DRM and Monopolies

I miss Rob Pegaroraro’s contributions to the Washington Post’s technology coverage. Instead of the Apple Rumor du jour that passes for Tech Journalism in most places, he digs into policy angles.

He makes some interesting points in his story “Overlooked E-Book Chapter: DRM Makes Monopolies.” Notably, the fact that once someone buys an e-reader (e.g. a Nook or Kindle), they’re not likely to buy e-books from competing vendors. Why not? Because the Digital Rights Management (or rather, Digital Rights Restrictions) prevent you from reading a book from vendor A on vendor B’s hardware.

He does overlook two loopholes though. First off, you can buy two e-readers. If you have lots of money. (In which case, please share some with me!) Or you can buy a tablet computer (iPad or Android) and download the free Kindle and Nook e-reader apps. You still can’t read the books from one store in the competing stores’ app, but at least you only have to buy one piece of hardware.

But it’s still not convenient. And, as Pegaroraro points out, your rights to the book are sharply limited. With a physical book, once you’ve read it, you can put it on a shelf, sell it or give it away. With an e-book, it’s yours forever.

Is Your Computer at Risk?

If you have 10 minutes to spare, read about The Virus That Really Will Kill Your PC.

If you only have 5 minutes, the super-condensed version is that there’s a virus which may have altered your computer’s settings and if you’re infected, your web browser and email will stop working on July 9. To find out if you’re infected, visit http://www.dns-ok.us/. If the page shows up with a green background, then you’re in the clear (or at least, you don’t have this particular problem). A red background however means your internet connection will stop working in July.

The linked article is worth a read. In short, the FBI busted some bad guys who were hijacking people’s internet traffic by way of a virus that changes DNS settings. (DNS is the system that turns human-friendly address – such as www.thatblairguy.com – into computer friendly IP addresses.) For the time being, the FBI is running the DNS server the bad guys had been using, but that won’t go on forever.

The interesting question to me then is how does that web page work? Viewing the page source, there’s nothing but static HTML.

It turns out The Good Guys are taking advantage of the compromised DNS to set up an “eye chart”. If your computer is using a safe DNS system, then www.dns-ok.us resolves to an IP address where the “green light” page is displayed. But if your computer is using an unsafe DNS system (the one the bad guys put in place), then www.dns-ok.us resolves to the IP address of the “red light” page.