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Update — No DRM In New iPod Shuffle 264

Posted by kdawson
from the nothing-to-see-here dept.
An anonymous reader writes "BoingBoing Gadgets has updated their story from yesterday on DRM contained in the new iPod Shuffle. (We also discussed this rumor last week.) It's a false alarm. There is a chip in the headphone controls but it is just an encoder chip. There is no DRM and no reason to believe that third party headphones wouldn't work with the new Shuffle. (Apple would still prefer you to license the encoder under the Made for iPod program, but with no DRM, there is no DMCA risk to a manufacturer reverse engineering it.) The money quote: 'For the record, we do not believe that the new iPod headphones with in-line remote use DRM that affects audio playback in any way.'"
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Update — No DRM In New iPod Shuffle

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @02:33AM (#27222045)

    * Mobile phones & Ipods (make sure user can't run Apps which haven't paid the Apple tax)
    * In their O/S (Check it's installed on correct hardware)
    * ITMS (video)
    * Video out of Iphone (make sure you can't use third party docks to watch ipod/iphone vids on your TV.

    So frankly, DRM on Apple products was not surprising - it was a natural assumption to make.

  • by CountBrass (590228) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @02:35AM (#27222049)
    Is the real story.

    What disappoints me is that Boing Boing get on the front page of /. for lying, and then a second time for admitting they lied.

    The real story is Boing Boing is an unreliable site: who'd have thought that on the interwebs there would be dishonest sites *shock* *horror*!
  • retractions? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by socsoc (1116769) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @03:07AM (#27222151)
    So are all those sites that posted rumors going to retract? iLounge, Consumerist, Engadget, Gizmodo, etc. The only honest source during this whole controversy was boingboing, who said that they are not electrical engineers and can't be sure of what it does.
  • Why all the fuss? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by abhi_beckert (785219) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @03:07AM (#27222153)

    If a company wants to make an MP3 player with buttons on the headphone cable, instead of on the device, why is that evil?

    Why is everyone going mental? So you can't use the headphones you already have, so what? Just buy a different MP3 player!

    Lots of people don't care much what headphones they have, they just wanna listen to music while exercising, and they want a small light device to do that. By the end of the month there will even be a handful of other headphones to choose from.

    There's no standard way to control a device from a standard headphone jack, and you'll be buried in lawsuits if you do it the same as someone else is doing it, so a new approach had to be made. Why is this such a big deal? We're stifling innovation by making a scene over stuff like this.

  • by CountBrass (590228) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @03:14AM (#27222177)
    The problem is I don't believe it was an honest mistake, so I'd rather they didn't lie in the first place.

    All this has taught BoingBoing is that they can lie, get the publicity, then admit they lied and get more publicity. As to evidence: I'd point to the fact that they had no evidence whatsoever to back-up their claim and yet they made it any way. The onus isn't on me.
  • by broken_chaos (1188549) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @03:15AM (#27222179)

    This is no place for sensible discussion! (I kid. Mostly.)

    The point was brought up several times by several people, myself included, in the last discussion. (Interestingly enough, many of those posts got modded up and down about a dozen times each.) It's a lock in, and only partially - you need an adapter or specially manufactured headphones, but there's nothing to stop reverse engineering, or from using unlicensed headphones/adapters.

    On a side note, I wonder if the EFF is going to retract their statement, or issue some sort of apology...

  • by Firehed (942385) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @03:17AM (#27222187) Homepage

    It would be rights management on a digital device. But more to the point, DRM has become a catch-all term for any form of vendor lock-in, specifically lock-in which when avoided is punishable by the DMCA.

  • by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @03:21AM (#27222199)

    Those of us who know what they are doing would take the specs every time over "made for X".

    Right, because we buy something based on the specs, try it, and find out that despite claiming various specs, they've done an incompatible implementation and it doesn't actually work rebliably, if it works at all. And then we troubleshoot it until we are sure it doesn't actually work, and then we return it in frustration and get something else, until we find something that works.

    That is how those of who know what they are doing operate.

    Oh, sure, if we're late to the party we can look at what other people tried and follow their successes. But how is that really any different than following a 'made for X' sticker? In either case we wait for someone else to vet compatibility.

    And if we don't have that, its just trial and error. No amount of knowing what you are doing is going to magically give you foresight on which hardware is really compatible vs which just should be compatible based on the specs.

  • Re:Simplicity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spankyofoz (445751) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @03:31AM (#27222237)

    What I mean is the standard 3.5mm jack is simple, and works brilliantly for it's intended role. So why mess with it?

    "Made for 3rd generation iPod shuffle" is fairly simple, but 99% of people would have no idea what generation their iclod is (/. crowd aside).

    "Plug these in, hear music" is even more simple, and how it should be.

  • by lothos (10657) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @03:31AM (#27222241) Homepage

    When has itunes or the ipod ever stopped you from listening to a cd that you've ripped?

  • by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @03:47AM (#27222311)
    What disappoints me is that Apple gets (buys?) a ridiculous amount of publicity in so called "news" stories for inferior and overpriced products while much better and cheaper alternatives hardly ever get a mention - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00126V8WU [amazon.com]
  • by MoellerPlesset2 (1419023) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @04:03AM (#27222385)
    I wouldn't call it lying. But I would call it very, very, very bad 'reporting' (and did so at the time). Basically the 'story' amounted to "We heard there was DRM in the iPod, so we opened the headphones and found this unknown chip!" As if proprietary chips with strange numbers was an unusual thing. And as if the chip they found could really concievably be used for DRM (it's a simple chip that doesn't look anything like a DSP or microcontroller. IMHO, hardly likely to be a DRM decoder of any sort). More importantly, why didn't they just draw up the schematic and try to deduce what the thing did? And look at the signals with a logic analyzer or similar? The answer seems to be 'because they simply didn't know what they were doing'. Really, I think any halfway competent Electrical Engineer with the right tools should probably be able to fully reverse-engineer those headphones in very little time. I know I probably could, and I'm just an electronics hobbyist. Lesson here is: "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."
  • by tpgp (48001) * on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @04:13AM (#27222419) Homepage

    The onus isn't on me.

    Yes it is. You're the one who made a claim (BoingBoing is lying).

    How do you propose we prove the negative?

  • Re:retractions? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MoellerPlesset2 (1419023) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @04:14AM (#27222433)

    The only honest source during this whole controversy was boingboing, who said that they are not electrical engineers and can't be sure of what it does.

    I don't see what's honest about that. Why didn't they ask an electrical engineer then, rather than engage in wild speculation?
    Because anyone who did know anything about electronics could immediately tell you that you should expect to find a chip in there; something the people at BoingBoing gadgets made a big deal out of. With three button states to send over a single wire, you'd expect at least a shift register.

    From the looks of it, this is not a complicated chip, much less a DRM chip. I'd wager it isn't anything much more than a shift register, perhaps with some timer for button-bounces and stuff built in. Nothing I think it would take an electrical engineer long to find out.

  • by syousef (465911) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @04:35AM (#27222519) Journal

    If a company wants to make an MP3 player with buttons on the headphone cable, instead of on the device, why is that evil?

    - It isn't standards compliant. When standards disintegrate the consumer pays.

    - It promotes vendor lock in. It isn't inter-operable with other equipment. Consider digital SLRs. Once you buy into a brand and you've invested in enough equipment you're stuck with that brand unless you sell it all and start again.

    - People who are replacing an older model may not realize there is new lock in until they've actually bought the product.

    Why is everyone going mental? So you can't use the headphones you already have, so what? Just buy a different MP3 player!

    When a market leader pulls this crap, others do too and pretty soon all the MP3 players you can buy have this "feature".

    Lots of people don't care much what headphones they have, they just wanna listen to music while exercising, and they want a small light device to do that.

    That's nice. They get what they want. What about those that do care about the headphones? What about those who can't use ear buds due to hearing or ear problems?

    By the end of the month there will even be a handful of other headphones to choose from.

    - Not if there's a patent on the tech and Apple wants to lock them out

    - If they aren't locked out there's a licensing fee which drives the price up of all the headphones

    There's no standard way to control a device from a standard headphone jack

    Sounds like a good argument to develop a standard rather than applaud this bad behaviour.

    you'll be buried in lawsuits if you do it the same as someone else is doing it, so a new approach had to be made

    Don't you see there's something very very wrong with that? At this point it's not innovative so why are people afraid of being buried in lawsuites? Sounds like an argument for IP law reform.

    Why is this such a big deal? We're stifling innovation by making a scene over stuff like this.

    This is innovation? Seriously? Controlling a player externally via a proprietary cable? Really??? If this is considered innovation, there's a real problem.

  • by Archimonde (668883) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @04:49AM (#27222557) Homepage

    This is a complete inverse logic here.

    "Made for X" is inverse of "make it simple" (aka works with 99.8% players in the market). For all intents and purposes, that 3.5mm jack on the shuffle isn't standard at all. They could have made the connector in a say, magsafe style and call it a revolution. In either way you need an (unreleased) adapter (to connect normal headphones) or "made for X" headphones to use the shuffle properly. This is analog to putting apple "enhanced" usb ports on apple computers. "Well it works great if you have apple hardware connected to the usb ports, but if you want to use your usb printer/memory stick/whaterver, you should buy just this small adapter (link to apple store)." It is a lock-in coupled with royalities (which are transferred to you and me) plain and simple.

    How fun would be to go into a store wanting to buy some pair of earphones, but you have to buy only sony XLX branded ones because you only have compatible sony player. Or you want to buy that excellent sounding Shure headphones, but alas, those work only with yamaha pianos. Or you want to buy computer keyboard for your dell, but the store only has "made for hp" ones.

    I don't want to live in that world, world of lock-in (I'm not saying that there is no lock-in today too, quite the reverse), high prices and most of all completely unnecessary and artificial limitations. But lock-in is ultimately for consumers good isn't it?

