Scott's Column
New Server, Android 2.1, DVD & Blu-Ray Sales

April 3, 2011
By Scott Lewis

This month I built a new server and moved all my storage to it. I also upgraded my  phone to Android 2.1. Finally, I decided to take a look at the state of DVD and Blu-Ray sales.

Current Topics:

DVD, Blu-Ray, Digital Download

The MPAA is complain that DVD sales are down. I don't know why they didn't see this coming. There are a lot of issues at play here. Many of them are the same issues the music industry faced a few years ago.

CD sales are falling due to digital downloading. This is not about piracy... this is about how people want to get there entertainment content.

iTunes is the largest seller of digital music. If you add Walmart and Amazon it is amazing that CDs sell at all. A lot of this has to do with the way the industry treats is customers. They will take an up and coming band and have them put out a record with 1 or 2 good songs, and a lot of filler. So the 1 or 2 good songs sell like hot cakes on iTunes and the CD collects dust on store shelves.

Movies are going this same way... for completely different reason. When someone buys music (CD or individual song) it is typically to listen to it a few times, or even many, many times. When people buy a TV show (such as in iTunes) some may watch it more than once, but the vast majority are watching it 1 time. At $1-2 per episode that is fine if you are just buy a few episodes here and there. But what about entire seasons.

TV Shows are all put on DVDs now (and some Blu-Ray). It is standard practice now to put TV shows on DVD. But you can get shows so old they came and went before DVDs even existed. Did you know there were 12 season of the original Hawaii 5-0. When I see them at Best Buy they seem overpriced. I regularly see priced around $35 per season. Amazon sells seasons 1-9 for $182.99, discounted from retail price of $279.98. Who is going to pay $180-280 to watch a show that went off the air 30 years ago. That's around $2 an episode for a show where most (if not all) the people involved in making it are long gone.

Only people with a lot of disposable income can afford to do this. And I have to image those people have more to do with there time then try and spend 200+ hours in front of a TV watching shows that are over 30 years old.

The same is true with movies. Current movies on DVD are still pretty expensive, and this is the real problem. You will only buy a DVD of a movie if you plan on watching it over and over... at least that's what the cost says. If you buy it to watch it once than you spent more than the movie ticket at the theater. Yes, you might watch it as a family and save a few dollars, but times are tough. People don't want to waste large sums of money watching old TV Shows or even rewatching current TV shows at these prices.

If the price was lower I would buy some TV Shows on DVD or Blu-Ray. How much cheaper... The price should be around $10 per season. I would buy Star Trek (The Original Series) on Blue ray if it weren't nearly $100 per season. I will not watch every episode enough to justify that expense. I would watch them all once in the new format, and then maybe watch a few episodes over again after that. Why bother buying it when I could use Netflix to watch it the one time and save a lot of money.

Plus... how long will people's attention last. If you do start watching some old TV show through Netflix... say something like Mission Impossible that last for 7 seasons... when would you get bored and stop watching. Would you be more likely to watch them if they were priced at $5.99 per season? The actors and all the people involved in making those shows get no royalties for the DVD release. Yet they still charge over $30 per season for MI. We all know the discs don't cost that much to stamp out.

If you sell 10 copies at $5.99 vs. 1 copy at $39.99 which will make more money. Which will keep the consumer happy and buying even more.

What about the digital copies of movies that come with your DVD and/or Blu-Ray purchase. These are installed on ONE computer and then locked to that computer. Why? What if I wanted the digital copy so I could put it on my media server and play it over the network through my Blu-Ray player, or Roku, Or Boxee Box, or Apple TV. Nope... not going to happen. I might as will stream it on one of those devices.

The MPAA doesn't want to let people have digital copies that are easy to use because of their fear of piracy. If the price was attractive piracy would go away, or be seriously reduced. Of course, the movie industry thinks that every illegal download is a lost sale. Hardly. At MOST it is a lost rental. At the least it is a LOT fewer people ever seeing it. I don't want this to become about piracy. It is so hard to quantify illegal downloads to lost sales that it would just muddy the water.

The real point here is that people want to watch this content their own way. DVD/Blu-Ray is a worthwhile way... but just to costly. They have recouped there investment in these technologies, yet they keep trying to get premium prices out of us. If they expect a trend of people building collections they need to make it more affordable to do so... and to create better content.

Here's another example... For years (really) I looked for The Six Million Dollar Man on DVD. I never saw it. I searched the internet and eventually found some half baked version of it. Then I saw Lee Major (Steve Austin himself) at Austin Comic Con... pimping the DVDs through a web site. The Price... $240. Ouch. This is 35 year old TV. How many copies will they sell at $240, vs. how many would they sell at $50 for all five seasons. It's just not worth it. And why is this show being sold this way. I can get season one of the Bionic Woman at Best Buy... and I don't have to go through some web site. But I can't buy The Six Million Dollar Man at Best Buy. This immediately strikes me as a quality issue. Will this be up to the quality of the TV Shows sold at Best Buy... readily to the public. Or is this like the infomercial stuff that doesn't get sold in stores. Oh yea... and you can't buy just one season... or one season at a time. You have to buy the entire 5 year series. That will limit sales drastically.


