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February 21, 2010

(pirated) usage of stuff (DVD and BD and other)

Filed under: Data,Death,Film,Usability — see @ 1:49 pm

Reading “buying DVDs vs pirating them” reminded me again that I wanted to rant about this stuff  (again…).

Using DVD as a normal innocent user is a pain (for more see article):

  • handling constrictions preventing the user to skip stuff like unwanted trailers, REALLY unwanted trailers about “copy is a theft” (WTF, I bought this DVD!), long menu animations and the really annoying “warning, do not copy” signs in up to 50 languages or more!
  • region code bullshit
  • not easily (e.g. officially forbidden by law in Germany and elsewhere) being able to make a backup copy (DVDs are delicate, I had a few ones lasting 2 or 3 years only :( )
  • lots more…

Using BDs is about the same if not worse as copy protection handling via HDMI is just unbearably slow.

CDs with copy protection (which seem to get out of fashion finally) and their specific problems (incompatibility with cars, computers, even security problems – I somehow recall a rootkit there) are about the same category. The music industry seem to have (painfully)  learned a bit from the past years but still seem to not fully understand what their customers want :( There are hardly any hidef music downloads available despite more and more users would be able to use and enjoy them (ranting about MP3 music downgrading and people being educated to accept this crap is another story…)

Even stuff like the iPhone could be added to this. Otherwise no one would have developed Jailbreak in the first place…

All share the same annoyance: Having to deal with constrictions which are not technical (these would be understandable even for an ignorant user) but are purely arbitrary.

Mostly I am annoyed that when I do use this stuff normally (no ripping etc) I am being cheated. Pirates have the better experience. And a good experience is what all the media are made for in the first place, are they not? So somehow producers force people to cheat on them which in turn makes producers feel forced to add more constrictions – vicious circle.

Producers seem to ignore what people want but focus on what they the producers need. This may be ok upto a point but totally ignoring the demands of the consumer is just plain stupid.

I don’t think ranting about this stuff will help at all but what can you do?

More and more people seem to not buy CDs anymore, rip their DVDs or even BDs, Jailbreak their iPhones (I guess roughly half the men I know do this, BTW, iPhone seems to be male only anyway…) etc.

But pirating is not my preferred method and actually I wonder why people in the creative business especially (to which I count designers etc but also IT people, who understand the difference between a technical and arbitrary constriction even better) use some kind of pirating which they would strongly argue against when dealing with their own “creations”…

Solution? Highly unlikely to happen but a producer should research what a consumer wants and offer a product which fulfils these wants without destroying the experience. I still naively think the better product will win…

(pirating) usage

May 2, 2009

Blu-ray blues…

Filed under: Death,Film,Usability — see @ 12:20 pm

I do like watching movies. I used to go to the cinema very frequently (there was a time in which I went more than 200 times in a single year). I totally passed on Video as the quality never was good enough (and I also never had the money to buy a decent TV and VHS at the time ;) . And VHS just was not anywhere near cinema quality.

When DVD came out (and became affordable) I got a player and also a projector with which a cinema like experience at home was almost possible. I did not get any high-end player nor projector but still the experience has been worth it and it is affordable. Also starting at that time I like watching movies in their native language which is a real problem in Germany as most films are dubbed and not just subtitled. This is the main reason I do not go to the cinema very often these days. At home I can see movies in their native language (it takes a while until films are released on DVD etc but this time has been getting less and less recently and I think almost bearable now). See also An Epic Fail which is very interesting.

So naturally after HD came about I was thrilled. Even better quality! No way to afford a full HD projector yet but 720p projectors have been quite affordable for some time now and even on these HD makes a difference (depending on the quality of the film of course ;) .

I watched the dreadful battle between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray which is one of those needless but self-destructing things in modern technology it seems. In the end HD-DVD (being the better technology it seemed) lost. But as BD-players were still much too expensive and I did not want to get a noisy power-hungry monster like the PS I waited. HD-DVD players were in sale and the price was as low as a middle class DVD player and so I got one of the last ones. The player was good enough or even better than my old DVD player so it replaced it.

