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windows vista defeats high-quality content playback

A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection by Peter Gutman is absolutely required reading for anyone considering buying Vista, or anyone who cares about media content quality. Holy crap. If this article can be believed, Windows Vista has content protection built in to the operating system such that any content or hardware or software that plays back "premium" media must automatically and silently degrade the content being played. The goal of the built-in content protection seems to be assuage the media business (film, tv, and music industries) and push consumers into an all-Microsoft end-to-end content solution. The effect of this built-in content protection will be that expensive content and hardware provides a crappy viewing experience. We're not just talking about a $200 graphics card looking like a $50 graphics card...we're talking about a thousands-of-dollars flat screen monitor playing back a $50 blu-ray dvd on a $2K computer, and having it look like a vhs tape on an old tv. Granted, I have not actually seen this effect in person, but I understand enough of signal processing to know that when you mess with a signal, you degrade it. It sounds like Vista will be messing with the signal at the encoding/decoding layer (which can be software or hardware) and at the hardware-output layer. Goodbye, signal quality. And yet! The worst of it! Most users won't know Vista is degrading their content. Most people put up with whatever performance their machine happens to give them. If it takes twenty minutes to boot the OS, or if their laptop screen always looks a little fuzzy, or if they always have to hit the print button three times to get it to print once, they just accept that as what the computer does, even when those effects could be fixed by defragmenting the hard drive, changing the screen resolution to match the native LCD resolution, or upgrading the printer drivers. That is, the performance of most users' machines are already far worse than the hardware is capable of, because of miscellaneous configuration problems outside the realm of their consideration. Vista is going to make this much, much worse. Before long, people will start to realize that a properly configured non-Windows box gives them far better media playback for the same hardware cost than this Vista eater-of-souls. Oh wait, isn't that a TiVo? Or a Slingbox? or a Mac Mini? I predict that by next year's holiday season there will be another round of booming linux distro-plus-services sales to rescue Vista machines from their content-protected hell. Insert this cd, restart, and watch your machine start acting like the three thousand dollars you spent on it. Provide users with a decent webmail solution and a way to edit the Word files from the office... and the world will beat a path to your door... but only if they can hear you over the sound of the Windows marketing.

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