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Paying the cost to run Vista

Typically, we don't cover Digital Rights Management. How Microsoft Corp. and other tech companies secure digital music and downloadable movies is more of a consumer issue, hence outside our charge. But a recent paper by New Zealand academic Peter Gutmann is worth reading in that it reveals the side-effects of the DRM hooks Microsoft buried in Vista. In short, Gutmann argues that the safety measures Microsoft put in place will complicate life for all users, not just those who want to watch high-definition movies on their computers.

Here are a few: Since the operating system continuously polls device drivers, performance could slow. In certain instances, the fidelity of content could be reduced during playback. Peripherals could be remotely disabled by Microsoft itself, should they be compromised. Older peripherals may have to be replaced once they are no longer commercially supported. And overall, the OS has a whole layer of built-in control that remains out of reach to administrators.

'Even without deliberate abuse by malware, the homeland security implications
of an external agent being empowered to turn off your IT infrastructure in
response to a content leak discovered in some chipset that you coincidentally
happen to be using is a serious concern for potential Vista users,' Gutmann wrote.

The discussions swirling around DRM are highly debated, and so arguments on either side are loaded. And at times Gutmann shows a clear bias against DRM. Nonetheless he offers enough concrete details that should be of interest to any organization migrating to Vista.

Update (01/21/07): Microsoft's lead programmer for Vista video, Dave Marsh, responds to Gutmann here.

Posted by Joab Jackson on Jan 02, 2007 at 9:39 AM


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