rich warren | The library may be the best entertainment deal | Scientific technology


Internet streaming has finally overtaken cable. But don’t cry for the cable companies, because in most places they also connect you to the internet. In fact, that’s why many people still rely on cable for entertainment because the cable company offers a package that includes internet access. Recent reports indicate that 67% of respondents watch internet-streamed entertainment, compared to 61% who said they watched via cable subscriptions.

Even though streaming subscriptions tend to be expensive, they are still a better value than cable subscriptions. You only pay for what you want to see and you can subscribe monthly rather than locking yourself into an annual or multi-year contract.

Watching when it suits you (technically known as video on demand) far exceeds the fixed showing times on cable. With streaming, you always see programs and movies from the start, no matter what time you choose to watch them.

I can’t afford to try every streaming service, but my current favorite is Apple TV+. Even though we subscribe to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, we mostly watch Apple. It offers an exceptional number of high-quality and well-produced programs for $4.99 per month, making it one of the cheapest streaming services. Check out “Five Days at Memorial” and “The Morning Show.” Apple offers a one-week free trial, and the purchase of an Apple product often comes with a free three-month subscription. When I signed up for T-Mobile cell service, it came with a free one-year subscription. Apple, a company renowned for its sleek and easy-to-use software, uses one of the clumsiest and least user-friendly online viewers, at least when viewing through a PC.

The public library has the best home entertainment deal if you still own a DVD player. With a library card, you can select from hundreds of movies and TV shows for free and watch them when it suits you. This brings us to this reader’s question:

“I have a 2015 Toshiba DVD/Cassette player. I received newer DVDs from the Urbana library, and sometimes I get an ‘incorrect disc’ message and cannot play the DVD. The last one was ‘Licorice Pizza’ – I was about the second or third person to have it. Didn’t work, so I checked two other ‘L Pizzas’, and they didn’t work. (I had three copies at the same time – I guess they were happy when I gave up. I’ll see about streaming.) Any ideas?

There are many possibilities that could explain your problem. DVDs use much smaller pits that are much closer together on the disc than a CD. Thus, there is a critical tolerance for DVD tracking. If something goes wrong, there is little room for error. Also, if the library now has Blu-ray discs, they will not play on a conventional DVD player, although standard DVDs will play on a Blu-ray player. Again, Blu-ray increases disc density to even tighter tolerances, so any disc errors or defects can cause a problem. Most DVD players today are built so cheaply that they can fail surprisingly quickly. A 2015 player is old in player years.

Another problem could be the copy protection used on the disc. Although most drives include the latest copy protection keys, it is always possible that a particular disc is using a form of copy protection foreign to the drive.

Did the discs you tried play on the library players? Have you discussed the issue with the library’s A/V expert?

Typically, when a drive starts to fail, it starts rejecting all disks. You might have had to take “Licorice Pizza” to a local audio-video store to see if it played on the store’s players. If he played, then it’s time for you to buy a new player. You can buy a decent Sony Blu-ray player, which includes internet streaming capability, for around $80. It’s only about $40 more than a Roku stick or an Amazon Fire stick for internet streaming. Nevertheless, the library offers the best deal of entertainment.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime critic of consumer electronics. Email him at [email protected]


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