Archive for the ‘Gaming’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (24 July 2016)

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

Also just like London buses. After the super busy week last week, this one is super quiet but for one, earth-shattering story (more on that later). But I’ve used the news lull to good effect, playing a bit of Pokemon Go, and deciding to launch my new Pokemon Go website, Help Me Poké (that’s Poké as in Pokey, not poke as in coke). Yes, I’m enthusiastically jumping on that particular bandwagon.

But more than just trying to latch on to the latest hype, Pokemon Go is actually confusingly complex for a game that doesn’t have a tutorial, or even a proper in-game how-to-play guide. I’m constantly figuring new things out, things that should have been made obvious via a tutorial, which is why I thought it would be a good idea to get a help site up and running. You can have a quick read of my Quick Start Guide, and that will get you playing Pokemon Go like a real master in no time (disclaimer: not intended to be a factual statement).

Oh yes, the news.

Copyright

KickassTorrents Logo

KAT is gone!

KickassTorrents is no more. Seizures, arrests and upcoming extraditions all lead to the simple conclusion, KAT is not coming back again. While mirrors, clones and fake sites will appear, the actual KickassTorrents, along with all of its prized data, is now in the hands of authorities. It’s Ukrainian owner, Artem Vaulin, has been arrested in Poland and now face extradition to the U.S. where he will be charged with massive copyright infringement, to the tune of more than one billion US dollars.

Worst yet, with authorities in possession of user data, downloaders, uploaders and moderators on the site could find themselves in deep trouble.

So how did the world’s biggest piracy site end up like this? The site’s downfall, it appears, was largely down to the site not learning the lessons of previous take-downs, including the Megaupload take-down. Out of all the places the site could have hosted its servers, some of the site’s servers were hosted in the U.S., allowing investigators there a way in to the operation. Worse yet, the servers that were in the U.S. were KAT’s email servers, and investigators from the Department of Homeland Security managed to clone the server’s drives without alerting the operators of KAT. This along with secret seizures of Canadian servers from web host Netelligent, provided them with information about who was running the site.

The killer blow was dealt by domain registrar GoDaddy of all people. The owner of KAT, Artem Vaulin, apparently registered domain names in his own name, before the site became a hit and before Vaulin would become a target of law enforcement. He also previously used Gmail accounts to communicate site related matters.

In short, it appears that the operators of KAT, including its owner, failed to take proper precautions in order to protect their identity and data. Too much of their data was stored in U.S. servers, or used U.S. services that investigators could have easy access to, and even when they tried to remain anonymous, via BitCoins, the company that handled Vaulin’s BitCoin exchanges gladly handed over user data to investigators. And you guessed it, Vaulin’s choice of BitCoin exchange was a company located in the U.S.

As a result of these careless actions, Vaulin now faces the possibility of spending the next few decades in a U.S. prison.

As for the future of piracy, as in who will step in for KAT, it’s worth noting that The Pirate Bay is still up and running (they appear to be wise to the fact that one shouldn’t rely on U.S. services), and who knows what other site will step up to fill the void. Whether they are willing to take the risk, now that KAT, and previously YIFY, have all been taken down in massive global law enforcement efforts, is anyone’s guess.

High Definition

Is Netflix in trouble? Probably not. Subscriber growth is slowing, maybe down to the recent price hike (due to the ending of grandfathered plans), or maybe because both Hulu and Amazon are stepping up their game (the former with more content, especially movies, and the latter with its standalone offering). And while the company continues to deny that saturation has been reached in the U.S, one cannot help but feel that anyone who wants Netflix, already has Netflix (even if they’re just leeching it off someone else).

That’s it for this slow week. Be sure to check out Help Me Poké if you have the time and interest. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (17 July 2016)

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

Just like London buses. Lots of news to go through this week after the very much barren one last week. Writing news this week was made harder by the fact that my phone was always out of battery, and that I had to leave the comfort of my office frequently during the week.

Oh, did I forget to mention I started playing Pokemon Go? Did I also mention I’ll be launching my own Pokemon Go site soon, full of guides and tips on how to get the best out of the game?

Let’s get this thing started, I have to go out and run an errand later (totally not just because I’m running out of poke balls).

Copyright

Fair Use

Fair Use – does it help or hinder creativity?

Content owners in Australia are warning against the introduction of fair use, saying any erosion of copyright protection would harm creativity and innovation. The crux of their argument is that copy protection allows content creators to be financially compensated for their work, and any changes to the law could tip the balance against such an arrangement.

But I would argue that the copyright law as it is is already unbalanced, in favour of content creators, and more specifically, “big content” publishers and distributors. And the calls against fair use ignore its primary benefit – that fair use actually encourages creativity and innovation, by removing some of the restrictions when it comes to creating new work that may be based on existing works, and to allow greater criticism and analysis of protected content in order to make them better. The reality is that not having fair use only benefits a select few, and this usually comes at the expense of real creativity and innovation.

Look, when even the MPAA comes out in defence of fair use, you just know it’s not a bad thing.

The war against YouTube continues , with the MPAA's latest target being fake pirate uploads

The war against YouTube continues , with the MPAA’s latest target being fake pirate uploads

A new thing the MPAA is supporting may actually help pirates in the short term. Firing the latest shot in their on-going crusade against everything Google, the MPAA says Google’s YouTube must act against fake pirated downloads that have become far too prevalent on the video sharing service. You know the ones I’m talking about, videos promising the content you want, even has the right thumbnail, but end up being blank and with a link to some dodgy site that definitely doesn’t have the video you’re looking for.

The strange thing is that these videos are exactly why real pirates no longer rely on YouTube to get their pirated content, at least not for the really popular stuff. They’re the best kind of piracy deterrent, especially for those that managed to catch something nasty from the sites these videos link to. So wouldn’t it be in the MPAA’s best interest to have these fake uploads around, especially when copyright enforcement firms have been accused of uploading their own fake content in the past?

The problem the MPAA sees is that these videos are so numerous, it makes finding and killing real pirated videos (and they do exist on YouTube) really hard via YouTube’s Content ID system. But if I was the MPAA, I’d actually want to make sure these video stayed on YouTube to make it harder for pirates to find real pirated content, to give piracy a bad name, and to also give YouTube a bad name (which then helps the MPAA in their lobbying efforts against Google).

For Google though, pre-emptively removing content is not something they want to do, and it falls right into the MPAA’s hands (because the MPAA will ask if Google can pre-emptive remove fake pirated content, why can’t they pre-emptively remove real pirated content).

Perhaps not falling under the category of fair use per se is the act of sharing one’s Netflix or HBO password with others. But while it may be frowned upon by the likes of Netflix, is it really bad enough to be a federal crime? The question is actually moot, because despite what you’ve read in the media (and will read in the weeks to come, no doubt), no precedent has been set in any court case, at least not for Netflix password sharing. The case ruling which is the cause of this hoopla is narrow enough to not extend to the type of password sharing you and I will no doubt take part in at one time or another, but it won’t be a crime, let alone a federal one.

As for whether Netflix or HBO will come after password sharers, that’s another question. So far, both companies have taken the policy of turning a blind eye to the problem. Maybe it’s because they know that password sharing can actually lead to new customers, that it may really be just an “extended trial” for many.

Gaming

Nintendo Wii

The Wii was a huge success – the Wii U, not so much

The Wii U is easily Nintendo’s least popular console, still millions of units behind the GameCube, but it wasn’t always destined to be that way. In fact, in the early days of the Wii U, some within Nintendo thought the Wii U would be just as popular as the Wii, and would sell 100 million units, as opposed to the current 12.8 million figure. When told about the sales forecast way back when, current Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima (he wasn’t the president back then) wasn’t so sure about the optimistic projections, and that it would be no “easy task” to convince those that bought the Wii to buy the Wii U.

The NX will have to do the same, and it will also have to convince gamers why it’s better then the PS4 and Xbox One. No easy task indeed.

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That’s all we have this week. I’m sure next week will be a quiet one again, it’s always like this. See you then.

Weekly News Roundup (26 June 2016)

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

Exits are all the rage this week, so naturally, I had to take advantage with a story this week where the MPAA threatens a “MPAAExit” from Europe (kinda) if the EU bans geo-blocking. I also threw some eggs out because they were way past their used by date – “Eggexit”. I still have a running nose from whatever plague I was infected with last week: “Phlegmexit”? You get my drift.

A very quiet week again, so on to the news …

Copyright

Netflix: Not Available

Geo-blocking bad for consumers, good for movie studios?

Everyone is picking on the EU this week, the MPAA has joined in the fun as well. The MPAA has warned Europe not to outlaw geo-blocking, or else they will risk fewer movie productions and higher prices for consumers. This is apparently because without geo-blocking, and regional based releasing (even within EU countries), investors will be less likely to invest in films and somehow this will lead to higher prices for all. In other words, by not being able to gouge individual markets by making consumers pay higher prices for the same thing, and then using technical measures like geo-blocking to prevent true competition, investors may be less willing to invest in productions.

Now I don’t know much about movie productions, but if their business models is reliant on a bit of geo-blocking code that’s easily bypassed, then maybe they need to rethink things a bit. Especially considering how much a boost to piracy things like geo-blocking gives.

