Archive for the ‘Electronics’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (April 23, 2017)

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

Welcome to a brand new week on the WNR, where we bring you all* the latest news and happenings in the world of digital video, Blu-ray, gaming and everything else. It looks like I survived my wisdom teeth surgery after all, sorry about the lack of updates the week before (too busy barfing from postoperative nausea).

I’m writing this WNR a little bit later than I usually do on Saturday because I just picked up my new Samsung Galaxy S8+ and have been playing too much with it. It’s a really nice, I can’t say little but it definitely doesn’t feel too big, phone, with a gorgeous screen that doesn’t seem to end (gaming and watching movies, particularly those in the wider aspect ratio of 2.35:1, is a fantastic experience).

But no time to play time, it’s time for work, and there’s quite a bit to go through this week too, so let’s get started)

(* “All” is defined as the news stories I found interesting and/or had time to write up)

Copyright

2Dark

2Dark’s updated Denuvo protection cracked already

The cat and mouse game between anti-tampering system Denuvo (ie. DRM) and game crackers continues afoot with Denuvo releasing an updated version, dubbed v4, of their system. Unfortunately for Denuvo, it only took a month for the first game to be protected by v4, 2Dark, to be completely cracked – something that others had thought would take a lot longer.

While this does not mean all games with Denuvo v4 will be easily cracked from this point onwards – each game needs to be cracked individually – it does mean that crackers possibly have found an entry point into the system and it will make it easier to crack other games that are scheduled to use v4, including Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, Dead Rising 4, Nier: Automata, Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition, and Mass Effect: Andromeda.

Of course, being protected for a month is still better than nothing and one could argue that a month is actually all that’s needed for a game, as that’s why most of the sales happen. However, it seems with each cracked game, crackers improve their technique and reduce the time needed to crack the next one. So if Denuvo v4 only manages to protect Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 for a couple of days, then perhaps publishers won’t be so keen to use Denuvo unless they can get some kind of money back provision in their contract.

High Definition

PowerDVD 17

PowerDVD 17 has UHD, VR and other cool stuff … but you’ll need the hardware to match

It’s been a long time coming, but there’s finally a way to play Ultra HD Blu-ray movies on your PC. And if you have one of those fancy PC based VR system, then you can watch your favourite movies in a VR environment too (or watch immersive 360 degrees movies).

I am talking about the latest and greatest version of PowerDVD, now in version 17 (I remember talking about it here on Digital Digest way back when the software was still in 0.x version). If you get the Ultra version, which is still at the $99 that it has almost always been, then you’ll have access to all these fancy new features.

Of course, you’ll still need the hardware, and that’s when the problem starts. The latest Kaby Lake CPU, the latest integrated Intel GPU or a GTX 970, and an Ultra HD Blu-ray reader drive are your *minimum* requirements, so it’s by no means accessible for everyone. And that’s just for Ultra HD Blu-ray – you’ll need more hardware for VR.

But if you’re rich and you already have all of these, than PowerDVD 17 Ultra is a must-buy. A must-buy mainly because it is the only thing you can buy that will play UHD discs.

While Disney is still saying away from UHD, unfortunately, Rogue One’s Blu-ray release was still a big one. Just not as big as The Force Awakens, which is not surprising. The 3D edition of the movie also sold really well despite it being a Best Buy and Target only exclusive. If it had been available on UHD, I think the UHD results would have been amazing. Not as amazing as Planet Earth II from the previous week, but still amazing. Come on Disney, pull it out!

Gaming

Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch outsold the PS4 and Xbox One in March

If you’re also rich, you’re probably one of the million or so people that already have Nintendo Switch. Not to say that the Switch is expensive, it’s quite good value for what you’re getting, but you’ve either already spent a load on a Wii U and games or you’re coming from the PS4/Xbox One camp, which means the Switch is another thing you have to buy, and given what has happened with the Wii U, you might be a little bit cautious.

But there doesn’t seem to be a need, since all reviews point to the Switch as an excellent, fun system that gives you something the others can’t. And it seems a lot of you agree, as it was the best selling console in March, at least in North America, easily beating the PS4 and the Xbox One.

This may not hold up for the coming months, since the Switch’s game library is still quite small (although I found the fact that more Zelda games have been sold than the total number of consoles to be quite interesting – are people buying games before they buy the Switch?).

But poor Xbox One, relegated to third place. Scorpio can’t come soon enough for Microsoft, and even then, success is not guaranteed. It might be the most powerful console in history when it’s released, but if it’s also twice as expensive as the PS4 Slim, then you can forget about it.

