Archive for the ‘Electronics’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (October 8, 2017)

Sunday, October 8th, 2017

Sometimes you get a weird collection of news stories, everything ranging from DRM delusions of grandeur to the latest news about advances in video tech (even though many people are still happily buying DVDs and watching Netflix in SD). Sometimes, like this week, you get a theme: rip, rip hooray.

You’ll get what I mean in a moment.

Copyright

The ripping scene has been pretty quiet ever since AACS 2.0 showed up via 4K Ultra HD (and some streaming services). This was a tough copy protection scheme that, unlike previous efforts (CSS, AACS 1.0), wasn’t trivial to break. This meant that 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, were for a while, safe from ripping. This seems to no longer be the case.

DeUHD

It may not look much, but it may just get the job done if you need to rip Ultra HD Blu-ray discs

Enter DeUHD, the first tool that makes ripping 4K Ultra Blu-ray discs as easy as clicking on a button. Sure, it’s pricey at the moment (an eye watering €199 for a lifetime license), requires specific hardware to work (and it doesn’t always work), but it’s the best we’ve got, and maybe a sign of things to come.

Just goes to show that, no matter how tough the DRM is, it’s only a matter of time before it’s broken. For now, UHD’s sheer size and the lack of proper burning options makes UHD Blu-ray ripping (and downloading) sometime strictly for video tech geeks like myself and gives the format natural protection against being pirated a lot, but being able to down-convert from such a high quality source may mean a slight but noticeable improvement in the quality of rips you’ll start to see (UHD-BDRips?).

Like AACS 2.0, Denuvo, while strictly speaking not a DRM (but really is a DRM), has been a star advertisement for the necessity of DRM (or DRM-like services). But not anymore, maybe.

News that Denuvo protected game ‘Total War: Warhammer 2’ was cracked in matter of hours should give pause all game publishers who had thought that zero day releases were a thing of the past. The time it takes to break Denuvo protected games has been shortening all the time for those that have been following the WNR, from months down to days, and now, down to hours.

So basically it’s the same thing I said two paragraphs ago, so I won’t repeat it again just to make the word count go higher.

Gaming

PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro

It’s taken a while, but the first pirated PS4 game has been shared – you most likely won’t be able to play it though

I guess when things happen they always happen in three’s, and so when the first pirated PS4 game was uploaded online, it wasn’t a total surprise seeing how this week was panning out. But unlike the other two efforts, this was is not for the faint of heart.

In order to play the pirated PS4 games, not only will you need a jailbroken PS4, which means one running a very old firmware version, you’ll also need to know your way around ELF loaders, Netcat and FTP Payload. In other words, it’s not something that will worry Sony at the moment, since it’s purely academic that pirated PS4 game exists – no one will be that desperate to play free PS4 games that they go to all this trouble just to do so.

Still, it’s the first small step towards something bigger perhaps, especially with rumours that a much more recent version of the PS4 firmware may have been compromised.

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So this week’s theme based WNR comes to a close here. I doubt next week will be as coherent, and probably not as busy either. We’ll find out then!

Weekly News Roundup (September 17, 2017)

Sunday, September 17th, 2017

Sorry for the brief hiatus last week – things got a bit out of control on all fronts, and something had to give. Things are bad to a normal-ish rhythm now, and so the WNR continues!

A few things to go through this week, but it shouldn’t take too long.

Copyright

WordPress Logo

WordPress experiences a surge in invalid and abusive DMCA take down requests

DMCA abuse is real. And for a company like Automattic, the makers of WordPress, who deal with each and every DMCA take-down request manually, it’s a headache that’s growing exponentially. Automattic revealed that for the first half of 2017, the number of DMCA requests they received more than doubled, but the number of actual legitimate requests actually dropped in the same period.

This means that the number of false reports, some due to inaccurate information, others are deliberated attempts to silence critics, have dramatically increased. The problem is so bad now that Automattic have rejected 78% of requests in the first half of 2017. Now, it has to be said that the 9,000+ requests received by Automattic is not a huge number compared to what a company like Google receives, and so for now, Automattic can still deal with them manually, with a human behind every request to determine if they are valid or not. For others, it means an automated system to deal with these requests, most of which are also being created automatically by bots, and the legal threat of things means that these system will err on the side of caution, to approve requests even if many are not valid.

So it end up being a battle of bots, neither side accurate enough to avoid collateral damage, which is legitimate pages being removed for no good reason.

But sometimes there are good reasons to get something removed, even if the main motive behind it has nothing to do with copyright. Internet celebrity PewDiePie is in the news again for all the wrong reasons after using a racial epithet in a recent video. The Internet backlash was strong and totally expected. One indie game developer, Campo Santo, was finally fed up with PewDiePie’s antics, and no longer wanted him to make money off the firm’s game Firewatch. What Campo Santo did to force PewDiePie’s hand, on the other hand, was controversial. The game developer used YouTube’s Content ID, its DMCA take-down platform, to get the video removed. And they succeeded.

The problem with this is that even after Campo Santo made it clear that copyright had nothing to do with their wish to have the video removed, they still manged to do it, despite fair use probably being on the side of PewDiePie. And as this The Verge article explains, maybe it shouldn’t be this easy, or at least, it should be a lot clearer just who’s right in this legal clash.

High Definition

Apple TV 4K

Apple fully on board the 4K and HDR train with its updated Apple TV

So the big news in the tech world this week was the release of the Apple iPhone 8 and X. Big news, but hardly surprising because of all the leaks that, in hindsight, were spot on. Perhaps a little bit lost among the hype of the X was the announcement of an upgraded Apple TV that supports 4K and HDR.

Apple has always been a gatekeeper of sorts for the “mainstreaming” of previously niche technology. By now supporting 4K and HDR, perhaps it’s as official a signal as we’re going to get that these technologies are ready for prime time, ready to become mainstream.

The best part though about the announcement was the fact that there won’t be a price hike when it comes to buying 4K content – it will be the same as the HD version. In fact, if you’ve already purchased the HD version, you can automatically upgrade to the 4K version for free.

As for the X, nothing was too much of a surprise thanks to the leaks, but the removal of Touch ID was a “double take” moment for me. Samsung’s clumsy last minute addition of a fingerprint reader on the back of the phone was not the best move, but Apple removing it altogether because they couldn’t get the screen integrated fingerprint reader to work in time, could be worse. For those like me that tend to unlock their phone with the fingerprint reader the moment I pick it up and before I even look at the phone, the switch to Face ID might be hard. Apple will hope that it works flawlessly, or it will definitely be the point of attack for critics.

As for the lack of a home button, not even a virtual one like on the Galaxy S8, I know for a fact that some will find it annoying (at first at least, and then it will probably be like second nature to them).

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Well, that’s it for the week I guess. See you next week. Hopefully.

Weekly News Roundup (September 3, 2017)

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

Sorry for the brief hiatus, back and refreshed from warm Far North Queensland. Back into the freezing grey wasteland that is Melbourne at the moment. Spring can’t come soon enough!

A short one this week before I freeze my fingers off typing this WNR.

Copyright

The Hitman's Bodyguard

Studios are failing to protect their movies

Movie studios might need to rethink the strategy of having simultaneous theatrical and digital releases, after the Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L Jackson comedy action hit ‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard’ was uploaded online in record time.

The source of the pristine, 1080p upload is speculated to be Netflix Japan, of all places, which somehow managed to secure the streaming rights to the film when other countries were still waiting for it theatrically (apparently, it’s being marketed as a Netflix Original Movie in the country, because it secured the exclusive distribution rights there). As good as it was for Japanese Netflix subscribers, this move might not have been the best for the film’s production company, Millennium Films.

Some time ago, I posted here that “if you can play it, you can rip it”. That’s still very much true, whether it’s DVDs, screeners, cams or streams. The only way to stop piracy is to stop people from actually being able to watch movies, and I’m not sure that’s what the film industry actually wants. Of course, giving a hit movie to Netflix, even in the far off land of Japan, may not have been the best idea either.

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You should have watched the GoT season finale by now, and so has millions of people who definitely did not watch it legally. Piracy peaked compared to the rest of the season, but did not break any records because of the increasing number of legal viewing options, and of course, streaming.

High Definition

HDR10+

Not another bloody HDR format!

The HDR format war is heating up (about the only thing with heat in my house at the moment) even more with the addition of a third major format into the race. With Dolby Vision gaining momentum thanks to Paramount, Warner Bros. and Lionsgate all starting to release titles in the format, the humble HDR10 format feels like it’s getting left behind.

And it’s not just branding at stake here. Dolby Vision does offer a few additional features that, in some cases, significantly improve the picture quality. The most important of which is something called dynamic metadata. Instead of having one set of HDR data for the entire movie of TV episode, dynamic metadata allows each scene to have their own set of data, thus allowing an even greater range of brightness for scene after scene.

HDR10+ aims to solve this shortcoming by adding basically just dynamic metadata support to the existing HDR10 standard. It’s something Samsung came up with, and is now supported by major rival Panasonic and studio 20th Fox, all in an attempt to not have to pay the high licensing fees associated with Dolby Vision. Amazon already supports the format too.

