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Dec 272014

What with North Korea’s latest explosion of bile, Sony is having a network security issue that will be used as an example of how bad things can get for probably decades. The phrase “I’m in the middle of a Sony” will be regularly used within the industry for the worst types of incidents.

It is not clear just what happened to Sony during the incident, and it will quite possibly never be clear. There are rumours that it may be something as simple as a phishing attack, and the FBI has claimed it has recovered code with similarities to code used in previous attacks against targets the North Koreans would wish to target.

It seems pretty certain that the North Koreans were involved in the attack against Sony; in addition to the code fragments, the North Koreans have gone out of their way to claim the attack was orchestrated by themselves. Yes they denied the attacks, but in the same way that a little kid denies having stolen the cake with all the evidence on his face.

Normally a corporation under attack from a state actor can be forgiven for getting opened up like a can of peaches, but this is Sony and a bunch of idiots who if they hadn’t lucked out by being in charge of North Korea would have trouble getting a job flipping burgers.

So Sony Pictures needs to have a good long look at it’s security. Two big tips for Sony:

First of all, change the name of the security team to the insecurity team. That is not a criticism of the team that does security at Sony right now, but because there is an assumption that the security team handles security and the rest of us doesn’t have to bother.

In reality, security is everyone’s responsibility.

Secondly take a second look at every recommendation that your security team has ever made and you have said No to. And reconsider.

Dec 152008

I have recently (in the last few days) picked up a Sony eBook reader, but I have also been reading ebooks for quite a while on various mobile phones. As an avid book reader, I have the classic problem of where to keep all my books. Books take up space, and sooner or later you realise that they take up an inconveniently large amount of space.

Sometimes I think that eBooks are the solution and sometimes I think they’re not quite there yet. The Sony reader has a few rough edges; in particular the irritating screen refresh (I don’t mind it being slow, but the flicker as it redraws is irritating) and the page turn buttons being slightly awkward.

But the price of ebooks themselves is somewhat ridiculous. In particular with a DRM-protected format, which means no guarantee that you will be able to read them on future devices … I have books several times older than myself, and I somehow doubt that “LRX” format books will be readable in a hundred years. For those who aren’t aware it seems that the prices for LRX books is between about £6 and £15 (and probably more).

Of course authors and publishers deserve a fair return on their investment in producing a book, but is pricing ebooks at roughly the cost of a physical book sensible ? I am thinking of replacing some 750 books with ebook equivalents which amounts to a cost of around £5,000 for something I already own!

No thanks.

And after all, not producing physical books and then shipping then around would be a huge cost saving so why isn’t that saving being passed on ? It comes across as the classic ripoff to most consumers.

Ebooks should be much cheaper than the physical books which would also have the advantage of bringing the cost down to a level where people will be more likely to make impulse buys. This would probably increase sales to the point where the cost cutting would have a negligable effect on the profitability.

Why not give free copies of ebooks away to those who purchase a physical book ? This would also popularise the ebook method. If I had “coupons” from all the physical books I had purchased this year, I would probably have bought an eReader much sooner.

Oct 202008

It was announced today (on the news at least … Sony may have announced it earlier) that Sony have released a game called “Little Big Planet” that has a music track that may annoy some Muslims. The track in question (please send corrections if I’m wrong) is a Mali language track, and quotes from the Koran. Apparently the singer is himself a devout Muslim. Sony in their not-so-infinite wisdom have announced that they are delaying the launch of the game, recalling all issued game disks, and re-mastering a version without the track in question.

Glossing over whether this music track really is offensive, it is perfectly reasonable for Sony to do something about this. But to do a full recall of the game disks already in the distribution channels? That’s pretty costly, and I would be pretty miffed if I were a Sony shareholder.

Why not simply issue a groveling apology, point out that it was a genuine mistake, promise to remaster all future game disks without the track in question, and issue an online patch to remove the track from disks that have already been distributed ?

Incidentally the track in question (Tapha Niang) is available at the artist’s website :-

To “excuse” this mistake, if Muslims cannot agree on what is and what is not appropriate and Islamic, how can the rest of us avoid making mistakes like this ?

May 312007

Sony have recently upgraded the firmware available for PlayStation 3s; one of the features is for “upscaling” DVDs to HD resolution. Not exactly the same thing as blue ray, but definitely worth having especially given my situation. However Sony will only upscale DVDs over an HDMI connection to the TV; if you are limited to a component connection for some reason, you are out of luck.

Now this is not solely Sony’s fault as there is an agreement in place to not release equipment to upscale over any kind of TV connection that does not support anti-piracy measures such as HDCP(?). That rules out component cables.

So what is the reason for this ? To prevent piracy, but who is going to pirate “upscaled” DVDs which will offer quality less than blue ray disks and won’t play on DVD players ? Seems a little unlikely to me, or at least it is unlikely to be a serious commercial threat.

The media companies are yet again inconveniencing the legitimate consumer in the name of preventing piracy despite the evidence that pirates can get around the restrictions anyway.

Apr 282007

I am one of those weird people who have bought the PS3 primarily as a film player … to play DVDs and BD-ROMs (Blue-Ray). Oh, I will play the occasional game, but I’ve rarely found a game that is worth spending hours on … not that I have a problem with games or anything, it is just I’m too busy to dedicate that much time to them. This little piece is about the experience of using PS3s to play movies; it could be called a review, but I am not being that formal.

Firstly the experience of setting up the PS3 to talk to an HD TV is not pleasant. This is probably not solely Sony’s fault, but when using the HDMI cable my TV shows no picture. This is probably due to my TV not supporting 576p and the PS3 defaulting to this resolution whilst asking what resolution to use. Resorting to a component cable works fine. However this is hardly plug and play!

Playing back DVDs using the included SCART lead produces a picture that stomps my ancient Toshiba into the ground. Playing back DVDs over the component cables is not quite so good probably because the necessary upscaling is done by my TV which does not do a great job. Overall, good enough that the Toshiba is being retired.

Playing back BD-ROMs is as good as I expected … a big improvement over DVD although not quite as noticeable as the improvement from VHS to DVD.

Lastly there have been quite a few PS3 reviews that have criticised the use of the game controller to control film playback. The common theme is that the controls are somewhat inconvenient to access all the features. Well, I find it perfectly adequate … if all you generally do is hit “Play” and “Pause” (as I suspect most people do) then the controller works perfectly well. Just hit the big X button to do both. Now those who want to playback films upside down at 1/16th the original speed may find the controller inconvenient, but they can buy a more conventional controller.

Using Bluetooth as the protocol for the remote instantly struck me as a bit of an issue … I won’t be able to use my Phillips Pronto to control the PS3. Howvere whilst I would still like that, on using it, Bluetooth strikes me as much better than Infrared. Ever waved a remote at the TV only to find that some component on the floor is blocked and is not listening ? Bluetooth ends that.

Overall the PS3 is a pretty good film player although putting DVD upscaling into the PS3 would be beneficial (this is rumoured to be coming in a firmware update) and adding a USB dongle to allow infrared remote control would be a bonus.

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