DRM? Seriously?

I had hopes that DRM would die a quick and painless death after Apple and other stopped including it as a necessary component of their products. After all, DRM basically punishes legitimate users while leaving the pirates alone. Not by design, of course, but as a matter of reality. Pirates just disable everything that keeps them from doing what they want, and legit users are stuck with all that crap.

Well it seems that my hopes have been dashed, at least as far as gaming is concerned. Ubisoft recently released 2 of it’s games (Assassin’s Creed 2 and Silent Hunter 5), with a crippling DRM system, and apparently plans to release future games with it as well. They claimed that this DRM system, quite unlike every other DRM system that has ever existed, was absolutely unbreakable.

What made this DRM system so powerful? Well, you had to maintain a constant connection with their servers. It would repeatedly check to make sure it was still a legit copy so that no pirated copy could possibly be played. But what if you didn’t have an internet connection? Well, you can’t play, then. What if  you lose your connection for reasons beyond your control? You better get control of those reasons because you’ll get kicked out of the game. What if I just want to play single player? Can’t I just do that without connecting? Of course not, that’s stupid! You have to connect to their servers even to play all by your lonesome. What if their servers go down? They won’t because they are monitored constantly to make sure they are safe and reliable. Thus it is absolutely and one hundred percent safe from any and all pirating.

Until it wasn’t.

24 hours after it was released.

Now the pirates have the freedom to play the game as they wish, with or without an internet connection, and the legitimate users are stuck having to connect to the internet just to play alone (yeah yeah, I know that they don’t have the full content, but work with me here). But don’t worry…the pirates must live with their conscience, while the legitimate users get to play with the knowledge that they are doing the right thing.

Except that those safe and reliable servers have gone down and many legitimate players can’t actually play the game at all. No such problem for the pirates, though. This is exactly the problem with DRM. The legit users are being punished for things that are completely out of their control, while the pirates are feeling little or no consequences at all.

I liken it to a stop sign at which a big burly cop sits waiting to punish anyone that doesn’t stop. If you stop just past the stop sign, or fail to wait 3 seconds and look both ways before resuming, or if he is bored, he tazes you, sends you off to jail, and impounds your car for breaking the law. But if you don’t stop at all…well…you’re already gone so there’s nothing that he can do. You’re free to go. Why stop if there’s a chance that he’s bored and you’ll be tazed, jailed, and your car impounded through no fault of your own when you can just keep going, break the law, and suffer no ill consequences whatsoever?

Programmable Quantum Computer

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, CO. have built a quantum computer that is programmable. Unlike previous quantum computers, which were mostly restricted to specific tasks, this computer was able to run 160 different tasks chosen at random by the researchers. It was said to be accurate only 79 percent of the time (estimates are that it must be 99.99% accurate to be useful), but it’s a great next step.

“What’s most impressive and important is that they did it in the way that can be applied to a larger-scale system,” says Blinov, of the University of Washington in Seattle. “The very same techniques they’ve used for two qubits can be applied to much larger systems.”

(Fer chrissakes people, read the original article already, and the original paper itself if you can. My little summary is almost certainly wildly inaccurate, as all short summaries of science articles probably are.)