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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Netflix, nVidia, DRM, and 'Ron White - They Call me Tater Salad'

I always knew the opposition to DRM, and knew why people thought it was bad, but it never affected me, so I didn't care.

Last night, DRM totally kicked my ass. Today I wrote an email to a bunch of people involved, to explain my extreme displeasure. I'll just post the email, and let it explain everything.


Subject: Netflix, nVidia, DRM, and 'Ron White - They Call me Tater Salad'



Hello,

This email is to document and describe an extremely unpleasant experience I had last evening with Netflix and the movie 'Ron White - They Call me Tater Salad'.

I used to be a TiVo user, until I found the freedom, fun, and expandability of creating my own PVR with a spare PC. I currently run a Core 2 Duo PC with an nVidia 7200 series graphics card as my PVR.

I have been a NetFlix member for some time and have been enjoying the 17 hours of online viewing I get each month with my subscription. Yesterday I received an email from Netflix explaining that I now receive UNLIMITED online viewing time. So my wife and I settled into our sofa and clicked PLAY on Ron White's 'Tater Salad' movie.

A message popped up and told me I would need to upgrade Windows Media Player in order to watch movies on Netflix. I had been watching movies through their website for some time, so this seemed a little odd to me, but I did as it said and upgraded. After the upgrade, I was then told I needed to install this special package in order to view Netflix content. Again, I did as instructed and installed the package.

I was then greeted with the familiar Netflix loading screen. To my dismay, once it reached 100%, I was given a DRM error. I had received this error in the past, and generally a format of the PC and a re-installation of Windows resolved it. However, I have just recently performed a complete re-install of this PC and did not have the time to do it again. So I picked up the phone and called Netflix support.

After a 40 minute wait, Lou finally answered the phone. I gave him the error code and immediately he told me I was unable to watch Netflix streaming movies because I had a TV hooked up to my PC and not a monitor. I thought for sure there was no way this could be true, as I have been enjoying Netflix streaming movies for some time. I asked to speak to a supervisor. After a few minutes, Lou connected me to Tamar. She was very pleasant, polite and professional as I explained her my problem.

She too explained to me that because I only have a TV hooked up to my computer via the S-Video cable, and no monitor plugged into the DVI port, that DRM thinks I am trying to copy the movie, and therefore will not let me play it. I could not believe what I was hearing. Her solution was to connect a monitor to the DVI port on the PC, run it in dual mode, and put the movie window onto the TV after it loads up - quite a burden, and another unacceptable answer.

I assured her I had been viewing Netflix streaming movies without (much) trouble for some time, and that I did not believe DRM was the problem, as it never had been before. She then informed me that Microsoft had released a new DRM package over the weekend, and that is why I am now having the problem. She explained that the nVidia driver in conjunction with Microsoft's new DRM were to blame. When asked if purchasing an ATI card would solve the issue, she suggested that it may - again, this is quite an unacceptable solution.

I was a Netflix subscriber for quite some time, then switched to Blockbuster for the in-store returns. When Blockbuster limited that to 5 movies per month, and Netflix was offering 17 hours of online viewing, I switched back to Netflix, and have been happy with service until now. Now, while Netflix tells me I have UNLIMITED online viewing, I actual have ZERO online viewing. This is making Blockbuster's 5 in-store exchanges look pretty inviting.

Tamar did upgrade my account to '4-at-a-time' for 3 months. While this is a welcome addition, it hardly makes up for the total lack of ability I have to watch streaming movies, which as I stated previously, is the reason I switched to Netflix from Blockbuster.

I have heard all of the fuss about DRM, but until now, I paid it no mind as it has never affected me, or my ability to used digital media which I HAVE PAID FOR. Now, however, I do realize that DRM is a horrible thing, and does nothing but keep the honest people from accessing that which they have rightfully paid for, and have the right to access.

A quick Google search for Ron White's 'Tater Salad' DVD provides you with a plethora of links to places where you can illegally download the DVD for free, sans DRM. (http://thepiratebay.org/tor/3736426/Ron_White_-_They_Call_Me_Tater_Salad-DIVX) This to me proves the old adage that "locks only keep honest people out." DRM is a horrible idea, and has now prevented me from using that which I have paid for.

