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The Cody Blog: Kelly's TechFix Review: DRM Wars & Cody On-Demand

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Kelly's TechFix Review: DRM Wars & Cody On-Demand

Welcome back to Kelly's TechFix Review. This week's column is going to be a two 'fer: a tug of war in the technology world, and a TechFix reader request.

The roots of the first segment of this TechFix can be traced back to our move to new offices on Soho. Soho, by the way, is often written SoHo, as it stands for South of Houston; SoHo is the neighborhood in Manhattan sandwhiched between Houston Street in the North and Canal Street in the South. And yes, there is a NoHo. But I digress.

The space is just incredible, and my job as technologist was to make sure that our offices were Tech Heaven, so to speak. We have two sets of speakers in the office, one in Cody's office and one in the "Media Room". We also have a PowerMac G5 in the Media Room on which is stored a ton of AAC audio files (the format used by the iTunes Music Store). Cody's criteria for the system was that either set of speakers could pull music from the G5 independently, and that both sets could be "linked" to play the same thing simultaneously if we wanted to really rock out. After some searching, an incredible-looking product emerged: The Sonos ZonePlayer.

Man this thing looked cool. The idea was to set up one ZonePlayer box in each of the rooms, connected to their respective stereos. In each room we would have a ZonePlayer Controller, a little wireless micro-computer that could change the music being played on either of the stereos from anywhere in the office.

As the ZonePlayer system arrived, Cody and I could not wait to set it up. We rushed to plug in all the wires and set up all the software, and we were ready to go. But then we ran face first into a roadblock: the ZonePlayer system is unable to play files downloaded from the iTunes Music Store, as they are DRM protected. Silly me to think the people at Sonos would have thought that one through. And shouldn't they at least have a nice big sign about that on the website? I guess there's still enough people out there downloading illegal music that there's enough of a market for their product, even if it can't play iTunes Music Store downloads.

It turns out that Sonos is one of many companies begging Apple to release the algorithm for their Digital Rights Management system, so that they can take advantage of the millions of users of Apple's wonderful Music Store. But Apple just won't budge, and even went so far as to say flat out (in regards to releasing their DRM algorithm), "it'll never happen".

Now, there is a workaround. You are allowed by Apple to burn your purchased music to CD. And if you then decide to put that music back on your computer, which is perfectly legal - it is your music after all - then the newly-ripped files will play through any system, including those from Sonos.

But the question that has been nagging me since I completed this installation is, has Apple taken DRM too far? I mean, if we have paid for the rights to legally own the music, should Apple really be able to limit that intensely the places we listen to it and the devices we use to do so? Given the strengh with which Apple has become the de facto standard for downloading legal music, they seem to have the clout to do as they wish. And in the mean time they will have a monopoly not only on the downloading of legal music but on the devices we use to listen to it. But as the revolution rolls on, I just don't think their grip can hold. In the revolution the consumer is king, after all.

The second segment of this week's TechFix Review comes in response to a reader comment regarding CNBC. The reader is unable to access CNBC via television, and wanted to know some way to access it on the Internet, in addition to Cody's K&C appearances that we post here on The CodyBlog.

And in response, I have a few answers. The first is that CNBC makes many of their daily segments available here. I know it's not quite like watching the station on broadcast TV, but hey, it's a step in the right direction. And the revolution will roll on.

As for the clips we post here on the website, we switched a month or two ago to Quicktime video files from Windows Media. The move was prompted by Quicktime's more efficient video encoding (think smaller files) and the wide availability of the Quicktime Player software. If you have been having problems viewing our recent clips, then you probably need to install Quicktime. You can download it here. It is also bundled with iTunes, which you can download here.

And as a parting Flip Itâ„¢, if you are running Quicktime on a Mac and want to be able to play Windows Media files in the Quicktime Player, you can do so by downloading a plugin called Flip4Mac available here.

Thanks to the reader that posted that question. Feel free to post your own TechFix questions in the comments section below, or e-mail me at kelly@clwillard.com. Thanks for reading!


Blogger Alex Sharp said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5/28/2006 05:20:00 PM  

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