Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Saturday, December 23, 2006

  Digital Serfdom

It is entirely possible that the current generation of PC hardware will be the last I ever buy. The cost of Windows Vista's content protection, in freedom and the creative arts, is simply too high. With a specification that insane, I can't see how I could ever use a machine designed to run Vista to do what I do. Digital certificates and hard crypto so two pieces of hardware in the same machine can talk to each other? Come on, not even the Soviet Union at its height mandated licensing as crazy as that!

In so ensuring their monopoly, Micro$ is is ceding the content-creation market to the Macintosh and to Linux.

I wish more people in this battle had a better sense of the history of copyright, and really understood in their guts that all people have the right to secure, for limited times, a monopoly on their works. (This battle has been going on for 450 years, and is still not settled, so I'm not holding my breath).

I'm still burning over the SCMS debacle. SCMS (pronounced "Scummy"), was mandated by law in 1992, and killed off DAT. DAT died, and it was a decade before things like flash based recorders caught up to what a portable DAT unit could do in 1992. The Home Recording Rights Act of 1992 led directly to the mess we are in now, and it was all because organizations like Sony, the MPAA, and our own government, keep splitting people, (citizens!), into "professionals" and (and I can hardly spit out the word) "consumers".

Lords and serfs.

DVD-Audio never had a chance, and I'm mad about that, too. I'd like it if we could move to 48khz for more recordings, and have the complete works of a single artist stored on a single disk using 24 bit lossless encoding. 24 bits really does sound better to my ears.

Instead of coming out with a useful format, the dvd-audio working groups fiddled with various forms of copy protection (all cracked) - ways to keep the CD model alive (requiring surround sound so more bits would be used up) - and furthermore - required lossy encoding so that the quality would be degraded in most circumstances.

I can think of a few prior ages in history where whole groups were dedicated to the degradation of artistic works, but they were not "good times".

I note that, although I own a few powerful machines, none are less than 3 years old. Video cards, in several, are five and six years old. For most of what I do, all I really feel the need for nowadays is more memory. Whenever I run into a computationally intense problem, I simply parallelize it across my home cluster using tools like distcc and pdsh.

I can see that I would want to buy a dual processor, quad core machine before Vista gets entrenched, but I think I can wait a while. About the only saving grace of the Windows Content management specification?

It was written by lawyers, not engineers. It's going to take a long time, perhaps an infinite amount of time, to implement. And - I'd hope that a large percentage of engineers and companies just don't bother with it. We'll see what happens in the coming year.
 
Comments:
Re:

Come on, not even the Soviet Union at its height mandated licensing as crazy as that!

Well, things got pretty crazy in Berlin in 1945. Right at the end :-)

- David
 
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David Täht writes about politics, space, copyright, the internet, audio software, operating systems and surfing.


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