Category Archives: Copyfight

Tivo vs. MythTV

It’s been over a month since my MythTV DVR committed suicide and I replaced it with a Tivo from my cable company. I think I’ve explored the features enough to be able to deliver a decent comparison of the two. Overall, I think I’d be very satisfied with a Tivo if I’d never used MythTV. Let me go into some more detail.

Continue reading

Plays for not much longer

Remember when the MSN Music Store shut down over a year ago? Remember that Microsoft said that songs you “bought” from the MSN Music Store were going to be yours to keep forever? Guess what, sucker? After August, you can’t upgrade your computer without losing your music.

Yet another in a long series of “DRM Hates Customers” stories. You’d think the computer industry ditching copy protection years ago, coupled with the complete meltdown of DRM in music over the past couple years, would make the movie industry wake up and kill their copy protection plans. You’d be wrong. Not that their DRM will hold up either… Oh, yeah – it didn’t! HAH!

Ventus

Karl Schroeder has released Ventus as a free ebook download.  It’s very good.  If you’re interested in nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, post-apocalyptic fiction (not strictly speaking, but a reversion to more primitive life yada yada), or just good speculative fiction about the future of humanity, give it a read.

Now to add a bunch of Schroeder books to my Amazon wishlist…

Plays for Sure?

In the continuing saga of Microsoft punking its customers and partners, they’re killing the MSN Music store. Due to legal requirements, they’ll offer links to the Real PlaysForSure/RDNA music store, as well as the Microsoft Zune Store.

Real is moving away from PlaysForSure to their Rhapsody DNA, paired with the Sansa e200R series. Napster never really got much traction as a legit music store. MyCokeMusic, a UK music download store, is gone. I see a trend here. PlaysForSure, which never really had the market penetration of the iTunes AAC digital restrictions software, is dead and just doesn’t know it.

Anyone who bought music from a DRM-encrusted store is a sucker to begin with, but if you have PlaysForSure music, now might be a good time to stop buying any more of it, and find a copy of the FairUse4WM program and convert those soon-to-not-work tracks into something more lasting.

Windows becomes more useless

In case you feel that Microsoft doesn’t have enough control over your computing experience, read this little article.

“Validation will fail if the software detects a substantially different hardware configuration,” the spokesperson said. “At that point, the customer is able to use the one reassignment for the new device. If, after using its one reassignment right, a customer again exceeds the tolerance for updated components, the customer can purchase an additional license or seek remediation through Microsoft’s support services.”

Great. So, you can buy an OS and upgrade your hardware, then buy the OS again. Fan-freakin-tastic.

Ubuntu is a very nice alternative. Just sayin’.

Creative Hates its Customers

Creative is removing features from its Zen MicroPhoto and Zen Vision:M players. If you thought that FM recording feature you bought it with is a good thing, then you should never update its firmware. Creative has followed the Sony PSP approach of deleting features upon addition of new features. You can now use Audible files, but your recorder doesn’t record the radio. I’m sure the RIAA had nothing to do with this.

TiVoNoGo

Everyone who said that they didn’t need to worry about TiVo’s closed architecture, because it did everything they needed, including that nifty TiVoToGo that let you make DVDs on your computer from your TiVo box? Yeah, you got punked.

The new and improved TiVo Series3 boxes, the ones that finally allow you to record HD (something you could do with MythTV for years), have deleted the already-very-limited ability to do what you want with the recording you make on your machine that you pay for. Cheers.

There is no legal reason to do this, by the way. The fair use doctrine and case law (Betamax decision) are on the side of people who want to make personal copies of free over-the-air broadcasts. Aren’t you glad that TiVo is more interested in not offending Hollywood than they are in providing features their customers want?

Sandisk Sansa e260

I noticed that the “review” category has not had much activity, so I’ll remedy that.

In March of 2005, I bought a Rio Karma. This MP3 player was fantastic, with 20 gigs of storage space (enough for about 1/6th of my music collection), a fantastic interface, on-the-fly playlisting and all that jazz. It did not have an FM tuner or voice recorder, and it did depend on proprietary protocols to save music, but the ability to rearrange music and choose popular songs and all that were great. Sadly, the Karma is a delicate beast, with its hard drive not being the most durable they could find. Since it broke and Rio is gone, I was quite happy that I had paid for the 24 month warranty from Buy.

