Archive for the ‘3D’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (30 January 2011)

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

It looks like my pathetic begging last week paid off, sort of, as I managed to get a few likes on Digital Digest’s Facebook page, and a few more on Twitter. All those that participated will be noted, and when the competition launches next week or the week after, you shall all be rewarded handsomely (with better chances at winning)!

Paper (Star) Wars

This Android game I made may look crudely drawn, it's gameplay is only slightly better

The current set up means every news article posted on the Digital Digest website, plus every blog and posts in the deals & freebies section, will all be added to the feeds, allowing for an easy way to get notified of updates on the websites. And occasionally, I will post a few things that aren’t really big enough to make the news, but are nonetheless interesting. One thing I did post about was my first attempt at an Android app, a game based on a paper based game based on video games based a movie. Paper (Star) Wars is my take on a paper based Star Wars game that I used to play with friends in middle school. It’s my first app, so please be kind and tolerant of the numerous bugs within the game. There’s a free “Not Very Special Edition” and a paid for version for around a buck, depending on exchange rates.

Self promotion finished, time for this week’s news, and there’s plenty to go through so let’s get started.

CopyrightLet’s start the copyright news, the UK may have seen a change of government, the non violent kind, but its anti-piracy policies remains unchanged it seems. Their proposed three-strikes system, which will first start with a warning-but-no-action system, is set to be introduced, and UK ISPs will have to pay 25% of the cost of enforcing this law which will see private subscriber data being given to copyright holders.

In other words, the UK government thinks that ISPs are at least 25% responsible for anti-piracy policing on the net, even though they don’t receive any benefits from it at all if this thing works (and the UK government optimistically thinks that it will reduce online piracy by 50% – amazing!). So it seems ISPs have been cast as a guilty party. But ISPs will no doubt pass on the cost to subscribers. So it seems, we’re all being cast as the guilty party. And with higher ISP costs, and so less money to spend online, and when people start getting booted off the Internet, all of these actions which will no doubt affect the Internet economy, most likely the legitimate kind. Pirates will be pirates, and they will find (and have found) ways around being monitored, so I would really like to see how the UK government comes up with the figure of £200m as the amount of benefits that will result from this. They would be lucky to get away with less than £200m of damages to the economy. But this whole thing has become an ideological crusade, so common sense went out the window ages ago.

ACS:Law Logo

ACS:Law may have quit the mass lawsuit game

The new UK law should come into affect as anti-piracy law firms in the UK might be starting to wrap up their profit seeking mass lawsuit enterprises, when the head of one of the most notorious anti-piracy law firms, ACS:Law, said in court that his firm was no longer involved in anti-piracy stuff due to “death threats and bomb threats”, amongst other things (no longer profitable?). Not to condone threats of this kind, which is totally unacceptable despite the number of people ACS:Law has pissed off in recent times, but that’s the side effect of the kind of business ACS:Law is involved in, just as its predecessor Davenport Lyons realised when they also quit the game. And they were in court because the judge found their lawsuit somewhat dubious and wanted to examine it further, despite ACS:Law’s attempt to drop the lawsuits against the downloaders in question, in a last ditch attempt to avoid having any kind of court ruling on the matter (because it could go either way, and it looks like it’s going the wrong way for ACS:Law). The best way to go after these law firms is to take a leaf out of the entertainment lobby’s latest doctrine on online anti-piracy: go after their revenue source. If no profit can be made via mass lawsuits, because perhaps it’s difficult to ascertain jurisdiction or that people are fighting back by tying up these law firms in paper work, then these kinds of law suits will stop.

Google Piracy

Google is the net's new piracy cop

But these lawsuits are still gaining popularity in the US, where this week, hundreds more were sued for download the Paris Hilton sex tapes. I wonder if Paris Hilton gets a percentage of the settlement fees, and if she does, then that’s one more reason to fight these lawsuits as tenaciously as possible. And people seeking to download this “movie” illegally be warned – the publishers, XPAYS, is still monitoring download networks for potential targets. But finding a torrent of this film may have just gotten about 1.5% harder, thanks to Google’s new filtering scheme which became active this week, something they warned us would happen back in December. It’s no doubt Google’s way to try and appease the entertainment industry, not that they would be pleased much by this, since only the suggested search phrases as part of auto-complete and instant search have been filtered – the results are still the same as before. And the way Google has did it was full of inconsistencies, like why a BitTorrent client software like uTorrent needs to be filtered at all (and yet, other popular clients like BitComet or Vuze are not filtered), or why RapidShare is filtered, but not MediaFire. In any case, this latest move by Google sets a very dangerous precedent, and goes completely against the Mountain View company’s principles on the open web. And as mentioned before, it will do little to appease the entertainment industry and instead, it will just make them ask the question “if you can filter recommended search phrases, why can’t you also filter out the results”. An appeasement of groups backed by a Fascist launched organization, yeah that doesn’t sound familiar at all. Maybe it’s just me, but has Google abandoned their “do no evil” policy, since they’re very much acting like just any other corporation these days. Even their recent withdrawal of support for H.264 in Chrome was very much an exercise in protecting self-interests (dropping H.264 so people will have to adopt their own WebM, for example), as opposed to their stated goal of supporting open software – this is the very same company that bundles Adobe Flash with the same browser in question, so it’s a bit rich for them to lecture other on support of open platforms.

For all of the entertainment industry’s pomp and bluster, they still haven’t even managed to close down The Pirate Bay. They talk big about closing down a lot of websites, another 50 this week apparently, but they don’t dare mention how many new websites spring up the second they close down one, fairly obscure, torrent indexer. And if The Pirate Bay people are to be believed, the RIAA are in for a rude awakening when TPB launches its music sharing service in a few months time. No details as yet, or even confirmation as to whether this thing is real or not, but a TPB insider has promised that this thing will scare the pants off the RIAA. It’s set to be launched around the 78th birthday of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, and I thought it was interesting that this organization was launched by none other than Mussolini in 1933 (yes, that Mussolini).  So when old Benito said that “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power,” he wasn’t that far off the mark it seems (ignoring the fact that he was talking about a totally different kind of “corporate” to today’s corporations).

And in potential silly DRM news of the week, how about DRM’d web images? Not quite, but it only takes a little bit of effort to turn this thing into the online newspaper’s favourite new toy, as expiring image links is quite effective at cutting down hot linking. Of course, those that really do want to steal your pics will just do so via a print-screen, while you make your legitimate visitors download and install plug-in after plug-in just to view the damn image. A totally ineffective DRM which only makes the life of legitimate users that much more painful. So definitely happening, then.

