On the inability to support hardware that nobody makes any more


Windows Vista will not have support for really old DVD drives. (The information below was kindly provided to me by the optical storage driver team.)

When PC DVD drives first came out in 1998, the drives themselves did not have support for region codes but instead relied on (and in fact the DVD specification required) the operating system to enforce region coding, with the further understanding that starting on January 1, 2000 all newly-manufactured drives would support region coding in hardware rather than relying on software enforcement. For the purpose of this discussion, I will call the two types of drives "old" (manufactured before 2000) and "new" (manufactured on or after January 1, 2000).

It is that software enforcement that is going away. Turns out that the enforcement of region coding in software had its own problems:

  • It was impossible for third-parties to compile their own CDROM.SYS from the source code in the DDK because the region code enforcement code was not included in the DDK.
  • The region code enforcement code would sometimes mistake a new drive for an old one, resulting in customers unable to play DVDs. Even worse, the driver test team could not reproduce the problem reliably, and the problem went away entirely once a debugger was attached to the system.
  • The code to support the older drives is complex, and the drives that the optical storage team purchased prior to January 1, 2000 are dead or dying. Consequently, testing the code that provides support for old drives has become increasingly difficult, and when the last old drive finally gives up the ghost, testing will become impossible altogether.

These were among the considerations which contributed to the decision to stop supporting these old drives.

What does this mean for you? Almost certainly, the answer is "absolutely nothing".

First, there is no change to the way data is read from DVD drives, so data discs will still work the same way as they do today. Second, all new DVD drives will continue to run as they did before; the only change is that the risk of mis-identification as an old drive has been removed. Only if you have an old drive will you notice anything different, namely that encrypted/regionalized DVD movies will no longer play. And since the average drive lifetime is only three years, the number of such old drives that are still working is vanishingly small. Not even the optical drive test team can manage to keep their old drives alive that long.

Comments (67)
  1. Travis Owens says:

    Considering that DVD drives didn’t get popular (and affordable) until just the past few years and the fact a new DVD drive costs $20, this would definitely not be as big of an issue as some people might make it out to be.

  2. I wish the whole region-encoding thing would just go away. It’s ridiculous that almost any $50 DVD player will just ignore the codes and play back any NTSC or PAL disc onto whatever TV you connect it to. But heaven forbid anyone should travel to another region with a laptop and want to watch a movie…

  3. I wish the whole region-encoding thing would just go away. It’s ridiculous that almost any $50 DVD player will just ignore the codes and play back any NTSC or PAL disc onto whatever TV you connect it to. But heaven forbid anyone should travel to another region with a laptop and want to watch a movie…

  4. Dan McCarty says:

    Now I will buy a really old DVD drive and use Vista to watch all my Region 72* DVD’s with glee. Woo!

  5. Steve Loughran says:

    Have a look at a UK DVD-player retailer, like, say Richer Sounds: http://ws4.richersounds.com/productlist.php?cda=productlist&sgroup=FULLSIZEDVDPLAYERS

    To get a multiregion DVD player, that is a player whose firmware has been flipped to be region free, adds about £10 to the machine. Assuming the cost of a firmware patch is £1 of labour, that means £9 of sheer profit to the retailer.

    It also means that the experience you get watching DVDs on a player is better than you get on a PC or laptop because they are harder to deregion; you need to run dvddecryptor on them to produce unencrypted .iso images.

    The PC vendors and MS should just leave a well known hack to go region free on the systems, because without it windows is at a disadvantage to AV hardware or linux (whose DVD player can deregion on the fly).

  6. Steve Loughran wrote: "windows is at a disadvantage to AV hardware".

    Exactly. Why buy a MediaCenter device at a premium when it is crippled thus? Unless of course you buy one from an OEM like Sony who is both behind the MPAA regions AND sells deregionalized DVD players … or one of the other major MPAA studios who cynically markets NTSC Region 4 discs (in a PAL only region) where only deregionalized players can use them… The EU or some other body should hit them for restraint of trade..

  7. James Mastros says:

    Will Vista warn when you try to play a regional disk on a old drive as to the possibly cause, or will it just give a generic "wrong region for this disk" error?

    …and why is it better to fail (in either way) then to give best-effort service?

