Category Archives: 1178

Microsoft Patches Restricted Content Errors on MCE 2005

Microsoft patched
the Restricted Content errors
in Windows Vista a few months back, and today
lonely old Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 is getting its fix.  The patch (KB956148) is used to resolve “an
issue in which a Windows Media Center configuration that uses an analog TV
broadcast without a set-top box, displays a protected content message when
recording television shows.”

You should be able to grab the patch from Windows Update, or
if you want it directly go
here.

Microsoft Launches New Worldwide Platform for Broadcast TV on the PC

Leading tuner and
chipset providers announce support for new Microsoft platform.

AMSTERDAM,
Netherlands — Sept. 12, 2008
— Today at IBC2008, Microsoft Corp. announced
it has delivered in the marketplace Protected Broadcast Driver Architecture
(PBDA), Microsoft’s new worldwide platform for broadcast TV on the PC. Made
possible by the recent release of Windows Media Center TV Pack, the platform
for the first time enables the PC-TV hardware ecosystem to integrate virtually
any free or premium TV service into Windows Media Center, while satisfying the
TV industry’s requirements for strong content protection in the case of pay TV.
Among the leading companies rallying behind PBDA at the show are AVerMedia
Inc., Buffalo, Hauppauge Computer Works Inc., I-O Data Device Inc., NEC
Electronics Corp., NXP Semiconductors and ViXS Systems Inc. — all playing a
critical role in driving the forward momentum for PBDA adoption.

The PBDA platform enhances and supersedes the existing
Broadcast Driver Architecture (BDA), which has been Microsoft’s standard for
digital video capture on Windows operating systems for many years. Now, PC OEMs
and tuner-makers no longer need to rely heavily on Microsoft to specifically
enable and support the ability to output broadcast services on a one-off basis;
they can develop and ship TV tuners for Windows Media Center to target a
broader set of TV standards and markets. For broadcast service providers, the
flexibility of one consistent platform that supports multiple TV standards
specifically for protected content opens the door for more consumer options to
be made available.

“For the first time, we’re enabling those in the PC-TV
community to build tuners and integrate almost any broadcast service into
Windows Media Center themselves regardless of geographic location or television
standard — we’ve removed a major roadblock by delivering one consistent
platform for the industry,” said Geoff Robertson, general manager for Windows
Media Center at Microsoft. “The tremendous response we’re already seeing for
the platform means PC OEMs, broadcast service providers and tuner-makers can
now collaborate and embrace the PC as a first-class citizen for delivering more
high-quality free or pay content to consumers in their local markets. This is a
major milestone for us and our partners as we continue our efforts to deliver
the highest-quality, personalized TV-watching experiences available to people
everywhere.”

The momentum behind this new platform from Microsoft is
already being evidenced by the launch of PBDA-based tuner solutions in Japan,
Germany and the U.K., including Hauppauge’s first-ever Freeview-certified PC-TV
tuner solution and AVerMedia’s tuner solution for protected digital terrestrial
television in Japan.

In addition, leading chipset providers NEC Electronics, NXP
and ViXS Systems are announcing that they have all completed their
implementations of PBDA and are now ready to support their PC-TV tuner partners
in taking PBDA-based solutions to multiple markets around the world.

“We are excited to be a launch partner for Microsoft’s PBDA
platform,” said Allan Yang, Ph.D., president of AVerMedia. “PBDA has enabled us
to quickly and cost-effectively bring to market A320, a PC-TV tuner solution
for Windows Media Center that meets the Japanese broadcasting industry’s
requirements for strong content protection. The resulting system performance
delivers a surprisingly responsive user experience, and the response from our
customers, who are some of the most demanding PC OEMs in Japan, has been
phenomenal. We are looking forward to building on the very successful launch of
our PBDA-based solution beyond Japan.”

“Microsoft’s new digital TV software architecture, PBDA,
enabled Hauppauge to deliver the first-ever Freeview-certified TV tuner for
PCs,” said Ken Potkin, CEO of Hauppauge. “We look forward to 2009, when PBDA
will allow us to deliver advanced digital PC-TV tuner products, including PC
solutions for pay TV.”