High Definition

Onto HD/3D news, price of Blu-ray players are tipped to drop below $40 in 2011. Not that surprising when you consider that it’s been available for around $50 already.

But this does mean one thing: if you don’t have a Blu-ray player now, you may just not want or need one. They’re so cheap now, when they’re not being given away freely with TV purchases, that there really aren’t any other excuses left for people not to have one. And with retailers often discounting Blu-ray/combo versions of movies below the price of DVD sets, it’s a no brainer. And so much for the higher premiums manufacturers had hoped that Blu-ray hardware (and movies) would bring on a more permanent basis.

Samsung 3D active shutter glasses

Not everyone can enjoy 3D without wanting to throw up

So if plain old Blu-ray isn’t  helping to bring in higher premiums, perhaps the 3D kind will. And when manufacturers and studios are not trying to kill the format by signing excruciatingly long exclusivity deals (I’m looking at you, Panasonic and Fox) on titles that will launch the format, there’s also the issue that many people just can’t stand watching 3D. I think I’m one of these people, since watching 3D for more than half an hour makes me uncomfortable, and watching something like Avatar all the way through would probably kill me (or at least make me very very sick). But I did still buy a 3D TV, and I’ve definitely paid more money for even less interesting gimmicks before. Expect all TVs to have 3D support by the end of the year though, and competition will ensure the higher premiums will be gone by then too.

And going back to the Chrome/H.264 decision I referred to above, there’s a new service that aims to end the problem of cross-browser compatibility for uploaded web videos. Vid.ly takes in your videos and then transcode them millions of times (or just a dozen times, I don’t know) so that it will work on any browser, regardless of whether it took the very corporate decision to back one of its own, albeit open, video standards, or whether it’s backing a video standard that it owns a lot of patent on. And the same for mobile videos, iOS, Android, Blackberry. I fed the service my recently uploaded Transformers: Dark of the Moon HD 1080p Trailer. Vid.ly ate it up, and spat out a link half an hour later, and I’ve put the sample embed video and mobile video links in this forum thread. For no other reason, it’s a great way to compare the various qualities of web video standards, H.264 vs WebM vs Theora, as the same embed code automatically detects what software you’re using and gives you the compatible stream (it looks by far the worst on Firefox at the moment, as it uses Ogg Theora). Anyway, an interesting service that may bypass the whole very confusing, and annoying, HTML5 format wars.

Gaming

And last but not least, in gaming, Sony has reacted to the hacked 3.55 firmware by releasing the 3.65 firmware. And it was hacked within hours. Stable. Doors. Horse. Bolted.

Sony did have better success in the courts, with the judge granting a temporary injunction against, I don’t know what, geohot’s firmware or something. Because a temporary injunction on fail0verflow’s research into pointing out the security flaw on the PS3, doesn’t seem to make much sense, as it’s now common knowledge that Sony doesn’t know the difference between a constant and a randomly generated number.

Sony NGP

Sony's Next Generation Portable is packed full of the latest tech, but at what price?

But Sony are at their best when they show off cool stuff, as opposed to trying all sorts of anti-piracy measures, and they did impress a lot of people and refocus people’s thoughts away from the PS3 security disaster, by revealing the NGP – the Next Generation Portable – the successor to the ailing (some would argue, dead and buried) PSP. It does seem pretty cool, all the best features from phones (Wi-Fi, GPS, multiple cameras, multi-touch), a kick-ass processor that can run PS3 games, albeit at the reduced resolution of the still kick-ass OLED screen (960×544). Still, it faces stiff competition from smartphones, the 3DS and tablets, all vying for a share of the portable gaming market these days (although Sony has promised a common development platform for its Android phones and the NGP, so we know at least Angry Birds will be on the NGP). Nobody knows what the price of the NGP will be, but with so much tech inside, it can’t be cheap, or can’t be cheaper than the 3DS, right?

Speaking of the 3DS, yes, it will have region-control, and downloaded games won’t be transferable to another console, at least not at first.

And so that’s it for another week. Have a good one and see you at the same time, same place, in 7 days.

Weekly News Roundup (23 January 2011)

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

You may have noticed something different at the bottom of this blog (if you’re viewing this post on my blog, as opposed to through the newsletter that is) – that’s right, WNR (via Digital Digest) has joined the 21st century social media thingamajig. This means that if you like this post, you can use one of the dozens of social media tools to let others know, and help me increase my readership numbers into double (or even triple!) digits. In addition, I’ve also set up what the kids call a ‘book of faces’ page right here (where every single news, deals and blog post will be pinned up on the wall, or something like that), and even managed to employ the services of that blue twittering bird here. So please, friend, follow, tweet, twang, hurl, zomg me on Facebook and Twitter, since I’m a bit lonely and pathetic on there at the moment and will soon have to resort to making up fake accounts just so I have some “friends”. And many of the news stories that I link to in the WNR will now be to the Digital Digest news section (as opposed to the forum thread like before, although a link to the relevant forum threads will still be located at the end of the news articles), and there, you will also see FB like buttons, Twitter tweet buttons, and even a FB powered comments section where you can point out the numerous speling mistakes I’ve made in the news post.

And there might be something in it for those of you that goes through the laborious process of clicking on a button to indicate your “friendship” or “cult follower status” with me, and the earlier you do it (and the greater number of you who do it) will increase the likelihood of something like this happening. Did someone say prizes? Amazon gift certificates? Details (if any) to be released soon. Just to be clear, yes, I am trying to buy some friends, so fingers crossed it works and I get enough likes and followers to make launching a competition possible!

Lots of news this week, so let’s get started.

CopyrightLet’s start the copyright news. The big wigs at the music arms of Sony and Universal did some brain storming the other day and came up with a new brilliant way to combat piracy: allow people to actually buy the music!

Apparently, not allowing people to legally buy something actually encourages people to seek illegal ways to obtain the same content, which must have come as a big shock to the Sony and Universal execs when their million dollar research revealed these findings, or something. Currently, when new music is released, it’s given airtime on the radio during an exclusive period before it was possible to buy the music legally, but research found that people searching for the new songs peaked weeks before the start of the sales period, and so, naturally, people just managed to get the song from “other” sources. So now, music will be made available for sale at the same time as when the radio airplay period starts, in a bid to curb online piracy. And it will only take a dozen more research reports before Sony, Universal and others realize that the same thing works for TV shows and movies, and that rental, release windows and delaying new TV show episodes by as long as 6 month in overseas markets, all contribute to the online piracy phenomenon.

Still staying in the music industry, the RIAA this week issued more threats to companies and organizations that it perceives as potential partners in the CRusade Against Piracy (CRAP™). The RIAA knows that the only way it can get others to do their dirty work in the futile war against online piracy (FWOP™) is to threaten them. This time, it’s ICANN, the people responsible for making the domain name standards, and the RIAA warns them that piracy syndicates might hijack planned music based TLDs like .music. Like as if music piracy websites would need to bother with .music, not if .riaasucks is available. It’s very likely though that the warning comes because the RIAA wants control of .music, but doesn’t have the cash to bid for it, and so they’re dreaming up an imaginary threat to force ICANN’s hands, a tactic that has worked well with governments around the world.

Malware

Malware is a more serious problem than online piracy, yet it receives almost no attention at all

A threat that is not so imaginary is malware. Hands up those that *haven’t* been affected by malware, or know someone that has. Malware costs the economy something like $50+ billion a year, that’s even more than the imaginary numbers that the RIAA likes to invent, and yet it seems there’s hardly any action against the spread of malware, apart from the odd arrest of hacker or two, and only when the malware story makes national news (and this happens only because it  infected all the computers at said news network). And yet, the US government alone is throwing millions of dollars and resources of the FBI, Homeland Security at fighting the online piracy problem, which may or may not even be a problem. I mention all this because of the story this week that malware writers are now using that old RIAA favourite, DRM, to protect their toolkits to sell or rent to those seeking to make a profit infecting unsuspecting servers and computers. But we already know for a fact the resources at the FBI have already been diverted away from investigating online and identity fraud, towards online piracy investigations, but I guess that’s because there is no such things as the “online fraud victims” lobby, or at least it doesn’t have as much cash to splash around compared to the entertainment lobby (probably because all of their cash has already been stolen via malware and identify fraud).

High Definition

Onto HD/3D news, I posted a story about LG’s plans to make people buy more 3D TVs that use passive glasses, but mainly, it was just an excuse to post a link to this video.

But 3D TVs using passive glasses do have some advantages, after all, cinema 3D presentations are mostly based on the same technology. Sure, you won’t get a 1080p picture, but if it means less headaches and cheaper glasses, then it’s probably a good thing. Having had my 3D TV for about 6 month now, I’m still firmly convinced that 3D is still very much a gimmick, although one that’s very likely to be in every TV pretty soon (but only the active glasses kind, since it’s very inexpensive to add active glasses 3D support to HDTVs).

Scent Sciences - ScentScape

Smell-O-Vision may be coming to games and movies for a low price, but not all smells are pleasant!

Something that also smells very gimmicky, possibly literally at some stage, is smell-o-vision. But what caught my eye about Scent Science’s new ScentScape machine is the low price attached to it. I don’t think it makes a huge difference to me if I can smell burning petrol or not as I blow up yet another car with my RPG in GTA IV,  but for $70, the price of the ScentScape machine, it might just be worth a try. I wonder though what the most popular smells would be. Gunpowder would be one, blood another. But I do have reservations about playing a game like Fallout: New Vegas. I can’t imagine the post apocalyptic world and its inhabitants (and mutants) smelling very nice at all! Nor would watching Generation Kill (brilliant mini-series by the way) be pleasant if “a MOPP suit that smells like four days of piss and ball sweat” was made a reality, smell wise.

And Star Wars on Blu-ray now has a solid release date. September 27th, 2011. It will be the best seller on Blu-ray to date when released, I suspect.

Gaming

And finally in gaming, some new developments in the PS3 hack saga. Sony’s court case against fail0verflow and geohot has been delayed due to jurisdiction issues relating to the fact that geohot, aka Geroge Hotz, does not live in California where the lawsuit was filed. Sony reasoned with the judge that, due to various clauses in the PSN user agreement and whatnot, it could still sue someone who doesn’t live in California, in California, but the judge has reservations about allowing Sony to bypass jurisdiction so easily this way. The EFF has also come out attacking Sony’s lawsuit, saying it sends a ‘dangerous message’, suing security researchers for exposing security flaws, when really, Sony should had worked with people like Hotz to plug any security holes before the console was released. Both fail0verflow and geohot stressed that they did this for academic purposes and for enabling homebrew, and all have made sure that piracy would not be promoted or allowed directly by their hacks (although indirectly, the hack can be further modified to enable piracy). So instead of suing those that actually use this hack to allow piracy, Sony are suing the guys that actually exposed the hack. It’s like arresting the guy who pointed out to you that your car is unlocked, as opposed to the guy who actually stole your car.

Waninkoko PS3 3.55 CFW

Waninkoko has a custom PS3 3.55 firmware that played backed up games, but it's bricking some PS3s (screencap credit: PSGroove.com)

More custom firmware has been released, this time by infamous Wii hacker Waninkoko, and this ones does allow pirated games to work. But the firmware apparently bricks older PS3s, those with 256MB NAND chips, a list of affected models here. The warning forum user Budreaux posted in the forum thread should be listened to … playing around with hacked firmware is a quick way to brick your PS3, void you warranty, and get you banned on PSN probably, not to mention possibly breaking the law depending on where you are. So do it strictly at your own risk!

And games that relied on the PS3’s now hacked security framework are beginning to feel the effect, with Modern Warfare 2 servers hacked to erase gamer scores and all sorts of other things that make the experience unbearable to gamers. Not all games are affected because developers wisely decided that solely relying on Sony’s framework wasn’t a good idea.

And the worst is yet to come, since Sony’s official response will almost certainly be harsh. Remember that this is the same company that thought a rootkit was a good idea. And so it comes as no surprise that Sony may be planning to bring serial keys to PS3 games in a bid to curb piracy. Not only do you have to type in the 16 character serial code into your PS3, which is painful enough already, these keys may only be reused 5 times, which makes selling and buying second hand games that much more annoying. And it will also mean that you won’t be able to play offline games without going online for authentication. But at this stage, this is just a unsubstantiated rumour, so who knows.

Another unsubstantiated rumous is that the Nintendo 3DS, still weeks away from an official release, has already been hacked despite Nintendo’s assurance of better anti-piracy measures. This does not surprise me one bit, if it’s true.

And even though geohot is busy defending himself against Sony’s legal onslaught, he still has time to hack, this time, Windows Phone 7. But Microsoft, probably giddy from the disasters befalling the PS3 at the moment, isn’t so mad at geohot, and has even promised to work together to “let dev creativity flourish”. This after Microsoft actively not caring about people hacking the Kinect … has the corporate monster changed?

Speaking of Kinect, the PR machine rolled on, and just like how the Wii gained public exposure due to the thousands of broken TV screens and vases, “Wii tennis elbow” and other medical phenomenons, the Kinect is gaining similar public exposure via YouTube ‘Kinect Fail’ videos and reports of even more serious injuries, and even a potential arrest. These fluff pieces may all sound like bad publicity, but there is no such thing as bad publicity, because everyone thinks that these things only happens to stupid people, not themselves, so there is no way one would get ‘Kinect Sports volleyball shoulders’ that is so painful that it makes sleeping difficult. Ow.

And that’s all for this week.

… checks FB and Twitter for the 15th time today … still no likes or followers  🙁

Weekly News Roundup (2 January 2011)

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Welcome to this side of 2011, and the first WNR of the new decade. It is a new decade right? Because there was no year zero and all that nonsense. As expected, not a whole lot of news this week, but still actually more than I expected. Which is good, as otherwise, I would have had to do one of those awful “2010 year in review” pieces, and I hate doing those (mainly because I can barely remember what I wrote last week, let alone the whole year). So let’s not waste any time (one of my new year resolutions).

CopyrightStarting with a new year in copyright news, unfortunately it’s still the same old crap of government using *our* tax money to defend the business interests of an industry still relying on a old, decaying business model.

NYC Piracy Campaign

Piracy will cost New York a lot of money ... a lot in tax payer handouts to the MPAA

This time, it’s the city of New York, which is launching a new tax payer funded anti-piracy campaign. Not only is the campaign funny, in a stupid way, it is also severely misleading, and made worse by the fact that the city is struggling to balance its budget as it is, without spending a huge chunk of it helping out movie studios which has just had a record year in terms of profits. The MPAA used their usual scare campaign with made up figures such as “40% of camcorded pirated films come from New York”, a statement they made a couple of years ago (and then only days after claiming that “70%” of the same films come from Canada). This campaign uses the same scary figures, such as suggesting that if you pirate films, you’re putting 900,000 jobs in NYC in jeopardy. Not buying a movie that I wasn’t going to buy anyway, apparently, equals job losses. Nothing to do with austerity, cutting the city’s budget, and putting people out of a job just when the economy needs people to buy things (but that’s a debate for another blog, me thinks).

In any case, the fact that the MPAA can squeeze money out of a city that barely has the funds to even clean up the snowed in streets, shows just how powerful and successful their lobbying efforts, and that of their sister group, the RIAA, have been recently – both groups spent more than two millions dollars on lobbying combined in the last quarter alone. But lobbying can go both ways, and it appears that the under attack Rapidshare, which was recently listed by the RIAA/MPAA as a “notorious” website for piracy, is using some of its earnings to good effect, by lobbying the US government themselves so they can be treated fairly. The cyber locker company feels that they already have a takedown policy in place, a feature that the RIAA/MPAA could easily use to bring down pirated content, and so it makes them not so different to websites like YouTube, which relies on user uploaded content, and also suffers from users uploading copyrighted content. But we all know that while the RIAA/MPAA talks big about the consequences of piracy (twenty billion jobs lost every year!), but they aren’t really prepared to the hard work of actually stopping piracy online. Because going through the millions of uploads every day on RapidShare, most of them being legal, would take a lot of work indeed. Even suing is risky in that you could lose. And so it’s easier to just lobby the US government, which seems incapable of taking any other position other than the one the RIAA/MPAA wants them to take. And again, this all assumes that Internet downloads are seriously hurting both industries, and not their outdated business model (and it’s even debatable whether either industry are hurting at all, what with record profits and everything).

More news on mass litigation. Time Warner Cable has been accused of being a haven for pirates, after the company was sticking with an earlier agreement to only provide 10 IP to subscriber matches per month, making mass litigation against TWC customers almost impossible (if 5,000 people are sued,  it would take 41.7 years to get all of their info from TWC). But why does TWC have to do the hard work for law firms whose only interest is to make money, and having others do most of the work for them? In the newspaper mass lawsuits, Righthaven has defended the fact that they were suing non-profits for copyright infringement. Moral objections aside (yes, taking money away from charities and non-profits to make lawyers rich), Righthaven argues that just because people or organisations are not making money off re-posting newspaper articles, it doesn’t mean they can’t be sued for it. And they’ve also attacked the “fair use” defence, which some defendants have used. The argument is that because the newspaper provides sharing links and email sharing features, it means the newspaper is actively encouraging sharing, and so this makes copying the articles alright. I’m actually in somewhat of an agreement with Righthaven on this issue (shock, horror), since there’s a big difference between linking to an article and copying its contents (even if you do link to the original article). But there is also a big difference between a partial copying of the article, with link back to the original, and a full copy, but this is one distinction that Righthaven is not making when it is choosing its targets. In any case, I think it would be a mistake to use this fair use defence, as I don’t think it will stand up in court. Instead, one should concentrate on the actual damages being caused to the newspapers in question, and perhaps even highlight the positives of copying (making the article well known, improving the authoritativeness of the source, and if a link to the original was provided, extra “foot traffic” to the newspaper’s website). The reality is that newspapers aren’t losing a lot of money from people copying their articles – they’re losing a lot of money because they can’t solely rely on online advertising revenue to pay for costs, not if they make their news free. Which is why iPad and tablet subscriptions seems to be the next big thing, and my advice to them is that to concentrate less on suing potential customers, and actually try to give them attractive products they’re willing to pay for. Don’t abuse your online reputation for a quick buck, a short term decision that could cost you big in the long run.

Unfortunately, copyright gone mad is not a phenomenon that’s only limited to the US – it’s happening in Europe as well. The latest has Germany declaring war on kindergartens for daring to teach children songs, without paying royalty to the music labels. They want kindergartens to pay up every time they copy the lyrics of songs or the songs themselves, in their effort to educate the next generation. So far, they’re not actually preventing children from singing songs without paying royalty, but you know it’s only a matter of time before they do it. Pretty soon, even humming a song in public will be considered a public performance with royalty attached. Although this sounds far fetched and ridiculously, it isn’t that far from the truth when even ringtones have already been claimed by copyright groups as a public performance.

The other big news of the week was that the Windows 7 Phone DRM has already been broken. But that’s the nature of DRM isn’t it? If it can be used/played, then being copied isn’t so different that it can’t be eventually performed, even with ridiculous DRM in place. The only real way to stop copying is to stop the content being used in *any* way at all via DRM, something Sony is obviously working towards (see last week’s news about the DRM on the Salt DVD).

