Weekly News Roundup (June 18, 2017)

June 18th, 2017

How are you on this frosty Sunday morning? Hope the week has been good to you. Once again, we take a look at the most interesting news of the week, and for once, we actually have a few to go through. So let’s get started!

Copyright

Just what is going on? More Ultra HD Blu-ray rips have started to appear on the usual download sites, and nobody seems to know just how exactly

Inferno Ultra HD Blu-ray Cover

More Ultra HD Blu-ray titles have been ripped and uploaded online

they were ripped. It appears unlikely that UHD Blu-ray’s main copy protection mechanism, AACS 2.0, has been ripped, since this would be big news and news that any cracking group would likely share. So this then leaves the possibility of some kind of workaround or flaw that exists, that is allowing these heavily protected discs to be ripped.

This reminds me of the HDFury incident from last year, where HDCP protected 4K streams were being ripped and the mystery behind the ripping was solved when Hollywood launched a major lawsuit against the company that made HDFury, a device that allowed HDCP 2.2 to be ripped.

So it remains absolutely possible that there may be some kind of workaround for ripping AACS 2.0. Perhaps a software player that has an exploit, that kind of thing.

Stay tuned for more info.

Also in copyright news, but not really copyright news, Sony have come up with a brilliant new idea that has many Hollywood artists angry. Sony plans to release family friendly “clean versions” of films with selected digital purchases, removing profanity, sexual references and violence from these films.

Some say this isn’t a big deal because these versions already exists for TV broadcasts and on flights and nobody has made a big fuss over them. But others says this kind of censorship takes the creative decision out of the hands of filmmakers, and it usually means a poor and really obvious job (lots of calls of “mothers”, for examples) that’s to the detriment of the film itself. And while this kind of things was tolerated for TV broadcasts and airlines due to their specific legal requirements, Sony have done this without any kind of significant legal or moral pressure, and this is what also makes artists angry.

Storm in a teacup? Or storm in a motherfu**ing teacup? Don’t know.

Gaming

Xbox One X

The Xbox One X, side by side here with the Xbox One S, is smaller and more powerful

So the big gaming news of the week centers around E3 and the official launch (or is it the second official launch) of the Xbox One Scorpio, now known as the Xbox One X. Most of the details about Microsoft’s upgraded Xbox One is already known, but we didn’t know the name (see previous sentence), the price (USD $499) and what it will look like (black monolithic box). And now we know these things.

The only major surprise was that Microsoft managed to build a 4K console and fit it into a box smaller than the now entry level Xbox One S, and that’s kinda cool.

At $499 though, it’s asking a lot of gamers, many of whom only recently shelled out for a Xbox One or PS4, but that’s the price of 4K I guess (and it’s still cheaper than building your own 4K gaming PC).

A lot of critics are warning that the ‘X’ won’t be a success because it’s too expensive and hardly anyone has a 4K display. This is true, but Microsoft isn’t just building the console for today (or November 7, when it is released), it’s building it to last until the next console generation starts in about 3 years or so. At that time, I think we may look back on the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X and be able to point to only one of them as a true 4K gaming console.

Of course, this relies on games being able to take full advantage of the 6 teraflops of power the Xbox One X offers – developers have so far not produced the goods for the PS4 Pro when it comes to making the case for the the console existing at all (but 1 in 5 PS4 buys today is a Pro, so that’s not too bad – overall, 60 millions PS4s have already been sold), but they may have a bit more to play around with in regards to the ‘X’.

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And with that, we come to the end of another WNR. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this one, see you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (June 11, 2017)

June 11th, 2017

Welcome to another WNR. Gonna have to keep this one nice and short again, one because I’ve run out of time, and two, because there’s not much news anyway.

Copyright

Denuvo

Denuvo accused of using pirated software?

Denuvo is just not getting a break at the moment. If it’s wasn’t the record time it’s getting cracked, or the allegations of being a resource hog from last week, now, there are claims that the company has been using unlicensed software as part of its protection system.

According to a developer at VMProtect Software, Denuvo approached the company a few years ago to enquire about using the VMProtect software to prevent reverse engineering and cracking. VMProtect made it clear that as Denuvo is a commercial outfit, they could not use the software’s standard $500 license, and instead, would have to negotiate with VMProtect for a commercial license.

But it appears that Denuvo ignored VMProtect’s advice and proceeded to purchase the cheapest license possible to use. This was later discovered by VMProtect, and they promptly cancelled the license and demanded compensation from Denuvo. After Denuvo ignored their requests, VMProtect has since reached out to anti-virus company Sophos to mark Denuvo as malware, and has even contacted Steam’s Valve to get them to de-list any games that uses the protection. Court action may follow.

So basically, anti-piracy firm Denuvo has itself been accused of piracy. Oh the irony. Keep you eye on this space for more on this developing story.

Steve Harvey's Funderdome

Steve Harvey’s Funderdome has been leaked online. Nobody cares.

Not sure if this next story also falls into the irony category, but imagine going to the trouble of stealing unreleased episodes of a new TV show, demand a ransom, fail to get the ransom and then putting the episodes online, only to find that nobody downloads the damn thing. The Netflix hacker TheDarkOverlord may have found some “success” with the unreleased episodes of Netflix’s ‘Orange is the New Black’ (success as in people actually bothered to download it, as opposed to the hackers getting paid), but it appears ABC’s new Steve Harvey TV show ‘FUNDERDOME’ isn’t getting a lot of attention.

At the time of writing, there were only 5 leechers connecting to 15 seeders on The Pirate Bay. That’s just a little bit more popular than the download for “CBT Nuggets – CompTIA Network+ N10-005 Video Training”, a training video about configuring basic networking.

If anything, this whole thing probably helped ABC to promote their new show, which otherwise would have gotten practically no press coverage.

TheDarkOverlord has promised more leaks, and this time it might be a Hollywood film. With our luck, it will probably be ‘Saw 8’ and it will reach a maximum of 25 leechers instead of just 5.

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So, that’s it. Told you it was nice a short. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (June 4, 2017)

June 4th, 2017

Welcome to another edition of the WNR. I’m going to wrap this one up in quick order because I just realised that I haven’t really played much with the Galaxy VR that I got with my Samsung S8+. I had a short play with it when I first got it, and found it to be quite immersive (scary at times), but have been far too busy to give it a go again. I know this isn’t really a good excuse not to do my work, but it is Sunday after all, so I hope you’ll forgive me.

So let’s get started.

Copyright

ExtraTorrent

Another one bites the dust – ExtraTorrent is no more

Torrent sites are shutting down left and right, and most without any real explanation. The latest is the super popular ExtraTorrent, which shut down last week without any real explanations being given. The only real bit of information the site admin provided was the fact that all data, especially user data, have been deleted.

This bit of useful information didn’t stop other people from launching clones of the site, claiming that they had access to backups – all of these clones are either fakes or just skins over an existing site like The Pirate Bay.

The other existing sites were also caught by surprise, with a sudden surge of traffic after users started searching for alternatives. And there are lots of alternatives still left too, which just goes to show that trying to shut down torrent sites, or even if the torrent sites shut themselves down, won’t make an iota of difference when it comes to piracy.

Also not making a difference is DRM. The only DRM that managed to make a difference in recent times was Denuvo, even though it doesn’t call itself a DRM (an anti-tampering system that prevents existing DRM from being stripped). But Denuvo has come under increasing pressure from game cracking groups, who seems to have found the system’s Achilles heel.

Denuvo has updated their protection, now onto version 4, but it seems crackers are finding it easier and easier to crack Denuvo protected games. And it seems Denuvo may be getting desperate too. The most recent example involves the game RiME, a new innovative game from developers Tequila Works. It was probably not the best idea in hindsight, but the people behind the game openly suggested the game would be stripped of Denuvo if/when it becomes cracked. This was just the motivation the crackers needed, and they went to work quickly, with game cracker Baldman the first to crack the game only a couple of days after the developer’s announcement.

RiME

RiME no longer has Denuvo after it was cracked in record time

What was more interesting was that during his cracking attempt, Baldman found that Denuvo has really upped the ante when it comes to protecting the game, to the point where it’s becoming kind of absurd. The way Denuvo works seems to be the placement of triggers within the game code. The Denuvo engine then checks for the presence of these triggers to detect if the game has been tampered with or not. Normally, Denuvo might do a trigger call every couple of minutes, but for RiME, Baldman found that Denuvo was issuing 20 to 30 calls every second. Talk about a performance hit!

To make it worse, the calls are obfuscated under a virtual machine in order to cover its tracks, which means there’s an even bigger performance hit. DRM (or an anti-tampering engine) is never worth it, but when it starts to affect performance like this (not just a slower game performance, there is also the extra stress being placed on your hardware), it’s simply unacceptable.

And true to their word, after they’ve confirmed that Baldman had indeed cracked the game wide open, the publishers of RiME promptly remove Denuvo protection from the game. I can imagine many game publishers are also now wondering in private if Denuvo is worth it or not. If it doesn’t protect games and make the experience worse for gamers, it becomes an easy choice for many, I think.

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That’s it for this week’s nice and short WNR. See you next week!

 

Weekly News Roundup (May 28, 2017)

May 28th, 2017

Hello from not so sunny Melbourne, as we once again tackle the news that was this week.

And the news was that there wasn’t much news. To be fair, I’ve been busier than usual with other stuff this week, and so perhaps didn’t look hard enough for interesting things to write about, but still, it was a relatively quiet week in all respects. But there are still a couple of things to go through, so let’s get started.

Copyright

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

So has Star Wars: The Last Jedi been stolen or not?

A follow up to last week’s story about the possible leak of a Disney movie, torrent news website TorrentFreak has done some more investigation and it’s becoming somewhat clearer that the full story is a lot less clearer. The veracity of the leak is now under question, according to TorrentFreak, as they managed to find the alleged hacker/leaker/blackmailer, who claims he has access to a workprint of The Last Jedi. The problem is that the leaker, who claims he got the film from a friend who had access to it in post-production of the movie, has failed to release convincing evidence that he even has the film, and now, he’s claiming he has a hold of Sony’s Emoji movie as well.

So what might have been a story about a leak and blackmail, might be one about delusional boasting and extortion. Or it might be just for a the lols, some kind of attention grabbing stunt that may not have anywhere to go now that Disney has called the leaker’s bluff.

High Definition

Samsung 4K TV

4K is doing well in sales

So UHD seems to be going pretty strong, for both TV sales and for movie sales. Just how strong? According to data released by Futuresource, sales of Ultra HD Blu-ray disc players are expected to be up 148% in 2017 compared to 2016, with some 1.4 million new units being sold this year. A third of all new TVs being sold this year will be UHD capable too.

Coupled that with the expected release of 250 new UHD Blu-ray titles this year, it all looks like to be a pretty healthy ecosystem for this still very new format.

Samsung remains the king of TV sales for the present, but Chinese brands, including TCL, are catching up apparently.

Still, Futuresource expects TV sales to remain flat for 2017, due to market saturation, and the lack of any major sporting events (which usually help to push TV sales).

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So that’s it for the week, I know it’s not much, but it’s all I have. Times are tough, you know. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (May 21, 2017)

May 21st, 2017

Sorry for the brief hiatus – stuff got into the way (more dental stuff as well) and I just couldn’t rush out a WNR last week. But it’s all good now, and we have lots to go through this week, so let’s get started.

Copyright

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Poster

Is Star Wars: The Last Jedi the film that hackers have stolen from Disney?

The new trend in piracy appears to have shifted to one of hacking, theft and blackmail. Following the theft of Netflix’s ‘Orange is the New Black’, a story I covered a few weeks ago, it appears Disney has become the latest victim of this trend. Disney boss Bob Iger revealed that hackers claims to have stolen one of the studio’s unreleased films and have threatened to release it publicly if a ransom demand, in BitCoins, is not met.

Iger did not reveal the name of the film, but did categorically ruled out meeting the hacker’s demands, which means the hackers might soon release the film online and we’ll all know then what film it was. It’s also unclear whether this is related to the Netflix theft, although based on the Twitter account of the Netflix hacker, it’s probably not the same guy (he did not mention anything about having hold of Disney content).

Many are speculating as to which movie was stolen, but with Disney’s line-up for 2017 including the likes of ‘Cars 3’, ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ and ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’, Disney better hope it’s not one of these mega blockbusters that ends on being leaked on torrent sites.

Speaking of being leaked on, Netflix’s new Android app, or rather Google’s Play store, is preventing those with rooted phones from downloading the latest update. Those with rooted phones are being met with a message stating their phone is not compatible, and this is most likely due to the new DRM requirement of the updated Netflix app.

The issue isn’t that bad though, since users can always sideload the Netflix app and it will run perfectly on rooted phones (so it’s really just the Play store being a d*ck, and not letting rooted phones from updating) – assuming you can find a secure place to download the Netflix app.

As for what’s actually new in the app, there’s a huge new feature for users of LG’s G6 phone. It is one of the first phones to support Dolby Vision HDR, and the new Netflix app will be able to take full advantage of the phone’s gorgeous screen. Samsung Galaxy S8 owners like myself got prematurely excited when the HDR logo started showing up on our phone too (which also supports HDR, but not Dolby Vision), but it turns out it was just a mistake and that the streams weren’t happening in HDR.

The HDR update for the S8 and S8+ will be coming soon, most likely, and I can’t wait!

High Definition

LG G6 Dolby Vision Comparison

Dolby Vision promises better, more colors, and more vivid pictures than even HDR10

Speaking of Dolby Vision, the first Dolby Vision enabled Ultra HD Blu-ray movies will be coming in June, first from Universal and then from Lionsgate. Universal will release ‘Despicable Me’ and ‘Despicable Me 2’ while Lionsgate has chosen ‘Power Rangers’ to showcase just how awesome Dolby Vision will be (assuming you have a good TV to show it off).

I haven’t covered HDR as much as I should here, so I copy/paste a section from the above news article to explain the difference between Dolby Vision and the HDR used by most currently available UHD Blu-ray movies, HDR10.

Dolby Vision offers several improvements over the open HDR10 standard, including greater color depth (12-bit vs HDR10’s 10-bit), support for a brighter picture (1,000-4,000 nits vs always 4,000 nits) and Dolby Vision enabled TVs feature a special chip that knows the TV’s own capabilities and helps these displays produce the best possible reproduction of the film compared to the original masters.

In other words, while HDR10 is a more open standard that’s easier to implement, Dolby Vision should offer a better picture quality with all things being equal. And don’t discount the extra 2 bits in color depth – this turns out to be an increase of 67 billion colors being represented! The brightness support also means that DV requires everything to be mastered at 4,000 nits, whereas HDR10 content can make do with only 1,000 nits (of course, whether your TV can support such a high nit count is another question).

DV also has better tone mapping (thanks to that special chip), and support for dynamic metadata that allows for scene by scene optimization of the picture.

But for now, HDR10 has the better hardware support, greater quantity of content, and for most people, it’s already awesome enough.

Gaming

Nintendo Switch

The Switch is a top seller!

Speaking of being awesome enough, the Nintendo Switch has outsold both the PS4 and Xbox One again in April, despite there being stock shortages. And despite only being released two days before the end of the April NPD reporting period, Nintendo’s Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was the top game seller for the entire month as well.

It’s quite a turnaround for Nintendo, which hasn’t been top of any chart for a very long time. Whether it will last, is anybody’s guess, but whatever you say about the Switch, it’s definitely something different compared to the offerings from Sony and Microsoft.

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That’s all I have for this week. Have a great one!


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