“The extended capabilities, which Microsoft’s worldwide PBDA
platform for pay TV and free-to-air TV brings to Windows Media Center, mirror
NXP’s commitment to power the TV-viewing experience by enabling access to more
content with ever better picture quality anytime, anywhere, in the home and on
the go,” said Bert van de Wakker, general manager, PC Systems, NXP
Semiconductors. “Specifically, PBDA support combined with our new-generation
three-in-one PCTV SOC SAA7231 product line, enables PC OEMs to offer 30 million
European households the ability to record and view hundreds of free-to-air
digital satellite channels on their PC, complementing SAA7231DE’s established
DVB-T, analog terrestrial and cable support. In addition, PBDA has enabled us
to provide a highly integrated, secure and cost-effective solution for
protected digital terrestrial television in Japan using our secure Integrated
Services Digital Broadcasting (ISDB)-analog reception, SAA7164E SOC.”

The PBDA platform is a key component of the Windows Media
Center TV Pack, an update released to OEMs worldwide on July 16, 2008, with
targeted optimizations for Europe in particular. Some of the other features of
this update include native Windows Media Center experiences for digital
terrestrial television in Japan (based on the Integrated Services Digital
Television-Terrestrial standard), free-to-air satellites services in Europe
(based on the Digital Video Broadcasting-Satellite standard), improved guide
and playback experience, great personal video recorder auto-extend support, and
the flexibility of support for multiple TV standards.

Windows Media Center TV Pack will be demonstrated at IBC2008
at the Microsoft stand in the Topaz Lounge. Visitors to the stand will have the
opportunity to experience the latest Windows Media Center functionality
delivered in combination with some of the latest PBDA-based tuner products from
partners.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide
leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses
realize their full potential.

Microsoft Patches “Broadcast Flag”/CGMS-A Issues

Today Microsoft is will a patch to correct the issues seen
in last month’s reported “Broadcast
Flag” issues
.  In reality, the fix is
for CGMS-A and the official word is still that Media Center doesn’t support the
Broadcast Flag.  Last month’s issue propagated from CGMS-A being on the
analog source data that was broadcast by NBC.

The patch changes functionality in Media Center for CGMS-A
on antenna and non-STB configurations where CGMS-A CopyNever (1:1) will be recorded as CopyOnce (1:0) effectively
ending the “Recording Prohibited” messages seen last month.  This means if CGMS-A finds its way onto an
OTA broadcast it will always be recorded, but if CGMS-A is set it will be
protected once recorded.  If you are
using analog cable (no STB) the same takes places.

For configurations using STBs, this patch doesn’t fix any of
the existing CGMS-A issues which include incorrect and otherwise excessive
CopyNever flags (Sorry Canadians).  I’ve
made sure this issue is still on the table at Microsoft, but currently there is
no official fix (other than unplugging your STB).  Personally I’d like to see the issue fixed in
the same manor, but that does present issues with content that is supposed to
be CopyNever on an STB.  The other option
would be to just disable CGMS-A when Media Center is setup using a Canadian
postal code.

The patch should be up on Windows Update now (KB950126 – June Cumulative Update) and related download link is posted below.

Related: June 2008
Cumulative Update for Media Center for Windows Vista (KB950126)

Update: As noted on
the CE Installer blog
this doesn’t cover CableCARD which comes with
CableLabs regulations.  With that said, the majority of the issues with
CableCARD could be
software conflicts rather than content flags
.  If you are having major
issues with CableCARD and Restricted Content messages, please leave a comment
here and/or post
it to this thread on The Green Button
.

Short Bits: Digital Copy, tru2way, Big Media

Remember just last month when I said “I’d like
to see companies embrace the fact that DVD is still the mainstream format?”
  Based on a story in CED from this past week
studios are starting to realize that’s the key, with one Warner exec saying “….64 percent of
consumers said having a digital file gives better value.” 
This story was
about including protected digital copies of films on DVDs
(Example) which I think is a great idea and needs to happen much more often (on all DVDs). 
Now let’s also see it work the opposite way too, if I buy a digital download
allow me to get the physical DVD at a discounted price (or free? Yeah right)

I know I haven’t covered tru2way much yet, but that’s
because there isn’t much to say. 
Quickly, tru2way is CableLabs basically renaming the CableCARD 2.0/OCAP platform.  Of course a large majority of the media
doesn’t understand any part of it; CNET even asked if tru2way can succeed
where CableCARD failed
.  Just so we
are clear, tru2way is a platform for CableCARDs.  It’s now a two-way platform instead of
one-way like all previous devices.  It
will require use of the exact same CableCARDs (which are
all two-way
).  MegaZone
did a good job explaining it
, yet CNET didn’t retract the article or edit
it despite the fact it is 100% incorrect. 
Two-way CableCARD for Media Center isn’t
likely to appear until Windows 7
.

