Weekly News Roundup (11 January 2009)

What a week. Despite the semi-holiday feeling of it all, a lot happened. DivX 7 with H.264 encoding/decoding was released, and there were some interesting news items as well. Unfortunately, I’m still suffering from illness, which has just officially been diagnosed as shingles. Do under 30’s get shingles? Apparently, they do, and it itches like hell (luckily, very little pain). So I’ll try to keep this WNR short as possible, because I need the rest.

Also, finally finished Fallout 3 with all achivements. Lovely game and the hours I spent playing it no doubt contributed to me getting shingles, but it was worth it.

CopyrightLet’s get on with it with some copyright news. The RIAA has dropped the controversial infringement monitoring firm MediaSentry, another sign of their new strategy to target ISPs instead of individuals. MediaSentry has been in the news many times due to their invasive techniques to gather evidence for prosecution, so I won’t shed a tear for them despite wanting to cry over my shingles related discomfort.

The Obama administration will be sworn in in a little more than a week’s time, but despite positive messages during the election campaign, the actions in regards to copyright has been much more negative. Two picks for important Justice Department and the AG’s office has been lawyers who are RIAA friendly or friendly to excessive copyright control legislations. Let’s hope this is just to balance out the administration’s pro-consumer policies, rather than just an extension of the status quo. But as I said when Obama was elected, and I am a huge supporter, is that one should not expect huge changes. This is because the lobbyist and interest groups have enourmous powers in Washington D.C, even more so than the Super Mutant Behemonth that will eventually inhabit the very same buildings as these lobbyists some years in the future.   

The other big copyright news of the week was the official death of music-DRM, as Apple announced they will go DRM free from April 1st. If this is not an extremely early April Fools trick, then one can safely say that the fate of music DRM has been sealed. Will gaming or movies be next? Let’s hope so, because as the as many people are finding out, DRM only really works to frustrate legitmate users, as one famous authors found out when trying to play his The Dark Knight DVD on this PC. DRM is one of the biggest cons of the 21st century so far, giving paranoid content owners a false sense of security at the expense of lost sales and consumer satisfaction.

High DefinitionIn High Definition news, fast growing electronic firm Vizio will have a sub-$150 Blu-ray player available soon. Blu-ray harware is still more expensive than DVD hardware, but I actually think prices have been a lot more reasonable recently, almost to the level of “cheap”. And even movie prices, when sales are on, are quite reasonable (the collapse of the British Pound has meant that buying from Amazon.co.uk in Australia is not a realistic proposition). So it looks like the ingredients for mass adoption is here already, no more excuses, and we’ll see in 2009 if Blu-ray has what it takes to take a huge bite out of DVD’s market share.

The problem right now, and one that will be solved by mass adoption, is that Blu-ray’s demographic is still very much concentrated in your typical enthusiast/early adopter/video gamer (thanks to the PS3). Male, likes action/sci-fi flicks, don’t mind paying over the odds for new releases. A great demographic for a premium video format, but not yet good enough to become a mainstream format. But to fully appreciate Blu-ray, you really need material to show it off, and that’s the action/sci-fi movies with booming surround sound. Not sure what one can get from watching romantic films in high def, and the extra details of skin imperfections might actually hurt.

And if BD doesn’t work, try 3D. At least that’s what the electronic manufacturers are thinking, with the on-going CES show giving us many 3D TV prototypes. 3D has always been used to generate interest when all else fails, but while I like 3D, I just don’t think the technology is here yet to fully show it off. If someone can make a 3D TV without the need for glasses, or at the very least, a 3D system that won’t make me nauseous (I’m nauseous enough right now, thank you very much) and has proper colours, then I’m all for it. Otherwise, a gimmick won’t help anyone. 

And as mentioned earlier, DivX 7 was released and I had a couple of blog posts that talked about it, including some early tests with the DivX Converter software that supports H.264 encoding. If you want to quickly get into H.264 without the fuss of configuring encoding options and such, then DivX Converter is recommended, as the produced files can be easily made to be PS3/Xbox 360 compatible in a minute or two (I might write a guide on how to get the MKV to MP4, using MKVtoolnix and MKVExtractGUI – edit: guide now up).

GamingAnd in gaming, nothing much is happening at the moment but the NPD figures should be out this week or next, and early reports suggest another win for the Wii, with the Xbox 360 in a distant second, and the PS3 doing not so well.  

Anyway, that’s all I have the energy for this week. Hope you have a itch free week, not much chance of me having one though.


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