Wednesday, February 21, 2007

New Vistas

Reader Paul has sent me a couple of links on what Microsoft's Vista will mean to computer users.

This link is for non technical folks. Let me excerpt a bit:

...reviews have focused chiefly on Vista's new functionality, for the past few months the legal and technical communities have dug into Vista's "fine print." Those communities have raised red flags about Vista's legal terms and conditions as well as the technical limitations that have been incorporated into the software at the insistence of the motion picture industry.

The net effect of these concerns may constitute the real Vista revolution as they point to an unprecedented loss of consumer control over their own personal computers. In the name of shielding consumers from computer viruses and protecting copyright owners from potential infringement, Vista seemingly wrestles control of the "user experience" from the user.

Vista's legal fine print includes extensive provisions granting Microsoft the right to regularly check the legitimacy of the software and holds the prospect of deleting certain programs without the user's knowledge. During the installation process, users "activate" Vista by associating it with a particular computer or device and transmitting certain hardware information directly to Microsoft.

Even after installation, the legal agreement grants Microsoft the right to revalidate the software or to require users to reactivate it should they make changes to their computer components. In addition, it sets significant limits on the ability to copy or transfer the software, prohibiting anything more than a single backup copy and setting strict limits on transferring the software to different devices or users.
For the more geeky among us here is a look at Vista by a computer security expert.

Here is a really neat geeky explanation of what Microsoft is trying to accomplish. DRM stands for Digital Rights Management, which is another way of saying copy protection:
Note C: In order for content to be displayed to users, it has to be copied numerous times. For example if you're reading this document on the web then it's been copied from the web server's disk drive to server memory, copied to the server's network buffers, copied across the Internet, copied to your PC's network buffers, copied into main memory, copied to your browser's disk cache, copied to the browser's rendering engine, copied to the render/screen cache, and finally copied to your screen. If you've printed it out to read, several further rounds of copying have occurred. Windows Vista's content protection (and DRM in general) assume that all of this copying can occur without any copying actually occurring, since the whole intent of DRM is to prevent copying. If you're not versed in DRM doublethink this concept gets quite tricky to explain, but in terms of quantum mechanics the content enters a superposition of simultaneously copied and uncopied states until a user collapses its wave function by observing the content (in physics this is called quantum indeterminacy or the observer's paradox). Depending on whether you follow the Copenhagen or many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, things then either get weird or very weird. So in order for Windows Vista's content protection to work, it has to be able to violate the laws of physics and create numerous copies that are simultaneously not copies.
When I first got into computers (1975) the promise was that what was once the province of the big guys (IBM) would now be available to the average citizen at a modest price. People would be able to do things never before possible (on a mass scale) and users, not software/hardware priests would be in control. Vista looks like a reversion to the bad old days.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

2 comments:

linearthinker said...

Steve Balmer of Microsoft has been touting Vista to Wall Street. I first encountered Balmer about the time this was broadcast on network news.

I think that may have been the day that "asshat" entered my vocabulary.

El Gabo Gringo said...

One more reason to buy a Mac.