Monthly Archives: January 2007

Windows Vista – How would you like to be screwed today?

I’ve heard about Windows Vista’s strong DRM, but I thought it was basically for multimedia playback and DRM’d documents.

However, the truth is worse. Peter Gutmann has done a cost analysis of Vista’s copy protection – and it doesn’t look good. Here’s my summary of this great report highlighting some of the issues that are in Vista and my thoughts about them.

Premium Content

Firstly, all those of you who brought nice, expensive HD screens and video equipment will be able to play HD content with them, right? WRONG, because it doesn’t support HDCP content-protection – infact: “None of the AGP or PCI-E graphics cards that you can buy today support HDCP”

What this means, is that Vista will deliberately cripple your playback to a lower resolution, and the new technology you brought isn’t going to be used to it’s true advantage. You’ll have to wait for new Vista-compatible hardware to come out and purchase that.

Of course, this is all to prevent piracy – but the real pirates have various ways around it (as they always do), and at the end of the day, the consumer suffers.

There is also an interesting side-effect of this feature, which criminals could use to take out surveillance video equipment connected to Vista using the DRM – “If it’s possible to convince Vista that what it’s communicating is premium content, the video (and/or audio) surveillance content will become unavailable”. Of course, if you are using one of the most well know security-flawed OSes for your security system, I wouldn’t have much sympathy.

Hardware and Drivers

Then there is the issue of open source hardware. It seems that the hardware for Vista, needs to have a unique fingerprint (Hardware Functionality Scan) to make sure it is “genuine” (aka: Microsoft DRM compatible) – “The only way to protect the HFS process therefore is to not release any technical details on the device “.

This is going to make getting specs to release open source drivers even harder from some vendors. And for windows users, it also adds bloat to drivers, as each driver for each model of device needs to contain unique code.

Now, to add to craziness all of this – Microsoft will have the ability disable drivers at will! “Once a weakness is found in a particular driver or device, that driver will have its signature revoked by Microsoft, which means that it will cease to function” – so if you have a piece of hardware that gets it’s driver DRM cracked, Microsoft can release an update to disable it.

This is bad enough, but where it becomes REALLY bad, is when you consider vendors who might not release a newer version of the driver to fix the problem – eg: for an old video card, a vendor might not care about fixing the driver, so Microsoft can re-release it. Fancy having to buy new hardware without warning? Not me.

Then there is all the overhead that the new bus encryption requires (yes, data being transferred inside your pc, will be encrypted!) as well as the increased development costs of new devices, and you have a whole bunch of nasties waiting for your average Joe Blogs to stumble into.


All this adds up to make using Vista, look much more like a Faustian bargain, giving in your freedom and rights to Microsoft for “premium content” that you probably won’t be able to play on your hardware anyway.

Hopefully hardware manufacturers will put their foot down, and tell Microsoft “no way”. And the media companies should really consider if they want to put all their trust into Microsoft allowing them to run their premium content on Vista as “once this copy protection is entrenched, Microsoft will completely own the distribution channel”. And Microsoft has shown that when it is a monopoly, it certainly likes to abuse that power.

Lots of home users are also going to be bitten by this – and will warn others away from Vista. They will look at other solutions, such as Linux which will allow them to play whatever they want, however they want.

I think (and hope!) Vista will be the unravelling of Microsoft’s desktop domination – Various non-IT people I have spoken to lately (in particular small/med business owners) are going to avoid it as long as possible, because of the high cost of upgrading all their computers AS WELL as the additional problem of getting legacy applications to work on the new Vista, and having to perform staff training for the new releases of programs.

Linux is becoming a smarter alternative for the desktop every day now. And when people have to move from Windows XP, it is very likely we will see a massive uptake of Linux. Virtualisation and emulation technology will also make it far easier to deal with the issue of legacy windows programs.

MacOS is also a very nice alternative these days as well and the hardware is relatively affordable (and damn nice!), although MacOS could have DRM pushed into it should apple decide to do so, as it does contain a lot of propietary code.

Of course, as much as I’d like it to happen, I doubt Microsoft will be disappearing any time soon. It’s quite possible that they will move out of the OS market into other areas such as gaming (Xbox), music (Zune) and online services (MSN/Window Live), which they have been building quite a lot recently.

So, tell your friends, family and co-workers to stay away from Vista, and point them to other, Open and Free operating systems that don’t try to control and lock down their users. And with enough users moving to OSS, Microsoft’s desktop OS domination will start to unravel.

Think Freedom. Think Open Source.


Jon “Maddog” Hall has some thoughts about how vendors might handle the hardware issue:

In the hardware space, what I would do as a hardware vendor is have two “models” of hardware. One with DRM, and one without. I would not publish the specs of the Microsoft DRM-crippled hardware and publish the specs of the non-DRM labeled hardware. If the hardware was designed right, this would simply be turning on or off a bit in firmware, plus the costs of the separate labeling, stocking, etc. The second cost is not to be under-rated, but it would keep open the market for companies and countries that value the experience of their customers and citizens and will not go along with Microsoft’s draconian FRM philosophies.

