an example of DRM

A few days ago, I mentioned that most (current) HP and IBM laptops come with DRM in the BIOS.

If you were wondering how DRM will affect you and why it’s bad, here’s a prime example of DRM and how it is bad for everyone, today.

HP has some nice deals on laptops. If you don’t want to support Intel and their proprietary, DRM-ridden EFI scheme, an AMD64 laptop is the way to go. HP sells a nice one, the nx6150, which can be had for under $1000 if you look around a bit.

It’s a good deal: high-resolution screen, AMD64 Turion CPU, not too heavy, big hard drive, etc. Baughj got one and is very happy with it. All but for one important detail.

The BIOS has DRM.

The machine has a mini-pci slot. It can come with a mini-pci wifi card, or you can get one separately. Kind of. HP charges $70 for an HP-branded Intel 2200BG card. This card is identical to the original Intel 2200BG card but for the pci id. The firmware is identical. The non-HP branded Intel card is about $40. But; you can also buy a Ralink card made by MSI at newegg, for $20. Ralink supplies GPL’d GNU/Linux drivers. They work. The hardware is cheap.

Now get this: the HP bios checks the pci id of the mini-pci card, and *REFUSES TO BOOT* if you don’t have an HP-branded card in there. It says ‘illegal mini-pci card detected’ or something along those lines.

HP is not the only company to do this. IBM does it too. Dell, notably, does NOT. Nonsense about FCC requirements is just that – the third-party cards that are sold (e.g. the MSI one) are FCC approved. And if Dell can get away with not DRM’ing their machines, why on earth can HP and IBM not do this?

It’s greed. Lock-in. They want you to pay a $50 premium to get a card that works properly (i.e. no ndiswrapper/windows driver acrobatics) under GNU/Linux.

I don’t think this is acceptable. What’s next – only HP branded RAM to be used in HP laptops? At a small premium of, say, 250% of the going rate?

Maybe someone will sue HP/IBM over this. They deserve it.

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