September 4, 2022

Rich Warren | Library may be the best entertainment bargain

Internet streaming finally surpassed cable. But don’t cry for the cable companies, since, in most places, they also connect you to the internet. In fact, that’s why many people still rely on cable for entertainment, since the cable company bundles a package that includes internet access. Recent reports indicate 67 percent of people surveyed view internet-streamed entertainment versus 61 percent who said they watched via cable subscriptions.

Even though streaming subscriptions tend to be expensive, they remain a better value than cable subscriptions. You only pay for what you wish to view, and you can subscribe monthly rather than locking into an annual or multiyear deal.

Watching when convenient (technically known as video-on-demand) far surpasses the fixed times of showings on cable. With streaming, you always see programs and movies from the beginning no matter what time you choose to view.

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

The public library offers the best deal for home entertainment if you still own a DVD player. With a library card, you can select among hundreds of movies and TV shows for free and view them when convenient. That brings us to this reader’s question:

“I’ve got a 2015 Toshiba DVD/cassette player. I’ve gotten some newer release DVDs from the Urbana library, and occasionally, I get an ‘incorrect disk’ message and can’t play the DVD. The last one was ‘Licorice Pizza’ — I was about the second or third person who got it. Didn’t work, so I checked out two more ‘L Pizzas,’ and they didn’t work. (I had three copies at the same time — I suspect they were happy when I gave up. I’ll see about streaming.) Any ideas?”

Numerous possibilities might explain your problem. DVDs use much smaller pits that are much closer together on the disc than a CD. Thus, there’s a critical tolerance for tracking DVDs. If something is slightly amiss, there’s little room for error. Also, if the library now features Blu-ray disks, they won’t play on a conventional DVD player, although standard DVDs will play on a Blu-ray player. Once again, Blu-ray increases the disc density to even tighter tolerances, so any errors or disc flaws may cause a problem. Most current DVD players are so cheaply constructed, they may fail surprisingly quickly. A 2015 player is ancient in player years.

One other issue might be the copy protection used on the disc. While most players include the latest copy protection keys, there’s always a chance that a particular disc might use a form of copy protection alien to the player.

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

Generally, when a player starts failing, it begins rejecting all discs. Perhaps you should have taken “Licorice Pizza” over to a local audio-video store to see if it played on the store’s players. If it 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 about $80. That’s only about $40 more than a Roku stick or Amazon Fire stick for internet streaming. Nonetheless, the library provides the best entertainment bargain.

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