Shocking, yes, I know, but in only four hours this evening Microsoft has managed to alienate over 150 additional customers with its insistence on Digital Rights Management (DRM). This time it is the DRM component of the Zune store that is down, according to the 164 posts so far over on the Zune forums. OK, so realistically, that probably means that about 100 times that many customers have been alienated, including my oldest son who is unable to use the $15 worth of Zune points that his mother just purchased for him because "Error C00D12F6: Can't verify your media usage rights. A local firewall may be blocking access to the Zune service".
Rest assured, it is not a firewall problem. It is just that the DRM servers on the Zune site are horked up, again. No DRM: no buying music. No buying music: unhappy son. Perhaps the best part of this was that a few customers who called the Zune support line (1-877-438-9863) to get help were told to reset their DRM components. That turns out to not be the best move they made tonight as after doing so they can no longer play ANY of the music they have purchased on the Zune store. Ever.
I will take guesses at this point for when the industry will FINALLY get it that DRM, while completely useless in combating actually piracy, is extremely useful in combating customer satisfaction.
If you really wanted to defeat the Zune DRM it really is not that hard. For one, you could use FairUse4WM. Alternatively, my old friend Rob Hensing, in the Security Engineering group at Microsoft recommends using the old trick of burning the songs on CD and ripping them again to remove the DRM from legally purchased music. Those ideas work for music. If your fancies turn to DVD movies on your Zune, there are some suggestions for how to do it from Microsoft employees on the TechNet and MSDN blogs sites. Keith Combs apparently prefers the Xilisoft DVD Ripper Platinum. Andy Pennel appears to have figured out how to rip DVDs to play both on his Zune and his Media Center PC, but won't tell you how on his MSDN blog. Probably a wise move considering he just admitted to a Federal Crime on a company-sponsored blog. Wouldn't want to give the prosecutor too much information now, would we? Rohan Thomas, however, discusses how to leverage new Silverlight features when ripping your DVDs on his MSDN blog. Steve Makofsky, over on the MSDN blogs, apparently uses DVD Decrypter and Nero Recode to get his DVD movies into a format suitable for playing on devices. That is the same piece of software Keith Combs used.
Did I mention, by the way, that Amazon sells music without DRM? It will play for sure on any device you have now or in in the future.