In June of this year, I replaced the Karma with the warranty money, getting a Sandisk Sansa e260 4 gig flash player. At the time, it was a 200 dollar player; it’s now routinely available for 150 or less.

With the most current firmware installed, the Sansa is a wonderful music player, although I do miss the Karma’s interface. The Sansa has two protocols: MTP and MSC (sometimes called UMS). In MTP mode, the player works only with Windows XP; in MSC mode it works with anything that recognizes USB removable media. Playlists are transferred only via MTP, although MSC mode is a faster system for simple transfers.

The Sansa also has a cool feature few players do these days: expansion. You can plug in a tiny little memory card, the microSD, to add up to 2 gigs of memory in theory (so far I can only find 1 gig cards at most). The expansion card can’t hold subscription content, and it’s not visible in MTP mode on the computer, but for music you want to keep on the player, or if you use MSC mode anyway, it’s another drive letter in Explorer.

That covers connections, but what about features? It has an FM tuner (and recorder), a voice recorder, and can manage videos (through a converter), photos, and either MP3 or WMA audio files. It supports the PlaysForSure stores, including subscription content, but I’m told does not support Audible files.

Playback is from a rather straight-forward interface, using a wheel and six buttons. Playlists from the computer are visible and usable, as well as one on-the-fly playlist on the player. I can’t tell you how well PlaysForSure works, as I refuse to participate in DRM. Thankfully, I can tell you that it works wonderfully with MediaMonkey in MTP mode. I don’t try to sync in MSC mode, so I’m not sure how well that works with MM; MSC mode is useful for clearing out old content you decide you don’t want to listen to, and it’s mandatory for firmware updates.

Photos are bright and sharp, although there is no zoom and a 1.5 inch screen is not exactly usable for a photo album.

You can play all your music, an artist, an album, a playlist, a genre, or a single track. In any of these, you can have shuffle engaged or not. There are several equalizer settings, and a custom equalizer (with latest firmware). Album art is displayed when you are playing a track, and you can cycle through a fairly useless spectrum analyzer, a larger view of the album art, and the next song in the queue. I rarely can tell what the next song will be before the player switches back to the default view, though. You have about three seconds to see it before it changes away, but it scrolls slowly through artist/album/track so if you have an artist and album with too many characters, you’re out of luck.

So, other things I dislike about the player? You can’t delete content on the player. The voice recorder button can’t be disabled without locking all controls; you will end up recording yourself without meaning to. You can’t edit playlists, except the “Go List” on the player. I really miss the “songs of the 80s” type playlists that the Karma had. Of course, with only 4 gigs of space, some of those modes are less useful than they were with 20. The videos are pretty pointless; not only is the screen only 1.5 inches, the videos are converted to an incredibly inefficient codec to play: the MJPEG format in Quicktime.

My son is able to navigate his playlist without any hassle, the radio works pretty well, and overall it’s a great and reliable player. Highly recommended for anyone who hasn’t already paid too much for DRM-infected files from iTunes Music Store.

No Fast Forward, ever!

The FX channel in the UK has decided to start displaying still images for 30 seconds during some of their ad slots. Apparently Sky+ PVRs don’t jump 30 seconds, they play at 12 times the normal speed when you want to skip commercials. ABC recently said they want to disable fast-forward on DVRs, as if that’s remotely possible from the non-hardware side of things.

In case you are unaware, there are PVRs that will let you jump forward, not just go faster. There are PVRs that will automatically mark commercials for skipping them without any interaction from the viewer at all. You just can’t buy these PVRs any longer. The one that was on the market was ReplayTV, which is gone. The good news is that you can still get the functionality, but you need to build it yourself. Look into MythTV – one of your geek friends can build it for ya for about 400 bucks; ABC and FX and everyone else will then have no control over what you can do with your own recorder, and you’ll at least have the same ability with your new machine that we had with VCRs in the 80s.