I will give this problem until the end of the month, at which time if it is still unresolved, I will be canceling my Netflix account, and renewing my Blockbuster Online subscription.

You can be sure that Ron White's movie will be the first one in my queue.


Sincerely,

Charles Teets

cc:
Netflix Customer Service
Reed Hastings - Netflix CEO
Blockbuster Online Customer Service
nVidia - Chipset Manufacturer
AMD - Maker of ATI Video Cards
Microsoft - DRM Developer
Ron White - 'Tater Salad'
Michael Drumm - Producer of 'Tater Salad'
Image Entertainment - 'Tater Salad' distributor
DefectiveByDesign.com
DRM.info
GNU.org
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Free Software Foundation

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I just encountered your same exact nightmare this evening. Suprised you had no other comments.

Nitefallz said...

I just experienced the same issue, except that I had not been a prior Netflix customer. I had no clue this would be an issue, to watch it on my TV. It's frustrating and I feel cheated.

I really don't know why any company out there sincerely believes that people want to sit down and watch 2 hour movies on a desk in front of a computer monitor rather than on their couch in front of a tv. It's just not true, and I'm sure there's a lot of sales and marketing people peddling that "truth".

fromunderarug said...

another one here. but after reconnecting the monitor, it still wont work. ive updated drivers, components reset drm several times. talket to netflix cs for an hour. the conclusion was that i call nvidia. lame.

shrift said...

Hey, I found a mediocre fix for this without dragging up another monitor... I simply uninstalled the Nvidia driver that was apparently enabling the DRM to recognize it was using my s-video port.

This leaves the terrible Microsoft driver to run things... But at least I can watch my show.

This really only worked for me because Instant Watch is the only reason I have this computer setup at my TV.

shrift said...

I will also point out this posting on the nvidia forums that suggests making a vga dummy connector so that you can enable display mirroring mode without actually having another display connected.
http://forums.nvidia.com/index.php?showtopic=55361

And direct to the directions on making the vga puck.
http://tvtool.info/go.htm?http://tvtool.info/english/dummy_e.htm

CJ said...

Thanks everyone - yeah its a pain in the ass....

I did bring in a spare monitor for a bit and did the switching thing.

To the guy who couldnt get it working, you need to SPAN, not duplicate the screens.

I never thought about unloading the video driver. The PC is strictly for the TV, so that might well be worth it. Thanks for that heads up, I'll let you know how it goes.

Ive seen those VGA things before, but didn't know if they really worked. I read somewhere they could damage your shit.

CJ said...

FYI - Uninstalling the nVidia driver did the trick. Scrolling in IE is jumpy as hell, and maybe it's just me, but the TV video seems weird... cant say exactly, but it just seems odd. I'm waiting to see if my wife says anything about it, or if it's just me.

Thanks! Now I can totally have my Watch It Now on my TV - I just finished watching the Charles Bukowski documentary. I like how they totally threw in the Barfly movie poster in the montage. That was awesome.

William said...

So if you use the microsoft driver for the video card, does the s-video output still work?

Tisha said...

People should read this.

CJ said...

@William: Yes, I'm still using my S-video out with just the M$ VGA driver.

CJ said...

FYI: The new Silverlight player allows you to play via S-Video only to your TV.

StatiK EffecK said...

wow. Your well-written letter pretty much sums up my experience over the past 48 hours, verbatim.
It is unfathomable why an honest, legal, paying customer should be limited to these choices: watch instantly on small PC monitor, rent DVD in mail and wait a couple days, or download (nearly) instantly from thepiratebay.org to watch on any computer/screen we damn well please.
After posting this comment I'm going to try to uninstall Nvidia driver thing and see if that works. Why would I want to hook up an ugly dinky PC monitor in my living room just so I can allow use of the television?
CJ , your last post says something about "silverlight player allows S=video only to your tv"... can you clarify what you mean by that?

StatiK EffecK said...

follow up on my previous comment: I uninstalled the nVidia driver, but now I can't make it use the default microsoft driver. its just a yellow exclamation point. I don't think it would matter anyway because this video card defaults into Composite video, not S-Video... so I'm only getting black and white.
Netflix watch instantly did work after uninstalling it, but the full-screen framerate was less than adequate, plus I can't tell it to use S-video... so black & white only.
guess I have to try the dummy VGA port adapter now. what a joke this whole thing is.

