Archive for the ‘Xbox 360, Xbox One’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (September 25, 2016)

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

Finally getting back into the swing of things, and also the right time zone. Luckily for me, it wasn’t one of those hectic news weeks where news stories just oozes out of every crevice. Nope, it was one of those nice and quiet ones where just the right amount of ooze is present, and I can write this WNR without feeling like I’m writing a novel.

So on to the news!

Copyright

DRM Doesn't Work T-Shirt

Coffee pods, light bulbs, and now printers – all with DRM that won’t work

Who doesn’t love a DRM news story? It’s always interesting to see which industry, and which company has come up with a new way to screw their own customers, and then wait and see how long it takes before the DRM is inevitably broken anyway (broken in the sense that it no longer protects the content or product, and also broken in the sense that it doesn’t work and causes legitimate users to suffer). This time, it’s the printer industry, HP, and not very long before their latest attempt to curb competition will fail. HP has sneakily added in a new DRM to their printers that prevents them from using third-party ink, giving users an misleading “damaged ink cartridge” message.

I say sneaky because the new protection scheme was added in via a firmware update more than half a year ago, but was set to activate only this week. I guess HP wanted to give their customer service department more time to prepare for the barrage of complaint calls.

And as with most DRM implementations, it was buggy. Some users have reported that their HP branded cartridges are being labeled as “damaged” as well, and one user reported the printer refused to let him exchange the cartridge at all.

Worst of all, but totally expected, this new anti-competitive measure may end up being broken sooner rather than later. Third party ink manufacturers are already promising new updated cartridges that will be able to bypass the new DRM scheme.

So lots of bad publicity, user complaints, lost customers and in the end, all probably for nothing. Yep, that’s DRM for ya! Why won’t they ever learn?

Dr. Downloadlove or: How I Learned To Love Piracy. Having finally realised that constantly complaining about piracy is not a cool things to do anymore, more and more industry peeps are now learning to embrace it. Or rather, they’re finally admitting that piracy isn’t always the Big Bad Wolf that they’ve been telling us all this time.

The latest declaration of adoration occurred at the All That Matters content conference in Singapore, when former Sony India exec Samir Bangara declared his unending love for piracy in front of unimpressed movie studio execs. So okay, it wasn’t as controversial as I’ve made it sound, but Bangara did state that piracy may be the solution to one of the biggest problems facing media companies at the moment: discoverability. Bangara also pointed to the value of piracy data in determining what users wanted to watch, data that companies like Netflix and Warner Bros. have also admitted to using in the past.

Or to sum up, piracy rocks!

Gaming

PS4 Pro

PS4 Pro can do 4K gaming, kind of

More fallout from the PS4 Pro launch, and the subsequent rubbing-it-in-ness that Microsoft have been engaged in ever since. It’s not helped by the fact that Sony promoted the PS4 Pro as a 4K console, but possibly due to legal reasons and more prodding by tech journalists, they’ve had to clarify their statement quite a bit. Most people who had a detailed look at the PS4 Pro specs realised that this thing was not going to do native 4K. Sony has also said that the majority of of PS4 Pro enabled games will be upscaled to 4K.

So instead of being pedantic about this many pixels or whatever, Sony says it’s all about whether gamers are able to see a difference and how close to a real 4K gaming experience it will be. To be fair, it would take an enormously powerful machine to do native 4K without compromises (think PCs with $1000+ GPUs), and not even Microsoft’s Xbox One Scorpio, coming a year later, will be able to do 4K without taking a few shortcuts.

Microsoft has been keen to point out they their effort, with 6 teraflops of power, will get gamers much closer to true native 4K than the Pro’s 4.2 teraflops (which was never really going to be good enough for 4K). But even Microsoft has admitted that there will be “asterisks” when it comes to the Scorpio claiming to do 4K gaming, but just fewer of them than Sony’s effort.

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So that’s another week done and dusted. Hoping for more and more interesting stories to update you on next week. Until then, have a great week!

Weekly News Roundup (September 18, 2016)

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

And I’m back! Sorry for the long hiatus, but I’m now back from vacation, refreshed and ready to give you another few hundred words every week that you probably won’t want to read. It’s good to be back!

Gonna keep it short though, still coming back from jet lag so the mind’s not so sharp.

Copyright

The Hateful Eight

Want to watch The Hateful Eight in 4K? Piracy is your answer!

This is what happens when you don’t serve market demand. With no legal way to watch Tarantino’s ‘The Hateful Eight’ in 4K, pirates have stepped up to the plate and delivered. Just how exactly they did it, is a bit of a mystery. It may have been sourced from a legal Russian site, but how the encryption was broken, if it was broken, is the subject of much speculation.

In any case, fans of the film can now watch it in 4K, the way it was intended to be watched, and the powers that be that made the decision not to make it available to buy or rent in 4K have nobody to blame but themselves.

The wider implication from this release is that a widely used copy protection scheme could have been broken for the very first time, which may signal a new flood of top tier content, in top tier quality, flooding the piracy scene in the short term.

Gaming

PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro

Two new PS4s, but no Ultra HD Blu-ray for either …

So a lot has happened in gaming while I was gone. Sony has finally let the cat out of the bag, the same cat they kept hidden at E3 for (what now appears to be) no reason at all. The PS4 Slim and Pro have been officially unveiled, the former is already available, while the latter comes in November, a full year before Microsoft’s own upgraded Xbox One arrives.

