Archive for the ‘News Roundup’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (June 4, 2017)

Sunday, June 4th, 2017

Welcome to another edition of the WNR. I’m going to wrap this one up in quick order because I just realised that I haven’t really played much with the Galaxy VR that I got with my Samsung S8+. I had a short play with it when I first got it, and found it to be quite immersive (scary at times), but have been far too busy to give it a go again. I know this isn’t really a good excuse not to do my work, but it is Sunday after all, so I hope you’ll forgive me.

So let’s get started.

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ExtraTorrent

Another one bites the dust – ExtraTorrent is no more

Torrent sites are shutting down left and right, and most without any real explanation. The latest is the super popular ExtraTorrent, which shut down last week without any real explanations being given. The only real bit of information the site admin provided was the fact that all data, especially user data, have been deleted.

This bit of useful information didn’t stop other people from launching clones of the site, claiming that they had access to backups – all of these clones are either fakes or just skins over an existing site like The Pirate Bay.

The other existing sites were also caught by surprise, with a sudden surge of traffic after users started searching for alternatives. And there are lots of alternatives still left too, which just goes to show that trying to shut down torrent sites, or even if the torrent sites shut themselves down, won’t make an iota of difference when it comes to piracy.

Also not making a difference is DRM. The only DRM that managed to make a difference in recent times was Denuvo, even though it doesn’t call itself a DRM (an anti-tampering system that prevents existing DRM from being stripped). But Denuvo has come under increasing pressure from game cracking groups, who seems to have found the system’s Achilles heel.

Denuvo has updated their protection, now onto version 4, but it seems crackers are finding it easier and easier to crack Denuvo protected games. And it seems Denuvo may be getting desperate too. The most recent example involves the game RiME, a new innovative game from developers Tequila Works. It was probably not the best idea in hindsight, but the people behind the game openly suggested the game would be stripped of Denuvo if/when it becomes cracked. This was just the motivation the crackers needed, and they went to work quickly, with game cracker Baldman the first to crack the game only a couple of days after the developer’s announcement.

RiME

RiME no longer has Denuvo after it was cracked in record time

What was more interesting was that during his cracking attempt, Baldman found that Denuvo has really upped the ante when it comes to protecting the game, to the point where it’s becoming kind of absurd. The way Denuvo works seems to be the placement of triggers within the game code. The Denuvo engine then checks for the presence of these triggers to detect if the game has been tampered with or not. Normally, Denuvo might do a trigger call every couple of minutes, but for RiME, Baldman found that Denuvo was issuing 20 to 30 calls every second. Talk about a performance hit!

To make it worse, the calls are obfuscated under a virtual machine in order to cover its tracks, which means there’s an even bigger performance hit. DRM (or an anti-tampering engine) is never worth it, but when it starts to affect performance like this (not just a slower game performance, there is also the extra stress being placed on your hardware), it’s simply unacceptable.

And true to their word, after they’ve confirmed that Baldman had indeed cracked the game wide open, the publishers of RiME promptly remove Denuvo protection from the game. I can imagine many game publishers are also now wondering in private if Denuvo is worth it or not. If it doesn’t protect games and make the experience worse for gamers, it becomes an easy choice for many, I think.

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That’s it for this week’s nice and short WNR. See you next week!

 

Weekly News Roundup (May 28, 2017)

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

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

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

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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

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

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

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Samsung 4K TV

4K is doing well in sales

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

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

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

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

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

Weekly News Roundup (May 21, 2017)

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

Sorry for the brief hiatus – stuff got into the way (more dental stuff as well) and I just couldn’t rush out a WNR last week. But it’s all good now, and we have lots to go through this week, so let’s get started.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Poster

Is Star Wars: The Last Jedi the film that hackers have stolen from Disney?

The new trend in piracy appears to have shifted to one of hacking, theft and blackmail. Following the theft of Netflix’s ‘Orange is the New Black’, a story I covered a few weeks ago, it appears Disney has become the latest victim of this trend. Disney boss Bob Iger revealed that hackers claims to have stolen one of the studio’s unreleased films and have threatened to release it publicly if a ransom demand, in BitCoins, is not met.

Iger did not reveal the name of the film, but did categorically ruled out meeting the hacker’s demands, which means the hackers might soon release the film online and we’ll all know then what film it was. It’s also unclear whether this is related to the Netflix theft, although based on the Twitter account of the Netflix hacker, it’s probably not the same guy (he did not mention anything about having hold of Disney content).

