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Dell Colludes With RIAA, Disables Stereo Mix 377

Posted by timothy
from the please-test-for-crazy-conspiracy dept.
RCTrucker7 writes with a link to a Maximum PC story, which begins: "Details of Dell's surreptitious collusion with RIAA (Record Industry Association of America) have emerged. Apparently, the computer manufacturer disabled the Stereo Mix/Mono Mix/Wave Out sound recording function on certain notebooks to assuage RIAA. The hardware functionality is being disabled without any prior notice and one blogger has even alleged that he was asked by Dell's customer support staff to [shell] out $99 if he desired the stereo mix option. Gateway and Pac Bell are the other two manufacturers to have bowed to RIAA at the expense of their customers' satisfaction and disabled stereo mix without warning." (There are some workarounds posted in the comments of the linked article.)
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Dell Colludes With RIAA, Disables Stereo Mix

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  • by minerat (678240) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @09:57PM (#24146805)
    Nope. If you trace back the trail of links, the link for appeasing the riaa goes to a forum post that only mentions the details of the registry workaround. This was already determined to be hearsay on days ago when the story broke. Congratulations to the /. editors for their diligence.
  • Re:packard bell? (Score:5, Informative)

    by falcon5768 (629591) <Falcon5768@@@comcast...net> on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:11PM (#24146939) Journal
    in the US yes, but in Europe they are still a major player.
  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:20PM (#24147063)

    correct - any musician wanting decent sound quality will use an spdif (or similar) interface and do the analog/digital conversion outside the computer.

    these days, if you need only 2 channel stereo you can use a usb-audio input device and there are ones that have spdif toslink (opto) inputs. then you front-end that with an a/d converter, maybe a small mixer and you're all set. can be done for $100 or so and you'll get bit-perfect recording. usb-audio (asynch) drivers are driverless! so there's nothing 'they' can disable on you.

    same with usb-audio style spdif out devices. those run in synch mode and they are also driverless (mac, win, linux, bsd, you name it). you can find usb audio dongles that support 2496 samplerates and even DD5.1/DTS via raw mode.

    no one that would be 'serious' would use the analog i/o ports on a notebook for recording.

    BUT that does not let dell off the hook for hobling their own goddamn hardware. no excuse for that kind of behavior. shame on dell. I will remember this stunt for the next time an IT manager type asks me which brand of hardware we should go with.

    vote with your dollars. avoid dell and when asked, TELL them why.

  • Re:Next Story: (Score:5, Informative)

    by ericlondaits (32714) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:26PM (#24147139) Homepage
    AKAIK the DVD plays in an "overlay" layer... it's not rendered to the player's window like normal windows graphics but it's rather placed on top of it (in a similar fashion to directX, I assume). That would explain why screen captures (which must work at windows UI graphic level) don't capture DVD or divX frames.
  • Re:Next Story: (Score:5, Informative)

    by Oronar (942125) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:28PM (#24147149) Homepage

    You have to turn your hardware acceleration off.

    Right-click
    Properties
    Settings Tab
    Advanced
    Troubleshoot Tab
    Drag slider to the left

    Take you pictures and just slide it back to the right.

  • Re:Next Story: (Score:4, Informative)

    by setagllib (753300) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:29PM (#24147161)

    Welcome to the dreadful hack that is the Windows graphics overlay system. It allocates a very specific color that will be treated as a video area by the video card, so that it won't overlap windows that should be on top. It's clever, but XVideo in the open source world is much better. As usual.

  • by XanC (644172) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:29PM (#24147175)

    We're not talking about recording from input; we're talking about making a copy of the output as it goes to the speakers. I don't think there's any D to A involved in recording this way, although you do lose a generation, and of course if the source was compressed you're in extra trouble.

  • by Trails (629752) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:30PM (#24147181)
    Indeed. Techdirt [techdirt.com] had an article about this two days ago.
  • Re:Next Story: (Score:2, Informative)

    by Oronar (942125) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:30PM (#24147187) Homepage

    Right-click your desktop.

    Seriously need an edit for comments. =/

  • Re:Next Story: (Score:5, Informative)

    by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:33PM (#24147213) Homepage

    I seriously doubt Photoshop would stop you, but that's just me. It seems a little pointless to have photo-editing software try to do that.

