Monday, May 5, 2008

Tale of Woe Part 1

I seldom have a need to "vent." Those of you who do, and you know who you are, will certainly share in my pain. I know that I am among friends. What began innocently enough about 8:30 this evening has turned into an all-evening adventure. My opportunity to sit and watch a movie before beginning the work week has been lost along with my wife's desire to unwind with some light comedy. As you know, I'm somewhat of a geek and overly patient with technology, but I arrived quickly at my wits end tonight. Without further adieu, I present to you my Tale of Woe.

Jason's Tale of Woe Part 1.
(Moral may be found at the end of the story)


(music queue)

"Turn back, turn back, turn back...." came the soft cooing of wisdom sneaking into my seemingly well-thought-out plan of not having to go to the movie store.
I should have known better than to have silenced that voice.

It began innocently enough. Beth said, "Let's watch a movie. Go to the store and get a comedy" to which I replied, "let's see if we can rent it on iTunes so I don't have to leave." I was playing around with my new ubuntu install, attempting to raise my geek to an entirely new level.

"Okay, I found it - can you download it to your iPod so we can take it upstairs?" she asked. "Sure, one minute, I need to re-boot."

A few minutes later I was re-booted back into Windows and had No Reservations ordered from iTunes (after updating my credit card). "Is it ready?" she asked, not knowing that the time table had been extended an additional 20 minutes due to the 1 GB high-definition download. "Uh, it'll be ready in 20 minutes - it's downloading."

In my brain I had done the math already. By the time I went to the video store and got the movie, came home and put it in, it would have been 20 minutes anyhow. So, I was still good. Just in case this was going to take longer I asked Beth to look on Netflix for the "Watch Now" feature - perhaps we could get it there? After a brief look, nope.

The movie downloaded from iTunes and I tried to get it on my iPod to no avail. A cursory look through Google results quickly informed me that it was not going to happen. Did you know that iTunes rentals don't play on iPods made before September 2007 (or thereabouts). You didn't??? Geez - everybody knows that!

Right... That didn't go so well. No matter, it was still a bit after 9 and I had time to pull this stalled plane out of its dive. Time would tell.

I thought to myself, "Self... Copy the file to your iTunes folder on your laptop and bring that upstairs and run the TV through the video out." So I tried to do that. Only, my wireless network was flaky and the copying was not going well.

(queue Motorola wireless router, stage left)
(crowd: boo, hiss, show no mercy!)

Yes, that's right, the wireless network was running somewhere between 1 Mb and 5.5 Mb, spiking to 48 Mb and then dropping back down. That never happened with my old Netgear router, but I was not going to change that out. Or was I? Not yet, anyhow.

So copying across the network was not going to work - but that was okay. I had options: Burn to a DVD and for backup, copy to a USB flash. And it was so.

Seven minutes later the deed was done. Files had been written and transported upstairs to the waiting laptop. The files were copied over and with a right-click "play in iTunes" the prompt came up, "Would you like to play this rental? You will have 24 hours to complete it." I clicked "Ok" and bam!

"This file has been authorized to be played on a different machine or device."

So there I stood... Laptop connected, playing on the 13" TV upstairs. And I laughed. I apologized, too, for taking so long. I said something like "I didn't think it would be this much trouble." Beth said that she knew it would. And I remembered the still, small voice, "turn back, turn back, turn back." But I laughed as well.

The end.


I wished. Um actually, no, it doesn't end there. This tale had just begun. Perhaps now you know my need to vent. Join me, will you?

So in my great understanding, I thought, "I'll get this on Amazon Unbox." Then we can begin watching this in a few minutes while the rest downloads in the background. At this point I did not totally recall the slow network issue that was sure to plague any downloading. I took the mental steps necessary to plan my attack and I clicked the "watch" or "rent" or "click here" or whatever it said button - and I had to download the Unbox player.

I downloaded the player and installed it, at which point the video displayed as "queued for download" with no way to move it out to the "download now or else!" group that I so desperately wanted it in. A minute or two later it began downloading... at 336k. My connection was jumping between 1 and 5.5, up to 48, back down to 1. It was crazy.

For the non-geeks among us, 336k is slow. It's much slower than this sort of thing should take. Yes, this Unbox download was going to complete in... drum roll... 15 hours. I laughed more. What else was I going to do?

Beth had already given up. It was now 10 PM - an hour and a half past the beginning of this idea and now almost to the point that a rented movie from down the street would have already been completed! My hole that I dug was now quite large and I was preparing to jump in. My task was not yet complete, though! If I could only find one more thing to try! March on, friend, I was not deterred!

Stay tuned for Part 2.

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