Claim that Vista DRM causes full CPU load and global warming debunked!

Claim that Vista DRM causes full CPU load and global warming debunked!

Summary: Update 9/1/2007 - Gutmann paper cites shoddy web forum postings as sourceUpdate 8/30/2007 - Peter Gutmann turns to smear tactics with help from...


Update 9/1/2007 - Gutmann paper cites shoddy web forum postings as source Update 8/30/2007 - Peter Gutmann turns to smear tactics with help from PCWorld NZ Update 8/16/2007 - Gutmann retreats and refuses to provide slides or any data to support his theories

Peter Gutmann - A security researcher at the University of Auckland New Zealand - has become one of the most cited "experts" on the evils of Vista DRM despite the fact that he never touched the Operating System at the time he wrote "A cost analysis of Vista content protection" (which he has since modified several times). He's cited by a number of folks like security researcher Bruce Schneier and has appeared on Steve Gibson's podcast raising concerns about Windows Vista DRM. There's just one little problem: Gutmann's theories are unsubstantiated and they're all wrong.

Basically the whole controversy is about the fact that Windows Vista includes HDCP (High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection) DRM capability and the fact that HDCP includes an ICT (Image Constraint Token) flag that has the potential to slash the resolution of HD DVD or Blu-ray in half if your device isn't HDCP compliant. The reason I emphasize the word "potential" is because all of the movie studios have put a moratorium on turning on the ICT flag because HDCP market penetration is still low and there's no way they can implement ICT without generating a massive user backlash and killing any chance of HD DVD or Blu-ray adoption. I heavily criticized the ICT flag back in March of 2006 and I am on record as saying that DRM for popular music and video will die from lack of ROI, but this fear mongering on Windows Vista's inclusion of HDCP DRM is much ado about nothing. Much of it is based on hatred for Microsoft and Peter Gutmann theories are being cited as the "proof" they need.

Vista's inclusion of HDCP capability simply makes it the only Operating System that allows its users to legally play HD DVD and Blu-ray titles in addition to the fact that they can play wide-open non-DRM music and video files. It's absolutely no different from the $299 HD DVD set-top box which also includes HDCP capability. I can rip MP3s, rip DVDs, and even strip Windows Media DRM from DRM content on Windows Vista which is all contrary to all the fear mongering about Windows Vista DRM. I debunked Gutmann's scare mongering (Microsoft also responded here) back in February based on actual testing and facts but it seems Gutmann discredited theories just won't die. Not only has Gutmann not tested any of his theories or provided any data, he's now going around telling the world that Vista will cause your CPU to run at full steam which raises power consumption and causes global warming. Technology news sites like PCWorld (which got slashdotted) and the Inquirer ran with the story and took Gutmann's claims as gospel.

Quote from PCWorld: Separately, all the extra encryption required to meet Vista's content protection standards means some computer components can never enter power-saving mode, he said. Thus, when you play a movie your CPU keeps running at full steam, he said. The extra power demands make it hard to reduce electricity usage.

I emailed Gutmann and challenged him to provide data to backup his postulation and Gutmann replied:

The story is based on the slides from my talk at Usenix, with in some cases slightly selective quoting to pull out the more eye-catching claims. Once I get back I'll put the slides up on my home page and then anyone can check the details.

So Gutmann does not deny making these outlandish unsubstantiated claims and he has so far provided zero data. On the other hand, I have do have plenty of hard scientific data to refute Gutmann's claims. AnandTech ran a series of HD DVD and Blu-ray tests with hard CPU utilization numbers. On a low-end Intel E4300 Core 2 Duo CPU, CPU utilization ran as low as 7% for 1080p VC-1 encoded movie when VC-1 video compression decoding was offloaded to the ~$100 ATI 2600XT graphics adapter.

Gutmann postulated that the encryption required by Vista DRM means that it will drive CPU utilization "full steam" and he cites the fact that AES takes about 20 CPU clocks to encrypt each byte. Gutmann not only failed to test any of his theories with real-world experiments, but he didn't even bother to come up with a good postulation by doing the basic math on what 20 CPU clocks per byte means on a modern CPU. A typical 1080p HD stream is 28 mbps which is 3.5 megabytes per second which means it takes 70 million CPU clocks per second to do AES encryption on an HD stream. Since there are 1800 million CPU clocks available per second on a low-end E4300 1.8GHz dual-core CPU per core, 70 million CPU clocks constitutes 3.9% CPU utilization on one of the two CPU cores. Just doing a basic sanity check on the math before one even does any experiments will show how laughable Gutmann's postulation is. Real world testing shows that a 3.5 MB/sec HD video stream works out to be around 4% CPU utilization.