  8. Good Point says:

    "And since the average drive lifetime is only three years, the number of such old drives that are still working is vanishingly small."

    I still have a Dell desktop (with the original Windows 98, never re-installed) that has a working DVD ROM.

    I’ll sell it to ya if ya really want it.

  9. Dan McCarty says:
    • Region 72 is the intergalactic region known as Sanduleak, and the people who live there, the "Sanduleak people."
  10. and will we be getting rid of the famous system-blocking-while-inserting-a-media feature? :)

  11. Mike Dimmick says:

    Earlier this year, Amazon UK were offering the Sony DVP-NS355P DVD player both with and without region lock. For the same price.

    Unsurprisingly the model without region locking was at sales rank #3 (or thereabouts) in DVD players, while the region-locked version wasn’t even in stock. Right now the unlocked DVP-NS30 is at #3 in silver and #9 in black, while the region-locked version (in black) is at #19 – and costs £1.75 more.

    My sister bought me the 355P for my birthday in February. The box was sealed and showed no signs of having ever been opened. I can only assume that the unlocking was done by Sony UK.

  12. Brian Duffy says:

    "I wish the whole region-encoding thing would just go away."

    So you want the terrorists and drug dealers to be able to peddle their wares? Children are suffering because of people like you.

    According to the MPAA, counterfeit DVDs are worth more per ounce than cocaine, and terrorists use fake DVD sales to fund all sorts of bad things.

  13. Tony says:

    Sorry to be so "blunt", but what’s the point in the region code? I live in "Region 2", I have several Region 1 DVD that just play fine in my Phillips DVD player, after I entered four digits on my remote (!). Besides, it’s not like I stole these DVDs (pirate like) from a ship. I bought these DVDs. And I should not be allowed to play them?!?

    What is keeping me from buying more Region 1 DVDs? Not some silly region code protoction, no. Ever watched a Region 1 NTSC Letterbox DVD on a 43" TV?

    Too bad the movie industry is not working as hard as the music industry on killing themselfes.

    And one more thing: I have my music collection as MP3s on my PC (using iTunes). I wish there was something similar for DVDs (Ease to use AND DRM free). Ok, one problem is the HD size, but the main problem is that I am not supposed to make copies of my DVDs. So, what is the implication? I have a 20 GB MP3 collection from my legally purchased CDs. And I listen to these songs. I have 150 DVDs that I seldomly watch, because it is so yesterday, to search for the DVD, put it in the player, watch a non skipable video on how how ilegal everybody acts (something about the FBI dropping a oil rig on me) and put it back in the sleave after the show. And furthermore, as I don’t watch these DVDs anymore, I don’t buy DVDs anymore.

    Sorry for the rant, I had to vent some steam.

  14. PatriotB says:

    "and will we be getting rid of the famous system-blocking-while-inserting-a-media feature? :)"

    What OS are you on? I’ve never experienced this on XP, but I experienced it plenty of times on 9x…

  15. Xavier says:

    Brian D., I really hope you’re being sarcastic. Region-encoding has zero impact on unauthorized duplication. Do you really think an operation sophisticated enough to produce thousands of copies would not also be able to strip the encoding from those copies?

    Region encoding was just a lame attempt to control the international market for DVDs, so that, for example, a movie could be released on DVD in the US before or during the theatrical release in Europe without hurting European theater revenues.

  16. Brian Duffy says:

    Of course I’m being sarcastic! Region encoding is a market mechanism, but it was sold as an anti-piracy measure.

  17. microbe says:

    "namely that encrypted/regionalized DVD movies will no longer play"

    Interesting. I don’t know how the driver supported the old drive, but intuitively I had hoped that if you remove the "region code enforcement", any movies can be played.

  18. cypherpunks says:

    I’m sorry Raymond, but this just seems like a pathetic excuse to cater to the movie industry and beef up DVD security, given all of the other DRMish "features" of Vista.

    No one makes RPC-1 drives anymore, but most RPC-2 drives can easily be transformed into RPC-1 drives with either a firmware patch or, as in the case of my Sony (oh the irony!) DVD+-RW drive that I purchased less than a year ago, sending a simple command to the drive to turn off region protection.

    If MS wanted to test compatibility with RPC-1 drives, I’m sure they could simply convert some of their existing drives to RPC-1 and back.

