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MacEdition ProNews, March 16, 2001

by MacEdition Staff (feedback)

The Digital Millennium Circus Act

Ever since its inception, and particularly since its amendments last year, the US’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act has been mired in controversy. Further evidence that this legislative two-headed snake may yet bite the hand that feeds it has surfaced in the last month.

It begins with a university professor being too scared to publish his own academic research after participating in the infamous “hack SDMI” challenge. Princeton University’s Edward Felton, who claims to have cracked the digital watermarks that the SDMI has lauded as the solution to music copyright infringement, won’t tell anyone how. The reason? Legal advice telling him he may face a $500,000 fine if he does. Oh thank you, DMCA, for a new era of silliness.

While the DMCA has silenced one academic, it’s only made others determined to become more outspoken. One example is protests over the court ruling against software that cracks the CSS encoding of DVDs, which decided that source code is not free speech protected under the First Amendment. David Touretzky, based in the computer science department at Carnegie Mellon University, decided to contest this notion by compiling a gallery of “creatively expressed” DeCSS source code. Where does source code end and art begin? For starters, the latest decryption algorithm is only 7 lines of Perl code, small enough to pass along on a business card (or e-mail .sig file). There are also screen snapshots, a 442-byte C implementation (the tiniest yet, and running on a G4 Cube, no less), even sung versions. You name it, it’s there – DeCSS haiku, anyone?

By now you must be asking, “And the relation to the Mac is...?” Well, if you have no inclination for running “test media” (remember kiddies: copyrighted material is a no-no) for the above-mentioned C program on NetBSD, there’s always Aimster. Now you, too, can extend a digital finger to the RIAA and friends with your own copy of “Pig Encoder” for MacOS. Some pertinent info from their site:

But won’t spies and eavesdroppers just figure out how the Aimster Pig Encoder works and monitor my file names anyway!?

Possibly yes, but it won’t be nearly as easy. And if they do, they may be violating the same federal law called the DMCA and themselves be subject to up to a $500,000 fine and 5 years in prison! Now that really is funny (and not quite so sad).

We’d like to tell you how their “Pig Encoder” works, but can’t lest we be sued under the DMCA ourselves. Take our word for it, you’ll just need to see it for yourself.

A bag of chips

Ever had that feeling that you’ve been backing the wrong horse in the wrong race? Or worse still, you keep getting stuck with it as it’s the last one in the office sweep? That must be how Apple is feeling about Motorola at the moment. It seems everyone but Motorola is announcing (if not developing) “Wow! Knock your socks off!” technology.

First off, we have Sony moving to an impressive 0.13-micron process for its next Emotion Engine, the heart of the PlayStation 2. Microsoft’s Xbox is expected to debut with a 733MHz chip, leaving Sony with a smidgeon of clock rate envy. While that sounds eerily similiar to another company we know, Sony hopes the improved manufacturing process will have this licked.

Closer to home, IBM isn’t shy about touting its long-term roadmap, a tenth of a micron process, running at 10 GHz. This is not exactly new, as IBM has been toying with Extreme Ultra Violet (EUV) technology for a while – what is new is the consortium they’re with. The EUV consortium includes other industry heavyweights such as Intel, AMD, Micron and Infineon (oh, and Motorola’s tagging along for the ride too).

Next up is something that should make the AIM alliance SIT up and take notice. The five-year project of the Sony, IBM and Toshiba alliance aims to produce a “super computer on a chip.” (Now where have we heard that before?) Like Apple, they even use the f-word (flops), but they’re talking teraflops (a thousand billion floating-point operations per second). Gigaflops are for girls, apparently.

“And the relevance of all this to the Mac is...?” you enquire again. Well, deep within this article is a tidbit that should interest most. According to the folks at The Register, IBM “may also have licensed AltiVec for the PowerPC-based processor it designed for Nintendo’s GameCube console, which is due to ship later this year.” Yes, pick your jaws up off the floor – if this is true, there may yet be hope that Motorola may relax its vice-like grip on its prized AltiVec technology.

Because, let’s face it, while IBM’s fab space seems to be coming on in leaps and bounds, Motorola’s recent efforts can only be described as, erm, “well-meaning but misguided.”

[Editor’s Note: A big hearty thank you to the folks at The Register for being such a treasure trove of useful tidbits.]

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