Feeling Blu, more on SOPA, DRM, blah blah blah

It looks like VLC media player will soon support encrypted Blu-rayplayback. This seems relevant to the discussion started by Pete and continued by J (hardware) and Steven (software). I’d just like to add that AnyDVD HD should be legal to own in the US as far as I know, since it allows you to backup discs you already own. I should get around to doing exactly that, in fact, because all our Disney DVDs are getting scratched to heck.

Actually, its probably illegal to download a torrent of a DVD you already own but is too scratched to view, and using the torrent to burn a new DVD copy. But it shouldn’t be, which is why I return to my rant about DRM and the huge wasted opportunity that was SOPA activism.

Speaking of SOPA – great article at Big Think going against the grain, titled “Hooray for SOPA!”. I think it’s a great point to make, especially about how small content producers get screwed by piracy – just look at the state of plagiarism on Amazon’s kindle store. And also an Ars article about the recent takedown of filesharing site Megaupload, asking “if we can take down Megaupload under existing US law, why do we need SOPA?” (Ars is more diplomatic. My answer: because SOPA was never about domestic infringing sites, and thus was never a threat). Mark also had kind words for my earlier screed, and I wholeheartedly endorse his archived post about DRM and Intellectual Property – a must-read.


Mark has an anime meme that I think I’ll give a go:

• What anime are you watching now?

I am watching Samurai Champloo and Fate: Stay Night. The latter I’ve had on my hard disk for almost a year but only got motivated to start watching it when I saw that other otaku had started giving it a shot. I’ve only finished disc 1 of Champloo but I am already on episode 20 of FSN.

• What is your favourite time to watch?

In the evening, when I am waiting for Baby Otaku to finally stop fighting sleep, and sometimes during the day when I’m feeding her a naptime bottle.

• And your favourite place?

On the floor in front of my sofa (it’s comfy to lean against) watching on my television. I am either watching a DVD from Netflix or using AVI files on a USB stick attached to my DVD player.

• Who is your favourite auteur?

Easily Makoto Shinkai. Easily. I have my eye set on this but can’t really afford it right now. Patience is a virtue…

• Your favourite OST?

If we are limiting this to anime, then the only one I’ve been moved to buy so far is the Haibane Renmei soundtrack. It’s amazingly moving and ethereal.

• What is the most difficult anime you’ve ever watched?

Grave of the Fireflies. It almost killed my interest in anime forever (not to mention turning my wife away from anime completely, until Sugar came along).

• What was the first anime you remember watching?

Does Robotech count? if not, then Akira, like everyone else.

• Do you have a comfort show that you re-watch?

If I owned Samurai Jack, that would be my preferred one. I like rewatching Sugar: Snow Fairy with my daughter.

• What is the most erotic anime you’ve watched?

My answer will probably make some of you laugh, but I’d have to say Ranma 1/2. I’m just not into the fan-service titles and largely avoid them. I described earlier what types of anime interest me.

• Which classic should you have watched?

Probably Evangelion. I also should have finished Noir.

• Which series did you never want to end?

Ranma! which is good, because it never did 🙂 Seriously, though, I pretty much always want a series I am enjoying to never end. Though the two series I think I wanted most to continue indefinitely were Samurai Jack and Kino’s Journey.

• What is your most overrated anime?

I tried very hard to like a tale of ef, but I just couldn’t get into it. I have yet to find a single person who’s seen it who hasn’t loved it, so I am clearly in the extreme minority here.

• Which character could you have an affair with?
• Who is your favourite character?
• Which character do you most dislike?

In one sense, the answer to all three of these questions could be Reki from Haibane Renmei. However, in the interest of being more accurate, I’d say tsunderes in general for the first question, mahou shoujos in general for the second, and heroes who fail themselves for the third. This also means that I could just as easily answer Nayuta from Shingu instead of Reki for all three, actually…

• Which character do you identify with most?

