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Data Storage Upgrades News

Blu-ray Capacity Increase Via Firmware 232

Posted by timothy
from the best-stuff-happens-in-software dept.
LordofEntropy writes "Blu-ray.com reports that Sony and Panasonic have announced a new optical disc evaluation technology that increases capacity from 25GB to 33.4GB. The tech uses existing Blu-ray diodes and is accomplished via firmware upgrade. The article says it is not known if and when the upgrade will be adopted into the Blu-ray spec. However, given that Sony and Panasonic are behind it, 'it will likely happen later this year.'"
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Blu-ray Capacity Increase Via Firmware

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  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @04:08PM (#30674884)
    There's a little more than just a firmware upgrade involved here. This is a computationally-intensive process, which means the PS3 might be able to handle this, but the $100 player you got at Wal-Mart most certainly won't. Moore's Law means that this will become practical in the future, but this tech is definitely ahead of it's time.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Glad I purchased a PS3 then and not a cheap Wal-Mart garbage player!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by LostCluster (625375) *

        There's some logic to over-buying sometimes. PS3 has been compatible with every change to Blu-Ray such as BD Live. Some same-age players got left in the dust with that one.

        • by Albanach (527650) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @04:27PM (#30675146) Homepage

          There's some logic to over-buying sometimes.

          Equally, before Christmas Walmart in some states were selling a blu-ray player for $55. You could buy a new player annually for five years and spend less than a PS3.

          Of course the PS3 offers a lot more, but if you just want to watch Blu-Rays on your HDTV, over-buying is an expensive way to go about it.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by toastar (573882)

            First blu-ray players didn't start at $50, there was a time when they cost as much or more then a ps3,

            Second, and more importantly, Can your $50 Walfart special transfer movies to your psp so you can watch it on the plane, Or do you have to take the disk with you and risk scratching it?

            • I would guess not but since I dont have a PSP nor any interest in playing PS3 games I guess I am fine with not getting a PS3. Regular DVD quality video is fine enough for me if I am going to be watching it on a tiny portable player. I dont mind ripping blu ray to my laptop and watching it there or yes, just bring the disk, I have heard of and even seen these things you can place disks into so they dont get damaged and scratched. I think they are called "cases" but if they are unknown to you maybe they are n

            • by RDW (41497)

              'Second, and more importantly, Can your $50 Walfart special transfer movies to your psp so you can watch it on the plane, Or do you have to take the disk with you and risk scratching it?'

              On the other hand, when your plane lands in the 'wrong' country, don't even think about buying a regioned disk to take home to the PS3 (which is, like most players, Broken By Design and incapable of playing it). Of course, if you'd bought one of the cheapo supermarket models that has multi-region BD playback (they do exist)

            • by Toonol (1057698)
              Second, and more importantly, Can your $50 Walfart special transfer movies to your psp so you can watch it on the plane, Or do you have to take the disk with you and risk scratching it?

              I vigorously dispute the "more importantly" clause.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by cyn1c77 (928549)

              First blu-ray players didn't start at $50, there was a time when they cost as much or more then a ps3,

              Second, and more importantly, Can your $50 Walfart special transfer movies to your psp so you can watch it on the plane, Or do you have to take the disk with you and risk scratching it?

              This is a key feature, because it is definitely worth buying a PS3 for the ability to watch high definition blu-ray media on the small, low-resolution psp screen.

          • ...buy a new player annually for five years

            The consumer electronics industry lurvs Albanach.

          • "You *would have to* buy a new player annually for five years and spend less than a PS3."

            FTFY

        • This is why I got a quad core for my last upgrade. When I did I heard a lot of "yeah but you'll never use all those cores anyway." And now even browsers are being optimized for n-cores. :)

          Of course being a programmer helps in judging some aspects of where software might be heading...

          • And now even browsers are being optimized for n-cores. :)

            For all the talk around this... I seldom see my browser consuming much CPU for any significant stretch of time. The exceptions are badly written javascript and Flash. The changes being made to browsers (re: multi core) are not so much focused on speed as stability.

            • For all the talk around this... I seldom see my browser consuming much CPU for any significant stretch of time. The exceptions are badly written javascript and Flash. The changes being made to browsers (re: multi core) are not so much focused on speed as stability.

              I seldom see my browser consume more than 10% of the CPU, but damned if that thing isn't almost always the leader in Memory usage.

              I'm sure it is so large due to caching, but I'm always urged to check what processes are running to make sure I have

            • by bertok (226922)

              And now even browsers are being optimized for n-cores. :)

              For all the talk around this... I seldom see my browser consuming much CPU for any significant stretch of time. The exceptions are badly written javascript and Flash. The changes being made to browsers (re: multi core) are not so much focused on speed as stability.

              It's not meant to. Browser performance is not measured in 'average' CPU usage, but 'latency'.

              This basic misunderstanding of performance is why us developers know what processors to pick, while everyone else looks at the task manager of an idle machine as evidence that its processor is obviously sufficient! 8)

        • by elrous0 (869638) *
          Now if they can just fix the PS3's godawful remote control (which you're stuck with since almost no universal remote supports bluetooth).
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by amRadioHed (463061)

          There's some logic to under-buying too. My DVD player still plays every DVD that I've tried :)

        • by jedidiah (1196) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @05:43PM (#30676150) Homepage

          There's also some logic to waiting until a standard actually finalizes before buying into it.

          It seems like that BluRay is in a perpetual state of flux and that you would have to be a chump
          to buy a player because either it will need an immediate firmware fix or some change will come
          along to the spec to make your player unusable.

          A cheap doorstop is better than an expensive one.

          Nevermind the $100 players. What about the older more expensive ones. At least the cheap new
          players might benefit from technological progress, Moore's law and cheaper components.

        • by poetmatt (793785)

          or you can get a PC, which has been able to decode blu ray without even having a blu ray player.

          So maybe you don't want to overbuy.

          Again as usual, it's still easier to download than buy legit.

    • by tlhIngan (30335) <.slashdot. .at. .worf.net.> on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @04:25PM (#30675116)

      There's a little more than just a firmware upgrade involved here. This is a computationally-intensive process, which means the PS3 might be able to handle this, but the $100 player you got at Wal-Mart most certainly won't. Moore's Law means that this will become practical in the future, but this tech is definitely ahead of it's time.

      Maybe even the PS3 can't handle it. After all, most of heavy work in decoding the data is not done on the PS3's copious CPU, but on the drive's dinky little processor.

      Now, most drives have updatable firmware, so maybe that processor is powerful enough. The next issue becomes who's going to want to support the old obsolete products? That $99 Wal-mart player has maybe a year of firmware updates before it's obsolete and no updates will be released for it ever, even bug fixes.

      That's why I recommend the PS3 as a blu-ray player, because it's going to be supported for a long time and receive bug fixes. Early DVD players often had trouble playing DVDs that were to spec, but using fancy DVD features that weren't well tested. There are probably many blu-ray features that aren't well tested either. A supported player with firmware updates will get fixes to support discs that use those features, but obsolete players... won't.

      And there are a number of players already effectively obsolete (e.g., the very first blu-ray players with profile 1.0). So now if this spec is approved, will we be left with a bunch of players unable to use the new discs, forcing everyone into another hardware upgrade? Blu-ray is doing OK on its own, but forcing everyone with players to buy new ones seems like a non-starter...

      • by jandrese (485)
        Ironically, people who bought PS2s to use them as DVD players back in the day were burned when it turned out the PS2 was a pretty marginal DVD player. Overlay (subtitle) support in particular was iffy on a lot of disks (flickering, improper fill, etc...).
      • That's why I recommend the PS3 as a blu-ray player, because it's going to be supported for a long time and receive bug fixes. Early DVD players often had trouble playing DVDs that were to spec

        My slim PlayStation 2 (NTSC U/C), made by the same division of the same company, has trouble playing DVDs that are to spec. The DVD Wobbl and Bob is encoded for all regions with PAL video, but the PS2 can't rescale the 720x576 at 25fps video on the disc to 720x480 at 30 fps; it just gives up and says "TV system doesn't match."

      • maybe I'm old school, but back in my day a STANDARDIZED SPECIFICATION essentially means that everyone got together, said what they wanted the new tech to accomplish, the engineers had many a heated debate on the exact methods as to how it was going to happen, the marketers figured out how it was going to be sold, the accountants begged the engineers and marketers to do it cheaper, and when all was said and done, there was a new technology that was a STANDARD. A piece of hardware/software that was certified to read and/or write content written to that spec was the end user's assurance that their content would play back on their hardware, period. Vinyl records started as mono, and they played back on every Victrola of the day. Whether I play a record back from the 1920's on a similar vintage Victrola, or my 2008 vintage Numark TTX turntables with brand new Shure Whitelabel cartridges, the record will play, end of story. The reverse is also true; all of my vinyl pressed in the last few years will play back on a record player that rolled off the assembly line during the Harding administration. A CD pressed to Redbook audio spec* today will play back on a CD player from 1985. This is how standards work. If the most recent disc labeled to conform to the Blu-Ray spec does not play on EVERY Blu-Ray player that has been certified to also conform to the Blu-Ray spec, then one of three things must be true: 1.) The disc isn't to spec and shouldn't have been certified, 2.) the player isn't to spec and shouldn't have been certified, 3.) the Blu-Ray spec is incomplete at best and broken at worst. Vinyl, 8-Track, Cassettes, VHS, CD-ROM*, 3 1/2" floppy, and for the most part DVD-ROM* have gotten along just fine without firmware updates, else we are talking about a moving target, which is the very situation that specifications are written to prevent.