We did much the same thing back at Digital, where the hardware we had with Microsoft’s software in it was called “Multia”, and the hardware we had with Linux (or BSD, or anything else) was called “UDB” (Universal Desktop Box). Only the nameplate on the front and the software on the disk was any different.

Maddog’s thoughts make sense – there will be a large market of people wanting non-crippled hardware, and this is one of the ways a vendor could handle it.

Another way is to make hardware automatically turn the DRM on or off depending on the motherboard it is connected to – so, if you plug a video card into a Vista-Compatible motherboard it will run in DRM. Or, if you plug into a non-DRM motherboard, it will run in non-DRM mode. This could be done by passing a signal across the motherboard.

However, the best solution by far would be for vendors to refuse DRM – if (for example) ATI, Intel and Nvidia refused this, Microsoft would have no graphics drivers for most of the computers available on the market – and they would have to back down.

ADSL Internet Woe

Urghgh… for the last couple of weeks my ADSL connection has been horrible – it seems to disconnect at random times (usually during the middle of streaming video/music!) and only pulling the phone line out of the modem or power reseting the modem fixes it. This will often happen 4-5 times an evening.

I would blame the modem, but apparently quite a few people have been having disconnection problems. Mine started a bit after Telecom lifted the caps on ADSL plans.

I’m seriously considering Telstra cable – it’s performance is much closer to the stated speed (unlike ADSL which can vary heaps) and seems to have reasonable reliability…. Plus they have 10mbit plans! *drool*

Dlink DSL-G604T DNS Resolution Problems


The Dlink DSL-G604T is a wifi/adsl/ethernet router, which seems to be rather common in NZ due to various ISPs offering them at cheap prices with new ADSL customers.

They do the job, but I’ve found a few problems with mine.
1) My unit seems to like to emit a quiet, high-pitch whine, when the ADSL line is connected.
2) DNS relaying is iffy.
3) Features in the web interface sometimes don’t work.

The only problem which really bother me is number 2 (as no.1 can’t normally be heard and I don’t normally have to touch the web int).

I found it would operate fine most of the time, but randomly it would suddenly do incorrect resolution and resolve a name to the IP of! In some cases, it would only affect certain programs. :-/

This could affect quite a few people, since I think the router has the relay feature and DHCP turned on by default. So, here’s the workaround for google to find. :-)


I found the fix is to disable the DNS relay completely, and simply pass out the ISP’s DNS address over DHCP from the router.

Todo that:
1) Login to the router web interface.
2) Select the DNS tab.
3) Change “DNS Relay Selection” to “Disable DNS Relay”.
4) Add your desired DNS servers.
5) Click “apply” – the router will prompt you to save & reboot.

Simple, but annoying when I didn’t know the cause. :-)

See my post to Wellylug if you are looking for step-by-step instructions for a Linux newbie user.

Jedo Linux Status Report

Over the Christmas break I’ve been working on my Jedo Linux distro. Here’s what I’ve done so far:

  • Released temp status website at
  • Have written all the base packages for the distro.
  • Built most of those packages.

And what I will be doing next:

  • Getting all the packages built.
  • Writing an installer (I’m thinking about using newt)
  • Testing the base of the distro heavily.

The idea is to get all the distro written (installer, base packages, website, package manager) and test it heavily (and get others to test it as well).

Once that is all working well, I will then add all the other packages needed (eg: gnome, services, etc). Most of the packages I’m just adjusting the ebuilds I wrote for Jedo Linux 0.3, so that will move fairly rappidly.

Here’s a rough time guestimate, that will probably be wrong. :-)

  • Jan 07: Complete a working base package selection.
  • Feb 07: Adjust package manager to suit.
  • Mar 07: Complete the installer and release ISO to get feedback.
  • Apr 07: Write website with bug management, etc.
  • May 07: Write packages.
  • Jun 07: Release ISO for testing & make adjustments based on feedback.
  • Jul 07: Release new version.

I still have to decide what versioning scheme to use – the new release will either be Jedo Linux 1.0 or Jedo Linux 2007.

New Website Released!

I’ve just released my new homepage! It’s been a little while in the making, but it was worth it. :-)

Various features have been written such as:

  • Content management system (using wikipedia style syntax)
  • User permissions – can create user groups for fine level access control to pages.
  • Photo album page, that supports browsing images and generates low res versions.
  • My new blog – since 99.9% of the rest of the world seems to have one these days, I decided it would make it easy to detail what I’m up to, and the status of various technical projects I’m working on.

I’m still adding stuff to the site, so check back later and there will probably be more for you to see here. I’ll make a note of any new stuff I add in my blog.