Weekly News Roundup (July 9, 2017)

July 9th, 2017

How are you doing on this Sunday (or Saturday, depending on where you are)? It’s been another quiet week (I think the US public holiday might have had something to do with it), so we’ll get through this rather quickly (again). But before we get to that, there’s the little matter of a birthday. Not only was it America’s birthday, it was also Digital Digest’s own, 18th, birthday.

If I had to be completely honest, eighteen years ago, I deliberately chose an easy to remember day to launch Digital Digest (then known as DVDigest). What I didn’t know back then was that I would be doing this for an other eighteen years, as when I started, I had much shorter term ambitions.

Before I launched the website, I had been on forums helping people find a way to play DVDs on your PCs (which was something really new at the time, and quite difficult to achieve if you want a smooth 30FPS experience). What I found was that I had been answering the same set of questions over and over again, and that was getting tiresome. This is what led me to set up a new website, where I would gather all my knowledge and provide the necessary downloads to get people started with DVDs. Eventually this became talk about AVIs and DivX, and when Hollywood started to fight back against DVD ripping, naturally the discussion shifted to the issue of copyright and piracy. And we’re still talking about it today (although there is much less talk on DVDs, and more on Ultra HD Blu-ray)!

Eighteen years is a long time. I don’t even want to imagine what things will be like 18 years from now (we probably won’t be using discs as much, but streaming might still be around, with Netflix sending a holographic video feed directly into your brain implant no doubt), but I bet it will be interesting.

Oh yes, the news.

High Definition

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Disney finally jumping on the Ultra HD Blu-ray bandwagon?

Speaking of Ultra HD Blu-ray, only one major studio has so far neglected to release anything on the format, and unfortunately, it happens to be the biggest studio around. Disney’s lack of interest in 4K is rather annoying, considering the studio’s franchises (Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar), films from which would look fantastic on 4K no doubt. It would also give Ultra HD Blu-ray a huge lift in terms of sales.

Not convinced by movie fans eager to pay Disney good money for 4K content, it took director James Gunn to finally convince Disney to do the right thing – Disney will release its first Ultra HD Blu-ray movie in August, for James Gunn’s latest movie, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2’.

This is big news for Ultra HD Blu-ray. Looking at the recent Blu-ray top 10, there are some notable omissions when looking at the titles that have Ultra HD editions, titles like ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Moana’ and ‘Rogue One’ (speaking of ‘Rogue One’, it has been consistently in the top 10 since its release in April – a UHD release for it would sell like the proverbial hot cake). And this list doesn’t even include any Marvel titles, the whole back catalogue of which would instantly be best sellers on UHD.

Still, you can’t blame Disney for waiting this long. The wise thing to do for Disney would have been to wait and see on a new disc format in an age where discs are slowly dying. And as the most profitable studio, they can afford to sit on the sidelines for a while.

But there will be no more sitting. Expect a deluge of 4K hits from Disney in the near future.

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That’s all I have for you this week. I know it’s not much, but I’m sure things will pick up again. See you next week.

Update: Forgot that I have a small trip planned for the next weekend, so it’s very unlikely there will be a WNR at that time. So not so much “see you next week” as “see you next, next week”.

Weekly News Roundup (July 2, 2017)

July 2nd, 2017

First of all, sorry for the lack of a roundup last week – a combination of not much happening and too much happening elsewhere for me, meant that I had to skip it. And I almost had to skip this week’s roundup too, pretty much the same situation as last week, but thought it polite to at least give you an update.

So there is a tiny bit of news, but only a tiny bit, so we should get through this one rather quickly.

Copyright

Piracy is Stealing?

Piracy is stealing? Not according to one game developer …

So what would you do if you found the game that you painstakingly made on a torrent site, free for all to download? Rage? Call your lawyer? Or would you post a comment, give away a few legal copies of your game, and then even provide a tip on the best way to pirate it? If you chose the third option, then you’ve just reacted in much the same way as the maker of the indie game Paradigm.

The reason why Jacob Janerka didn’t get made was because he too would have done the same when he was younger and without much disposable income to pay for games. And when you can’t afford to buy something, not paying for a legal copy is not exactly costing the developers or publishers anything if you think about it. But if you like the game, you might save up to buy merchandise or a sequel or at least tell your friends about it, and maybe some of them will buy a copy.

I think big game publishers have a lot to learn from someone like Jacob, and I hope the positive publicity he received will have converted to a few game sales (and I guess it doesn’t hurt for news sites or blogs like this one to link to his official site for his game).

Gaming

SNES Classic

You’ll have to be very quick to be able to get your hand on a SNES Classic

For those of you who missed out on the NES Classic, you now have a chance to miss out on the Super Nintendo Classic, which by all accounts, will sell out in exactly 2 minutes and 34 seconds after pre-order opens.

Actually, for those that found out early, like myself, it wasn’t that hard. But you really only have a few hours to a day to make up your mind as to whether you want the mini SNES with 21 built in games or you want to stick with your (illegal) ROM playing ways. For me, it was a no brainer, especially after I missed out on the NES classic. Some feel it’s a little bit pricey, but I believe I paid that much just for a new copy of Street Fighter II Turbo on the SNES back in the day (in what seems like centuries ago), so for a piece of my youth back, it’s well worth the price!

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I told you it was short! Things have gotten back to normal on my end, so things should become normal this coming week (assuming that there is news, of course). See you then.

Weekly News Roundup (June 18, 2017)

June 18th, 2017

How are you on this frosty Sunday morning? Hope the week has been good to you. Once again, we take a look at the most interesting news of the week, and for once, we actually have a few to go through. So let’s get started!

