Archive for June, 2013

A rebuttal to the rebuff of the latest XBox One DRM decision

According to this article, Microsoft has switched feet on its foot-shooting escapade that is the XBox One. The short version of the story: Microsoft decided to roll back truly heinous DRM on its games, but in return users are giving up features that make the console a generation ahead of the PS4. Or something like that. Yeah…no.

The reason: if you want to lace a disc with heavy DRM that enables you to use the game in a not-disc way, you’re doing it wrong. As long as folks own physical media (and, like it or not, they own the metal and plastic wafer that the game is printed on to), they’ll have in their mind the concept of ownership. Right of first sale and all that. Which is why Sony’s 22-second “how to share a PS4 game” struck such a chord with folks.

Now let’s look at the downloadable game side of things. The expectation of playability anywhere is there, but is tempered by an expectation of DRM. Anyone who has downloaded a PC game from the likes of Amazon or EA Origin has seen this; you can pull the game however many times, but don’t expect to play it simultaneously on two different machines. Just like with a disc in a drive, it won’t work. Which makes sense…you’ve got to protect those bits somehow.

This begs the question of whether a game should be available in both disc and download formats, each with its own DRM scheme? My answer: absolutely. Build what the customer expects into the disc, and what you think the customer might want into the download. The author mentions that he has a fast, reliable ‘net connection. That’s great; that means you can buy a downloadable game and skip the disc once and for all.

The point of physical media (which can pack 20+ GB of content onto a single Blu-ray disc) at this point is to provide a fast-loading alternative to the slow average connection speed of Internet users at large. For them, downloading entire game is an ordeal, particularly if their connection is capped, throttled or slow all the time (not all of us have Google Fiber, FiOS or even Comcast available). And their friends may be in the same boat, so schlepping a disc from point A to point B isn’t a big deal, but dealing with on-disc DRM is. You don’t want another SimCity, do you?

tl;dr: Customers have spoken, and Microsoft did the right thing by rolling back its physical disc DRM. If you want more features at the expense of DRM, there is a solution: downloadable games (which should be doable with every single game). Locking down physical media isn’t.

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The New MacBook Airs

My most recent tech purchase over $500 was a computer. Specifically an HP Envy x2. One of the reasons: amazing battery life. Twelve hours or so. The catch: the darned thing pokes along due to an Atom Z2760 CPU. But it’s also $580 so that’s forgivable.

My workhorse notebook is an early 2009 MacBook…with a few upgrades. It’s got the 2GHz Core Duo CPU and nVidia 9400M graphics…backed up with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB Crucial m4 SSD. It’s not the speediest machine out there, and I can’t seem to find a decent replacement battery so I can only get three hours or so away from an outlet, but with the RAM and disk upgrades it’s actually reasonably fun to use.

Why did I just bring up two pieces of old/low-end equipment that have nothing to do with the current MacBook Airs announced a couple hours ago, other than screen size? Because replacing both with a 13-inch Air isn’t out of the question for me…later this year, once the newest OS X edition comes out. That said, there are a few specs that got glossed over during the presentation today, amid all the talk about power efficiency (nine hours on a charge for an 11-inch machine, or twelve hours on a 13-inch, is just excellent). Stuff like CPU speed and upgrade costs.

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