EFF Leaves the W3C over DRM Decision

Subject: General Tech | September 24, 2017 - 02:30 PM |
Tagged: w3c, eff, DRM

On September 18th, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, EFF, announced that they were leaving the World Wide Web Consortium, W3C, due to its stance on DRM, effective immediately. This was published in the form of an open letter from Cory Doctorow, which is available on the EFF’s website.

eff-logo_full.png

There’s several facets to the whole DRM issue. In this case, Cory Doctorow seems focused mostly on the security side of things. Creating an architecture to attach code that manipulates untrusted data is sketchy, at a time that browser vendors are limiting that attack surface by killing as many plug-ins as possible, and, in this case, a legal minefield is layered atop it due to copyright concerns. Publishers are worried about end-users moving data in ways that they don’t intend... even though every single time that content is pirated before its release date is a testament that the problem is elsewhere.

We can also get into the issue of “more control isn’t the same as more revenue” again, some other time.

As for the consequences of this action? I’m not too sure. I don’t really know how much sway the EFF had internally at the W3C. While they will still do what they do best, fight the legal side of digital freedom, it sounds like they won’t be in a position to officially guide standards anymore. This is a concern, but I’m not in a position to quantify how big.

Source: EFF

Vega's specs grow less vague

Subject: General Tech | May 3, 2017 - 01:00 PM |
Tagged: rumour, amd, VGA, DRM

DRM finally did something good for us; revealing detailed information on AMD's new GPU.  In this case the DRM is a portion of the Linux kernel which interfaces with the GPU and some inquisitive minds dug through the code to find details on Vega, which will be supported by this new version of DRM.

This is still in the realms of rumour, but the source is very good as AMD would not likely enter the wrong specifications into this update.  According to the specs which wccftech compiled from the code, Vega features 64 compute units, each containing 64 GCN stream processors, the 4096 SPs will be split into four Shader Engines.  A little math, based on the stated performance figures of 12.5 TFLOLPS for FP32 and 25 TFLOPS for FP16 operations, the GPU should clock above 1.5GHz.  There were no details on the memory frequency though as it uses HBM2 we know it will have a 2048-bit interface which could lead to some interesting performance numbers.

vega.PNG

"Thanks to the latest Linux graphics driver update submitted by AMD we now have detailed specifications of the upcoming Radeon RX Vega GPU. The DRM, Direct Rendering Manager, update to Linux was issued yesterday and it’s the first update to date that adds comprehensive Vega feature support to Linux. No doubt in preparation for Vega’s launch which is expected to take place at the end of the month."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: wccftech

PC Perspective Podcast 429 12/15/16

Subject: Editorial | December 15, 2016 - 02:18 PM |
Tagged: podcast, zalman, ryzen, note 7, nand, LG, instinct, hdr, DRM, doom, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #428 - 12/8/16

Join us this week as we discuss AMD ReLive, Ryzen, Zalman Keyboards, LG HDR monitors  and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts:  Allyn Malventano, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, Sebastian Peak

Program length: 1:17:34

Podcast topics of discussion:

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Jeremy: Aged, not obsolete - SAMSUNG 850 EVO 2.5" 2TB
  4. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Source:

DOOM Removes Denuvo DRM

Subject: General Tech | December 9, 2016 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, DRM, doom, bethesda

Well this is an interesting news post for a couple of reasons. Personally, I dislike DRM. A lot. It’s software that reduces end-user rights, as both consumers and potentially even as members of society after copyright expires (depending on how judges, and the Librarian of Congress, interpret whether fair use or expiration will override the DMCA’s felony clauses). It’s especially annoying when you see DRM on content that was pirated prior to the official launch, because ticking off your customers and screwing with archivists will really help you if you can’t even secure your own supply chain.

--deep exhale--

bethesda-2016-doom-launch.png

As for today’s story, id Software has officially removed the Denuvo DRM package from their game. On the one hand, it’s good that AAA developers sometimes remove copy-protection after some initial launch window, to limit long-term damage. It’s not DRM-free like you would see on GOG, though, so there is still the possibility that games could artificially die in 10, 40, 100, or 400 years, even if Windows and the other, technical platforms it requires are still around.

On the other hand, because the removal of DRM aligns with DOOM being cracked, that's all the dozens of tech news sites are now reporting. Personally, I hope that this coverage increases sales, especially since the Steam Winter Sale is rumored to start in about two weeks, and DOOM has already been discounted to 50%-off before (I believe during QuakeCon). Still, you can't help but gawk at the Streisand effect as it unfolds before you.

Anywho, Steam is currently in the middle of pushing a 12 GB patch for the title at the moment. While the sites reporting on the removal of Denuvo aren’t clear, and the release notes don’t say, I’m guessing that it was rolled in with Free Update 5.

