Wednesday November 16, 2005

Dear SunnComm.

Dear SunnComm,

Please be so kind as to jump off a cliff. Yes, any cliff will do.

Too harsh? I don’t think so. When I first put my new Imogen Heap CD in my computer, I read and declined your EULA. But guess what? You installed files anyways. That’s right, I declined your request to install files and you did it anyways. I don’t know what they do, and I don’t care. You weren’t invited.

How about this? I’ll bring some boxes of old magazines over to your house and ask if I can store them under your bed. You’ll say no, and instead of leaving peacefully I’ll sneak them in your bedroom window later that night while you’re sleeping. Sure, you might find some of them one day, but I’ll make sure to hide them in places I know you’ll never look. I’ll find a nook or a cranny where they can just fill up space and clutter your room. And, just for kicks, I’ll hide a tiny camera somewhere so — you know — I can make sure you’re not using my magazines in ways I feel are inappropriate.

It’s not so much the nature or operations of the files you installed that bother me. For all I know, they’ll give me random stock tips or generate winning lotto numbers. Maybe they’ll do nothing, and maybe one day they’ll rise up and overthrow the Kingdom of XP. How should I know? All I do know is I said “No beans, please,” and you flung a plate of beans onto my shoes. Classy.

Since your product is designed to lock out anyone who declines your EULA, I hesitantly decided to accept it, allowing you to install God knows what onto my computer. Once it became clear that ripping my music to mp3s in iTunes was going to end up being some song and dance where I rip to Windows Media Player, burn to CD, re-rip to iTunes blah blah blah, I decided to just junk the whole project and uninstall your software.

But your software is conveniently not located in Windows’ Add/Remove Programs list. I had to dig around to find references to SunnComm on my machine. I searched in C:\Program Files\Common Files\ and deleted the “SunnComm Shared” folder. A quick Google search pulled up this article which revealed that you also installed a sneakily obscure file in my C:\windows\system32\drivers\ folder called “sbcphid.sys.” Oh, you clever devils! This is the file you use to monitor my CD’s activity over the internet? Well, say goodbye to “sbcphid.sys!”*

In conclusion, thank you for your inept CD backup software as well. It has failed to create the backup CD I am allowed under the EULA three times now. Thanks for not being compatable with iTunes, and importing fragmented, butchered mp3s into my library. Thanks for making this so hard. Thanks for making it more difficult for the honest majority of customers to get the most out of their music purchases. Thanks for taking the joy out of a new music experience, you heartless savages.

Rusty Nails and Razor Blades,

*Note to readers following along: you will need to empty your Recycle Bin and shut down (power off) your computer to shut down the sbcphid.sys file. I have not yet discovered how to totally remove the driver.


sxates » 5787 days ago #

It’s like they WANT you to steal the music ;)

Certainly makes me want to just buy it with itunes or napster or something rather than get the real disc.

Robert Wetzlmayr » 5786 days ago #

Yet another case of “Sony vs. their customers”. You should get used to them taking your money, “Thank you” and afterwards hiring some software engineer or the other to build technologies which are then in turn used to disable legal use of your own properties.

Isn’t it ironic that this behaviour is exhibited by a company which had great success with a product devised to play private copies of copyrighted music back in the eighties?

Jared Christensen » 5786 days ago #

sxates – Yep! Is it piracy to download a pirated album when I already own it? Hmmm…

Robert – It pains me that Sony has marred their reputation so badly. I own a VAIO and it is by far the best PC I have ever owned. But now I don’t know if I could buy another, just on principle. I hope they get their act together and junk this silly copy protection scheme once and for all…

Abel Rios » 5786 days ago #

cough*iTunes Store*cough

I stopped buying cd’s when the RIAA announced they would push for this a year or two ago. To go to this extreme is outrageous, and why I won’t support the music industry by buying CD’s. It’s definitely a sad thing, as I actually LIKE having the artists’ cd in hand and being able to throw in a digitally mastered version into my cd player. To top it off, the artist is the one who suffers in the end.

Nathan Smith » 5786 days ago #

Gotta love that. I had a similar experience when I bought a Jeremy Camp CD. Although, in this case, all I wanted to do was listen to it with my computer’s surround sound speakers, not rip it. It wouldn’t even let me do that, and kept launching the interactive ROM, which didn’t include music. Eventually, I ended up listening to it through my TV via DVD/VCR player, which doesn’t have surround sound. :(

Jared Christensen » 5786 days ago #

Abel Ė I just canít justify spending $15 on 128kbps AAC files when a CD costs about the same, and sounds 100x better. Itís like choosing to drive a Gremlin when someone is willing to sell you a Lexus for about the same price.

Nathan Ė Yep, Iíve run across CDs like that as well. Does anyone actually test these things before they ship? Crippling normal computer use is a good way to make make customers resent you. Ah, when will record companies learn?

Priya » 5786 days ago #

I read your post (after buying the Imogen Heap album on iTunes… I LOVE it! Thanks for the recommendation.) and then saw the following news item on Information Week: link text ... Sony is pulling all copy-protected CDs. A step in the right diretion for consumers. :)

Jared Christensen » 5786 days ago #

Priya – Glad you’re loving the CD! It really is great…

Sadly, Sony is only pulling CDs with the XCP rootkit installer on them. Imogen’s album, however, uses SunnComm’s MediaMax which has not yet spurned a strong retaliation from consumers.

Alan » 5786 days ago #

I’m glad you didn’t take the iTunes Store route. Too many people are oblivious of the fact they’re getting crap quality music when they get their music from that place.

Did you try ripping on a Mac? Those little programs usually choke and die when faced with OSX.

Robert Wetzlmayr » 5786 days ago #

+++ commercial break +++

Jared: Re VAIO: Samsung is the Sony of this century, honestly. I’m typing this on a Samsung X20 1730 V. Recommended.

+++ commercial break +++

Randy » 5786 days ago #

Another reason to go Mac, eh?

Or do these critters infest Mac OS as well as WINDOWS?

Jared Christensen » 5786 days ago #

You said it, Randy. Though as Macs increase in popularity, I am sure plenty of malware will be created to infest them.

sxates » 5785 days ago #

...and the music industry can’t figure out why CD sales are down.

The point about music store downloads being of inferior quality is a good one, and I wish they cranked up the bitrate when you purchased it. I suspect the midrange bitrates are intentional to encourage CD sales with higher margins, but at some point they’re going to HAVE to up the quality.

I use Napster, which uses a 128kb WMA format, which in my opinion in better than a 128 MP3, but on good speakers you can still hear the limits. That said though, I have several purchased albums on CDs in my car, and through the Audi Symphony/Bose 12 speaker system, it doesn’t sound bad at all. FM sounds worse.

Zach Hale » 5782 days ago #

It’s funny you mention this because I was about to order this cd on Amazon before reading that it was infested with drm. Good luck with this one. At least you have some gorgeous music there… somewhere.

Jackson Smith » 5766 days ago #

This article sums up SunnComm perfectly. Not only does its technology stink, but the company does too. They are nothing but fraudsters and scammers.

Jared Christensen » 5766 days ago #

Yes, I’d heard about their deceitful press releases and false associations with bigger companies. Someone please drive a wooden stake through its heart and rid the world of true evil.

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