Back in the US, where geo-blocking really isn’t an issue (not when you get everything first, and very likely at the cheapest price too – Canadian Netflix occasionally excepted), it’s pretty clear to see that improving access to legal options (ie. making it cheaper, more readily available) is having an effect on piracy. The latest Sandvine report shows that BitTorrent usage is down again during peak usage times, while Netflix, iTunes, and especially Amazon Video usage in the last year have all become more popular, at least when it comes to bandwidth usage.

Netflix’s share of peak bandwidth is actually down a bit – now whether that’s down to declining market share, or more likely, due to bandwidth saving technology that has been implemented in the last year, it’s unclear. But Amazon Video’s share is up, rising above BitTorrent for the first time. Both services will probably see a rise in bandwidth usage next year, when high bandwidth 4K and HDR streams become more popular. BitTorrent usage is down to 3% during peak hours, from the almost unbelievable 31% it used to occupy (back in 2008 though).

The report noted that Hulu and HBO usage may not be indicative of each service’s popularity because the data captured by the report, in March, may not be when the most popular programming on these services are first released (think new seasons of TV shows on Hulu, and Game of Thrones on HBO).

But its clear that people are now watching more stuff through legal outlets than via illegal ones like BitTorrent, and that’s not because of DRM or geo-blocking (quite the opposite, I think).

Gaming

Xbox One S

Xbox One S to compete with the Neo?

The PS4 Neo could be coming in 2016, a full year before Microsoft’s Xbox One ‘Scorpio’. I don’t know about this. If the Neo is so close to being released, why didn’t Sony reveal it at E3 (I don’t buy the “we tried to keep our E3 purely focused on software” line)? But it also does make sense because how else would Microsoft be sure that it’s Scorpio would be the most powerful console on the market when it is released for holidays 2017 (if it’s coming a year after the Neo, they will have plenty of time to make sure their claim is true).

If the Neo comes this year (or early next year), why is Microsoft’s updated console coming so late then? It could be because Microsoft was caught off guard in regards to the Neo and couldn’t come up with their own version quickly enough. If Microsoft’s Scorpio is just a somewhat late reaction to the Neo, then this could explain why Microsoft’s console would be coming a year later, and why the company needs to release two new consoles – the S would compete in part with the Neo, at least in terms of 4K media support. Microsoft “beating” Sony to the punch by announcing the Scorpio a full year and a half before it’s even available, may also be just a bit of strategy on Microsoft’s part, to cover up the fact that they’re actually going to be way late to the game.

Don’t mind me, I’m just guessing out loud.

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And with that, we come to the end of another WNR. See you next week, when the WNR will most likely also have exited the EU (will last one out please turn off the lights).

Weekly News Roundup (19 June 2016)

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

I’ve come down with a very annoying and distracting cough. So please bear that in mind as you read through this week’s WNR, and if things don’t seem to make much sense, you’ll know why (it’s either the fever, or the fact that I can’t see properly through my phlegm covered screen).

*cough cough cough cough cough*

On with this week’s news …

Copyright

The Walking Dead - Lucille

Who’s on the other end of this screenie from The Walking Dead is the subject of a copyright dispute

Can you file a copyright lawsuit against someone for posting spoilers? Especially if those so called spoilers are really just guesses based on deduction? Apparently you can, with The Walking Dead’s AMC suing a spoiler Facebook group for just that.

The Facebook group, The Spoiling Dead Fans (TSDF), uses aerial photography, cast sightings and other means to guess at key plot points in coming episodes of the hit zombie series. And with the latest season of The Walking Dead ending on a huge cliffhanger, in which an unrevealed key character was killed. With fans eager to find out just who got it at the end of a barb wire coated baseball bat (called Lucille), TSDF did its usual thing and promised to post information that could prove who the unfortunate victim was.

This, however, was a step too far for AMC, and they promptly issued a cease and desist letter to TSDF. TSDF backed down with hesitation (and some anger from its fans), because they simply couldn’t afford to fight a lawsuit against AMC, even if AMC doesn’t really have a case (based on common sense, and also based on expert advice). It’s legal bullying at its most obvious!

Adding to all of this is the fact that comic book readers already knows who most likely ended up having their head bashed in (and eyeball bashed out), and also the fact that most TWD TV show fans were incensed at the decision by producers not to reveal Lucille’s victim (having spent a whole season building up to the confrontation).

So are spoilers, especially ones based on nothing more than conjecture, copyright protected? So if I post here that Heath is the one most likely to get it, am I committing copyright infringement? (note, it’s most likely not Heath).