    That said, for years scanners, copiers, and I believe laser prints have been designed to try to detect people copying currency and refuse to print. It may happen in ink jets and other printers too. I believe it is only the high end models though.

    There is also the "invisible" yellow dot tracking that so many printers do today (you can Google it, or I know it's been discussed here years ago).

  • Re:Next Story: (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:34PM (#24147225)

    This isn't anything special. A screenshot in Windows isn't the video out. It is what the Win32 subsystem sees. The only thing that the Win32 subsystem sees when you are playing a DVD is the window surrounding it. This is because the program running the DVD will be accessing the hardware outside of the Win32 subsystem.

  • Re:Next Story: (Score:4, Informative)

    by Shakrai (717556) * on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:38PM (#24147257) Journal

    I seriously doubt Photoshop would stop you, but that's just me. It seems a little pointless to have photo-editing software try to do that.

    Are you sure [slashdot.org] about that?

    There is also the "invisible" yellow dot tracking that so many printers do today (you can Google it, or I know it's been discussed here years ago).

    I'm well aware of it. I guess the anonymous "printing press" was just too much for the Government to contemplate leaving around.

  • by Koiu Lpoi (632570) <koiulpoi.gmail@com> on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:45PM (#24147309)
    As it turns out, the editors are basing this on complete hearsay. Nobody knows if the RIAA were even involved in this.
  • Re:Use? (Score:5, Informative)

    by allanw (842185) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:47PM (#24147331)

    Sorry to reply to myself, but I forgot to add that Dell is not the only one that distributes drivers that disable stereo mix. Lenovo has these problems too:

    http://forums.lenovo.com/lnv/board/message?board.id=Special_Interest_General&thread.id=316&view=by_date_ascending&page=1

    It's quite a popular thread, and Lenovo reps have posted too.

  • by Wrath0fb0b (302444) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:59PM (#24147419)

    Dismissed at the pleading stage for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted. There is no legal theory on this planet that would make a third party (even a disreputable one like the RIAA) responsible for the Dell's choice to include or exclude some features from a driver. Perhaps you could proceed in a fraud case against Dell IF somewhere they claimed stereo-mix as a feature or, and this is a huge stretch, general merchantability.

    More broadly, I suggest you stop thinking of the legal system is a cure-all for every practice you don't like. The law is not meant to be an all-encompassing tool for redressing every wrong but rather a minimal standard of civilized decency. While I'm no fan of the RIAA, and many of their tactics are indeed illegal (I'll let NYCL flesh those out), this particular odious act is still well within the law.

  • Re:Next Story: (Score:4, Informative)

    by CCFreak2K (930973) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @11:03PM (#24147449) Homepage Journal
    Yep. Video overlay [wikipedia.org]. This occurs for pretty much any video in any video player that uses overlays. No conspiracy there.
  • Re:Next Story: (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @11:19PM (#24147579)

    The MPAA has decided that asking large computer manufacturers to disable any Video Out options, so pirates are thwarted.

    It's called Protected Media Path. [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:Next Story: (Score:4, Informative)

    by toddestan (632714) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @11:21PM (#24147601)

    An easier way to do is to take advantage of the fact that Windows XP can only use the hardware to render one video stream at a time*. So:

    1. Start up some video player and have it play any old video file.
    2. Pause this video player (optional).
    3. Start up another video player and have it play the file you want to take screenshots of. Windows will render this video using software.
    4. Capture your screenshots.

    *Some fancy video cards may have drivers to work around this limitation. It also probably won't work in Vista.

  • by Em Ellel (523581) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @11:33PM (#24147689)

    From the techdirt link posted above:

    However, there seems to be no evidence whatsoever that the RIAA had any part in this. On the whole, it sounds like someone just made a bad decision in terms of how to configure certain sound cards. If someone can provide any evidence that the RIAA actually had a role in this, we'll post an update, but there's no reason to jump to conclusions without any evidence. That's what the RIAA does.

    Yep, plenty of facts! Can't get more conclusive than that! RIAA is caught red-handed.