Speaking of CNET (now owned by CBS), anyone else find it
ironic that big media conglomerates have purchased these smaller outlets which still
post on things like breaking copy
protection on DVDs
?  Hey CBS, if your
new media outlets are going to report on breaking copy protection, let’s just
skip the formalities and disable things like CGMS-A on Showtime, AACS on CBS
Blu-ray Discs, CSS on DVDs, etc.

Short Bits: Media Center University, Broadcast Flag

Microsoft’s CE Installer blog posted
today about the Broadcast Flag issue
that I
previously talked about
proclaiming that “Windows Media Center does not enable or utilize the Broadcast Flag.”  They clearly want to make sure that the CE
installers and integrators using Media Center know this isn’t an issue, or is
it….

Just hours later the CE Installer blog posted a link to
part one of the Media Center University
that Microsoft and Life|ware did a
few months ago at EHX.  In the presentation
(A must watch for technical types, CE installers, etc), Mike Seamons
(ex-Life|ware, current Microsoft) went over content protection types associated
with Media Center.  When he got to ATSC
he had this to say about the Broadcast Flag; “It [ATSC] has a Broadcast Flag…so the broadcasters can put a
flag with that MPEG-2 stream that makes it so that signal is actually protected
when it gets to your Media Center…and
Media Center obeys the flag.”

Mike is a very knowledgeable person on Media Center and
clearly understood the difference between CGMS-A (covered just before) and the
Broadcast Flag so something still isn’t right (Mike also seemed to think he has
had Broadcast Flag issues in Media Center before).   Todd
Rutherford, a Program Manager at Microsoft was sitting in the front row, so I
assume something this big would of warranted a correction.

Bottom line, I don’t trust Microsoft to tell me if Media
Center “truly” supports or respects the Broadcast Flag, but they do need to
ensure the same story is getting out via high level people like Mike.  I might believe that the issue last month was a
complete and total fluke
, but consistent information on any DRM related
subject is required for the Media Center platform to succeed in any market.

Broadcast Flag Follow-up

I’ve been attempting to learn about the Broadcast Flag over
the past few days, and instead
of focusing on what it can/can’t do
I decided to look at a few other
things.

First of all, I want to say that I believe the issue early
this month with NBC was a total fluke.  I
think a lot of people are getting bent out of shape considering this has been
and continues to be a onetime bug not reproducible by anyone at Microsoft, NBC,
EFF, etc.  This is compounded with the
lack of understanding between different technologies, mainly Copy Generation
Management System – Analog (CGMS-A) and the Broadcast Flag.  The Broadcast Flag only applies to Over the
Air (ATSC) broadcasts.  It doesn’t and
can’t apply to NTSC, CableCARD, etc.  It
is understandable that people are upset when something like this happens
(especially with the longstanding CGMS-A issues, and CableCARD issues that mostly
appear to be software conflicts
), but everything needs to be kept in check.

With all of that said, this whole situation doesn’t match
up.  On Microsoft’s side first, they said “Microsoft included technologies in
Windows based on rules set forth by the (Federal Communications Commission).”
  CNET published the story under the title “Microsoft
confirms Windows adheres to broadcast flag” despite the fact nothing they
published from Microsoft said “Broadcast Flag.” 
It is also worth noting that the FCC doesn’t have any rules on the
Broadcast Flag.  Ten days later CNET published
a follow-up
story refuting parts of their previous story quoting Microsoft
as saying “Please note that Windows Media
Center does not support Broadcast Flag.” 

Cut to NBC’s side of things, CNET reported that NBC
“made an inadvertent mistake” and “incorrectly flagged” the shows in
question and they later
reported that
“It was a CGMS-A flag,
not a broadcast flag.”