Source: TorrentFreak

HP Claims They're "Dedicated to the Best Printing Experience"

Subject: General Tech | September 28, 2016 - 06:53 PM |
Tagged: hp, DRM

Recently, HP released a firmware update for some inkjet printers that disabled certain third-party cartridges. The claim is that the customer “is exposed to quality and potential security risks” when using counterfeit cartridges. I'm curious why HP is claiming that users shouldn't trust HP's abilities to secure their devices against attacks from malicious cartridges, but that's probably not an implication that HP considered when publishing this press release.

hp.png

Also, if the intent was to inform users about counterfeit and potentially malicious cartridges, you would think that they would have provided an override method from the start. Thankfully, they are now. HP is preparing an optional firmware update that does not check cartridges. They claim that it will be available in a couple of weeks, and provide a link to where it will be hosted.

So yeah, they are doing the right thing now. Still... come on.

Source: HP

Mirror's Edge: Catalyst DRM Rumors Are Wrong

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2016 - 08:42 PM |
Tagged: ea, dice, DRM, origin

GamersNexus wrote a piece that claimed Mirror's Edge: Catalyst has DRM that limits the number of hardware changes to four. According to an email from EA's press contact, it turns out that GamersNexus' article is not accurate. According to EA PR, if Origin detects five activations in a single day, the user will need to wait until 24 hours after their first activation to attempt again.

So you can change your hardware as many times as you want over the life of the game, just not more than four times in a single day, on a single account at least.

ea-2016-mirrorsedgecatalyst-error-gamersnexus-wrong.jpg

Image Credit: GamersNexus
This message didn't seem to say what they were implying it did. Turns out, it doesn't.

I decided to ask EA when I read the error message that GamersNexus posted -- the article's  interpretation didn't seem right. The wording was as follows: “Too many computers have accessed this account's version of Mirror's Edge(TM) Catalyst recently. Please try again later.” It seemed very odd to me that the wording “recently” and “Please try again later” would be attached to a permanent bricking of the game.

Again, it turns out that this is not the case, unless our press contact was not up to date about this specific title. As much as I dislike DRM, being a proponent of art preservation and archival, this part of Mirror's Edge's DRM should not affect the vast majority of users. This is something that should only affect people who are literally benchmarking a half-dozen (or so) graphics cards.

In short, it sounds like this is a non-issue after all.

Source: GamersNexus

Firefox 38 Launches with (and also without) DRM Support

Subject: General Tech | May 13, 2015 - 05:06 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, firefox, DRM

Mozilla has just released Firefox 38. With it comes the controversial Adobe Primetime DRM implementation through the W3C's Encrypted Media Extensions (EME). Or, maybe not. If you upgrade the browser through one of the default channels, the Adobe Primetime Content Decryption Module will appear in the Plugins tab of your Add-ons manager on Windows Vista or later (but it might take a few minutes after the upgrade).

Mozilla_Firefox_logo_2013.png

Alternatively, you can use Mozilla's EME-free installer for Firefox and avoid it altogether.

I have mentioned my concerns about DRM in the past. EME does not particularly bother me, because it is just a plugin architecture, but the fundamental concept does. Simply put, copy protection does very little good and a whole lot of bad. If your movie is leaked before it is legally available in consumer's hands, as it regularly does, then what do you expect to accomplish after the fact? It takes one instance to be copied infinitely, and that often comes from the film company's own supply chain, not their customers. Moreover, it is found to reduce sales and hurt customer experience (above and beyond the valid ideological concerns).

Beyond the DRM inclusion, several new features were added. One of the more interesting ones is BroadcastChannel API. This standard allows a web application to share data between “contexts” that have the same “user agent and origin”. In other words, it must be on the same browser and using the same app (even secondary instances of it). This will allow sites to do multi-monitor split screen, which is useful for games and utilities.

WebRTC has also been upgraded with multistream and renegotiation. Even though the general public thinks of WebRTC as a webcam and voice chat standard, it actually allows arbitrary data channels. For example, “BananaBread” is a first person shooter that used WebRTC to synchronize multiplayer state. Character and projectile position is very much not webcam or audio data, but WebRTC doesn't care.

Firefox 38 launched on May 12th with an optional, DRM-incompatible build.

