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What’s Wrong With Digital Rights Management?

August 12th, 2018

You may have heard a lot of talk about DRM, or you may be completely new to the concept, but in either case it’s wise for us to set up a basic explanation of what Digital Rights Management is before we talk about what’s wrong with it. DRM is a form of access control, or gate-keeping technology. What DRM does is secure digital products against unauthorized use.

So from the standpoint of someone looking at releasing their work into the world, it seems to make sense to have DRM be a part of your picture, but the truth of the matter is that it is not so cut and dried as all that. In fact, DRM has major flaws.

There are a number of reasons for this, but one of the most important ones is the fact that DRM puts restrictions on the people who have paid for a product. The people who have become your customers are often the ones hurt most by DRM. Hardly a just reward for paying you, is it?drm1

A recent example of DRM that has caused an uproar due to how poor it makes the customer experience is the multimillion copy selling video game Diablo III. The way the protection on the product works that it forces each player to be logged into a game server at all times during play. This means that despite the fact that it is playable by between one and four people, the actual game play is dependent on the presence and speed of an internet connection, even if only one player is involved in the game.

Buyers of the product is that they are not only required to have an internet connection present, they need to ensure that it is of sufficient quality to reach the servers of the game reliably. In many cases, this is functionally impossible (in the cases of audiences in regions with poor connectivity, like much of middle America) or extremely cost-prohibitive.

Still, you may be thinking this is a reasonable stance, as it ensures that only people who have paid for this game can use it. Sure, it inconveniences people, but it protects the intellectual property of the company selling the product, right? You would be incorrect in that assumption. Within a week of the game reaching the market it was “hacked” to work offline. It is now possible to download the entire game and play it without paying for it. Thus pirate access has not been prevented by this application of DRM. And as we have established, legitimate consumers are being inconvenienced on a daily basis.

You need to understand that all DRM can be broken. DRM applied to audio, ebooks, PDFs, games, video, and more is not going to keep anyone who is determined from breaking the protections you have put into place. This can be as simple as retyping a book (people can pay a tiny amount to workers in third world nations to do this) into a DRM-free format, or as complex as breaking into executable code and building fake servers to fool a video game into working when it shouldn’t. It can and will be broken, so there is no actual protection offered outside of guarding against the kind of people who are very unlikely to be interested in illegally accessing your product.

In the end, the best protection you can offer your work is to make sure it is a good quality effort which has been priced reasonably. These factors will combine to make it more desirable for people to pay you for the product, and will serve to help sway individuals who have acquired your product through piracy to purchase legitimate copies in the end. One major barrier to acquisition of products is their perceived value. The better you position your product in terms of value, the better protection it is! Best of all: doing so is completely free. You don’t have to pay for a DRM solution, you simply have to make good choices regarding the content of your product, and its price point.

The underlying reason here is that people want good value in their products. They tend to “steal” things that they have no intention of buying, so the concept of an illegally accessed copy of your work equating to lost revenue is feeble at best. Most people do not have more money than they spend, and if they have already determined that your product is not worth buying, they won’t buy it, even if they can’t obtain a bootleg copy.

But that means that there’s good news when people do get to download your product for free. Since they are now in possession of your product, you have the chance to let your work shine through and convince them that they should in fact spend money on it, or on other products from your company. Many illegal downloads are converted into sales, when given the choice, the person who illegally downloaded the product in the first place would never have even tried the product had it not been available for free.

So instead of investing in costly, ineffective access control, skip the DRM and hope that people do spread the word about your products. Because nothing sells more than word of mouth, and the more mouths that are exposed to what you have to offer, the more sales you can make.

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CD/DVD Degradation

February 2nd, 2018

istock_000005139238xsmallUnfortunately CD’s and DVD’s are not built to last. Degradation in optical media refers to this decline in the physical quality of CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays over time.  There are two main factors that this eventuality can be attributed to; material and environment.

Material factors:

-Disc Format.  A CD-ROM has a different composition than a CD-RW, therefore they deteriorate at different rates.

