started automatically and to check to see if it was in my media library (duh, I just said it wasn’t).  After giving me the standard shindig for support, “make sure your PC is Windows XP SP2”, etc., I determined that they are either incompetent, don’t give a damn, or both.  In the meantime, I went back to ‘The Matrix’ page and figured I could click download to my computer again.  After all, my media library confirmed that I had downloaded the file, but had not yet played it…

Well… that was a big mistake.  This time, instead of prompting for CC information and allowing me to preview my order I was about to place, it just charged me another $1.99.  Annoyed, I fired off another email to support with the hypothesis that the exact same thing would happen.  This time however, I was prepared.  I went to the Amazon folder and put a deny ACL on the folder for EVERYONE to prevent them from removing files on me.  I allowed it to get to 22% downloaded and walked away.  I came back an hour or so later and *poof* it was gone again from the media library.  I have no idea if it successfully downloaded or not.  I checked my hard drive and found the 2.68 GB file however on the drive (thanks for my ACL I am sure).  I tried to play it but could not.  I just threw an error and refused to start.  It might not have been completely downloaded since the client preallocates space, but I am not sure.

The next day, Amazon was gracious enough to refund $1.99 for me (and let me know that it was extraordinary for them to do so).  So here is my recap of the cost of this rental:

  • Hours spent trying to download: 3hrs x 2 tries ea. = 6 hrs.
  • Money Spent: $3.98 (to be fair, eventually $0 out of pocket)
  • Tech Support Emails: 3
  • Useful Support Email Responses: 0
  • Number of times I watched ‘The Matrix’: 0

Summary:  Unbox is a filthy piece of crap. The content owners that are responsible for this farce as well as the programmers that made it happen should be beaten severely about head and mouth.

Friday, September 8, 2006

Does Microsoft really care about security?

Bruce Schneier makes a pretty strong case about Microsoft’s true motivation for ‘security’ patches.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Removing DRM from Windows Media Files

It looks like someone has broken the WM10 and WM11 DRM schemes.  I suspect it is in a similar manner as the JHymn attack on iTunes.  Read more…

Friday, March 17, 2006

DRM Sucks... Battery Life

Interesting read by way of Gizmodo about how DRM is responsible for a 25% decrease in battery life on portable players.  I would like to see this study replicated to make sure it is not biased in one form or another.


Friday, March 10, 2006

How we punish our fans

How dare a fan drum up support for their favorite band!  I am sure glad this is a federal crime – they belong locked up with all the other socio-paths.

What a disgusting story and gross abuse of our nation’s copyright laws by a few companies with vested interest.  Releasing copyrighted works before the ‘public release’ is now a federal crime with different penalties than had the content already been released.  Spare me.  Under this law, you can be locked up for whistling a copyrighted tune before the ‘public release’.  And they dare call it ‘Family Entertainment and Copyright Act’… (FECA).  I say it should be ‘For Egregious Copyright Abuse Law’ or FECAL for short.


Friday, November 4, 2005

Sony DRM Rootkit has an Actual Use

Following on the tail of my previous post on this subject, it turns out that there is actually a beneficial use to the Sony rootkit installed as part of their DRM scheme: cheating on WoW.  Yes, that’s right, it turns out that Blizzard’s anti-cheat software cannot detect the cheating programs when they take advantage of the “$sys$” naming format that turns files invisible with the rootkit’s help.  Full details can be found here.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Sony DRM Rootkit

I read this post from Mark Russinovich’s blog today and it really struck me how far record companies have taken DRM schemes.  This particular DRM infestation was especially nasty and very few people would know how to remove it or detect it (except by the errors it can cause).

It is this type of unauthorized and potentially malicious software installations for which other authors have been sued.  I would have been furious had this software been installed without my permission or knowledge, especially when no un-installation exists.


Tuesday, October 4, 2005

On how to screw your customers

Living in the wonderland known as Cleveland, I rarely get to enjoy watching the Seahawks from my native city.  As such, I decided last year to buy Directv and get the Sunday Ticket.  It was great – I could watch my Seahawks in HD almost every week and it didn’t hurt to be able to flip to some other exciting games during timeouts or the other Sunday timeslot.

Directv notified me that ‘for my convenience’ they had automatically renewed my Sunday Ticket subscription.  Now, normally I don’t like automatic renewals, but in this case I was not bothered since I was going to get it again anyway.  I assumed I would be getting the same package as last year given that it was the same price (~$200).

Everything was fine until this last Sunday when I tried to watch the Seahawks in HD and found that all my HD channels were now blocked.  Yep, they gave me the HD channels for the first few weeks, then pulled the rug from under me.  I called to ask why I didn’t have the HD anymore and the informed me that it was only for the next tier called ‘SuperFan’.  The asking price?  Another $100.  At first I just did not believe the CSR – I mean, why would you jack the price up 50% for what was standard last year and have the audacity to blindside everyone with this new packaging?  I mean, if you are going to auto-enroll me in something, you better damn be sure it is the same f*ing thing that I paid for the last year.  It was all the more confusing when I got the HD for a few weeks and they told me that was because they were allowing me to ‘preview’ it.

I argued with the CSR and eventually got a manager to give it to me for only $50.  Well, I find out later that that was the price that they were giving to everyone since apparently thousands of angry Sunday Ticket buyers have been flooding their lines.  Apparently, there are a lot of people that complained and got it for free.  Directv wasn’t going to let me know about this of course.  I am pretty salty about this whole affair as now they have gouged me out of another $50.  They know that once you see HD games you will never watch it in SD again.  They hook you, then screw you.  I am thoroughly disgusted with Directv at this point.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


It makes for a great read.  The RIAA’s lawyer, (twisting his oiled mustache, I’m sure) is given a lesson on court proceedings by a very competent judge.  It is quite clear from the transcript that the RIAA has never expected its victims to actually try and fight this in court.

via Boing Boing

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Feds Crack down on Bitorrent site

President Bush signed a new law last month setting tough penalties of up to 10 years in prison for anyone caught distributing a movie or song prior to its commercial release.

