I recently bought a Blu-ray DVD player for my home PC. I didn’t really need a Blu-ray player as the PS3 does the job admirably, but I was looking for a fast CD ripper and decided to go for the Blu-ray disc option as it was cheap and fast. I installed the drive last night, and since I have been frustrated by the unfriendliness of the technological implementation.
Some might remember the problems with DVD’s technological protection measures, which were broken quite easily and prompted the wide distribution of various region-free players, DVD rippers, and unlicensed players. While this made DVD easy to copy, it also meant that people could play their purchased media even where there was no licensed player, such as in Linux. The industry learnt their lesson, and created HD formats with very strong built-in protection. While AACS was broken early on for the HD-DVD format, the Blu-ray disc protection has remained secure due to the fact that it uses a range of different technologies, such as AACS, BD+ and BD-ROM mark. While this is good news for content owners, it is bad news for the rest of us, as it makes the technology computer unfriendly.
The drive comes with Cyberlink’s PowerDVD player OEM version. Right from the start, the installation was clunky and unfriendly. Right after installing I was told that I needed to upgrade the software or some discs would not play. The reason for this, I suspect, is that the upgrade would load more keys and security into the system in order to keep up with the DRM arms race. The upgrade failed miserably, and I had to go in and reinstall the program, but also physically uninstall several registry keys, dll files and installation folders in order to get a clean installation and try again. Once that had been achieved, and after hours of reading online forums to get some advice, I was ready to play a Blu-ray disc. I dusted off Total Recall, and was surprised to learn that my system is too high-tech for Blu-ray. PowerDVD informed me that it could not play the DVD because I have a digital display (in fact I have two), and that I should switch to an analogue VGA display if I wanted to play my content. The reason for this of course is that some DVD rippers catch the player’s output in order to make a copy of the content.
I am therefore left with a piece of technology that not only does not work as intended, but that assumes that I will try to make a copy when in fact all I want is to test out the technology and play a damn Blu-ray disc in my computer! DRM paranoia has served only to annoy and infuriate me with no visible result other than to make an advanced technology less useful than its predecessor.
And they still wonder why we think DRM is a bad thing, I have to retract the praise I gave the movie industry here.