    Of course, if this is really an attempt to beef up DVD security, it may backfire: the same Sony drive allows you to reset both the user and vendor count. Resetting the region count in hardware might be a lot easier than cracking the software protections. ;)

  19. mastmaker says:

    You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

    I heard that the new HD-DVDs or Blue-ray discs (whichever win eventually) will be street-encoded. You have to quote your street name while buying DVDs and they won’t work in the next street. The hidden reason for this is that MPAA wants to charge upwards of $1000 per DVD for those living in million dollar mansions.

  20. "Only if you have an old drive will you notice anything different, namely that encrypted/regionalized DVD movies will no longer play."

    OK, this worries me. I gather that you’re talking about RPC1 versus RPC2 here. I live in region 1 have a DVD drive with a hacked firmware so it behaves like an RPC1 drive, so I can play DVDs that I legally purchased from the UK and Australia. So will these DVDs no longer play in Vista?

  21. David Wragg says:

    So who has the oldest optical drive in working condition? I have a Mitsumi CDROM drive on a machine purchased in 1993, and it was working when I tried it about a year ago.

    (The machine was my Linux machine for a couple of years, then ran Win95 for a couple more, then was back to Linux to act as an Internet gateway for a home network for about 5 years, before being retired to a corner of a room in my parents’ house. I boot it about once a year to see if it is still in working order. The only interesting thing about it in terms of hardware rarity value: A Vesa Local Bus network card!)

  22. I find it interesting that "cypherpunks" is recommending that Microsoft hack firmware and use undocumented commands in order to accomplish something of dubious legality.

  23. anon says:

    I think David Wragg’s comments merit attention. I find it hard to believe that the drives fail in 3 years. Most consumer electronics have an MTBF of at least 40000 hours of on time. I have a couple of RPC1 drives from 99-2000 that work just fine still…

    MS action on this is pretty annoying.

    [Perhaps the optical drive team beats up their hardware much harder than others — but still don’t they keep old stuff on hand for this kinda case? They should I’d think.]

  24. Mewmew says:

    According to the MPAA, counterfeit DVDs are worth more per ounce than cocaine, and terrorists use fake DVD sales to fund all sorts of bad things.

    Also, according to MPAA, terrorist happen to breath air, so everyone’s noses must be outfitted with Regional Air Protection System (TM).

  25. James Day says:

    oldnewthing, Anonymous DMCA Coward,

    Microsoft is apparently entirely free to produce software players for DVDs from other regions and distribute them in the United States.

    John Hoy, President of the DVD Copy Control Association, made the following statement to the Library of Congress in its 2003 Anticircumvention rulemaking proceedings:

    "Furthermore,if a consumer in the United States desires to view a DVD disc that has been region coded only for Europe, then that consumer is free to purchase a DVD player (either hardware or software) that is coded to play European DVDs. No legal restrictions apply-either through the CSS license or otherwise-to the importation and use of non-U.S. region players in the United States."

    So, Anonymous DMCA Coward, I suggest that you ask Microsoft to provide what the President of the DVDCCA said it is allowed to provide.

    Quote from http://www.copyright.gov/1201/2003/reply/028.pdf page 4.

  26. mikebell says:

    I think we are forgetting the FUNDAMENTAL point:

    How many PRE-2000 machines will be UPDATED to VISTA. >6 year old machines won’t have the power to upgrade (and have a good experience) anyway. Maybe 5%, to be generous, and that’s asuming motivation.

    So combine that with DVD players being not so common for computers pre-2000. Most people who bought these were pretty well-heeled, cuz it was a noticeable amount more. They have probably already updated their computer.

    That makes the % of people affected insignificant. IMHO, at least.

  27. Jeff says:

    Region-coding is monopolistic crap, and is the reason I don’t have any DVD movies except for some region-free Wallace & Gromit, and NASA space info DVDs.

    This is pretty much the situation in Linux too, where it’s actually worse because of the frequent kernel revisions. (Not that I’m bashing anyone, I’m a Linux guy, and if you want your ancient hardware supported you have the option of hunting up the old maintainer and helping him do an update – and of course you have the old source)

    Plus at least it doesn’t leave you with orphan media you can’t read, you can still buy a new drive. Pity the guys with old mainframe tapes or 5-1/4" floppies.

