Weekly News Roundup (21 March 2010)

Some big software news this week. First up, DivX Plus 8 was released, all the tools in the package got updated, including the DivX Player, Converter. As usual, there’s a free codec pack for those only wanting to play DivX (and now MKV/H.264) movies. Then there was a new version of ImgBurn, with a suitably impressive, and long, list of changes. And finally, PowerDVD 10 was released, with some exciting new features – a brief overview in this blog post to tide you over before the full review is up, but if you like 3D stuff, this one’s for you.

But wait, there’s more. I managed to sneak in a new PS3 related guide over the week as well. This one uses AVIAddXSubs and lets you add subtitles to AVI files that will show up on the PS3. And not only that, you can add up to 8 subtitles per AVI file, and they can be switchable (obviously), and even turned off. All without having to re-encode the AVI file, and all taking only a minute or two per subtitle stream.

And let’s not forget, we still have news to go through.


In Copyright news, in a surprising turn of events, content owners no longer wants to call people who download their content illegally “pirates”. Not because they’ve had a change of heart and realised that there’s isn’t a huge connection between a penniless college student downloading a copy of  District 9, and the often violent, on the seas theft of commercial shipping.

Jack Sparrow

Jack Sparrow: ruining a perfectly good word for music and movie studios

It’s all because, apparently, “piracy” is just too sexy a word to describe the horrific act of downloading bits of data from the Internet. It’s all Johnny Depp’s fault, I suppose, for making piracy look like good fun. Maybe the studios should sue Disney and Mr. Depp. Others have already speculated on what other words can be used to describe the inhumane act of downloading a copy of a file that can be copied an infinite number of times. Something that truly describes the full horror and the the immoral act of what we used to call piracy. File murdering? Song raping? Movie genocide?

These kind of hard decisions have to made somewhere, and soon, the rights holder may have a new global body to standardise these sort of things, if they get their way with the ACTA. Recent leaks suggested that a new body will be set up to oversee the global anti-piracy ACTA treaty, and that this body will be free to make changes to the treaty without governmental interference. In fact, the government won’t even be involved, unless by special invitations. US trade reps, allegedly, calls this body a necessary step to keep out consumer interest groups from ongoing copyright discussions. It’s becoming increasingly clear that these so called anti-piracy laws are nothing other than a desperate attempt to preserve the outdated business model of certain copyright holders, and through a scare campaign and big money lobbying, the various governments are nothing but props in this stage play. And now they want their own “OPEC”, so they can force their demands on the rest of the world and keep profits flowing.

The people, consumers, music lovers, movie fans, are increasingly being marginalized, even though they’re the ones paying the salaries of the government agencies so keen to hand over people’s rights to corporations, and they’re also the ones paying for the big bonuses that the music and movie studio bosses are no doubt getting. Speaking of disenfranchised, 10,000 UK voters have protested to their Members of Parliament about the controversial Digital Economy Bill, which is being rushed through parliament without debate at the insistence of the music and movie industry. So an unpopular bill may get passed without public consultation or even a debate (which would mostly have been an one way one anyway), while the corporations cheer the outcome that they’ve engineered. Is this still a democracy?

Command & Conquer 4 - Back

I couldn't find a higher resolution version of the back of the box, so one of the sections of the extremely small text says "Persistent internet connection required"

Gaming DRM is back in the spotlights this week, when EA announced that their new game, Command & Conquer 4, will use a similar DRM system to Ubisoft’s, which means an “always on” Internet connection requirement. Lose your Internet, or if the EA servers go down, then the game will kick you out. To be honest, none of this is really new, as many companies have tried “always on” DRM, and all have failed. Internet connectivity may have improved, but there are still many, me included, that don’t have access to a 100% stable Internet connections, certainly not stable enough to guarantee that a 2 hour gaming session won’t be interrupted. Futuremark’s Jaakko Haapasalo said it well last week – there are just so many games these days, and even on the PC, it’s still a relatively competitive industry. So if people don’t think they can play C&C 4 properly, then they’ll skip it for something else, or wait until it’s been “bargain binned” before buying. Why the game companies, who are already competing with *free* pirated games, want to add another thing that makes their product less attractive, I just don’t know.

High Definition

In HD/Blu-ray news, I previously mentioned LG’s Blu-ray player, which is one of the few that doesn’t have 3D in it, and instead, adds an HDD. The new player is now available to buy, and what was interesting was to see that it includes CD ripping.

Not that CD ripping on a standalone device is new, many can do it, but having it on a Blu-ray/DVD player just reminds you how useful it would be if the player could also rip DVDs and Blu-rays. I know there are piracy movie genocide issues to consider, but the convenience would be much appreciated. But the movie studios don’t trust their paying customers, so we’ll just have to be happy that they even let us watch the movie at all, after paying for it.

