Arnezami, a hacker on the Doom9 forum, has published a crack for extracting the “processing key” from a high-def DVD player. This key can be used to gain access to every single Blu-Ray and HD-DVD disc.
Previously, another Doom9 user called Muslix64 had broken both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD by extracting the “volume keys” for each disc, a cumbersome process. This break builds on Muslix64’s work but extends it — now you can break all AACS-locked discs.
AACS took years to develop, and it has been broken in weeks. The developers spent billions, the hackers spent pennies.
My HDTV threshold has been inching lower and lower over time, as issues get resolved: lower-cost HDTV monitors, useful broadcast TV, the defeat of the broadcast flag, useful Linux support in hardware and software. Still, it’s clear that my standing advice–don’t do HD yet–has been vindicated.
How much longer? Some of the HDTV options for MythTV recording can do both standard-definition and high-def. If we accept that the HD stuff has to be watched on a computer, I might very soon move to HD recording for local TV channels.
But for now, it seems the major hurdle is HD cable, an area where the technology is still in transition. The current standard is largely a bust, the new standard being rolled out still doesn’t allow certain capabilities (menus, picture-in-picture), and the new standard is due to be eclipsed by yet another standard in a year or so. It’s also clear that reality has yet to set in; for all the consumer confusion and hassle, HD content doesn’t seem to be lacking at the BitTorrent sites.
So, continue to be careful. If you want to be able to do something with your new HD equipment, make sure you can before you leave the store. The HD powers-that-be have yet to honor any promise about future capability, and have broken some of those promises. So if it doesn’t work on the day of purchase, be ready to live without it forever.
As for me, current capabilities (and current prices) are almost at the level I’m looking for. But I haven’t bought yet.
UPDATE (2007-02-14): According to Ars Technica, this crack is still not complete; while all Blu-Ray and HD-DVD discs available today are cracked, the studios could protect future discs by revoking the keys of the software player used in the crack. To translate that into non-technical English, users of that player would be required to update their player, and discs made after a certain date would not be crackable–until a new software player’s device key is extracted using the same method.