High Definition

Not much in HD/3D news, so despite promising not to do a year in review type of thing, I might just have to do it. But I’ll keep it short in the interest of writer and reader.

Blu-ray and DVD pricing on Amazon.com

Blu-ray movies are starting to be priced cheaper than their DVD counterparts

So Blu-ray ended the year on a high, with records broken, although not really a huge advance on last year, despite aggressive pricing (can’t remember the number of times I’ve come across where the more fully featured Blu-ray version is cheaper than the DVD version, and sometimes the Blu-ray+DVD combo version is cheaper too). In my mind, the aggressive pricing indicates that studios are now prepared to let Blu-ray become a mainstream format, as opposed to a premium format that sells side by side with cheaper DVDs. This is good for consumers I think, since we’ll be able to get more (resolution, content) for less, something that may not be true if Blu-ray remained a premium product. 3D Blu-ray, on the other hand, seems to be fizzling out due to greedy studios and 3D TV manufacturers. For me, having the Avatar 3D Blu-ray on general release will help the 3D Blu-ray format take off, and make Fox a lot of money in the process, but making it a Panasonic exclusive gives 3D critics something legitimate to complain about. When 3D is already a hyped up, content scarce and gimmicky feature, the last thing it needs is content exclusivity. The whole point of 3D Blu-ray was to have a common format that allows for cross-brand compatibility, but exclusivity kills this in the most artificial way possible.

Gaming

In gaming, two pieces of DRM related news, and surprisingly, it’s all good (for the consumer, that is). It makes for a good end for 2010, and bodes well for 2011, I suppose.

The first piece of “good” news is that Ubisoft may have finally realised that making buyers of your games jump through hoops to play your games, may not be the best financial strategy, especially when it doesn’t stop piracy, and the pirated versions offer a better experience than the legitimate version. Through recent patches, Ubisoft has removed the requirement for an always-on Internet connection for the games Assassin’s Creed 2, and Splinter Cell: Conviction. Hopefully, it will be expanded to cover all their games. The DRM now only authenticates at every game start up, and does not come on during actual gaming.

In fact, while taking advantage of the Steam Holiday Sales (which is still going on as I type, with the big final day of sales coming tomorrow/in a few hours time depending on where you are), I noticed a lot of people avoiding UbiDRM games, even when they were offered for peanuts. Hopefully, Ubisoft has noticed this trend and that’s why they’ve reversed their previous stance.

Speaking of Steam’s sales, it’s confirmed to me the benefits of digital copies, particularly during sales. I’ve taken part in sales of physical goods, games in particular, in the last month, and there are so many more problems associated with that old model compared to the digital only model. First of all, stock is limited, meaning if you don’t rush in, you’ll miss out. And then, delivery is an issue, especially during the holidays, and especially during the adverse weather conditions experienced around the world right now. But with Steam, they can sell unlimited copies of a game at a low price without having to worry about stock levels, and delivery is instant. Although because Steam’s servers has been pounded by people downloading the dozens of games they’ve all purchased, downloads are not very quick at the moment, if it starts at all. That’s a problem, and hopefully Steam will bring more mirrors and CDNs online, to avoid the same congestion next year (they really need to work with ISPs to come up with some kind of local mirroring system).

Sony PS3 Hacked

A stupid error on Sony's part means that the PS3 is now hacked

The second piece of good news, at least for those that are cursing Sony for removing “Other OS” from the PS3, is that due to a serious security flaw in the PS3 authentication system, hackers were able to obtain the PS3’s private cryptography key, which for lay persons like myself, it means that the PS3 has been cracked, big time. The private key allows any application to be signed and accepted by the PS3 as a legitimate piece of code, meaning anything can now be run on the PS3, whether it’s pirated games, or a custom version of Linux used to turn the PS3 into a more fully featured media center. The irony is that Sony removed “Other OS” to pre-empt piracy, and if was this single act that spurred the hacking community’s best and brightest to completely destroy the PS3’s DRM system, and thus open the system up to unrestricted piracy. The PS3 – it really does do everything now.

While this will now open up the PS3 to pirated games, and turning it from one of the most secure game platforms to the least secure in a single stroke (or in this case, a single variable that should have been randomized, and not made a constant), it will also allow the continued development of custom HTPC solutions for the vastly powerful PS3 hardware, turning it into one of those must have pieces of kit, but only if you use custom software (like the original Xbox, and the subsequent XBMC development). And that, in the long run, probably helps the PS3 more than it hurts it. Maybe.

As for a roundup of 2010 for gaming? It’s quite simple really. Wii dying, PS3 hacked to pieces, Xbox 360 Slim FTW, and Kinect is actually pretty good.

And that’s that for the first ever issue of the WNR for 2011. The thought of having to bring out another 51 issues of WNR for this year alone makes me weep slightly inside, but a little ranting every week is good for the soul. Or something.

Weekly News Roundup (19 December 2010)

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Welcome to the penultimate (I told you I would find a way to use this word) WNR for 2010. It’s nearly the end of the year, and as expected, news is a bit light at the moment. But news there is, and cover it we shall. I’m sure you’re as busy as me around this time of the year, so let’s not waste any time on silly introductions that attempts to be witty even though the author doesn’t actually know what witty means. Is it the same as being ironical?

CopyrightLet’s start with copyright news, Warner Bros commissioned a report into online piracy a couple of months ago, and the results are in, and are somewhat surprising.

Boardwalk Empire Foreign Subtitles

Foreign dubs and subtitled version of latest movies and TV shows are top downloads on torrent networks

Apparently, pirates do occasionally buy stuff too. And this means that when studios are fighting pirates, they are essentially fighting their own potential customers. None of this should be too surprising to readers of this feature, but I’m sure it was a surprise to Warner Bros. And they have vowed to find out just why pirates sometimes pirate stuff, and sometimes decide to buy stuff, and if they can ever work out the formula for this, then it could really help to reduce piracy. I’m sure Warner has just commissioned another report to get to the bottom of this, but here’s a (free) hint for Warner: cheap and good = sales; expensive and bad = piracy. The other interesting findings include that while pirate downloaders are usually men, it is woman that download TVs shows more often than men. And another interesting finding was that foreign subtitled/dubbed version of TV and movie downloads often become the most popular downloads only a few days after the original English release, suggesting that there may be some kind of market that is being under-served at the moment. For many foreign viewers, this is perhaps the only way, legal or otherwise, to watch the latest movies or TV shows in particular, since the alternative could be waiting months for the official version to be released. So to add to the earlier hints: worldwide simultaneous release = good; staggered release in attempt to squeeze as much money out of each market = piracy (might also add exclusivity deals to this – more on this in the 3D/HD  section). So basically, the conclusion seems to be that, no, studios aren’t doing everything they can to stop piracy because they are not really matching the market’s needs, in terms of release schedules, or pricing, or a lot of other things under their control. So instead of blaming torrent sites, and trying to sue users, maybe they should go fix their own mistakes first.

