Archive for the ‘Electronics’ Category

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Weekly News Roundup (July 2, 2017)

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017

First of all, sorry for the lack of a roundup last week – a combination of not much happening and too much happening elsewhere for me, meant that I had to skip it. And I almost had to skip this week’s roundup too, pretty much the same situation as last week, but thought it polite to at least give you an update.

So there is a tiny bit of news, but only a tiny bit, so we should get through this one rather quickly.

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Piracy is Stealing?

Piracy is stealing? Not according to one game developer …

So what would you do if you found the game that you painstakingly made on a torrent site, free for all to download? Rage? Call your lawyer? Or would you post a comment, give away a few legal copies of your game, and then even provide a tip on the best way to pirate it? If you chose the third option, then you’ve just reacted in much the same way as the maker of the indie game Paradigm.

The reason why Jacob Janerka didn’t get made was because he too would have done the same when he was younger and without much disposable income to pay for games. And when you can’t afford to buy something, not paying for a legal copy is not exactly costing the developers or publishers anything if you think about it. But if you like the game, you might save up to buy merchandise or a sequel or at least tell your friends about it, and maybe some of them will buy a copy.

I think big game publishers have a lot to learn from someone like Jacob, and I hope the positive publicity he received will have converted to a few game sales (and I guess it doesn’t hurt for news sites or blogs like this one to link to his official site for his game).

Gaming

SNES Classic

You’ll have to be very quick to be able to get your hand on a SNES Classic

For those of you who missed out on the NES Classic, you now have a chance to miss out on the Super Nintendo Classic, which by all accounts, will sell out in exactly 2 minutes and 34 seconds after pre-order opens.

Actually, for those that found out early, like myself, it wasn’t that hard. But you really only have a few hours to a day to make up your mind as to whether you want the mini SNES with 21 built in games or you want to stick with your (illegal) ROM playing ways. For me, it was a no brainer, especially after I missed out on the NES classic. Some feel it’s a little bit pricey, but I believe I paid that much just for a new copy of Street Fighter II Turbo on the SNES back in the day (in what seems like centuries ago), so for a piece of my youth back, it’s well worth the price!

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I told you it was short! Things have gotten back to normal on my end, so things should become normal this coming week (assuming that there is news, of course). See you then.

Weekly News Roundup (May 28, 2017)

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

Hello from not so sunny Melbourne, as we once again tackle the news that was this week.

And the news was that there wasn’t much news. To be fair, I’ve been busier than usual with other stuff this week, and so perhaps didn’t look hard enough for interesting things to write about, but still, it was a relatively quiet week in all respects. But there are still a couple of things to go through, so let’s get started.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi

So has Star Wars: The Last Jedi been stolen or not?

A follow up to last week’s story about the possible leak of a Disney movie, torrent news website TorrentFreak has done some more investigation and it’s becoming somewhat clearer that the full story is a lot less clearer. The veracity of the leak is now under question, according to TorrentFreak, as they managed to find the alleged hacker/leaker/blackmailer, who claims he has access to a workprint of The Last Jedi. The problem is that the leaker, who claims he got the film from a friend who had access to it in post-production of the movie, has failed to release convincing evidence that he even has the film, and now, he’s claiming he has a hold of Sony’s Emoji movie as well.

So what might have been a story about a leak and blackmail, might be one about delusional boasting and extortion. Or it might be just for a the lols, some kind of attention grabbing stunt that may not have anywhere to go now that Disney has called the leaker’s bluff.

High Definition

Samsung 4K TV

4K is doing well in sales

So UHD seems to be going pretty strong, for both TV sales and for movie sales. Just how strong? According to data released by Futuresource, sales of Ultra HD Blu-ray disc players are expected to be up 148% in 2017 compared to 2016, with some 1.4 million new units being sold this year. A third of all new TVs being sold this year will be UHD capable too.

Coupled that with the expected release of 250 new UHD Blu-ray titles this year, it all looks like to be a pretty healthy ecosystem for this still very new format.

Samsung remains the king of TV sales for the present, but Chinese brands, including TCL, are catching up apparently.

Still, Futuresource expects TV sales to remain flat for 2017, due to market saturation, and the lack of any major sporting events (which usually help to push TV sales).

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So that’s it for the week, I know it’s not much, but it’s all I have. Times are tough, you know. See you next week.