Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hassles with Blu-ray and MSY (that cheap place to buy parts)

Without describing the exact circumstances - here is the lowdown

1. Don't buy anything from MSY that isn't factory sealed. Thats all I'll say about it. I'll doubt that I'll ever buy anything from them again.

2. The disk that should come with the Blu-ray drive is absolutely critical to being able to play Blu-ray. If you need to buy that Cyberlink PowerDVD software, its gonna cost you around $160. Crazy. (BTW - the price in the US is US$90 - hows that for free trade?)

3. Cyberlink software is notoriously bloated and soft of buggy. Of the 5 or 6 programs on the disk, I think only 3 installed successfully. Thankfully the only useful one, which played the Blu-ray was ok.

4. Playing Blu-ray is a tricky business due to a nasty piece of encryption technology called HDCP (High Definition Copy Protection) - in a nutshell, all software and hardware between the disk and the television need to be certified HDCP if you want to use 1080p resolution - otherwise the disk wont play.

A little utility called BD_Advisor is supposed to tell you whether your system is compliant. anyway, it says that something to do with my graphics setup isnt compliant and I should switch from HDMI to analogue. It shows ok then, but it sort of defeats the purpose of a media player if I can only watch it on my monitor upstairs.

Of course, it gives you a tease first by playing you the anti-piracy notice, and then bombing out.

Switching to VGA analogue onboard the motherboard works fine - likewise, using the VGA output on the graphics card.

The software then downloads a 100MB patch and I upgraded the drivers on the Gigabyte graphics card, for good measure, I upgraded the sound drivers too.

Now I get video via HDMI, but no sound! Arg. I rolled back the sound drivers and lo - I finally get my video and sound. At first it is really faint, but something, somewhere seems to recognise this and adjusts the volume.

I'm afraid its all getting too clever for me at this point. I watch 5 minutes to celebrate my success, and then power down. The picture quality is excellent.

But the saga is not over.

The next morning, full of optimisim that my system software won't need to be rebuilt from scratch, I register with Microsoft my copy of Windows 7. A bunch of software updates immediately comes down the line from them and, would you believe it.... the 0110 error - non compliant with HDCP re-appears when tested my disk! You may ask why I felt it was necessary to retest at 6.45 am... well, by now I'm completely obsessed and paranoid (and justifiably so)

I'm somewhat miffed by now. But its encouraging that at least my system is technically capable of playing Blu-ray and playing it well - and that this can be narrowed down to a software problem.

I think about it today when in my six hours of meetings at work - and do some research at lunch on what causes this. The general consensus seems to be that make sure your drivers are up to date.

I though that my graphics drivers were up to date, because I checked with DriverMax - but not the manufacturers site. Also, DriverMax only said that there was a single graphics driver.

During my lunchtime research, I learned that a PCI graphics card actually can have two drivers - one for the board (Gigabyte) and one for the chipset (Radeon).

First thing I did when I got home was roll back the Microsoft patches and do a system restore back to when it was working. Didnt fix it for some reason - still getting red status on BD advisor and confirmed when attempting to play the disk.

I then checked the Gigabyte site for driver updates - there were none.

I then checked the Radeon site for updates - I didnt know whether the version listed was earlier or later, or exactly which package I needed, but I picked what seemed to be most likely and installed it.

And for the hell of it, re-patched with all MS updates and put the sound driver back on.

I rebooted and ran BD advisor. Still red.

On the offchance, I put the Blu-ray in and.... it started to play!

Whew - despite BD advisor advising I was non-compliant, I can play BD again. For today anyway.

4. My conclusion - the technology companies don't really want people playing Blu-ray on PCs, because it will accellerate the eventual cracking of their encyption keys for HDCP. This is why there is no Linux support for Blu-ray and the number of programs that can play them is limited to three - Cyberlink PowerDVD, Corel WinDVD and ARcsoft TotalMedia.  I've seen questions on forums from people wanting free Blu-ray codecs similar to an ordinary video codec - well there are none.

All your software and hardware from the disk to even the television must handshake with each other for it to work properly. With a dedicated player, there are only two points of failure (the player and the television) - and you can't change any of them, with a HTPC, there are at least four (the graphics hardware, the graphics software, other software on your PC, and the television) - and you can change any of them except the TV.

Any of your changes might stop it working - They must be exactly right. The HDCP allows for no margin of error and something that worked yesterday might not work today - due to what seems to be an unrelated update.

5. Its almost not worth the hassle. For A$200 you can get a dedicated Blu-ray player without a tuner, HDD and use that instead. Building a media player without Blu-ray has proven to be relatively easy, including Blu-ray just made it 10x more tricky and fussy. Blu-ray on a PC is really the domain of tinkerers in computers  - for everyone else, I believe that one day it will just stop working and they'll have no chance of getting it going again.I don't think that it will ever be as simple as the dedicated players - not until that encyption is cracked anyway.

Now - I'm just going to test it again... bye.

No comments:

Post a Comment