Microsoft’s Music Plans, Version 3

I find it amazing that MS has still not figured out how to avoid punking their customers and partners. The wonderful DRM embedded in earlier versions of Windows Media Player is bad enough. Then came PlaysForSure, which many people say is more like “PlaysForShit.” There are many instances of the PlaysForSure files not transferring, or requiring multiple updates of software on the PC and firmware on the player. Plays For Sure as a slogan implies that your music will Just Work, but that is obviously not the case, based on how many complaints you can find online with mere seconds of research.

So, MS decided that the whole integrated solution thing Apple has going is a good idea. They partnered up with iRiver and MTV to produce the Clix and Urge. The device and service were designed together, to ensure that things actually would Play For Sure.  So far so good, even if it did effectively snub all the previous MS partners who had signed on for the Janus DRM train (anyone think it’s interesting that Janus had two faces?), as well as the hardware partners whose machines hadn’t been tested and certified for the MTV Urge service. They’ll probably work, but if it’s not marketed together, many people will assume incompatibility.

And now the latest change to Microsoft’s music roadmap – Zune. Not only does this get Microsoft involved in the hardware market for media players, effectively telling all the manufacturers who thought they were partners to piss off, it also introduces a new Zune-only store. That’s right, the Janus DRM-encumbered music you thought you owned from Rhapsody or Napster or whereever won’t play on Zune. You’ll have to buy it all again, if you want to play it on that new slick MS-branded player.

Might I suggest never buying any DRM-encumbered media? The result of ever buying any music or video from a service that puts DRM on it is that you don’t control your own property. You may think you own the latest Beyonce album, but if you bought it from Napster or iTunes, you don’t own a damned thing. You have a right to listen to it only on the device you bought it for and any new technology is likely to render your music collection so much junk.

Just for an added stab in the back of their customers, the Zune’s vaunted wifi sharing system will add DRM to any file, including public domain and Creative Commons files. For the public domain files, that’s just evil. For the CC files, that’s actually a violation of the CC license, which states unequivocally that no encryption can be applied to the file by anyone.

To recap, DRM is evil, Microsoft hates their customers, Microsoft can be trusted only to betray their business partners, and DRM is evil.

Blu-Ray drive won’t play Blu-Ray movies

I can’t imagine what one could add to the headline to make this story any more clear. Can you imagine buying one of these drives to play Blu-Ray movies in your new home theater PC and finding out that you can’t? Are they just encouraging piracy now by their total incompetence at this Digital Restrictions Manglement crap?

Pooh Problems

This case illustrates much that is incredibly wrong with the current de facto permanent copyright nonsense. A.A. Milne’s granddaughter is trying to wrest control of her dear grandpa’s “intellectual property” from the House of Mouse.

Clare Milne, who was not born when her grandfather died, sought to use a 1976 copyright law to terminate the prior licensing agreement and recapture ownership of the copyright.

So, exactly how does Clare’s assumption of her grandfather’s copyright in any way create an incentive for dear dead Mr. Milne to create more Pooh stories? Those darned zombie authors sure are busy.

RIAA Suing EVERYONE

The recording industry mafia have gotten a new one – they are suing a family for filesharing when the family doesn’t even own a computer. I believe it is quite difficult to infringe copyrights (not steal any darned thing) the way the RIAA accuses them of without at least some kind of computer to use.

So, the morons have shaken down little old ladies, small children, dead people, families without computers…how many cases has the RIAA won? Not a single one. That’s right; no matter how much they bully people, not a single case has been decided in their favor. Of course, almost no cases have been decided at all. The strongarm tactics and extortion that the cartel has used are effective. People know they have no reasonable chance of fighting the RIAA in court because the RIAA can afford better lawyers, and in the modern judicial system money talks. So, when the mob boss industry lawyer offers people a way out of the multi-million dollar suit, they tend to take it. Unsurprisingly, the amount of money the RIAA settles for varies from case to case – it is generally defined as, “what do you have?” One college student was told to max out his student loans to maximize the industry profit. Think this will encourage that student to buy more CDs next year? Yeah, me neither.

Google Print kills sick children

If you haven’t been following the Google Print controversy, here’s the pinnacle of absurdity so far. A children’s hospital in England has a completely unique and unprecedented perpetual copyright (in the UK) on the sales and performance of Peter Pan in the UK. They are claiming that Google Print’s service will rob them of millions of pounds of income every year. Think of the children!

