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Selectable Output Control in Make

MAKE's put my latest column, "Selectable Output Control," online -- it describes a proposal to the FCC to allow broadcasters to shut down parts of your home theater while you're watching their channels, and the consequences for Makers.

Chances are, you haven't heard of Selectable Output Control (SOC), a proposed digital TV technology that would allow broadcasters or copyright holders to tag their video with a list of receiver-outputs that were allowed to carry it. That's because it's an insane idea.

Picture this: you power up your home theater, an near-incomprehensible tangle of game-consoles, AV switchers, cable boxes, PVRs, DVD players, 5.1 speakers, amps -- maybe a home theater PC or a projector, too. After some fiddling and locating the correct remote, you start to surf up the dial. All good. Then you hit MTV and the gorgeous, perfectly balanced sound stops. Why has it stopped? Because your cable-receiver has received a SOC flag from MTV disallowing high-end audio unless it has some obscure DRM that isn't compatible with any of your gear (especially not your beautiful hand-built tube-amp). MTV doesn't want you digitizing the songs that accompany the (increasingly rare) music videos they play, so if you want sound while watching MTV, you've got to turn on the tiny internal speakers that came with your TV.

You flip up the dial (get up again and turn off the internal speakers), and flip to HBO and your screen goes dark. That's because HBO is showing a movie that has been flagged as "no analog" -- which means that your beautiful, 42" plasma display won't work because you connected it via the composite analog video cables coming off the back of your AV switcher, rather than via the DRM-locked HDCP output. To watch the movie, you'll need to move the entire shelving unit (remember to take down the family photos first, doofus, otherwise you risk shattering the glass if they tip over), disconnect the analog cables, find the HDCP cable that came with the TV (or was it the cable box?) in the garage, and rewire your set. When the kids want to play a couple hours of Paper Mario on the Wii, you're going to need to move it again and reconnect things. (Coming soon to a Make issue: HOWTO put your home theater on wheels for easy rewiring).

Selectable Output Control


5 Responses to “Selectable Output Control in Make”

  1. Maupassant says:

    I clicked over to look at the article at 'make', but it turns out they have selectable output control too. You pay $35 or you see only a blurred image of the text. They can kiss my ass. They're now on my shit list ... in fact I think I'll block their domain locally to ensure I don't accidentally give them another page hit.

  2. Darenotmeetindreams says:

    This article is about DRM. Should some moddafikka with
    the right DRM's put them onto the Net - then we are back where
    we started, in deeds but the waves of time composing more than
    this will have been ululating. The question is:
    can any DRM system avoid being piss poured into the internet
    pool?

  3. Who knows what good it could do, but I wrote a brief message to the FCC (despite being an Australian) on the issue imploring them to reject the proposal. Needless to say, whatever the US chooses, Australia always ends up following.

    As for your statement, Maupassant, that's not selectable output control, which has the potential to ruin your enjoyment of a product you purchase; that's just being plain cheap — you could perhaps be grateful they provided a freebie at all.

    And try clicking on the text. It zooms in clearer than a magazine, you know.

  4. turn.self.off says:

    os this a veiled warning about the insanity that is home teather setups?

  5. Jeremy Avis says:

    [...] Cory Doctorow’s craphound.com >> Blog Archive » Selectable Output Control in Make - http://craphound.com/?p=2146 - http://www.GetShawty.com [...]

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