-The manufacturer. There are variations in the dyes, plastics and alloys used, which in turn cause divergences in quality between brands.

-The equipment used to read or write the disc itself.

Environmental factor:

-Exposure to high temperature. Increase in heat speeds the degradation process by breaking down the recording layers of discs that utilise organic dye compounds.

– Extreme humidity. Moisture can seep into the cracks and scratches of a disc which could foster the growth of bacteria and/or mould; this can affect how effective the laser’s ability is to read the disc.

– Regular contact with UV. Direct sunlight accelerates the rate of aging of a disc. It renders the disc ineffective by altering the appearance of the recording layers.

Dust, dirt and air pollution. Any foreign particles that accumulate on the disc surface and in cracks or scratches can damage the disc and cloud reading and recording.

Inappropriate handling or storage also contributes to an increased deterioration process of CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays.

As discs have a limited shelf life, no matter how well they are treated by the user, degradation can only be controlled to a certain extent. The core recording layers of a disc will naturally break down before the outer plastic takes away layers. The outer deterioration of the polycarbonate incurs damage mainly from rough handling, and is therefore not considered when measuring the disc’s overall shelf life.

Consequently, the lifespan of CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays contain a range of testing measurements and can be conservatively estimated, with some compact discs tending to outlast DVD formats:

  • Unrecorded CD-R and CD-RW: 5-10 years
  • Recorded CD-R: 50-200 years
  • Recorded CD-RW: 20-100 years
  • Recorded DVD-R: 30-100 years
  • Recorded DVD-RW: up to 30 years
  • Recorded BD-R and BD-RE: 30-200 years

Since Blu-ray is a newer technology, it should be noted that further testing and calculations are required to more accurately narrow a lifespan.

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Plasmon’s UDO and Blu -Ray: top shelf technologies in optical data storage

January 26th, 2018
Phase Change technology of writing data optimises the write time and allows for more efficient data storage

Phase Change technology of writing data optimises the write time and allows for more efficient data storage

It’s commonly known that technology used for storage purposes must be characterized by its huge data capacity in order to make the whole enterprise economically viable. Using this one criterion only, there are only two suitable technologies left: UDO (Ulttra Density Optical) and Blu-Ray disc.

Since they offer similar benefits in general, the question which technology has bigger chances to stay on the market will be determined by the investment costs of its implementation and by the size of the existing installed base. The answer may be obvious already…

The UDO technology was developed by Plasmon as a replacement for MO (Magneto Optical) technology in the beginning of this century with long term archiving in mind. UDO -1 holds 30 GB per disc and the newly developed UDO – 2 can hold up to 60 GB per disc, 30 GB per each side. It’s double sided which requires a rotation mechanism to turn the media over. It uses Phase Change technology to write data. The data can be read/written at 8 MG/sec. using Reed Solomon error correction.  The laser is applied at two heat levels what provides faster write times, higher storage densities and higher life cycle (the number of writes that a spot can whitstand at its full capacity). Its estimated archive life exceeds 50 years. The medium is housed in a rugged dust proof caddy.

Unfortunately, high costs of UDO’s implementation and proprietary issues, plus a few extra drawbacks, like the fact that a special software is required to read UDO media or the lack of a native format, made Plasmon went into administration at the end of 2008. The technology was sold and it’s now manufactured by Alliance Storage Technologies. Similar fate was shared by InPhase Technology, which also attempted to develop holographic storage and failed due to same reasons.

With UDO’s experience in mind, it’s now clear why it is Blu – Ray that prevails as a widely used archiving medium. It is supported by hundreds of companies globally and shares many of the features with UDO, like high reliability and low maintenance costs. Its main benefit over UDO is huge installed base and the universal format of the written data. Of course, Blu- Ray ‘naturally’ evolved from CD and DVD which makes it backward compatible. It is also not as ruggedised as UDO and is housed in slim jukeboxes (some marketing specialists dare to label them even as ‘sexy’).

