Weekly News Roundup (11 November 2007)

Once again, it’s time for the weekly news roundup on Remembrance Day, a day where we not only remember those who sacrificed themselves to preserve our way of life, but also to remember the futility and wastefulness of war. War is something that should be avoided whenever possible because it comes with a price that is far too high.

Starting with copyright news. A lot of news items this week after a relatively quite last week. A study has found that not only does music piracy not hurt the music industry, it might actually help because illegal music sharing leads to higher music sales. Of course, record industry groups around the world has chosen to ignore or discredit the report. I’ve always believed that if you do not distribute content in a way people prefer, they will seek their own way of obtaining the content, legal or otherwise. And speaking of bad distribution methods, Macrovision’s DRM for games has been found to have a bug that allows computers to be exploited and hacked. It’s bad enough for DRM to make life harder for legitimate customers, but at the very least, people who make them should ensure it does no other damage. But as the case with Sony’s rootkit scandal, companies that deploy DRM have absolutely no regards for their customers anyway, and this is why things like this keep happening. These companies regard people who crack their DRMs as the most evilest of all people, because DRM licensing is big money and other companies are not going to pay if a lone hacker working in his bedroom can break their multi-million dollar encryption scheme. Sometimes it’s not just lone hackers though. Slysoft has announced that they have “by-passed” BD+ copy protection for Blu-ray discs, but it might only be a temporary solution until the loophole which allows this exploit is fixed. As Doom9 opinioned on his website in regards to this news:

Either way, at this point I wouldn’t bet much money on this workaround being permanent, so you should heed Slysoft’s advice about buying HD media and buy HD DVD over Blu-ray – it is the more consumer friendly format (not to be confused with a consumer friendly format) and the risk you incur of not being able to exercise your fair use rights in the future are greatly reduces if Blu-ray becomes the prevailing format.

And when DRM is not cracked, then consumers might be the one who suffers as in the case of US Major League Baseball selling DRM’d videos to people, then changing the DRM and making all those paid for videos unplayable. That’s the real danger of DRM though, because at any moment, the content owner could decide to do something like this and you end up having to buy the content all over again.

Prince is set to sue The Pirate Bay for copyright infringement. Not sure that’s a wise move though, as I’m sure the TBB has a lot more loyal fans now than Prince ever had in his entire career. And it appears Demonoid, the popular Bittorrent tracker, is down. Don’t know if it’s permanent or just a temporary thing, but you can definitely see a trend now what with the demise of OiNK still fresh in people’s memories.

On to HD news, I wrote a blog in mid-week about the effects of the $98 Toshiba HD DVD player, so I won’t go into it further except to say I’m extremely jealous and bitter at all the people who managed to get themselves one of these players. I checked my local electronics store yesterday and the Australian version of this super-cheap player was retailing for $AUD 596 (it does have a $100 cashback, which makes it $496 and comes with 3 free HD DVD movies) – that’s $USD 450, which is actually $150 more than the Toshiba retail pricing (which nobody sells them at), and comes with two less free movies as well. Cnet Asia wrote an article about Blu-ray 1.1. profile players and whether it makes you existing BD 1.0 players obsolete – it’s worth a read. It’s not just consumers that are a bit confused by all these profiles, even the Blu-ray manufacturers seems confused about what they should be doing. Sony’s CEO has conceded that the HD war is a stalemate at the moment – it’s certainly a change from the usual “we’ve won” messages that the Blu-ray group likes to send out. I’ve always thought that the eventual result of this stupid war was going to be a stalemate – even if one format has 80% of the market, 20% is still quite a lot to just “give up”, not when so much money has been invested already. But the first casualty of the HD war might not be Toshiba or Sony, but the AV Science forum, which has closed its Blu-ray/HD DVD section due to increasing hostility between forum members. My little rant about fanbois a couple of weeks ago might be relevant here, even though it was about those of the PS3/Xbox 360 variety.

And on that note, we move onto gaming. Yet another developer has come out to say what everyone seems to know already, that the PS3 is not a million times more powerful that the year older Xbox 360, at least not according to developers. The general feeling seems to indicate that while the PS3 has a more powerful processor, it’s memory handling is not as good as the Xbox 360 and is harder to programme for, so in the end, it all evens out. The long awaited PS3 2.00 firmware has been released and it adds a couple of interesting features, but for Blu-ray fans waiting for Profile 1.1. compatibility, it was a bit of a disappointment. Not that there are any movies to take advantage of Profile 1.1 anyway. Is your PS3 sitting in a place where it gathers a lot of dust? If so, you might want to move it somewhere else because apparently someone was told by PS3 customer support the excessive dust voids the warranty. Depends upon what “excessive” means though, I guess. And to end on a more positive note, the changes in the PS3 2.00 firmware and comments from the DivX Inc CEO seem to suggest that DivX playback might be coming to a PS3/Xbox 360 near you. I certainly hope it happens because my Xbox 360 is already quite a nice media extender devices, and if DivX/XviD support is added, then it makes playing back these files on my TV a lot easier.

And so this concludes another episode of Weekly News Roundup. What zany adventures will the MPAA/RIAA get up to next week? Just how many more forums will be closed “When Fanbois Attack”? And will scientist finally figure out just how many shades of awesomeness the PS3 is compared to the Xbox 360? Tune in next week to find out!


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