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Section :: Rants and Raves

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Blu-Rays – when Technology Goes Backward

Why DVDs are so much less annoying
Tuesday 3 April 2012.
 

The companies who distribute them would have us believe that Blu-ray discs are essentially better than DVDs. They have better picture quality, better sound, more special features….

So why is it that my heart sinks whenever I get a Blu-ray to watch? Simple. The damn’ things don’t let me resume playback. It drives me up the wall! Often, I like to watch a long film over two nights,. With a DVD I can stop the disk one night and, when I restart it the night after, it automatically plays from the point at which it was stopped.

With a Blu-ray, more often than not, when I play the disk on the second night, the damn’ thing goes right back to the beginning and I then have to spend a frustrating few minutes winding my way forward to the point where I really want to be.

I say “more often than not” since some Blu-rays do resume from the point where I left off. But these seem to be the exception rather than the rule. For a long time I blamed my Blu-ray player. I accused it of having bugs in its software. Now I discover that I was wrong to do so. It’s not the program in the player that’s at fault – it’s the program on the disk itself. The Blu-rays that refuse to resume have been programmed in Java!

It turns out that some Blu-ray discs (called BD-J) have been “enhanced” by a Java program that boots up when the disc loads. If you want to know more, read Sony’s FAQ. This program controls the playback and various interactive features (which I never use). A BD-J disc is obliged to load the Java program whenever it is run. So when you stop the disk you have no alternative but to start it up again from the beginning – then watch that slow Blu-ray loader animation, then try (and usually fail) to skip past all the adverts for films you don’t want to watch and all the warnings against pirating discs (these, if you had pirated the disc, probably wouldn’t be on it anyway). In short, the entire user-experience is calculated to be as annoying as it could possibly be.

For Heaven’s sake, chaps, just let me watch the damn’ film!

In principle, a BD-J disc should be able to support resume play (if its Java program is clever enough). In fact, they rarely if ever do. For the time being, then, I’ll do without the improved video and audio (which, in any case, seem to be vastly less noticeable than the publicity suggests) and stick with DVDs. Java-enhanced Blu-rays are a classic example of a technological ‘improvement’ that feels like a gigantic step backwards.

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  • Blu-Rays – when Technology Goes Backward
    24 April 2012, by Igor

    Huw, I think your frustration with the sort of user experience Blu-Rays offer brilliantly illustrates the main reason why so many people turn to downloading ripped/pirated movies off P2P networks, bittorrents and the like. I remember how a while back I bought a licensed DVD (that’s what they call them here in Russia) only to find that unlike the pirated DVD’s I’d been buying up to that point, there was a whole bunch of things on the licensed one I couldn’t control, like those movie trailers at the start that you can’t skip and then I found that when you switched the audio to English, you couldn’t turn off the Russian subtitles. That was the last time I ever bought a legal DVD, I mean I’m no masochist, I don’t enjoy paying for an experience which feels like I’m being raped. It’s like the entertainment industry doesn’t have a clue - make the user experience easy and enjoyable and people will be willing to pay for your content, but they instead keep making it as annoying as possible. And regarding Blu-Ray in general, imho it’s a total waste in the day and age of broadband internet, why not simply sell people access to HD movies online? Why produce even more waste in the form of those pesky laser disks that stop playing after a while despite all the hype about how they’re supposed to last for eternity?


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