  • Re:Simplicity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by beelsebob (529313) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @05:05AM (#27222613)

    What I mean is the standard 3.5mm jack is simple, and works brilliantly for it's intended role. So why mess with it?
    I guess that would be because 3.5mm jacks don't carry remote control signals. Really this whole argument is a joke â" we're complaining at apple because they put a remote interface on their headphones, something that other companies have been doing since god knows when. Not only that, but apple have a good history of allowing 3rd parties to see those specs and get verified as producing a decent quality remote that actually does the right thing.

    When was the last time you saw a third party remote for a random mp3 player? If you did by some chance, when was the last time you saw one that didn't go through the exact same process as apple are using here?

  • by beelsebob (529313) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @05:14AM (#27222641)

    That said, I wish that Apple would have designed the player so that when any pair of headphones were inserted it would just start to play.
    Of note, the only control left on the device is the power/shuffle switch. You can plug in any headphones you like, turn it on, and it plays. This is a giant load of rubbish over absolutely nothing.

    A new way of doing remote control of players, which will more than likely (looking at apple's track record) be open to industrial partners to duplicate.

  • by anti-pop-frustration (814358) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @05:37AM (#27222735) Journal

    *They also encrypt firmware on all new ipods, specifically to prevent people from installing alternate firmware such as Rockbox [rockbox.org].

    Seriously, encrypting firmware? How evil is that? How can apple apologists even try to justify that?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @06:56AM (#27223021)
    it's not a "remote control" when it's the sole method of control
  • by Choad Namath (907723) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @07:10AM (#27223087)
    ...and have no control over volume or what track you're listening to. That's a pretty stunning lack of functionality.
  • Re:Simplicity (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @07:48AM (#27223257)

    My Creative Muvo MP3 player came with a pair standard ear-buds. They were too big for my ears, though, so I replaced them with another pair of standard ear-buds, with no loss in functionality of anything.

    This is the same player that uses a standard AAA battery.

    But then, I went shopping for something that worked, rather than something popular.

  • by intheshelter (906917) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @08:02AM (#27223389)
    I don't think that is complicated at all. I think it's more likely you want to complain about Apple and so you make a big deal about nothing to try and get people to think it is complicated.
  • by Uberbah (647458) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @08:02AM (#27223393)

    Oh grow up fanboy. They linked to someone elses story, with caveats.

    Oh pull your head out. The Boing Boing headline [boingboing.net]

    Manufacturer confirms chip: iPod headphones now have the Apple Tax

    Remember that old saw about how "a lie travels around the world before the truth has a chance to put it's shoes on"? The original liar obviously deserves most of the blame, but that doesn't absolve everyone who spread the lie of responsibility.

  • by Uberbah (647458) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @08:06AM (#27223423)

    It's sort of like Bush Administration officials on Iraqi WMD's: if they weren't lying through their teeth, they were less competent than a jellyfish. Pick your poison.

    You still insist on accusing them with no proof and nothing to back you, yet you don't seem to realise the irony.

    Yawn. And you don't realize that you're asking him to prove a negative.

  • Re:Simplicity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrchaotica (681592) * on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @09:21AM (#27224075)

    Really this whole argument is a joke â" we're complaining at apple because they put a remote interface on their headphones, something that other companies have been doing since god knows when.

    I think it's perfectly valid to complain about that, since the design of the new shuffle is so stupid -- WTF is the point of having separate controls, when the separate controls are almost as big as the damn player itself?! The second-gen Shuffle was a much better design.

  • by OnlineAlias (828288) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @09:28AM (#27224165)

    What if I want to do exactly as you say and listen to my OggWankis files in my new BMW, using my Wanker Player 5.1. It is a free country after all. Welp, nope, my BMW is only compatible with an ipod jack and the very encrypted firmware we are discussing here. This jack is patented and licensed by Apple only, and Apple holds on to that one like a rabid dog. So I MUST use an ipod, and only an ipod. Apple uses the patent on the ipod jack to ensure it maintains a defacto monopoly on players, when those players are being used in new ways and in different markets. This is the very definition of 'evil company', in my opinion.

    Keep drinking the freedom kool-aid there, Russ.

  • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @10:00AM (#27224505)

    >"We heard there was DRM in the iPod, so we opened the headphones and found this unknown chip!"

    Heard? From whom? What proof?

    Thats internet journalism for you. The blogger revolution is simply nothing more than rumors and outrage.

  • Re:Simplicity (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Markus_UW (892365) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @10:26AM (#27224867)
    You forget the target market for the Shuffle, people who want a ludicrously tiny player -- for whom the nano is excessively large... They like to work out while their player is clipped some random place, and they don't want to go looking for the buttons if they want to change tracks or whatever. The corded controls make a lot of sense for this segment -- buttons on the unit as well would probably have been way to tiny to use, most likely. Really what they should have done was just put inline remote support in a chassis like they had, but they were obviously feeling some pressure from somewhere to make it tinier.
  • by Eevee (535658) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @11:04AM (#27225439)
    The real story is that Boing Boing posted a story that doesn't involve the author's latest book...

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