Weekly News Roundup (1 November 2009)

It’s November already. 60 something days until 2010 is here, and not long to go until 2012, the end of the world. I’m talking about the movie of course, which is in cinemas in 2 weeks time and I already have the trailer made and ready for upload. Speaking of trailers, I’ve been uploading them with a bit more regularity recently, and I’ve ensured all of them are now 1080p resolution (H.264 video, AAC audio) – you can find them all in our movies section. I’ve also made sure they’re all Xbox 360 and PS3 compatible, meaning they’ll play on these consoles without the need for further conversion. This means limited audio (no 5.1 audio, and LC only), but the original source files for most of them come only with stereo tracks anyway. A pet peeve I still have is that many H.264/AAC files that you find on the Net are not PS3/Xbox 360 compatible without further processing – both consoles, the PS3 in particular, make excellent media centers without the complexity, and if more files are compatible without transcoding or editing, it makes the whole process a lot easier. Anyway, the news, not much going on again, but I’ll turn up the rant knob to 11 and hopefully that will be enough.


Let’s start with the copyright news. Anti-piracy or anti-terrorism? Which is more important? Now this might seem a fairly straightforward question to answer, but it isn’t so in the UK.

Britain's spy agency is against the three-strikes anti-piracy law

Britain's spy agency is against the three-strikes anti-piracy law

The country’s chief intelligence agency, MI5, has come out against the government’s plan to implement a three-strikes anti-piracy legislation. And the police are siding with them as well. It’s not so much that they’re against the notion of anti-piracy, it’s just that the means in which the government wants to pursue it will make their anti-crime and national security operations much much more difficult. The reason is that by making your average ISP a spying organisation, it also makes every Net enabled citizen the subject of spying, and it’s not the secretive kind either, it’s all out in the open. This will then force even the average Joe to adopt better security to overcome this spying, which effectively means encrypted Internet connections might become the norm. This thus makes police and intelligence agencies’ work much harder, as even “listening” in on to characters of minor importance might mean an expensive and time consume decryption process. And of course, the encryption means that the anti-piracy operation will also fail. So the government has a choice to make, to either protect the country from real criminals or to go after kids who download three MP3s. The government, unfortunately, seems to have chosen the latter, and they plan to have the banning system up and running by 2011. I guess the anti-terrorism and crime lobby just doesn’t have the pull of the pro-copyright one.

The immediate plan is to introduce a warning system in the UK, where ISPs spend huge amounts of money spying on its own customers and send those suspect of piracy warning letters. If this plan doesn’t reduce piracy by 70% by April 2011, an impossible target (and possibly a deliberately chosen impossible one), then the banning penalty will be introduced. For those in the UK that plan on passively protesting this, might I suggest that you increase your piracy activities so that by April 2011, piracy will not only have not reduced, but have actually increased thanks to the warnings. Of course, I would never condone piracy, so delete those illegal files after you download them please, but this again highlights another flaw in the proposed system. Even if you do as I suggest and delete the pirated file immediately after download, you will have been recorded as having downloaded the illegal file, yet you did not use it and did not even intend to use it. Under the proposed system, intent appears to not matter, nor does actual usage of the pirated materials – the fact that you downloaded it is enough. Except it isn’t, not under any fair legal system. Further reason to protest, so Britains, download away (and delete right afterwards, of course).

It piracy means less movies like All About Steve, then that's just a bonus

If piracy means less movies like All About Steve, then that's just a bonus

The charm offensive, if you can call it that (although I do call it “offensive”), has already started from the movie studios. This week, it’s Sony Picture’s CEO writing a blog about just how bad piracy is and how it hurts the poor multi-billion dollar corporations. Hurts them so much that, they might even make less movies. And they have made less movies, apparently. Yet they have still made record profits, even in an economic downturn, so what exactly is going on here? Perhaps they’re making less crappy movies because the power of the Internet, a system designed for word of mouth type communications, has meant that crappy movies are spotted as such and flounder at the box office much faster than previously (see Bruno, and the tweets that might have savaged its box office earnings). There’s much less room, and much less tolerance for crappy movies these days. And the alternative source for releasing them is straight to DVD/Blu-ray, which I’m not sure if the movie studio CEO counts as a produced movie. Then there’s also the rising budget for movies, which leaves less for others to be made. And the credit crisis has meant that movie funding hasn’t been as free flowing as in the past. Yeah, but let’s blame it all on piracy shall we?

