Archive for the ‘News Roundup’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (October 22, 2017)

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

Sorry again for the hiatus last weekend, a combination of not much happening, and too much happening in my personal life, meant that writing a WNR was just not going to work out.

Luckily, there’s more news and less other stuff this week, and so here’s we are again.

Copyright

There’s more Denuvo news, and you guessed it, it’s not good news for the anti-tampering/piracy system. Two more games have been cracked this week, and both were cracked in about 24 hours. I think it’s safe to say that the current version of Denuvo is no longer viable, and unless Denuvo the company can bring out a major new revision that changes things enough to make whatever the current method of cracking obsolete, then things are not looking good for the protection system that was once hailed as unbreakable.

So in terms of PC game piracy, it seems we’re back to the drawing board. With mobile gaming moving away from the pay-to-play to a free-to-play model, which has made piracy redundant (although hacking/cheating to get in-game premium currency remains a thing), perhaps it’s something PC game makers need to consider. Or at the very least, ditch the use of bad user experience, processor intensive, and hardly working protection systems.

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MXQ Player

Kodi boxes are in the spotlight again

The MPAA has finally decided to go after Kodi box makers, that’s not surprising. What was surprising was that Netflix and Amazon decided to tag along too. Or perhaps this isn’t surprising either, because both streaming giants are now very much in the content production game, and they want to protect their content too.

This lawsuit is by no means a certain victory for the content creators though, if the Kodi box maker in question, TickBox, decide to fight this thing in court. TickBox can argue all they’ve done is install a bunch of freely downloadable software into an Android box. The software may do things that are illegal, but TickBox has nothing to do with that. Against TickBox is the fact that their website seems to promote the device as something that can replace paid for content, so they cannot argue that they aren’t aware of the piracy nature of the apps they package with the device.

It’s worth keeping an eye on this, but I suspect the makers of TickBox will be keen to make a deal, as opposed to taking this thing further.

High Definition

iTunes 10

Could a new way to distribute video undercut Apple’s profits?

Here’s something that could possibly challenge the likes of Apple, Amazon and Google, and to a lesser extent, Netflix and Hulu. White Rabbit is a new video distribution system that aims to connect consumers directly to content creators, bypassing the “middlemen”. White Rabbit uses the same Blockchain technology that helps to drive Bitcoins, and instead applies the transparent transaction principle to buying movies and TV shows. White Rabbit aims to separate the distribution to the financial transaction, so they a company like Apple and Google won’t have as much power to dictate pricing and revenue sharing, just because they happen to run a download/streaming service.

Instead, content holders get the majority share of revenue, directly from consumers, and multiple outlets can provide the download/streaming ecosystem, bringing more competition, and less monopolisation, to the marketplace. It’s easy to see that this paradigm shift can apply to not just video, but practically any kind of digital delivery.

Not sure how this could apply to subscription streaming though, but the idea behind Blockchain is solid and can apply to any kind of transaction system if you want transparency, and fraud prevention.

Gaming

Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch was on top again in September

The Nintendo Switch was on top yet again in September, after winning August and July, This makes it 5 out of 7, the number of months it has won since it’s release. This news doesn’t actually come from the NPD, which usually releases these things, but directly from Nintendo themselves, due to a “data issue” that delayed NPD’s September report.

Regardless, it’s a very impressive set of results for Nintendo. The release of the Xbox One X in November won’t really change things, I suspect, due to the console’s high cost and niche factor. The holidays tend to favour the big two, but the momentum is with the Switch and it could become the “must-have” video game hardware for the season, just like the Wii was back when.

Time will tell …

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That’s it for the week, a nice collection of stories that I hope was interesting enough for you. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (October 8, 2017)

Sunday, October 8th, 2017

Sometimes you get a weird collection of news stories, everything ranging from DRM delusions of grandeur to the latest news about advances in video tech (even though many people are still happily buying DVDs and watching Netflix in SD). Sometimes, like this week, you get a theme: rip, rip hooray.

