Breaking Eggs And Making Omelettes

Topics On Multimedia Technology and Reverse Engineering


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BadVista vs. BadLinux

December 17th, 2006 by Multimedia Mike

So the Free Software Foundation has launched badvista.org, ostensibly a clearinghouse for informing computer consumers just how harmful Microsoft’s impending Windows Vista is for their digital and online health. To be honest, I haven’t really examined the literature too thoroughly, mostly because I just don’t personally care about Vista (“Yadda yadda, Microsoft bad, proprietary software implicitly wrong and evil, ad nauseum”). Though it did finally get me to thinking about the multimedia-related implications of the new OS upgrade. Per my reading, there will be no new actual multimedia container formats, video codecs, or audio codecs. But there are supposed to be layers upon layers of new DRM and associated rules encapsulating the existing formats and determining where/when/how a user can consume a particular piece of media.

Strange, but with my experiences using Linux over the last year, and particularly in the last week, I could set up a similar site about various shortcomings of Linux (as if that hasn’t been done to death already). But I notice that badlinux.org does not appear to be taken as of this writing.

Posted in DRM | 1 Comment »

CinemaNow DVDs

July 23rd, 2006 by Multimedia Mike

Sometime last week, IMDb’s Studio Briefing notified me that there was an online service for paying for officially licensed DVD images that can be burned (just once, officially): New Movie Download Service Launches Today. The service is CinemaNow.

So, I actually decided to boot into Windows XP and try it out. First, I had to find a movie that I actually wanted. Last Wednesday night, they had 101 titles to choose from, not too many that might be termed “mainstream”. I settled on In Good Company that I saw in the theater and somewhat enjoyed. The price was $3 less than what Amazon charges, as a basic value comparison.

I thought it best to go with all the recommended software. I bit the proverbial bullet and upgraded to the beta of Windows Media Player 11, which is the first I have heard of it. I wonder what new multimedia support challenges it will cause for Linux multimedia? The experience also requires a piece of 3rd party, .NET-based software called FluxDVD.

The whole thing goes fairly seemlessly and takes about 4 hours as promised:


CinemaNow FluxDVD app

The DVD plays in a standalone player as promised. I wonder if the DVD itself features the standard CSS encryption? Probably does but I haven’t checked empirically yet. The source file remains on my hard drive after download. It has a .fluxdvd extension, as seen in the screenshot, and contains some DRM-looking stuff at the front. Double-clicking launches the WMP 11 beta which performs some network activity before playing the file.

The disc image is 1.9 GB. I was wondering if the file was a Windows Media file that got converted to MPEG-2 on the fly by the above program (the “Convert and Burn” was my first clue). Colin Hill points out for me that the actual In Good Company DVD is a dual layer affair.

In other DRM news, I finally got a TV show off of iTunes. It was free. I was sorely disappointed, both with the content and the presentation. Content, because the Blade movie (at least the first one) was so awesome; but the pilot of the spinoff TV series is so bad that they have to give it away for free. Presentation, because the best that iTunes can do is display the 320-width window doublesized to 640. This doesn’t look so great on a 1280-width display. Is it really that tough to do full screen? I think not, especially if iTunes renders the video directly as YUV. I suspect that iTunes probably holds back the full screen feature for a premium version of the program, just as Apple’s QuickTime Player does.

Posted in DRM, Multimedia PressWatch | 5 Comments »

HD-DVD “Hole”

July 11th, 2006 by Multimedia Mike

IMDb’s Studio Briefing reports that c’t reports that a hole was found in next-gen copy protection, presumably AACS: Copy Protection Fault Found in HDTV DVD Players. Something about pausing the video and pressing the “print screen” button on the keyboard, along with the hypothesis that the process could be automated to obtain a perfect copy of every video frame, storage implications notwithstanding:

1920 pixels across * 1080 pixels down * 1.5 bytes/pixel * 30 frames/second * 60 seconds/minute * 90 minutes/movie = in the neighborhood of 500 GB

I’m not sure what hardware they’re using for this little science project and I’m too lazy to track down more research. What’s to get excited about? This is just the ever-present analog hole (roughly stated: If you can perceive it, you can copy it). We know that the copy protection will really be broken when we have an open source program that can figure out the content encryption key and decrypt the material for real time decompression and presentation.

This article reminded me to follow up on the Toshiba Qosmio laptop that was supposed to have an HD-DVD ROM drive. It turns out to be the Qosmio G35-AV650 model that is equipped with said drive.

Posted in DRM | 1 Comment »

Blu-Ray Even Further Behind

March 15th, 2006 by Multimedia Mike

Not to be outdone by the recent delay of HD-DVD technology, Sony has also delayed Blu-Ray consumer devices. Today’s IMDb Studio Briefing reports “that [Sony] has been forced to delay the launch of PlayStation 3 until November”. The reason cited is most curious: “to upgrade the copy-protection feature of its Blu-ray technology.”


Blu-Ray logo

The last I heard, Blu-Ray and HD-DVD were both supposed to leverage Advanced Access Content System (AACS) for content protection. Maybe Sony went off the reservation by implementing a separate DRM scheme? Or possibly there is much more to the story than can be fit in a 2-sentence news brief.

It has been a long time since I looked at that AACS stuff, there wasn’t much to look at. Let’s look again: Now, the site’s specification page contains 7 different PDF documents. Their FAQ page is still conspicuously empty, which is too bad since the #1 question I have is, “How is this scheme ever supposed to fly?” I can’t wait to read through all of the PDFs.

Posted in DRM, Multimedia PressWatch | 2 Comments »

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