And what is the moral of that story? Maybe something like: no matter how advanced and sophisticated the technologie is, it’s always up to the market to determine its overall life span by verifying all its aspects  with scrutiny.

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1st Message

January 19th, 2018

Dear Friends,
It’s snowing outside as I write the 1st message for Replication Centre. We are feeling our way with the Replication Market – having built a solid business in CD Duplication. It’s somewhat confusing that nearly all the companies who offer Replication try and pass themselves as the companies actually doing the work. The Replication market place works almost entirely by brokers.

This means that the company you are dealing with aren’t doing the work – they farm it out to one of many plants they will have a relationship with.

This doesn’t matter of course – as long as the broker has integrity. We decided to present ourselves in this market clearly and frankly. See our homepage for the way we describe our service. We deal with a great company in the Czech Republic and following a visit out there last year our relationship has gone from strength to strength.

Till next time
God Bless
Martin

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Replication vs Downloads

January 12th, 2018

It is still by no means certain whether mass-market consumers will embrace the concept of buying all their entertainment digitally rather than on disc – the music sector is undoubtedly undergoing a huge transformation with the majority of singles now sold digitally, whereas most albums are still physical sales.

It is clear that most manufacturers and distributors would want to avoid the cost and effort of maintaining a large inventory, but they would be foolish to ignore the very real attractions of packaged media to the casual customer.

Even in today’s climate of price-deflation and stagnant physical sales, entertainment content still has the power to grab consumers in a way other product cannot, and retailers are putting a lot of effort into enticing impulse-buyers.

Browsing through a display of attractively-packaged boxes is the quickest way to secure a sale, but it does mean that the retailer has to maintain and constantly update their inventory. This does, however, leave the way open to having point-of-sale machines that can burn discs on demand as well as digitally printing the packaging and artwork. The retailer would then simply have a display of lifesize empty boxes for the customer to handle and make his choice from, without having to guess at stock-levels etc.

The technology for this is still some way off, so the market for replicated packaged media is set to thrive for a good while yet, as pure downloads can never re-create the experience of buying and handling a quality retail product.

Piracy

New technology has always been viewed with suspicion when it came to the stealing of copyrighted material, but none of these predictions have ever really emerged as a serious problem:

“Home taping will kill record sales” warned the record companies in the 1970s when copying LPs to cassette had become the norm, but once the Sony Walkman made tapes more popular, the record companies simply sold more pre-recorded tapes.

Copying CDs is also possible, but most people can’t be bothered and, provided the price is acceptable, would much rather buy a nice-looking finished product than waste time making an unappealing copy.

How much material will be electronically “shoplifted” if online sales become the norm is also down to price and convenience – if it’s easy to buy appealing product at attractive prices, and tiresome to steal, customers will pay.

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The International Digital Media Alliance

January 5th, 2018

The International Digital Media Alliance – and it’s ever changing name

Ever wondered how or who helps govern a fair and independent assessment and education of all the digital media that is being developed and released.
Formally known as The DVD Association, the now known International Digital Media Alliance (IDMA), is committed to providing expertise in DVD, Blu-ray Disc, and interactive media.

The International Digital Media Alliance (IDMA) is dedicated to ensuring that multimedia is uncomplicated, reliable and dependable for users. IDMA exists as a not-for-profit organisation which is solely supported through membership and sponsorships from corporations.

Digital Media
Originally IDMA was established in 1990 as the Compact Disc Interactive Association (CDIA) and was formed to help creators of disc-based television programs. CDIA also helped provide information to the general public and hosted annual educational workshops and conferences as well as producing many publications. CDIA intended to educate the public about then-new video disc options like CD-I and Laserdisc.

With the dawn of the DVD, CDIA changed its name and became the DVD Association, before recently re-settling on its current name, the International Digital Media Alliance. The latest name change has come about because of HD-DVD and the advent of Blu-ray. It is clear that the DVD was never going to remain the only video disc on the market. It however would not make sense for an organization to change to another name focused on a single medium. In this ever changing frontier of digital media technology, there is no doubt that there will be more mediums in the future. Just as apparent as the death of HD-DVDs, however it would appear that DVD’s are still going strong even in the Blu-Ray era.