A format war is always bad for the consumer, but this one is not as bad as long as studios encode their Blu-ray releases in multiple HDR formats (as is the case with Dolby Vision releases so far). HDR10 remains the “fallback” format in all cases, so even if you don’t have a Dolby Vision or HDR10+ TV, you can still enjoy HDR.

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I think when your fingers and toes start feeling numb in the bitter cold that is my study, it’s probably time to stop writing. See you next week (when it’s hopefully a bit warmer)!

Weekly News Roundup (August 13, 2017)

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

A broken iPhone, a format in decline, the ending of a deal and the continuing of leaks. That’s what we have in store for you in this week’s WNR. Read on to found out just what the hell I’m on about.

Copyright

Power leaked via iPhone

Using a broken iPhone to leak an unaired episode of Power – that doesn’t happen usually

There’s got to be a better way to do this. Playing a screener on an iPhone with a broken screen while holding up another phone to record the playback, all the while complaining about your sore arm. This “new” cam method may not catch on, but the man responsible for it may very well be easily caught thanks to his habit of turning the phone to record his face. STARZ, the owners of the leaked ‘Power’ episodes, has promised a swift legal response, but this whole thing is so ridiculous, it might just work in the favor of the accused.

But this incident does proof one point – if there’s a way to play it, there’s a way to rip (and upload) it. STARZ may have invested in the best security infrastructure to protect their content, but all it took in this case was a shared password and a (broken) iPhone, and viola, leaked episodes.

And even when the theft attempt is more ambitious and professional, as in the case of the HBO hack, the result is the same. The HBO hackers, after failing to extract a ransom from HBO, release more content this week. The “highlight” of this latest batch of leaks is the episode outline for the unaired episode 5 of season 7. Written a year ago, so some things will have changed from the final product to air this Sunday, the episode outline will no doubt still contain a few valid spoilers. There are also timelines, roadmaps and promotional strategies for HBO’s flagship show, the release of which will no doubt irritate the suits at HBO HQ.

More leaks will be on the way, unless law enforcement can catch up to the hackers sooner rather than later.

High Definition

Tomorrow Never Dies DVD and Blu-ray

Blu-ray and DVD s are on the way out, Netflix in

The DEG’s regular reporting of the state of the U.S. home entertainment industry is an interesting read. Not so much because of the surprises (there aren’t any), but because of the very clear trend it is showing in each and every report – digital is beating physical, and streaming is beating everything else.

So the latest DEG report, for the first half of 2017, shows subscription streaming revenue continuing to rise at the expense of purchases. Not something studios heads will like. And within purchases, digital is rising while sales of physical media is dropping at a rather alarming rate (Blu-ray faring better than DVD, it has to be said).

Distribution is now more and more in the hands of tech companies like Netflix and Apple, and that’s worrying for studios, as that used to be their job (and their revenue source). So it was no surprise to me that the most powerful of the studios, Disney, wants to take back distribution by launching their own proprietary streaming platform. This also means that Disney movies will cease to be on Netflix in 2019, when Disney’s platform launches (Lucasfilm and Marvel content may follow suit).

Disney content on Netflix

Disney to go it alone as it plans to remove content from Netflix

From a consumer perspective, this is bad news. The dream of an all-inclusive, single streaming platform where everything you’ve ever wanted to watch is just a click away, is dying. Instead, we might have to start getting used to fragmentation, where you have to juggle between half a dozen or more streaming accounts just so you can binge between episodes of Family Ties and Cheers, or run a movie night of the best zombie movies ever (which will never, ever, featuring Brad Pitt’s World War Z).

Or we might have to get used to some kind of super, meta streaming service: Netflix ($9.95) with the add-on options including Disney, HBO, SHOWTIME, STARZ, et al. Did we just reinvent cable?

(and to be fair, Hulu is already doing something similar with its HBO, Cinemax and SHOWTIME – and now with a live TV option too. So I ask again, did we just reinvent cable?)

Whatever happens, it will most likely mean we’ll have to pay more to get what we currently get.

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So with that, we come to the end of another WNR. I’m off to watch the Disney stuff on Netflix before it all gets taken down. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (July 30, 2017)

Sunday, July 30th, 2017

I know I’m a little late to the game, but having wanted to do the right thing and wait for a legal way to watch Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale here in Australia, I’m just about to finish the first season. Wow – is all I can say, what a great show! Sure, there may be a little too much hand-holding to elevate the show to the status of The Sopranos or The Wire, but it’s right up there, especially the acting from Elisabeth Moss, Alexis Bledel and Ann Dowd (she’s also great in the movie ‘Compliance’, which is also very disturbing) – but everyone the show does a fantastic job, to be honest). Give it all the awards now!