Copyright

Just what is going on? More Ultra HD Blu-ray rips have started to appear on the usual download sites, and nobody seems to know just how exactly

Inferno Ultra HD Blu-ray Cover

More Ultra HD Blu-ray titles have been ripped and uploaded online

they were ripped. It appears unlikely that UHD Blu-ray’s main copy protection mechanism, AACS 2.0, has been ripped, since this would be big news and news that any cracking group would likely share. So this then leaves the possibility of some kind of workaround or flaw that exists, that is allowing these heavily protected discs to be ripped.

This reminds me of the HDFury incident from last year, where HDCP protected 4K streams were being ripped and the mystery behind the ripping was solved when Hollywood launched a major lawsuit against the company that made HDFury, a device that allowed HDCP 2.2 to be ripped.

So it remains absolutely possible that there may be some kind of workaround for ripping AACS 2.0. Perhaps a software player that has an exploit, that kind of thing.

Stay tuned for more info.

Also in copyright news, but not really copyright news, Sony have come up with a brilliant new idea that has many Hollywood artists angry. Sony plans to release family friendly “clean versions” of films with selected digital purchases, removing profanity, sexual references and violence from these films.

Some say this isn’t a big deal because these versions already exists for TV broadcasts and on flights and nobody has made a big fuss over them. But others says this kind of censorship takes the creative decision out of the hands of filmmakers, and it usually means a poor and really obvious job (lots of calls of “mothers”, for examples) that’s to the detriment of the film itself. And while this kind of things was tolerated for TV broadcasts and airlines due to their specific legal requirements, Sony have done this without any kind of significant legal or moral pressure, and this is what also makes artists angry.

Storm in a teacup? Or storm in a motherfu**ing teacup? Don’t know.

Gaming

Xbox One X

The Xbox One X, side by side here with the Xbox One S, is smaller and more powerful

So the big gaming news of the week centers around E3 and the official launch (or is it the second official launch) of the Xbox One Scorpio, now known as the Xbox One X. Most of the details about Microsoft’s upgraded Xbox One is already known, but we didn’t know the name (see previous sentence), the price (USD $499) and what it will look like (black monolithic box). And now we know these things.

The only major surprise was that Microsoft managed to build a 4K console and fit it into a box smaller than the now entry level Xbox One S, and that’s kinda cool.

At $499 though, it’s asking a lot of gamers, many of whom only recently shelled out for a Xbox One or PS4, but that’s the price of 4K I guess (and it’s still cheaper than building your own 4K gaming PC).

A lot of critics are warning that the ‘X’ won’t be a success because it’s too expensive and hardly anyone has a 4K display. This is true, but Microsoft isn’t just building the console for today (or November 7, when it is released), it’s building it to last until the next console generation starts in about 3 years or so. At that time, I think we may look back on the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X and be able to point to only one of them as a true 4K gaming console.

Of course, this relies on games being able to take full advantage of the 6 teraflops of power the Xbox One X offers – developers have so far not produced the goods for the PS4 Pro when it comes to making the case for the the console existing at all (but 1 in 5 PS4 buys today is a Pro, so that’s not too bad – overall, 60 millions PS4s have already been sold), but they may have a bit more to play around with in regards to the ‘X’.

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And with that, we come to the end of another WNR. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this one, see you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (June 11, 2017)

June 11th, 2017

Welcome to another WNR. Gonna have to keep this one nice and short again, one because I’ve run out of time, and two, because there’s not much news anyway.

Copyright

Denuvo

Denuvo accused of using pirated software?

Denuvo is just not getting a break at the moment. If it’s wasn’t the record time it’s getting cracked, or the allegations of being a resource hog from last week, now, there are claims that the company has been using unlicensed software as part of its protection system.

According to a developer at VMProtect Software, Denuvo approached the company a few years ago to enquire about using the VMProtect software to prevent reverse engineering and cracking. VMProtect made it clear that as Denuvo is a commercial outfit, they could not use the software’s standard $500 license, and instead, would have to negotiate with VMProtect for a commercial license.

But it appears that Denuvo ignored VMProtect’s advice and proceeded to purchase the cheapest license possible to use. This was later discovered by VMProtect, and they promptly cancelled the license and demanded compensation from Denuvo. After Denuvo ignored their requests, VMProtect has since reached out to anti-virus company Sophos to mark Denuvo as malware, and has even contacted Steam’s Valve to get them to de-list any games that uses the protection. Court action may follow.

So basically, anti-piracy firm Denuvo has itself been accused of piracy. Oh the irony. Keep you eye on this space for more on this developing story.

Steve Harvey's Funderdome

Steve Harvey’s Funderdome has been leaked online. Nobody cares.

Not sure if this next story also falls into the irony category, but imagine going to the trouble of stealing unreleased episodes of a new TV show, demand a ransom, fail to get the ransom and then putting the episodes online, only to find that nobody downloads the damn thing. The Netflix hacker TheDarkOverlord may have found some “success” with the unreleased episodes of Netflix’s ‘Orange is the New Black’ (success as in people actually bothered to download it, as opposed to the hackers getting paid), but it appears ABC’s new Steve Harvey TV show ‘FUNDERDOME’ isn’t getting a lot of attention.

At the time of writing, there were only 5 leechers connecting to 15 seeders on The Pirate Bay. That’s just a little bit more popular than the download for “CBT Nuggets – CompTIA Network+ N10-005 Video Training”, a training video about configuring basic networking.

If anything, this whole thing probably helped ABC to promote their new show, which otherwise would have gotten practically no press coverage.

TheDarkOverlord has promised more leaks, and this time it might be a Hollywood film. With our luck, it will probably be ‘Saw 8’ and it will reach a maximum of 25 leechers instead of just 5.

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So, that’s it. Told you it was nice a short. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (June 4, 2017)

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.

Copyright

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!

 


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