The official website, located at http://www.theidma.org/, offers plenty of history and public files, as well as news on the organization.

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Tips on laying out a user friendly CD-ROM disc

December 29th, 2017

As a software or multimedia developer your aim is to educate and/or entertain your user. Therefor giving them a CD which takes them straight to the contact they desire will undoubtedly enhance their user experience. Generally speaking it’s not beneficial if you pop a CD or DVD into your computer and have to guess what to do next. Here are a few ideas to consider before sending a master disc in for duplication.

layoutFirstly… Does it have autorun? It makes sense to do so, as the vast majority of Windows users expect their discs to do so. You can achieve this by popping a simple text file called autorun.inf, into the root directory of your disc.

Don’t overlook assigning an electronic volume label on the disc. Set the volume label using your burning software; alternatively try using the ‘label’ command inside the autorun.inf file. This way users navigating their PCs using Explorer can see that the CD in the drive is more descriptive then the default text ‘New’ or ‘1320982_04’.

Ask yourself…Is the root directory free of clutter?Generally speaking people do not want to be confronted with choice, especially when they unsure. Simplify the process, make the choice for them and only leave the most important file in the root directory ( along with the autorun file) To make it obvious name the file ‘start’ or ‘run’ and move all other files into  sub-folders. Remember these sub-folders and files should have real names. By giving these folders and files everyday readable names it allows users to navigate and locate documents/images outside of your software.

Remember that when creating a master disc to be sure that any unnecessary files, images or templates have been removed. As well as enabling a clean file structure, it prevents the possibility of sharing your source codes or any uncompleted or unused ideas.

Finally … Is your CD going to be used on both PC and Mac? If so then make sure your disc is a true hybrid CD in order to run on both platforms. This way you can hide the PC files from the Mac and vice-versa. This makes for a clean disc.

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Does 2012 bring the end of the CD?

December 22nd, 2017

As the music industry as a whole struggles in a down economy and direct download business models like iTunes flourish, the compact disc, which was commercially introduced in 1982, has the appearance of going the way of vinyl.

In 2007, CDs accounted for 90 percent of album sales in the United States, with digital accounting for the other 10 percent. Just two years later, the sales of CDs decreased to 79 percent and digital sales increase to 20 percent, and the remaining percentage point being made up of vinyl and other media.

A report by Side-Line music magazine has cited that a number of anonymous music industry insiders who confirmed that the major labels are planning to stop pressing new CDs by the end of next year, if not sooner.istock_000009422052xsmall

The main reason is that CDs cost money to create, store, and distribute, therefore shifting to all-digital distribution will free up more resources for marketing and other parts of the business. There is however one problem with the notion of killing the CDs. Labels are still making money off of them.

It would seem that record labels have shown no desire to ditch the CD. The format still accounts for most sales revenue. It also appears that labels have been able to encourage the development of new digital business models while enjoying the considerable revenue CD sales provide.

Digital download and subscription services may indeed be eroding away at the CD’s dominance. However, a report by Gartner predicts that CD and LP sales will still amount to $10 billion in 2015. Although online music revenue is making a big jump, it is still trailing physical media, in the form of CDs, with a projected $7.7 billion. It would appear that record labels are unlikely to kill of a major money-maker just yet.

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Image Resolution vs. Dimensions vs. Size: How the Numbers Stack Up

December 15th, 2017

So when looking at an image file you have three basic numbers that you’ll want to pay attention to. The first is the DPI, which stands for “dots per inch” and is also the resolution of the image. To confuse matters, people make a very poor distinction between this number and the second, which is the number of pixels an image has in both height and width. These are the dimensions of the image, but many people call these numbers the resolution. (See, confusing!) The final number you need to understand is the image size, or how much storage space it takes up.