    Most Apex DVD stand-alone players are known for having a secret front-panel button sequence that unlocks the machine.

    Also, I got hacked firmware patches for all my drives and now they’re fully unlocked too, no matter what OS I’m using.

    James Mastros:

    > …and why is it better to fail (in either way) then to give best-effort service?

    This *IS* best-effort service. Unless you want to donate your drive to MS for testing.

  28. B. Lee says:

    Well talking about region codes. I moved from U.S. to a different country. I cannot rent or buy DVDs here because my DVD player dosen’t support the region code. I could only use it to watch ones I’ve already purchased in the States. Now should I go buy another DVD player? What if I move to a country with a yet different region code? This is a really bad customer experience for me.

  29. "What OS are you on? I’ve never experienced this on XP, but I experienced it plenty of times on 9x…"

    it’s not as bad on XP as it was ‘back in the day’, but it still is an issue (for me at least), on a relatively new machine with a Pioneer DVD burner…

    *especially* when inserting blank media

  30. In Australia (region 4) nearly every DVD player sold by Sony and Panasonic (and I’m sure quite a few others) is fully enabled to play any region DVD. That’s out of the box without firmware hacks, retailer interference or special UI/buttons. It all just works. DVD-ROMs are a different matter.

    Remember it’s not just a chip hack that’s necessary – you also need to have PAL/NTSC conversion circuitry present.

    While staying in Spain (region 2, PAL) recently I bought a 40euro player that handles all of my Australian (R4, PAL) and US (R1, NTSC) without a murmur. I only did that because I can’t watch movies on my US laptop.

    Now as far as region-protection being there to stop early distribution of movies – why the heck are OLD movies protected? Everyone has seen Charlie Chaplin and Gone with the Wind. Note also that the mechanism ONLY "protects" US cinemas – for some reason many foreign movies have to wait for US distribution before they can get domestic DVD release.

    PS And why are movie soundtracks on CD commonly more expensive than the entire movie on DVD?

  31. David Larsen says:

    "Well talking about region codes. I moved from U.S. to a different country. I cannot rent or buy DVDs here because my DVD player dosen’t support the region code. I could only use it to watch ones I’ve already purchased in the States. Now should I go buy another DVD player? What if I move to a country with a yet different region code? This is a really bad customer experience for me."

    There are hundreds of ways to get around that. You could decode the DVDs to your harddrive with something like DVDDecrypter or use a Region hack like AnyDVD. Not difficult.

    Of all the 40-45 machines I handle with optical drives, I think the only ones that have DVDs newer than 2000 are the two on my desk. They just don’t go bad in 3 years like those old 2x CD-ROMs.

  32. Jerry Pisk says:

    > I find it interesting that "cypherpunks" is recommending that Microsoft hack firmware and use undocumented commands in order to accomplish something of dubious legality.

    If I’m not mistaken Microsoft has been found on several ocasions not to engage in things "of dubious legality" but things outright illegal. Compliance with laws has never been an issue before at Microsoft :)

  33. Rob says:

    Actually, the lifetime of a CDROM/DVDROM/Optical Unit is usually measured in the number of spins/reads.

    It’s entirely possible for someone (like myself) to own a unit which they’ve only used sparingly, which still operates in 2007 and beyond.. However, we’re discussing semantics now.

    Secondly, re: mikebell: what is to stop someone from buying a new machine and transferring their old RPC-1 DVD drive into their new machine?

  34. jon says:

    "In Australia (region 4) nearly every DVD player sold by Sony and Panasonic (and I’m sure quite a few others) is fully enabled to play any region DVD."

    In Australia enforcement of region coding has actually been deemed anti-competetive and illegal by the ACCC (Australian Consumer and Competition Commission).

  35. Cooney says:

    If I’m not mistaken Microsoft has been found on several ocasions not to engage in things "of dubious legality" but things outright illegal. Compliance with laws has never been an issue before at Microsoft :)

    Yeah, well if they did that, they’d lose their DVD license, get sued by someone big enough to hurt them, and piss off a bunch of (new) people. Of course, BG seems to like picking fights, so all you need to do is convince him that it’s in his interest.

