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Dell Colludes With RIAA, Disables Stereo Mix 377

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 RightSaidFred99 ( 874576 ) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @09:54PM (#24146765)
    I know it's fun to use hearsay and draw wild conclusions which make a boogeyman out of various unpopular (some rightly so) parties, but is there anything here besides a bunch of conjecture and reporting of anecdote as fact?
  • boycott (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 10, 2008 @09:58PM (#24146809)

    Maybe it's time to boycott the RIAA.

  • by fishbowl ( 7759 ) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @09:59PM (#24146825)

    >Is this to prevent home grown artists from recording their own high quality material?

    As a musician, I would want to challenge this as abridgement of my rights, and I'd want to make a (worth $Billions$) anti-trust case out of it.

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

    by edalytical ( 671270 ) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:13PM (#24146955)

    Oddly enough the screenshot feature of Mac OS X is disabled when you are playing a DVD. I'd take a screenshot of the error message, but I obviously can't.

    This seems to be the current trend. You can't print bank notes from Photoshop, you can't record audio on your computer, you can't take screenshots. I'm sure this is just scratching the surface of treacherous computing...

  • If this is true, what does the RIAA intend to gain from this? It won't stop or even discourage piracy. People recording streams or radio broadcasts do have easy access to simple tape recorders, and mass distribution pirates will simply use a different machine. All this does is annoy people and put a dent in Dell's sales. What is the point???
  • Re:Next Story: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Shakrai ( 717556 ) * on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:20PM (#24147067) Journal

    You can't print bank notes from Photoshop

    Bet you can print 'em up in GIMP. Don't let the Government find out about that though, bad things might #$*&(*@&*(*!)(*)!*)(#*)@CARRIER LOST

    Actually, in all seriousness I'm not advocating the forgery of banknotes. Just pointing out the rather obvious fact that open source software isn't going to come crippled for my "protection". Wonder how long hardware will remain the same? Was this crippling of the notebooks done in software or hardware?

    Either way, why are people still giving Dell money?

  • by fishbowl ( 7759 ) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:30PM (#24147177)

    >It isn't about recording audio input from microphones, it is about making a copy of whats going out to the speakers.

    Don't try to dictate to me how I may, or may not, use my tools, thank you.

  • Sometimes... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nexuspal ( 720736 ) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:41PM (#24147279)
    I wish Slashdot had a mechanism to mod news stories into oblivion... Especially ones like this, with no real facts, and no basis in reality...
  • by batura ( 651273 ) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:45PM (#24147311)
    As a musician, you should simply buy a computer from a different manufacturer.
  • by megaditto ( 982598 ) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:50PM (#24147347)

    Just guessing here, but one could rip iTunes Store recordings, or plays-for-sure (whatever the MS store is) tracks, or audible audio books just by playing them and capturing the high-quality PCM streams while it plays. Then convert into mp3 or whatever.

    Essentially, this would let you exploid analog hole without requiring any cables for line in/line out loopback. And since the waveform never leaves your sound card, the quality of the recording is near perfect.

  • Re:boycott (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:50PM (#24147353)
    No, here is the thing. Anytime someone doesn't buy something from the RIAA, they automatically think that it is pirates. So they increase this sort of stuff. The RIAA has been used to a monopoly for so long, they don't know how to deal with a decrease in profit, so they blame someone else.
  • Re:Next Story: (Score:2, Insightful)

    by InakaBoyJoe ( 687694 ) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:51PM (#24147361)

    You must be new here. When did we ever see CARRIER LOST? It was always NO CARRIER.

    And don't even get me started on the immediate follow-up with "... in all seriousness". :-)

  • by GuyverDH ( 232921 ) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:56PM (#24147391)

    Piracy to use the term loosely, hasn't become more prevalant. Sales are declining because they keep putting out garbage, with audio-compression schemes to increase volume and distortion levels.

    Then they wonder why they're losing money...

    Good gawd *IAAs, get a clue...

  • by Em Ellel ( 523581 ) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:58PM (#24147403)

    Is this to prevent home grown artists from recording their own high quality material?

