posted by Thom Holwerda on Wed 18th Feb 2009 23:28 UTC
IconDoes Windows 7 contain more DRM than Windows Vista? Does Windows 7 limit you from running cracked applications, and will it open the firewall specifically for applications that want to check if they're cracked or not? Does it limit the audio recording capabilities? According to a skimp and badly written post on Slashdot, it does. The Slashdot crowd tore the front page item apart - and rightfully so.

Titled "Draconian DRM Revealed In Windows 7", the story was written by a user who supposedly had discovered new instances of DRM in Windows 7. However, only three seconds of looking at the item was all it took many Slashdot readers to realise that this post was utter nonsense. As a result, the Slashdot crowd tore it apart.

Supposedly, Windows 7's DRM prevented the user from cracking Photoshop. The user installed Photoshop CS4 on Windows 7, and then he went on to fiddle with one of the "nag DLLs" of the application. He replaced the DLL with a cracked version, and was surprised to see that Photoshop would no longer work. The user was also amazed that Photoshop had added itself to the firewall exception list. He then went on about Windows 7 locking him out of the "Local settings" folder.

Let's take a look at this step by step. Several commenters did it for me, so I didn't even have to do it myself. Firstly, messing with DLLs is difficult and dangerous for a reason. Since many types of malware use DLLs to infect your system, several protection schemes are put in place to prevent this thing from happening. Of course, replacing a working DLL with a cracked one is asking for trouble in the first place.

Photoshop adding itself to the firewall list is hardly news either. The Photoshop installer is run as an administrator (you give it permission to do so explicitly) and just like countless other applications, it adds a firewall exception to the list (as a Slashdot reader noted: "If a program is already running on your computer then it means the firewall is no longer responsible for stopping that application in any way - the firewall only protects against outside threats"). The one about the "local settings" folder is also interesting, as it shows a clear lack of knowledge on Windows: Windows Vista and Windows 7 do not have a "local settings" folder. It's in AppDataLocal now - the old "local settings" folder is just an NTFS junction now, and since Explorer can't handle these very well (bad Explorer!), will give you an access denied message.

The user then dives into Windows 7's audio capabilities. He writes: "Under XP you could select 'Stereo Mix' or similar under audio recording inputs and nicely capture any program then playing. No longer." This is correct. Windows 7's default drivers (he doesn't specify which card) are limited in functionality, so that the official drivers from the manufacturer can still offer added value. The stereo mix functionality is probably part of the official drivers that the user did not install. However, since we don't know what card, nor what drivers he used, we're in the dark here.

So, what DRM does Windows 7 have? It won't be a surprise to learn that it doesn't contain any more DRM than Vista does, and as we all know by now (well, "all" as in people who actually use Vista), that DRM is irrelevant. Protected Video Path and Protected User Mode Audio, the DRM in Windows Vista and Windows 7, doesn't come into play because, well, little to no media actually make use of it. As Ars notes:

Though there was plenty of outcry over PUMA and PVP prior to Vista's launch, the story is once again a familiar one: most people don't notice. Little or no media actually demands the use of the protected paths, so on most users' systems, Windows never invokes them. Play back unprotected media on a Vista machine and the DRM subsystems simply don't get used.

All these Vista DRM features are found in Windows 7. But just as with Vista before it, the vast majority of users will never see the DRM in any practical sense; the features are there just in case Hollywood decides to make use of them. The overblown, unrealistic, and just plain made up horrors of DRM in Windows Vista never came to pass (in spite of the huge publicity that the Gutmann diatribe received), and so it will be with Windows 7.


"When it comes to bashing Microsoft, it seems that any old canard will do; facts are strictly optional." That's about as best as I've ever seen it summed up. There is enough wrong with Microsoft and Windows other than these so-called DRM issues; it's sad that various anti-Microsoft advocates have to resort to tactics that they blame Microsoft of: fear, uncertainty, doubt. There are various users on OSNews who stoop just as low as Slashdot did yesterday, and that's sad.

Personally, I have grown very sick of the DRM FUD flown around by Free software enthusiasts. I try to use Free software wherever I can myself, and I try to make others see the values of it too. However, I try to stick to the facts, and I try to be honest about the shortcomings of Windows and the strong points of Free software so that my friends and relatives can make an informed decision.

Resorting to FUD hurts the alternatives to Windows and Microsoft. Please bear that in mind.

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