I know people who bought a Creative Zen player instead of an iPod because they have FM tuners. The Zen players are also cheap and they can timeshift radio by recording FM broadcasts – handy for picking up news or current affairs when it suits best – some of the users I know are sports nuts that just want to listen to programs like the sports shows on NewsTalk 106 or Gift Grub on their own time. Â I almost bought a Zen recently but instead I upgraded my phone to a k800i to get both MP3 playback and FM receiver into one pocket device. (Alas, Sony being members of the OMA implement OMA DRM 1.0 in the k800i so recording from the radio is a no-no.)
Today there is a storm brewing because Creative, at the bidding of the RIAA apparently, have released a software update that removes the player’s FM recording feature. How about that for an update, something that removes functionality! Man, I’d be pretty annoyed if I owned one. Hybrid software/hardware devices and their draconian EULAs eh, who needs them. Me, I’d want my money back. I also wouldn’t buy Creative again.
This puts my recent gripe about iTunes DRM in the shade. I find it truly astonishing that a global brand would risk their reputation by releasing something with an agreement like that attached. They obviously must have calculated the risk of a Sony rootkit backlash and decided first-to-market was more important (they beat Apple by one week – no coincidence on the launch date there).
Since it’s inception I have bought a few tracks from the iTunes Music Store, initially one out of curiosity and subsequently a few out of necessity and then occasionally one or two because I came home drunk from the pub and just wanted to hear a particular song. Happens to the best of us I’m sure. So probably no more than 10 or 15 in total – now that I try check, I can’t find a way to get a total from iTunes.
Two home macs and a few of windows (work) machines later and I’m now noticing that there are some tracks I cannot authorize on my current work laptop. I was aware of the 5 machine authorization limit when I bought the tracks but I’m now, sooner than expected, discovering that even seemingly flexible DRM like that does not suit my digital lifestyle.
Now I know that my digital lifestyle tends to be an accellerated version of that of normal computer users (I bought my first MP3 player back in 1998) so I’m now finding myself pitying the fools who are buying large quantities of digital content from the iTunes Music Store (soon to be a Movie Store too?). They could use something like QTFairUse6 (hey, that would be illegal!)to strip the DRM and yes they can burn everything onto physical media for safe keeping but does anyone think online purchasers do that? Right after they do regular backups of the rest of systems (yeah right!). There will come a time when they will realize their purchased digital media collection is no longer acessible – man I’d be pissed.
All in all, the whole thing is kind of putting me off listening to music. I’ve even coined a term for it – DRM fatigue – and the same phenomenon seems to be affecting sales of Blue Ray and HD-DVD drives. When system vendors and/or content rights owners make it that difficult to access content (intentionally or unintentionally) consumers eventually get tired of bothering (remember programming VCRs, anyone?)
apple, drm, hardware, music
I fired up Front Row this morning for some background tunes to my Saturday-morning-flaffing-about routine and discovered to my shock that suddenly my mini is “not authorized” to play a significant chunk of my DRM-free MP3 files. My mp3 files, that I ripped from my CDs and I’m not authorized to play them on my computer. My microwave never tells me that I am not authorized to nuke my food.
It turns out others have recently encountered this issue with FrontRow too yet there is no admission from Apple (that I can find) that this is a bug they will fix which begs the question- was this implemented in the latest updates by design? Meanwhile I have to either move my mp3 files onto the Mini’s internal hard drive (where there is no space) or mess around with ID3 tags in the files. Baah!
I started buying Macs because I was sick of this sort of low level mucking around on machines running the Windows. I do enough of that at work every day, I don’t want the hassle at home.
I’m beginning to sympathise with all this talk of switching.
drm, mac, music
From the OSGi blog, this is just too true:
However, sometimes I wonder if our skills are not blinding us from the
complexity we put on the rest of the world. And this is not because we
are so clever and our users are not, it is actually often the other way
around. Users are often too clever to learn unnecessary details and
complexities, they just refuse to bring up the patience.
Too true, most of the time they just will not bother. This isn’t a new phenomenon either – JVC invent VHS and thirty years later the vast majority of users still cannot program the damn video recorders with any degree of confidence. Then they do it again with DVD players and recorders that are built for geeks.
Apple fuelled a revolution in the audio industry with the iPod and it will take a similiar revolution (possibly driven by Intel/Viiv this time) to bring time shifted video to the masses. No matter how good the content is, the interface needs to be seriously dumbed down.
content, drm, tv
[Update: It just gets worse and worse for Sony/F4I - now they've found GPL (not LGPL) code in the rootkit]
Credit where credit is due, this post’s title was taken from a comment made by Stewart Baker, recently appointed by President Bush as the Department of Homeland Security’s assistant secretary for policy. (I’m not sure about his insinuations that this might make a bird flu pandemic worse but thatâ€™s another discussion).
This statement sums up many peoples sentiments on this whole issue. If buying bread and sticking it in your toaster caused every door and window in your house to fall off their hinges you’d be a bit annoyed. You might even think “Hmmm, I don’t like bread that much”.
Unfortunately, many software users will realise that that in may cases the shrink-wrap software licenses (or EULAs) that they casually accept when installing downloaded software gives that software the right to do it wants on the users system. This can include removing files, killing processes, changing type associations (effectively disabling competitors products) phoning home with personal and usage information (hint: RealPlayer) etc. I know people are vaguely aware of these actions, but I’ve the feeling this while Sony XCP story will raise general awareness of just how draconian most EULA’s are.
Sony got caught fair and square and they are paying the price now. However, it does concern me that some are looking at what is happening to Sony right now and they are seeing opportunities. Brand sabotage, fuelled by the blogsphere, could easily be inflicted on a competing brand by paying someone to do some digging and then release the results in some vague, threatening (but still non-defamatory) language.
With the exposed misbehaviour of an industry giant we can all expect more false alarms and scare stories (and the occasional truth) over the coming weeks and months. Just don’t assume all of these alerts will be started by lone tech blogger who notices some new registry entries on their machine.
I’m afraid the days of casually downloading and installing applications from unknown vendors are drawing to a close. Meanwhile, I’ll be consulting tools like EULAlyzer a little more often. The growth of web based applications (or Web2.0 in hype-speak) is perhaps timely in this regard but the browsers and plugins (Flash etc.) will have to make sure they are so bullet-proof or they’ll suffer a similar backlash if they are ever caught in a similar situation.