Many are speculating as to which movie was stolen, but with Disney’s line-up for 2017 including the likes of ‘Cars 3’, ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ and ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’, Disney better hope it’s not one of these mega blockbusters that ends on being leaked on torrent sites.

Speaking of being leaked on, Netflix’s new Android app, or rather Google’s Play store, is preventing those with rooted phones from downloading the latest update. Those with rooted phones are being met with a message stating their phone is not compatible, and this is most likely due to the new DRM requirement of the updated Netflix app.

The issue isn’t that bad though, since users can always sideload the Netflix app and it will run perfectly on rooted phones (so it’s really just the Play store being a d*ck, and not letting rooted phones from updating) – assuming you can find a secure place to download the Netflix app.

As for what’s actually new in the app, there’s a huge new feature for users of LG’s G6 phone. It is one of the first phones to support Dolby Vision HDR, and the new Netflix app will be able to take full advantage of the phone’s gorgeous screen. Samsung Galaxy S8 owners like myself got prematurely excited when the HDR logo started showing up on our phone too (which also supports HDR, but not Dolby Vision), but it turns out it was just a mistake and that the streams weren’t happening in HDR.

The HDR update for the S8 and S8+ will be coming soon, most likely, and I can’t wait!

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LG G6 Dolby Vision Comparison

Dolby Vision promises better, more colors, and more vivid pictures than even HDR10

Speaking of Dolby Vision, the first Dolby Vision enabled Ultra HD Blu-ray movies will be coming in June, first from Universal and then from Lionsgate. Universal will release ‘Despicable Me’ and ‘Despicable Me 2’ while Lionsgate has chosen ‘Power Rangers’ to showcase just how awesome Dolby Vision will be (assuming you have a good TV to show it off).

I haven’t covered HDR as much as I should here, so I copy/paste a section from the above news article to explain the difference between Dolby Vision and the HDR used by most currently available UHD Blu-ray movies, HDR10.

Dolby Vision offers several improvements over the open HDR10 standard, including greater color depth (12-bit vs HDR10’s 10-bit), support for a brighter picture (1,000-4,000 nits vs always 4,000 nits) and Dolby Vision enabled TVs feature a special chip that knows the TV’s own capabilities and helps these displays produce the best possible reproduction of the film compared to the original masters.

In other words, while HDR10 is a more open standard that’s easier to implement, Dolby Vision should offer a better picture quality with all things being equal. And don’t discount the extra 2 bits in color depth – this turns out to be an increase of 67 billion colors being represented! The brightness support also means that DV requires everything to be mastered at 4,000 nits, whereas HDR10 content can make do with only 1,000 nits (of course, whether your TV can support such a high nit count is another question).

DV also has better tone mapping (thanks to that special chip), and support for dynamic metadata that allows for scene by scene optimization of the picture.

But for now, HDR10 has the better hardware support, greater quantity of content, and for most people, it’s already awesome enough.

Gaming

Nintendo Switch

The Switch is a top seller!

Speaking of being awesome enough, the Nintendo Switch has outsold both the PS4 and Xbox One again in April, despite there being stock shortages. And despite only being released two days before the end of the April NPD reporting period, Nintendo’s Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was the top game seller for the entire month as well.

It’s quite a turnaround for Nintendo, which hasn’t been top of any chart for a very long time. Whether it will last, is anybody’s guess, but whatever you say about the Switch, it’s definitely something different compared to the offerings from Sony and Microsoft.

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That’s all I have for this week. Have a great one!

Weekly News Roundup (May 7, 2017)

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

How are you on this fine Sunday? Hope you’ve had a productive week, or perhaps like me, you had such a super productive week, where you managed to accomplish so much that everything becomes kind of a blur and you actually can’t even remember all the things you did. Or maybe I actually didn’t do much at all, I don’t know.

As for news, there’s definitely some, so let’s get started.

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The Smurfs 2

Not my first choice for the first ever ripped Ultra HD Blu-ray

Bad news for Hollywood, and the Ultra HD Blu-ray format. It appears crackers have managed to break the upgraded AACS 2.0 protection on these discs and successfully ripped the first 4K title. Just why they chose to rip The Smurfs 2, and not something like Deadpool or Suicide Squad, I don’t know.