    I guess FUD works both ways.

    -Em

  • Re:Use? (Score:5, Informative)

    by LO0G (606364) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @11:36PM (#24147729)

    What's also funny is that typically the Stereo Mix functionality is implemented post-DAC. So when you're recording from stereo mix, the signal goes:

    Output->DAC->ADC->Stereo Mix

    So modulo electrical noise on the microphone and headphone jack, you get essentially the same result you'd get as if you went:

    Output->DAC->Headphone Jack-> $6.00 Cable [radioshack.com]->Line In Jack->ADC->Line In

  • by DrWinston0Boogie (1323735) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @11:39PM (#24147749)
    ... that I encountered this issue just yesterday for the first time on a new Dell laptop (with SigmaTel sound) when I needed to record from the stereo mix -- for lawful uses, mind you.

    I did some googling of my own and found other users who located a Dell driver (R171789) for XP that can be installed in Vista using the XP-SP2 compatibility mode option. I found this driver, installed it as prescribed, went into Vista's Recording Devices, told it to show and enable all disabled devices, and boom, there was my stereo mix. So far I have been recording without any issues.

    So yeah, without question it sucks that I even had to go through that, but it took me 10 minutes of research and even less than that to enable and configure.

    I hope this helps somebody.
  • by digitalunity (19107) <digitalunity.yahoo@com> on Thursday July 10, 2008 @11:43PM (#24147789) Homepage

    Likely not. You would have to prove it was Dells intent to do this deliberately. From the sounds of it, Dell just kinda fucked up. That might entitle you to a rebate, refund or exchange but is unlikely to get you any punitive damages.

  • Re:Next Story: (Score:2, Informative)

    by FrankieBaby1986 (1035596) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @11:45PM (#24147797)
    Or just use VLC and use the Video -> Snapshot menu option
  • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @11:47PM (#24147815)

    This was posted on Slashdot. Needless to say, the story is total bunk.

    Try to relax before knee-jerking to something you see here. Probably half of the damned stories here are blatantly false.

  • by Animaether (411575) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @11:49PM (#24147841) Journal

    "Oddly enough the screenshot feature of Mac OS X is disabled when you are playing a DVD"

    Indeed he did. What's with the all the Windows XP work-arounds? They're valid, mind you.. for Windows XP; but that's not going to help for OS X?

  • Re:Next Story: (Score:3, Informative)

    by setagllib (753300) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @11:58PM (#24147911)

    I noticed the same thing on Windows 2000, and I found out it was because that color, which is copied exactly into the Paint instance during a screenshot, becomes transparent on the video card.

    Actually, a lot of legacy image formats did that too, before widespread ARGB use became viable. Instead of having arbitrary levels of transparency, a specific color would be chosen and saved in the image file, and this color is excluded from the bitblt that draws the image.

  • by neomunk (913773) on Friday July 11, 2008 @12:50AM (#24148315)

    Semetic, just like the Arabs are.

    Not that there's enough differentiation in the human genome between the 'races' to matter much, but you asked.

  • Re:Use? (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11, 2008 @12:52AM (#24148323)

    Why should I be restricted from using my own computer as I wish

    Don't install Vista then.

  • Re:Use? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Spacejock (727523) on Friday July 11, 2008 @01:41AM (#24148649) Homepage
    This is the one I use:

    http://www.fridgesoft.de/downloads.php [fridgesoft.de]

    "UPDATE: HarddiskOgg is now Open Source, the source code is available on SourceForge."

    It says it's not for streaming audio, but it worked on the radio interview I mentioned above.
  • Re:Use? (Score:4, Informative)

    by x2A (858210) on Friday July 11, 2008 @02:33AM (#24148915)

    Unbeliever here, so just tried it. Perfect digital silence. [Relatively] old dell laptop (D505) with SigmaTel C-Major low end sound card.

  • Re:Use? (Score:3, Informative)

    by LordVader717 (888547) on Friday July 11, 2008 @03:42AM (#24149269)

    Jst thought I'd add a link for anyone who has a card with this chipset [google.com].

    I'd hae had to give out many times the price if I wanted the same functionality from a creative card.

  • Re:Next Story: (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11, 2008 @04:01AM (#24149351)

    What makes you think this is Windows-specific? You are aware that Xvideo does the same thing, right?

    Color keyed overlays were part of video display hardware long before it was supported in Windows. They're basically the only way to get hardware accelerated YUV conversion on older video cards.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11, 2008 @05:42AM (#24149871)

    Back then I had similar issues with my old Inspiron 8200 laptop. The default drivers weren't able to

    - set the recording source to anything else than "Mic In"
    - and routing the microphone input to the output

    Similar to other posts the solution was simple: Find generic chipset/AC97 driver, install it, done. This even got me rid of much of the laptop's background noise as apparently Dell left some unused analog inputs at full volume and one was able to hear the IrDA port every few seconds.

    Eventually I figured out the reason why they did this:
    - If an idiot accidentally changes the recording source, (s)he will inevitably call Dell support with "my microphone doesn't work anymore"
    - And if an idiot accidentally puts the internal mic to the internal speakers... Well. Go figure.

    So Dell have been crippling their drivers for years now because some of that functionality may render your computer "broken" and they simply don't want the hassle.

    And yes, that sucks, but this one time the RIAA definitely doesn't have to do with it IMO. :)

  • It's a VISTA thing (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheHawke (237817) <rchapin&pelicancoast,net> on Friday July 11, 2008 @05:51AM (#24149923)

    According to this thread http://www.dellcommunity.com/supportforums/board/message?board.id=insp_audio&message.id=43688#M43688 [dellcommunity.com] the stereo mix drivers that Dell was supplied by SigmaTel (now Freescale Semiconductor) are being rejected by Vista on installation. The techs are working on it, but odds are SignaTel (not Dell) is being threatened by RIAA as not to supply the fix.

    http://www.ideastorm.com/article/show/66120/Correct_Sigmatel_audio_drivers_Stereo_Mix# [ideastorm.com]
    http://www.dellcommunity.com/supportforums/board/message?board.id=insp_audio&thread.id=40127&jump=true [dellcommunity.com]

  • Re:Next Story: (Score:2, Informative)

    by joto (134244) on Friday July 11, 2008 @07:07AM (#24150245)

    I laugh at the moronic masses who don't have a fucking clue what's going on inside their computers (or not going on as the case may be) and the companies who are screwing them.

    Yeah, I guess that must make you feel pretty important. Wow! You actually understand something about computers! You must be my God! Please allow me to sacrifice this lamb for you... Seriously, get a life. Most people know something you don't care about, whether it's carpentry, ice climbing, knitting, or the political history of China around 600ad. That you happen to know computers doesn't make you any more interesting, but your superiority complex certainly makes you look like a big fucking idiot!

    Oh well, my PC built from select components running Slackware 12.0 runs like a top. Any manufacturer who caves to the interests of big media and negatively impacts end users (their customers) will never see a dime of my money.

    Any child can build a PC from components. It's as easy as assembling lego, the pieces are made to fit together, and if you are in doubt, the manual tells you everything you need to know. Many computers stores allow you to select components that fit together by choosing from a drop-down list at their web-page, so that doesn't impress me either. In 2008, computers are commonplace, and I expect them to work, whether they are assembled by a Taiwanese company, or some hobbyist nerd at home.

    A little research goes a long way. Too bad Joe Six pack is an apathetic imbecile, otherwise we as customers could actually shift the power back into our hands before it's too late. I'm quite pessimistic however.

    Actually, I find you to be the imbecile. Do you even know what apathetic means? Anyway, there are plenty of examples throughout history where history takes the wrong turn, despite people knowing better. And seriously, I'm not going to get worked up about a software configuration issue, even if some anonymous posters on the Internet claim it was done by RIAA. It could just as well be disabled because few people used it, and it complicated the mixer for those "imbeciles" you feel so superior to.

  • Re:Next Story: (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11, 2008 @07:10AM (#24150277)

    Maybe Grab.app can't get it, but using a Screenshot-taker Dashboard widget I've had no problems grabbing shots from DVD player.

  • by TeknoHog (164938) on Friday July 11, 2008 @07:26AM (#24150383) Homepage Journal

    even sillier, $5 cable from earphone jack to mic jack, problem solved.

