Making Criminals

FAQ of the day: The Mac DVD Resource FAQ
Kernel hack of the day: PowerBook fan fix

I’m up to Season 4 of Stargate, which, thanks to Veronica, I have on DVD. This is the most action my mac’s built-in DVD player has seen since I borrowed Contact from Dr. Deb. Even though I have no foreign region DVD’s, I’ve begun to wonder about nasty built-in DVD annoyances, like the FBI warning and trailers you can’t fast-forward past - just because I’m a geek. I also wanted to take a couple of screenshots for the Repository, but the OS disables Grab (the mac screen capper) when the DVD player is running.

There are software and firmware hacks out there to nullify or reset the region code on a mac. The best way I discovered to skip the FBI warning or take a screenshot, however, was with VLC. VLC avoids the normal DVD hardware restrictions by reading and decoding the DVD at the software level. Presto, screenshots!

The only trouble is, it may be illegal in the US. I own the Stargate DVD’s and the mac and the mac’s DVD player, and I’m not selling, ripping, or pirating anything, or making any money. And yet, VLC comes with a warning that using the decoding library may be a violation of the DMCA. So without doing a single thing that any reasonable person would consider wrong, immoral or fattening, I could have broken a law by downloading and running VLC, provided I did so. Nothing in this blog entry should be taken as an admission of guilt.

When I took a Peter Pan bus to an undisclosed location in Connecticut, the driver said that smoking was prohibited by federal law and that cell phones should be used only in an emergency. What constituted an emergency - say, the bus going off an overpass - was not specified. When I took the Bonanza bus to and from Fall River to see Mom, the driver firmly declared that smoking, drinking (alcoholic beverages), and cell phoning were absolutely forbidden on the bus. There are only two or three places in all of Massachusetts where it’s legal to smoke, so that law was familiar to the patrons. It was Bonanza, not Greyhound, so the likelihood of people getting drunk on the bus was low to begin with. The likelihood of people cell-phoning despite the absolute cell-phone ban was about the likelihood of people cell-phoning in the absence of cell-phone bans. I overheard a lengthy conversation in Portuguese as well as several other shameless cell calls.

The point being that when you make a law that’s extreme (people need to make cell phone calls from the bus to tell people they’re arriving - you don’t want to spend one extra minute hanging around the bus station in Fall River, believe me), senseless (I could converse with Veronica when she was with me, so why shouldn’t I be able to do it over the cell as well?) and impossible to obey (people have a Pavlovian drive to answer their cell phones), all you do is destroy what respect they may have had for the rule of law. When you make one law to be broken, all laws suffer. Next thing you know, they’ll be drinking beer on the bus, just because the driver forbade it in the same sentence as he did cell phones (and not nearly as emphatically).

There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted and you create a nation of law-breakers and then you cash in on guilt. –Atlas Shrugged

9 Responses to “Making Criminals”

  1. adem Says:

    how can I reset region count on powerbook 12″ 1.33 ?
    dvd writer model: MATSHITA DVD-R UJ-825

    can you help me ?

  2. Jemima Says:

    There are hacks out there for that sort of thing, but I’ve never used one so I’m afraid I can’t tell you where to find them.

  3. Viv Says:

    I found abunchof frmware hacks for matshita 815 but 825 doesnt seem to have them yet - it seems the one guy who was doing them has “semi-retired” so the torch needs to be passed to someone else who understands firmware codes!
    we wait patiently!

  4. Jammy Says:

    It’s March 2005 and I still can’t find a firmware hack resetting the region code for Matshita DVD-R UJ-825. I am extremely disappointed with Apple, Matshita and DVD producers for all this nonsense with region codes, esepcially as multiregion video players world wide are now the standard and one can play DVds from any region in the world.

  5. Patty Says:

    yeah, i have to say that i am deeply disappointed in this drive for that reason. i travel between canada and germany for periods up to 4 months at a time. I cannot watch all the dvds that i have bought in europe anymore because the drive firmware on my MATSHITA DVD-R UJ-825 disallows me to make any further switches. I cant say that i have ever been annoyed with an apple product, but this is absolutely insane. why would apple do this to its customers? If anybody finds something, please let me know! Would it not be possible to write a program or something that doesnt have to deal with the firmware? I have no idea about these things, but maybe somebody out there could figure out how to create a player that bypasses the region or makes it appear as region 0 to the drive?

  6. Flynn Says:

    You can always rip your dvds with MacTheRipper ( and set a new region code, then burn them using Toast or Popcorn.

  7. Laurent Daudelin Says:

    You can’t rip a DVD that is for another region than the one set for your drive using MacTheRipper. I’ve tried it. After the rip, MacTheRipper will declare that there were bad sectors on the DVD and that it might be OK. However, VLC won’t be able to play it, much less Popcorn will be able to burn it. The problem lies with the fact that the region protection is in the drive for the UJ-825, not in the system software. So, you can’t use VLC to play a different region DVD on your drive either.

  8. Remy Says:

    can i use the firmwear for the uj-825s on my uj-825

  9. Ian Douglas Says:

    The best thing you can do is simply buy an external DVD (one that you know you can flash, if need be, to RCP-1) and use that for playing DVDs. I have the UJ-825, too. It’s not Apple’s fault, but certainly Matshita bear the responsibility. They suck. They have seemingly made it impossible for anyone who was in the DVD firmware hacking community to hack it. I just don’t get it. You can get multi-region DVD players for your widescreen TV at home but you can’t get a multi-region DVD on a computer that you are likely to take in a backpack one day to a different part of the world? It is a total absurdity.