    Basically we are talking about Dell screwing up one driver to which people are ascribing various conspiracy theories. If you are actually read any of the blogs they are all just speculating and pointing to each other. Some of the more serious blogs outright say it is just random speculation, but that does not stop them from spreading the FUD. Something tells me if Dell made some secret deal, this would affect ALL of their computers, not just ones based on specific chipset. They wouldn't be selling alternative audiocards, and they would not be posting workarounds all over the place.I think that old variation of Occam's razor applies - "don't attribute to malice what can easily be explained by stupidity." Its not the first driver Dell screwed up - its not going to be the last. This one just happened to somewhat fit into a conspiracy theory.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 10, 2008 @11:01PM (#24147435)
    It's better than not saying it, and filling an article with cryptic acronyms, regardless of how ubiquitous they may be to some people. STFU and GTFO.
  • Re:Next Story: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by great throwdini ( 118430 ) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @11:03PM (#24147445)

    Oddly enough the screenshot feature of Mac OS X is disabled when you are playing a DVD. I'd take a screenshot of the error message, but I obviously can't.

    This limitation in OS X has been there for a long, long time; it's nothing new. I don't think it's part of any trend. The blocks in place for, etc. aren't terribly hard to circumvent, targeting casual users who will give up before querying Google for workarounds. Last time I checked, you don't need anything that doesn't ship with OS X itself to take screencaps of DVD Player.

    Though I do agree that Apple bothering to throw up blocks at all seems a bit odd, if but a half-hearted attempt akin to the CD burning limitations of iTunes. Must be some mildly interesting history behind the original decision there...

  • by gnuASM ( 825066 ) <> on Thursday July 10, 2008 @11:12PM (#24147501)

    What has been disabled is the loopback, which lets you record the music that the computer is playing. Youtube for example.

    Yeah, or even your own LEGALLY COPYRIGHTED drum/beat/synthesizer loops. Or even the audio off your home videos to use for your own LEGAL reuse in your own LEGAL compilation home videos. Or even your own LEGAL automated answering service that may need to record messages. Or any of a plethora of other LEGAL uses.

    As a poster has already stated, do NOT tell me how I should/can or shouldn't/cannot use MY hardware.

  • by Artuir ( 1226648 ) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @11:17PM (#24147545)

    Right, which is still mostly conjecture and RIAA bashing. I don't see any evidence they were involved - if someone's got REAL links with REAL data, let's have them! Linking to a Dell page with a workaround for an issue isn't proof of all the wild speculation making the rounds.

  • Re:Use? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wildclaw ( 15718 ) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @11:32PM (#24147681)

    The only use I see is for a program like FRAPS, which records your screen and sound.

    Exactly, and I for one am a person that uses that functionality to record stuff legally (voiced go lessons on the Kiseido Go Server to be exact). Heck, it is impossible to do it illegally as it falls under the same category as recording videos. Why should I be restricted from using my own computer as I wish.

    What I am really afraid of however is how these people are colluding by using a mix of cryptography and laws to prevent "unauthorized" equipment from being able to interface with the system. Right now I can always get another more free piece of equipment, but what about in 10-15 years when you can't run the software on anything but authorized hardware, and trying to bypass that is a federal offense.

    The above may be a nightmare to me, but for some rich people it is an utopian vision. I mean it when I say that I am afraid. Afraid because people tolerate minor restrictions being added all the time with just minor protests. It will become worse much worse and by the time people wake up it will be too late...again. Have you heard some of the people behind this. They are not acting as individuals but instead as lunatic powerhungry agents for powerful immoral organisations.

    And I used immoral instead of amoral deliberatly. Earning money is an amoral stance, but the idea of earning money above anything else is simply immoral.

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

    by setagllib ( 753300 ) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @11:55PM (#24147885)

    Yes, and XVideo is still much better than Windows' overlay. I'd be the last to defend X itself. I've looked in the source. Global event arrays and select() are used as the core of the entire XFree/XOrg implementation. Enough said.

  • Re:Firehose (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fyoder ( 857358 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @12:10AM (#24148015) Homepage Journal

    I submitted a story that didn't make it beyond blue in the firehose, but which was selected for one of the subsections. I submitted another which made to red, and it wasn't selected.

    Firehose popularity may be something editors consider, but it is by no means the deciding factor. This story is on the front page because an editor thought it ought to be there.

  • by rob1980 ( 941751 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @12:10AM (#24148017)
    I dunno... the provider I bought my Motorola Razr phone from locked out the ability to load ringtones (or any other sound files) onto the phone through the microSD slot in their firmware, even though the phone is technically capable of that function. I can still use Motorola's software to copy the sound file directly to the phone's internal storage, which takes about as much work as the registry hack to restore the chipset's functionality detailed in the article. (That is, not much.)

