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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 BabbageTuring ( 1227694 ) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @09:57PM (#24146807)
    Is this to prevent home grown artists from recording their own high quality material?
  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <.moc.cam. .ta. .rcj.> on Thursday July 10, 2008 @09:58PM (#24146811) Journal

    I see this as a symptom of Dell's decline. There was a time when Dell would have told anyone other than microsoft to get lost if they tried to dictate how they should do business.


  • by Lumenary7204 ( 706407 ) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:09PM (#24146931)

    Parent modded as "Funny", but you know, the "Independent musician invoking antitrust against the RIAA" thing might just have something going for it.

    Too bad you'd need a huge chunk of capital just to get the legal ball rolling...

  • Other options... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:14PM (#24146973)
    Well how very stupid. What exactly are they preventing people from recording? I mean, if it's internet radio (like pandora.com, aol radio, et al) you can just get something like Stationripper [stationripper.com] to record it. Or is this just to prevent people from recording their OWN CD's to a computer? Ummm.... isn't that a ok fair-use thing to be doing? Don't they have something BETTER to do then hassling legit uses of their music???
  • by Lehk228 ( 705449 ) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:14PM (#24146977) Journal
    if you are trying to record anything in high quality using the sterio plugs on your laptop, you are doing it very, very, wrong
  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:16PM (#24147017) Homepage Journal

    If Dell advertises "ACME sound chipset ABC123" but doesn't deliver all the features of that chipset, are they guilty of false advertising?

    Just asking.

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

    by i.of.the.storm ( 907783 ) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:18PM (#24147043) Homepage
    Same thing happens in Windows XP (haven't checked Vista but it's probably the same). If you're playing a DVD and take a screenshot the area where the DVD was (if you were playing it in a window) is black.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:20PM (#24147073)

    I bought a Dell XPS M1530 laptop back in February, it came with Vista and I couldn't use my brand spanking new laptop to record from my stereo mix into Audacity.

    The only fix was to either use the analogue hole, install the XP driver for the sound card (which caused crackling in the speakers), or to upgrade to Windows XP, which I've been using for the last 3 months now... it's a whole lot quicker now!

    I'm never buying a Dell ever again...

  • by Therefore I am ( 1284262 ) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:21PM (#24147079)
    Scratching my head at this one. I can see that the Music Industry is still grasping at any tiny straw it can, but what gain for Dell? Did money change hands, or was there some coercion? I just don't get it. Any ideas on this.
  • dear riaatards: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:36PM (#24147245) Homepage Journal

    1. anyone committed to do music piracy will commit music piracy and any software or hardware hurdles you throw up cannot stop them

    2. anyone committed to not do music piracy will be irritated by the software and hardware hurdles you throw up to stop music pirates

    congratulations for punishing your paying customers and doing nothing to stop music piracy

    fucking retards

    your business model is dead

    just die already

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:39PM (#24147265)

    You don't need this to record.

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

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

    by Free the Cowards ( 1280296 ) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @10:53PM (#24147371)

    Actually you can still take screenshots. There are three easy ways. One is to use Grab.app. Another is to use the 'screencapture' command line tool in Terminal. And lastly you can use any third-party screen capture program. Apple half-assedly only disables the standard keyboard shortcuts. This is typical of their compliance with required terms for media playback. For example, the standard DVD player contract also requires making a reasonable effort to disable debuggers. Apple does this by calling ptrace(PT_DENY_ATTACH, 0, 0, 0) during application startup. This causes the application to crash if it's being run in the debugger, and causes any debugger attached to the application later to crash. It's laughably easy to work around, though; just set a breakpoint on the ptrace function, then tell the debugger to return immediately when it's hit. Presto!

  • by LO0G ( 606364 ) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @11:15PM (#24147535)

    What's really funny is that I bet those machines run Vista.

    And Vista has the Stereo Mix functionality built into the OS [microsoft.com]!

  • by Runefox ( 905204 ) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @11:18PM (#24147563) Homepage

    Just use the non-Dell drivers. If it's a Sigmatel, download a Sigmatel driver from somewhere else for the same chipset. Use Everest or something to report what chipset it actually is, and just go get someone else's driver. I've dived through the .INF files for some of these, and this kind of thing is something you can enable/disable directly within there, if you were so inclined and knew where to look (and had the time and patience to change it in about six different places in the same file). It's actually pretty easy to figure out if you're used to looking at config files, even if it really is a different beast.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 10, 2008 @11:44PM (#24147791)

    This does apply to most of their computers. Our office has Dell Dimension E520s, Optiplex 320s, several models of Latitudes and several models of Inspirons, all of which have exactly this problem. Some of them have the Sigmatel audio systems described in the article, while others have Intel HDA and Analog Devices sound devices, so it's a lot more widespread than even this article mentions.

  • They caught me! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cerelib ( 903469 ) on Thursday July 10, 2008 @11:44PM (#24147795)
    This looks like they are going after people like me. I don't like buying CDs because the markup is absurd and I don't feel like contributing to that industry. When I like an artist, I will typically checkout things like their MySpace( or PureVolume if that is still going ) and listen to their songs. If I wanted to load that on to my computer or portable player, I simply fired up Audacity [sourceforge.net], selected the Mix as a source and recorded it as it played. Yes, I know that this will produce the lowest fidelity recording short of recording over a phone line, but for most of these songs I simply don't care. It is clear enough for my casual listening enjoyment.

