DVDs an obsolete technology?!

My Superior Self
18 Dec 2012
Rushing to Get There
4 Jan 2013

Élouise has a bit of a tradition involving the viewing of a favourite children’s animation on Christmas Day. The tradition has evolved to include any animation movie and, so, this year we thought we’d watch Finding Nemo. I own one of the DVD versions of this movie but since it is sitting up in Johannesburg we had to seek out a rental place in Simon’s Town.

The only place that was open by the time we tackled this particular task was a dispensing machine at one of the BP service stations. I’d not used the video rental vending machine before and I must say I’m rather impressed with its efficiency. All one needs is a credit card or vendor-specific movie card (which can be conveniently attained from the BP cashier) to rent a video as opposed to the copy of ID, proof of residence, and pint of blood needed to open an a account at a standard video rental place.

Aah, but I do digress. To cut short this tale, it turned out that the vending machine was not large enough to house titles beyond 2011 and instead of Finding Nemo, we went home with the suitable replacement, Disney/Pixar’s Brave, and a plentiful supply of snacks.

Thus began the night of discovery into the obsoleted-ness of the DVD.

no DVD!Now I reckon I can attest to the fact that DVDs and Blu-Rays still have a strong and firm place in modern society. One has only to look around at the number of home entertainment systems on the market, the wide range of titles available in stores both online and irl, not forgetting the aforementioned vending rental unit which would only exist if the demand did. Our society still keeps this form of movie and series distribution a fairly lucrative prospect, I feel.

At least, that’s the case in South Africa. Perhaps, it’s a different reality in the States; I haven’t done the research.

Because, as it turns out, US-based software behemoth Microsoft has decided that it makes more sense to NOT include DVD / Blu-ray capabilities in their operating systems anymore!

I jumped on the Windows 8 bandwagon sometime in mid November. Maybe it’s saying a lot that I haven’t watched a DVD video since the upgrade. I have been rather busy work-wise and been gallivanting across the country for most of December so I do have some excuse.

Still, I never even fathomed that I would insert a DVD into my optical drive and have no way to actually play it!

Some short Googling moments later, I learned the cold hard fact that Microsoft has determined that most new PCs and laptops coming out now are minus optical drives and, with the focus moving from disc media to streaming, there really isn’t any reason to pay the odd $2 per Windows copy for the licensing required to playback DVD and Blu-ray discs. Hence Windows 8 has absolutely no, none, nada support for DVD / Blu-ray playback. The built-in players will still read discs and even have the options to look for optical discs but will only read video files such as AVIs and WMVs.

Hope wasn’t entirely lost tho. According to the various articles, I could download Windows Media Centre for free (until January; it’s about $13 or so thereafter) or use the freely available VLC Player.

I would like to take a moment to point out that VLC is free software. That will play DVDs.

Microsoft is a billion dollar company. Windows 8 cost me R500 on the upgrade. It ships standard for around R2000. It DOESN’T play DVDs because of the licensing costs.

Think about that for a second.

Okay. Moving back to our little drama. It turned out that I can’t just download Media Centre. A key is required first. It’s still free but it will be only sent to me within the next 72 hours 2 weeks!

And VLC, which was already installed, kept crashing. Investigations revealed that VLC has an issue with the copy protection found on Disney discs. Brave was mentioned specifically in most of the forums.

By this time, the snacks were eaten and El had fallen asleep and movie viewing was still far from the horizon.
Eventually, I installed the trial of AnyDVD, an app that bypasses various copy protection methods as well as zone restrictions on DVDs, HD-DVDs and Blu-ray media. It’s quite a fantastic little utility if DVDs / Blu-rays are a prime source of entertainment on your PC.

Once this little app was running, Brave acted like a standard DVD and VLC could read it without crashing.

Needless to say, our Christmas movie watching became a Boxing Day activity instead. Brave was quite nice. Then again, I generally enjoy the Pixar fare.