There are a couple of stories on The Register about the DRM in the new Windows Vista operating system.
They make for interesting reading. They both refer to Peter Gutmann’s paper A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection:
Windows Vista includes an extensive reworking of core OS elements in order to provide content protection for so-called “premium content”, typically HD data from Blu-Ray and HD-DVD sources. Providing this protection incurs considerable costs in terms of system performance, system stability, technical support overhead, and hardware and software cost. These issues affect not only users of Vista but the entire PC industry, since the effects of the protection measures extend to cover all hardware and software that will ever come into contact with Vista, even if it’s not used directly with Vista (for example hardware in a Macintosh computer or on a Linux server). This document analyses the cost involved in Vista’s content protection, and the collateral damage that this incurs throughout the computer industry.
Executive Executive Summary
The Vista Content Protection specification could very well constitute the longest suicide note in history [Note A].
Also in the news, Bill Gates bounces the irony meter.
Updated! This has got to be the funniest thing I have ever read about DRM!
Note D: In order for content to be displayed to users, it has to be copied numerous times. For example if you’re reading this document on the web then it’s been copied from the web server’s disk drive to server memory, copied to the server’s network buffers, copied across the Internet, copied to your PC’s network buffers, copied into main memory, copied to your browser’s disk cache, copied to the browser’s rendering engine, copied to the render/screen cache, and finally copied to your screen. If you’ve printed it out to read, several further rounds of copying have occurred. Windows Vista’s content protection (and DRM in general) assume that all of this copying can occur without any copying actually occurring, since the whole intent of DRM is to prevent copying. 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 wierd or very wierd. 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.
Windows Vista will not be getting installed in my house. I’ll teach the kids to use Linux first (which I arguably should be doing anyway.)