Blue Screen of DRM Death; or The Death Of Windows Media Center

I'm turning off, disconnecting, and throwing out my Windows XP Media Center PC. For two years it has been the DVR unit in my home, as well as just a convenient way to view movies. However, the DRM zealots have finally rendered it completely useless.

This weekend my 5 year old was complaining that On Demand (Comcast Cable's video on demand system) was not working. It showed this weird blue screen. Upon inspecting the problem I found that the video would turn on, the screen would flicker for a second each of black and the video a few times, and then the Blue Screen of DRM came up. It also wouldn't play any premium channels. Figuring this was a solvable problem, I tried a few things:

  1. Disconnect the Media Center and plugging the cable box directly into the TV. This resolved the problem admirably.
  2. The steps in KB 913800
  3. The steps in Aaron Stebner's blog about DRM problems in Windows Media Center Update 2
  4. The steps in KB 891664
  5. Updating the DRM component as per these steps
  6. A full Microsoft Update, which installed Windows Media Player 11
  7. More Microsoft Updates which update and fix security bugs in Windows Media Player 11
  8. Uninstalling Windows Media Player 11
  9. Updating the DRM component as per these steps

Step 8 was, if not the clincher, so at least very interesting. After that one I am now back to Windows Media Player 10 and when I launch it it crashes. Fortunately, Windows Error Reporting has seen this problem before and directs me to an article with steps to troubleshoot my problem with Windows SharePoint Services!

Step 9 was even more interesting. As soon as I enter that page now Internet Explorer crashes. How wonderful! Microsoft's "security update" (i.e. DRM update) has caused a Denial of Service (DoS) not only in Windows Media Center, but in Internet Explorer. Want to crash someone's IE instance? Just 302 them to the DRM Update page.

So, now I am trying to decide what to use instead. I'm contemplating whether LinuxMCE may be worthwhile?

Is it just me, or is DRM of movies and music the poster child for an inappropriate security v. usability tradeoff? How many billions has the industry spent on DRM schemes that the bad guys break in weeks? How many perfectly legitimate users has the industry annoyed and driven away? How many lost DVD sales has it caused? How many lost sales of Microsoft's Media Center software and Windows Vista has it caused because the DRM sub-system randomly decides that you must be a criminal? And, how many bootleggers has it stopped? Based on my last jaunt through a night market somewhere in the Far East the answer to the last question seems pretty clear at least.

Update, September 26, 2007

I added a short clarification as a new post.

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