Monday, August 2, 2010

DVD region encoding: doing additional work in order to achieve less

You know, the technological crippling that means a DVD bought in the USA won’t work in Europe and vice versa.

Back in the days of video tapes, there was good (if not great) reason why videos from one region wouldn’t work in the other: they were encoded with different numbers of lines per frame, to match the TVs available in the region (NTSC in America, PAL in Europe).  This was not a good situation, but one could see how it came about.

But DVDs intrinsically work anywhere — at least, playing NTSC DVDs on PAL players isn’t a problem.  So: here’s how DVD region encoding works.  Each DVD contains a data field saying “Region 1″, or 2, or whatever.  And each DVD player also has such a field telling where it was bought.  When you put a DVD in the player, the player runs code that checks whether the DVD’s region matches its own, and if not, refuses to play.

Just think about that for a moment.  The hardware Just Works.  And the software contains extra code, added to prevent it from working.  That, my friends, is a pretty good definition of stupidity: “doing additional work in order to achieve less”.

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