Hi-end audio pro weighs in on DRM conundrum

Summary:More and more great email is showing up in my inbox regarding my recent blog post on how my $20,000 worth of hi-end entertainment gear can't play my 99 cent songs (at least not the way it should be able to, there are workarounds).  Digital rights management technology is the culprit.

More and more great email is showing up in my inbox regarding my recent blog post on how my $20,000 worth of hi-end entertainment gear can't play my 99 cent songs (at least not the way it should be able to, there are workarounds).  Digital rights management technology is the culprit.  The most recent of these e-mails came from Greg Havenga.  According to the e-mail, Havenga used to work for a subsidiary of Escient, the company whose MP3 server I'm now considering as a part of my whole home entertainment system.  He's currently the owner of Tekton Software Engineering Services.  Based on what he wrote, he clearly knows his stuff.  So, when an audio pro like this gets worked up over the DRM situation, it tells me that John Gilmore (who comes at this more from the digipolitical side of the issue than the audio side) is absolutely right when he predicts that the inconveniences introduced into our technology by DRM are going to get worse.  If the audio pros are worried about working with the technology, then you should be worried about buying it.  Havenga makes some solid recommendations that are consitent with Gilmore's at the end of this email:

I actually used to work for the ex-Escient subsidiary PowerFile. I did a lot of the firmware in its C200 200 disk DVD jukebox and it's successors. I also worked at Harman International where I did the serial interface in Citation 5.0 and Signature 2.5), so I've been interested in this [DRM] stuff for some time.   I also did work for another Harman outfit  -- AudioAccess -- and actually still have the engineering mule of the six zone audio distribution amp I worked on.
 
Since I did the firmware on that last project, I needed a test program to exercise it.  When I built my home theater system, I decided to put the amp in service to drive my kitchen, my deck, and a pair of studio monitors that I use when playing guitar.  I thought it would be neat to turn zones on and off remotely, and didn't like the idea of having to wire my whole house up with RS485, etc.  So I just put a web server (via the Indy components for Borland C++ Builder) in the test app, and now, from any node on my home network with a browser - including my PDA, I can turn zones on and off, and control volume, etc.
 
Then, I got the bright idea of embedding pages for playing MP3s, WAVs, and OGGs, (I used the bass.dll and basswma.dll from http://www.un4seen.com/) and "voila!," I had a do it yourself (DIY) whole home jukebox!
 
The only chores I have left are (1) writing the autoripper for the C200 (I have three of them, including my now-useless engineering mule).  So I can automatically re-rip my entire CD collection (200 discs at a time) at a decent bit rate (hard drives are much bigger and I retired my Rio 300 a long time ago), and (2) prettying up the interface to the zone control and jukebox pages on the web server.

Also, the same repository that serves my jukebox is also used to populate via WiFi my OmniFi DMP1 that's installed in my car (look into it - 20GB - or more if you do a DIY upgrade - permanently installed in your car - and they're being dumped for $100 to $150 everywhere.  The best thing about Omnifi is that it now runs open source firmware, so if you wanna hack it, go right head!  The stock firmware is terrible, but OpenFi rocks.
 
As far as DRM, quit buying new music from DRM sources.  Buy everything you can second hand, now's a good time to fill your back catalog from  used music stores. Be sure to fanatically support artists that release their own non-DRM music, and eventually the big guys will have to give in.  Of course, all our gullible teens will have to be educated on the value of making their own music and looking into old stuff.
 
Greg

Topics: Hardware

About

David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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