I recently talked about how you may not want to buy the soon to be released Lord of the Rings on Blu-ray (the comments/ratings protest on Amazon is still going strong, I see – I don’t know if sales will be affected, but it’s only 65th on the best seller list right now), now there’s also reason why you may want to wait on Avatar as well. Despite the director’s wishes, Avatar on Blu-ray released in April won’t be the 3D version, and you’ll have to wait for the (first of many, no doubt) “Ultimate” version coming in November, in time for the holiday season. That one will have 3D and more extra features, and maybe even a longer cut, no doubt. This is actually a bit more understandable than the decision to not release the extended version of the LOTR movies, since I doubt many people would have the equipment to play the movie in 3D right now, or even in November. And it’s not as if the extended cut of the film has been released for years beforehand already, so a double dip here is understandable. But I recommend you do an “one and a half dip”, rent the Blu-ray if you really want to watch the movie right now, and then buy the Ultimate Extended Special Collector’s 3D Extreme edition to be released later in the year.

Redbox about to become Blu, when Blu-ray movies are added to the collection

And you may just be able to rent Avatar on Blu-ray on a Redbox vending machine, since Blu-ray is now being added to fill the empty spaces in these machines. Unfortunately, the studios are still keen on trying to kill, or at least curb, Redbox, which they accuse of committing Content Manslaughter (act where studios profits are affected – at least it’s not murder). Studios insist on a 28 day window between releases making their way to Redbox vending machines, which the studios think will help their profits, but DVDGuy thinks will actually just encourage movie genocide. Feels to me like another self inflicted wound on behalf of the studios, since they can easily work together with Redbox and profit together.

There’s some musing from Microsoft about Blu-ray and the Xbox 360, but I’ll save that for the often neglected gaming section. But Microsoft did make another headline during the week when they revealed that IE9 will feature HTML5 support, which isn’t a surprise, but will also support the H.264 codec. Which isn’t that surprising either, since Microsoft owns several patents on H.264 and so they would like to see it succeed. Plus, they can easily afford to pay for the H.264 licensing costs just by digging for spare change in Steve Ballmer’s sofa. Mozilla’s Firefox won’t support H.264 though, since it’s against their open source principles, plus it also costs money. So that’s Chrome, IE and Safari in the H.264 camp, Firefox, Opera and Chrome (again) in the Ogg Theora camp.


And finally in gaming, with the PlayStation Move still making headlines, Sony are keen to keep the hype going and have released a TV ad that, well is either very funny, or very arrogant. Or both.

Spot the Difference

Spot the Difference

It portrays one of their VPs communicating all the way from the future, in November of this year (when the Move is released), and mocks the Wii’s for its limited playing style, and the button-less design of Natal. Of course, the “inferior” Wii is kicking the PS3’s butt on so many levels, why Sony wanted to make the comparison, I don’t know. Also, if Sony’s idea of “the future” is November, then maybe they’re even more shortsighted than I thought. This from the same company that dismissed the Wii before they wanted to be just like one. At least Microsoft is trying to be different with Natal, although sometimes different is just another word for “not very good”.

But Sega doesn’t seem to think so. They think the Natal really has potential and that we’ll see “brilliant innovations” in the next year or two. Sega plans to make games for both the Move and Natal, but it’s quite clear that they are a bit more excited at taking advantage of Natal, but only if they can solve the lag issue.

And Microsoft says that Blu-ray has ruined the PS3, at least until now that is. While I would like to say that this was Microsoft’s attempt at hitting back at Sony for the Natal mockery, but the truth is that Microsoft made this statement earlier than the ad itself. A lot of people will disagree with this statement, because many see Blu-ray as the one saving grace of the PS3 while its prices were sky high, and now that prices have come down, Blu-ray could be decisive. While I agree with this wholeheartedly, the fact is that the PS3 would be doing a lot better right now if it was cheaper, but it couldn’t be cheaper because of Blu-ray support, and so, Microsoft is partially correct as well. The PlayStation brand has gone from 80% market domination in the last round, to only 20% of the home console market in the current generation (in the US), and while it still has time to catch up, you can’t say that the PS3 has been as successful as the PS2, and that’s given the Wii and the Xbox 360 some room to breathe. I’m sure Sony doesn’t regret the decision, because it won them the HD format war, and that will bring its own rewards – they just had to sacrifice the PlayStation brand to do it, and they will hope it’s only a temporary setback.

And on that note, I shall end this week’s WNR. Expect much much less stuff next week, in relation to new software releases, guides or even news, although I shall faithfully attempt to get the PowerDVD review online as soon as possible. And by faithfully attempt, I mean whenever I feel like it. See you next week.


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