DRM, Fair Use, HDCP and Vista, Part 2
This started off as a series of posts over in the Over Clocking Union. I've put it all together here because I think it would be good to have it all in one place. This part is a little rant-ish and needs some editing. The second half addresses a few issues and questions that were raised from posts on the first part.
--- ranty part----
I encourage you to read:http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~pgut001/pubs/vista_cost.txt
I have not checked all the facts myself, but I believe that it's pretty much on the level. The DRM (digital restriction management NOT digital RIGHT management, as you don't have rights under DRM) clauses are all true. Statements about not letting a user tap an unencrypted pin on the circuit board are true.
You might have noticed that for some reason, the DX10 generation has had a little trouble. There is NO DX10 driver for nVidia, and they are not being very free with the beta. Also, a lot of stuff that nV said would work on their new card, actually doesn't yet. Like Sli-1080i output.
AMD/ATI has no DX10 part at all and the release is significantly delayed.
The earliest demos showing DX10 gaming have been (in my estimation) based on PRE-DRM parts and without the OS fully running in 'DRM' mode.
Vista has already been shown to use 20% more power and I cannot imagine thats from the 3d aspects of chip just being on. There's just not enough '3d' going on to make the chip draw that much more power.
So, why is MS destroying the PC gaming platform?
1. They can. If it really dies off, theres that whole XBox thing.
2. The PC is what allowed the DVD to be ripped off and stolen and they likely got some backlash from that.
3. They want to be "Hollywood's friend" so that they can get more content going through their VC-1 codec. (MS will make up to $1.00 dollar per device that uses that codec. Sorry, read that a year or 3 ago, no longer have the source, likely TV Techology Magazine)
4. Because they can. What, will you switch to a PS3 for your gaming? They know a good chunk will pick up the xbox as the games are similar. There is likely an internal report saying that any gamers lost have a 50% chance of ending up on xbox. And not all gamers will jump at once, but some will, with more after the fact.
Here's the issue though. Vista with DRM is unsuitable for critical business use. The linked article shows it is unsafe to use in the medical community without dramatic disclosure of DRM causing events.
It's unsuitable to be used by Government as an outside source could 'disable' all machine quickly via DRM Deactivation.
It's unsuitable for 'basic' critical business server use because your business could be turned off by the whim of the OS without warning. It's one thing to have a server fail because the CPU kicked the bucket, it's another thing to fail because the OS says you're no longer certified to run it.
The thing we'll have to watch for is to see just how much slower Vista is on basic tasks vs XP. If it's a lot slower, how do you justify moving to it? The security model looks better, and there is significant value to that. DX10 is clearly better than DX9.
But no biz cares about DX10. They care about user retraining and the cost of running the PC on a day to day basis.
What the heck is MS thinking?
--- end ranty part --- the follow up to it is below.
My first post got a little ranty, and some of it is a little misunderstood (or more likely mis-written) so let me touch up a few item.
First of all. MS does care about gaming and MS does NOT care about gaming.
Remember a few years back when the xbox came out and MS sort of just plain stopped making games for the PC. Oh sure, MS is a small company so they needed to focus (just like you only have a few cells in your body, so when you walk you need to focus so you can't chew gum at the same time).
MS realized that they were losing a core group that helps drive PC innovation, so they released the xbox 360 and they made a branding change for PC gaming. The 360 I think runs a power pc chip, so it's a fair bit more work to swap from the 360 to the PC and back again. They want a standard gaming controller and they want the PC to adopt it. Personally, I don't want a standard gaming controller which is why I have two joystick, and a steering wheel, plus a mouse and keyboard. I don't want to give up my mouse in a shooter. I don't see much on the console side that gives me that.
But remember, PC gaming sales are pretty small combined to plain OS sales. It's a market and MS will milk it for all its worth, but lets face it, there's more retail space devoted to consoles than there are to PC games. Thats due to sales and sales alone. PC gaming with some wonderful exceptions has devolved in some areas to being shovelware console ports.
And all that is beside the point--- the real point though is that it's a market that can be exploited, either for cash or abused and killed. I do not believe MS -wants- to kill PC gaming. I believe MS is killing it out of stupidity.
I do hold some hope out here, I've heard of some DX wrappers for OpenGL which means that gaming can move forward with our without MS. But that will comes down to lawsuits. We'll see there.
The real point though is that the included DRM is screwing up everyone. ATI is late to the game. The ORIGINAL release date has long since passed. The latest date is pushed back a little more. Thats not all Vista of course. Between job cuts, the merger, transistion to 80nm, and a new OS it's a bad combo for releasing a new graphics card. Nvidia may have rushed it's G80 series to market thinking it had to meet ATI's timeline or maybe they just wanted some Christmas dollars. But if they had more time to get things done, I'd bet for the most part they'd prefer to take it. Who wants to be rushed? In this business you are, sometimes to ill effect.
