Steam Media Player available; Steam driver added and removed
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):
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).