    Fat chance with the DRM crap they’re building into windows.

  36. Michael Puff says:

    David Larsen:

    "There are hundreds of ways to get around that. You could decode the DVDs to your harddrive with something like DVDDecrypter or use a Region hack like AnyDVD. Not difficult."

    But that’s insane. It’s like buying a car in the US and before you can use it in Canda you have to deconstruct and reassemble it at the border.

  37. Centaur says:

    I, too, want to bash region coding.

    Suppose I watched a movie in a theater… say, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Suppose I want it in my collection. So what, you say, just go and buy it.

    So I go to the nearest shop that sells video DVDs and ask for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Here you are, says the clerk, and shows me a disc. I look at the cover and it reads, “Region: 5; Audio: Russian 5.1; subtitles: none”. Oh no, I say, I do not want this one, for it is crippled. I want the one with the original audio track. The clerk says, sorry, but the Russian edition was only produced this way, with Russian sound. Go order one from Amazon.

    Now what am I to do, legally? Definitely I cannot buy the disc I do not want, because some part of the money would go to people who crippled that disc, and that would be wrong; and also, by buying an R5 disc, I run the risk that video has been recompressed from its R1 original, thus crippling it even more. On the other hand, if I order the disc I want from abroad, I will have to buy another DVD player to lock into R1, or to resort to solutions of “dubious legality”.

    * based on an actual story

  38. Stu says:

    I don’t get it, wheres the "dubious legality" in using undocumented commands or unofficial fimware?

    If you buy a device, you can use it how you like, it’s not like software with a EULA (which do have a dubious legal standing). Region coding is not a content-"protection" measure, so the DMCA doesn’t come into play. Why would Microsoft lose their DVD licence? Plenty of manufacturers make region-free players and this is no different.

    Now, if undocumented commands were illegal, I’m sure Raymond wouldn’t need to do so much back-compat hacking, but that’s beside the point.

  39. I wrote "dubious" because I don’t know the details. But I doubt the vendors support hardware that has been hacked – should a supported feature be tested by using unsupported hardware configurations? Aren’t you supposed to test with the actual supported configuration and not a simulation?

    I’m not sure what the point is of complaining to me about the existence of region coding. I didn’t invent it, I wasn’t at the meetings, I have no influence over it. Yes, region coding sucks. Next topic please?

  40. I wrote "dubious" because I don’t know the details. But I doubt the vendors support hardware that has been hacked – should a supported feature be tested by using unsupported hardware configurations? Aren’t you supposed to test with the actual supported configuration and not a simulation?

    I’m not sure what the point is of complaining to me about the existence of region coding. I don’t like it either.

    Many license agreements prohibit reverse-engineering, but undocumented commands are a tiny fraction of the compatibility problems. Most of the problems are programs using the documented commands incorrectly or just flat-out being buggy.

  41. Terazilla says:

    I’ve still got a Creative 2X DVD drive I bought back in 1997 in this machine. Does that mean it’ll have to be tossed in the bin if I ever decide to upgrade to Vista?

  42. Region Lock This says:

    Why complain here?

    Well, here’s a possibility: if Microsoft actually gets effective DRM software working, then soon I’ll need to install Linux in order to watch legitimate DVDs purchased from a legal distributor who purchased a valid copy from the genuine authorised distributor. Well, ok, cheap asian knockoffs will probably be another option, but I don’t mind buying legal copies if that’s actually physically possible.

    It sounds suspiciously like that sort of thing is considered a feature of Vista. But hey, I guess you have to do what the big customers want and noone’s going to listen even if you did tell them about all the little people who can’t stop complaining about region locking and DRM, so good luck with it. You should know better than to mention this topic around geeks.

    Btw, thanks to the DMCA, hacking DVD players to get around encryption is, um, not just "dubious" but will get the full weight of the MPAA (and the more minor organisation known as the FBI) paying you a visit. ;) I kinda like living in a country where I can lift a middle finger if the MPAA wants to whine and bitch that we force DVD importers to actually compete in a free market. It must really suck to live in a nation where competition is actually outlawed – you have to feel sorry for all those people oppressed by communists and socialists. Oh, wait…. ;)

  43. >I think we are forgetting the FUNDAMENTAL point: How many PRE-2000 machines will be UPDATED to VISTA.<<

    bzzzt. You win the Missing The Point award. My DVD drive has a hacked firmware; this has nothing to do with the machine as a whole.