Films on HD-DVD were quite cheap as well (at least not as outrageously priced as BD still sometimes is today – a movie for 30€?!) and near normally priced DVDs (which is somewhere a movie ticket for 2). I got about 5 or 6 movies which I sometimes already had on DVD but all of them were worth the (now sometimes doubled) investment. Very crisp and clear image, films like 2001 are just made for HD. Also the menu system was nice. Nothing too fancy but menus popped up quick and just on top of the film (so a quick change in e.g. subtitles etc was easy). Also for most films each extra showed its duration which sometimes is very interesting. A making-of has a range between maybe 5 and 200 minutes and knowing that beforehand is nice. Of course the player had some drawbacks. It was dead slow until a disc was finally running, sometimes upto a full minute. But all in all the experience was enjoyable. The main stuff – the movie – in good quality, extras were good and easy accessible.

Of course I knew HD-DVD was a dead technology but as the price I paid was hardly more than what I would have paid for the same stuff on DVD it was totally worth it.

Then, I think this year, BD-player prices finally came down to affordable ranges and also movie prices finally came down. Also the range of movies available on BD is high enough that not only last years blockbusters are available now but also classics like Kubrick films, the Bond movies, and generally movies which are not in their kindergarten age but like Planet of the Apes are from the sixties and older. Even some Hitchcock movies are at least announced.

So when a very nice offer came along I finally got a BD-Player. New generation but very decently priced and a player which had good reviews in every magazine and online review.
I don’t think the player is bad and I also don’t think that my player does anything very different than other players on the market (ignoring high-end ones for now). I guess any player from any brand is at least similar. Sometimes a bit slower, sometimes a slightly better image but all in all exchangeable. So my problems with BD are not with my specific player. (One point: My player does not have a subtitle button which I would like to have as I need about 5 clicks to change this. Very annoying).

But I think BD has problems…

First, reading a BD is as slow as reading a HD-DVD. This will improve with new models but it is painful. During the player reading a disc for the initial time it flickers between funny images like a complete blue screen, a wobbly black and green one and other stuff. This is the same when I start up my PC but I want a home consumer technology to hide this.
It seems handling the HDMI HDCP handshake and handling the BD copy protection the player is so busy that it simply is unable to show anything decent.
Also the “Reading” message is shown as frequently as the typical “LOADING” on any PC-game or modern Flash based websites…

So the player is slow but the real problem is that EVERY TIME I press the button to go to the main menu it takes time. It seems the menu has to be read from scratch every time. HD-DVD was much better there, menu popup was almost instantly there.

Generally the menu system is really strange. I guess any publisher does his own menu so there are no best practices yet. So any publisher makes his own mistakes how to structure and navigate the menu. (BTW, no BD I have seen until now had duration information on any extra feature which HD-DVD discs had and which I liked – maybe it is just coincidence). The possibilities in designing a menu for BD are much higher than for e.g. DVDs but with this power also comes a higher responsiblity (sorry for this overused quote ;) . It seems hardly anyone tests if a menu is usable at all.

Two examples:

On X-Men 1 the extras have lists of parts or subfeatures. These are “scrollable” with a click but they do not rotate which is annoying in a list of 12 items and you are at the bottom but want to the top of the list which then takes 12 clicks. Also going back to the menu takes about 3-5 second every time I am finished watching 1 extra which is most tiring when I have like 30-40 extras all in all…

The Zodiac BD menu is much simpler (basically a one screen menu like a sitemap which is actually good) but navigating this menu is not self explaining. The Menu has 3 columns which you navigate up/down by using the cursor up/down keys on the remote. I would expect the highlight cursor on the screen to move to the top of the next column if I am at the bottom of the column before. But that does not work. I have to use the cursor right and left keys to move between columns. Ok, let it be so. But I also have to be on the proper height in a column to move to the left or right! If I am at the bottom on col 2 I cannot use cursor right as the right column has no selectable items at this point… (BTW my player locked up totally once while navigating the menu which is really strange given such a simple menu with no animation or any other fancy stuff. I had to shut the player down completely which took about 30 seconds as it did not wanted to shut down. I am patient so I did not pull the power cable but I wonder what would have happened…)

Another problem is the handling of buttons in the menus. It seems most menus just use the cursor and ok buttons on the remote. The remote also has a “Return” button which is used in the player setup menus. So I expected to be able to use it in disc menus too. Returning from a deeper level of the menu to a higher would be a reasonable function of this key I think. But all I get is a player message “This function is not available at this time”. This seems to be a standard message if a key press it not supported (Also e.g. when trying to get to the menu during the dreadful legal message screens after some movies which are shown in 10-30 languages. But this is a DVD problem too…). But I get this message on almost any second press of a button which is just strange. I simply do not feel comfortable with such a control. And I guess people not familiar with technology generally just think the disc is broken…

These are all minor annoyances. But should a new technology not be better than an older one? Watching a DVD is quite simple, menus are basic but simple to use, menus are generally quick and also loading of a disc is quick. BD is generally slow, sometimes unbearable. And why? One reason is the copy protection which makes the player so busy it cannot even respond at times. And it is known no copy protection is safe forever (not even years) so a IRONY:”feature” I don’t want and does not help anyway does even annoy me?
I don’t copy movies, I do buy them. But I have to live with a handicapped technology. I did not even mention region codes…
The usability problem of dics I guess will not be solved as it would force publishers to test any new menu. Website usability has improved over the years (still not perfect of course) but I think BD menu usability is not even recognized as a problem yet.

