Download this and read about it or listen to it (pdf and mp3 files)
WINDOWS VISTA DIGITAL RIGHTS MANAGEMENT (LISTEN AND READ BEFORE GETTING VISTA)
The main article by Peter Gutmann from the Department of Computer Science of the University of Auckland, New Zealand (contained in the .mht file) raises a number of very important questions about the extent to which Microsoft has gone to satisfy copyright owners during the development of Windows Vista. The article raises vital issues concerning your rights when you purchase a computer -- including the associated hardware, especially the video card -- and install software. Take special note of issues such as video card drivers that are overly complex and WILL EXPIRE (if the rights to which are not renewed by the manufacturer), making images fuzzy or unviewable. The new DRM system will also spill over to users of earlier versions of Windows.
Gutmann points out, "Windows Vista includes an extensive reworking of core OS elements in order to provide content protection for so-called 'premium content', typically HD data from Blu-Ray and HD-DVD sources. Providing this protection incurs considerable costs in terms of system performance, system stability, technical support overhead, and hardware and software cost. These issues affect not only users of Vista but the entire PC industry, since the effects of the protection measures extend to cover all hardware and software that will ever come into contact with Vista, even if it's not used directly with Vista (for example hardware in a Macintosh computer or on a Linux server). This document analyses the cost involved in Vista's content protection, and the collateral damage that this incurs throughout the computer industry."
The article certainly explains why it took Microsoft so long to develop Vista and why, despite the prolonged development period, many of the vital drivers simply do not work correctly and slow down the operating system.
Gutmann concludes, "The Vista Content Protection specification could very well constitute the longest suicide note in history."
Some of the points mentioned in Gutmann's article were reviewed very briefly in the news item that follows:
Vista crippled by content protection
Collateral damage from Vista suicide note.
Chris Mellor, Techworld
27 December 2006
PC users around the globe may find driver software is stopped from working by Vista if it detects unauthorised content access. Peter Guttman, a security engineering researcher at New Zealand's university of Auckland, has written A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection. He reckons Vista is trying to achieve the impossible by protecting access to premium content. Users will find their PCs' compromised by the persistent and continuous content access checks carried out by Vista.
Gutman thinks these checks and the associated increased in multimedia card hardware costs make Vista's content protection specification 'the longest suicide note in history.'
The core elements in Vista have been designed to protect access to premium content. The design requires changes in multimedia cards before Microsoft will support them for Vista use.
Content that is protected by digital rights management (DRM) must be sent across protected interfaces. This means cards using non-protected interfaces can't be used by Vista PCs.
Disabling and degrading
Vista is disadvantaging high-end audio and video systems by openly disabling devices. The most common high-end audio output interface is S/PDIF (Sony/Philips Digital Interface Format) which doesn't have any content protection. It must be disabled in a Vista system when DRM-protected content is being played. Equally a high-end component video interface (YPbPr) also has no content protection and must be disabled when protected video is being played.
- Vista covertly degrades playback quality. PC voice communications rely on automatic echo cancellation (AEC) in order to provide acceptable voice quality. This requires feeding back a sample of the audio mix into the echo cancellation subsystem, which isn't permitted by Vista's content protection scheme. This lowers PC voice communication quality because echo affects will still be present.
- This overt and covert degrading of quality is dynamic, not consistent. Whenever any audio derived from premium content is played on a Vista PC, the disabling of output devices and downgrading of signal quality takes place. If the premium content then fades away the outputs are re-enabled and signal quality climbs back up. Such system behaviour today indicates a driver error. With Vista it will be normal behaviour.
- Vista has another playback quality reduction measure. It requires that 'any interface that provides high-quality output degrade the signal quality that passes through it if premium content is present. This is done through a "constrictor" that downgrades the signal to a much lower-quality one, then up-scales it again back to the original spec, but with a significant loss in quality.' If this happens with a medical imaging application then artifacts introduced by the constrictor can 'cause mis-diagnoses and in extreme cases even become life-threatening.' (the italics are ours)
CPU cycle guzzling
The O/S will use much more of a PC's CPU resource because 'Vista's content protection requires that devices (hardware and software drivers) set so-called "tilt bits" if they detect anything unusual ... Vista polls video devices on each video frame displayed in order to check that all of the grenade pins (tilt bits) are still as they should be.'
Also 'In order to prevent tampering with in-system communications, all communication flows have to be encrypted and/or authenticated. For example content sent to video devices has to be encrypted with AES-128.' Encryption/decryption is known to be CPU-intensive
Device drivers in Vista are required to poll their underlying hardware every 30ms - thirty times a second - to ensure that everything appears correct.
It is apparent that Vista is going to use very much more of a PC's resources than previous versions of Windows and degrade multi-media playback quality unless the user has purchased premium content from a Microsoft-approved resource.
Such over-reaching by Microsoft could prove to be the catalyst needed to spur increased takeup of Linux desktop operating software, or of Apple's Mac OS.
The other items in the torrent are three Security Now podcasts located at the website of Gibson Research Corporation with pdf transcripts. Program 74 is an interview/discussion with Gutmann.The podcasts and transcripts can also be found at www.grc.com/SecurityNow.htm
The issues raised by Gutmann's article might best be understood in the framework of the convergence and conflicts of business interests among the software and hardware industries, and the suppliers of content (recording, motion picture, "print" and broadcast media industries) as well as the political power they wield individually and collectively. The increasing level of economic concentration in many of these industries (and newly combined industries) also comes into play. To simply bash Microsoft would be to miss the point.