Weekly News Roundup (2 October 2011)

Battlefield 3 Screenshot

I've been wasting time playing the Battlefield 3 Beta, and it's mostly fun, even if some technical issues can ruin the experience, plus the fact that I suck at it

I hope you’ve had a good week. We’ve just had Daylight Savings time turned on overnight, and of course, I forgot all about it as usual. I hate it when DST starts, you lose a precious hour that I could have used to do so many things. Like play the Battlefield 3 Beta. I think I’m officially the worst BF3 player in Australia, if not the world, mainly because I’ve not played much FPS multiplayer games before, let alone the more team oriented BF series. I’m such a complete noob, and if you’re just like me, then the first step to solving this problem is to admit you have a problem. The next steps would be to watch these two videos to find out how you can become a better BF3 player.

While I can’t really help you with any gaming related tips, but I can with some technical issues. My C2D E8500 + Radeon HD 6850 is not the best rig for BF3, but I find it playable at 1080p if I keep the detail settings on Auto. It still looks great, the odd glitches apart. But the biggest problems I’ve had to far is the looping sound crash problem (if it happens, you don’t need to do a hard reset, at least not in Windows 7, as you can press the “Windows” key on your keyboard to switch back to the desktop and use task manager to kill the bf3.exe process) – you’re most likely using on-board audio, which then suggest a Realtek chip, and updating the driver should be your first priority. The other issue I had was with the ATI drivers crashing, and I found that closing down any opened software does help (MSN Live Messenger is a particularly bad culprit). Both Nvidia and ATI have released preview drivers that is optimized for BF3 (it really does help), although it appears ATI have removed the drivers for some reason, but you can still find it here. Alright, enough BF3 nonsense, let’s get started with the news roundup.

Update: Just a bit more nonsense, the ever useful FRAPS tells me that @ 1080p on Auto (which was detected to be ‘High’ for my system), I can average around 40-45 FPS, with the occasional framerate drop, but nothing that makes it unplayable). I tested ‘Ultra’, and found that I could only get around 25 FPS outdoors, and just above 30 FPS indoors, less when there’s more action on screen (but it did look fantastic). I had to quit many times to my team’s displeasure to record these results for you (as BF3 beta won’t allow you to change video settings during games).


Let’s start with copyright news for the week, we start with what is apparently a new strategy in anti-piracy enforcement online – $10 fines.

On the surface, this sounds like a much better idea than $3,000 settlement fees, but dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that it’s probably $10 you don’t need to pay. The reason Digital Rights Corp (DRC) can still profit from a $10 piracy fine, is that they don’t actually do any of the legal work required in order to get the $3,000 settlement fees. They don’t bother to match IP address to a real person, as they let the ISP do it, and until you actually click on the link in the email that the ISP forwards to you, and give them your credit card numbers for payment, DRC doesn’t even know who you are. And unless DRC goes to court to obtain a subpoena, they can never find out – but if they do go to court, then $10 won’t even come close to covering their costs. Still, it doesn’t stop DRC allegedly “warning” users that they could still face $150,000 fine, or ISP disconnection, both claims are not true, and a $10 fine is not going to get your account unbanned, if that’s what has already happened. DRC also appears to only represent older artists (most of them dead, actually), and so the likely target for their emails will probably be the elderly – those that can’t afford the $3,000 fine (so will fight it), but are also not technically knowledgeable enough to know that they probably don’t have to pay the $10 fine – a niche, but potentially profitable market sector.

Canada's Heritage Minister James Moore

Canada's Heritage Minister James Moore says that if people aren't prevented from backing up their own DVDs, the results could be "quite disastrous"

Across the border in Canada, the Conservative government there is trying, for the third time, to bring in harsh copyright laws that will try to mirror US laws, possibly as a way to get out of the “rogue nations” copyright list that the US produces every year. Taking from some of the worst aspects of the US DMCA, Canadians will find themselves on the wrong side of $5,000 fines if they even attempt to circumvent the “less-than-useless” DVD copy protection, even if it’s just to make their purchased disc playable. A totally useless clause that does nothing to prevent piracy, but strips away consumer rights, all in an attempt to make Hollywood happy. For me, any provision about DRM circumvention should distinguish between the various reasons for DRM circumvention (fair use), and also should take into account the strength of the DRM. If I simply wrote on a piece of paper “DRM – do not remove”, and stuck it on a DVD using sticky tape, it cannot be a crime to “rip” the “DRM” away, because it never worked in the first place. To me, these kind of laws offer legal protection to bad technical solutions, and threatens anyone who dares to test the system for security holes – this will end up hurting computer security, not help it. Imagine if the DVD people had allowed hackers to play around with DVD’s CSS copy protection and re-engineered it based on their feedback, maybe, just maybe, they would actually still have a DRM system that can’t be broken with 6 lines of Perl code, or code that can be printed onto a tie. And then there’s the introduction of a “notice-and-notice” scheme, which forces ISPs to forward infringement notices to end-users, which I guess is at least better than “notice-and-takedown”.