You’ll get what I mean in a moment.

Copyright

The ripping scene has been pretty quiet ever since AACS 2.0 showed up via 4K Ultra HD (and some streaming services). This was a tough copy protection scheme that, unlike previous efforts (CSS, AACS 1.0), wasn’t trivial to break. This meant that 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, were for a while, safe from ripping. This seems to no longer be the case.

DeUHD

It may not look much, but it may just get the job done if you need to rip Ultra HD Blu-ray discs

Enter DeUHD, the first tool that makes ripping 4K Ultra Blu-ray discs as easy as clicking on a button. Sure, it’s pricey at the moment (an eye watering €199 for a lifetime license), requires specific hardware to work (and it doesn’t always work), but it’s the best we’ve got, and maybe a sign of things to come.

Just goes to show that, no matter how tough the DRM is, it’s only a matter of time before it’s broken. For now, UHD’s sheer size and the lack of proper burning options makes UHD Blu-ray ripping (and downloading) sometime strictly for video tech geeks like myself and gives the format natural protection against being pirated a lot, but being able to down-convert from such a high quality source may mean a slight but noticeable improvement in the quality of rips you’ll start to see (UHD-BDRips?).

Like AACS 2.0, Denuvo, while strictly speaking not a DRM (but really is a DRM), has been a star advertisement for the necessity of DRM (or DRM-like services). But not anymore, maybe.

News that Denuvo protected game ‘Total War: Warhammer 2’ was cracked in matter of hours should give pause all game publishers who had thought that zero day releases were a thing of the past. The time it takes to break Denuvo protected games has been shortening all the time for those that have been following the WNR, from months down to days, and now, down to hours.

So basically it’s the same thing I said two paragraphs ago, so I won’t repeat it again just to make the word count go higher.

Gaming

PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro

It’s taken a while, but the first pirated PS4 game has been shared – you most likely won’t be able to play it though

I guess when things happen they always happen in three’s, and so when the first pirated PS4 game was uploaded online, it wasn’t a total surprise seeing how this week was panning out. But unlike the other two efforts, this was is not for the faint of heart.

In order to play the pirated PS4 games, not only will you need a jailbroken PS4, which means one running a very old firmware version, you’ll also need to know your way around ELF loaders, Netcat and FTP Payload. In other words, it’s not something that will worry Sony at the moment, since it’s purely academic that pirated PS4 game exists – no one will be that desperate to play free PS4 games that they go to all this trouble just to do so.

Still, it’s the first small step towards something bigger perhaps, especially with rumours that a much more recent version of the PS4 firmware may have been compromised.

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So this week’s theme based WNR comes to a close here. I doubt next week will be as coherent, and probably not as busy either. We’ll find out then!

Weekly News Roundup (October 1, 2017)

Sunday, October 1st, 2017

Well well well, we’re into the final couple of months of 2017. Time flies when you’re having fun and all that.

A pretty quiet week this one, so this WNR shouldn’t take too long to read.

Copyright

Hollywood: Stop DRM in HTML5

The EFF resigns from the W3C due to DRM concerns

The inevitable has happened and the W3C has formally ratified Encrypted Media Extensions (EMEs) as an official, but voluntary part of the HTML specs. For those not keeping score, EMEs are really just a fancy word for DRM, the type of DRM used by Netflix and Amazon and others to protect their streaming content in browsers such as Chrome and Firefox.

Adding DRM to the HTML standards was always going to be controversial (as our previous coverage on this has demonstrated), and there was always going to be blowback when (and not if) the W3C formally adopted EMEs. The specific blowback this time being the EFF resigning from the W3C to protest not only the decision to include the “terrible idea” of DRM in HTML, but also for not adding in legal exemptions (to deal with anti-circumvention laws) to allow security research.

