If I let you in on the secret that the majority of the movies I watch end up reviewed on these pages, you’ll quickly realise just how few movies I actually sit down to take in – and with the recent closing of the deeply missed Movie Studio in Edmonton’s Garneau neighbourhood, perhaps the last great independent movie rental store in this entire stinkin’ town, this film-consuming pace isn’t on the rise either.
Since last Fall, my options for watching home movies are as follows :
i) Torrenting, which I haven’t done in a decade.i
ii) Netflix Canada, which has a sordid selection of second-rate refuse the likes of which wouldn’t put a middle class home DVD collection to shame, back when those were still a thing.
iii) Apple TV, which is about on par with PayPal in terms of actively funneling funds towards the enemy and, as we’ll soon see, user control.
iv) Buying physical discs from local or online retailers.
So there I was on a Friday evening, actually in the mood for a film, with no local rental store to walk to, no DVD retailer worth the bother,ii nor even a library open from which to borrow a title, and I found myself wedged into The Uncomfortable Box Of Lesser Evils, forced to decide between Netflix and Apple TV. Pretty sad, no ? Neither offers the casual wanderer’s serendipitous selection – that’d require aisles within which to spend a care-free half-hour browsing case covers and reading back-of-box synposes. Maybe this is what it’s like to live the consumerist lifestyle in earnest, where your search engine results are optimised to reinforce the same nonsense over and over again until you actually start to believe that the SEO’d results you’re presented with are in any way meaningful, and furthermore that their products are what you were actually looking for all along but would’ve never even known had it it not been for the heavenly manna of smart-technology.iii Maybe this is what it was like back when AOL ruled the roost, back when you could only visit website A, B, C, or D. I was a bit young the first go-around, but I can assure you that, as a young adult now, this curated digital environment charade holds all the appeal of a “bed” of hot coals that one’s forced to sleep if one wants to “sleep” at all. What, a bed is a bed is a bed !!!1 Stop complaining and start lying down. Quietly now. Good boy. Shake paws ? Myeah, that’s pretty much it.
So it came to be that The Aviator starring Leonardo DiCaprio was rented from Cupertino’s cloudfarm for $4.99, and after just 54:44 of blue-coloured beet fields (the picture was fucked, showing greens as blues for no particularly good reason),iv the thing decided that then and there – right when Alec Baldwin was about to deliver his first line in his role as the founder of Pan Am Airways – was the perfect moment to cut the audio feed altogether. Fuck. That. Upon restarting the film (not the box… yet), the whole feed just plain froze, informing me that I would have to wait 5 goddam minutes before the program would be buffered and ready for action again. Buffer my left nut. I pay good money for a more-than-adequate Internet connection and the rest of my network was humming along just fine – Apple TV had no excuse. So I restarted the movie one last time, verbally threatening the black brick with one-way airplane ticket off the balcony if it tried anymore funny business. Continuing where it left off, right around the 54-minute mark, the thing had the gall to tell me that it would now be 52 minutes of buffering before it would allow me to continue my movie night. So swoosh opened the inner balcony door, swoosh opened the outer balcony door, and fling went the 2nd-generation “smart” device, 100 feet towards its concrete-padded grave.v
The next morning, as the low winter sun crept over the frosty horizon, I gazed out my window to see if one of the neighbourhood’s homeless had found the gizmo garbage and made it into the ashtray it deserved to be. They hadn’t – so I went down to pick up the remains, somewhat surprised to find that only half of the clamshell case had popped off, and only the power supply had dislodged itself from the casing, although it remain connected to the board.
Revealed therein was a variety of third-party (non-Apple-branded) components, including 8GB of Toshiba NAND flash storage,vi which, should it have been storing anything of value, could have been reverse engineered to restore its contents, if with considerable difficulty.
The craziest part ? The hunk of junk still had the audacity to work ! This, after I’d thrown it overboard for mutiny, left it overnight in the damp Canadian cold, stripped off all the thermal pads and protective bits, and generally poked and prodded at the thing (if a bit in the way a baboon looks for files “in the computer”).
After plugging in the deconstructed remains, the Apple TV had only forgotten the name and password of my home wi-fi network. Seriously. WTF. Why won’t this thing die ?
Dear Apple, no one gives a shit if your roachboxen can survive an atomic bomb, what good are they if they won’t show accurate colours, consistent sounds, and entire movies on-demand ?
Plox to unbreak movie rentals.
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- The latest bout of bittorrent client ransomware doesn’t exactly inspire confidence either. As far as I can tell, you basically need a box just for torrents, which, hey, given that I already have 4 desktops and 3 laptops, maybe it’s an unreasonable addition to the line-up. [↩]
- By which I mean I’m not paying $10-30 every time I want to watch a new movie, one that I’m highly unlikely to rewatch. I fully expect that children’s movies will be worth purchasing physical copies of when the time comes for that, but it’s not here yet! [↩]
- Obligatory :To tie this in to another domain, this is pretty well the same as having a car “drive itself,” as if this could lead to anything other than uncreative destruction. [↩]
- The Apple TV menus resolved colours properly, it was just the movie feed that was borked. [↩]
- Not that the box was completely to blame, but Apple’s server farms weren’t in missile range at the time. [↩]
- As you can see, iFixit‘s teardown model came with the Samsung NAND flash chip, whereas my
now-deceasednow-mangled box had the Toshiba chip. This discrepancy serves to remind us that Apple’s unprecedented success between 2006 – 2013 was fueled in large part by their strength in pitting component manufacturers against one another other by dangling career-making contracts in front of hungry Asian mouths. The results were massive margins for Apple and quarter after quarter of record profits for shareholders, including yours truly at the time.
If you’re curious to dig deeper into the Apple TV, iFixit’s teardown page has all sorts of details on the A4-powered puck that we won’t even try rehash here. [↩]