"Today's crackdown sends a clear and unmistakable message to anyone involved in the online theft of copyrighted works that they cannot hide behind new technology," said John C. Richter, acting assistant attorney general.


My take… this sends a strong and clear message to all the Star Wars fans that are buyng the merchandise, going to the theatre 3+ times to see the movie, spending the time and effort to download the movie for a post theatre fix, and will eventually buy all the variations of Lucas’s DVD collections, that they are not valued.  10 years for a kid downloading Star Wars… what if this was was a ‘Yu-Gi-Oh’ movie?  Let’s put those 8 yr. olds in prison!


Saturday, May 14, 2005

Apple wins trademark ruling

An interesting turn of events… I wonder how fast Apple would sue a company releasing “AppleOS”?

It seems to me that I recall everyone getting excited about Microsoft losing its ‘Windows’ trademark as it was too generic.  I would think both ‘Apple’ and ‘Tiger’ would qualify as well, then.


Friday, May 13, 2005

Broadcast Flag Commentary

I was reading a commentary on the recent smackdown by the courts of the FCC's proposed broadcast flag. The article generally descibes the craptacular nature of the broadcast flag, but worries about what replacement the MPAA and broadcasters will ram through Congress (with the help of their shills) instead. The idea that the broadcast flag just dies and nothing replaces it is not too likely. Assuming that might actually happen, there was a witty little passage:

Now lets assume that nothing else happens: Congress backs off and nothing replaces the Broadcast Flag. At that point we get to play a game of chicken with the broadcasters. While most believe that broadcasters are actually too smart to follow through with such threats, they have threatened to cease broadcasting in HD if something akin to the Broadcast Flag isnt implemented. They argue that without a Broadcast Flag there is insufficient protection of their high-quality programming.

Perhaps thats why theyve replaced all their high-quality programming with Reality TV. Their thought? Nobody will want to send copies of a B-list actors brother giving roses to desperate, attention-craved women.

My sentiments exactly...

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

DVD Censorship Bill Approved

In mixed news, the House passed a bill authorizing technology makers to permit skipping of objectionable material on DVDs.  For instance, a built-in filter on your DVD player would allow you to selectively edit nudity, swearing, violence, or other objectionable content.  While I personally won’t use this technology, I firmly believe that users have the right to view DVDs on their own terms.  I absolutely hate the fact that warnings, trailers, and outright commercials are shown on DVD now and I cannot skip them without breaking the copy protection.

The bad news to this bill is that now people that camcorder a movie in a theatre are eligible for up to 3 years in prison.  Call me crazy, but if I was to actually physically steal a DVD from a store, I probably would not get that kinda time.  Is this punishment commensurate with the crime?  Have you actually seen what a camcordered theatre release looks like?  That should be punishment enough.  We already have laws for copyright protection, we don’t need more special case laws.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Busting those nasty pirates

Congratulations to the FBI for nabbing those horrible, nasty game pirates that were offering vintage and no longer available games. The worldwide market for "Duck Hunt" and "Mario Bros" has exploded in the last few months, so I am sure they were robbing Nintendo of valuable revenue.,0,6709023.story

In other news, federal agents actually worked on something worthwhile to the community and nabbed 10,000 suspects.

Hmm... so maybe the FBI's resources would have been better spent investigating, say, the rapists, murderers, and child molestors at large than busting 4 poor chumps dumb enough to try selling "Donkey Kong". That is just my opinion though.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Spectrum Wars

Fantastic article from the National Journal regarding the HDTV, public safety, and all those airwaves that are vastly underutilized.

My only comment, Cable HDTV (and other compressed HDTV) looks like crap. It's galling when you are supposed to view this gorgeous image and the compression artifacts are so high that you see green blocks with any motion.

via Boing Boing

Sunday, March 20, 2005

PyMusique & JHymn Offline

That was quick.  It looks like an update on Saturday by Apple has changed the way the PyMusique and JHymn communicate with the Apple iTunes store, so they are no longer working.  I would expect a game of cat & mouse here for awhile as each side fixes and then breaks the other’s work.

Pretty annoying actually – I just got a bunch of free Pepsi iTunes songs and I was hoping to put them on my PocketPC and Smartphone (not supported by Apple of course).  I guess I won’t get to play my music for now.

Friday, March 18, 2005

PyMusique Release - Unencumber your iTunes music

Buy DRM free music from Apple's iTunes store. I fully expect someone to be sued shortly:

Just remember: You bought it. It's your music. Don't let the RIAA dictate what devices or uses you can or cannot use.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Tyranny of DRM

Boing Boing posted an interesting piece on Apple's latest manuever to screw its customers (probably at the request of the sue-happy RIAA pigs). Imagine if you purchased a digital camera; It would be reasonable for it to operate as it was spec'd on the day you purchased it. However, suppose later the manufacturer decides that you can only take 7 pictures a week and forces the camera to behave as such when you connect to download your pictures or upgrade the firmware to fix the inevitable bugs. Who knows, you might be taking pictures of copyrighted objects, right?

Clearly, it is wrong and unenforceable to change the terms of contract after you have purchased a good - whether it be a physical good, service, or piece of IP.

Time to bust out JHymn and reclaim your music.