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Technology Untangled: Blu-ray players also stream Internet video

Stephen Bour
September 14, 2011
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technology-bourThis summer, I was able to do a bit of research for the more leisurely side of life. I’ve had a large LCD HDTV for a while, and I enjoy watching high-definition programming on cable networks. I thought it was time to look into a HD Blu-ray disc player to expand my viewing options. Blu-ray discs provide a top-quality 1080p signal (1080 lines of resolution, progressive scan) while most cable feeds are transmitted at a slightly lower 1080i interlaced signal or even at 720p resolution. All but the least expensive Blu-ray players now also come with features providing for additional programming options via an Internet connection. Internet streaming allows for even more choices for HD programming through services like Netflix and many others.

Blu-ray discs, of course, cost more to purchase and rent, and it seems like there is a lot of competition from the other HD program source alternatives like cable and Internet. Because of these factors, I don’t think that sales of Blu-ray DVDs are anywhere near what the developers had once envisioned. So in an “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” move, most players now include the Internet streaming features. As a typical consumer, it gave me another reason to decide to buy the Sony BDP-BX38 HD player, and now I have the option of switching over to Blu-ray DVDs.

So how does the picture quality of a Blu-ray DVD compare to a standard DVD? It is better, but in my opinion, it isn’t really that much better. That’s because most standard-definition DVD players will now upconvert the signal from your regular DVDs to near HD quality. This is true for any player that connects to your HDTV via the HD multimedia interface cable. Without a direct A-B comparison, it is hard to notice a dramatic difference.

Internet streaming is the more intriguing feature of the new player. There are multiple new sources for on-demand programming for movies (Netflix, Vudu), TV series (Hulu), music (Pandora, Slacker), and other video sources (YouTube, etc.). Many of them are from the same sources that you can access through the Web with your computer. But on the player, they are packaged in an easier to navigate collection that you can operate via remote control. The bigger advantage is that they are displayed on your large HDTV instead of a small computer screen.

But you do need a computer to access all of that Internet video. Most of the streaming services require you to log on via computer to register and, of course, provide credit card information. Since the streaming player connects to the Internet via your home network, each streaming service recognizes and links your specific device to an account, which then authorizes you to purchase content with just a few clicks.

Programming cost is a concern to me. Many of the newest movies rent at $5.99 for the best quality HDX (1080p) feed, $4.99 for the HD (720p) feed, and slightly less for the SD (standard definition) feed. There is also an option to “buy” HD movies for $19.99, essentially an unlimited rental period. Watching just a few movies a week can add up fast. Subscription services like Netflix are a flat $7.99 a month, but they don’t have that deep of a selection of HD streaming movies, and the HD is not at the best quality.

Your Internet service cost may go up, too, since you also need a stable, high-speed broadband connection to take full advantage of HD programming. The cheapest connection speed may not suffice. You may also have issues with the speed and stability of your Wi-Fi connection, so a direct-wired connection may be preferable.

Plenty of free content is available on my Sony streaming player, but most of that is streamed at standard quality or worse, and much of it is time-wasting junk programming – amateurish productions of all manner of Web video. However, you will find some amusing and interesting gems throughout the clutter, and it is easier to navigate than wading through the individual websites with your computer. The streaming music services like Pandora are nice, especially when piped through a home theater surround-sound system instead of computer speakers.

One other cool feature with my Sony player is the Media Remote application. It turns your Android or iPhone into an enhanced-function remote control that works through your home network to control all functions of the player.

Overall, the best value for HD movies is still the occasional Redbox rental at $1.50 per day. Streaming HD video is the growing trend, so buying a device that can both play discs and stream video makes a lot of sense. I recommend that you try one to go with your HDTV. There are many Internet-ready Blu-ray players available for less than $150.•
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Stephen Bour (bourtech@iquest.net) is an engineer and legal technology consultant in Indianapolis. His company, the Alliance for Litigation Support Inc., includes Bour Technical Services and Alliance Court Reporting. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s.
 

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  1. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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