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You can also forget about me getting a lot of work done in the next few days, as I’ll be playing with my S8+ and the Gear VR. Actually, I will most likely be doing the vacuuming and house work, but that doesn’t sound very cool does it?

Weekly News Roundup (April 9, 2017)

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

Welcome to another edition of the WNR. I’m writing most of this on the day before I usually publish the WNR, it’s pouring down, and despite it being the afternoon, it’s already quite dark. And I just happen to be catching up on ‘Stranger Things’, home alone, while the bad weather is making all kind of noises, and somehow it all feels quite appropriate.

Oh yes, there’s also news to go through.

Copyright

MXQ Player

There are lots of “pre-installed” Kodi boxes offering easy access to pirated content

The war on piracy has a new target – Kodi boxes. Or more precisely, Android based media players that have Kodi and piracy related third party plug-ins pre-installed. The MPAA have already started making noises about taking “action” on these boxes, and several European countries have already started targeting the sellers of these boxes.

Perhaps sensing the winds are changing, Amazon, a place where sellers of these boxes are doing great business, has decided to do something about it all. Amazon has updated their seller policies to ban the sale of such boxes, and they are willing to destroy stock of any such boxes that are passing through their fulfillment centres.

For their part, the developers of Kodi has tried to distance themselves from the makers of these piracy plug-ins. And of course, users can also buy their own generic Android boxes and install these plug-ins and apps themselves, so there will be still be market out there for the sellers – they just can’t sell these boxes pre-installed.

The war on piracy continues.

Gaming

Project Scorpio

The Xbox One Scorpio will be the most powerful console on the market

We now know a little bit more the Xbox One Scorpio, as Microsoft, in association with Digital Foundry, chose to officially reveal a few things about the upcoming console, including its tech specs.

One thing’s for sure, the Scorpio will be one helluva console. With 12GB of RAM (up from the 8GB in the current Xbox One/S, and now GDDR5 to boot), an 8 “custom” X86 core 2.3GHz CPU (up from 8 Jaguar cores @ 1.75GHz), and memory bandwidth upped from 219GB/s to 326GB/s, it’s safe to say that this is a much bigger upgrade than the PS4 Pro.

How big? Well, Microsoft demo’d a Xbox One port of Forza running at 4K/60FPS, and GPU utilization never went above 70%. Yep, the Scorpio will be a proper 4K console. And of course, Ultra HD Blu-ray playback will be included (would be a surprise if it wasn’t, considering the budget ‘S’ console already has it)

So while we now know a bit more about the Scorpio (although we don’t actually know what it’s actual name will be yet), in the end, it will be about the game lineups that determine whether it can take on the PS4 – get a couple of good, 4K exclusives, then the Scorpio will make the PS4 Pro look decidedly outdated.

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Wait, what’s that noise. It’s coming from the shed out the back, maybe I should go and have a look. Hmm, why are the lights flickering …

(just in case you get worried I’m really caught up in some kind of Strangers Things situation, there’s a chance there won’t be a WNR next week as I’m having wisdom teeth surgery and I’ll probably be in so much pain that I CBF to write one)

Weekly News Roundup (March 26, 2017)

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

Welcome to another edition of the WNR. Sorry for the little break last week, but things are back to normal now, and we actually have a bit of news to go through too.

They say that no news is good news, but sometimes having news is good news too.

Copyright

And sometimes piracy is a good things too, at least according to music superstar Ed Sheeran. In an interview with CBS, Sheeran opened up about his rise to success, and he wasn’t embarrassed to admit that piracy played a big role in his early successes.

Spotify Mobile

Legal streaming options means file sharing no longer exists, says Ed Sheeran

Sheeran says that is was university students in England, sharing his music on file sharing networks, that helped him get noticed. “I know that’s a bad thing to say, because I’m part of a music industry that doesn’t like illegal file sharing,” said Sheeran.

However, Sheeran says that musicians today may no longer need file sharing to get noticed and that fans no longer need to download illegally, all thanks to the availability of legal streaming platforms.

In other words, piracy has always been used as a discovery platform, and that’s its main redeeming feature. With legal streaming via YouTube and Spotify is taking on piracy in a big way, these platforms also now act as discovery platforms, both for musicians to get noticed and for music fans to find new artists to listen to.

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A little update on a story from a month ago when Google’s Chrome removed the ability to disable the controversial Widevine DRM. Thanks to “user feedback” (also known as angry and vocal complaints), Google has re-added the ability to disable Widevine, as well as other plug-ins that were made mandatory with the version 57 update. Who says complaining doesn’t work?