And maybe, in the end, the best way to prevent piracy is to actually compete with services being offered by pirates. After all, it seems to be the most effective anti-piracy method, at least in Sweden. A new Swedish survey has found that music piracy rates has decreased by 25% since the introduction of Spotify and other free streaming services. I dare the RIAA to find any DRM system that’s as effective as simply giving the people what they want. And let’s not forget that Spotify makes money too, which also means the music industry makes money too. Interesting was also the data that showed 40% switched from illegal and legal due to better selection of tracks. This is a huge clue to the music industry, and even to Hollywood, as to how to combat the piracy problem. The way Torrents work, particularly, depends on seeders and large enough swarms – both of which are unlikely to exist for rarer, older stuff. By offering greater selection of content from their archives, and at an attractive price, these “long tail” sales can potentially bring in a long of money. Do it as a package, that includes new content, for a small monthly fee, and you’ve got a competing product to piracy. Because if you can’t compete on price (it can’t get cheaper than free, although if the industry works together with ISPs to  offer free bandwidth, then that’s another way to compete on price), then you should at the very last compete on quality, and quantity, of the content being offered.

High Definition

In HD/3D news, of course, I can’t let this week pass without mentioning Star Wars. I was totally surprised that, in the week Star Wars was released, it wasn’t even the best selling Blu-ray title – that honour belonged to Thor.

Star Wars on Blu-ray

Star Wars on Blu-ray was not even the top selling Blu-ray disc for the week it was released in - beaten by Thor in the end

But with both Star Wars and Thor combined, Blu-ray market share did rise to an all time high, at nearly 35%, easily beating the previous record set by Avatar (around 27%). Of course, I think it’s still a little disappointing that “Star Wars week”, even with Thor included, didn’t even get close to beating the revenue figures set by “Avatar week”, although you do have to take into account the fact that the Star Wars boxset was quite expensive, and so in this economy, it’s a luxury most cannot afford. Plus, all the nonsense with the George Lucas changes might just have affected sales, because I know quite a few people who claim they’ve cancelled their pre-orders because of the “Nooooo” thing.

I didn’t pick it up either, mainly because I know if I do pick it up now, it will be probably a year before I have the time to watch it (got a backlog of about 2 dozen discs I’ve not yet watched – I mean, I only recently watched ‘No Country For Old Men’, and I got that in 2008 when it was first released!). Hopefully, it will either get cheaper or a better version will be released, by the time that I actually have time to watch them (and to be honest, I’ve watched the movies so many times that, it’s just now that exciting for me any more – maybe I’m finally growing up!)

A new report says that, by 2015, sales of DVD recorders will stop and be replaced by Blu-ray recorders. Make sense, and I think it won’t even take that long either. In fact, I don’t think even DVD players will be around for much longer when Blu-ray players start to drop below the magic $50 mark. I mean $25 for a DVD player, or $50 for a Blu-ray one (that, let’s not forget, also plays DVDs, and probably upscales too) – no brainer really.  And it doesn’t even matter if you have the other hardware to get the best out of Blu-ray, a lot of movies are now cheaper on Blu-ray or are released exclusively on the format, so Blu-ray is starting to make sense from a financial point of view too.

And while it doesn’t really fit into any of the three major categories of the WNR, I should mention Amazon’s Android based Kindle Fire tablet, which looks like an exciting product, mainly due to the low price. With Amazon backing Android, there’s finally a company with the content clout to compete with Apple, even if the Kindle Fire is probably not good enough to compete with the iPad 2. But not everyone needs a premium tablet, again I point to the economy, and so perhaps the Kindle Fire can find the right market niche to be a huge success. And Amazon are subsidizing the price a bit, by lowering their profit per unit (they claim that they do still make a profit on each unit sold), and this could be the tablet to compete with the generic brand budget Android tablets as well, which is also a big market segment.

Not much in gaming news this week, other than what I’ve already mentioned above BF3 at the top, so that brings us to the end of another, slightly abbreviated, WNR. See in next time.


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