[Update 8/14/2007 - Reader "thetruth_z" says I have "limited engineering skills" saying that Gutmann is talking about encrypting the decompressed HD video which would mean 373 MB/sec (or nearly 3 gigabits per second) of payload that needs to be encrypted and decrypted. Well "truth", you might actually believe this theory of doing AES on unencrypted HD video as Gutmann may have implied, but your theory is laughable if you just do the math. Even a Core 2 Duo 2.93 GHz CPU is limited to 133 MB/sec on ScienceMark AES simulation, so it would be impossible for a high-end CPU to do 373 MB/sec. That means you would have to offload the encryption to the graphics card but we know that it's impossible to implement 3 gigabit/sec crypto offload in a $3 embedded GPU built in to a $70 motherboard. It isn't even possible on a $49 video card yet we know that a $49 ATI XT2400PRO coupled with a $100 CPU can play back full 1080p VC-1 Blu-ray video at 7% CPU utilization based on actual testing. So your theory would demand an impossible hardware feat for anything less than dedicated $500 crypto off-loader and flies in the face of common sense.

As for Gutmann's theory that this additional work load will jack up power consumption and cause global warming, it's clear Gutmann's theory on power consumption is no better than his theory on CPU utilization. In my work I do a lot of coverage of CPU performance and power consumption and I know that there isn't a linear relationship between workload and power consumption. Taking CPU clock and voltage throttling in to account, I postulated that the increase in power consumption due to a few percent extra CPU utilization will be hardly measurable.

To prove this theory, I fired up my test machine based on an Intel E6600 CPU and G965 embedded graphics and played a video in Windows Media Player classic. I noted that the total CPU utilization of around 7% (3% of that due to Task Manager) and that Intel SpeedStep caused the 2.4 GHz CPU to throttle down to its minimal clock speed of 1.6 GHz with the minimal voltage (verified by CPU-Z) and I measured 84W on the entire system. I then fired up a DVD movie at the same time with Vista's Windows Media Player and caused the CPU utilization to jump to ~15% but noticed that the CPU was still throttled to the minimum and my system power consumption stayed fixed at 84W. This proved that even an extra 8% CPU utilization makes absolutely no difference in power consumption so an extra 4% due to encryption workload means nothing.

If that isn't enough, Gutmann theorized that Windows Vista DRM and HDCP raises the cost of hardware for everyone and that even $1000 SLI dual video cards have a hard time dealing with the cost of implementing HDCP DRM. Again I ask: Where is the research? I did my research and found that a $69 AMD 690G-based integrated graphics motherboard with HDMI output has HDCP capability. That's less money than the cost of most motherboards without integrated graphics and less that the cost of some dedicated graphics cards yet it has HDCP capability. I checked with Intel and their G965, G33, upcoming G35 based motherboards that cost between $90 to $140 with integrated graphics all have HDCP capability. There are $49 video cards that implement HDCP. There are $230 22" LCD displays that implement HDCP.

Peter Gutmann if you're reading this, have you even bothered to do any research before you make your claims? As for the media that keeps citing Peter Gutmann, have you guys checked the validity of Gutmann's claims? I have thoroughly debunked Peter Gutmann's claims and it's time we put this nonsense to sleep.

[Update 8/14/2007 - Ken Fisher did a pretty good write-up here and debunked some of Gutmann's other crazy claims. Fisher noted that Gutmann had claimed (based on anecdotal evidence of what he's heard other people claim) that some people can't even properly play non-commercial HD content correctly on their PCs. Fisher noted that he has never had these problems with his HD camcorders when recording HD video to Vista. I can attest that I don't have problems with my HD camcorder and Vista either and I have never seen any proof of HDCP ICT issues with non commercial content. Peter Gutmann is beginning to look like an absolute joke with his pathetic "research" and he is reflecting very poorly on the University of Auckland New Zealand. I cannot believe that such a proud University can allow such preposterous claims from one of their staff without some sort of sanity check.]