Gaming

E3 was interesting to say the least. Nintendo finally got solid information out about its long overdue Zelda game, Sony had a very exciting game line-up, but it was Microsoft that had the most up its sleeves. Microsoft unveiled not one but two new Xbox One consoles, and while one is 18 months away from seeing the light of day, the other was almost as exciting.

Xbox One S

The Xbox One S – best value Ultra HD Blu-ray player on the market?

The console 18 month away from release is the Xbox ‘Scorpio’, a souped up version of the Xbox One that Microsoft says will be the most powerful game consoles when it is released most likely in time for Christmas 2017. The rumours have mostly proven true, with the Scorpio being 4K capable for games, VR, and all sorts of other things.

But the console I most want to talk about is the other one, the one available as soon as August – the Xbox One S. The ‘S’ moniker does stand for Slim, but the S is more than just about a small factor (40% smaller to be precise). There’s no more power brick, for one, and there will be more storage (up to 2TB).

And most exciting of all, the new S will include a new Ultra HD Blu-ray drive that allows for 4K Blu-ray playback (as well as 4K Netflix and the like, but no 4K gaming until the Scorpio). There’s also HDR support, for both video and gaming. With the expected price of the Xbox One S to be $299, this would make the Xbox One S potentially $100 heaper than Samsung’s Ultra HD Blu-ray player!

But there’s even more. The new Xbox One will be more powerful than the original Xbox One, not quite Scorpio levels of upgrade, but enough to make the Gears of War 4 developers to add code to take advantage of the increase in GPU and CPU power.

Not bad for a minor upgrade!

The 2TB “special” edition of the S launches in August for a slightly inflated price of $399, but the cheapest 500GB edition won’t be here until the end of the year (a third 1TB edition, for $349, will also be available in the US at least).

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That’s it for the week. I’m off to cough up what’s left of my lungs. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (12 June 2016)

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

Got lots of other work lined up, despite it being a nice and sunny (but still cold) Sunday for once, so going to have to get through the news roundup stuff pretty quickly today!

Copyright

Censorship

Take down, stay down is just censorship by another name, says the Internet Archive

The Internet Archive is the latest to come out against the proposed “take down, stay down” changes to the DMCA, with the non-profit warning that such a regime could spell doom for sites like themselves. The Internet Archive, as its name suggests, archives content on the Internet for posterity, and while it endeavors to only store content with the right licensing terms (ie. public domain), the vast amount of data it archives means that some copyrighted content will get through. But under “take down, stay down”, sites like the Internet Archive will be made responsible for not only taking down such content, but also identifying it in the first place. This puts tremendous strain on the already limited resources of the Internet Archive, and also opens sites like them up to copyright lawsuits if they fail to implement a robust take down and stay down process.

It’s basically just the latest attempt by rights-holders to shift all work and responsibility to others when it comes to copyright enforcement, even though they themselves are the *only* party actually capable of identifying copyrighted content. And such as regime also mean sites must monitor and censor their own users actively, which is a serious privacy risk for users, as well as being a possible danger to freedom of speech on the Internet.

But if the copyright lobby greases the right wheels and “take down, stay down” becomes a reality, sites will have to get used to self-enforcement. But there will always be a group of sites that won’t be very much interested in self-enforcement, not even if you send them pre-piracy warnings. That’s what Sony did last week, in an attempt to preempt Euro 2016 piracy, by sending pre-piracy warnings to torrent and streaming sites before the first match has even been played. The attempt may have backfired, with many of the sites receiving the notices promising to not only ignore the warnings, but to also put extra focus on bringing pirated matches and clips to users. I guess they’re thinking if Sony are so concerned about piracy that they went to the effort to send pre-piracy notices, it must be anticipating a great demand for such content – demand that the piracy sites would love to meet.

High Definition

Metal Gear Solid V PS4

The PS4 Neo will include an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive

The worst kept secret ever is no longer a secret – Sony have confirmed that a new, upgraded PS4 is on the way. And the main reason this news story has been placed in this section instead of the gaming section is also the confirmation, for the first time, that the PS4 “Neo” will include a new Ultra HD Blu-ray drive for playing back Ultra HD Blu-ray movies.

If Sony can hurry up and get the Neo out before Christmas, this would mean the new PS4 would be Sony’s first and only Ultra HD Blu-ray player at that time (standalones are not expected to arrive until 2017). This could be an extra selling point for the new PS4, and I’m thinking a bundle offer with Sony’s own 4K TV range might be on the cards.

With E3 just around the corner, you might expect more details to emerge then about the Neo, but don’t hold your breath, Sony have confirmed there won’t be an official unveiling of the Neo there.

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That’s it, nice and short this week. See you in seven!