Where does this leave us? 
With a seemingly rare occurrence that can’t be reproduced.  Microsoft says the Broadcast Flag isn’t
supported, NBC says they didn’t put the Broadcast Flag on and instead they
magically enabled CGMS-A(nalog) on a pure digital ATSC broadcast.  These two bits of information are where
things actually get interesting.

NBC first, they are saying they enabled CGMS-A, an analog
(NTSC) copy protection technology on a non-analog (ATSC) broadcast.   In NTSC, the CGMS-A bits are broadcast in Vertical Blanking Interval (VBI) which
also carries closed captions, V-chip data, and other digital data.  However, best I can find there is no standard
for CGMS-A in ATSC broadcasts.  There is
a VBI extension for ATSC, but based on the specs it doesn’t support
CGMS-A.  Can CGMS-A even be put on
ATSC?  Based on what I’ve seen the answer
would be no.  If this is the case, it
leaves NBC with no idea what really happened on the broadcast end.  If it was somehow CGMS-A on ATSC it would
also seem to be a onetime occurrence that has ever been reported before.

On Microsoft’s side, the question is does Windows support
the Broadcast Flag?  Microsoft says “Windows Media Center does not support
Broadcast Flag,”
but there is more to the story then that.  Who knows what the software truly supports,
but Microsoft has developed for the Broadcast Flag in the past.  Most notability while developing for Vista
which would be prior to the time it was officially stuck down.

Microsoft’s position on the Broadcast Flag is simple and is
even semi-outlined in a 2003 document. 
Basically it boils down to we will support the Broadcast Flag if it is
created with us in mind.  This is exactly
how I would expect Microsoft to deal with it in a world of digital video on the
Internet and Microsoft wanting to push their Windows Media technologies.  It is no secret, Microsoft supported CGMS-A
in Windows Media Center way back in 2002 and now they are the only PC-based
platform with CableCARD and pending DIRECTV support.  It is a game that Microsoft knows how to
play, and it pays in the end (it also helps grow their digital download aspirations,
Microsoft TV division, etc).

Other interesting bits are the ASF specs
which reference and start to define how to deal with the “Broadcast Flag” (I’m
assuming that’s proper Broadcast Flag and not general flag in a broadcast).  And then there are the PBDA PowerPoint’s from
Vista, which show a nice block diagram of 8VSB demodulation (which is
ATSC)  with the Broadcast Flag clearly
being detected with dealt with.

image

Since Microsoft really never published any of the in-depth
specs for PBDA type stuff we don’t know for sure if Windows does “support” it,
or rather if Broadcast Flag support is in the live implementation.  I’m not trying to scare anyone or suggest
Microsoft wants to kill access to all of your media (they want the opposite),
but I think it is important for everyone to understand what can be done.

While I haven’t had the time to do in-depth research on the
Broadcast Flag in general, I do see that the issue between NBC and Microsoft
from a few weeks ago is appearing to be nothing but a fluke.  I’m interested to see if anything like this
(copy protection on ATSC) happens again, but truthfully the situation is
looking more like a single rare occurrence to me than an issue with the
Broadcast Flag.

Short Bits: Broadcast Flag

Broadcast
Flag issues?
  I’d like to write a
nice article about the Broadcast Flag and what it is and isn’t.  Only problem, there is no good source of
factual information at all on the web. 
The Wikipedia
entry
doesn’t cite a single source [citation needed] about the technical
aspect or implementation.  In fact, that
1000+ word entry only cited five sources, all of which are related to the votes
and riders in the Senate.

My basic understanding of the Broadcast Flag (or most
current concept) is that it does not limit recording.  The idea is to protect recordings.  Thus, the recent problems with Vista Media
Center and NBC are more likely a bug in Media Center rather than NBC truly enabling
the “Broadcast Flag.”  However, it would be
great if there was a recent (respectable) source that actually has information
on the true implementation of the Broadcast Flag.

Zune Community Brings New Shared Experience to Music

Spring release adds features that inspire people to explore, discover and discuss their favorite music.

REDMOND, Wash. — May 5, 2008 — Last November Zune launched “Zune Social,” a music community
Web site where music fans can discover new music, browse each others’
playlists, and comment on their discoveries and tastes.