[Update 8/14/2007 2:45PM - Ed Bott did some more debunking of Peter Gutmann here. Peter Gutmann has posted a slam at the top of his "research" paper that I didn't wait for his slides. I find it funny that he has time to write a paragraph slamming me but he doesn't have time to post the slides and he doesn't have time to post any data to support his theories. So far he's only asked others to provide data since he hasn't touched Vista yet.]

Topics: Processors, Microsoft, Windows

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • George since when did you become a scientist ?

    Hopefully you have a Phd. or something so folks don't think you are full of it .
    • What the ..?

      What does a PhD have to do with real world testing? The fact is that the George debunked the socialist dolt who spewed patently false information about something the dolt didn't even test. You know that you can test it yourself and prove that George is right, it's not very difficult.
      • It's obvious what is wrong.

        Some people do not like Microsoft.

        And apparently some people do not like George Ou. It doesn't matter if he's right or wrong or what the topic is. George posts a story and they come busting in, tossing insults at him.

        What I find amusing are the morons that don't like him coming in and trying to flame him (and in this case on a very good article), but wind up getting themselves ripped a new corn chute.
        Hallowed are the Ori
    • Why, is there something wrong with his argument?

      Given that IT is a branch of Computer Science, he is a scientist so rather than question his qualifications, produce a convincing counter argument.
      • I have been known...

        to occasionally bake a loaf of bread. Since this means I have to work with the reactions of yeast to sugar, with a small amount of salt to slow the reaction, am I a biochemist?
        • I don't know what you are...

          ...but Computer Science, with emphasis on the Science, is a recognised applied Science with a capital S. You can't even get through a Software Design degree without doing Electronics which is an applied form of Physics on enough of a level to understand that which the main post considers. Information Technology is also includes a lot of applied Mathematics, including Statistical Analysis (required for [i]any[/i] science), but is mainly a branch of Computer [u]Science[/u].
        • Maybe not a biochemist...

          But you are certainly doing chemistry. You might not understand what you're doing, since you're just following the instructions that someone else came up with, but you certainly are doing chemistry.

          As for what George's calculations all it requires is 6th grade level arithmetic, knowing how to read CPU usage from Windows, and some experience to know that 1 byte = 8 bits. It's not that hard, bro.
    • He used more scientiv methods than the idiot did

      when he made thsese stupid claims.
    • I don't have a PhD, but try and shoot down my experiments

      I don't have a PhD, but try and shoot down my experiments with facts. Like Tom said, you can do your own SCIENTIFIC experiment and see if you can prove me right or wrong. But like Gutmann, you're all talk and zero experimentation.
      • Don't be so arrogant!

        The thing I find most annoying is the number of claims and assumptions you just leave hanging out there yourself while point the finger.

        "like Gutmann, you're all talk and zero experimentation."
        Do you know for a fact that neither has done any experimentation?

        You are often just as bad, sometimes worse, I wish you'd leave the science for real scientists instead of just making me even more depressed about what get passed off as scientific these days.
        • Zero experimentation or data was every presented

          Zero experimentation or data was every presented. Gutmann even says in his paper "I don't have Vista, can someone confirm this?". If you think my telling you of the FACTs is arrogant, that's your problem.
          • even in your reply to me, it is HOW you word it...that makes you look bad.

            i even AGREE with what you are saying in this case, but...

            the way you say it and present things.
            even the way you replied to me, and what you thought i was saying.

            Following all your stories and posts, there is a strong consistent tone. if it is not the one you are intending, you might consider giving some thought to how you treat others and communicate with them.
          • Thanks for admitting you were wrong and your bias

            So you agree with what I am saying but you can't get beyond your bias and hatred for Microsoft. Thanks for admitting you were wrong and your bias.
          • hmmmm....seeing as i didn't do either doesn't that seem arrogant to say?

            claiming that others are "admitting they are wrong" instead of actually reading what they are communicating, just might in some civilized circles be considered the very definition of arrogant.

            I don't hate MS, bad assumption.
            What bias of mine are you referring to?
            where did I admit to it?

            Really if you read what I said for comprehension, I am saying I agree with what you are saying, but not your reasons or the way you say it. I feel your methodology and tone are not all that different from people you are accusing. The pot calling the kettle black. That is my point.

            What all this other weird bias, hatred, MS stuff is about, you got me...that must be some preconception you are bringing to the table. Why even go there, isn't that best saved for the forum lurkers that specialize in that sort of post?
          • Hey, just telling it like I see it

            You tell me you agree with what I have to say but you don't like the way I say it when all I'm doing is calling out an academic fraud. That makes me think you've got a chip on your shoulders either about Microsoft or about me.
          • i can understand how you could arrive at that conclusion...

