Sunday, November 06, 2005


Untrusted computing

Yesterday, I bought Switchfoot’s latest CD, “Nothing is sound”. What I do with all my CDs is immediately make a copy of it, so the original can stay safely in its case, and it’s a CDR that I don’t care about that gets thrown around in the car. When the CDR gets a scratch, I clone off a new one, thus giving my CDs a kind of Duncan Idaho immortality.

I don’t have a burner in my Linux box, so I popped it into my parent’s Window PC to copy it. A window popped up and asked me to agree to a license. I thought “Oh, they’ve put a music video on the CD”, and clicked agree. With no futher prompting, a progress bar marched from left to right, and then I was told that my CD-ROM drivers were to old to read the CD, and that they had been updated, and all I needed to do now was click a little “Reboot Now” button, and the “Enhanced CD” installation would continue after a reboot.

So I rebooting, thinking this is probably some DRM crap but wanting to give them the benefit of the doubt. Big mistake. After the reboot, I copied the CD, put the copy into a CD player and got…static. I began thinking thoughts about the recording industry that, while unprintable, are, in my opinion, completely true.

Whatever patch (“patch” is actually too kind a word. “virus” is more accurate.) was installed, it disabled any sort of digital audio extraction for that CD. I couldn’t even play it a standard player. (Other, standard CDs could read fine, so that’s one thing they didn’t do wrong.) They probably have some little player that gets around their malware, but I didn’t try to find out.

So I ended up ripped the CD with cdparanoia on my Linux box, and copying the wav files over the network and then burning them. And I ran system restore, and after that, I could play the CD in Winamp and probably could have ripped it fine.

I went back and actually read the EULA. It actually says all that will happen if you click agree. So, I was warned that malware was going to be installed on my computer, I just made the mistake of thinking that Columbia Records were not evil corporate weasels. I wonder what their home life is like. “Hi honey, how was work?” “Great! I just screwed millions of legitimate customers!”.

Lesson of the day: Don’t run Windows. If you do run Windows, disable autorun. Programs from major record labels are not to be trusted.

Sony, Rootkits and Digital Rights Management Gone Too Far
I thought this was a good read on the subject.
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