Frankly I'm Shocked.
Published on December 26, 2006 By greywar In Windows Vista

     I am breaking my "one-article-a-day" rule of thumb with this but what the hey....

     I adore Microsoft most days, honest I do. I use their products and give thanks for their ease of use and systematic standards. I dislike their Blue Screens of Death but these have decreased dramatically over the years and they trouble me infrequently. I even planned on "upgrading" to Vista sometime in the future (perhaps after the first Service Pack release) but this (rather lengthy) article by Peter Gutmann has changed my mind. The major point he highlights is that Vista will allow hardware outputs (the ones incapable of DRM support) to be automatically disabled or degraded when "premium content" is playing. The article is huge but I think a few excerpts are in order :

"On-board graphics create an additional problem in that blocks of precious content will end up stored in system memory, from where they could be paged to disk.  In order to avoid this, Vista tags such pages with a special protection bit indicating that they need to be encrypted before being paged out and decrypted again after being paged in.  Vista doesn't provide any other pagefile encryption, and will quite happily page banking PINs, credit card details, private, personal data, and other sensitive information, in plaintext.  The content-protection requirements make it fairly clear that in Microsoft's eyes a frame of premium content is worth more than (say) a user's medical records or their banking PIN


The high-end graphics and audio market are dominated entirely by gamers, who will do anything to gain the tiniest bit of extra performance...  These are people buying $500-$1000 graphics and sound cards for which one single sale brings the device vendors more than the few cents they get from the video/audio portion of an entire roomful of integrated-graphics-and-sound PCs.  I wonder how this market segment will react to knowing that their top-of-the-line hardware is being hamstrung by all of the content-protection "features" that Vista hogties
it with?


Overall, Vista's content-protection functionality seems like an astonishingly short-sighted piece of engineering, concentrating entirely on content protection with no consideration given to the enormous repercussions of the measures employed.  It's something like the PC equivalent of the (hastily dropped) proposal mooted in Europe to put RFID tags into high-value banknotes as an anti-counterfeiting measure, completely ignoring the fact that the major users of this technology would end up being criminals who would use it to remotely identify the most lucrative robbery targets.


Note K: If I do ever want to play back premium content, I'll wait a few years and then buy a $50 Chinese-made set-top player to do it, not a $1000 Windows PC.  It's somewhat bizarre that I have to go to Communist China in order to find vendors who actually understand the consumer's needs."

     Gutmann is no small-time know-nothing who hates Windows either. Check his home page for the laundry list of his accomplisments in the computer security arena.

     It seems to me that Vista and MS are bending over backwards to give the appearance of protecting content so that folks from the RIAA and the MPAA can be told that no one could possibly pirate content that they would never have paid money for in the first place. Of course the actual pirates will hack around these "solutions" in a matter of days or weeks leaving the consumer as the only one hampered by this "protection". An example from Gutmann's article :

"Note C: As an example of an experience that's likely to become commonplace once more "premium content" is rolled out, Roger Strong reports from Canada that "I've just had my first experience with HD content being blocked.  I purchased an HP Media Center PC with a built-in HD DVD player, together with a 24" 'high definition' 1920 x 1200 HP flat panel display (HP LP2465).  They even included an HD movie, 'The Bourne Supremacy'.  Sure enough, the movie won't play because while the video card supports HDCP content protection, the monitor doesn't.  (It plays if I connect an old 14" VGA CRT using a DVI-to-VGA connector)".

     This sort of thing is far from uncommon with the new generation of Media Center PC's out on the market today which is an unfortunate commentary on the attitudes of the industry. DRM and all of it's attendaent woes tend to restrict only the naware non-techie consumers who have unwittingly bought a piece of hardware that doesn't reside on some Harware Compatibility List and so they cannot play their legally purchased media. The pirate of course is tech savvy and will simply end-run the whole process and enjoy the forbidden fruits.

     I for one do not welcome our new DRM overlords and will be sticking to XP until they either fix these isssues with Vista or they simply stop supportig it. Heck it might even drive me to abandon Windows altogether and stick with Open Source or some other OS option. Hopefully someone in MS will buy a clue on this.


Via Slashdot


Site Meter "
on Dec 26, 2006
Ubuntu welcomes all comers.

Merry Christmas, by the way. Happy New Year even.
on Dec 26, 2006
Happy New Year even.
You too bro, nice to see you again even virtually.
on Dec 26, 2006
I caught this article this morning. good readers digest version.
No encryption for your personal data? According to gutman 's page, that has been MS' achille's heel for quite some time.
on Dec 29, 2006
Wow. I read Gutman's entire article. Now I know why so much of the "cool stuff" promised or envisioned for Vista was discarded and why what was left took so freakin long to get ready for prime time, though sounds like RFPT may be an exageration.

Redmond is now officially Wonderland. They have completely abandoned any semblance of credibility - who in their right mind won't see right through all the rhetoric about "innovation" from here on out? The only innovations they're interested in are those that facilitate consolidating their monopoly, not those that empower their customers. I'd like to think they'll eventually collapse under the weight of their "content protection" efforts. Nothing about Vista has been compelling enough for me to consider moving to it any time soon, and now I doubt I ever will. I'd rather accept the learning curve of going to an OS that will just let me get my checkbook balanced & surf the net. I can certainly live quite well without "premium content." MS may have given tech-savvy hackers & the open-source movement a huge shot in the arm and the average computer user a true BF. Keeping a computer functioning is tough enough already and I can't imagine spending hard-earned money for "features" like these. Shame on MS for their shortsightedness.
on Dec 29, 2006
I'd like to think they'll eventually collapse under the weight of their "content protection" efforts. Nothing about Vista has been compelling enough for me to consider moving to it any time soon, and now I doubt I ever will

Well the silly thing to me is that all these efforts will eventually be hacked so why bother alienating your customers like this?
on Jan 09, 2007
Well the silly thing to me is that all these efforts will eventually be hacked so why bother alienating your customers like this?

So true...only the legitimate customer will be inconvenienced or hurt by this. History repeats itself again.