OnSmash.com

OnSmash.com - Shut down by the government on orders from the RIAA, but was it the right decision?

A follow-up to the story on the US Homeland Security, ICE operation that closed down 80+ websites in late November. We know now, via a story in the New York Times, that at least one of the websites closed, OnSmash.com, should not have been closed, or at the very least, should have left the decision up to that of a judge and jury. OnSmash.com provided hip-hop music and videos, publishing stuff that is often leaked to them directly from labels and artists such as Kayne West. These leaks might constitute copyright infringement in the strictest sense, but there’s a good reason why the leaks came from official sources such as the copyright owners themselves and artists. All for promotional reasons, a great way to reach the fan-base in this day and age. And now this way has been closed, without explanation and without any sort of paperwork that can be obtained by the defendant for probably weeks and months. To say that those in the industry were surprised would not be a lie, but it probably also wasn’t a surprise that major studios represented by the RIAA did not like the way things were working. And straight from the RIAA’s lips to Homeland Security’s ears, bypassing due process as much as possible in the, um, process. A little copyright infringement is sometimes a good thing. Sometimes a great thing. Remember Susan Boyle’s audition video? You know, the one that now has 55 million views. Was that video from an official source, or was it pirated? Would it have served the copyright owners of Britain’s Got Talent to have had this video removed, or did it serve them better to keep it up? The RIAA would have probably sued for unauthorised use of ‘I Dreamed A Dream’, or got their ICE buddies to knock down a few doors.

Dutch anti-piracy agency BREIN wants to get in on the website closure business too, and they’ve had 29 websites shut down, with visitors redirected to the BREIN website. And they can keep doing this because the minute those 29 websites were shut down, hundreds probably sprang up in their place. Hurray for perpetual war.

Meanwhile, more bad news for law firms seeking to profit from mass lawsuits, as another judge has declared that little things like jurisdiction does matter, even in embarrassing porn lawsuits. So it means that copyright trolls will now have to work a little bit harder, to determine just where the people they’re suing are actually located, before threatening people with massive amounts of damages and public humiliation if they don’t pay up by the close of biz tomorrow, capiche? But these little things to add up, in terms of cost, and if the EFF can keep up their small victories, eventually, it will all add up to a major victory when it no longer becomes profitable to pursue these kinds of lawsuits (and more on how you can support the EFF financially, and also get some great games for peanuts, later on).

High Definition

In HD/3D news, bad news for Avatar fans that don’t have Panasonic 3D TVs – no Avatar for you until 2012, maybe.

Avatar 3D Blu-ray for sale on eBay

Be prepared to pay higher and higher prices for Avatar 3D Blu-ray, as the exclusivity deal with Panasonic may last until 2012

A Panasonic UK spokesperson has confirmed that Panasonic’s exclusive Avatar 3D Blu-ray deal actually lasts until 2012. So until then, it’s paying $200 (if you’re lucky on eBay) for a copy, or those willing to risk it can get it from less then legal sources. I don’t condone piracy, but really, if these are the choices, then what would most people do? I just hope Fox is getting enough money from Panasonic for this deal, because by the time 2012 comes, how many people would have found another less than legal way of obtaining the 3D version of this film already, and how much would that cost the studio in terms of lost sales (assuming the 3D hype is still around by that time). My opinion, which is absolutely opposite of the actual legal position, is that if I can’t buy it, then I’m free to try and obtain it in any way I wish.

And these kind of exclusivity deals destroys almost all the progress made by unifying the 3D Blu-ray standard, because it’s back to the bad old days of buying hardware based on the movies that are available for the platform.

But I think something will give before 2012, because I just can’t see companies like Samsung standing idly by, or Fox having the patience to wait it out until 2012 when the demand for it is there, and not when they see the 3D BDRip torrent of the movie doing great “business” on the net.

The H.264 vs WebM vs Ogg Theora vs HTML5 vs Flash war just got even more confusing, with Microsoft helping competitor Firefox by producing a H.264 add-on for the open source browser, allowing Windows 7 Firefox users to experience HTML5 H.264 videos. Of course, Microsoft never helps anyone without gaining something themselves, and as staunch supporters of H.264, this is not a surprising move. So to summarise, Firefox and Opera don’t want HTML5 to adopt H.264 because it’s incompatible with their open source licenses, while Apple, Microsoft love H.264 because they hold patents to it (and it is an industry standard that’s widely supported already). Google remains on the fence and has been playing everyone off everyone else  – even though they’re the ones that came up with WebM/VP8, Chrome also natively supports H.264, so the only one that stands to gain regardless of the result is, once again, Google. Meanwhile, Adobe sits in a dark corner cursing everyone, while stabbing pins into a Steve Jobs voodoo doll. And that’s what you missed last time on Glee.

Gaming

And in gaming, The Humble Indie Bundle is back. The deal is simple – five highly rated indie games that normally retail for $85 can be had for the princely sum of … anything you want.

That’s right, you decide what you want to pay for the bundle of five DRM-free games, and you can even direct part of the payment to one of Child’s Play charity, the EFF or the people who are running this campaign. So if you’ve been porn or Far Cry mass-sued, and want to give something back to the EFF, or if you hate DRM and want your voice heard, or you want to support a very worthy charity, or just because you actually want to buy the five excellent games included, this is your chance! The top amount paid so far stands at $3141.59 at the time of writing, but the average is $7.66. The million dollar barrier has already been broken as well.

A Kinect update. Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter says that he has access to NPD figures that show the Kinect Xbox 360 console bundle outsold the Move PS3 console bundle by more than a 5 to 1 ratio in November. That’s not surprising considering the half a billion dollars that Microsoft threw in to promote Kinect, and the subsequent hype the motion sensor device has since generated. And I’m not just talking about Oprah or Ellen Kinect appearances/give-aways, but also with independent developers “hacking” and the various impressive demo videos. The same kind of hype is just not being generated for Move. And with free DLC downloads already appearing for two of Kinect’s most popular games, thanks to commercial sponsorship, and software updates that promises to make Kinect even more accurate (like finger tracking), the momentum is definitely with Kinect at the moment, even if Microsoft says no to Kinect sex games. The only thing holding it back is supply issues (just checking now, it’s out of stock on both Amazon.com and Wal-mart.com, while the PS Move is in stock on both, albeit in very short supply on Amazon).

