Logic’s Last Stand

August 15, 2009

Microsoft Windows as a DRM Posterchild

Filed under: Computers, Freeware, Philosophy — Tags: , , , , , — Zurahn @ 12:10 am

Microsoft Windows. It’s the cornerstone of one of the most profitable companies in the world, and controls a marketshare of ~90% of the Operating System market for the roughly 1 billion personal computers in the world. Naturally Microsoft takes its product very seriously, and in 2006 launched “Windows Genuine Advantage” a methodology for limiting the spread of illegitimate copies of Windows.

To understand this, we must first understand how Windows is legitimately used in the first place. After installing Windows, you have 30 days to register the product using your activation key. This key has a limit of activations that varies based on the version, and once reached, you must call Microsoft in order get Windows to continue working after 30 days and to stop it from nagging you to activate.

Cracks to stop the nagging and requirement for online or phone registration have been created, and Windows Genuine Advantage runs as a check to see if the system was properly registered or not. Microsoft requires this check for Windows Updates, and installation of Windows products.

Due to a resentment I have for the limitation on using a product I own, I usually just crack Windows, despite having several valid Windows activation keys. I had set up my parents computer from scratch and did this. However, a couple weeks ago someone tried to install Windows Live, which ran Windows Genuine Advantage, which failed due to the crack being rather old.

Now, it’s fine if Windows Live simply would not install, but Microsoft has an interesting way of coercion *cough*blackmail*cough* to get you to pay up.

Windows Genuine Advantage

Windows essentially becomes nagware forcing you to wait to log in, adding a perminent watermark to the system as well as a persistent system tray icon to harrass you. This is without consent (other than trying to install the Windows software in the first place) and does not come with an uninstall. It doesn’t help that detection is far from perfect.

Additionally, the system does not provide you the option to simply register using a valid license key, it merely directs you to where you can pay off Microsoft to STFU.

Aside from simply the malware-esque DRM methodology, by not allowing illegitimate copies access to Windows Update, Microsoft is doing genuine harm to the world. The prolific Conficker worm spread using exploit MS08-67, a buffer overflow in the remote procedure call service. This exploit was patched in October 2008, a month before Conficker was first found spreading at all.

Infected machines by Conficker or other worms or malware don’t simply inconvenience the owners of the infected PCs, but do harm in many other areas. Infected machines often become part of botnets, networks of remotely controlled systems often used for DDoS attacks and are integral in distributing spam. By also generating revenue for the creators of these infected machines by methods such as fake antivirus, grows criminal organizations.

Microsoft is not only being obnoxious and anti-consumer, they’re being completely irresponsible and in general if indirectly, is damaging their own reputation by these unpatched machines furthering Microsoft’s reputation being bankrupt in terms of security.

And for all these reasons, finally spurred by first-hand experience of Windows Genuine Advantage malware, my plans of eventually getting a copy of Windows 7 are dead. I also plan for any future computers that I should buy to get a refund for the Windows tax on it, if necessary, or buy one either with Linux or no OS preinstalled.

March 7, 2009

DRM is Obnoxiously Stupid

Filed under: Computers, Freeware, Movies, Philosophy — Tags: , , , — Zurahn @ 9:06 pm

As you should already know, I spend a creepy amount of time on the computer; consequently, my monitor is of much better quality than my television. So after I had recently ordered and received a copy of The Dark Knight on DVD, I decided instead to watch it on my computer.

Another point you should realise is that I run Linux, which isn’t necessarily a friend of the movie industry. Lastly, you must be aware that DVDs contain Digital Rights Management software.

There is a library available in Linux called libcss2 that allows playback of movies with copy-protection. However, The Dark Knight happened to have revamped its encryption and decided to just curl up in a ball and say “nu-uh!” to the person who just legally purchased the film.

Whatever intended purpose there was to this, it was clearly an empty obscene gesture to those who just wanted to watch the movie, because the disc obviously contains the movie, and that being said, it’s not going to be difficult to watch it anyway.

mplayer -sb 2500000 dvd:// -alang en

And it plays just fine. A single command line function to essentially skip the copy-protection.

Instead of trying to stop people from using the items that your customers have purchased, perhaps spend a little more time understanding that by doing so that makes simply downloading the movie a better product.

July 24, 2008

Business Before Customers

Filed under: Computers, Gaming, Life, Philosophy — Tags: , , , , , , — Zurahn @ 2:48 pm

While I’ve never agreed with the mantra of “the customer’s always right,” there’s an underlying principle there that states that the focus of the business should be to serve the customer; they aren’t customers, they’re clients. But if you evaluate the Canadian and presumably American corporate landscape, the understanding isn’t that customers are clients, it’s that customers are criminals.

To the discerning eye, it’ll be noticed that the number-one priority in all big stores is preventing theft, particularly in the case of media. Wal-Mart and Zellers lock their games behind glass cases, EB/GameStop removes the boxed contents of every game, new or used, and we all know and hate the impenetrable plastic cases of doom of any product that hangs on a shelf.

Also, don’t forget about the stickers. In some cases it’s for security, some for cost-benefit, but in every case, it’s the customer who pays for a policy that benefits only the business. Every DVD now comes with a sticker seal on the top of the case, Blockbuster video places a barcode sticker on the back and price sticker on the front of every DVD and game, and there’s not a gamer in the world who doesn’t despise the EB/GameStop price and barcode stickers on all games, again new or used.

Oh, but we’re not done. Digital media is arguably worse. While the above mentioned are annoyances, they aren’t hinderances; in the digital market, the prevention techniques are not only limiting to your enjoyment and use of the product you bought, but sometimes damaging to your computer. End-User License Agreements (EULA) are only prevented from making every customer a pirate by the fair-use laws, which are heavily lobbied to be removed entirely. Digital Rights Management (DRM) software in games, music and DVDs prevent playing without the disc, making back-ups, moving to alternate mediums or editing for the previously mentioned fair use; worse yet, DRM has occasionally installed monitoring programs that are both an invasion of privacy and a strain on computer systems.

If you ran your own business, would your focus be on locking down your products, or pleasing you, the customer? I think the customer would choose the latter; is he right?

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