Broken things. You might get totally lucky with Vista, your setup may not conflict at all with Vista. You might not be doing anything that would stretch it. But when you do start to. There are a lot of things you can start to run into. When you run into your screen going black because you don't have X Y or Z item in place, it's a problem.
As an example, a DRM we all know and hate, remember that Star-whatever DRM application that would slowly wreck your CD/DVD drive? It was DRM that got in the way and caused your machine to degrade over time. It was a serious issue that happened to a few people (thousands? Hundred? tens of thousands?) but it was annoying enough that it caused an uproar and companies dropped it rather than faced lost sales.
MS faced industry (Hollywood in this case) pressure for something it couldn't control. DVD's got cracked on the PC and PC was ever-forward used to pirate movies. MS wants to be in the entertainment business. They make set top boxes, video compression systems, they have a cable channel, media portal, music player, all sorts of NON-PC related things.
People buy more TVs than PCs. What do you have more of? You being a reader here might break even, might even have more PCs than TVs but the average person has more TVs than PCs and it's by a lot. If you can't afford a PC you likely have a tv, if you can't afford food, you likely still have a tv. It's a bigger market, and it makes the PC and PC gaming market look like squat.
For MS to become a player in that market, they have to be a friend to that market. To be a friend to that market, they can't have their platform being the system people are using to break it.
But DRM is a cat and mouse game (look at the sony PSP and firmware situation) that is beyond MS's ability to control. They will try of course, that's the whole of humanity. We try to manage the unmanageable and sometimes to great effect. But for everyone who is trying to lock this content down, there's someone else trying to open it up.
So, do you lock a system down so severely that it affects the usability of that system? MS appears to have said yes. The 20% power figure (I believe comes from Gartner, but I might be wrong on that, this is a free form opinion item and not a news article, so you get this as it comes out of my head with little to no editing after the fact) and 15% slower figure mentioned above are example that the new OS is heavier. If the only major change is the presentation layer then it doesn't make sense. There is no reason for the OS to work that much harder just to give me a mostly static 3d display. But if that mostly static 3d display has to run from encrypted memory pages and encrypt and decrypt on the fly, that would make a lot more sense.
So, is it all a bunch of crud or is something really going on here?
Windows went RTM and MOST of that means that there is a locked version of Vista for the larger builders to work from. They can find a working base line config for their systems, order a bunch of parts, and stick Vista on them. In this case it's NOT like a game going GOLD. There MAY be an issue of pressing CDs, but the turn around of a CD is actually pretty fast and can happen in a matter of hours if you are really willing to pay that much for it. (My company presses a new limited audio cd run ever month, it cheap and fast even for 5000 disc orders.)
The thing MS has to do is make sure that HP's and Dell's out there can make a PC and get it sold with their OS and as few tech support calls on both sides as possible. However, MS is under a gun in this case. Vista was long delayed and in order to meet goals, they chopped out a lot of stuff (WinFS among lots of others) and it would not be surprising to find MS rushed a product out the door knowing they could patch it later. No plan survives contact with the enemy, and users hit software way different than programmers do. Not to mention the diversity of platforms it has to work on. Crud always comes up. It's just the nature of programming.
DX9 is a known platform. Making a Vista PC with a DX9 card is easier than making one work with a DX10 card. nV likely has a working dx10 driver that does a lot of what it's supposed to do. The Crysis guys have likely played with it. MS has likely used it as well. But it's not out in the general public. nV is pulled a 3d realms. It'll be out there when it's out there. Most Vista users seem to be running Vista in VGA mode on the G80. THAT is an odd thing.
1080i in sli doesn't work. I agree, I don't care about that either as my only 1080i TV isn't used for gaming and I don't have SLI at home anyway. But that MIGHT mean something. IF video data has to be moved encrypted on any point that could be viewed by something that should not view it (hardware/software/santa clause) then the SLI bus might have a real issue getting data across it. It might not.
So what do we know, here's a few items:
DRM is in Vista.
DRM does take a toll on performance, how much is debatable.
DRM has caused product launches to fail (the original divx-dvd, DAT)
HD-DVD and BluRay have HEAVY DRM
Vista uses more power and cpu time than XP.
Vista needs more memory than XP.
nVidia seems to be having a difficult launch with Vista and Dx10
ATI is late on a card
MS is late on Vista
MS has a LOT of irons in the fire
Whats it all mean?
That's the question, and the concern. If you really REALLY screw up a platform, you can kill it.
If the DRM and other 'junk' in Vista means you need a higher end rig to play the same game in Vista and more and more people move to Vista then one of several things happens:
Games get 'lighter' to allow more users to play games at a tolerable level.
The PC gaming market shrinks because less people are willing to pay to play.
If games get lighter, we'll all live. But we want games to be more 'real' from physics to AI to graphics.
If it gets more expensive, then you may find there are even less PC gamers which means there is less monitary motive to make a game because the consumer base becomes even smaller. If that's the case, you'll see even fewer PC gaming choices and that means more avid gamers are likely to turn to consoles for their gaming choice.