    I will definitely be moving the drive to any future computers I build (well, unless those boxes run Vista, apparently).

  44. Matthew says:

    > I will definitely be moving the drive to any future computers I build (well, unless those boxes run Vista, apparently).

    To save $20 (the cost of a replacement)?

    Seriously, I don’t think that will be a serious factor for most people. For you, perhaps, but not for most people.

  45. When you hacked the firmware you knew you were taking the machine into an unsupported configuration, didn’t you? I mean after, it’s called "hacking" the firmware.

    Terazilla: Please re-read my final paragraph.

  46. Tim says:

    Terazilla: "I’ve still got a Creative 2X DVD drive I bought back in 1997 in this machine. Does that mean it’ll have to be tossed in the bin if I ever decide to upgrade to Vista?"

    It’s a Creative DVD-ROM drive. They suck an awesome amount. Morally and ethically, tossing it in the bin is always the right thing to do :-)

  47. Mark says:

    I only buy DVD drives that can be converted to RPC-1 and convert them soon after buying.

    (and I don’t have a non-PC dvd player either).

  48. Peter Clay says:

    I’ve successfully used VLC to watch region 4 DVDs on a region 2 laptop. It does the decryption in software, so unless the drive refuses to accept out-of-region discs altogether, it’s your best bet.

    Now, what’s really hostile is the dual DVD set <i>Step Into Liquid</i>, where disc 2 is the same movie in original HD as a giant WMV file, that uses DRM to require it to be played on a computer with an IP address in the United States. Evil. Took us hours to break that one.

  49. Vladimir Slepnev says:

    Bye Raymond. It was a pleasure reading you, but no longer.

  50. Tony says:

    This is the first time I’ve read a post from Raymond where I felt he was deliberately trying to pull the wool over my eyes.

    I feel a little sad.

    Quote:

    Windows Vista will not have support for really old DVD drives.

    Seem to actually mean:

    Windows Vista will try much harder to stop you watching foreign DVDs.

    It’s weird that just when the manufacturers of hardware players seem to have given up on annoying me with region coding, Microsoft is stepping up to the breach.

  51. Brian Duffy says:

    Talk about killing the messenger — I can’t believe how obnoxious some of you people are towards Raymond.

    Microsoft is ceasing to support six year old, worn-out hardware for the purpose of watching movies on your computer… and you people are making a big deal out of it!!

    I work at a big IT shop with over 3,500 servers & 50,000 desktops — we produce alot of CDs and DVDs for documentation and ghosting of PCs, probably about 15,000 discs per year. When you actually use optical drives heavily every day, you’ll find that they burn out. With an 11-disc CD duplication tower, it isn’t uncommon to see 3-6 drives fail within one year.

    Microsoft does some stupid stuff when it comes to DRM, but this isn’t one of them. If you are "affected" by this, go and buy a DVD player for $19.

  52. Tony says:

    Brian Duffy says:

    If you are "affected" by this, go and buy a DVD player for $19.

    No problem – I have just such a DVD player.

    It does seem though that Microsoft would like us to use Windows Media Center for all of our video and audio pleasure.

    I suspect there’d be some considerable overlap between people who’d buy a Media Center and people who have foreign DVDs.

    Quote:

    Talk about killing the messenger — I can’t believe how obnoxious some of you people are towards Raymond.

    I think it was the attempt at misdirection that rankled.

    If he’d been honest and said RPC1 support is being discontinued because everyone is using it to skirt around region coding then I’d have been unhappy, but wouldn’t have felt the need to reply to his post here.

  53. Steve Loughran says:

    There is lots of pent up resentment here, and with good reason: its harder to deregion an expensive media centre PC than it is with a £40 DVD player bought in a local supermarket.

    Why is this? Well, fair-use provisions aside, the CSS-licensing authority, the people who give out CSS keys, only allow it to players that enforce regions.

    How then, do all those deregioned DVD Players ship? Well, they arent explicitly region-free in the factory, but somehow they all contain some remote-control entered back door that all the retailers just happen to know.