StatiK EffecK said...

sorry for one more post but this forum topic discusses the issue -- http://forums.guru3d.com/showthread.php?t=273804
-- a solution appears to simply use an ATI card since they claim it works fine with an ATI card (computer and TV, no extra monitor needed).

CJ said...

Hey, yeas, but buying a new video card, to me, was an unacceptable answer.

As far as my Silverlight comment - apparently, Netflix is converting people over to use the new Silverlight player, instead of windows media player.

Once you're converted I don't think there is any way to go back, but with the Silverlight player, I'm now able to have my nVidia driver running, and use the sVideo output from my card to my TV with no problems.

I have since gotten a new TV, and now use DVI out to HDMI. I think this method also works with the old Netflix player, not just Silverlight, but I can't confirm that as Im now Silverlight only.

Frank said...

I signed up for Netflix, too, for the instant movies. But I was using gNewSense, a gnu/Linux operating system. I tried many ways to get the movies to play, but it came down to Active X being a proprietary software thing that gnu/Linux can't use. I had to put Winblows on the other partition in my computer. During the installation, Winblows told me there was an OS system on one partition, and the other one was free. So I used the free one for Winblows. But Winblows lied. So it erased my gnu/Linux system and all my files and put itself in its place. The other partition is still there, but there's nothing on it. I hate Winblows, because it's in charge of my machine, and I am ALWAYS having to wait for it to finish whatever it's doing and do what I want it to do. I thought it was my computer, but Winblows thinks it's his computer.

Tim said...

I don't know if you are famliar with Lovecraft and his works incase you are: http://www.macguff.fr/goomi/unspeakable/vault294.html :)

-Tim

CJ said...

Hey Frank,

Have you tried installing IE and WMP through Wine and seeing if that works?

I have an Ubuntu box as my main rig, and a Windows box hooked to my TV as my media rig, so Ive not tried to watch Netflix movies on my Linux box.

I'll try it tonight and let you know how I fare...

Some Poor College Student said...

This is one of the reasons that I just check movies out from the library. Why waste my money on something that's already broken? (Okay, I know you actually have to go to the library first but it's not a big deal for me).

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your articule! I was doing the research before signing up on netflix. (THAT WILL NOT HAPPEN NOW!!) As for nVidia, I moved on to ATI/AMD a year ago due to their products excellent handling of bluray streams.

Anonymous said...

This only affects Windows Vista and Windows 7 users, if should not affect Windows XP users and definitely does not affect Linux users. I say, downgrade to Windows XP when ever you can.

The situation is that Windows Vista and Windows 7 were built with control in mind, in fact, Microsoft took many suggestions from the recording and movie industries, they asked them what restrictions they would like to see in these operating systems. I would not be using an operating system that is made to restrict the use of my own hardware on my computers. Ebay is a great place to find legit COA for Windows XP and the CD's as well, if you do not want to pay for Windows, where you know where to download it, or even better download ubuntu linux or fedora core

Anonymous said...

This only affects Windows Vista and Windows 7 users, if should not affect Windows XP users and definitely does not affect Linux users. I say, downgrade to Windows XP when ever you can.

The situation is that Windows Vista and Windows 7 were built with control in mind, in fact, Microsoft took many suggestions from the recording and movie industries, they asked them what restrictions they would like to see in these operating systems. I would not be using an operating system that is made to restrict the use of my own hardware on my computers. Ebay is a great place to find legit COA for Windows XP and the CD's as well, if you do not want to pay for Windows, where you know where to download it, or even better download ubuntu linux or fedora core

Anonymous said...

This only affects Windows Vista and Windows 7 users, if should not affect Windows XP users and definitely does not affect Linux users. I say, downgrade to Windows XP when ever you can.

The situation is that Windows Vista and Windows 7 were built with control in mind, in fact, Microsoft took many suggestions from the recording and movie industries, they asked them what restrictions they would like to see in these operating systems. I would not be using an operating system that is made to restrict the use of my own hardware on my computers. Ebay is a great place to find legit COA for Windows XP and the CD's as well, if you do not want to pay for Windows, where you know where to download it, or even better download ubuntu linux or fedora core