In former times products were developed for a need and to help the customer (at least that is what I think). BD just seems to cause problems and being able to watch a movie in good quality is just a side effect. The greatest fear I have is that it will even get worse in the future (BD+ copy protection is on the way but what madness will the next technology after BD have)…

August 2, 2008

lost mail…

Filed under: Death,Web — see @ 1:53 pm

despite my freudian misspelling of mail (male ;) I lost all mail which I got on friday August 1…
Thunderbird got confused while handline over 500 of “:o) ” referred emails and simply seems to have swallowed all still in my inbox. Very annoying.

Luckily I don’t too many really important emails (hopefully I do no offend anyone with this statement ;) but please resend any mails you may think I should have read or answered (but did not). Thanks a lot!

June 14, 2008

Wordle of my thesis

Filed under: Death,Design,Fashion,Life — see @ 3:56 pm

as Matwan did it for his writing, here the Wordle for my thesis which is a bit older but the image is neat:

April 3, 2008

Good programmers MUST use OS X ???

Filed under: Death,Life,Programming — see @ 9:07 pm

normally do not partake in all these Mac is better – Windows is better – Linux is better stuff. But An article on “Loud thinking” actually annoyed me. Some excerpts:

OS X offers the best personal computing experience available today

This may be different for different people. Simply historical reasons or personal stuff effects this judgement, so this does basically says nothing.

If you don’t care enough about your tools to get the best, your burden of proof just got a lot heavier.

I actually do care a lot about the tools I use. That is the main reason I do not use OS X. A tool you have problems to work on without a mouse is a tool that makes you not as productive as you could and want to be. I am no vi hero but simply to control a browser with the keyboard makes me more productive. (OS X without a mouse is like eating without hands.)
There are other reasons why people think one tool/OS is better than another but again denying peoples differences is too simplifying. Denying peoples’ reasoning is a tiny bit ignorant.

Besides I don’t think the OS is the main question today. More and more apps are available on the web (Maps, Office, etc), so to be able to have access to a good browser (be it Firefox on Win/OSX/L) or Safari (OSX/Win) or maybe even Opera) is the more important question. Not so important the question if you use that on Windows or Mac OS. Also the question of programming language is more important than on which OS you are developing it on. Most languages are more or less plattform independent. And also the infrastructure (IDE, Versioning, Server) most of the time is available for at least Windows and Mac (Java, Python; Javascript being even more independent mostly running in the browser).

If you have any desire working for the rising rank of companies building their business on open source technologies, you don’t want to carry a liability like that around on you resume.

Maybe one should first look how “open source” the “alternative” Mac OS is. How lame can one be to say “I do open source and therefor use OS X” but depend on one of the “closest source” companies imaginable? If Apple would be bigger than MS I fear it would even be more evil if one defines MS as evil. “iTunes”, “iPod” and even the Mac Hardware is the stuff MS is dreaming of….

(BTW, isn’t the productiveness of the developer (in any aspect) it’s main value?)

Armin has a very sharp answer to the post too but I think his final conclusion just says what the situation actually is like: Any plattform has it’s strengths and weaknesses. Denying peoples intelligence is ignorant and arrogant. Where does it stop, does wearing white shirts instead of black turtlenecks make you suspicious too?

November 5, 2007

wasting time

Filed under: Death,Java — see @ 11:51 pm

On my more private site I have a massive problem with spam send via the contact form (which all ends up in my mailbox as there is (as far as I know as least) no way to use it to send mails to other people but still :( ). So I thought putting recaptcha on the form just like on this blog. Problem is the contact form is JSP which I build a couple of years ago (when still interested in Java). Today just doing all the stuff you need to do when writing Java (e.g. compared to Python or Javascript: all these “;” or just the compiling, baah) is just awful and makes no fun at all. Luckily the java implementation and the example provided are very very good and easy to use. I just forgot to generate a new recaptcha ID for the different domain…

I hope this whole undertaking (more or less more than an hour wasted) helps at least getting rid of all this meaningless spam. Actually all mails coming from the form was almost always considered spam by me so it may have been easier to remove the form completely…

October 13, 2007

ads that look like content and even worse…

Filed under: Death — see @ 11:47 pm

Ads that look like actual content but are not are known for quite some time now, the first I personally noticed were ads in FACE (print) magazine (R.I.P.) some years ago which looked like normal articles but actually were ads only noticeable by some small print “Adverticement” hidden in a corner.