Gaming

With the PS4 back on top after a couple of months of Xbox One victory (thanks to the Xbox One S) in the hugely important U.S. market, the global picture still sees Sony on top, rather comfortably.

PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro

The PS4 is still comfortably beating the Xbox One

The PS4 is still enjoying almost a 2-to-1 sales margin over the Xbox One according to the latest IHS Markit report, with 53 million PS4s already sold compared to only 27.6 million Xbox Ones.

March’s NPD report will be extremely interesting, due to the introduction of the Switch. Nintendo seems to be onto a real hit with the hugely popular (and instantly out of stock) Switch, and it will give the Sony, Microsoft duopoly a real run for its money.

Will you switch to the Switch? Or keep on playing with the PS4, or keep on spending one on one time with your Xbox One?

Sorry for the lame play on words, it’s been a long week.

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What hasn’t been that long is the length of this WNR. But why waste words when you don’t need to. Especially when you’re not being paid by the word. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (March 5, 2017)

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

Welcome to another edition of the WNR. As we start my favourite month of the year (birthday month!), things are happening all over the place. And by things, I only mean more and more copyright actions, whether it’s new lawsuits, or new site blockings. It all seems rather pointless considering how none of it has proven to work in the past, but I guess for some, doing something is better than doing nothing at all.

But that’s a dangerous line of thought. Because sometimes doing something but doing the wrong thing can take your focus off doing the right thing. If rights-holders want to spend all their time and effort in obsessing over these anti-piracy measures, and totally ignore trying to innovate, then that’s great news for the likes of Netflix and Google and Apple, or the next big tech company, who will all gladly fill the gap in consumer need left by the dinosaurs that are the movie and music companies.

With Netflix making movies, and YouTube getting into TV, it’s only a matter of time we will have to redefine just what is a movie studio or a music label, and what kind of value do they actually inject into the whole ecosystem.

Okay, enough ranting for now, let’s get to the news (which will ultimately lead to more ranting).

Copyright

Censorship

Rights-holders: censorship is the way to go

The piracy blockade in Australia is gathering momentum, with more sites now being added to the blocking list. The Pirate Bay, Torrentz, TorrentHound, IsoHunt and SolarMovie have already been targeted, and now in the second round of legal action (to get a court order to force ISPs to block sites),  ExtraTorrent, RARBG, Demonoid, LimeTorrents and dozens of other sites are now being added to the blockade.

If successful, this will lead Australians to one of three choices. To pay for the overpriced, under performing legal option to watch Game of Thrones; to get a VPN to bypass the blockade (or to access sites that haven’t been blocked yet); or to not watch Game of Thrones. The last option is obviously not realistic or acceptable, and the first option is hardly palatable (or even a realistic option for many), so … let’s put it this way, if I was operating a VPN company right now, I would be pretty happy with these developments. And if I was a copyright lawyer, I would also be happy and would start preparing the legal groundwork needed to start suing VPN providers. A win-win for everyone except for consumers and innovators.

Sweden is also getting in on the site blocking game (a little late if you ask me), with the Pirate Bay, and a handful of other sites, finally getting blocked in its home country. The ISPs are not happy and vow to fight future blocking attempts, with one ISPs boss even calling this latest development just a sign of the copyright industry’s “death throes” as the industry fails to grasp the need to reform and to evolve to become more customer oriented.

Meanwhile ExtraTorrent is coming under renewed pressure with its main domain name, extratorrent.cc, being seized by the domain’s registrar, although it does not stop the site from being accessed thanks to the myriad of backup domains. More death throes.

High Definition

Netflix Downloads

Netflix: Innovation is the key to success

So on the other site we have company like Netflix, and their CEO, talking positively about the future, and taking positive steps to innovate their way to success. With mobile data usage on the up and providers not so keen on the development, Netflix has seen the potential problem and has decided to take some steps to address it before it becomes a problem. The company is working on compressing its already efficient video streams to make it less data intensive for mobile users, with CEO Reed Hastings believing that 0.2 Mbps is all that’s needed to deliver good quality video. To put that into perspective, a typical 2 hour movie would only use up 180 MBs of data.

Infographic: Finding the right sized TV

Infographic: Finding the right sized TV (Click to enlarge)

On piracy, Hastings confirmed the company’s strategy of not fighting pirates, but helping them. Helping them by giving them what they want (lots of entertainment options) at a price they’re willing to pay (so not $30 per movie).