It’s easy to see why the W3C caved to the demands of the entertainment industry. The World Wide Web, that is the web as we access regularly via our web browsers (and usually rendered via HTML), has been declining in relevance due to the increasing popularity of apps. Most people do not use a browser to watch Netflix, but instead do it via an app. By not having DRM support built into the HTML framework, there is even less incentive for the entertainment industry to continue to allow their content to be streamed via browsers, which is often less secure (in terms of content protection) than their app counterparts (in no small part due to the security by obscurity principle).

But by not allowing a legal exemption for the hacking and cracking of EMEs by security researchers though (and again, probably at the behest of Hollywood interests), EMEs could, as the EFF argues, become a point of attack for hackers with malicious intent and, ironically, make it less secure when it comes to protecting content. The Chrome EME bug didn’t as much go undiscovered for years, as being discovered but not shared due to the fear of legal repercussions by security researchers. The same could happen again, and it would be a further blow to the relevancy of browsers if that happens.

The frustrating thing is that it’s the DRM requirements that’s been making browsers less and less relevant when it comes to streaming video – when playing Netflix 4K content requires a PC that even the most hardcore PC gamers don’t have access to, you know something is not right.

High Definition

iPad Pro

The 2017 iPad Pro will also get to play Netflix in HDR, along with this year’s iPhone 8 and X

Apple’s support for 4K on the updated Apple TV puck won’t go as far as to allow offline viewing. While you can download HD and even HDR versions of movies, you can’t do the same for 4K content. Part of the reason for this is the sheer size of 4K movies, but I wouldn’t be surprised if DRM plays a role in this too.

The Apple TV 4K, unfortunately, also won’t support YouTube 4K, a victim of the incredibly tedious video codec wars. The Apple TV supports H.265, but YouTube uses the open source VP9 codec for its 4K content.

Still staying with news about the recent Apple product refreshes, Netflix HDR support will be coming to the iPad Pro, and all of the new iPhones (8, 8 Plus and X).

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That’s it for this week. See you in seven!

Weekly News Roundup (September 24, 2017)

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

Despite almost being a month in, we finally had a taste of the real spring in the last two days. Unfortunately, winter is back for today, which means it’s back to layers and layers of clothes while my hands freeze typing up this roundup.

We have a few things to go through today, not too much, so let’s get started.

Copyright

Die Young

A better way to fight piracy than releasing the hounds

It must be a real bittersweet moment as a game developer when your new game, the one that you’ve poured your blood, sweat and tears into, gets uploaded to a piracy site. On on the one hand, it’s a recognition that your work is worth someone’s time to crack and upload (and to download), that you may be on the right track with producing something that everyone will like. On the other hand, you know, piracy.

But for “early access” games such as ‘Die Young’, there’s an added problem with early access piracy – you get gamers playing unfinished versions of your game (often without knowledge that it’s unfinished) and perhaps getting a bad impression of the quality of the game, and as a developer, you don’t get valuable feedback in regards to bugs, missing features and other things that’s the whole point of “early access”.

So when the makers of ‘Die Young’ found their game pirated online, they did the only thing that made sense to them – release a free version of their game! So now, if you want to play Die Young, you have three options – to pay for it via Steam Early Access (where you’ll always get the latest released version), get the completely free and DRM-free version directly from the official site, or get an old version of the game from piracy sites. This means the last option, the piracy option, is now the worst of the available options. And that, I think, is the way it’s supposed to be.

Gaming

Nintendo Switch

The Switch is selling well for Nintendo

The Nintendo Switch is selling very well at the moment. It was the best selling game console for August, after winning July too, and winning four out of the last six months. By “winning”, of course I mean beating the PS4, and it’s quite a turnaround for Nintendo, having had so few this types of victories for the Wii U.

The PS4 is still the best selling console in 2017, and it will probably finish 2017 this way. We’ll see when the holidays come around whether Nintendo can fix their supply issues and have a fantastic holidays sales period and endanger the PS4’s status as the best selling console for 2017. Also, can the Xbox One have a say with its Xbox One X? Dubbed the most powerful console ever made, will this be enough to get the hardcore gamers on board, or is it already too late for this generation? Will its “Xbox One X Enhanced” game list be good enough to convince gamers to upgrade?