That’s a better question than the previous three. I think in some sense, absent the physical prowess or skill, I identify with Samurai Jack and Ranma, which is why those series resonated so well with me. It’s the (male) hero who strives to do the right thing, and in so doing characterizes what it means to be a man, who appeals to me.

• Which anime changed your life?

Probably Robotech came closest, by almost making me fail out of my first semester of exams in college (finals week is a bad time to get addicted to anything, let alone a 50+ episode epic series). Haibane Renmei was the impetus for me starting this blog, which has also been a great thing for me.

Well, that was fun, and gave me an excuse to link some old posts for fun, too. I am unsure of the usual protocol for internet memes, but I am going to risk a faux pas and “tag” Nick, Astro, and Pete for the animeme next.

Philips DVP 5990

philips dvp 5990
Our old Samsung DVD player had been acting up of late – half the discs we inserted got a “no disc inserted” error and skipping had become a major problem, even on discs with no discernible scratches. So, I picked up a Philips DVP 5990 from Walmart yesterday evening, with an eye towards using it with the HDTV we will eventually buy. Note that Walmart is offering $100 gift cards for anyone buying a Blu-ray player (including the PS3) until next Sunday, but we didn’t want to spend that kind of money, so a regular upconverting DVD player seemed like the most reasonable choice.

The 5990 is a 1080p upconverting player, which makes it future-proof. There is a hack available to make it fully region-free, which is nice in theory but in practice something I am unlikely to need unless I buy DVDs abroad. More useful is the unit’s DIVX support, and the USB2 port on the front. This means I can load up video files that I’ve dowloaded onto a USB flash drive and play them on my TV.

Of course, my TV is still the analog set I’ve had for over ten years, so none of this will look as good as it does on my laptop screen, but eventually when we do go HDTV I am looking forward to having the convenience.

to 1080p or not to 1080p

Toshiba HD-A3 780p/1080iThe prices on HD-DVD players have started to move downwards at Amazon, with the HD-A3 model now priced at $99 and the HD-A30 at $129. The mail-in rebate for 5 free HD-DVDs expires on the 28th, so I assume that there will be further price reductions on the 29th, assuming they have the inventory. Both players come bundled with 300 and Bourne Identity, and I view the BBC Earth series as mandatory.

The question is, whether the extra $30 for the A30 is worth it. The primary difference is that the A30 supports 1080p output, whereas the A3 only does 720p/1080i. My intended use for this player is primarily as an upscaler for my standard DVD collection (and NetFlix), for an HDTV I have yet to buy (normal upscaling DVD players cost around $50-$70 anyway). Standard DVDs are 480p. As long as the HDTV unit supports 720p as a native resolution (which it should, regardless of whether I buy a HDTV capable of 1080p or just 1080i), then the 720p output of the A3 is all I will ever need, right? Even if I want to watch my HD-DVD discs at 1080i, few though they presumably will be, will I even be able to tell the difference between it and 1080p?

I can see myself in a similar quandary later when I decide whether to buy a HDTV at 1080p or not. I could just settle for 1080i as my maximum across the board and simplify things. I’d appreciate any suggestions or information regarding the matter, if you all have any.

Highly relevant reading: a piece at the NYT in which they talk to the founder of the Abt Electronics chain. In a nutshell, Blu-ray just isn’t a value proposition right now.

“Most people are happy just buying a better DVD player, instead of spending $350 or $400 for Blu-ray,” Mr. Abt said. “An upconverting DVD for $79 is a great value. It has a great picture, really better than an old DVD. You really see a difference.”
What about all the people who bought HD DVD players, prompted by Toshiba’s aggressive price cuts? Mr. Abt hopes he can at least partially mitigate their anger and frustration by pointing out how well the players can display standard DVDs.

“We have a lot of people who bought HD DVD players in the last few months,” he said. “We are going to communicate with them: you have an upconverting DVD player, enjoy it. You paid $150 for it, so you didn’t lose too much.”

And of course, we have less than a year to go before the digital switchover.

UPDATE: HD-DVD players in retailer inventory are now being described as “upscaling DVD players with HD-DVD playback“.