            ...but that doesn't make it correct. It is just an assumption on your part which you are taking as true when it is not.

            Which is kind of the whole point.
            The guy you cut down is only guilty of taking his assumptions about vista and treating them like facts when they are not. If you treat your assumptions about him, me, or anyone else as facts then how is that any better?

            I'm having trouble with the delivery. Assumptions after assumption all blasting a guy for having incorrect assumptions.
            Thin ice to say the least.

            What you are probably picking up on is my frustration with what I perceive as poor, inflammatory, reporting from zdnet. I've seen quite a degradation in content quality over the last year.

            Like I said, its HOW you are saying things that I find ironic and frustrating, not the content of what you are saying. That's all I've been saying. You can take take that at face value, or assume I have whatever motivation makes you feel comfortable, up to you. Not sure I can get my point across any clearer or more simply then that.
          • Why do you keep attacking me when Peter Gutmann is the fraud?

            But Gutmann is not just giving his theories; he has been on a campaign to slander Microsoft Vista since December of last year and getting worldwide recognition by large pockets of the press and people like Bruce Schneier.

            Gutmann put out a theory to the world and announced how evil and destructive Vista Content Management based on his THEORIES. I say theories because Gutmann admits he's NEVER tested any of this stuff and actually admitted he doesn?t have Vista and wants others to validate his theories. Then when I and others like AnandTech, ArsTechnica, Ed Bott come up with actual data based on hands on experience of Windows Vista playing HD content and prove all of his theories wrong, Gutmann refuses to back down and refuses to provide his own data. In fact he insists that Vista DRM slams your CPU to 100% and causes global warming with all the extra power it is responsible for consuming. If that isn?t the definition of a scientific fraud, I don?t know what is. So again, why are you attacking me and my presentation? I?m giving you hard scientific data and I?m honest with you. For what reason do you keep attacking me when Peter Gutmann is the fraud?
          • what? are you serious?

            Attacking? Come on george, I've been civil the entire time.
            This isn't the school yard, we are both smarter and more mature then that so let's keep it up a level, k?

            Once again, I've only been trying to make one simple point: You are guilty of many of the exact same things you are accusing Gutmann of even in the way you accuse him. Others here have pointed out the irony of this fact in their own replies to your story.

            It is possible to debunk Gutmann's claims in a much more enlightened and mature manner without resorting to personal attacks against him based on assumptions you've made which you have no way of know are correct. Stick to the facts and his claims and their isn't a problem. Even if you are "righting the wrongs of the world" it doesn't make it okay to treat others with so little respect as humans. Ed's coverage was much more on the level.
          • Please list what you think I'm guilty of that I'm accusing Gutmann of

            I've only accused Gutmann of making outrageous "full CPU load from Vista DRM causes global warming" claims based on his personal theory for which he has done zero experiments to backup. Now please list what you think I'm guilty of that I'm accusing Gutmann of if you are going to insist on comparing me to Gutmann. If you're trying to compare the fact that I am "attacking" Gutmann like he's attacking Microsoft Vista, there's a HUGE difference there; I'm attacking Gutmann with hard facts that prove he's a fraud.

            Sure, Ed Bott did a much more calm post than I did and I have to hand it to him. But I tend to be very frank in my blogs but what I won't do is lie to you. I put a lot of pride and passion in to my work and I'll always do my best to backup my assertions with facts and be factual. If it comes off a little rough on you, I'm sorry. But do not compare me to that fraud.
          • reasonable request

            "I put a lot of pride and passion in to my work and I'll always do my best to backup my assertions with facts and be factual. If it comes off a little rough on you, I'm sorry. But do not compare me to that fraud."

            I appreciate the pride and passion, and can also understand why you might feel ruffled by being compared to someone you feel is a fraud, and I can assure you that was not my intent upset you if I did.

            To answer your question. When you stick to his claims or your research, you are right on. It is only when you digress and start to make assumptions about his motives, his reasons for posting this or doing that, absolute statements like he has never even touched vista, etc. you are no longer in the realm of science or news. You cannot know those things and you weaken your factual points by including them. Those sorts of comments are also inflammatory and unnecessary, although I'm sure they generate traffic. Without them your points are much stronger and more credible.

            It is probably that passion for the material you mentioned that stirs up those reactions.