All in all, it’s going to be an interesting end of the year for this console generation. May the best console win!

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No more typing. Finger frozen. Must. Get. Warmer.

Weekly News Roundup (September 17, 2017)

Sunday, September 17th, 2017

Sorry for the brief hiatus last week – things got a bit out of control on all fronts, and something had to give. Things are bad to a normal-ish rhythm now, and so the WNR continues!

A few things to go through this week, but it shouldn’t take too long.

Copyright

WordPress Logo

WordPress experiences a surge in invalid and abusive DMCA take down requests

DMCA abuse is real. And for a company like Automattic, the makers of WordPress, who deal with each and every DMCA take-down request manually, it’s a headache that’s growing exponentially. Automattic revealed that for the first half of 2017, the number of DMCA requests they received more than doubled, but the number of actual legitimate requests actually dropped in the same period.

This means that the number of false reports, some due to inaccurate information, others are deliberated attempts to silence critics, have dramatically increased. The problem is so bad now that Automattic have rejected 78% of requests in the first half of 2017. Now, it has to be said that the 9,000+ requests received by Automattic is not a huge number compared to what a company like Google receives, and so for now, Automattic can still deal with them manually, with a human behind every request to determine if they are valid or not. For others, it means an automated system to deal with these requests, most of which are also being created automatically by bots, and the legal threat of things means that these system will err on the side of caution, to approve requests even if many are not valid.

So it end up being a battle of bots, neither side accurate enough to avoid collateral damage, which is legitimate pages being removed for no good reason.

But sometimes there are good reasons to get something removed, even if the main motive behind it has nothing to do with copyright. Internet celebrity PewDiePie is in the news again for all the wrong reasons after using a racial epithet in a recent video. The Internet backlash was strong and totally expected. One indie game developer, Campo Santo, was finally fed up with PewDiePie’s antics, and no longer wanted him to make money off the firm’s game Firewatch. What Campo Santo did to force PewDiePie’s hand, on the other hand, was controversial. The game developer used YouTube’s Content ID, its DMCA take-down platform, to get the video removed. And they succeeded.

The problem with this is that even after Campo Santo made it clear that copyright had nothing to do with their wish to have the video removed, they still manged to do it, despite fair use probably being on the side of PewDiePie. And as this The Verge article explains, maybe it shouldn’t be this easy, or at least, it should be a lot clearer just who’s right in this legal clash.

High Definition

Apple TV 4K

Apple fully on board the 4K and HDR train with its updated Apple TV

So the big news in the tech world this week was the release of the Apple iPhone 8 and X. Big news, but hardly surprising because of all the leaks that, in hindsight, were spot on. Perhaps a little bit lost among the hype of the X was the announcement of an upgraded Apple TV that supports 4K and HDR.

Apple has always been a gatekeeper of sorts for the “mainstreaming” of previously niche technology. By now supporting 4K and HDR, perhaps it’s as official a signal as we’re going to get that these technologies are ready for prime time, ready to become mainstream.

The best part though about the announcement was the fact that there won’t be a price hike when it comes to buying 4K content – it will be the same as the HD version. In fact, if you’ve already purchased the HD version, you can automatically upgrade to the 4K version for free.

As for the X, nothing was too much of a surprise thanks to the leaks, but the removal of Touch ID was a “double take” moment for me. Samsung’s clumsy last minute addition of a fingerprint reader on the back of the phone was not the best move, but Apple removing it altogether because they couldn’t get the screen integrated fingerprint reader to work in time, could be worse. For those like me that tend to unlock their phone with the fingerprint reader the moment I pick it up and before I even look at the phone, the switch to Face ID might be hard. Apple will hope that it works flawlessly, or it will definitely be the point of attack for critics.

As for the lack of a home button, not even a virtual one like on the Galaxy S8, I know for a fact that some will find it annoying (at first at least, and then it will probably be like second nature to them).

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Well, that’s it for the week I guess. See you next week. Hopefully.