Website ads use the same technique of masking ads as content but I never seen one as bold as on http://www.hifi-forum.de (may not be the only site using this kind of “marketing”):

Screenshot

It actually looks like the yellow Internet Explorer warning bar at the top of the window which normally is used by the browser (and not the websites content) to show infos about a missing plugin or problem with a site (I think the Firefox bar coming up if e.g. you try to install a plugin from an unknown site looks similar). To do something like this in print one would have to put in a fake TOC or use the actual page numbering for ads I guess…

IMHO this kind of ad is more like phishing than ad (maybe one can consider any ad a kind of “phishing”). Anyway it does make the website absolutely non-trustworthy. In this case not very important as it is a forum about hifi stuff (probably visited mostly by freaks like me ;) ) but I also guess this will inspire other sites to do something like this…

BTW, is there a word like “inspire” which the here intended negative notion?

May 17, 2007

only solution a whitelist?

Filed under: Death,Uncategorized — see @ 9:11 pm

I get about 200+ spam emails a day for some days now. There seems no possibility for Thunderbird to recognize these and 200 or more compared to about 2-10 wanted emails a day is simply too much. The only solution seems a whitelist which I effectively started today. I guess there will be mails being lost to me but it is way too much hassle going through 200 mails every day (not even counting the ones being reported as spam by my mail program). I am afraid if I cannot check my mails for a day or two as then the stack piles to nearly a 1000 emails which simple takes too much time to look through.

So if you really need to contact me and you are not someone I expect a mail from I don’t know what a reliable way there is anymore… for the people who have my phone number that’s ok, for others you may want to use the comments on this blog which of course are filtered too and I take the time to look through only about once a month as the ratio of spam to wanted comments is even worse of about 100:1 not counting recognized spam of course.

So this post is filed under death, and I guess emails is like that now, nearly unusable as I guess I even have not one the highest email/spam traffic of even the limited amount of people I know. Sad.

March 27, 2007

Casino Royale on DVD and Blu-Ray

Filed under: Death,Film — see @ 7:53 pm

More or less the day after it came out I got the DVD of Casino Royale, the lastest Bond movie. I was pleasently surprised when it came out last year in the cinema, saw it only once though, guess due to lack of time. So I was quite eager to get the DVD, also because I assumed the extras are as good as the ones on the older Bonds which are about the best DVD extras you can get (Lord of the Rings is fine too, but almost too much…).

Watching the film on DVD is still good but the quality of the DVD picture is not what a good film like this deserves. I noticed during the opening titles that the whole picture is not as sharp as it could be (compaired to other DVDs). The sound is ok, but the picture is really not good.

I have thought before a company which produces Blu-Ray discs (and a BD player/gamestation ;) would not be too eager to produce DVDs as good as technically possible and this seems exactly what happens. The review of both the DVD and Blu-Ray version on german DVD magazine AreaDVD (see google…) sadly affirmed this thought.
The review says that both versions have a strange coloring (so no winner here, but still not a good reference to the DVD producer) but the DVD is really NOT sharp, the BD is…

I know BD being HD should have a sharper picture but a DVD can be better. I guess it makes more sense for a BD and DVD producer to hype BDs, still not good style…

The whole HD thing is quite annoying already. Having copy protection which is only a hassle for me as I do not copy DVDs or CDs at all but like to have the best quality which for example with a copy protected CD is certainly not what I get, maybe even another region code madness (which AFAIK is in the pipeline at least for BD), 2 different HD formats (HD-DVD and BD), expensive players and discs and now it seems DVD gets worse quality just to be able to promote HD better…

BTW, the DVD extras are just lame, nothing compared to the really interesting features on the older Bond films. Maybe I should have bought the single disc version (but of course I got the 2 Disc Special Edition). Maybe next time I should wait for a review first…

February 10, 2007

Water Madness

Filed under: Death — see @ 6:22 pm

how much water, fuel etc is used to sell one bottle of water in the U.S.

nothing to add really

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