I hate it when technology turns on me…

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a large amount of technology in my home. I have 21 nodes on my home network alone. Since I used to be much more of an early adopter than I am now, some of this gear is getting pretty old, and some of it hasn’t seen a lot of use for a while. For example, last night I  hooked up my Pioneer surround system again that has been sitting idle since we moved TO Memphis, 4 years ago next month. This is indicative of most of my tech being used for recreation in one form or another, and since I don’t do a lot of recreating lately, a lot of this stuff doesn’t get as much use as it once did.

Everything started when my wife gave me a Sony BDP-S570 blu-ray player for Christmas. This device highlighted how antiquated some of my technology has become (or how quickly state of the art marches forward, and insert your time related cliche here). All 4 of our TVs are HD capable, but our “main” TV is a Pioneer PDP-4304 43″ plasma in the living room. It still gives a great picture. The display is still bright, it reproduces deep blacks (why we went plasma in the first place), and plasma TVs don’t have the artifact issues that LCD had when we bought the TV about 5 and 1/2 years ago.We’re been very happy with it, and I was sad to see Pioneer leave the TV marketplace.

When I attempted to hook up the blu-ray player I hit my first snag. The player is HD (obviously), and as such has 2 outputs. One is HDMI, and the other is RGB/component. The TV’s RGB input is already in use with my Cox Communications cable box, leaving HDMI. Unfortunately, it turns out that the HDMI input on the TV doesn’t work anymore. I am uncertain if it is the connector, or the input card it is connected to (the connection seems fine). The final result is I won’t be using this player in the living room unless I get the TV repaired or replaced. No decisions on that score yet. Plasmas have gotten comparatively inexpensive, which may make replacing it provide more value than a repair – depending on the cost of the repair. If we were not to go plasma, I’d want to keep my black reproduction, which limits us to backlit (as opposed to edge lit) 240Mhz LED – which is far more expensive than plasma.

So, the blu-ray player is now living in the office – hooked up to the Samsung LN-S3241D 32″ LCD that doubles as the monitor for my servers. It is a couple years newer, and has 2 HDMI ports – both of which work. Once connected, I encountered my next issue with the player.

One of the great features of the player is it’s streaming capabilities. It will connect to most of the major streaming services. Hulu works fine, and it has put quite a bit of time in on Pandora. Of course, what do I want to use the most? Netflix.

Setting up the player for Netflix requires only a couple of steps. First to connect to the Internet, and then associate your Netflix account with the device at Sony Style. You can’t search Netflix, but you can stream anything in your instant queue. Well, in theory.

Pick anything “old” – like older TV shows, pre-90s non-HD movies, and they work just fine. Anything current and you get an error that “the network is down” shortly after you press play. That was difficult to troubleshoot. I moved the player from wireless to wired, changed all kinds of settings in my TMG firewall server, moved the player outside the firewall, and nothing seemed to have an impact. I knew the network wasn’t “down” because SOME content would stream, and Netflix works just fine from PCs and from our Wii.

As it turns out the problem is a mixture of DRM and Sony. Basically, the player goes out to Sony via the Sony Style site, gets a token to allow DRM, and then goes to Netflix to actually stream. Unfortunately, Sony’s site is non-responsive. Either they are oversubscribed in the “everyone got a new device for Christmas” rush, or they are having plain old fashioned network issues. Just one more reason why I hate DRM. Its wonderful to have a piece of hardware that you own, with the express purpose to play content that you have paid for – but it doesn’t work because the DRM system is down. This is starting to remind me of my e-book rant.

Anyway, I’ll give it a week or two to get itself together and for Sony to fix their issues. If not, then I’ll have to return it to get someone’s player who doesn’t require me to route traffic through them to get to my content.

All that being said, I love the player as a product. it is feature rich, has an intuitive interface very reminiscent of the PSP, and does far more than I would ask a disk player to do. I have usually liked my Sony products, but you have to remember they are also a studio and own a lot of content, so they take DRM pretty seriously – even at the expense of their customers.


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