I wonder why they haven’t previously gone after the public domain work? You did know that the book is actually in the public domain everywhere but the United Kingdom, didn’t you? So, exactly what does the American site Google do that the American site Gutenberg Project doesn’t already do? Is it just a question of convenience?

(Via BoingBoing)

What Does Trusted Computing have to do with Trust?

Anti-TCPA Image

In case you don’t know why the “Trusted Computing” concept is an inherently bad one, please go view the short video that was recently pimped on BoingBoing. It explains a bit, and hopefully it’s enough to get people to look into it more.

Trusted Computing is not a new idea, and it’s been growing lately. It’s all part of the same RIAA/MPAA mindset, the one that says, “Consumers are crooks and must be controlled by the copyright holders at all costs.” The technology industry (well, Sony anyway) stood up for your rights against commercial interests over 20 years ago, and for that we have VCRs, and MP3 players, and burnable CDs, and TiVos and all the wonderful things that allow you to control your own media that you’ve legally purchased. Now, the technology industry has largely been purchased by or merged with the entertainment industry. So, who will stand up for the customer?

Television used to be simple

Despite the things I’ve been hearing from my cow-orkers and family members, the FCC has proposed 2009 as the deadline to change from analog to digital television, and it looks like Congress is going to sign that into law. So, all of you who thought your television was going to stop working soon – don’t worry.

Here in San Angelo, the local cable company (sure, there’s theoretically more than one, but get real) has been in a pissing contest with the local CBS affiliate since the beginning of the year. This has resulted in no CBS channel available on the cable system, free rabbit-ears antennas for cable subscribers that ask for them, and a striking rise in the use of satellite television receivers.

I don’t get the satellite thing. Of course, I don’t get the fascination with digital cable either. Both of them force something on the consumer that is, in my mind, unacceptable – the adapter. This is nothing less than an external tuner, rendering the tuners in my television and VCR useless. Many people wonder why I think this is a bad thing. This can be summed up in one of the marketing points for the local Dish Network folks – they brag about allowing you to have televisions in up to five rooms in your house. Allowing you to have them, you see? Because, unlike television as broadcast over the airwaves of old, the satellite provider now controls your usage of the signal.

No longer can you watch one thing and record another – oh no, your VCR has to be connected to a second external tuner to record something that you are not watching in that room at that moment. Ah, but then the Dish folks point out they are offering a free DVR upgrade, so you can record the full digital signal of other shows directly on this magical box. Ah, but can you? When the television industry is trying to get legislation passed to allow the Broadcast Flag to rise from the dead, when Tivo now puts commercials on you recorder while you’re trying to skip commercials, when the broadcasters are coercing the DVR manufacturers to disallow permanent archiving of shows… Well, I don’t trust a DVR that I don’t control 100%, and the DVR from Dish network would be a DRMed, MPAA-friendly, unexpandable, unchangeable piece of junk to me.

I don’t understand why so many people find it acceptable to cede control of the airwaves to the content providers. There is a balance in copyright law; the citizens are assumed to have some rights too, not just the people in Hollywood.

So, until I can use a standard tuner in a standard television or DVR or computer tuner card, I’ll stick with analog, thanks.

Eyes on the Prize

Finished downloading the BitTorrent of Eyes on the Prize this weekend, and just got around to looking at moving it to a DVD to watch on TV. I guess I should make that two DVDs – it’s over three hours long. Wow.

The genesis of the recent civil uprising against copyright law is interesting to me; too bad it hasn’t made any impact at all on the wholly owned subsidiary of the entertainment industry we call the U.S. Congress. Why in the world does it make sense for a movie to be considered legitimate for 20 years, and then suddenly it’s breaking the law? What twisted mentality takes “the most important civil rights film” and turns it into something that school children are not allowed to view without someone bootlegging it? It’s messed up.

Recently, a group of civil rights leaders posted an open letter supporting this civil disobedience masquerading as piracy. I find it disheartening that the estate of Martin Luther King, Jr is among those who object to distributing this movie. Way to honor his memory, guys.

Free your mind.