Content Protection madness on Vista

Content Protection madness on Vista

Summary: How using the wrong monitor for DVD playback on Vista can transform a DVD movie into a hellstew small Tetris blocks.


[UPDATE: For more on this issue, check out this post.]

I'm a firm believer in the idea that if you pay for hardware, you should be able to make full use of it. However, DRM and content protection mechanisms are increasingly making this difficult for people.

Content Protection madness on VistaHere's a perfect example of what I mean. My wife, Kathie, has three screens fitted to her PC - two 22-inch widescreen panels and a Wacom Cintiq 12WX graphics tablet/screen (and here I am slumming it in front of two 22-inch widescreen panels). This configuration works well for her given the types of work she undertakes and she makes very good use of the three screens.

The other day she decided to use the Cintiq screen as a screen for DVD playback. So she popped a DVD into the drive (I'm not sure what the title was, but I am certain that it didn't feature any helicopter explosions, zombies, Aliens, Predators, or Crow T. Robot), fired up Windows Media Player on Vista Ultimate, moved WMP 11 to the Cintiq screen, and started the DVD.

And that's when the problems started. The output resembled a full screen of jumbled up mosaic of small Tetris blocks that shifted every second or so. Uh-oh. Move the WMP 11 screen to a different screen and Sleepless in Seattle or whatever it was came back into focus, move it to the Cintiq window and back came the Tetris blocks (and where Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are concerned, personally I preferred the Tetris blocks, but Kathie didn't share - or appreciate - my input on this matter). Sure, she could play the DVD on one of the other screens, but that's hardly the point.

OK, so what the hell's going on here? I started thinking that it was something up with the Cintiq, but the screen had no problems displaying WMV, MPG and MP4 movie files, so it wasn't anything to do with the screen.

This left content protection. Hmmm. She does have an LG GGW-H20L Super Multi combo Blu-ray writer/Blu-ray/HD-DVD/DVD/CD reader fitted, and Meg and Tom were being piped to the PC from this drive. However, the disc was a DVD and not a Blu-ray or HD-DVD, but that doesn't stop HDCP from kicking in and trying to validate the display device.

There was one way to check if this issue was related to content protection/copy protection - and that was to install SlySoft's AnyDVD HD which silently and effectively makes HDCP (as well as a lot of other hassles) disappear. So, after a quick one minute install it was time once again to see if Tom and Meg would grace us with their presence on the Cintiq - which they did. As I imagined, AnyDVD made the problem just go away. Ahh. I'm guessing that the issue here is that the Cintiq isn't HDCP compatible and that this is what's causing the content to be degraded.

Do I chalk up the cost of AnyDVD as part of the cost of upgrading to Vista? Hmm.

Now, I don't have a problem with the concept of content protection and copy protection, but I do object to these schemes preventing users from making legal use of legitimately purchased content. It also bugs me that rather than display an error or warning, the content output was instead scrambled beyond comprehension, giving the impression of a fault rather than a deliberate action taken by the system.

DRM sucks.


Topics: Software, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Security, Windows

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  • This is insane!!

    I don't know what to say... this is INSANE. DRM is out of control. Just nuts! This kind of behavior should be illegal, that's for sure.
    • Vista Also Blocks Television Shows

      This is just another reason I will not be purchasing a Blu-ray player (or Vista) any time soon. Here is a link to another article showing Vista also blocks some television shows:
      • problem is the cable provider

        from the article:

        "restrictions had been set by the broadcaster which prohibited recording of the program."

        It's an industry wide "problem" with PVRs, not at all MS's fault... but as usual blaming MS and Vista makes for a better hit count.
        • cable companies are not the broadcaster

          I hate to tell you this, but cable companies are not broadcasters. Some cable companies own some channels or have some ownership in some stations, but they are not broadcasters. They pull their content from sats, or from a fiber backbone, but they actually pay broadcasters for that content, generally on a per subscriber basis. I'm not saying this problem may not be a content protection scheme that the broadcaster has negotiated into their contract and the company thereby has to implement it, but that would not really be the cable company's fault. Just trying to get it strait.
          • of course.

            "I'm not saying this problem may not be a content protection scheme that the broadcaster has negotiated into their contract and the company thereby has to implement it, but that would not really be the cable company's fault."

            But it's MS's fault for having to implement it? Why do different rules apply to the cable companies than to the OS makers...
          • This may just be

            a bug in the driver. 0 inserted where 1 should be or vice versa. If that's the case then the fault would lie with whoever programmed the driver or with whoever designed the specs for the thing or both.
          • The simple answer...

            [b]But it's MS's fault for having to implement it? Why do different rules apply to the cable companies than to the OS makers... [/b]

            For Microsoft, it's a "damned if they do, damned if they don't" proposition.

            If they don't implement support for HD DVD or Blu Ray, they'd be accused of being behind the times, not innovating and not keeping up with technology. And if Apple does provide support in OSX, then Microsoft loses market share.

            On the other hand, if they DO build in support for it, they have to go all the way and support it in a way that makes the technology 100% compatible. That means incorporating [b][i][u]ALL[/u][/i][/b] of the nasty DRM that comes from the purveyors of both of the new HD formats. And, of course, that means they get crucified by the press for incorporating the nasty C.R.A.P. (as David Berlind used to call it...)
        • re: problem is the cable provider

          [i]It's an industry wide "problem" with PVRs...[/i]

          So roll your own Linux PVR and ignore the broadcast flags.

          none none
          • re: re: problem is the cable provider

            If you have the right Hardware, download and use the manufacturer's PVR software rather than Media Center and It will record just fine. It won't help with the DVD/monitor issue though.
    • It is high time to ban DRM totally.

      It has been used to abuse PAYING CUSTOMERS from day one and it is only getting worse.
      A total ban of DRM as it is now is the only way out.
      If that does NOT happen, it will only get worse.
      • Re: It is high time to ban DRM totally.

        Anarchy at its best. The idea is not only to completely remove broken systems, but to erect a working system in its place yourself. Leaving gaps and then going back to doing nothing about it just paves the way for more corruption to appear.
    • More DRM Misbehavior Examples?

      I have two laptops; on both of them, neither Windows Media Player nor RealAudio's player will work. Both crash with some fatal error. I have long suspected this is _really_ the same DRM misbehavior you report, namely, that instead of reporting an error, it just crashes.

      One reason I suspect this is that I can run GNU's DVD player with no problem; on the very same laptops!
  • Blu-Ray/Sony = EPIC FAIL

    Blu-Ray can kiss my DVD-Loving butt :)

    I would love to see Blu-Ray become the biggest failure in the history of electronics/home-entertainment only to teach these media companies one big lesson about abusing their customers. Let's put that puppy up on the shelf right next to that old RCA Capacitance-Disk player.

    Apparantly things are headed in that direction :)
    • Blu-Ray Deserves To Fail

      I agree and am with you 100%. DRM will go away when consumers vote with their wallets. We have already seen some of this with the music industry.
    • Blu-Ray Jon!

      We need DVD-Jon! What's he up to these days? 'Blu-Ray-Jon' doesn't have the same ring to it, I suppose...
    • Capacitance-Disk player?

      HD-DVD was axed because of a corporate decision. Blu-Ray is being given a cold shoulder by a majority of consumers (especially those who did not buy a PS3). The format war may have a whimpering end already.
  • What invokes HDCP?

    Is it the Multi combo Blu-ray writer/Blu-ray/HD-DVD/DVD/CD? Is it the disk itself? Is it Vista?

    My understanding was Content Owners dictated what DRM was put on their content, not MS.
    • As of yet, I'm not sure about that ...

      ... it's not the disc, but that leaves in the mix the drive, the graphics card, the graphics card drivers and the Cintiq.
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
  • Much ado about nothing!

    You would be the first to admit your wife's setup is atypical. You also have to admit that it didn't prevent her from playing content on HDCP enabled displays. I'm sorry your rant is a little overboard on this!
    • I don't agree with you ...

      ... and here's why.

      If this is deliberate (and so far it sure feels that way), why is the output garbled to the point where it indicates some sort of problem rather than being by design. If what was displayed was a message saying that the content can't be played on that monitor, fair enough, but to just garble the output is wrong.
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes