Copy Protection Stymies an Honest User Yet Once Again

     I remember back when Lotus 1-2-3 was the reigning king of the hill in the software world.  They implemented a crazy copy protection scheme which allowed for three installs from the floppy distribution disks onto your hard drive. If you used up your three allotted installs you were forced to undergo the hassle of finding and inserting the Lotus Floppy Disk-A into the disk drive in order to start the program.  You can imagine the grief this caused, especially when my hard disk controller board started going south, causing me to reload all my software repeatedly.  Pretty soon, of course, hacks to the Lotus copy protection scheme began surfacing on BBS’s across the country (here is an example).  Eventually, a commercial product began to be sold to simplify the hack process, and ultimately, a PC card was sold exclusively for the purpose of circumventing the Lotus copy protection scheme.  So honest folks (or suckers) like me who paid their licensing fee and abide by the terms of the license agreement were penalized.  And the pirates were still pirating, thanks to the hardware and software hacks.

     What does this have to do with Windows XP Media Center?  Well, having a Media Center PC spurred me into loading all of my CDs onto the computer.  Having instant access to all of my music, and being able to pipe it through my home stereo system turned out to be awesome.  With the IR blaster functions of Media Center, I can control the entire listening session from anywhere, and I have access to unlimited playlists, album, artist and song info on display, cool visualizations synched to the music displaying on my TV screen, etc.  It has made me re-appreciate my music collection.

     I have never jumped on the Napster or other PTP file sharing bandwagons.  If I wanted music, I would buy a CD.  Now that I have broadband, and now that you can buy music on-line legitimately for $.88/song, I thought I would start buying some music from Wal-Mart.  As an experiment, I purchased 4 songs from Walmart.com and downloaded them.  When I tried to play the songs, I discovered that they would not play.  Some kind of message to the effect that my computer was “not the valid computer for this license” or some such nonsense.

   So I went to MSN.MUSIC and tried buy a song from them – MSN wouldn’t even let my complete the transaction,  claiming that my DRM (Digital Rights Management) files were corrupt.  Anyhow, after much research I discovered that the problem I was experiencing was due to the fact that I had disabled the Pentium4 Hyper-threading feature in my system BIOS, and that Microsoft DRM (AKA- copy protection) scheme requires a static BIOS configuration in order to work.  According to Microsoft Knowledge Base article KB891664 that I obtained, the work around for this was for me to re-enable hyper-threading in the BIOS.

    I re-enabled hyper-threading and Voila, the music that I had bought from Walmart.com now would play.   But that did not take into account the reason why I had disabled hyper-threading in the first place.  When I first bought this Media Center PC, I soon discovered that after watching or recording about 15 minutes of television programming, the display would just freeze up.  After agonizing long hours with Gateway, ATI, and Microsoft, it was determined that hyper-threading was causing the display freeze problem.  The only solution – turn off hyper-threading.  I did, and the television functions of MCE2005 now worked perfectly.

   So now I am back to where I started with this post – once again the honest user gets screwed.  I buy a computer with Windows XP Media Center Edition and Microsoft tells me that I have to disable hyper-threading to make it work.  But in utilizing this solution, I also have to give up my ability to purchase music on-line in a legitimate manner, due to the DRM scheme Microsoft has implemented.  Meanwhile, the music pirates have not been deterred by Microsoft’s DRM, they are still busy as ever, distributing bootleg music files.

End of rant.

Parting with a Saddle

Abetta Arena Saddle

     We have an extra saddle that is not being used, so we thought we would sell it on Ebay.  It haven’t sold on Ebay for some time, so signing up as a seller, getting a PayPal account,  and figuring out how to create a decent listing has taken a little bit of time, but I finally got it going.   For anyone interested, it can be found on Ebay here.

Feeder Maintenance Time Again

Wild tom turkey strutting and posing for a hen

Wild tom turkey strutting and posing for hen.

     It’s time for me to change the batteries in the feeders again.  Even though the manufacturers of the feeders claim that a 6v alkaline battery should last about 6 months, I have found that I have to change them about every 2 months in the winter, and every 3 months in the warmer times of year.

     I started out by using rechargeable 6v batteries, which saved money (6v alkaline = $7-$9 each),  but I found that they needed recharging every few weeks.  That got to be old real quick.

     So then I tried adding a solar charging panel to the system.  That didn’t work, because the squirrels would gnaw through the wiring, no matter what I did to protect it.

     So then I replaced the feeder with a new one that contained an integral solar panel built into the housing.  That solved the squirrel problem.  The only problem?  The integral solar charger wasn’t able to keep the internal battery charged.

     So then I replaced the new feeder with a newer one!  An OnTime Fatboy Feeder (pictured above) that used TWO 6v alkaline batteries.  The manufacturer claimed they would last about 1 year.  I don’t know, because the circuit boards in them would fry in about 2-3 weeks!

     So then I replaced the newer feeder (which replaced the new feeder) with the NEWEST of feeders.  Got that?  Back to one 6v alkaline battery, no solar charging, and they seem to be working fine – as long as I change the batteries every 2-3 months and keep them full of corn.