Microsoft introduced Windows Media Player 9 a few months ago. It’s got a better interface and much improved technology for streaming audio and video – far better than RealPlayer and QuickTime. It runs best on Windows XP, of course – I’ve seen problem reports on Windows 98/ME.

And it also introduces strong digital rights management, which has kept me from installing it up to now. Microsoft’s WMV and WMA formats can be locked up tight and Media Player 9 implements that with a vengeance. If you start ripping your CDs in WMA format (“higher quality sound and smaller file sizes” says the hype), you run the risk that they will be restricted in unexpected ways.

So far there’s no interference with mp3 files, so as long as you stick with that format you won’t find your music suddenly turned off. Watch out for the hype that’s already started about how mp3 is “aging” and “insecure.” The truth is, mp3 files can’t be locked down, and everything else can. Lots of big companies have reason to attack the mp3 format and try to convince you to switch, so they can build up new revenue streams out of your pocket.

With that in mind, I’m finally going to install Media Player 9. There will be some interesting things soon that will require it. Next month there will be a new release of Terminator 2 on DVD, with an extra disk that has a high-definition version of the movie in WMV format – more than three times the resolution of the DVD, along with surround-sound. Interesting!

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