And that’s pretty much it for news this week. Short and sweet. Or at least just short. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (28 November 2010)

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Another week, another WNR. I know it’s easy to get cynical about the Black Friday sales in the US (particularly if, you’re like me, not actually located in the US), just like it may be easy to get caught up in the hype, but if you’re do your research, there are potentially a lot of bargains to pick up without leaving the comfort of your home. Since Blu-ray is a major topic of this website, I’ve posted some of the best Amazon Black Friday Blu-ray deals on this page. Most of the discounts are still available, and there will be more on Monday as well, so it’s a good time to stock up on some Blu-ray movies. The prices are so good that they’re almost HD DVD level! I’ve purchase a dozen of so movies myself as part of this sale, as there are some really good bargains around for the movies that I had planned to buy anyway (and that’s the the trap, is that you end up buying things you didn’t really want or need just because they were cheap). More on this in the HD/Blu-ray section of this WNR, including one confession about how I compromised my principles a bit!

I continue to play through Fallout New Vegas, encountering another quite annoying glitch during the week. This one involved the companion Veronica, and how she become frozen in one spot after a certain mission. And this leads me to recommend one most excellent resource for Fallout games, The Value. It is a Wikia for all the Fallout games, and it gives precious advice on how to overcome glitches. And this is also why I prefer playing Fallout on the PC, because you get access to the console, and this allows you to fix the most stubborn glitches. In any case, I solve the Veronica glitch after reading a tip on The Vault. The glitches in this game almost ruin the game, but it’s actually quite satisfying when you do find a solution or workaround, and it has become part of the Fallout/Bethesda experience really.

Not a huge amount of news by any standard, but still enough to do some ranting, possibly between the 1800 and 2400 word mark, by my best guestimate. So let’s get started.

Copyright

In copyright news, news broke not too long ago that The Pirate Bay founders have lost their appeal in the Swedish courts. This means that, following the original verdict, the founders now face a hefty fine and prison time of up to 10 month.

Prison time for Pirate Bay founders confirmed, at least until further action in the courts

Only three of the original four defendants were part of this trial, the other missed out due to illness, but will be certain to face the exact same result. Despite jail time being handed out, the likes of the MPAA are still not satisfied at the result, claiming that the $6.5 million dollars of damages isn’t anywhere near the $17 million they had wanted. Talk about being greedy! The case will now most likely go to the highest court in Sweden, even if the prosecutors seem to think this case won’t go that far. I can’t be bothered to dig up the previous edition of the WNR where I said that this case won’t be decided until it is examined by the highest court in the country, and I think I also mentioned that I don’t hold much hope that any appeal would yield satisfactory results for the TPB. The cards were stacked against them from the start.

The copyright news this week doesn’t really get much better unfortunately, but there was at least one bright spot when there was at least a sign of common sense on Capitol Hill this week, when US Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) torpedoed efforts to enact the controversial Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) into law. He has placed a hold on it and it won’t be heard before the senate until next year. Unfortunately, I can only see this as a temporary delay, because with so much support for this ridiculous act, it will be made into law and we’ll all have to suffer the consequences. Most support it because they don’t know any better, or have received enough incentive to support it without asking serious questions. And most know there’s no political points being earned by going against the entertainment industry in the US. And that’s partly our fault too, for not pressuring out representatives in government in doing the right thing. But the thing is, unless you’re someone who reads this or similar blogs and websites regularly, you won’t really be aware of the issues, or understand (or care) about them, and it then boils down to an issue of whether people should or shouldn’t “steal” (a dumbed down talking point that the entertainment industry has been pushing), and most people wouldn’t support stealing. Except we know that copying and stealing are two different things entirely, and that even if it is possible to stop piracy (it isn’t), there are certain things that are far more sacred than protecting the dying business model of the entertainment industry. Things like our right to privacy. And freedom of speech. And due process, which systems like ‘Three Strikes’ attempt to short-circuit by assuming guilt and denying people their right of appeal (or to even address the matter in a court of law, like they’re entitled to). And this goes back to what I said a couple of WNRs ago, that we must do more to protect our rights and treat this more than just a matter of being able to “downloading movies and games and stuff”, something that the copyright lobby and their supporters has tried to reduce the arguments to. This is about protecting our democratic rights, which politicians these days are too eager to sacrifice in the name of “protecting” us (whether it’s terrorism, or the perceived and possibly imaginary threat to the economy, due to piracy).

IPRC Seizure Notice

Seized domains now display only this seizure notice from the DoJ, IPRC, and Homeland Security

And so we move on to the news this week that Homeland Security closed down another 80 websites suspected of providing pirated content. The only positive is that due process was followed, that warrants were obtained via the court, but it doesn’t really matter if the process itself is flawed. My biggest problem with this is that I have no idea if any of the websites/domains seized were really illegal, and who determined their status. I don’t trust most judges’ level of technical understanding to pass judgement on technical issues such as this, and perhaps when faced with such overwhelming force (Justice Department, Homeland Security, ICE), and some scaremongering about the consequences of piracy (billions of jobs will be lost!), most will just go along with whatever is in the warrant request. And if one of the 80 websites was truly innocent, what’s the process of appeal, and what kind of compensation would be due if the website was deemed by a court of law as not guilty, compensation for the financial and emotional damages caused by the temporary closure of the website. I mean, this is not like going after drug dealers or counterfeit drugs, there are a lot of complicated issues involved in determining whether a website is guilty or not of copyright infringement, issues that must be addressed in court before any punitive actions can be handed out. And what if the domain really did host illegal stuff, but it was uploaded unknowingly by third parties, or as part of a user-generated section on the website – is if fair that the entire domain is taken offline? It would be like shutting down blogger.com because somebody created an account on there to share pirated MP3s. This scenario could be avoided via a DMCA takedown notice, but these seizures bypass the very laws that were created to avoid situations like this. And this is why COICA is so controversial, in that it gives the US government even greater power to do all of this and more, and on a much larger scale as well, potentially killing off tens of thousands of websites in one fell swoop, and many by “collateral damage”. And this is why anyone who knows and cares about the Internet ought to be against COICA, and many prominent companies and individuals have already spoken out, but all will be silenced by the constant chattering of lobbyists into the ears of those that can decide the fate of COICA. Senator Wyden excepted.