Source: Mozilla

If you already own S.T.A.L.K.E.R. you can get it for free from GOG

Subject: General Tech | April 8, 2015 - 01:53 PM |
Tagged: gaming, GOG, DRM, stalker

That title and the offer it describes might sound dumb at first glance, but if you happen to have a retail copy of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. that isn't so scratched it is unusable, go ahead and try to install it.  Didn't work very well now did it? If you were savvy enough to Google through the various tips on making it work you might now understand why GOG reviving old games which no longer work because the company that managed the DRM no longer exists or that have languished because of lack of support.  GOG is working on creating a library of old games which you can install DRM free, if you have a valid serial number from your old retail copy.  As is usual you can choose between a download and a Steam version, with community support and a very good chance that it will run immediately after installation; unlike when it was first released perhaps?  The question that not many ask anymore is what will happen if Steam ends, will GOG be the ones to save our libraries of 100s of unplayed games?

f4e4e0ec7720fdd7701161d06e37886ba223fea678d2bb1080f515f4ca102908.jpg

"Starting today, owners of several retail titles originally sold with DRM can get a digital copy of their game completely free at GOG.com: with no DRM as always, compatible with modern operating systems, and with plenty of goodies to boot."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Console DRM Woes? Try Some Good Old PC Games Instead!

Subject: General Tech | December 27, 2014 - 11:23 AM |
Tagged: Xbox live, retro, PlayStation network, pc gaming, GOG, gaming, DRM, console

With the outage over Christmas of both Xbox Live and PlayStation Network (both pretty much restored, though it took Sony much longer to recover) many console gamers were unable to play.

psn_xboxlive.png

Screen captures of the official status from both networks this morning

Beyond online gaming even those attempting to play their own local games were often hampered by the inability of the DRM system to work, preventing the game from loading. Oh, DRM...who needs it? Not the person playing old games that don't use it!

While the term "retro gaming" will likely evoke images of an Atari 2600 or NES, it is retro gaming of the PC persuasion to which we direct our attention now. The website known as Good Old Games (GOG.com) sells many classic titles from distant and not so distant past, and everything sold is DRM free. Install, run; no internet connection required (after you use the internet to actually download the game, that is).

gog.png

The games are inexpensive as well, but get so much more so during the frequent sales the site promotes. One such sale is going on now, where various Square Enix-owned titles are 75% off, which puts them at $1.49 to $2.49 each. Take that, modern console gaming!

EFF Wants Legal DRM Circumvention for Art Preservation

Subject: General Tech | November 11, 2014 - 03:10 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, gaming, eff, DRM, consolitis

This is something that I have been saying for quite some time now: games are struggling as an art form. Now I don't mean that games are not art; games, like all content that expresses feelings, thoughts, and ideas, are art. No, I'm talking about their ability to be preserved for future society and scholarly review. The business models for entertainment are based in either services or consumables. In the entertainment industries, few (but some) producers are concerned about the long tail – the extreme back-catalog of titles. Success is often determined by two weeks of sales, and the focus is on maximizing those revenues before refreshing with newer, similar content that scratches the same itch.

eff-logo_full.png

DRM is often justified as maximizing the initial rush by degrading your launch competitors: free versions of yourself. Now I'm not going to go into the endless reasons about where this fails to help (or actively harms) sales and your customers; that is the topic of other rants. For this news post, I will only discuss the problems that DRM (and other proprietary technologies) have on the future.

When you tie content to a platform, be it an operating system, API, or DRM service, you are trusting it for sustainability. This is necessary and perfectly reasonable. The problems arise with the permissions given to society from that platform owner, and how easily society can circumvent restrictions, as necessary. For instance, content written for a specific processor can be fed through an emulator, and the instruction sets can be emulated (or entirely knocked off) when allowed by patent law, if patents even interfere.

Copyright is different, though. Thanks to the DMCA, it is illegal, a federal crime at that, to circumvent copyright protection even for the betterment of society. You know, society, the actual owner of all original works, but who grants limited exclusivity to the creators for “the progress of Science and useful Arts”. Beyond the obvious and direct DRM implementations, this can also include encryption that is imposed by console manufacturers, for instance.

The DMCA is designed to have holes poked into it, however, by the Librarian of Congress. Yes, that is a job title. I did not misspell “Library of Congress”. The position was held by James H. Billington for over 25 years. Every three years, he considers petitions to limit the DMCA and adds exceptions in places that he sees fit. In 2012, he decided the jailbreaking a phone should not be illegal under the DMCA, although tablets were not covered under that exemption. This is around the time that proposals will be submitted for his next batch in late 2015.

This time, the EFF is proposing that circumventing DRM in abandoned video games should be deemed legal, for society to preserve these works of art when the copyright holders will not bother. Simply put, if society intended to grant a limited exclusive license to a content creator who has no intention of making their work available to society, then society demands the legal ability to pry off the lock to preserve the content.

Of course, even if it is deemed legal, stronger DRM implementations could make it technologically unfeasible to preserve certain works. It is still a long way's away before we encounter a lock that society cannot crack, but it is theoretically possible. This proposal does not address that root problem, but at least it could prevent society's greatest advocates from being slapped with a pointless felony for trying to do the right thing.

Source: EFF