Now, let’s break this down, shall we? DPI is the actual number of ink dots in a one inch line. It is a physical printing term. The higher the DPI of an image, the clearer the image is when it is printed. In addition, higher DPI images will be displayed more clearly on high resolution displays, such as high end tablet and telephone screens. There is less of a difference in how an image appears from higher to lower DPI on standard computer monitors because of how such equipment is made. (This does not mean, however, that you should reduce the DPI of images to a lower level if they are only intended for web use.)istock_000020084611xsmall-1

The dimensions of an image are the number of actual pixels wide and high. Many people are used to a certain number of MP or megapixels in a specific image because of how digital cameras work. Changing the image dimensions reduces the number of MP in an image, and is a common way digital cameras can be tuned to take more pictures before running out of room. (But size is up next, remember!) An image with larger dimensions (and less DPI) can be printed out in larger format. So for example if a 5MP image that is 2338 x 3264 pixels is printed at 72 DPI you would get a 34 x 45.3 inch printout. That same image at 150 DPI would be 16.3 x 21.8 inches. 300 DPI is considered an appropriate print resolution for professional work, and that means that your image would now be printing at 8.2 x 10.9 inches. As you can see, the larger your images, the better blown up pictures you will be able to print out. (This is not the only thing that goes to quality, of course. A better camera sensor produces better images of course.)

Now, finally, we reach size. There are many factors which go into how much storage an image will take up. The larger the dimensions of an image the more space it will take up of course. But factors in the image itself have a great deal to do with this. As an example, using the same dimensions as above, 5MP images might range from as much as 4 megabytes to 0.5 megabytes. The first example would be a very complex image with a huge amount of color differentiation. The latter would be a very simple image with very little color deviation. This might be the difference between an image of a child behind a screen door on a sunny day as compared to a picture of light reflecting off of an object outdoors at night, with no flash.

So, now for these parting tips:

  • Do not reduce the dimensions of your master copies of your images!
  • When reducing the dimensions of your images, make sure you set them to a size appropriate for your medium, and no less.
  • When setting the DPI of your images for online use, always go with 300+ when possible.
  • When printing your images, go with the DPI that gets you the size of printed image you desire, while conforming to the printer’s specifications, but always use 300+ DPI for any high quality prints.
  • Never skimp on storage, and keep backups of your images. DVD discs can make a good backup because you can store them away from your PC.

You should have a good grasp of what the three numbers you need to keep track of are for your images now. Bearing them in mind can make it so you are always sharing the best quality images online, and getting only the highest quality printouts.

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Increase your Returns on Investment with CD’s

December 8th, 2017

The problem with any direct mail campaign is getting your prospect to open your package in order to view your marketing message and not throw it directly into the office bin. One of the best ways of achieving this is to create attention grabbing CD packaging and use the CD to deliver your message.

A study conducted by Cambridge Associates shows that using a CD can increase the response rate of a direct mailing campaign from typically 3% using only printed materials to 7%. This may be due to the fact that the recall of your content on a CD is typically 40-50% higher than if you were using a printed brochure. Your conversion rates may also increase by as much as 20%. Now it could be thought that the production and distribution of a CD is far more expensive than that of a printed brochure. According to the study, a CD campaign can cost 10-40% less than that of a brochure campaign. It is also worth noting that the high perceived value of the CD, your prospect is far more likely to pass it on to friends and family.

istock_000014795126xsmall

Let’s say you transfer your 32 page brochure into an exciting CD presentation with links to your website. The content is replicated onto a CD and packaged in colour printed cardboard wallets for example. You post 10,000 CDs out to a mailing list of prospects. Firstly, you have already saved as much as 40% on postage costs because you are mailing a much lighter package. Secondly your prospect receives the package and discounts that it is junk mail. Your package is opened and your prospect views the contents of the CD. Your prospect can connect to your website for immediate purchase or they may supply further information which will assist you with future marketing. Extraordinary success is possible using a CD and a strong marketing message.

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Address: Replication Centre, Gleniffer House, 2 Hall Road, Rochford, Essex, SS4 1NN.    Tel: 01702 530 357    Email: info@replicationcentre.co.uk