DRM troubles drive ex-Microsoft employee to Linux

Former Microsoft security expert may switch from Windows Media Center to LinuxMCE over frustration with Microsoft's DRM.

A security expert who once worked for Microsoft has said he may dump the company's Windows Media Center in favor of Ubuntu-affiliated LinuxMCE after struggling with the software giant's digital-rights management software.

Jesper Johansson--a former senior program manager for security policy at Microsoft who moved to Amazon in September last year--wrote in his blog on Monday that he may drop Windows Media Center for LinuxMCE, a free open-source add-on to the Kubuntu desktop operating system, because problems caused by Microsoft's digital-rights management (DRM) software have proven so difficult to fix.

After Johansson's 5-year-old child complained that cable network Comcast's On Demand video system was not working with Windows Media Center, Johansson wrote, he attempted to resolve the problem.

"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," he wrote.

Johansson said the recommended work-around involved several convoluted steps, including installing Windows Media Player 10, which crashed, and then being advised to troubleshoot the problem with Windows SharePoint Services. A subsequent Microsoft DRM update then caused the Internet Explorer browser to crash.

Johansson said that DRM software is not only ineffective , but a waste of money that is damaging businesses attempting to use it to control the way consumers use copyright material.

"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 subsystem randomly decides that you must be a criminal?" Johansson wrote.

DRM protections have done very little to stop bootleggers from hawking counterfeit software, he wrote, after witnessing a bustling trade in pirated material on a recent trip to Asia. Johansson wrote that he is now contemplating using LinuxMCE to avoid further difficulties.

Liam Tung of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.

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