In just its first five months, more than two million users
have joined the community. With enough members to populate a major city, the
community is almost as diverse as the world of music itself, from hardcore
audiophiles and passionate music fans to people who are just crazy about the
Zune player.

Brian Seitz, a Group Marketing Manager for Zune, says it’s a
core goal of his team to create an experience where the diversity and knowledge
of all those music fans is tapped to inspire Zune listeners to explore new music.
With that in mind, the Zune team worked to incorporate extensive customer
feedback into a refresh of the online music community and Zune software, which
is being launched this week.

“Zune owners are pretty passionate, and they had a lot of
great ideas for making the community more valuable to music fans,” he says.
“And I definitely fall into that category myself — the main reason we’re all
here is we love the music.”

The spring update includes enhanced features that build on
the sense of community and musical exploration Zune delivers. The downloadable
Zune application is now integrated with the Zune community site so members can
send messages to friends, look at their music collections, shop for new
content, and drag-and-drop Zune Cards to their players, all without opening a
Web browser. Also, the online Zune Marketplace is offering TV episodes for
download for the first time.

Zune Card Makes Musical Exploration Portable

One way to make these connections is with the free Zune
Card, a sort of electronic Zune playlist, which automatically reflects the
songs played on a Zune player or Zune PC software. With the spring update, the Zune
Card now becomes more portable.

“For Zune Pass subscribers, dragging and dropping a friend’s
Zune Card onto your Zune means that all of the music that friend has been
listening to is automatically synced to your Zune, so you can listen to the
full tracks when you’re out and about,” Seitz says.

Read
Full Press Release

Fact or Fiction: Microsoft and Blu-ray

I’ve gotten a fair amount
of
reaction
to the various articles I’ve posted on Microsoft and Blu-ray, and
it still seems the overall consensus on the web is that Microsoft will fall
head over heels for Blu-ray in their products.

I want to preface this post by saying that I’m not
advocating Microsoft not supporting Blu-ray. 
The fact is that Blu-ray won, while I think HD DVD had its clear
advantages those don’t matter anymore.  I
want Blu-ray support in any product that markets itself as part of a digital
home.

Fiction:
Microsoft should support Blu-ray on the Xbox 360

I truly don’t understand why Microsoft would add Blu-ray
support to the Xbox 360 at this point. 
When Microsoft added HD DVD support they did so by adding some four
million lines of code to the Dashboard and had Toshiba manufacturer and sell
the HD DVD drives at a loss.  How do I
know it was at a loss?  Just look at the
fact that the standard IDE drive was selling for far less than any other IDE HD DVD
drive on market.

Toshiba didn’t make any money on the 300,000 that were sold
and neither did Microsoft.  Microsoft
took the development time to add support simply to counter Sony including
Blu-ray in the PS3.  This was an
extremely poor counter, but it provided a fairly cheap way for a consumer to
add support for a next gen DVD format on their Xbox.

As that was the only real reason, what reason does Microsoft
have now to do the same for Blu-ray?  The
war is over, Blu-ray won.  Your not fighting that anymore. The Xbox 360
is nearly two years old with an approximate four year total turn-over time for
the next console.  Why add Blu-ray in any
form to the Xbox 360?

The simple fact is that it’s not in Microsoft’s best
interest to provide Blu-ray support in the Xbox 360.  The drives are going to be too expensive as
there is no reason to sell them at a loss anymore.  Pair that with the development time for BD+
and BD-J, two technologies that Microsoft didn’t agree with in the
first place and you have a recipe for no Blu-ray on the Xbox 360.

As for internal drives, that’s even worse.  Going back to the drawing board, yet again
losing money for an integrated drive that can only be used for movie
playback.  Remember, developers can’t use
Blu-ray Disc’s as that you limit your market by some 18 million current Xbox
360’s (Microsoft also wouldn’t allow it either).

I strongly disagree that Microsoft already has some of these
things planned and working as Derek
Flickinger suggested on CE Pro yesterday
. 
I don’t believe the Xbox 360 will ever have Blu-ray Disc support.  As for the Xbox 720 or whatever you want to
call it, I think it is too soon to say it won’t but I don’t think you can say
it will either.

Fact: Microsoft
should support Blu-ray playback on the PC

There is no doubt that Microsoft should support Blu-ray
playback on the PC, but as I’ve
talked about several times this comes with a major technical concerns
.

