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Distance Multimedia: 4 score & more

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Desktop virtual machines (DRM bites me, too) permanent reference link
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(1972) "I can hear the fireworks...        
And it's almost Independence Day." - Van Morrison

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pixel July 4, 2007 -- I can hear the fireworks. It is Independence Day. My LP copy of Saint Dominic's Preview is worn out. (Apparently the album is not available on CD in the U.S.) Anyway, my copy is worn out from many playings, but I won't claim to understand the lyrics. I know that some people shoot fireworks before the 4th, but most people hear the fireworks on the 4th.
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pixel A friend asked me about desktop virtual machines, particularly performance of applications running in virtual machines, particularly playing games and watching videos. My interest in virtual machines has mostly been in server applications. Performance in server applications has exceeded my expectations. For example, as reported before, streaming tape performance seems very good. I was concerned that there might be what some call shoe-shining, but see no signs of that.
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pixel My initial reaction was that, at least with the VMware environments I've tried and with very limited experience with Parallels, desktop application performance should be OK. I'd already tried playing a video clip with RealPlayer and that seemed OK. I never play video games on computers, so I'd need help with that. But I could try playing a DVD. I did not expect the efforts to be nearly so trying, but most of the problems were not related to virtual machines.
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pixel The most reasonable experiment seemed to use X Windows for the native environment on the host Fedora and then have the VMware Server Console running as a window in the X environment. The first problem is that Fedora 7 seems to assume more modern monitors than the 15" Trinitron I had in the closet where the host machine sits. When I started up X, that CRT complained "OUT OF SCAN RANGE". Adding a "Modes" line to xorg.conf, even one with unsupportable resolutions, enabled X to "play nice" with the monitor.
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pixel The big struggle was in finding freely available software that would run on Windows 2000 and play DVDs. Eventually I figured out that Nero ShowTime, that came with the external DVD drive, would try to play DVDs.
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pixel However, back to virtual machines, the device drivers provided by Fedora, VMware and/or Windows 2000 do not seem sufficient to work with the Content Scramble System (CSS) Digital Rights Management (DRM) scheme used with most commercial DVDs. Whenever I would try to play "Jurassic Park" with ShowTime, it would either simply hang or complain of some CSS problem and then hang.
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pixel I have a few non-commercial DVDs. One DVD that my grand-daughter's other grandfather made of her birthday party plays just fine with ShowTime running in the virtual machine. So virtual machine performance passes my test, but this application (playing DVDs) doesn't seem very usable.
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pixel DRM is a controversial topic I normally avoid in my purchasing and thinking. Except for DVDs, I can't think of anything I purchase that is encumbered by DRM. For music, I mostly buy CDs and occasionally purchase an MP3. The few book or document files I've purchased have been unencumbered. Except for DVDs, DRM seems to be a collossally unsuccessful commercial strategy in that it hinders sales. It is easy to argue that "ebooks" have not succeeded because of the clumsy DRM, and that online book sources that succeed, e.g., Safari, do not encumber with DRM. DRM for music seems to mostly frustrate purchase of legitimate copies. Apple seemingly recognized its mistake of using DRM with iTunes and is slowly changing, along with the music companies, e.g., EMI.
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pixel Many people are "up in arms" about DRM. They've been bitten worse than the little bite I got today. They perceive (correctly) that the content providers are trying to take away our rights as consumers of the content. Though DRM is onerous, on this day it is hard to take that much umbrage with DRM. 231 years ago a great document and a greater cause established a new course of history. Today, we can celebrate that the thirteen colonies declared our unalienable Right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
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coda
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pixel The publisher of Mainstream Videoconferencing: A Developer's Guide to Distance Multimedia has assigned copyright back to the authors, Joe Duran and myself. We plan to make the full book available here once we work through the details.
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