        *For these, I am referring to commercially stamped media, not CD-R, DVD-R, DVD+R, etc. designed for consumer use.

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      Any data storage standard is a compromise between reliability and capacity. Sure, you can increase the capacity using existing hardware, but that makes it just that more unlikely that the disk will read back without errors on a different player. I already have a problem with DVDs written by a computer tracking on my DVD player, this would only make it worse. The increase in capacity ain't worth the decrease in reliability.
    • You don’t make any sense. The capacity of the disk is not related to the bandwidth.
      Think of fitting longer movies in there that are of the same quality that the shorter movies are: The top quality that is standardized as being playable by any standards-conforming player.
      Or adding more languages, saving on production costs. Or adding other bonus material. Maybe a PS3 game demo. Maybe something else.

      • RTFA... they're using a processor-intensive program to estimate what the next bit should have been when they can't get to it.
    • by DJRumpy (1345787)

      Apparently they modified this algorythm specifically for lower computational power. From the patent application:

      http://www.freshpatents.com/-dt20090611ptan20090147648.php [freshpatents.com]

      "Hence, an improved Maximum Likelihood Sequence Estimation, such as for an optical disc reader, would be advantageous and in particular a system allowing for increased flexibility, reduced complexity, reduced computational resource demand, increased applicability and/or improved performance would be advantageous."

  • Per layer (Score:5, Informative)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @04:08PM (#30674892)
    It should be noted that this is an increase of 25GB to 33.4GB per layer. Double layer blu-rays are already capable of storing 50 GB.
    • by ferrocene (203243)

      Indeed. It should be noted that Metal Gear Solid 4 uses every bit of the 50GB dual layer BD. It's a pretty massive game; they would benefit from this increase.

  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @04:11PM (#30674930)
    They're calling this tech "Maximum Likelihood Sequence Estimation" because they couldn't get the trademark on "We'll go with our best guess what comes next."
  • s/not know if/not known if/

    Thanks.

  • by noidentity (188756) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @04:22PM (#30675078)

    new optical disc evaluation technology that increases capacity from 25GB to 33.4GB

    Unfortunately, they also announced that this 33% space increase will be used by their new DECE encryption [slashdot.org], "delivering greater flexibility, value, and security to consumers, without any extra cost, just a free firmware upgrade".

  • by MiniMike (234881) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @04:26PM (#30675128)

    Microsoft also wants to participate in Blu-ray development- I heard the next release will be capable of 2 GB.

    • by H0p313ss (811249)

      Microsoft also wants to participate in Blu-ray development- I heard the next release will be capable of 2 GB.

      But the SVG rendering will be awesome!

    • by geekoid (135745)

      It will be capable of 100 GB, but only have 4 blocks~

  • Makes you wonder (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ickleberry (864871) <web@pineapple.vg> on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @04:34PM (#30675242) Homepage
    What else can be upgraded in capacity with a simple firmware upgrade

    I have always been suspicious of some of those Seagate hard-drives, particularly the 1" CompactFlash style ones they used to make.

    What other storage medium has been crippled for the convenience of being able to sell *exactly* the same chip/disk at different capacities with very different prices?
    • What else can be upgraded in capacity with a simple firmware upgrade

      Apple DOS 3.2

    • You’re making a bold statement by suggesting that it was intentionally crippled.

      Why? Because technology never ever improves with time? Because CDs weren’s 640 MB at first, and my last drive could burn those 890 MB ones?

      How about they just found a better encoding scheme? Or noticed that they can leave out some error correction without harming the reliability?

      Or how about *gasp* you actually finding out what the improvement is, before making stupid assumptions?

      • That is possible, as is it possible that they realised a certain hard drive can actually store more data reliably than they originally thought it would, however we have never seen hard drive manufacturers putting up new capacity enhancing firmware.

        sony could have decided to start making a "blueray 2" format out of this, but that would drive people away from blue-ray and back to the torrents and hard drives so they had a good incentive. hdd manufacturers dont when you buy a 500gb hard drive since it affec
    • What other storage medium has been crippled for the convenience of being able to sell *exactly* the same chip/disk at different capacities with very different prices?

      Single-sided floppy disks.
      Not that it helps you much today...

    • by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @07:40PM (#30677340)

      I'm guessing you've never run an MFM drive on an RLL controller. Or drilled a hole in the case of your 720k floppies. Or cut a notch on your single-sided 5.25" floppy. Or used a TSR that read/wrote a custom format on those floppies that squeezed a couple-three hundred more kilobytes on them. Never heard of the 486-SX. I could go on...but I'm lazy.

