Weekly News Roundup (May 7, 2017)

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.

Copyright

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.

High Definition

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)

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!

Copyright

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 …

Weekly News Roundup (April 23, 2017)

April 23rd, 2017

Welcome to a brand new week on the WNR, where we bring you all* the latest news and happenings in the world of digital video, Blu-ray, gaming and everything else. It looks like I survived my wisdom teeth surgery after all, sorry about the lack of updates the week before (too busy barfing from postoperative nausea).

I’m writing this WNR a little bit later than I usually do on Saturday because I just picked up my new Samsung Galaxy S8+ and have been playing too much with it. It’s a really nice, I can’t say little but it definitely doesn’t feel too big, phone, with a gorgeous screen that doesn’t seem to end (gaming and watching movies, particularly those in the wider aspect ratio of 2.35:1, is a fantastic experience).

But no time to play time, it’s time for work, and there’s quite a bit to go through this week too, so let’s get started)

(* “All” is defined as the news stories I found interesting and/or had time to write up)

Copyright

2Dark

2Dark’s updated Denuvo protection cracked already

The cat and mouse game between anti-tampering system Denuvo (ie. DRM) and game crackers continues afoot with Denuvo releasing an updated version, dubbed v4, of their system. Unfortunately for Denuvo, it only took a month for the first game to be protected by v4, 2Dark, to be completely cracked – something that others had thought would take a lot longer.

While this does not mean all games with Denuvo v4 will be easily cracked from this point onwards – each game needs to be cracked individually – it does mean that crackers possibly have found an entry point into the system and it will make it easier to crack other games that are scheduled to use v4, including Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, Dead Rising 4, Nier: Automata, Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition, and Mass Effect: Andromeda.

Of course, being protected for a month is still better than nothing and one could argue that a month is actually all that’s needed for a game, as that’s why most of the sales happen. However, it seems with each cracked game, crackers improve their technique and reduce the time needed to crack the next one. So if Denuvo v4 only manages to protect Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 for a couple of days, then perhaps publishers won’t be so keen to use Denuvo unless they can get some kind of money back provision in their contract.

High Definition

PowerDVD 17

PowerDVD 17 has UHD, VR and other cool stuff … but you’ll need the hardware to match

It’s been a long time coming, but there’s finally a way to play Ultra HD Blu-ray movies on your PC. And if you have one of those fancy PC based VR system, then you can watch your favourite movies in a VR environment too (or watch immersive 360 degrees movies).

I am talking about the latest and greatest version of PowerDVD, now in version 17 (I remember talking about it here on Digital Digest way back when the software was still in 0.x version). If you get the Ultra version, which is still at the $99 that it has almost always been, then you’ll have access to all these fancy new features.

Of course, you’ll still need the hardware, and that’s when the problem starts. The latest Kaby Lake CPU, the latest integrated Intel GPU or a GTX 970, and an Ultra HD Blu-ray reader drive are your *minimum* requirements, so it’s by no means accessible for everyone. And that’s just for Ultra HD Blu-ray – you’ll need more hardware for VR.

But if you’re rich and you already have all of these, than PowerDVD 17 Ultra is a must-buy. A must-buy mainly because it is the only thing you can buy that will play UHD discs.

While Disney is still saying away from UHD, unfortunately, Rogue One’s Blu-ray release was still a big one. Just not as big as The Force Awakens, which is not surprising. The 3D edition of the movie also sold really well despite it being a Best Buy and Target only exclusive. If it had been available on UHD, I think the UHD results would have been amazing. Not as amazing as Planet Earth II from the previous week, but still amazing. Come on Disney, pull it out!

Gaming

Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch outsold the PS4 and Xbox One in March

If you’re also rich, you’re probably one of the million or so people that already have Nintendo Switch. Not to say that the Switch is expensive, it’s quite good value for what you’re getting, but you’ve either already spent a load on a Wii U and games or you’re coming from the PS4/Xbox One camp, which means the Switch is another thing you have to buy, and given what has happened with the Wii U, you might be a little bit cautious.

But there doesn’t seem to be a need, since all reviews point to the Switch as an excellent, fun system that gives you something the others can’t. And it seems a lot of you agree, as it was the best selling console in March, at least in North America, easily beating the PS4 and the Xbox One.

This may not hold up for the coming months, since the Switch’s game library is still quite small (although I found the fact that more Zelda games have been sold than the total number of consoles to be quite interesting – are people buying games before they buy the Switch?).

But poor Xbox One, relegated to third place. Scorpio can’t come soon enough for Microsoft, and even then, success is not guaranteed. It might be the most powerful console in history when it’s released, but if it’s also twice as expensive as the PS4 Slim, then you can forget about it.

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You can also forget about me getting a lot of work done in the next few days, as I’ll be playing with my S8+ and the Gear VR. Actually, I will most likely be doing the vacuuming and house work, but that doesn’t sound very cool does it?

Weekly News Roundup (April 9, 2017)

April 9th, 2017

Welcome to another edition of the WNR. I’m writing most of this on the day before I usually publish the WNR, it’s pouring down, and despite it being the afternoon, it’s already quite dark. And I just happen to be catching up on ‘Stranger Things’, home alone, while the bad weather is making all kind of noises, and somehow it all feels quite appropriate.

Oh yes, there’s also news to go through.