    Why to all those deregioned DVD players do this? Because of competitive pressure. Customers want it, and if they dont get it off dvd player A, they buy the other one. In the PC world, there is not enough of a competitive market in hardware, or the PC OEMs and MS/Apple are scared of the media companies. Its a shame that the big players in the PC biz obey the MPAA more than transient taipei-based DVD player vendors, but there you go.

    Incidentally, there is actually a good argument for using region encoding to control piracy. It enables the disk producers to price disks in Asia at a more competitive price compared to widespread pirate content, because if they charged US or worse, EU prices everywhere, the gap in asia between legit and pirate content would be too wide. MS have a similar problem, which they fix with Windows-third-world-crippled edition that isnt even up to running skype properly, not if it doesnt support listening sockets.

    However, the widespread availability of deregioned players, especially here in the EU, means that the MPAA should just recognise that the region strategy has failed, and turn it off. End users and PC OEMs/MS would all be happy there. Do you really think that MS like testing every nightly build of their player in every single region drive? Do the PC vendors really like taking their PCs with TV out to the MPAA testing people to make sure that the macromedia thing is turned on for TV-out on DVD playback? Do you think the PC vendors like paying the extra money for something whose aim in life is to make VCR-copy of a DVD hard? I mean VCRs? Whatever happened to them? And why copy to one, when DVDDecrypter does the work for you.

  54. Nick Lamb says:

    "In the PC world, there is not enough of a competitive market in hardware,"

    Interesting thought, but wrong. DVD drives go into general purpose computers, and general purpose computers can all break the CSS encryption. So anyone who wants to watch a foreign DVD just installs any of the reputable but supposedly illegal DVD players which don’t obey region locking and instead crack the CSS keys. On a modern PC it’s as fast or faster than the "real" procedure for watching a DVD anyway.

    The VideoLAN client includes such cracking, as does Mplayer and several other packages.

    I’ve watched plenty of movies, from various regions, and they all work fine because I don’t use a legal DVD player. In fact so far as my DVD drive is concerned, it’s still in "never used to view a movie" state, region zero. You can get a small utility to check this using ATAPI protocol.

    As time passes, being an "outlaw" is cheaper, more convenient and in every way better than being a law-abiding citizen. Past experience suggests that this period will be remembered as an embarassment, like Prohibition.

  55. Hayden says:

    I can beleive that the old optical drives are shot. I once spend /days/ and /days/ making an AX59Pro Via chipset board work properly with Windows 95, then 98. I must have rebooted several hundred times. The CDROm drive started behaving very oddly, making a load of wierd noises while working.

    I put this down to the head reposition and resent sequence that takes place when the driver initialises – all that clonk-whirr-clonk-whirr must have damaged something. I bet the test machines for the hardware team get rebooted /a lot/

  56. Dragonfly says:

    I’ve seen lots of complaints about region coding. I’ve seen lots of people who hack their firmware say that this isn’t fair, etc.

    Let’s look at what was said:

    1) The test team hasn’t got the hardware to test the code.

    2) RPC-1 drives therefore cannot be supported any longer.

    3) "hacked" firmware is available to pretend a drive is RPC-1 and/or to change regions as needed.

    Since the hacked firmware can pretend to be any region of RPC-2, why care? There are also other programs on the market which, although probably not legal in the US, remove CSS and regionalization "on-the-fly".

    Besides, if a country doesn’t allow regionalization, it seems likely that DVD software players will be available that don’t care about regionalization either.

    It doesn’t sound like they are making it any more difficult to do anything that’s being done today. It just sounds like they ran out of hardware. Was that an evil/sinister plan? Probably not. Was that poor future-proof planning? Quite possibly.

  57. Brian Duffy says:

    Why to all those deregioned DVD players do this? Because of competitive pressure.

    Not at all — they do it because cheap Taiwanese & Korean electronics firms are shipping DVD players all over the world, and making one model that can be switched from region to region saves money.

  58. njkayaker says:

    The only value of regionalization is when a DVD is first released. It allows the DVD to be released in one country and not be sold in another country where they are releasing the movie in the theaters.

    So the value of it exists for 6-12 months and you have to live with the headache forever.