A little refresher, the copy protection scheme used on standard Blu-ray discs, the original AACS, was long cracked. But AACS 2.0, used primarily for 4K content these days, was supposed to be better and tougher, and many theorized it would take years to break it. I guess not.

While it appears Ultra HD Blu-ray discs may soon lose their protection, they do still have several “natural” forms of protection left. First, the sheer size of 4K movies makes them less than ideal download targets – why waste time and bandwidth downloading 50+ GB of movie, when you can get a pretty decent one for under 3 GB. Second, making disc copies of these movies is still not easy to do, given the price and lack of availability of these high capacity discs. Thirdly, if you can afford the “proper” set up to view 4K movies at their best, you can probably afford to buy the discs.

So for now, the piracy of UHD is strictly an academic exercise, and buying the disc still makes much more sense. For now.

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Samsung 4K TV

4K TVs are selling well, and so are discs, but physical media is still on the way out

From piracy straight to sales, and Ultra HD Blu-ray is doing pretty well at the moment, according to the latest report from DEG. But it may be the only bright spot in the overall gloom that is physical media at the moment, with revenue down 14.3% in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the same quarter last year. Digital, on the other hand, is enjoying record growth, with subscription streaming revenue up 26%, and digital sales of theatrical titles up an amazing 30%.

As for 4K, Q1 2017 added a further 2.6 million 4K TVs to the total number in U.S. households, up 54% from a year ago. Disc sales are going strong too, with 900,000 discs sold from a total of 139 titles now available on the new disc format.

Overall, total spending was up 2%, meaning the losses in physical media is being more than adequately replaced by gains in digital.

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I have more than adequately done my quota of work this week too (maybe still not enough right here for the WNR, but what can you do), so it’s time for me to call it a week. Until next time, have a great one!

Weekly News Roundup (April 30, 2017)

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

It’s been a week with my Samsung Galaxy S8+, and it’s a great phone. The “red tinge” problem is not an issue for me and my phone, the fingerprint reader position is a bit awkward at first, but now it’s second nature (and the quickest and most accurate way to unlock the phone without the need for any button presses). I love my Xperia Z3, but this phone is in another league. And no, I have not been paid by Samsung, although if they offer some loot my way, I won’t say no!

It wasn’t a terribly busy week, but we still have a few things to go through, so let’s get started!

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Kodi Logo

Kodi and DRM subjected to fake news?

Kodi is in the news again, but it may very well be fake news. It seems many didn’t like the fact that Kodi openly discussed the existence of DRM as part of its ecosystem a while back, and the rumour mills started working in overdrive. The end of Kodi was nigh, some of the stories said, now that the open source project has started to embrace DRM. Others noted that the DRM could be Kodi’s solution to its recent problems with piracy plug-ins.

Having none of it, Kodi clarified its stance on DRM, and on piracy plug-ins, in a blog post this week. If Kodi was to support DRM, it would be for the existing DRM of platforms such as Netflix, to allow, for example, a Netflix plug-in within Kodi. Kodi themselves are not adding in any DRM.

As for the piracy plug-ins, it’s Kodi’s policy to not “condone, condemn, encourage or recommend any particular use of Kodi” – it’s staying perfectly content agnostic – the platform is there for users to decide how it can be used, and Kodi wants no part in this decision at all.

Orange is the New Black

Netflix will not be held at “gunpoint” over stolen series

Speaking of wanting no part in anything, Netflix has refused to pay a ransom to a hacker, known as The Dark Overlord (or TDO), to prevent the release of stolen, unaired episodes of ‘Orange is the New Black’. The hacker has since released the first ten episodes of the upcoming fifth season of the prison dramedy, and plans on releasing more stolen content, including ones from FOX, IFC, Nat Geo, and ABC.

I doubt any of the other networks will react any differently to Netflix when it comes to this kind of blackmail, but it goes to show that it takes more than just DRM to protect content these days – anyone within the production and distribution line may be a source of a leak, sometimes intentionally, or like this time, unintentionally being hacked.

Timely releases that are good in value and aren’t encumbered with so called anti-piracy restrictions, would go a long way to ensure people didn’t need or want these pre-release pirated downloads.

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Okay, that’s it for the week. I’ve got to sit by my phone and wait for that call from Samsung about my loot. Come on, papa needs a new pair of shoes …