    Here is the kicker though; if I couldn't do that, I still would not buy the CD. On the contrary, being able to sample music like this brings me closer to caving in and buying a CD( but I typically only buy used CDs because I am more willing to pay the discounted, still marked up price when I know the profit goes to the small business, so suck on that secondary market RIAA ).
  • Re:Use? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by billcopc ( 196330 ) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Friday July 11, 2008 @12:05AM (#24147985) Homepage

    Yep it's ridiculous but true. For all you disbelievers, try recording "silence" on your Stereo Mix. Not so silent now, is it ?

    I actually hadn't used this feature in ages, but I did a few weeks ago to rip a friend's tune on some lame-ass artist site... the MP3 download was "disabled" and the guy wasn't answering his phone, so I just recorded the streamed output from my onboard sound. Hello noise! I was seeing -48db peaks, maybe -58db average; it's almost inaudible but still not what I expected.

    So just to be sure it wasn't the actual source file that was noisy, I did the same thing via my old M-Audio Audiophile 2496, using its "Monitor Mixer", and that one was perfectly clean. I would expect any card with an Envy24 chip to perform the same, as it does this virtual mixing at the digital stage, right on the chip.

    There used to be a nice "virtual audio cable" freeware, but Google only turns up some $30 whoreware offering that's clogging up the index.

  • I just got a new T61p through the upgrade program at work, and spent literally hours a few nights ago trying to figure out how to re-enable this function.

    I use it for one reason only: I call into telecons from our VOIP client, and record them so I can post them online internally as MP3s (along with meeting minutes) for those that miss the discussion. I dial in from my phone, dial in again from the laptop, hit record in Audacity, and have the whole thing recorded and done.

    I'm really quite annoyed because this simple function won't prevent pirates from pirating audio. Clever folks will always figure out a workaround.

    And yep, I'm an IBMer. I work in Power Systems development (Power 575, 595, etc., NOT at Lenovo). There's even one or two random posts on our intranet message boards mentioning that folks couldn't get this to work on the latest systems, but no one's posted a solution.

    This is a common problem on Analog Devices SoundMax Digital HD audio chips. I was able to modify the INF file for the SoundMax driver to give me the GUI option to record the audio, but when I select that device, it records nothing, so obviously something else isn't quite correct.

    At least I'm not the only one with these problems. Hopefully if enough people make a fuss, AD will re-enable this function.
    ~ Mike

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

    by David Horn ( 772985 ) <david@pocket[ ]er.org ['gam' in gap]> on Friday July 11, 2008 @12:51AM (#24148319) Homepage

    Looks like they fixed it in Vista - I just got a shot from a commercial DVD out of Media Player with no issues. And people (including me) criticised it for being crippled with DRM. Oops.

  • Re:Use? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @01:36AM (#24148619)

    this MAY be only for the 'junk' cards like creative.

    yes, you heard me. creative resamples (!) to 48k. always. even if the input is ALREADY at 48k!

    historically, they have been evil like this.

    and so, its not surprising that you get resampled junk when you put silence on the input.

    also, while I'm on the subject, 'dolby digital LIVE' is also junk. it tried to convert regular stereo to '5.1' but it does some analog conversions (I'm pretty sure) where you should have an all digital chain. the fidelity is NOT there, its NOT good and should be avoided. if you have 2 channel audio, just LEAVE it as 2 channel and don't get caught in this marketing LIE about upsampling to 5.1 channel mode. you gain nothing good from that and the DD live chipsets are junk.

    good ones: cmedia (cmi) 8738 series. better one: envy24 chipset. those do NOT resample and are bit-perfect.

  • by Cynic.AU ( 1205120 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @02:36AM (#24148939)

    This is simply a pointer - a giant, *&@off red neon pointer at that - to the fact that users need to be able to moderate /. articles up or down. If the body politic deems an article to have low 'truthiness' then it should say so in giant *&^@off red neon writing. :)

    But perhaps our benevolent dictators would be scared of la revolucion?


  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11, 2008 @04:12AM (#24149395)

    We have one hypothesis that fits the data.

    Do you have a different hypothesis? Or just denial?

  • Re:They caught me! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by oDDmON oUT ( 231200 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @06:09AM (#24150003)

    "( but I typically only buy used CDs because I am more willing to pay the discounted, still marked up price when I know the profit goes to the small business, so suck on that secondary market RIAA )"

    Never fear, that's next [techdirt.com] on the agenda

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

    by molarmass192 ( 608071 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @08:04AM (#24150629) Homepage Journal
    Wow, VNC sounds great! I assume it's a default install and enabled with all Windows versions? I also assume that I can send one app's windows to one machine and another app's windows to second machine? I'm assuming that it doesn't block simultaneous control of the GUI to other users as well, right? Ok, sarcasm aside, VNC is great for tight bandwidth situations, X is a bandwidth buster, but it's functionality is extremely limited as compared to X. It's like trying to compare Notepad to Word, and that's being generous.

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." -- Howard Aiken