Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Who pays the DRM man?

When Al Gores 'An inconvenient truth' was released on DVD it featured a bio-degradable box. Yes, the industry really cared for the environment. It brought tears to my eyes. To my surprise I found the very same DVD a few months later in an ordinary box. What had happened. Had the danger been averted in these few months? Had the news agencies missed this remarkable fact? No. For the simple reason that the industry never cared for the environment, not now not ever.

Even playing this documentary adds to the problem it is trying to solve, because the hardware burns 25 to 30 percent more energy than it actually needs to. Why? DRM. All this decoding needs cycles, more cycles means more power – about 15 watts on an average computer, more power means more carbon dioxide. And in the end, who pays for all that? You, the consumer.

Microsoft - and all its DRM buddies - continue to claim up to this very day that DRM won't affect the consumer too much, "given that cost (..) is most heavily influenced by volume". However, behind closed doors the bird is singing quite another song. The following is taken from a presentation at the WinHEC 2005. Read this and shiver.

Encryption logic
  • When content crosses 'user accessible buses' the compliance rules require it to be encrypted
  • This requires additional encryption/decryption logic thus adding to Visual Processing Unit (VPU) cost
  • This cost is passed on to all consumers.
Encryption and CPU
  • Since this uses CPU cycles, an OEM may have to bump the speed grade on the CPU to maintain equivalent multimedia performance
  • This cost is passed on to purchasers of multimedia PC’s.
Board Design
  • One way to avoid encryption for discrete graphics is to solder the VPU to the motherboard
  • This increases motherboard design costs, increases lead-times, and reduces OEM configuration flexibility
  • This cost is passed on to purchasers of multimedia PC’s and may delay availability of high-performing platforms.
  • Broadcast flag requirement for analog high definition broadcasts
  • Encryption logic is required
  • Costs are passed on to consumers
  • Cable Labs approval for cable high definition broadcasts
  • High initial development and certification costs
  • Certification gates design improvements, including cost reductions
  • Costs are passed on to consumers, especially early adopters.

And for what? AACS has already been broken, like CSS, just as I predicted. I'd love to give you the link, but several blogs have been banned for doing this. And because I want you to read this, I can't help you more than I just did.

But next time Al tries to convince you to trade in your car for a bicycle, to invest in renewable energy and to walk to your vacation instead of taking the plane, be sure to tell him he has to convince his political buddies not only to accept the Kyoto protocol, but also to discard an ill-conceived law that has polluted and continues to pollute our environment. Yes, you guessed it, the DMCA. And while you're at it, mandatory use of Linux would be nice too. Vista uses too many resources, don't you think so?


c't "Machtsmisbruik"
- September 2007, Patrick Smits