Another financial blunder
Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. That sound is me metaphorically banging my head against my desk. I don’t have a job, and my funds are rapidly drying up, and yet I’ve just committed yet another expensive mistake.
Back when it was first discovered that Microsoft’s $200 HD DVD add-on drive for the Xbox 360 could be connected to any PC, I was overjoyed: here was an affordable way of making my computer HD DVD-enabled, and, in conjunction with the latest software solution from Cyberlink or Intervideo, begin taking screen captures in earnest for reviews, comparisons, an HD Hall of Fame, and so on. Everything was in place, or so I thought: my system was HDCP-ready, and it seemed that everything would fall into place just fine.
Or so I thought. The drive arrived today from Hong Kong (they’re rarer than gold dust on UK shelves, and in any event I only ended up paying about £5 more than I would have paid for a local model), and I wasted no time in hooking it up to my PC via USB and popping in a disc (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, if you must know). I fired up PowerDVD Ultra, the HD DVD-enabled version of Cyberlink’s popular DVD software, and waited as it span up. The Warner Home Entertainment logo then appeared for just over a second, and then…
“Cannot initialize player, please make sure your system meets minimum system requirement criteria. You can find extra information from Cyberlink FAQ website - - (Error Code = 0103). Please run the BD-HD Advisor tool for more information.”
And so I did. I scanned for HD DVD support, only for the advisor to tell me that apparently my display is not HDCP compatible. Bollocks. Complete and utter bollocks. I know for a fact that the display is compliant because my standalone HD-A1 player has interfaced with it without any problems. I also know for a fact that, when I ran the BD/HD Advisor a couple of weeks ago, when I still had my Nvidia card, everything was in working order. Now, initially I thought that I had been screwed over and that my video card was in fact not HDCP compliant - but that wasn’t right either, because the advisor recognised both the card and the graphics driver as compliant. Why, then, does connecting the monitor to this ATI card make the program think it isn’t HDCP, while connecting it to a different card makes it think that it is? The only possible answer I can come up with is that Cyberlink have screwed up somewhere, and have written crippled software that is shutting out users who should be allowed in. A quite perusal of Cyberlink’s customer forums revealed that I’m not the only person with this problem: another user is also being locked out for no reason, with no explanation other than the dubious claim that his HDCP-compliant Dell monitor was “without HDCP”.
Now here’s the real kicker. Remember the whole point of HDCP? To lock out those unsecure analogue connections and only allow 100% safe, encrypted connections in order to prevent piracy? Well, guess what - if you hook up an analogue monitor, the HD DVD plays just fine, in full 1920x1080 resolution (which my crusty old CRT supports). No error message, no nothing. The reason for this, of course, is that, facing a barrage of complaints, the various studios who insisted on HDCP in the first place agreed not to enable the Image Constrant Token, which would either limit resolution severely or else prevent playback at all, until 2012. But this still doesn’t explain why Cyberlink has chosen to bar users with digital displays unless they have HDCP support. Frankly it reeks of paranoia and fellating the Hollywood studios lest they lose their precious licenses.
In any event, it’s all rendered somewhat moot by the fact that Cyberlink have disabled the screen capture process for HD content. What do they think I’m going to do? Pirate a movie by pressing PrintScreen on every frame? That was my main (okay, make that only) reason for getting this drive, so it’s as good as useless for me. Disabling the overlay through my usual method (opening a video file in Windows Media Player, then, with the overlay now in use, running PowerDVD and forcing it to fall back into software mode) doesn’t work either, because it just spits out yet another error code about not finding the appropriate drivers. None of the screen capture programs that supposedly allow you to capture the overlay work either.
Result: I’m now saddled with a drive that is all but useless, and have spent no small amount of money on a video card that is, for at least one program, not interfacing with my monitor properly. This is every bit the nightmare scenario that I correctly predicted when I first heard about these newfangled monopolisation… sorry, content protection measures. At least the drive is in short enough supply that I can probably expect to resell it for a reasonable price, but right now I’m extremely concerned about my video card. If PowerDVD and its advisor program don’t think my monitor is HDCP-compliant when it’s hooked up to it, how can I be sure that other programs aren’t going to think the same?