Speaking of the future, 4K means that many people are going to start looking for a new TV soon, and one of the questions that’s always been asked, regardless of whether it’s looking for a projection TV, a plasma, a HD, or Ultra HD one, is how big should the TV be.

Based on my experience, there’s usually no such thing as too big unless you have a very small room. A TV that you think might be too big now, will seem small by the time you need/want to upgrade again. But if you do have limited space, or more precisely, limited distance between you and your TV, then maybe take a peek at this infographic (special thanks to Kagoo.com for the image). It uses science to determine what’s the optimal distance is if you actually want to be able to see those extra pixels from your new 4K TV.

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Okay, that’s enough for this week. Have a great one and see you in seven.

 

Weekly News Roundup (January 29, 2017)

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

Welcome to the Year of the Rooster. In traditional Chinese custom, those born in the year of the rooster (1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005 – although those born in early January/February might have to double check to see which side of the lunar year they fall under) should always carry with them something red (red undies will do) to ward off bad luck for the year, so make sure you take precautions!

In terms of news, it’s somewhat quiet, but there are two stories on the coming and goings of technology that are unmistakably related. So let’s get started!

High Definition

First the going. Those still getting good use out of their 3D TV will have to extra careful to protect their investment, because pretty soon, it’s going to be really hard to buy a decent 3D set. Sony and LG this week announced that none of their new 2017 range of TVs will include 3D support. This move follows Samsung and Philips, both having ditched 3D in 2016, and raft of other CE companies like Sharp, TCL and Hisense that failed to announce any new TVs featuring 3D support at CES.

Samsung 3D active shutter glasses

3D, at least for the home, going the way of the dodo as last two holdouts announce the end of 3D support for their TVs

Those following our weekly Blu-ray sales analysis will also have seen a familiar pattern, that while studios are still doing 3D releases, the number of people buying them have steadily decreased.

The irony of this, in particular the LG announcement, is the company has finally perfected 3D technology for the home using their passive technology. But the fact remains that not all movies benefit greatly from 3D, that people just aren’t that interested in recreating the 3D experience at home, or at least not enough people to justify the cost of including the tech in the latest TV models. And some people like me can’t even watch 3D for extended periods without wanting to throw up.

That cost is being transferred to other technologies that, according to the NPD and according to our own Blu-ray sales stats, are quickly gaining popularity with consumers. Of course, I’m referring to Ultra HD Blu-ray and all the associated acronyms. For the week ending January 14th 2017, eight of the top 10 selling Blu-ray titles all had Ultra HD Blu-ray editions, but only four had 3D editions. This could be because more movies, if not most movies, benefit in some way from having an 4K transfer, than compared to 3D.

So what to do if you’re a 3D fan? The first thing you should do is to make sure you take good care of your current 3D TV, because it might be hard in the future to secure yourself a good quality 3D TV. Also don’t fret too much about studios not releasing 3D movies – Disney just recently released the 3D edition of The Force Awakens, and it sold enough copies to probably justify other re-releases like this in the future (plus there’s the whole series of new Avatar movies coming).

Pioneer BDR-S11J-BK

Pioneer and Cyberlink giving us PC heads a crack at playing Ultra HD Blu-ray movies on our PCs

Now we go to the other story, the coming. With Ultra HD Blu-ray looking more and more like the natural successor to the Blu-ray format, one thing has been noticeably missing – where’s the PC support? I know PCs aren’t what they used to be, but to be a year into a format without even a glimpse of an Ultra HD Blu-ray optical drive, seems quite odd considering how Blu-ray and DVD before it (and this site, for that matter) got started.

But that will soon change. Pioneer will finally bring out a pair of Ultra HD Blu-ray capable optical drives (the BDR-S11J-BK & BDR-S11J-X). Even better, Cyberlink has teamed up with Pioneer to include a special modified (and unavailable to buy at retail) version of PowerDVD that has received Ultra HD Blu-ray certification and will play all the latest discs.

Better late than never, I suppose.

Of course, having a drive and player software is only the beginning of the requirements, thanks to the annoyance of DRM, and the brilliance of HDR. You’ll need a Kaby Lake CPU and a GPU that supports HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2. And if you want HDR, you’ll need a monitor that can do it justice as well. Not too many people are buying high spec’d PCs these days, and so I don’t expect Pioneer and Cyberlink to do roaring business from these drives/software, at least not yet. I’m just grateful they haven’t forgotten us old PC heads, many of whom are itching to upgrade their PCs to attain full Ultra HD Blu-ray support status. I know I am!

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That’s all we have for this WNR. See you next week!