    In both cases, technically the features haven't been "disabled" as much as are "not enabled" in the provided software. If cell phone carriers can get away with it, why not Dell?
  • Re:Next Story: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by billcopc ( 196330 ) <> on Friday July 11, 2008 @12:11AM (#24148025) Homepage

    Since when has any Mac software let you do what you wanted ? It goes against the philosophy of the platform. They simplify everything, leave with you a single way to do stuff, and it just so happens that one way usually works pretty well. In a sense, Macs are kind of like game consoles.

    Your DVDs play well, and have been doing so for longer than the PC players - you don't need to download your DVD playing software from some idiotic Chinese software company that couldn't even write a goddamned Solitaire clone without crashing :P

    Besides, there are other ways to get screen grabs from video - like using a video editor!

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

    by mrbcs ( 737902 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @01:08AM (#24148429)
    Yep, Idiocracy was a documentary.
  • -1, Troll (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11, 2008 @01:20AM (#24148521)
    No you're not. Quartz isn't that far removed from Windows GDI or X Windows when it comes to video overlays; they all use them because it's so much faster than writing pixels to a software window and then flipping the buffer.

    Every modern video system uses hardware overlays to render video whenever its available, period. And since every video card since the mid 90s supports hardware overlay, there's little or no reason not to do so.
  • Re:Next Story: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Shakrai ( 717556 ) * on Friday July 11, 2008 @01:32AM (#24148589) Journal

    When that printing press is capable of making near-perfect reproductions of currency, and easily accessible information on how to defeat or mimic many of the security features is found on the Internet, then yes, it is too much to leave around.

    That argument doesn't hold water as a defense of the watermarking technology that I was talking to. My complaint is with the practice of forcing printers to leave a serial number behind [] that law enforcement can track.

    That "technique" does not survive a rational examination. That watermarking technology might catch the dumbass teenager that tries to pass a photoshopped $20 bill off on one of the drones at Wally World. But it's not going to catch professional counterfeiters. You really think that they are going to buy printers in such a way that can be traced back to them? The last time I checked it wasn't illegal to buy things with cash in this country and even if it were there are all sorts of ways to obtain things through "unofficial" channels (buying people off at Xerox comes to mind).

    Given that, I don't really see how you can defend this practice. It doesn't do much of anything to deter counterfeiting. Yet it makes it that much easier for the Government to trace political communications that it might not agree with. Don't think it's happened before? Think again [].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11, 2008 @01:46AM (#24148673)

    You're right. While we're at it we might as well go ahead and nullify the courts and just start rounding everyone up and locking them up because we all have incentive to do terrible things to get ahead in life. We sure as hell can't bother with all that pesky gathering of facts to determine guilt slow us down. I'll help speed the process up by turning myself in right now for all the things I might do in the future.

  • by Doctor_Jest ( 688315 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @01:57AM (#24148739)

    Well, that may be... but certainly Dell's "cred" for anything but a Windows lapdog and a mod-unfriendly assembler of Chinese parts has been thoroughly trashed over the years.

    I have a P2-400 from Dell that is _STILL_ running DSL 4.1. I can't vouch for the current lot of Dell's computers, but if the web (and my company's) comments on Dell's QC of their boxes are even 10% true, they've fallen FLAT.

    It's rather a sad state of things when the margins got so razor thin (mostly by Dell's own making), they simply became "just another builder"... and a shoddy one at that.

    YMMV, of course...

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

    by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @02:54AM (#24149027)

    "Windows may suck, but X11 has traditionally been one of the absolute worst things about Unix."

    In some technical aspects, perhaps. But being able to run a graphics program on my work test system with the X11 output being ssh-forwarded to my work desktop computer then over the VPN to my Linux machine at home and then over the wireless network to my Windows laptop in the garden where it's finally displayed is one of the best features of Unix; whereas having to actually sit at the bloody keyboard and monitor to do pretty much anything at all is one of the worst features of Windows.

    As for overlay, it was pretty much a requirement for decent video playback a few years ago when CPUs couldn't cope with color space conversion and scaling and the PCI/AGP bus couldn't cope with the data transfer requirements even if they could. Today it's pretty much obsolete as the hardware is plenty fast enough and rendering video through the GPU is much easier than having an overlay bodge unit stuck on the side.