Thanks to an active rumour mill, there weren’t any real surprises except for a biggie – the PS4 Pro, which has been upgraded with 4K in mind, won’t play Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. This is because the upgraded PS4 won’t have an upgraded Blu-ray drive capable of reading these higher capacity discs, even though every other part of the hardware is more than good enough for UHD playback.

The decision to leave out UHD Blu-ray playback is compounded by the fact that the Slim’s main rival, that’s already on the market for the same price, already has UHD Blu-ray playback. Microsoft has pulled off a masterstroke in deciding to go down the UHD route with the Xbox One S, something nobody expected, not when the S is marketed at a price that’s cheaper than most standalone players on the market.

Deadpool on Ultra HD Blu-ray

The Xbox One S can, but the PS4 Pro can’t – Ultra HD Blu-ray movies like Deadpool won’t work on the PS4

It’s definitely a surprising omission from a company that once risked too much to include playback of a new disc format with their brand new console. Perhaps the mistake of including Blu-ray playback with PS3 (which delayed the console’s release and led to the console’s notoriously high launch pricing) is what prevented Sony from including UHD Blu-ray playback with the PS4 Slim or Pro. Also surprisingly, Sony has shown little interest in UHD Blu-ray, with their first standalone player not even coming until next year (and it’s a premium, high-end model to boot) – the slow ramp up to UHD may also explain why Sony was just not ready to include UHD Blu-ray in the upgraded PS4s.

Also disappointing fans slightly is the fact that the PS4 Pro’s hardware upgrade, while significant, won’t be able to compete with the Xbox One “Scorpio” when it’s available in 2017. Bragging rights still count for a lot in 2016 (and 2017), and it could be the case that for the rest of this console generation, the Xbox One will bcome the more powerful console (and the one more capable of handling games in 4K).

And to make things worse for Sony fanboys, the Xbox One beat the PS4 in sales again in August – that’s two months in a row. Of course, Sony will probably reclaim the throne in September when the Slim goes sale

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That’s all we have for the week. It’s good to get back into the swing of things, even if it means swapping the nice warm Mediterranean for wet and freezing Melbourne.

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 (29 May 2016)

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

Another relatively quiet week, but we have a couple of quite interesting stories to go through, so let’s not waste any time on this very cold Sunday (brrr!).

Copyright

Game of Thrones - Bran Stark

Oh Bran, what have you done? Did you warg into an HBO intern’s mind to leak the new episode?

Starting with copyright news as always, HBO’s anti-piracy efforts took a step backwards this week with their Nordic branch decided that the world couldn’t wait another 24 hours (and a bit) to see the next episode of Game of Thrones. Someone at HBO Nordic decided to try their hand at pre-release leaking, and the new episode was put up online a day earlier than expected. To make matters worse, HBO Nordic has a 30 day trial for their online video services, meaning that anyone from around the world with a VPN were able to enjoy the episode titled “The Door”, and do it for many hours before HBO wised up, and more than a day before the official US premier.

It appears that despite all of HBO’s renewed anti-piracy efforts this season, this gaffe opened the door and held it open for pirates to take advantage – they promptly uploaded a (initially a poor quality version, and then a 1080p version) copy to all the usual piracy places, for all to enjoy. I’m sure HBO will be much more careful this week, when the sixth episode of the sixth season, “Blood of My Blood”, will be broadcast.

And yes, that was deliberate (don’t want to say too much than that – no spoilers from me, thank-you very much).

High Definition

US Netflix subscribers will have some great movies to look forward to, when Netflix’s exclusive deal with Disney starts in September. Under the deal, Netflix will have exclusive pay-TV rights, in the US, to all of Disney’s films, starting from 2016 onwards (so The Force Awakens just miss out … boo!). This includes all Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm films, as well as films released under Disney’s banner, all available shortly on Netflix after their initial Blu-ray/DVD release (the same release time-frame that pay TV operators used to enjoy). The exclusivity part ensures Amazon, Hulu and cable operators won’t get these films during the pay TV release window, which is a much needed boost to Netflix’s flagging (non original) movie line-up.

Gaming

Xbox One Halo 5 Edition

Microsoft will be bringing out own super duper Xbox One to take on the Neo

The Xbox One is getting not one but two upgraded models, and one of which will directly take on the PS4 Neo. Dubbed the ‘Scorpio’, the super powerful Xbox One is rumored to be targeting 6 teraflops of peak power, which compares rather favourably with the Neo’s 4.14 teraflop target (and much better than the Xbox One’s current 1.32 teraflops). Both companies appears to have embraced the iterative upgrade model (think iPhone), and will be releasing upgraded consoles at shorter intervals. I’m not sure I like this to be honest, and I’m not sure if it will even work. It’s one thing to upgrade a phone every year, but a game consoles that has severely reduced resale value (and not as easily passed down to family members)? I just don’t know …

But if it does work, then the PS4 and Xbox One could be the last major console release as we know it. The Neo and Scorpio are basically just new consoles with a healthy dose of backwards compatibility – both Sony and Microsoft can actually keep this up indefinitely if they wanted to. Microsoft Xbox boss Phil Spencer’s remarks about turning to the PC’s model for upgrades, is now starting to make sense. He wasn’t talking about opening up the Xbox One and plugging in a new GPU, but rather on the architecture and design point of view of incremental updates, and in regards to backwards compatibility. So instead of a major new architecture that destroys compatibility, the upgrades will be more minor, but more numerous.

Let’s wait and see how gamers react to all of these changes, especially when it comes to forking over their hard earned cash.

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That’s all we have time for this week. Actually, we have plenty of time, but we’ve run out of news, so that’s that. See you next week.