Archive for November, 2017

Weekly News Roundup (November 26, 2017)

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

Sorry again for the lack of a WNR last week – I know this is kind of getting ridiculous, but I had a good excuse. I have just moved house and with everything in such a state of mess, I couldn’t even find a proper surface to put my laptop on, let alone do any work (and that’s if I had time, which I didn’t).

You didn’t miss much though, and some of the stuff from then will be covered in this WNR as well. Let’s get going then!


HBO Hack

The HBO hacker has been identified as someone who used to work for the Iranian military

I had totally forgotten about it, but apparently the FBI did not, and the identify of the HBO hacker has been revealed. 29 year-old Behzad Mesri is the man the FBI says is responsible for the hack and the leak of confidential information from HBO, which included episode spoilers for ‘Game of Thrones’, as well as actual unaired episodes from other HBO shows.

Mesri had gained access to HBO’s systems, possible through social engineering techniques linked to an executive at the company. He then demanded a ransom payment of $6 million in Bitcoins, but when HBO failed to negotiate, Mesri did what he promised and started leaking content from July through August.

Charges that could carry a maximum of 42 years in prison have been laid, but it’s unlikely Mesri will ever face justice. The reason? Mesri currently live in Iran!

Also noteworthy, but maybe not, was the fact that Mesri used to work for the Iranian military involved in hacking the computer systems of foreign governments and enemies. The HBO hack, then, was probably a stroll in the park for Mesri. There is no suggestion that the Iranian military had any interest in the hack, I mean, why would they unless they too were big fans of ‘Game of Thrones’.

Fair Use

It’s a FU from the MPAA to Australians when it comes to Fair for Australians

Speaking of foreign interference, Hollywood studios are trying to tell us Aussies are not as worthy as Americans when it comes to having fair use protection. The MPAA is lobbying the Australian government to not give us the same rights that citizens of the trade group’s home country, the United States, currently enjoy.

Having fair use rights would enshrine into law the rights that we, as consumers, ought to have when it comes to using content that we’ve already paid for. This would mean things like making a personal copy of a movie ought to be legal, even if it means circumventing copy protection. This would also mean extra protection for educators, and also security researchers when it comes to finding security flaws (as sometimes you need to attempt to break the protection before you can find its weakness). It’s all common sense stuff that kind of falls into a legal grey area at the moment – you’re most likely not going to get sued for it, but even if you do, you’ll most likely win the case in court – fair use exemptions simply make it clearer from a legal point of view what is actually allowed and not allowed.

You would think the creative industry, or everyone really, should embrace injecting this kind of clarity into the copyright laws, but for Hollywood, they are against anything that has the perception of watering down copyright laws, regardless of whether it’s something that’s good for the economy or good for consumers. So I hope the Australian government sees the MPAA’s opinions as exactly what it is – a biased opinion from a group that puts its own self interest above everything, the economy, the rights of its customers, and common sense.

High Definition

With Australian retailers freaking out at the moment about the introduction of Amazon into our market, one thing is for sure, the increased competition should lead to lower prices for a lot of things, and in particular things like DVDs and Blu-rays. This is because a lot of Australians already have experience buying movies from Amazon US or UK (back when the exchange rate was more favourable), so much so, that Amazon has had a local warehouse here for ages now to deal with the ever increasing sales.

Tomorrow Never Dies DVD and Blu-ray

Blu-ray and DVD price drops accelerate due to increasing competition from streaming and digital

It won’t be the only pressure on DVD and Blu-ray pricing though, as the latest data from the UK shows that streaming services such as Netflix and online retailers have had a big effect on when retailers and studios choose to drop prices for the latest films. Retailers are dropping prices sooner and with a great amount than before, according to the latest data, and competition from the likes of Amazon Instant Video and online retailers, as well as supermarkets engaged in loss leading practices, is the main cause.

Adding my own personal anecdotal evidence into the mix, I’ve dramatically cut down on the number of movies I buy on disc since the arrival of Netflix and local streaming options. And so when I buy, it will only be because of a really great price. If other feel the same way as I do, then prices are only going to go down even further. Subscription streaming has definitely, in my opinion, lowered the value of movies to the point where I think it’s ridiculous to pay AUD $30 for one. Buying movies also has other problems that streaming and digital sellthrough does not have – as someone who is in the middle of moving, having endless number of boxes full of Blu-rays and DVDs is a real headache. On the positive side, I’m definitely going to the movies more with the money I’ve saved buying discs (but my overall spending is still way down).

Although with Amazon arriving locally, and if they can give us some great deals on Blu-rays, I might just get back into buying – not as much as before, but more than now. It really is all just about perceived value, isn’t it?


Well, that’s it for the week. Hope you’ve had a nice Thanksgiving for those in the U.S., a good result from Black Friday (not only in the U.S., it seems to be everywhere now), and hope you grab a bargain on Cyber Monday too. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (November 12, 2017)

Sunday, November 12th, 2017

Running a bit late today, so the WNR is being released a bit late too. There are a few things to go through, so let’s not waste any time …


The piracy rates has been steadily dropping in Australia, previously infamously known as one of the piracy capitals of the world (when it comes to Game of Thrones piracy, at least). And in the most up-to-date survey finds that the number of Australians actively engaged in piracy has dropped again, ever since the rate started in drop in 2015.

Stan Australia

The introduction of legal streaming sites like Stan in Australia has had a big effect on piracy

The piracy rate has dropped from 29% in 2014, that is 29% of those surveyed said they downloaded pirated movie and TV content, to only 16% now.

There might be all sorts of explanations as to why movie and TV piracy started to decline in 2015 on wards, but the fact that Netflix came to Australia in 2015 and Australia’s own subscription streaming platforms were also launched that year, might point to a possible reason.