  • by theolein ( 316044 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @04:54AM (#24149629) Journal

    The article was posted by Timothy, who is the same idiot who posted the article above this one on claiming but not claiming "criminal negligence".

    The articles are pure flamebait, utterly stupid, typical of Timothy, and are simply sensationalistic crap designed to raise hit counts on slashdot.

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

    by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Friday July 11, 2008 @05:55AM (#24149935) Journal

    We did? You could change X video resolution with a simple set of keystrokes... in 1993. While it wasn't a particularly user friendly way of changing resolution it could be done and it didn't require a desktop restart.

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

    by NetNifty ( 796376 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @06:08AM (#24149997) Homepage
    In KPDF, go into the Settings Menu / Configure KPDF and untick "Obey DRM Restrictions".
  • Allegedly...? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tanveer1979 ( 530624 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @06:14AM (#24150019) Homepage Journal
    The Ariticle:
    Dell Allegedly Colludes with RIAA, Stereo Mix Disabled without Forewarning

    Dell Colludes With RIAA, Disables Stereo Mix

  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @06:51AM (#24150179)

    I hope you'd buy a soundcard that doesn't blow to record your stuff. Internal laptop cards are noisy as hell. Get yourself a nice firewire card. Much, much, much better converters, and their drivers suffer from no limitations.

    Seriously, while this is a dumb move by Dell, any righteous indignation by musicians tells me that either:

    1) They don't know much about recording.

    2) They are just generating false rage for the purpose of hating on the RIAA.

    If I find that the RIAA has managed to outlaw soundcards with high quality inputs, I'll be right there with you in being angry. However as it stands any good 3rd party soundcard, even consumer grade cards from places like Creative, will record anything you like and will route signals digitally internally however you like.

    So please, leave off with this. If it really is a concern for you as a musician, get an Echo Audiofire or an M-Audio Firewire Solo. After all, you spent hundreds, or more likely thousands (possibly tens of thousands) on your instrument, you can swing $200 for a good soundcard. If you are just pretending to get worked up to hate on the RIAA then stop. It is silly not only in and of itself but because, as noted, there's no proof they were involved at all,

  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @06:57AM (#24150197)

    Possible it's just an engineering decision. Maybe their new chips don't have the electrical links to feed output back to input. Or perhaps their chips now do, but they are cutting it out in the future and they don't want people bitching about new chips having less functionality. Now it might seem silly, why cut out a few small components? However, this kind of thing happens in mass production items that are designed for minimal costs. I've recorded talks (one of them from a guy at AD who is real good at this kind of thing) from EE guys who talk about redesigning circuits to eliminate a couple resistors and such. When every component uses more silicon, more silicon equals more cost, and you are counting fractions of pennies, you cut what can be cut.

  • by Zorque ( 894011 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @06:59AM (#24150207)

    n. A secret agreement between two or more parties for a fraudulent, illegal, or deceitful purpose.

    That doesn't really sound like what's going on here. Maybe Dell relinquished a little more choice in the matter than they should have, but Michael Dell isn't sitting behind a curtain wringing his hands over this one. Try "cooperates", it's much less FUD-filled.

  • by argent ( 18001 ) <peter&slashdot,2006,taronga,com> on Friday July 11, 2008 @08:58AM (#24151045) Homepage Journal

    If they removed an advertised capability without notice, that's deceitful and arguably fraudulent, though probably not illegal. :)

  • If they had, I would have sued dell in a heartbeat.

    This is an expected feature of modern sound cards and not to be fucked with.

    This is getting out of hand and Dell and the whole board who decided this are COWARDS!

    I guess no one has the integrity to stand up and say, enough is enough.

    The RIAA is overstepping their bounds by miles here.

  • Re:Use? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by protolith ( 619345 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @03:30PM (#24156727)
    "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."

    I think the point flew past you faster than an exploding Ford... I read that statement as Dell is not the only one pulling this shit, its a bigger problem than just with Dell.

    Or to recycle your car analogy, If Ford makes exploding cars and Chevy also makes exploding cars, it's not used as justification, but as a statement that Automakers make exploding cars.

    It illustrated the extent of an issue.

1 Mole = 007 Secret Agents