As we've become painfully aware over the past couple of weeks, game publishers will do just about anything if it means pointing an over-sized foam middle-finger in piracy's direction. But, with EA's recent decision to plunge a grimy claw into an old wound that was finally beginning to scar over, another lesson has been hammered into our collective conscious: DRM doesn't work. It alienates legitimate customers and pushes budding pirates right over the edge.
However, there are other, much more viable methods of thwarting thieves, most of which are only now heaving themselves upward and making awkward, Bambi-esque strides into the limelight. Thus far, however, only one such anti-piracy tool has proven itself stupidly lucrative: the subscription fee.
During this week's Activision Analyst Day event, Activision Publishing CEO Mike Griffith mused about a possible Guitar Hero subscription service -- part of the publisher's plan to "monetize" the series. In addition, he noted that Call of Duty could fall under a similar, dollar-shaped banner.
Taken on its own, I see no problem with this pseudo-announcement. In both cases, a subscription service would have us lazing in a warm tub of new content with minimal hassle, and, as WoW has kindly pointed out, PC piracy of those games would slope off drastically.
But try ka-ching-ing a few more subscriptions onto your bank account's emaciated form and suddenly, this idea doesn't seem quite so dandy.
Continue reading to find out why subscription fees -- in their current form -- just can't muster the strength to heft the gaming industry above piracy's grasping mitts, as well as how they might be altered to succeed.
It seems everyone is getting bitten by the high-performance SSD bug, and that now includes Dell. The dudes at Dell have started selling its 2.2-pound Latitude E4200 with the only storage option being solid-state drives. But that doesn't mean you don't get a choice. Customers picking up the E4200 can opt for either a standard SSD or "Ultra."
As you might have surmised, the Ultra bumps up the performance specs a notch with a rated 100 MB/s read speed and 80 MB/s write speed. According to Samsung, these numbers represent a 60 percent performance hike over SATA I drives, and Dell's own testing claims a boost over its 5400RPM drives.
"Our labs benchmarked this drive in a Latitude notebook and saw a 35 percent overall system performance increase a over a standard 2.5-inch 5400RPM notebook hard drive using SYSmark '07," Dell said."That's even more impressive when you realize that the difference between standard 5400RPM and performance 7200RPM drives (in the same generation) is 10 percent on average."
There's been plenty of coverage surrounding Nvidia's admitted "abnormal failure rate" among what remains an unknown number of GPUs, but in case you missed it, here's the Cliff Notes version: Earlier this summer, Nvidia announced it would take a one time hit of $150-$200 million to cover warrany and repair costs associated with a bad batch of mobile GPUs. The chip maker insisted (and still does) that the failures were an isolated incident, but that's come into question. News and rumor site The Inquirer has been particularly vocal in its questioning of how widespread the problem really is, bringing up the possibility that the defective parts could be affecting both mobile and desktop parts, including G92 and G94 based GPUs.
Now that you're caught up, it's TGDaily who's bringing more speculation to the table. Referencing industry sources, the news site claims that Nvidia's future 45nm GPUs that have recently entered the qualification stage are being built with high-lead solder bumps. Earlier speculation pointed to Nvidia having made the switch to eutecic solders in reaction to the GPU failures, and if that's the case, the switch to solder bumps raises more questions than answers as to what's going on, and whether or not the problem has been solved or is ongoing.
Nvidia isn't commenting on the latest news, and it's a pretty safe bet that this won't be the last you'll hear on the matter.
Creative this week unveiled its Sound Blaster X-Fi Notebook, which as the name implies is an add-in soundcard for (cue the drum roll) notebooks. But wait, doesn't Creative already offer an X-Fi geared towards road warriors? The answer is yes, and the X-Fi Xtreme Audio Notebook has been available for some time now, but this re-release sports a slimmer profile, a new color scheme, and the ability to transmit wirelessly.
That's right - when paired with the optional Creative Wireless Receiver, the X-Fi will have the ability to beam music to your speakers rather than remain tethered. The new soundcard supports up to 4 wireless receivers, and each one can be placed up to 100 feet away from the notebook.
The slimmed down peripheral fits into both ExpressCard 34 and 54 slots (previous version is 54 only), and brings the usual assortment of goodies to the table, including CMSS-3D, EAX Advanced HD, and Creative's Crystalizer technology. You get a pair of headphones bundled in, along with a free download of PowerDVD with full DTS and Dolby Digital decoding support.
