Gutmann Reloaded and My Vista HD Fiasco

, posted: 26-Jan-2007 16:35

Peter Gutmann isn't taking Microsoft's rebuttal of his paper on Vista's DRM lying down. Instead, he's put up an addendum to his original paper, unravelling the bits that he terms as "PR spin". Reading Gutmann's response, it looks like the debate is far from over and Microsoft has more explaining to do on the DRM.

Unfortunately for Microsoft's Dave Marsh, Gutmann's read the official documents carefully. There are several areas such as the Hardware Functionality Scan (HFS), echo cancellation features and graphics hardware being used for video decoding where Marsh originally said one thing - which Gutmann picked up on when he wrote the paper - and another in the rebuttal.

So which is right? It's hard to say, and it looks like testing the different assertions is the only way forward.

On the question of CPU usage with DRM, I can be of some assistance to Peter and others curious about it. Here's a screenshot of Task Manager showing the Media Foundation Protected Pipeline EXE (lovely name) module in Vista, as I'm loading protected HD content:
It's chewing up some memory, not that much, but it doesn't register for CPU usage. The module isn't loaded when playing unprotected content.

I will do some more testing here once I get some fresh HD content. As it happens, I've got some older HD content, namely Coral Reef Adventure which was given to me last year. It has two Microsoft Windows High Definition format WMV files on the second disc, one in 1,280 by 720 resolution and another in 1,440 by 1080. The discs seem to have been made in 2003 and I put the second one into my Sony DVD drive (no, it's not HD-DVD or BluRay capable) under Vista to see what the film would look like.

At the first attempt, I got a black screen as the disc tries to autorun a start.hta file that Vista doesn't like. I don't know why Vista doesn't run it but neither does XP so... straight onto the WMV files I go, and click on the 720 resolution one. Windows Media Player 11 starts up, and I get the Media Usage Rights Acquisition dialog:
Ahhh... but the disc is already in the drive? I click on the "1." button to refresh, but no MUR is Acquired by WMP11. The same happens when I try to run the 1080 file as well - I can't get beyond the Media Usage Rights Acquisition dialog. If I try to play the disc with PowerDVD, I get a static screen telling me the content is in Windows Media HD, and that I should... insert the disc into the drive. Right.

Thinking I may have to play the file from elsewhere but have the disc in the drive, I copy both the WMV files to my hard drive and try to run them from there. No luck, the process still gets stuck on the MURA dialog. The site linked to in the dialog provides no help so I check the properties of the WMV file, to see if there's any further information about the license:
No LicenseHmm, nothing at all? Surely there should be something telling me what the terms of the license are?
Then I try the first disc, with the standard resolution DVD, just to make sure that playback is actually working on my Vista installation. Immediately, I slam into the idiotic DVD regional content crapola:
DVD Region Hell
Arrrgh. Time to give up with Vista and try XP again. I click on the 1080 WMV file, the MURA dialog pops up... nothing happens. A case of broken DRM preventing me from watching the content then? As a last effort, I take the disc out, check it isn't scratched or damaged otherwise, and put it back in. This time both the 720 and 1080 files run and I get to see coral seas in glorious colour (HD video is pretty spectacular).

XP played back the HD content, protected by Microsoft's own DRM but Vista didn't. It's just the one film so this isn't conclusive by any means, but it is disappointing nevertheless. However, the DRM disappointment extended to XP as well. The properties for the film (visible when it's playing) say this about the Media Usage Rights:
Hold on, so in just over a week's time I can't play the file any more? And, I can't back up the MURs for it either. Excellent illustration of the evils of DRM, that.

Other related posts:
Fighting with Windows 8
The Windows Phone 7.5 bouncing tiles bug
Windows Live Essentials betas seem good, but oh so flaky

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