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Steam Media Player available; Steam driver added and removed

New components probed :: March 16th, 2006 :: Steam updates :: 10 Responses (Feed)

While Monday’s Steam update may have been aimed at getting the final beta phase of Friends 3.0 out into the open, it also saw the quiet release of Steam Media Player, a Windows Media Player wrapper suggesting that Zombie Movie, last heard of in October, is finally on the way. The executable can be found in the /bin folder: double clicking adds SMP to the ‘Open With…’ menu in Windows XP, and files can also be dragged directly onto it. Alongside the standard WMP features, SMP features a fade in and fade out effect and per-frame navigation with the arrow keys. Finally, resource file resource/SMPStatsDialog.res and associated entries in resource/vgui_english.txt mention the collection of usage data when playing media in SMP (thanks Koraktor and Andy):

Steam Media Player
Alt+Enter reveals the embedded Windows Media Player interface.

Valve would like to collect some data from you that is not in any way linked to any other information about you, such as your address, phone number, purchase history, lifestyle decisions, pr0n surfing habits, etc. Don’t worry – we’re the good guys! Trust us. Really. And buy more games. MORE, damn you!

Anyways, back to the data thing – can we send the information we’ve collected below to our servers to allow us to make better movies for your viewing pleasure?

Needless to say, the text above isn’t accessible to end users.

Another new addition some may find to the /bin folder are the /x64 and /x86 subfolders, which were added during a previous release of the Friends beta but have now been removed, their existence on the drives of people who ran the beta purely because Steam doesn’t normally delete files outside GCFs. The folders contain 32-bit and 64-bit versions of SteamDrv.sys, a system file which looks to be a contraction of ‘Steam Driver’. They are inactive, no longer being part of the platform, but represent a worrying development nonetheless. StarForce, a physical-media copy protection scheme, has frequently come under fire for silently installing its own drivers on systems running protected software, though the damage they cause or do not cause in doing so is a matter of equally frequent debate.

Steam on the other hand has a remarkably low footprint, being entirely contained within one folder and one registry entry, and, being largely cross-compatible with Linux (by way of the Dedicated Servers), does not seem to use any OS-specific ‘hooks’ as many other DRM systems do. A Steam driver would naturally widen that footprint, as well as attract waves of criticism regardless of how stable or harmless it may be.

However, this all of concern may come to nothing: both files are dated 2002, whereas almost every other Steam binary has up-to-date build times. It could simply be a case of outdated files being mistakenly added to the beta download. There is also the possibility that the filename is actually a contracted ‘Steam Drive’, suggesting if it is true a virtual disk for the Steam filesystem (thanks Andy).

Valve have now responded to this post with an explanation of SteamDrv.sys’s role.


10 Responses to this post:

0 Comments

  1. Koraktor Says:

    both files are dated 2002

    But in 2002 there was no Windows x64, so it’s more likely a reactivated thing from the beginning of Steam.
    Let’s hope they don’t try to implement something like StarForce.

  2. Andy Simpson Says:

    You’re a bit slow with this, SMP has been around for a while, I expected better, you’re usually really good. You haven’t talked about Steam\Public\P2PDownload.res either.

    Anyways, a Steam filesystem driver would be an entirely different affair to the Starforce drivers. That intercepts your CD drive and does evil things, a Steam driver would let you mount the Steam filesystem itself as a drive letter. I think that’d be kinda cool. It would make it possible to enable legacy apps delievered over Steam, because they wouldn’t need modification to load files from the Steam filesystem, they could just get them straight from the native filesystem using the Steam driver.

    Anyways, I’d imagine they’d deal with anything OS specific the same way they do everything else, encapsulation. The Linux client simply wouldn’t use a driver, just like it doesn’t use the registry, and it uses a Linux threading library rather than a Windows one like the Windows client does.

  3. Tom Edwards Says:

    We don’t all trawl through the folder structure on a regular basis. 😉 Nice find all the same…got any more?

  4. Koraktor Says:

    @Andy Simpson:
    If that driver was used to mount GCFs to a Windows drive it would be quite nice. But who would use a function like that? Modders and a bunch of snoopy people out there.

    @Tom Edwards:
    There is a file “resource/SMPStatsDialog.res” which seems to be the layout for a window where you can allow or forbid SMP to send usage data to Valve.

  5. Andy Simpson Says:

    “SmpStats_PrivacyNotice” “Valve would like to collect some data from you that is not in any way linked to any other information about you, such as your address, phone number, purchase history, lifestyle decisions, pr0n surfing habits, etc. Don’t worry – we’re the good guys! Trust us. Really. And buy more games. MORE, damn you!\n\n Anyways, back to the data thing – can we send the information we’ve collected below to our servers to allow us to make better movies for your viewing pleasure?”

    \resource\vgui_english.txt 🙂

  6. Koraktor Says:

    lol ^^

    Additionally I found several strings about the media feature of Steam in the steam_%language%.txt files. They are already translated in all available languages. So maybe this new feature isn’t to far away now.

  7. Andy Martin Says:

    Woah… has anyone else tried running “smp ” from the command-line? Has the rather interesting effect of fading your entire screen (HL2-style) to black, and then not playing the file. Hmm.

    Ah well, I’m sure it’ll get sorted in the end, things usually do.

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