Look for availability by the end of month, with the X-Fi Notebook priced at $80 and optional receiver commanding $70.
Monday, Western Digital joined Seagate in breaking the half-terabyte barrier for portable hard disks, with its rollout of two new 500GB portable hard disks, My Passport Essential and My Passport Elite. For those with slightly lower capacity requirements (and a bit less ready cash), WD also offers these drives in 400GB (and lower) capacities.
My Passport Essential's 500GB version costs $199.99, compared to My Passport Elite's $219.99, while the 400GB versions run $179.99 and $199.99 respectively. As we told you in our review of the 320GB version of My Passport Elite back in April , the Elite and Essential drives differ primarily in cosmetics and software bundle: Elite offers backup and file-sync software as well as the MioNet remote access program (which we liked), while Essential offers only file-sync software.
However, Elite now offers an additional feature: plug it into a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, and you can play media files stored on the Elite through your console. Elite offers a 5-year limited warranty, while Essential's limited warranty is only 3 years.
To learn how WD's My Passport Essential and Elite drives compare to Seagate's new FreeAgent|Go drives feature-wise, join us after the jump.
Wondering what exactly AMD has in store for 2009? So is everyone else, which would explain the sometimes conflicting speculation making the rounds on the web. But for the real scoop, TomsHardware claims it has "some confirmed information thanks to [credible] inside sources."
If the sources prove accurate (and THW feels confident they will), AMD's upcoming socket AM3 platform is being designed to exclude AM2 and AM2+ parts. AM3 will support DDR3-1333 memory, and expect a move away from Diode based thermal monitoring to Thermal Sense Interface (TSI) monitoring.
Also on tap for 2009 are two new AM2+ Deneb chips shown as launching in January. THG also reports that an AM3-based Deneb chip will launch sometime in February, with tri-core AM3 chips making a debut by April or May of next year.
As if times weren't tough enough for memory chip manufacturers, who recently bemoaned that the market is the worst it has been in 15 years, the challenges just keep coming. Not only do chip makers have to contend with an oversupply of memory, but according to a DigiTimes report, fake NAND flash memory is making the rounds in China, which can only further hurt the industry.
Samsung may end up bearing the brunt of the scheme, as most of the counterfeit memory is being made available as Samsung-branded chips and sold at bargain basement pricing. Even worse, though the counterfeiters package the memory as finished products, many are being found without so much as a die inside.
OLED spreads its wings further into the consumer sector today, as Koday has unveiled what it claims is the first consumer-available wireless OLED picture frame. And it will be available just in time for the holiday shopping season, provided you have an extra grand just taking up space in you wallet.
The new frame sports a 7.6-inch diagonal panel, and because it uses OLED technology it can boast a superior 180-degree viewing angle to existing digital frames currently on the market. But lest anyone balk at the price tag (who are we kidding, go ahead and balk!), it also comes with a built-in memory card reader, USB port, and 2GB of internal memory Kodak says is capable of storing up to 10,000 images. And those pictures will be beamed through a widescreen 16:9 display at an 800x480 resolution.
So choose your poison - thousand dollar keyboard or thousand dollar picture frame?
Since netbooks deploy quaint technology as compared to their full-blown cousins, it can be difficult to believe that they are actually aimed at the future. But that is exactly what Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle group, thinks. His reasoning is that netbooks would be more practical and fun when WiMax becomes ubiquitous in the near future. A netbook quickly transforms into a worthless, nondescript device once you have no internet access to breathe life into it. Rob Enderle’s point about netbooks being useless without internet might appear to be a mere reiteration of the obvious, but it is actually a very insightful observation.
The incongruity between disparate media formats has denied us a truly universal media experience till now. This is simply not acceptable in this epoch of technology convergence. A consortium called the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystems (DECE) is working on improving interoperability between different media and consumer electronic devices. The group includes HP, Intel, Microsoft, Paramount, Sony and Toshiba, besides other prominent CE heavyweights and film studios.
If most people find merit in the notion that digital downloads are going to replace the need for optical storage formats, they will also agree that digital content will have to offer a universal media experience like the hugely successful DVD. “We see this vision of 'buy once, play anywhere,” Mark Coblitz, senior VP of strategic planning at Comcast – a member of DECE, gave the gist of the plan.
DECE President Mitch Singer even welcomed Apple, which runs a popular digital distribution service iTunes, tied to its products, to join the consortium. Do you think that services like iTunes are doomed?