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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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  • 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...

  • Makes you wonder (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ickleberry (864871) <web@pineapple.vg> on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @05:34PM (#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?
  • Pushing the spec... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jameskojiro (705701) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @05:35PM (#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...

  • It varies. I bought a bargain-basement DVD that my regular DVD player(advent) wouldn't play right, but the PS2 with the same disc played it without a problem.

  • by DrXym (126579) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @06:19PM (#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.

  • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @06:47PM (#30676198) Homepage

    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?

  • by CrashandDie (1114135) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @06:48PM (#30676230)
    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.
  • by ZorbaTHut (126196) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @07:13PM (#30676470) Homepage

    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.)

  • by sexconker (1179573) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @07:19PM (#30676548)

    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 whatever it is went through like 5 million required updates back when BluRay ripping was getting off the ground because hackers would just hook into the memory and pull the keys out. The update would move / hide / obfuscate the keys, and the hackers would do it again.

    If the current players can't read any section of the new discs, then yeah, they'll need to include an update disc with every disc for a while and work their asses off getting retailers and consumers up to speed.

    But I agree - I don't think there's anyway in hell they're going to black list a big swath of standalone players, nor will they release a new wave of incompatible discs (be it because of revoked keys or because of a new encryption scheme).

    There was a SHITSTORM when Titanic came out on DVD because it was the first major dual layer release and tons of players couldn't deal with it.

    Surely they've learned from this.

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LionMage (318500) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @08:19PM (#30677156) Homepage

    Optical is rubbish? Maybe if you don't care about archives. Yes, archival CD and DVD (and now Blu-Ray) media exists, and it's not cheap, but is guaranteed to have a century-plus shelf life after writing to it.

    Nothing else comes close in terms of longevity or durability. Magnetic media degrades over time. Solid state storage eventually loses its data, and IIRC on time scales far shorter than a century.

    Also, most solid state memory cards are tiny because of the applications/devices they're used in. They get lost and broken easily. Optical discs are actually an ideal size for handling and storage, and offer enough surface area on both the top of the disc and the carrier to print or write a fair amount of information about what's on that media.

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 07, 2010 @12:40AM (#30679070)

    Which is why some of my discs have this strange thing eating away the metal backing on the disc, burned once, put in a case, and never touched again. That data is irrecoverable.

    Uh...were they archival media [conservati...ources.com] like the person you're replying to mentioned?

    Even when it's not touched, it's shit. Until they lose the need for a reflective backing, it will always suck.

    Only if the reflective backing is made of a material that oxidizes. That's why archival media uses gold. If it doesn't oxidize, it lasts. Yes, it's expensive and there's no reason you'd want it for most uses. However, if you do want an archival solution that will last you a century, these really will work.

The bogosity meter just pegged.

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