The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Friday, April 06, 2007

And you thought you owned your computer

The Vista Content Protection specification could very well constitute the longest suicide note in history.

A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection

And it only gets better from there. Some choice quotes:

Since the S/PDIF link to your amplifier/speakers is regarded as insecure for playing the SA content, Vista would disable it, and you'd end up hearing a performance by Marcel Marceau instead of Pink Floyd.

A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection

Amusingly, the Vista content protection docs say that it'll be left to graphics chip manufacturers to differentiate their product based on (deliberately degraded) video quality. This seems a bit like breaking the legs of Olympic athletes and then rating them based on how fast they can hobble on crutches.

A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection

The Microsoft specs say that only display devices with more than 520K pixels will have their images degraded (there's even a special status code for this, STATUS_GRAPHICS_OPM_RESOLUTION_TOO_HIGH), but conveniently omit to mention that this resolution, roughly 800×600, covers pretty much every output device that will ever be used with Vista.

A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection

(A lot of this OPM stuff seems to come straight from the twilight zone. It's normal to have error codes indicating that there was a disk error or that a network packet got garbled, but I'm sure Windows Vista must be the first OS in history to have error codes for things like “display quality too high”).

A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection

If you're not versed in DRM doublethink this concept gets quite tricky to explain, but in terms of quantum mechanics the content enters a superposition of simultaneously copied and uncopied states until a user collapses its wave function by observing the content (in physics this is called quantum indeterminacy or the observer's paradox). Depending on whether you follow the Copenhagen or many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, things then either get weird or very weird. So in order for Windows Vista's content protection to work, it has to be able to violate the laws of physics and create numerous copies that are simultaneously not copies.

A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection

So, go read the whole thing before I quote it in its entirety here. I will also point out that those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it (in the 10th grade). The computer games industry spent the better part of the 80s trying various copy protection schemes and not one suceeded! It's just sad that Hollywood is spending so much money to learn the same lesson.

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