Copyright

MXQ Player

There are lots of “pre-installed” Kodi boxes offering easy access to pirated content

The war on piracy has a new target – Kodi boxes. Or more precisely, Android based media players that have Kodi and piracy related third party plug-ins pre-installed. The MPAA have already started making noises about taking “action” on these boxes, and several European countries have already started targeting the sellers of these boxes.

Perhaps sensing the winds are changing, Amazon, a place where sellers of these boxes are doing great business, has decided to do something about it all. Amazon has updated their seller policies to ban the sale of such boxes, and they are willing to destroy stock of any such boxes that are passing through their fulfillment centres.

For their part, the developers of Kodi has tried to distance themselves from the makers of these piracy plug-ins. And of course, users can also buy their own generic Android boxes and install these plug-ins and apps themselves, so there will be still be market out there for the sellers – they just can’t sell these boxes pre-installed.

The war on piracy continues.

Gaming

Project Scorpio

The Xbox One Scorpio will be the most powerful console on the market

We now know a little bit more the Xbox One Scorpio, as Microsoft, in association with Digital Foundry, chose to officially reveal a few things about the upcoming console, including its tech specs.

One thing’s for sure, the Scorpio will be one helluva console. With 12GB of RAM (up from the 8GB in the current Xbox One/S, and now GDDR5 to boot), an 8 “custom” X86 core 2.3GHz CPU (up from 8 Jaguar cores @ 1.75GHz), and memory bandwidth upped from 219GB/s to 326GB/s, it’s safe to say that this is a much bigger upgrade than the PS4 Pro.

How big? Well, Microsoft demo’d a Xbox One port of Forza running at 4K/60FPS, and GPU utilization never went above 70%. Yep, the Scorpio will be a proper 4K console. And of course, Ultra HD Blu-ray playback will be included (would be a surprise if it wasn’t, considering the budget ‘S’ console already has it)

So while we now know a bit more about the Scorpio (although we don’t actually know what it’s actual name will be yet), in the end, it will be about the game lineups that determine whether it can take on the PS4 – get a couple of good, 4K exclusives, then the Scorpio will make the PS4 Pro look decidedly outdated.

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Wait, what’s that noise. It’s coming from the shed out the back, maybe I should go and have a look. Hmm, why are the lights flickering …

(just in case you get worried I’m really caught up in some kind of Strangers Things situation, there’s a chance there won’t be a WNR next week as I’m having wisdom teeth surgery and I’ll probably be in so much pain that I CBF to write one)

Weekly News Roundup (April 2, 2017)

April 2nd, 2017

So April Fools went by and I didn’t take part at all. Partly because what with the war on fake news at the moment, it just didn’t seem very tasteful. But mostly it was because I forgot until it was too late (damn you time zones)!

So rest assured all news stories covered in this issue of the WNR are real ones. Or at least I think they are, it’s so hard to tell these days.

Copyright

Pornhub

Are pirates really resorting to using porn video sites to upload popular mainstream movies?

Okay, this one does sound like an April Fools joke, but it was posted days before, so it should be safe. Apparently, pirates are turning to porn sites to share popular mainstream movies, like ‘Rogue One’. With the usual streaming sites, like YouTube, under constant surveillance for pirated content, pirates have resorted to using tricks like changing the audio pitch, or creative cropping and mirroring, to escape the ever more vigilant anti-piracy scanners. And even if they achieve this, once the upload becomes popular, it will usually become noticed by the powers that be and get taken down faster than you can say “oh that’s a good quality upload”.

But by turning to porn video sites like PornHub, where automated anti-piracy filters don’t exists and the watchful eyes of rights-holders and their agents are not focused on finding pirated content (that’s not to say they don’t visit these kind of websites, hint hint), uploads stay uploaded for longer if not indefinitely.

Dailymotion

It’s a bit easier to find real pirated films on less popular video sharing sites like Dailymotion

But of course, since this story went public, sites like PornHub have gone on a cleaning spree and most of the mainstream pirated content has been removed. Even after extensive searching on the site by your truly, um definitely for research purposes only of course, I could not find any mainstream pirated content on PornHub even after hours of extensive searching. Did I mention it was for research purposes only?

After clearing my browsing history, I went to a few other video sharing sites (non adult ones), and also noted that other less popular video sharing sites like Dailymotion also seem to escape relative scrutiny.

The conclusion? There are plenty of options for people who want to watch pirated content. Some of which you may have to put up with some rather distracting ads and the occasional moaning sound, while you may only have to worry about buffering issues and the lack of a really usable mobile app with some of the other more sensible choices.

Censorship

Anti-piracy filters are a form of censorship, says tech startups

Which is why introducing a law that forces the use of piracy filters for Internet sites and services simply won’t work, because it’s easy for sites to escape the attention of rights-holders, especially if they happen to be in jurisdictions that don’t have to abide by the new law. The lobby group for Internet startups, Engine, are basically saying the same thing, and have commissioned a report that says filter schemes will place an unfair burden on startups, as the cost of implementing a filter can be tens of thousands of dollars just for licensing costs.

Engine are also concerned about the false positive rate of such a filter system. While the false positive rate is only 1 to 2 percent, this adds up to be quite a large number when potentially dealing with millions of files that wouldn’t be out of place for a file or video hosting site. It could literally means tens of thousands of legitimate files being blocked or removed for no good reason at all.

So an expensive, innovation crushing system that won’t work and may block thousands of legitimate files, is the one system that rights-holders are now pushing for all Internet sites in the U.S. to adopt. Yep, sounds about right.

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It also sounds like the end of another WNR. I know, another short one. There will be more next week, hopefully.


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