New Server

I bit the bullet and built a new server.. from a bunch of spare part I had laying around. If you are reading this you should be able to read it much better as it is coming from the new server. Can't you tell.

From last month... I decided NOT to use the original 320 GB drive that was in the old server. I wanted to... just so I could dedicate all data to big, fast hard drives, and I could just boot off the old drive and be done with it. Alas, the age of the 320 GB drive (4 years old) lead me to worry about the long term survivability of the drive, plus I can put that drive in place of the 120 & 100 GB drives in my old PC to freshen it up. Finally, my old PC gave up its viedoe card since the motherboard I had for the server did not have on board graphics.

So here is the current configuration:

Intel Core i5 CPU,
4 GB Memory
1 TB 6 Gbps SATA Hard Drive
1 TB USB 3.0 Ext. Hard Drive
1.5 TB USB 2.0 Ext. Hard Drive

I partitioned the internal drive to 50 GB for Windows Server 2003, 900 GB for data (yes, that does not add up to 1000 GB, but I can't control that). My web site lives on the primary partition with Windows. More than enough space for this site... even with all the car pictures from my Classic Car Watch column.

Overall that is a LOT of storage for multimedia content. I am using the 1.5 TB drive for the least needed data, as well as backups of critical data on BOTH the server's internal hard drive (the 50 GB partition) and critical files from my PC.

I spent a lot of time moving files around. I first had to make room on my PC to hold the 300 GB of data on the server's old hard drive before I could shut it down. Once the server was up and running I had to move a lot more files around to get everything the way I wanted it.

I now keep all video and music files on the server. I also have all the music on my main PC under my user (for the Zune software). I also keep all the podcasts from iTunes (video podcasts) and Zune (audio podcasts for listening in the car) on my PC. Finally I keep copies of videos that have been converted for use on the Zune on my PC.

In the end all is working quite well. I still need to setup some automated backups. I plan to have my PC backed up to the server nightly (on nights that I leave the PC running). And I need to research if I can do a complete image backup of Windows Server 2003 to an external hard drive. I have never lost a server, so I am not in a hurry on this. I will surely make a backup of my web site's folder structure to the external hard drive at the minimum.

The only real hiccup I dealt with was getting the old USB 2.0 drive working on Windows Server 2003. It would not see the drive. I did some looking online and saw that the Seagate FreeAgent drives are not compatible with Win 2003. I found that strange because that is were the drive has been for a few months now.

Before I tried to dig deeper into it I decided I should get the server buttoned up (the case was open to this point) so I ran all the Windows Updates. There were plenty. Somewhere along the line the Seagate FreeAgent drive just showed up. So one of the operating system updates must have worked on this.

My LG BD570 Blu-Ray player connects to the server just fine and I can play all my video content that way. I even managed to move all the 1080p videos I download from HubbleCast to watch in full HD glory over the network.

Now I don't have an external drive on my PC... and it still has plenty of storage since all my video content in on the server... available over Gigabit speed.

I once tried streaming uncompressed Blu-Ray rips over my setup, but it would stutter. I blamed it on the 100 Mbps on the LG BD570. I may have to try that again... except the software I tried that with expired (I only used the 30 day thing) and I deleted those files before I thought about this project. So I don't have any 30 GB Blu-Ray rips to test with my super fast server, to see if the old server was a bottleneck.

What's next?

Well, I have an older desktop PC that gave its video card to this project. It was an nVidia GeForce GT8500 card that cost me $67 two and a half years ago. That PC has an Intel dual core CPU and 4 GB of memory. I am going to get a video card for it and put the 320 GB drive from the old server into it. But that is a story for another time (next month hopefully).


Android 2.1

I have not seen any reason to upgrade my HTC Hero phone. It came with Android 1.5. The only feature I knew I wanted was being able to turn my phone into a WiFi hotspot. That requires Android 2.2, which is not available for the HTC Hero running on Sprint. So why bother with the upgrade. The phone does everything I need.

Two things happened that caused me to upgrade my phone. 1) The clock application stopped working. It worked... it just would not perform an audible alert. After over sleeping twice I was thinking I would have to download a new clock application. 2) Amazon came out with their own Android App Store. Amazon's Android App Store requires at least Android 1.6.

So I updated my phone... and I am glad I did. In the past I have complained about the Android Market. It is so much better looking in the version that installed with 2.1 that I regret not doing this a long time ago.

I also noticed that a few screens have slightly improved. For instance, the screen to add a contact is ever so slightly better than before. Just enough better that it really works better. However, this could be a HTC Sense issue, as they reskin the Android look, and this might be one of the things they have done as part of the Sense interface.

Regardless... I find the Android Market to be a more pleasant experience, and now I can also use the Amazon Android App Store. The reason I like the Amazon Store is because it is already tied to my credit card so I can conveniently buy apps through Amazon. I never even found out how to buy apps in the Android Market when running under version 1.5.

Next month I will try to cover some of what I have done with my "new" phone.



That's a wrap for this month. Hopefully I will get into Android 2.1 more next month, but expect some fun to happen with my "secondary" PC... that will come together from a bunch of spare parts... and maybe one new one.