But despite the clear relationship between the arrival of affordable, legal options and the decline in piracy (which incidentally has also happened with music piracy, after the arrival of Spotify), the group that commissioned the survey, the Australian Home Entertainment Distributors Association (representing the Australian film and TV home entertainment industry), feels that it’s actually website blocking and personal lawsuits that might have been responsible for the decline.

Never mind the fact that website blocking has only just recently started, despite the piracy decline starting in 2015, and the fact that the talk of personal lawsuits is just that, talk, at the moment. It is kind of worrying that even with such clear data showing what needs to be done in order to reduce piracy, some in the industry still fall back to the tried and failed solutions.

That’s not to say that the copyright crusaders haven’t changed. They have, for sure. They started with suing and blocking download sites. Then they changed to sue and block torrent sites. And then streaming sites. And now, it’s about suing and blocking Kodi.

The battle of words against Kodi has started in earnest (and the legal battle having started a few weeks ago), and this week, the MPAA claims that almost 70% of Kodi users are pirates. Of course, nobody actually knows where they got this information from, since not even the makers of Kodi are aware any such data exists about how their users use the software (and this was done intentionally, in order to protect the privacy of users). So just where and how the MPAA obtained their stats is a bit of a mystery, or as the Kodi people would say, it’s either completely accurate or something they’ve just made up.

Assassin's Creed Origin

Assassin’s Creed Origin’s choice of DRM under attack

Speaking of something that may be completely made up (and something I forgot to cover last week), Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Origin has been in the spotlight for the wrong reason due to its use of Denuvo, and more specifically, using VMProtect on top of Denuvo to make it harder to crack. There were claims that the game’s unusually high CPU usage was down to this controversial setup, wasting resources that otherwise could have been used by the game. Ubisoft then came out and flatly denied that their DRM implementation was at fault, saying the DRM had “no perceptible effect” on the game’s performance.

We won’t know who is telling the truth until the game’s DRM is cracked and a comparison can be made. As for when the game will be cracked, based on recent evidence, it might not take long at all.


Well, that didn’t take long. I think I may have rushed things a bit because I’m so out of time. I’m sure the qaulity of the artical hasn”t been affected at all! See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (November 5, 2017)

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

Again, sorry for the hiatus last week. I know this is becoming far more common than I would like, but I did have a genuine excuse last week. Apparently, you’re never too young to have your first bout of vertigo. First, and I really hope last for a while if not forever, because having the whole room spin every time you move your head, is not a pleasant experience.

So this week’s Weekly News Roundup is more like a Fortnightly Roundup, or Bi-Weekly if you prefer that terminology instead. I promise not to make a habit of it!

(One positive from my confined bed rest was how I managed to catch up on my Netflix a bit. Also good timing that Stranger Things 2 just came out! Tubular! I’m currently working my way through Mindhunter.)


Here at Digital Digest, we’ve always been waiting for the day that common sense prevails when it comes to DRM. In that, we look forward to the day that everyone sees just how worthless and counter-productive the whole thing is and either it stops being used, or if needed, legislation is put into place to prevent its use. What’s happening in Portugal falls short of this, but it’s at least in the right direction, with the European country deciding to inject a bit of common sense into digital copyright laws.

No longer will fair use have to play second fiddle to laws protecting DRM, and so if you need to rip something for research or personal use, there are no legal repercussions for doing so. And the use of DRM is now completely banned in Portugal when it comes to protecting content that shouldn’t be protected, such as works in the public domain.

The only things Portugal doesn’t do the right thing on is in relation to obtaining the tools to rip and remove DRM. Distributing these tools will still be considered unlawful, despite their use being legal in many cases. How this will work, I don’t know (probably a “turn a blind eye” kind of deal), but it just goes to show that, despite progress being made, there’s still a long way to go before “the folly of DRM” is consigned to the history books.

High Definition


HEVC wins an Emmy!

One things I found out last week was that it is actually possible for a video codec to win an Emmy. Or rather, the super smart people behind the HEVC codec won an Primetime Engineering Emmy, and I think well deserved too. Without HEVC, the 4K revolution really wouldn’t have been possible (imagine if Netflix 4K required a minimum bandwidth of 50+ Mbps, instead of the current 25 Mbps requirement).

Now, you could enter the argument that without the existence of HEVC, some other codec, maybe even an open source one, could have taken over. But one that is as efficient as HEVC, and also at the same time totally free of royalty encumbrances, might be nothing more than just wishful thinking – paying for something some times gives you a peace of mind that not paying for something and then getting sued later on for it does not.


Nintendo Switch Mario Odyssey Bundle

The Nintendo Switch is selling like hot cakes. Better, even!

Things get better and better for Nintendo. The Switch is dominating the PS4 and Xbox One in the NPD results, and this has translated to a upgraded profit results for Nintendo. And if you ever needed a comparison to how well the Switch is doing and how poor the Wii U was, all you need to know that in just a year, the Switch will most likely have sold as many units as the Wii U managed to do in its entire lifespan of five years. In other words, the Switch will outsell the Wii U by next March!

I don’t know if this says more about how popular the Switch is, or how poor the Wii U was, but probably a bit of both.

The next couple of months will be very interesting. Not only do we have the usual holiday sales peak, there’s also a new console out from Microsoft. The Xbox One X somehow manages to be the most powerful console ever made, and heaps smaller than the original Xbox One (and even smaller than the Xbox One S). Its price tag, however, is not that small, and that’s its main weakness.

Going back to the Switch, it will be interesting to see if sales hold up during the holidays, whether it’s the “must have game console” for the holidays, and if so, whether Nintendo can ensure there’s plenty of stock for everyone.


Alright, that’s it for the week. Time to finish off Mindhunter and then move on to the next binge target. See you next week.