And so the next step would be to even make talking about piracy illegal, which is what the RIAA attempted to do this week, and caused some collateral damage of their own in the process. PCMag.com posted an article after LimeWire was shut down, examining the possible alternatives that are still left. This is a valid discussion, because it points to the fact that even though it took years and millions of dollars to bring down LimeWire, the next LimeWire could pop up in a matter of weeks or could already exist, and thus making the whole process an expensive, and pointless, exercise. And for this, the RIAA and its cohorts sent a letter to PCMag.com’s CEO, attacking the website for daring to suggest alternatives and supporting and encouraging piracy in the process. It then attacked PCMag for simply referring to another article, published by TorrentFreak, regarding LimeWire being resurrected. The problem is that PCMag didn’t write that article, it was PC World, by facts and accuracy does not matter when one is acting the bully like the RIAA and Co. are. PCMag are standing firm by their journalistic principles, and refuse to be silenced and used as a scapegoat in the RIAA’s attempt to blame someone, anyone, for the piracy problem. Anyone except for themselves for sticking with a dying business model, even when alternatives and opportunities were presented, opportunities that were eventually taken by the likes of Apple with iTunes. The only bit of innovation the RIAA and its members have come up with recently has been new ways to sue and intimidate those perceived to be their enemies (the Internet and anyone who uses the Internet), and of course the whole failed DRM experiment.

The Witcher 2 Screenshot

The Witcher 2, to be released next year, will be DRM free

And DRM has been in the news this week too, but in regards to the use of it in the gaming industry. Gamasutra, one of the most respected gaming industry website on the Internet, has had one of its bloggers write an interesting article examining the failure of DRM, and how illegal copying can be prevented. The conclusion seems to be one that I’ve come to as well, in that the solution is to add value to the gaming experience, not to take it away via horrible DRM. Value adding explains the success of Steam, and even though it does use DRM, it is pretty weak stuff, and in fact probably better than buying off the shelve due to the lack of need of a DVD check. The best DRM should prevent casual copying, but should otherwise be invisible to the end user, and if it forces gamers to connect to an online service for authentication, free value added services should be given as compensation (achievements, community, social features …). But even the best, or worst (as in draconian), DRM will not prevent copying by those that really want to copy it, and groups with the skill to hack away, as Ubisoft’s DRM experiment showed recently, and so really, there’s no point to DRM at all. And this is a point shared by at least some game developers, including the developer of The Witcher series, and operators of the classic, DRM-free, gaming website GOG.com. In fact, their CEO and co-founder, Marcin Iwiński, goes on to say that DRM treats customers like criminals. Iwiński believes there’s no need to debate whether their upcoming game, The Witcher 2, should use DRM or not, simply because he believes DRM doesn’t work. And this is why The Witcher 2 will be released DRM-free. Iwiński also criticized the way DRM adds restrictions that the pirated versions are free from, calling it “totally stupid”. He also attacks online based protection, saying that it isn’t fair to people who want to play games when they’re away from a reliable Internet connection. And it’s hard to argue against any of these points really. The industry, when it relies on DRM, is basically trying to sell something that’s not as good as the pirated version even when you don’t consider the price, and then getting mad when it’s not selling well. I mean this is an industry that isn’t even bothering to print manuals any more, and yet it expects us to jump through hoops just to play a badly bugged game that it rushed through testing. But luckily, there are still the smarter companies that are doing more innovative things to stop piracy, things like bundling physical collector’s items that can’t be pirated, building immersive online experiences and communities, being innovative with pricing, and either not using DRM or at least not overdoing it. And then you have companies like Ubisoft.

High Definition

Moving on from the ranting to happier grounds, as mentioned before, I did take part in the Black Friday sales on Amazon, trying to take advantage of the historically favourable AUD/USD exchange rates (not as favourable to be honest this week).

The Lord of the Rings Amazon Purchase

Yes I know I said I won't buy it out of protest, but they were really really cheap!

And yes, I did completely compromise my principles on an issue I’ve ranted about a lot right here. That’s right, I purchased the theatrical Blu-ray version of The Lord of the Rings movies, despite bitching about it for weeks back when it was first released. My rant then was about how the trilogy boxset should have included the extended edition, as opposed to the theatrical edition, and should have at least featured some new extra features and put them on Blu-ray at least even if they weren’t HD (the extra features are actually on DVDs, and probably could have fitted onto a single dual layer Blu-ray, but that would have made the boxset look famished). Also, the first movie had a sub-standard transfer, although some of it was unavoidable it seems (a fact that wasn’t available at the time of my original rant).  In my defence, I didn’t buy the box set, but only the individual movies separately for $7.99 each. And at that price, some of these shortcomings, can be forgiven (certainly better than paying $65 for the boxset anyway). So “I won’t be buying it” really meant “I won’t be buying it unless it’s heavily discounted and I must join in the hype of Black Friday or I will feel left out”.

Well, at least I didn’t pay $400 for a copy of Avatar on 3D Blu-ray.

Gaming

Kinect is in the news again this week, and funnily, it had almost nothing to do with gaming. The news broke last week that only a week after the release of Kinect, it had been hacked, and Microsoft couldn’t have been pleased at the development.

Kinect Manboob Tracker

It's always nice to see technology used in a way to benefit humanity as a whole

Then it turn out that they didn’t really care either way, because the “hack” wasn’t really a hack at all, at least according to Microsoft’s definition of what a hack is. What happened was that somebody wrote open source drivers for Kinect so that it can be used on the PC, and because Microsoft intentionally (or they claim now) left the USB thingy open, Microsoft claims they were always hoping something like this would happen. I’m not sure about that, but Microsoft do have a history of mixing Xbox 360 and PC compatibility (the wired Xbox 360 gamepad works perfectly on the PC, and even the wireless one can be made to work via a dongle). And “unofficial” drivers aren’t new, the Sony Sixaxis controller has a PC driver, and even the Wii-mote has one too.

Anyway, what was more interesting was how people decided to use the open source drivers and write their own PC based Kinect applications. And if you follow the link above, you’ll see videos of object recognition, a Minority Report style web browsing experience using a simple Javascript add-on. And even a man boob tracker (not a typo). It just goes to show that Kinect has serious potential, but only if the right software is there for it. But that’s always the hard part, and the reason why the Wii is struggling now is because, apart from Nintendo, nobody really knows how to makes good games for it.

And I was way off.  I’m already over the 2700 word mark, and so my guestimate wasn’t really close at all. But if you remove the Black Friday and Fallout related waffle, then it just about gets in there. So I probably should stop typing now, wish you all a great week, and type something along the lines of “see you next week”.

See you next week.