Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I've been DRM'd

Well it had to happen didn't it ? After all the years of griping on this blog and other forums (including my forthcoming book) about DRM I've just been caught out by a DRM system. I bought a Panasonic DMR-EX85 DVD recorder from HughesDirect. My kids had had a giggle about Martin's Internet Nano Christmas shopping woes so had been tracking the machine's progress towards us and in that regard everything went ok and it arrived as scheduled yesterday.

I connected all the wires up and the machine went into its automatic set up routine. Again everything seemed fine and it picked up the channels etc. with no apparent difficulties. The digital signal was quite strong though it somehow picked the wrong aspect ratio, so we got an elongated picture until I adjusted it manually. We watched the end of a film on one of the digital channels and again everything was basically ok though the digital signal cut out once or twice when the wind got up later on. Then I put in one of the kids' DVDs.

We get "whirr, beep, whirr, whirr..." for about half a minute as the machine scans the disk, then the display reads “NoREAD” and a small window appears briefly on the TV screen saying “Cannot Read”. Attempting to press the “play” button on the machine or the remote control merely brings up a small red circle with a red diameter in the top right corner of the TV screen. Page 75 of the manual helpfully says this means: “The procedure is being prevented by the unit or the disc” but unhelpfully doesn't provide any remedy whatsoever.

Uh oh, I think, DRM? Well maybe I should try a different disk before jumping to conclusions. I tried six, all with the same result. Grr does this blooming machine think I'm trying to pass a US DVD off on it or something? All six were UK sourced disks though the machine is set up to play region 2 or all region encoded disks. The kids were disappointed not to be able to use the new toy right away

This morning I spoke to a very helpful and technically knowledgeable Hughes' customer service representative called Paul who immediately confirmed my suspicions about the DRM getting a bit confused. Occasionally in transit on some part of the manufacturing process or the supply chain the machine gets a bump which just knocks the drm out of synch and it "thinks" it is officiously carrying out its duty to protect the machine from playing DVDs from unapproved regions and actually it just can't read the code and recognise approved disks either. We both agreed I should send it back to them, so that is where it is going on Friday with Hughes providing a full refund. Since they didn't have any 85s left in stock I've ordered a lower spec and cheaper EX75 instead.

I await the DMR-EX75, due Friday, on which hopefully the DRM will be more cooperative. Well done to HughesDirect and particularly Paul for being so helpful. My visions of being kept waiting endlessly in an automated answering queue thankfully didn't come to fruition this time.

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