  • Pushing the spec... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jameskojiro (705701) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @04:35PM (#30675264) Journal

    How far could the spec be pushed using a decent CD-ROM laser. Could you squeeze 1GB out of a CD drive that was specked to 700MB before?

    How about a DVD drive, could you make a 5.5GB single layer DVD disc?

    I am curious to know...

    • by faragon (789704) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @04:54PM (#30675516) Homepage
      Already done, see the Sega Dreamcast discs: GD-ROM [wikipedia.org].
    • How far could the spec be pushed using a decent CD-ROM laser. Could you squeeze 1GB out of a CD drive that was specked to 700MB before?

      How about a DVD drive, could you make a 5.5GB single layer DVD disc?

      I am curious to know...

      I have bought a handful of 900MB CDRs

    • by mariushm (1022195)

      There are already writable CD's that can hold 870 MB by default, but they're not compatible with all CD drives: http://www.oystertechnologies.com/products.html#cdr870 [oystertechnologies.com] . 700 MB discs are common and compatible.

      Additionally, you can choose to lose the error correction information in favor of more disc space. For each 2048 bytes, there are actually 2352 bytes used on the disc. if you burn a disc in Video CD format, instead of storing error information in those 350 bytes, data is saved - this makes it possible t

    • AFAIK DVD and CD-ROM use similar red lasers. But the filesystem is often different (ISO 9660 vs UDF) and other things like that. There were proposals at the time Bluray was launched to have higher-density DVD using red lasers. Even the Chinese made some specs [peopledaily.com.cn] like this. But it lost out because the improved storage was not large enough to justify buying a new drive. Not to mention getting content in the format. Sony jump started Bluray adoption by adding it to every PS3 sold.
    • I have burned my share of 890MB CD-Rs. WITH error correction that is! (Not that Mode 2 trick. That would have given me even more!)

  • by DrXym (126579) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @05:19PM (#30675874)
    The Blu Ray spec is cast in stone - 25Gb single layer or 50Gb dual layer. There is not a chance in hell that video disks are going to appear supporting some other scheme unless it was backwards compatible. Even if every player was firmware upgradeable (unlikely), not every manufacturer would issue patches and only a small % of users would bother even if they did. There is no chance this would fly.

    The only place where the tech seems viable is for PS3s and games. Sony control the firmware so they can make PS3s read any format they like. The biggest issue is not every PS3 owner is internet connected to receive updates so if they just push new disks out some PS3s won't read them. Ordinarily, they'd put a mandatory firmware update on the disk, but the disk is unreadable without the firmware... So Sony probably have to ensure that firmware is pushed out beforehand or pack DVDs in with the game with the necessary firmware.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nine-times (778537)

      Well honestly, I would question how much bluray video disks would benefit from this anyway. I guess it would mean that you could squeeze more episodes per disc for TV shows, but that doesn't seem like a huge deal. The real benefit would most likely be to people who are using bluray as a data storage medium. I assume that there are some people out there doing this, using bluray as an archival format?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by CrashandDie (1114135)
      How about those fancy audio CDs that have multiple partitions on them? Play them on an old CD player and they play fine, put them in your Apple and two nice icons pop-up.

      New technology doesn't necessarily mean backwards incompatible. It just means new ways to think of something.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ZorbaTHut (126196)

      It's possible they could release a dual-mode disc, where a small part of it is encoded in the old format, including firmware to upgrade to the new PS3 firmware, and then the rest is encoded in the new format. Put disc in, "please update", finish updating, bam, game is playable. The user would probably never even realize that the disc was encoded in a different format (mandatory firmware updates are pretty much the norm on modern game consoles.)

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by sexconker (1179573)

      Even if every player was firmware upgradeable (unlikely), not every manufacturer would issue patches and only a small % of users would bother even if they did. There is no chance this would fly.

      I believe being firmware upgradable is a requirement.
      I believe players are supposed to accept firmware upgrades on the discs themselves as well.

      So when you buy a new disc pressed after your Daewoo BluRay player got hacked and had the decryption keys extracted, the disc won't refuse to play, it'll force an update. The update will scan your player, find out what it is, and issue new keys. Or some such.

      They actually did put revocation of keys into the spec. And it actually is in use - WinDVD or PowerDVD or

  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @06:30PM (#30676722) Homepage

    And in other exciting news, IBM has announced a way to squeeze 96 columns onto a punched card.

  • Seems like a good way to get people to voluntarily cripple their players. Just a thought.

  • Anyone else remember the days of "MFM vs RLL"?

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