And yes, despite what might feel like me wasting words on filler, we do have news to go through this week.

Copyright

AutoGK Google AdSense Ban

Apparently Google thinks video conversion tool AutoGK is a file sharing tool

The war on piracy takes a strange turn as previous ally, Google, has apparently now joined the dark side. Google’s decision to prevent download site FossHub from putting ads on pages that link to file sharing (including BitTorrent) software sounds like something Hollywood would do, not the tech company we’ve known and loved. Apparently, having anything to do with BitTorrent, in Google’s eyes, is illegal, despite the fact that these software are completely legal and have as much to do with piracy as web browsers (in that while it’s true that BitTorrent clients are used to download pirated content, the same can be said of web browsers, like even Google’s own Chrome browser, which people who visit The Pirate Bay and other pirate sites are most likely using).

But was I surprised at the way Google acted? Ask any webmaster that has been in the business for a few years, and they’ll tell you lots of horror stories about having to put up with the search engine company we all used to love, but is now out to screw us in any way it can. In fact, I’m not even surprised at the exact circumstances that led Google to ban the entire FossHub site from their advertising service just for a few file sharing tools, because I’ve been through exactly the same thing, and even worse.

Google banned ads from being served by my AutoGK software download page a while ago for the exact same reason they gave to FossHub: “unauthorized file sharing”. This is despite the fact that AutoGK is a video conversion tool, and does not have any file sharing features (and it’s also 8 years out of date). I attempted to repeal the decision, but there’s almost always no real person at the end of the review process, and so I just gave up.

A couple of years ago, Google also banned my site from being able to display ads because we had a few YouTube downloader tools. Despite the fact that Google claims different parts of their company (YouTube, Google search, AdSense …) are all separate and they do not collude with one another (and so there’s no anti-trust issues at all), the fact that their advertising branch banned my site because it featured downloads that violated another branch’s policies, seems to suggest otherwise. Also interesting to note that they did not care about video downloaders for other video sharing sites like Dailymotion or Vimeo. Anti-competitive much?

Anyway, here’s hoping the extra media attention will help FossHub reach a real person at Google and resolve this issue. But even if that happens, the thousands of other sites that are in the same situation and won’t get the same media coverage, like this one, are still going to be out of luck. And you know what the suckiest thing about all of this? That there’s actually no real alternative to Google ads, just like there’s no real alternative to YouTube, Google Search, Google Shopping … monopolies are no fun!

Game of Thrones: Season 4

Oh crap, GoT season opener viewed 90 million times illegally

A follow up to last week’s story about Game of Thrones piracy, the final figures are in and the season premier was viewed or downloaded illegally more than 90 million times! And as we touched upon last week, nearly 78 million views were directly associated with streaming portals, as opposed to torrent downloads. Only 500,000 downloads came from torrent sources, according to the data from piracy monitoring firm MUSO.

Australia didn’t have the most downloads/views, but given our small population, 2.2 million views (and assuming 2 view/download per household), it means that something like 12% of households in Australia might have gone down the piracy route for GoT – not surprising considering the epic fail by our only legal broadcaster for the show (see last week’s WNR for more info on that).

High Definition

Paramount has chosen to embrace Dolby Vision, joining the likes of Warner Bros., Lionsgate and Sony. Why is this news? Well, it isn’t really, as Paramount hasn’t even bothered to produce a list of future releases that will feature the souped up HDR tech (Baywatch? Transformers: The Last Knight?). And since hardly anyone even has a DV enabled TV, will anyone actually care?

But news is news, and when there’s not much going on, one can’t be choosy.

Gaming

Nintendo Switch

The Switch is selling well for Nintendo

Speaking of choosy, a lot of people have chosen the Nintendo Switch, with 4.7 million units already sold in the first four months since release. This compares well to the Wii U, which only sold 3.45 million units during the same period, and it didn’t have stock issues to deal with either. It’s still somewhat behind the Wii’s 5.84 million, but who can compete with the Wii?

Switch games are also selling like hot cakes (I looked it up, I think we call them pancakes here in Australia), with ‘The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’ being the pick of the bunch with 3.92 million copies sold (and who are the 0.8 million people that are buying the Switch without Zelda? Heretics!)

As to why the Switch is a success while the Wii U wasn’t? I think it’s because the Switch’s design and purpose are a lot clearer than the Wii U’s “portable but not really portable” design.

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That’s all I have for you this week. A little bit longer than my recent efforts – it’s good to have news to write about! See you next week.