    No no no, problem not solved. I already moderated once in this discussion, but this is just too common an error.

    The earphone output is somewhat compatible with line levels and impedances, so it should go to the line-in. Of course, some computers only have a mic input. In that case you'll only get one of the two channels, only mildly distorted if you're lucky.

  • by gx5000 (863863) on Friday July 11, 2008 @08:46AM (#24150935)
    Stop buying name Brands for love's sake.
    They are simply cheaped out version of generics.
    The same Asus motherboards and cards with swapped out or missing chips.
    Go the extra mile and have one built or be adventurous and build one yourself, or find a 16 year old.

    Use a Dell at work. Clones are for Homes.

    And piracy sucks, just stop buying the crap, and when they start seeing the sales nosedive they'll lower prices so it's just more practical to purchase the real deal.

    Cheers.
  • by Secret Agent Man (915574) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:02AM (#24151075) Homepage

    Said options were disabled on my computer too. When I finally required its use, I got around to fixing it by going to SigmaTel's web site and acquiring updated drivers. The 'Stereo Mix' option then appeared and worked without issues.

  • Re:Next Story: (Score:4, Informative)

    by moosesocks (264553) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:09AM (#24151153) Homepage

    Don't forget Microsoft's Remote Desktop.

    It's very fast. NX might have the advantage on Unix, but RDP is certainly a legitimately good product.

  • Grumpy bullshit (Score:5, Informative)

    by swordgeek (112599) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:14AM (#24151211) Journal

    OK, here is ALL of the evidence that the RIAA has been strongarming Dell into this behaviour:

    (from http://www.eggheadcafe.com/software/aspnet/32286847/vista-audio-solution--wh.aspx [eggheadcafe.com])

    "Many of you may have been as frustrated as myself by Micrsoft bowing to the RIAA
    and pressuring the soundcard manufacturers to remove the "What You Hear" feature
    from their drivers."

    Oh, yeah, and there's the other article which points to it, on http://www.ripten.com/2008/07/07/bend-over-dude-youre-getting-a-dell/ [ripten.com]:

    "Some believe that Dell, and several other computer manufacturers such as Gateway and Pac Bell, were pressured by the RIAA (Record Industry Association of America) into disabling the stereo mix functionality." ...

    "So that we are all clear, the evidence points to Dell appeasing the RIAA by disabling hardware, only to have their customer service reps turn around and offer a solution to their consumers that reverses the alteration they made in the first place at a premium price."

    Yep, that's it. One guy claimed it with absolutely no evidence, and so it's apparently true. Another guy wilfully misinterpreted some random tech support guy's suggestion, and now we have a collusion between Dell and the RIAA. Wow, this is investigative reporting at its finest!

    My Dell laptop at work didn't have a way of turning off the damned 'tap to click' feature of the touchpad. I spent ages looking for a downloadable driver to make that feature work. Based on the rules of logic illustrated above, this is clearly a sign of collusion between Dell and Logitech.

    Honestly, aren't there enough examples of corporate bullshit that we don't have to invent false ones?

  • Re:Use? (Score:4, Informative)

    by sm62704 (957197) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:14AM (#24151897) Journal

    How many people even use stereo mix? You record what's playing through your speakers. Any decent sound editing program is going to have some kind of mixer that will combine your recording with whatever you were playing along with.

    My friend has a Dell, and for some reason you can't burn CDs with EAC on it. What we wind up doing when we're putting our LPs on CD is burn the .wav to CD as a data CD, then I take it home and burn it as a music CD. Oddly, his Dell will let you copy music CDs with no problem. So ironically, "fair use" is disabled while copyright infringement is not.

    And unless by "speakers" you mean your guitar amp, if you are recording your speakers with a microphone you're doing it wrong. See an article I posted on K5 a few years ago, How to rip from vinyl or tape [kuro5hin.org].

    Dell is not the only one that distributes drivers that disable stereo mix. Lenovo has these problems too

    So if Ford Crown Victorias explode when hit in the rear, it's OK for Chevy to make exploding cars? Your logic is quite faulty there.

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