For native Blu-ray playback to happen in Microsoft
applications they will need to update Vista’s Protected Media Path to support
BD+.  This is a pretty significant change
to the system that already supports AACS, the only protection that was needed
for HD DVD.

It has always surprised me that BD+ never got the bad press
that any other DRM/content protection system does.  It runs code in a virtual machine within the
player, if that’s not something for the DRM opposed to get upset about I don’t
know what is.

The need for BD+ and the equal need for Java-based BD-J
interactivity support instead of the Microsoft developed XML-based iHD leaves a
huge shadow of doubt about what Microsoft is going to do.  No doubt Windows Media Player and Windows
Media Center users will suffer from having to use PowerDVD or alike to playback
their Blu-ray Disc’s.

This also leaves Media Center and the connected Extender ecosystem
in doubt.  Managed Copy in the still unfinished
AACS specs will give Blu-ray the ability to offer streaming too, but BD+ is
still an issue.  Microsoft might get
burned by the PS3 again as there is a good chance it will be the first product
to take advantage of such features.

Fiction:
Microsoft should wait for digital downloads

Digital downloads are exactly what Microsoft wants.  Why? 
Because from VC-1 to WMDRM to Silverlight to Windows Server to Windows
Vista they can push their products from point A to point B and collect on them
all.

The clear problem with this is the lack of bandwidth in the
US.  Streaming and downloading of large
files just isn’t an option for most US broadband users, and no matter how efficient
VC-1 is as a video codec.  The fact of
the matter is US ISPs are holding up streaming being a viable mass market
solution.

The best way to explain this is with a graphic from Vudu, another
streaming hopeful (via Dave
Zatz
).  As you can see from the
graphic, those with broadband connections less then 2Mbps have up to a four
hour delayed wait before they can start enjoying an HD download.  It should also be noted that the audio/video
quality provided in these sorts of streams just can’t match what Blu-ray has
been delivering for the past year.  Highly
quality means higher bitrates with means larger file size which means longer
download times.

image

Those ISPs that do have the bandwidth (>10Mbps) charge a
pretty penny when compared to a basic lower bitrate DSL connection.  Are customers willing to both pay high dollar
for an Internet connection and then pay high dollar for an HD download that it
many cases has to be watched within 24 hours? 
There is still a lot of work that has to be done before digital
downloads can replace physical media for good.

Of course, itshould be noted that digital downloads already exist using Microsoft technologies.  The Xbox 360 has downloads via the Xbox Marketplace and the same basic concepts from above apply in terms of download times and bitrates.  Many are waiting for Microsoft to extend the reach of the Marketplace downloads to Windows Media Center (and thus Media Center Extenders) as well portable devices like the Zune.

Related:

More
Ramblings About Blu-ray & Xbox 360

Short Bits: DRM, Vista SP1, Xbox 360, More

Hard to think people are just now getting around to talking
about the DRM crap
made by Peter Gutmann and Bruce Schneier.  I went after Schneier
in Feburary
, but it’s hard to imagine that these “professionals” up into
the ring without knowledge of any of the real issues.  Oh well, they might be incredibility smart individuals,
but maybe they should stick to cryptography. 
Too bad cryptography has so many useful purpose, since it is the basis
of digital rights to start with.  Ed Bott also covers this story
nicely.

Vista SP1 hit the web in the form of a leaked beta last
week.  APC Mag did a nice in-depth
look into whats there so far
.  Media
Center has some sort of update in SP1, I’ve yet to bother to look into this,
but I doubt it is anything major at this point.

A new version of DVRMSToolbox
for Vista
is out.  Casey published /mceDvd360
for any developers who want to attempt to get DVD streaming (transcoding)
working for a nice Xbox 360 Extender-based solution.  Source code in C# for anyone is who
interested in a new project.  The Media
Center SDK was also updated
.

The new Xbox
360’s Premiums with HDMI
still use 90mm chips.  Boo. 
At least they still cost a little less with the recent price drop.

Missing Remote did a nice
ATSC/NTSC Tuner Guide
that runs down the pros and cons of just about every
current tuner on the market.  Before your
next purchase, be sure to check out the guide to make sure you are getting the
best bang for your buck.