  59. Biatch says:

    "You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

    I heard that the new HD-DVDs or Blue-ray discs (whichever win eventually) will be street-encoded. You have to quote your street name while buying DVDs and they won’t work in the next street. The hidden reason for this is that MPAA wants to charge upwards of $1000 per DVD for those living in million dollar mansions."

    This isn’t far from the truth. Blu-ray disks for PlayStation3 will only play in ONE player on earth. MS will eventually make up something similar.

  60. Grandfather says:

    Jerry:

    "If I’m not mistaken Microsoft has been found on several ocasions not to engage in things "of dubious legality" but things outright illegal. Compliance with laws has never been an issue before at Microsoft :)"

    MS only follow laws when they have anything to gain.

    I love MS putting lot’s of DRM-stuff in Vista, it’s an incentive for people to switch to Linux. Keep it coming!

  61. Brian Duffy

    ""Why to all those deregioned DVD players do this? Because of competitive pressure."

    "Not at all — they do it because cheap Taiwanese & Korean electronics firms are shipping DVD players all over the world, and making one model that can be switched from region to region saves money. "

    Um. no. EU players ship with SCART sockets and 240V PSUs, PAL output, things you dont get on North America SKUs. The underlying mainboard may be similar, and the drive mech identical, but different regions do get different boxes.

  62. Stephen Jones says:

    Most nanufacturers now get rid of the regional coding because nobody will buy the player otherwise.

    I have just bought a DVD recorder (in fact I bought a DVD/HDD recorder but that’s another story). I was going to buy a Philips for around $230 but it had a region 3 sticker on the back, and they guy at the shop (which was the shop I bought my washing machine and ACs from) couldn’t guarantee it had been chipped.

    As I have never actually seen a Region 3 DVD for sale in the shops here (although the country is region 3 all disks are regions 1 & 2) I gave it a miss.

    A small point nobody has mentioned is that hardware incompatibility is often more of a problem than software incapibility. I had a laptop with a 7-pin S-video output, and never managed to find a cable that would successfully connect to the inputs on the TV. Another mate of mine has had exactly the same problem three years later.

  63. Stephen Jones says:

    _—"it enables the disk producers to price disks in Asia at a more competitive price compared to widespread pirate content, because if they charged US or worse, EU prices everywhere, the gap in asia between legit and pirate content would be too wide."—–

    This is rubbish. It is only recently that the studios have experimented with selling DVDs at reduced price in China. In most cases if you are unlucky enough to have a region 3 restricted DVD player you’ll find that there are scarcely any movies to see at all, and those you can see will cost 20-50% more than in the States.

    And if it were true, you could simply buy a region three player anyway. You’d soon recoup the cost.

    —-"MS have a similar problem, which they fix with Windows-third-world-crippled edition that isnt even up to running skype properly, not if it doesnt support listening sockets. "—–

    Has anybody ever bought Windows Lite? It could be considered a total flop if it wasn’t for the fact it was doubtful MS ever expected to sell any anyway>

  64. SR says:

    Raymond,

    Given the concerns about hardware availability and testing, there were two possible courses of action that should have about the same coplexity to implement:

    1. Allow all video DVDs to play on old drives

    2. Prevent all video DVDs from playing on old drives

    Were your users (customers) considered when making the decision? I really can’t think of a situation where a customer would prefer option #2.

  65. I suspect that (1) would violate some contract or other that Microsoft previously agreed to.

  66. US immigrant says:

    Well, this thread has, if nothing else, proved that:

    "the number of such old drives that are still working is vanishingly small"

    isn’t remotely true. A lot of people out there have *new* PC DVD drives running in RPC-1 mode. I, for one, only ever buy DVD readers and DVD writers that can be hacked to be region free. That makes 3 in my house. That allows me to play all my old UK DVDs as well as all my new US DVDs in my PCs. I do not have a non-PC DVD drive.

    If it’s really true that Vista won’t let me play my DVDs, I guess I won’t be upgrading my MCE machine to Vista even if it is more secure and pretty. And that would be a double shame since MCE is so buggy I’m always waiting for the next patch to fix some of my problems. Maybe v4 (Vista) of MCE might actually be usable for watching TV without screwing up in some basic way (latest is the remote stopping working – ironically this only started happening after I installed the patch that allegedly fixed many remote control bugs!).

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