Archive for January, 2006

DRM. When will they get it?

Occasionally I read an article on a website and just feel sad for people. Today that person is the IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industries) chairman John Kennedy. In this BBC News article he is quoted as saying:

DRM “helps get music to consumers in new and flexible ways”

Clearly something must be wrong here since I have never purchased music online, and currently never will. Why? Because of DRM.

Ironically he says

DRM was a “sometimes misunderstood element of the digital music business”

Yes it is John. By you. I enjoy music. I enjoy purchasing music. I would probably purchase more music given the ability to buy unprotected CD tracks online, however while you guys keep forcing DRM on me, and millions like me, you are in effect restricting your sales to those CDs that I buy. You are loosing out on all the opportunities of me hearing a good track on the radio and going and buying it as a spontanious purchase. Not only that, you are probably loosing out because some people will go and find those tracks that are unprotected and download those instead of wasting money on something that is restricted in personal use.

Believe me, the world will come to hate DRM even more than it does now. There will be users who download gigabytes, spent hundreds or thousands of $ on iTunes music, only to have their hard drive crash. They will be pissed, believe me, and guess what they’ll do? Will they re-purchase it, or will they quite rightly feel they own that music, and will then go and download it from sites where the tracks are unprotected. And guess what? Do you think they will then stop with only the files they previously purchased?

You need to get it. You need to realize that people who download a music file expect to be able to do what they want with it – to be able to download it multiple times if lost, to burn it to a CD for their car, to load it on their MP3 player. To use it on a Mac or Linux PC that doesn’t have the same DRM system.

Basically you need to realize that the only way to grow music sales is to offer freedom with that music sale. That and find quality artists that your consumers enjoy listening to. Go spend your time finding the next sound. The next disco, pop, rap, whatever. Give us something new to buy!

Remember. People don’t like being controlled. It is human nature to revolt against controlling forces, and DRM comes into that category.

In 2005, the music industry lowered themselves again. People don’t like stories of corporations suing children for downloading a few files that they can’t afford – for goodness sake, I bet as a child you recorded your favorite songs off the radio charts to enjoy. What is difference? Nothing to the child. It’s not that every kid is out to get you, far from it, they are your future market – so I hope you like the picture you are painting of the music industry.

Give us freedom John. Freedom to buy and do what we like with our music. Don’t give us DRM. And don’t give us some story implying that you understand it, because the truth is it is harming your business.

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Big Brother Windows. Thanks Microsoft.

For the last few months I’ve been getting really frustrated with my computer randomly running slower than it should, using 100% CPU usage in the Explorer.EXE process. Now this process is critical to the way Windows works, it being the taskbar at the bottom of the screen as well as the directory browser, so when it uses 100% CPU, suddenly things take a lot longer to work, or lock up and appear to stop running.

In the past when things have slowed down, I’ve either waited until CPU usage reduced to 0%, or in the event that it didn’t, have terminated the Explorer process and restarted it using Task Manager. Tonight however I decided to investigate what was happening, and by using the SysInternals Process Explorer, have discovered that the cause was Explorer opening this registry key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\
UserAssist\{75048700-EF1F-11D0-9888-006097DEACF9}\Count

Manually opening this key from regedit took about 15 seconds – Yes, that’s 15 seconds to open one registry location!!! – and while I didn’t count the exact number of items, I believe it contained hundreds of thousands of keys. No wonder the Explorer process was going slow when it kept opening this key!

This site here discusses this registry key: http://www.utdallas.edu/~jbs024000/articles/explorer_spy.html. Basically the guy has investigated what information is stored there and it includes things like websites visited, files accessed etc. ever since you installed Windows. Amazing stuff.

For me, the biggest issue was the performance hit rather than the privacy issue. I guess the registry has problems when more than a certain number of keys are stored in a single node, perhaps from fragmentation or just the sheer number of items, however I found that deleting the key immediately made Explorer.exe run at 0% CPU and it’s behaved perfectly ever since.

Quite why Microsoft decided to store all this information infinitely is beyond me, but if you are suffering from performance issues, or simply don’t like the Big Brother style logging system, then might want to consider tidying up your registry. I’ve not noticed any bad side effects, but be warned – editing your registry can have bad consequences, so delete keys at your own peril!

I’m looking forward to enjoying Windows working as it should do again – it was almost at the point of me reinstalling from scratch, but I feel I can put that off now until something else comes up! Enjoy.

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