ATI and Crippleware

by on June 5, 2007 · 8 comments

Danny O’Brien points out that ATI is releasing software “upgrades” that reduce the functionality of its hardware:

The latest update to ATI’s Catalyst drivers now offers”improved TV quality and Broadcast Flag support which enables full US terrestrial DTV support”.

It’s a little unclear from that README whether the new support is for a new, hardware revision of ATI’s Theater 650 digital TV tuner, or simply a new software implementation of the digital TV copy control for current owners of the Theater 650. However you look at it, though, “broadcast flag support” is hardly an upgrade.

Prior to such support, you could be confident that you could use these cards for their given purpose: to record whatever you want off the air, whenever you want, in whatever format you want. Now, ATI, recently purchased by AMD, is announcing support for equipment’s right to take that power away from you, and substitute a crippled subset of their tuner’s capabilities whenever a broadcaster commands it.

But this isn’t just an unfeature: it’s an unnecessary unfeature. You can have full terrestial HD support without the Broadcast Flag – mainly because thousands of concerned citizens fought hard for that right. AMD must surely have noticed that the Broadcast Flag proposal has been dead for over two years, ever since the courts threw it out as FCC overreach. Thanks in part to your letters and calls, no politician has managed to sneak it into law since.

It doesn’t seem like reducing the functionality of your products is a very good business strategy.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

    Well, in graphics chips now it seems there is Intel, ATI and Nvidia, and the fact that ATI will hurt their sales won’t be lost on the others, I hope.

    But, I am certain some hacker, some where, is working on a fix. And it will be a popular download.

    Which all begs the question: Why one earth did ATI do such a stupid thing??

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Well, in graphics chips now it seems there is Intel, ATI and Nvidia, and the fact that ATI will hurt their sales won’t be lost on the others, I hope.

    But, I am certain some hacker, some where, is working on a fix. And it will be a popular download.

    Which all begs the question: Why one earth did ATI do such a stupid thing??

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14019452 Steve R.

    Well that’s distressing. I have an ATI Card. Grumble grumble.

    Ed Foster has an excellent post “Intuit Disables Feature With Dot Release”, and Electronic Frontier Foundation on May 31, 2007 had the following article “Convert to MP3 BEFORE Upgrading to iTunes 7.2!”.

    I guess we can look forward to further Orwellian “upgrades” that disable functions that we we paid to get. From the “property” perspective this is akin to the manufacturer changing the purchase terms after-the-fact. I don’t suppose that these companies will offer to return, as cash, the lost value when features are disabled?????

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14019452 Steve R.

    Well that’s distressing. I have an ATI Card. Grumble grumble.

    Ed Foster has an excellent post “Intuit Disables Feature With Dot Release”, and Electronic Frontier Foundation on May 31, 2007 had the following article “Convert to MP3 BEFORE Upgrading to iTunes 7.2!”.

    I guess we can look forward to further Orwellian “upgrades” that disable functions that we we paid to get. From the “property” perspective this is akin to the manufacturer changing the purchase terms after-the-fact. I don’t suppose that these companies will offer to return, as cash, the lost value when features are disabled?????

  • http://www.ssokolow.com/ Stephan Sokolow

    A good example of why I’ll be very glad when my nVidia video card is supported by open-source drivers. (I run Linux and my BIOS and video drivers are the last closed-source necessities on my system. Of course, there’s also the part about how it’s not wise to run closed-source code in ring 0)

    I say “necessities” because I do have a copy of Opera installed for testing web page compatibility. The fact that my website is conspiciously un-tested in MS-IE is an example of what happens when someone tries to restrict me with mis-features or platform restrictions.

  • http://www.ssokolow.com/ Stephan Sokolow

    A good example of why I’ll be very glad when my nVidia video card is supported by open-source drivers. (I run Linux and my BIOS and video drivers are the last closed-source necessities on my system. Of course, there’s also the part about how it’s not wise to run closed-source code in ring 0)

    I say “necessities” because I do have a copy of Opera installed for testing web page compatibility. The fact that my website is conspiciously un-tested in MS-IE is an example of what happens when someone tries to restrict me with mis-features or platform restrictions.

  • eric

    I have a MyHD HDTV card. It won’t be bothered by any flag implementation. I wouldn’t even consider an ATI card now. I will write and tell them so.

    What about the standalone DVD recorders with digital tuners onboard? Does anyone know whether they have the wonderful broadcast flag limiting feature that consumers are clamoring for?

  • eric

    I have a MyHD HDTV card. It won’t be bothered by any flag implementation. I wouldn’t even consider an ATI card now. I will write and tell them so.

    What about the standalone DVD recorders with digital tuners onboard? Does anyone know whether they have the wonderful broadcast flag limiting feature that consumers are clamoring for?

Previous post:

Next post: