Weekly News Roundup (April 21, 2019)

April 21st, 2019

An exciting week we’ve just had, not only did we get a first glimpse at the final chapter of Game of Thrones (which was expected), we also got news on Sony’s upcoming PS5 console (somewhat unexpected).

So let’s not waste any time, and get to the news that was ….

Perhaps a little bit more time wasting – if you’re still in the mood to waste GBs downloading a trailer, we’ve just uploaded a new one for you for the awkwardly named upcoming film ‘Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw’ (download as HD H.264 or 4K HEVC). As usual, for those that want 4K but don’t want to go through the whole downloading process, you can watch the same trailer on our YouTube channel right here.

Copyright

So you’ve probably finished watching the first episode of the final season of ‘Game of Thrones’. If you haven’t seen it, then you either don’t care about the show or you’re stuck on an oil rig or in the middle of a rainforest. Either way, no spoilers here.

Game of Thrones piracy surge – not unexpected at all!

The only thing I’m going to spoil is the fact that the season premiere was downloaded and streamed, illegally, a whole heap of times. 54 million times actually in the first 24 hours alone, which is not surprising considering how eagerly anticipated the premiere was and how HBO dicked us around for 2 years just because they didn’t want the show to finish before they had some other hit just around the corner.

Despite this, no torrenting records were broken. In fact, only half as many people may have been downloading a torrent of the first episode compared to the previous record, also set by ‘Game of Thrones’ for the season 5 finale. This is because torrenting is no longer the preferred way of getting pirated movie and TV content for most people – 76% now choose streaming. Streaming is cool because there’s no need to wait for a download to finish, and it also receives less scrutiny from authorities who have been clamping down on torrenting and torrent sites hard in the last few years.

The increasing availability and value of legal options, on the other hand, may also have contributed to the decline.

The series finale airs on May 19, and I would expect even more people to be watching the show – legally and illegally.

Gaming

Has it really been 5 and a half years? That’s how long the PS4 has been around, and so I guess it wasn’t a surprise that Sony will be well into the development of the next console, which will probably be imaginatively named the PS5.

And we normally don’t get a lot of details about the new console at this point, but miracles do happen and one of the lead architects of the new console gave us quite a lot of information in a recent interview. According to Mark Cerny, the PS5 will feature the latest generation AMD ‘Ryzen’ CPU and a ‘Navi’ GPU and a solid state drive to really boost the performance. The latter, in particular, reduced the loading time of the PS4 game
Spider-Man from 15 seconds to just 0.8.

A photo of two PS4 controllers
Details about the PS5 so early are somewhat unexpected

The power boost will also enable 8K output for the console, although this is most likely limited to video output, with gaming output still likely to be limited to 4K (but a very nice looking 4K, to be fair).

And in a surprise announcement, the PS5 will be backwards compatible with the PS4. Veterans of the console wars will remember how Microsoft tried to one-up the PS4 by including (limited) backwards compatibility with the Xbox One, which Sony refused to do citing lack of interest. So it’s a welcomed move by Sony to finally add backwards compatibility back (if you can remember that far back, the first models of the PS3 featured a PS2 chip that allowed for backwards compatibility – all the subsequent variations did not include the chip).

So there you have it – quite a lot of information that normally would only come out at an official launch event. Now it’s up to Microsoft to “show me what you got” (a nice and random Rick and Morty reference there for you).

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So some pretty interesting stuff happening. Hope this coming week is just as exciting! Until next time …

Weekly News Roundup (April 14, 2019)

April 14th, 2019

Welcome back to another edition of the WNR. There was sadly not much happening from the week before last, but then things started happening this past week, and here we are.

I think the moment things started happening was when I got connected to my new Internet connection. No longer am I stuck at 3 Mbps on an outdated ADSL connection, I’m now connected to proper broadband that’s bazillion times faster. Granted, it’s still via an outdated HFC connection and not via a superior fibre to the home connection, but beggars can’t be choosers. What’s even better than the download speed is the upload speed – no longer confined to a 1Mbps uplink (which was more like 0.7Mbps in real usage), I can now upload without a care in the world, whether it’s backups, or for Digital Digest, some new kick-ass trailers.

Promo thumbnail for the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker teaser trailer
If you’re keen on wasting a 1.3GB download on a trailer, you now have the option

It would have taken 6 hours before, but it only took a few minutes to upload the Ultra HD teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (it took a bit longer to encode the trailer though). And yes, it’s 1.3GB, but if you were on a super fast connection like I am now, it’s not a worry at all.

Unless you have limited hard-drive space, in that case, you might want to check out our new YouTube trailers channel, and you can watch the Episode IX UHD trailer there too. We’ll be adding more trailers now and then, and some classic ones too.

Oh yes, the news.

Copyright

Pirates may have found a new source for the latest un-aired TV episodes, with a dozen shows falling prey to the latest round of leaks. The leaks include un-aired episodes from shows like ‘The 100’ and ‘American Gods’, and even includes entire un-aired seasons of ‘Ramy’ and ‘The Red Line’. All of the leaks appear to come from promo screeners, which suggests that these advanced previews, meant for industry professionals, have somehow ended up in the hands of pirates.

Poster for American Gods
American Gods – one of the shows that was part of a massive leak of promo screeners

Even though some of the leaked titles does include a person’s name in the watermark, which may point to the original recipient of the screeners, this doesn’t really provide conclusive evidence that this person was the source of the leaks. The screener may have been intercepted before it reached this person or may have been stolen from this person without their knowledge. Still, it may be a starting point for an FBI investigation, if they choose to investigate it.

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And the big news of the week is something we’ve been expecting for a while now. Disney had its investor’s conference, and as promised, they provided more “deets” on their upcoming Disney+ streaming service.

We now know the launch date: November 12 in the United States (next year in Europe and Asia); the price: a low $USD6.99 per month; and that at launch, it will have more than 500 movies and 7500 TV episodes, including some exclusive Marvel and Star Wars shows.

Still from the TV show 'The Mandalorian'
The Mandalorian will stream exclusively on Disney+ for any one willing to pay the $6.99 monthly fee

Most of the original content we already know about, like ‘Loki’, ‘The Mandalorian’ and the still unnamed Diego Luna Star Wars show, but we also have ‘WandaVision’ starring the Avenger’s Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, reprising their roles as Wanda and The Vision. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan will also star in ‘The Falcon and The Winter Soldier’.

Disney gobbling up Fox also means lots of Fox content will be on Disney+, including every single season of ‘The Simpsons’ (that’s 30 seasons if you’ve lost count), and classics like ‘The Titanic’ and ‘The Sound of Music’.

As for whether Disney+ will be a “Netflix killer”, I don’t know about that. There’s very little overlap in content between Netflix and Disney+, and so they’re more complementary services than competing ones. Netflix will also have a lot more third party content, and a lot more originals too for that matter, so unless you crave Disney/Pixar/Marvel/Lucasfilm originals all the time, Netflix may be a more rounded choice.

Some of our more dedicated readers will remember what I wrote in the March 24 edition of the WNR:

So while Disney shares have fallen since the acquisition was completed, most likely due to the cost of the deal eating into Disney’s short term bottom line, the future is bright for the company. You don’t get financial advice that often here, but I would stock up and hold on to Disney shares with the expectation that 1 or 2 years down the line, this will prove to be a very smart decision. Of course, I have literally zero experience in investing, so you might be better off consulting the Magic Eight Ball (it told me “Most Likely” when I asked if I should buy Disney shares, so there you go).

Disney shares are “only” up 11% following these announcements. You’re welcomed!

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That’s it for this week, it seems. News and financial advice, that’s what you’ll get here. See you next time!

Weekly News Roundup (March 31, 2019)

March 31st, 2019

Welcome to another edition of the WNR. It’s going to be a light one this week, as while we have a big announcement from Apple to cover, that was pretty much it.

Still, it gives us plenty to talk about this week, so let’s not waste any time.

High Definition

So the big news of the week was Apple’s entry into streaming video courtesy of their upcoming Apple TV+ service.

First of all, let’s talk about what it isn’t. It isn’t really a Netflix rival, at least not yet, because Apple TV+ will only host original content that Apple themselves have produced. So there won’t be any third-party licensed content that’s still the bulk of content on platforms like Netflix and Amazon.

Photo showing Jenifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell at the Apple TV+ launch event
Apple will hope its big star line-up will help to make Apple TV+ a success

And even with relation to original content, Apple’s content spend of $1 billion is only a fraction of Netflix’s annual spend on original content, so Apple’s ambitions, so far, are much more limited compared to Netflix’s.

Apple TV+ also won’t work on most of the non-Apple devices you actually own. While Apple is opening up Apple TV slightly, allowing it to work on selected smart TVs and even on the Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV+ won’t be accessible on your Android device, on your PC or in your browser. This could change at some point, but it looks like Apple wants the content on Apple TV+ to be mainly consumed on an Apple device (which is not surprising).

Using unique content to draw users into the Apple ecosystem is one thing, but what Apple may be even keener to do is to keep the Apple TV hub relevant in the age of Roku, Amazon Fire and Google Chromecast. Apple can’t make their 30% off of Netflix if Netflix doesn’t think it’s worth having their app integrated into Apple TV, and Netflix won’t think Apple’s 30% money grab is worth it if Apple TV is not popular enough.

Apple will hope that exclusive Apple TV+ content from the likes of Steven Spielberg, Oprah, J.J. Abrams, and shows starring the likes of
Jenifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell, will help grow the Apple TV user base. Or at least grow it enough to make Apple TV an essential platform to be part of.

This talk of Apple reminded me of an old news story from way back. Way back as in when Steve Jobs was still alive, and when Toshiba’s HD DVD was still trying to beat Blu-ray. Jobs said then that Blu-ray was a “bag of hurt” and despite Apple being a member and a board member of the Blu-ray Disc Association, Apple never did bother to include a Blu-ray drive with any of their computers.

Apple never bothered with Blu-ray, but discs still have a place

Now Apple is getting into video distribution having skipped discs entirely, and this probably means something for discs (and not in a good news kind of way). But discs do still have a place (anyone who regularly tries to download high-quality 4K content will know this is the case), and they will be around for a while yet, even if they are no longer the default go-to for most people. What do you think? Do you still use discs? Let us know by voting in our latest poll.

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That’s all I have for you think week. Let’s wait and see what the next week brings us.

Weekly News Roundup (March 24, 2019)

March 24th, 2019

Welcome to another WNR, and this time, you didn’t have to wait a month for another issue!

It’s mostly because there are actually a few news stories to go through, and so let’s not waste any time and get things started.

Copyright

Pirates may have found a way to rip 4K movies from iTunes, as the James Bond Collection of 24 movies have all been leaked online, in glorious 4K HDR quality.

Aquaman
The 4K version of Aquaman was recently leaked online

This follows recent leaks of ‘Aquaman’, ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’, ‘Bumblebee’ and ‘The Mule’, also all in 4K, from unknown sources. The James Bond Collection was only available in 4K on iTunes, and so chances are, pirates have found a way to bypass the copy protection normally present on these files (note that Australian streaming outfit Stan also has the James Bond Collection in 4K, but it is a 25 fps encode, different to the 24 fps rip that was ripped).

So far the release group, DEFLATE, has not released any information on the source of these leaks or the method used to obtain these leaks. While there is a small chance that someone with access to the unencrypted source files could be responsible for the leak, but it’s unlikely.

More likely is the case that pirates may have found a vulnerability in the copy protection used for these files or a device used to play these files.

Expect more leaks in the coming days.

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So Fox is now officially a part of Disney, now that the acquisition deal has been officially completed. I kind of expected some kind of Soviet/American troop meeting type scenario involving Fox and Disney staff, for some weird reason, but it’s probably more like this event considering 4,000 people are being let go (sorry, been watching a lot of World War II documentaries lately).

So the Big Six is no more, and we’re left with a Big Five of Hollywood studios. More like the Humongous One, and then the Big Four, since Disney is now bigger than Universal, Paramount and Sony/Columbia combined in terms of market share, and that’s all before Disney starts leveraging Fox’s franchises, merge the Fox and Disney Marvel universe, assumes majority control of Hulu and launches its own streaming platform, Disney+.

So while Disney shares have fallen since the acquisition was completed, most likely due to the cost of the deal eating into Disney’s short term bottom line, the future is bright for the company. You don’t get financial advice that often here, but I would stock up and hold on to Disney shares with the expectation that 1 or 2 years down the line, this will prove to be a very smart decision. Of course, I have literally zero experience in investing, so you might be better off consulting the Magic Eight Ball (it told me “Most Likely” when I asked if I should buy Disney shares, so there you go).

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge @ Disney Land
The old home of Star Wars is now a part of the new home of Star Wars – Disney Acquires Fox

I’m kind of excited as to see what this melding of two movie giants will mean for us film lovers. Apart from the X-Men franchise joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there is also the joining of pre The Force Awakens Star Wars movies, for which Fox still owns the home media distribution rights for. Would it be too much to ask for a theatrical version of Star Wars on Blu-ray/4K UHD? Probably yes. How about the 20th Fox fanfare back in Star Wars movies? Another tough ask, I’m afraid.

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So that was the week that was. I really don’t know what the next week will bring, but I’m excited and I can’t wait (and I might have just jinxed it – expect no news at all now). See you in a week.

Weekly News Roundup (March 17, 2019)

March 17th, 2019

Well, this hiatus was a bit longer than I had expected. So sorry about that. Normal service resumes this week and might have done last week had it not been my birthday week (yes, I’m one of those annoying people that celebrate for a whole week).

Still, not a superb week to resume the WNR as there’s not much news around, but let’s see what we can make of it!

Copyright

There is a point of view that the current copyright take-down regime resembles the work of scammers more so than a legal process. There are those law firms that you’ve heard about extracting payment in exchange for withdrawing a legal threat. But even when money isn’t changing hands, the threat of account suspensions and deletions in this increasingly digital age, means that the threat from being hounded by the copyright cops is very real.

Of course, there are the real scammers who use this fear to make a bit of quick cash, like the YouTube scammers I talked about last month. This week, it’s the turn of Instagrammers to be at the end of a similar type of scam. Instead of just asking for money though, the scammers are more interested in the login credentials of Instagram users that are being targeted by the scam, and even their email account credentials in some cases.

Screenshot of Instagram copyright infringement scam
Don’t be fooled by this copyright infringement notice scam

What’s most interesting about this scam is that it leverages existing user’s fears about copyright infringement to get them to hand over very sensitive information. The fake notice says that unless users provide the scammers with their username and password to “verify” their account, it will be suspended and deleted within 24 hours.

Our Instagram accounts, Facebook accounts, Twitter, YouTube and Gmail accounts are really our online identities, and to face suspension and account deletion is, in a way, a kind of online death. To be faced with an account suspension and deletion due to a copyright issue is also quite plausible. These two factors, when combined, is what makes scams like this so effective.

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While I’m sure there is other stuff happening for all sorts of other topics, there was nothing in particular that caught my attention over the last week.

Game of Thrones - Season 8 Poster
Game of Thrones Season 8 promises to be a big hit – both for HBO and on the piracy sites

There is some more stuff happening on Digital Digest’s sister site Streambly for those interested in the world of video streaming, like the fact that people have already started to binge Game of Thrones in anticipation of the final episodes coming in April. These final episodes will, I’m sure, break a few more piracy records when they air starting April 14.

See you in a week’s time (maybe)!


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