About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

31 October 2006

Reflections: ACM DRM 2006

Yesterday was basically the reason I am here - to attend and present my paper at the DRM Workshop at the ACM Computer and Communications Security (CCS) Conference. So, this is a brief reflection of the proceedings of the workshop.

The first paper, by some researchers from SUN, looked at some of the business models that movie industry could adapt from the MMORPG world. While the ideas are certainly applicable; I am not really sure of the practicality of the ideas. The second paper looked at privacy, from the point of legal and economic practicalities. Basically, the paper argues that there exists certain legal and economic obligations if a business wishes to collect private information. These obligations create a risk; and thus creates ceiling on how much privacy can be afforded to customers. It was a very interesting paper; but I think it glossed over one crucial point - very rarely do businesses actually take into full consideration the economic and legal obligations when they do collect private data.

My paper, which was next, was very well received, and attracted quite a lot of interest. I was not really expecting a great reception; because the paper is quite simple in nature - but it is an area that has not really been addressed before. So, I was pleasantly surprised at the paper's reception.

The next paper on a view only file system has been discussed before as a mechanism for short term DRM solution. The one presented this year went a step further and designed a VM based system. It could work; but I am not convinced on the security layer between the VM and OS/lower level VM; or the performance overheads. The paper following it discussed an interesting key distribution strategy; but I must admit I did not follow it as well as I should have.

Tom Kalker, from HP Labs and Coral, presented the invited talk focussing on interoperability. Most people who have voiced opinions against DRM, seem to imply hatred on the lack of DRM interoperability, and not some of the other issues. He discussed how interoperability in DRM is not only a format issue; but also a business and complete technological issue. He talked about Coral, which uses a credential system, allowing for interoperability. However, it is by no ways a perfect solution, as every device would still require their own file format etc.

The next paper discussed more interesting code obsfucation and diversification as a mechanism to combat piracy. It was quite impressive, until the performance hit .... 840 times slower!

Pramod Jamkhedkar and Gregory Heileman presented their paper next, and their DRM project is very similar to mine; and we have been presenting or discussing similar ideas for the past three years. This year, they discussed, what they considered fundamental flaws in Rights Expression languages. In a few ways, their arguement was flawed, because it discussed mainly the flaws of XrML and did not consider the fact that some of the issues are being addressed or have been addressed in other RELs like ODRL. However, the issues raised are correct and needed to be recognised.

The next talk on interoperability, was a bit of a miss; simply because a lot of the content seemed to be contrary to the issues raised earlier; and the underlying details were hazy at best. The talk following it was very interesting; discussing some of the background to Intel's LeGrande architecture. Bascially, the OS is going to be dead - instead, the CPU itself will have a trusted OS base; complete with drivers and firmware. Applications will run on top of this base; in a completely protected environment, similar in operation to Multics. I am not sure of the maturity of the solution, but both Intel and AMD, together with other interested parties, have been pouring money into similar projects; so something is bound to come up.

The next paper, from Phillips Labs, discussed ideas on how to lower consumer anger and better ways to handle consumers who make use of pirated DVDs; or more appropriately Blu-Ray discs. Much of the work presented revolved around the use and operation of blacklists in Blu-Tay discs. It was really interesting; especially on the changing position.

The last paper of the workshop on watermarking presented nothing new; and in fact I have seen many better applications of watermarking.

30 October 2006

Movie: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

I went to watch the movie here in DC with a friend from cyberspace ... one of the guys from the Atlas F1 Paddock Club. The movie house itself was interesting - basically an auditorium like most movie houses; but one that is also a full service restaurant and features arm chairs instead of normal movie seats. So we had two F1 fans watching a movie about Nascar while eating Pizzas.

The movie itself was surprisingly not too bad; and the rip offs of team orders and F1 were brilliantly done. As entertainment value, Nascar is not bad at all; and neither is the movie. If you are a racing fan; it's great; if only to identify all the different parallels.

Dam Festival 2006

I saw an ad talking about a Indie Rock festival in Washington DC; and I just couldn't give it a miss. Basically, a number of bands; spread out over a number of clubs playing in the evenings. Unfortunately, I managed to go to only one of the clubs - and it was an interesting experience.

First up; the club itself was quite small. Apparently, rock is a big genre in the DC area - the size of the club, Velvet Lounge, would lead you to think otherwise. Another disappointing aspect was the fact that most of the people who were there; seemed to be band supporters - they were there because they knew someone in one or more of the bands. The numbers were really small; and there was no real vibe - no mosh pits. Being Halloween weekend, there were a few costumed attendees - the best being a guy dressed up in a robot suit; completely with a functional iPod and speakers! At $8 cover charge; it was quite cheap; and good return for money.

The first band, Drunken Sufis (ft. The Psycho Terrorists), was in my opinion the best of the lot. They had an impressive stage show; and much of their music was about the War in Iraq, Bush etc ... almost Green Dayish. They had good songs and put on a great show - couldn't ask for much more.

The second band, from New Zealand, Over the Atlantic, was interesting - comprising of two members (bass guitarist and a lead guitarist/vocalist) and a computer doubling up as a synthesiser effort. It was interesting music - no doubt about that; but it just didn't click for me ... might work on radio; maybe - but not really a live band style.

The third and fourth bands, The Opposite Sex and The Object Lesson resp, were more mainstream rock bands; singing largely incomprehensible lyrics. However, they had really good music - brilliant guitar and drum play. The Opposite Sex features one member doubling up on a saxophone and a synthesiser; which reminded me a bit about the Nude Girls; but their songs were just not that great. The Object Lesson featured a hot keyboard player (wearing a catholic school girl outfit :p) instead of a Sax player and was the only band featuring a female member. I did not stay for the full set of the last band, The Chance, but they didn't seem too different from the two previous bands.

Overall, the music itself wasn't too bad - but it didn't have the vibe - maybe it was just a bad day.