"The Vista Content Protection specification could very well constitute the longest suicide note in history." So runs the 'Executive Exective Summary' of a document penned by Auckland-based security researcher and "professional paranoid" Peter Gutmann.
Gutmann's A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection has set the web alight. I urge you to read it. Irrespective of whether or not you use - or will ever use - Vista, computer hardware is going to cost more as a result of Microsoft's decisions to tow the Digital Rights Management (DRM) party line. And it's not just a dollar cost. The very thing that sparked the PC revolution - the open specification of hardware and drivers - vanishes under Vista's dark shadow.
Even if you use Vista and never attempt to access any content-protected material you'll still pay in terms of reduced reliability, stability and processor overhead. The Vista operating system for example polls all components 33 times every second to check they're not being tampered with by DRM bandits. If a voltage fluctuates or there's a little unexpected noise on a data bus, the least you can expect is a graphics system restart. You may even be faced with a reboot.
Gutmann appeared on a recent Security Now podcast, [mp3 link here, transcript here], during which co-host Leo Laporte described Vista as "...an operating system that is essentially insanely paranoid."
On the same podcast Gutmann scotched suggestions Microsoft were held to ransom by Hollywood;
|Microsoft owns, I don’t know what it is, 95 percent of the market or so. And particularly for desktop OSes, they own pretty much the entire market. They could quite easily say to Hollywood... we’re not going to put this stuff into the operating system because it severely degrades the performance and reliability and stability and so on and so forth. Take it or leave it. ... If Microsoft said we refuse to do this, Hollywood can’t afford to ignore 95 percent of the market.|
What makes the whole charade laughable is that Vista's High Definition DVD (HD-DVD) copy-protection for has already been cracked. A user signing themselves Muslix64 posted the code on the Doom9 forums [link] along with a YouTube video demonstration (subsequently taken down at the request of Warner Brothers). The code, a 17.5Kb piece of Java called BackupHDDVD.zip, was written not by an arch cracker determined to overturn the system but by a pissed-off user with legitimate content! Muslix64 notes;
just bought a HD-DVD drive to plug on my PC, and a HD movie, cool! But
when I realized the 2 software
players on windows don't allowed me to play the movie at all, because my video card is not HDCP compliant and because I have a HD monitor plugged with DVI interface, I started to get mad... This is not what we can call "fair use"! So I decide to decrypt that movie. I start reading the AACS specification I have found on the net. I estimate it will take me about 4 weeks of full time job to decrypt that. I was wrong, it was in fact, easy...
The genie's out of the bottle before the operating system has even been released! But that doesn't mean Vista users in particular - and the computer community at large - won't end up paying for Microsoft's DRM folly. At the risk of repeating myself repeating myself, yet another reason to move to Linux.