Commercial Operating Systems
So which operating system is best suited for a project such as this?
Well there are a number of obvious, and a few not quite so obvious
factors which affect the choice of OS:
Digital Rights Management
Every commercial video or music track is copyrighted,
regardless of how it is delivered.
Copyright is important because it protects the content
producer from having their material stolen by others. Without
copyright, most professional musicians, movie-makers and writers
would give up and get a real job.
While piracy has always existed, it's only since the arrival of
digital formats that it has become a major threat to the revenues
of content producers. Every time you make a copy of a copy using
analog techniques, the quality is reduced and this automatically
reduces the practical depth of a piracy chain.
Digital copies however are bit-perfect so a copy of a copy sounds
identical to the original and therein lies the problem and the
incentive for people to duplicate illegally.
In order to prevent unbridled piracy, a technology known as Digital
Rights Management (DRM) has been introduced to stop or restrict
the unauthorized copying of digital media content.
This DRM technology is increasingly becoming an in-built part of
such applications as Microsoft's Media Player and components such
as the latest sound-cards.
If we were just going to select on the basis of cost then the winner
would have to be Linux without any doubt.
- Availability of software
- Support for various capture cards
- Digital Rights Management restrictions
However, if you're planning to use an existing PC for such a project
then the cheapest OS is the one that's already installed -- which might
be any number of others.
The choice of suitable software and compatibility with the readily
available capture cards is probably going to be the deciding factor
These two criteria make a version of Microsoft Windows to be the logical
choice for most people. Yes, love it or hate it, Windows does have a huge amount of
hardware and software available for it -- which is why it continues to
sell even in the face of competition from "free" options such as Linux.
Then there's the issue of DRM (digital rights management) -- that's copy
protection to you and me (see the sidebar).
If you'd like your own system, it is recommended
that you purchase the parts, or a ready-configured version
from the project's sponsor.
Microsoft is working hard to integrate DRM into all its operating systems
and media products. This means that tying yourself to the Microsoft
bandwagon could result in operational problems further down the track.
What happens if/when Microsoft strike a lucrative deal with content
producers and broadcasters to honor anti-copy information that may be
embedded in their music or video streams? You might find yourself
up the creek without a paddle.
Fortunately such a scenario is unlikely to arise for at least a year or
two and a Windows-based project should give you plenty of enjoyment
up until that time.
The next decision has to be: which version of Windows?
This is more important than you might think because in some regards, newer
is not necessarily better.
Windows 2000 or XP
XP is an excellent choice for the project OS for several reasons:
However, one problem with Windows XP is its incompatibility with some
very useful freeware that was designed for Win95 and Win98 systems. Examples
of software that is not fully compatible are the excellent video capture
and editing program VirtualDub and the VideoCrypt decoder HVCPlus.
- It's popular and well supported
- It comes with additional multi-media software out of the box
- It supports filesizes greater than 4GB
- It is more stable and robust than some earlier versions
Win95 or Win98
If you're planning to use an existing PC for a project like this and
it already has Win95/98 installed then don't despair, despite the limitations
of these older OSes they can still do a fine job.
Their biggest handicap is that they can't create files larger than 4 GB in
size. Raw uncompressed or slightly compressed video produces huge files,
sometimes reaching up to 12 GB or more per hour of recording. Fortunately
the VirtualDub capture program has a clever facility for automatically
segmenting large capture files into smaller (less than 4GB) chunks.
Linux and other "Free" OSes
Linux is clearly not a good choice for those who don't want to get their
hands dirty tweaking with the finer details of software and operating
systems. However, for the "power user," it has a lot of benefits and,
since it's going to take a lot of time and more than just one web-page,
I'll be fully exploring the Linux options in the next update of this feature.
Use whatever you've got or, if you're starting from scratch, opt for
If you still want to go for Linux, be aware that, as is often the case with
Linux, you'll have to set aside an awful lot of time for "tinkering and
tweaking" in order to get things working. You'll also find that few of
the video tuner/capture card manufacturers are interested in supporting
Linux at this time.
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