Of the various trials, many of them are on a break at the moment. The Pirate Bay trial, or appeals trial, has been delayed until next year as reported recently, but the movie studios aren’t happy that The Pirate Bay will still be operational until then. So they have asked the Swedish court to fine the founders of the website if they do not close it. The only problem is that the founders have consistently denied any further involvement in the running of the website, and so the website will probably remain open, if the founders get fined.

High Definition

Enough copyright stuff, let’s move onto HD. If you don’t have a Blu-ray player, but want one, then the upcoming holiday sales may be just what you need. Rumours suggest that Blu-ray players will be available for as low as $49 for this year’s Black Friday sales.

Now I wouldn’t recommend you buy these players. They’re mostly superseded Profile 1.0 and 1.1 players – Profile 1.1 is still okay if you don’t need the Internet features, or video streaming service support, but 1.0 players really shouldn’t even exist on the market anymore.

But even the fully featured Profile 2.0 players can be had for less than $100, although those wanting to make their own Blu-ray movies or AVCHD/custom discs, might need to do a bit more research on just which cheap player is for them.

Netflix is coming to the PS3, first via a Blu-ray disc

Netflix is coming to the PS3, first via a Blu-ray disc

But if you have a bit more cash lying around, then you might consider a PS3, because Netflix will soon be available on the console. At first, it would be a (free) Blu-ray disc with a BD-Live connection to Netflix to drive the service, but eventually, a built-in service will be available. With the recent price drops, the PS3 still represents good value as a Blu-ray player and media center, especially compared to name brand players with comparable features. This is good news for supporters of the next generation of home video (the one after Blu-ray), which many believe to be digital distribution.

This move, obviously a way to play catch up on the digital distribution front that has been spearheaded by the Xbox 360 in terms of game consoles, may also signal Sony’s reluctant move towards digital distribution. Sony will always prefer their own in house solution, using proprietary formats, and Netflix has made huge strides in the area, thanks to Blu-ray players and the Xbox 360, and Sony may not have any other choice other than to embrace a third party service. And while this won’t really hurt Blu-ray, it has the potential to do so in the future. Netflix has already said so themselves that their streaming service is gaining at the expense of the disc rental side, and once HD streaming becomes a reality (mainly waiting on bandwidth, at the moment), then the good old optical disc (and the mechanical drives that read them) might then seem quite quaint.

There’s not much gaming news that I found interesting, so I’ll keep on going with this Netflix on PS3 thing. Many have come out to say that this is a huge blow to the Xbox 360, since Netflix has been exclusive on it up until now. And since the PS3 is a better media center, which I agree thanks to its low noise, this means that the Xbox 360 will lose or something. The only problem with this argument is that Netflix isn’t exclusive to the Xbox 360, and has never been. Blu-ray players have it, your PC obviously supports it, and there were many ways to get Netflix streaming without having to use the Xbox 360. And just how many people have actually bought Xbox 360’s because it had Netflix? This isn’t a victory for the PS3 or a defeat for the Xbox 360, it’s just simply a victory for Netflix and for digital distribution. And to further drive the point, the world’s most popular home video game console doesn’t even play DVDs, let alone have any sort of media center ambitions.

And the other interesting line I heard over the week is that the recent PS3 successes is good news for PS3 owners. I think it’s good for Sony, but I’m not sure how well the PS3’s success translates to being good news for PS3 owners, especially those who shelled out full price for the console a few months before the price drop. I guess in the short terms, there will be more users for the multiplayer games. And more buyers may mean cheaper games, but that’s a highly questionable assumption. Will there be more games for the PS3? Or rather, would the PS3 have gotten less games if it had been less successful? Probably not, as the PS3 was never in danger of dying in the same way as the Sega Dreamcast. Will PS3 games be of higher quality? Possibly, but that’s more to do with developers still learning to get the best out of the PS3, as opposed to not bothering to put in the effort. But it is good news for those invested in the phony console war, to have their decisions justified, even though they can justify it everyday themselves by using it and  having fun on it. Just like those who purchased and thoroughly enjoyed their Dreamcasts.

So on that note, have a great week, enjoy and appreciate every minute, because 2012 isn’t that far away (not talking about the movie).


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