Saturday, February 10, 2007

Cripple your computer with Windows Vista!

Today, just for the hell of it, I decided to run the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor.

For those who don’t know, Vista is the latest operating system from Microsoft. I should point out that I have no actual intention of upgrading, at least not until I have to. Microsoft has a habit of releasing broken software, then leaves you to limp onwards for a year or so before they finally get most of the problems fixed.

However, I’d heard all the rumors that the thing is a total bitch to install, and many people have gone out, dropped a couple hundred dollars on it, only to find they have to upgrade nearly everything in their computers to get it to work.

I was just interested to see what I’d have to do to run it.

Surprisingly, I was almost good to go. The only real problems it found was that the upgrade advisor didn’t actually know if one or two pieces of hardware would work…namely my graphics pad and printer.

Well, my printer is a Brother, and my graphics pad is a Medion. Neither of which are the most popular brands, so chances are they’d work anyway, but Microsoft hadn’t bothered testing them.

Then, we came to incompatible software.

Some was just standard stuff. The version of Nero I had (that came bundled with my computer) wouldn’t work. However, it said if I uninstalled it, and re-installed it after upgrading, it would work fine.

Then we come to the part that pissed me the fuck off.

Alcohol 120% wouldn’t work with Vista. According to the update manager, I’d have to uninstall it before Vista would install…and then I’d be unable to re-install it.

So why did this piss me off so much?

It’s because this has nothing to do with compatibility. The reason I wouldn’t be able to re-install Alcohol 120% is because it’s an application that can be used to copy DVDs and CDs and bypass copy protection.

From everything I’ve heard about Vista, they’re pretty much crippled it as a media machine, in order to satisfy the RIAA and the overcomplicated and ridiculously restrictive copyright laws.

Here’s the thing. I own a lot of movies. Sunny and I have completely different tastes in movies, so very often I’ll sit at my computer to watch a movie. The other big factor is I have a 22 inch HD Widescreen computer monitor, while our main TV is a standard 4:3 set. On my computer I get a much better picture, and it’s widescreen.

So, simply for convenience, I’ve taken 10 or 15 of my favorite movies, (Movies I legally own) and ripped the disc image to my hard-drive. I then use the virtual drive functionality of Alcohol to play the movies on my computer.

In other words, instead of looking through my collection every time I want to watch a movie, find the disc, take it to the computer and put it the drive... I simply turn on my computer, select the movie I want to watch from a list, and away I go. Many people also do this on laptops, because running a DVD drive for 2 hours seriously eats up the battery power.

Now, the big point to understand here is that this is completely and totally legal. As long as I legally own the movie, and don’t distribute it, I’m 100% inside the law.

(For example, it’s legal to make a thousand copies of a movie, as long as they’re for your own personal use, and you don’t give away, sell or let people borrow them…of course, you’d have a hell of a hard time explaining to a judge why you decided to make 1000 copies! When you buy a movie or some music, what you’re really buying is the license to view it…it gets illegal when you watch a movie you haven’t bought, or distribute it to other people who haven’t “bought a license”. Technically, if Me and a friend both bought our own copies of a movie, and his disc was destroyed, it’s legal for me to copy my movie, and give it to him. He’s bought a licence to view it.)

However, just because this application is capable of being used for illegal purposes, I’m not allowed to use it.

The same is true of a lot of legal software that can be used for illegal purposes. It’s legal to rip tracks from a CD you own to put on your MP3 player, or make an extra copy of it for the car. You’re legally able to back up your software, movies or music in case the original media gets damaged.

But under Windows Vista, you won’t be able to do any of this.

In essence, Microsoft, the RIAA and MPAA are dictating what we’re allowed to do on our own computers. They’re not just attempting to stop us from doing anything illegal, they’re also trying to stop us from having any software, or doing anything that is potentially illegal.

Basically, it’s like making the sale of tape recorders illegal, because they’re capable of recording music from the radio, or video cameras, because you might take one to a concert and make your own video.

In other words, they’re penalizing honest users and dictating the terms of what you’re allowed to do with your own property.

The saddest thing is that they’re doing this to honest users, when the actual pirates and hackers will easily find a way around anything they throw at them. The encryption for HD-DVD has already been cracked. There’s almost no copy protection that can’t already be bypassed…so what’s the point?

For example, take music.

Say you have an iPod, and download music with their “unlimited tracks for X amount a month” deal from iTunes. That music will stay on your computer and ipod and remain playable until a set amount of time after you bought it. Once your license has expired, you have to reconnect to iTunes in order to renew that licence to make it playable again.

In theory, this is a good idea. You can only listen to music as long as you’re still paying your subscription. It’s a big deal to crack the encryption, but the thing is, you don’t have to.

Simply connect your speaker outlet to the microphone input on your computer. Then, you have a shiny new MP3 file on your computer, that has no protection at all.

When you can bypass the protection that easily, what’s the point in having it in the first place? And definitely don’t cripple honest users computers because they’re capable of doing something illegal.

The biggest problem here is that the movie and music producers are acting like piracy is a new thing.

Remember how easy it was to copy an audio tape or a video tape? For an audio tape, you simply put the original in one tape deck on your stereo, a blank in the other, and pressed record and play. For videos, you simply connected the output on one VCR to the input on another. It was just as simple when video games came on cassette or floppy disc.

Now I’ll say I don’t condone piracy. If you want something, you should pay for it…but what it boils down to is piracy today is not hitting music, movie or video game sales, or at the very least, no more than it was 10 years ago before anyone cared about piracy.

There’s also the cast iron fact that music sales actually increased when Napster first came on the scene.

I’m all for copy protection. I’m all for fighting piracy. My point is, no one has the right to tell me that I can’t run perfectly legal software on my computer, because it is capable of being used for piracy.

There are a hundred legal reasons to copy a CD or DVD, there are a hundred legal reasons to run a virtual drive. What’s next? No printers or scanners because they can be used in counterfeiting? No cameras because I can take pictures of copyrighted artwork on my monitor? No paper and pen, because I can use them to copy out books by hand?

Enough is enough

No comments: