With the news that Samsung intends to stop making any more Blu-Ray players, people are wondering whether this is a signal that physical media is gradually coming to an end, particularly with streaming and catch-up services becoming more and more popular. Netflix titles will forever remain on Netflix, right? Providing that you keep paying the subscription?

I would argue that the world still needs physical media. Film and TV studios still haven’t assured consumers that content they buy wholly digitally will remain with them for the rest of the lives (and beyond), and that you can play them in a format that is reasonably open and fair. I can vouch that this is a legitimate worry – I had bought a fair number of titles from the BBC Store when it was alive and well, and even then there was a very big problem:

Access to the BBC Store content was a mixed bag. If I recall correctly, you (eventually) had to use a dedicated BBC Store app. BBC iPlayer apps across different platforms could access it, but for the most part, I couldn’t view the content on my LG TV or any other device that directly connected to my TV. I couldn’t cast content to the TV unless I had a Chromecast. Which I didn’t. I’m pretty sure the platform was more open at the beginning and then slowly killed itself by limiting itself to certain platforms.

By the time BBC Store had decided to shut up shop, at least the BBC had the good grace to provide a refund or voucher for use with a rival service. But this didn’t make up for the fact that not all of the content was available elsewhere. Had I bought the content on DVD or Blu-Ray (albeit for a more substantial price), this situation would never have occurred.

Netflix and Amazon, on the other hand, are available on pretty much everything these days – even ancient Blu-Ray players. The problem that Netflix now finds itself is in interactive content. Its Bandersnatch interactive episode works with modern Netflix apps, with a few notable exceptions – the main one being Apple TV. I seem to recall reading that Apple doesn’t allow the use of Javascript within tvOS apps which is the reason why Bandersnatch isn’t available there.

Another indication that physical media is being looked over is that TV companies are seeming not bothering to make Blu-Ray versions available of their TV show season boxsets. Fox, or as I like to call them, 18th Century Dodo (because they are nearly always stuck in the past) released the first season of their excellent sci-fi/comedy series, The Orville, on DVD only despite broadcasting in HD. DVD is not high definition. Why on earth would anybody want to buy something that’s lower quality than what was originally broadcast?

Channel 4 has done the same with a season 1-4 boxet of their excellent comedy, Catastrophe. Yet you can stream it via HD and buy it in HD on services like iTunes. But there is no Blu-Ray release. Neither is there a Blu-Ray release for Danny Baker’s Cradle to Grave. A DVD release, yes, but if you want HD, you’ll need to buy it digitally from iTunes.

Now let’s talk about iTunes for a moment. It’s by far the best ecosystem for non-physical media if you like movies. Not so much for TV programs. iTunes offers movies (many of which now come in 4K resolution – albeit if streamed via an Apple TV – no 4K on Mac, iPad or iPhone) that come with the kind of extras that you’d see on physical media such as behind-the-scenes documentaries and audio commentaries. iTunes for TV shows rarely does this – if at all. The only TV show I have bought on iTunes which come with extras and audio commentaries was Breaking Bad – the Deluxe Edition (seasons 1-6), and even that was problematic. I had to disable Dolby Surround to listen to the episodes which have audio commentaries. You can only listen to them when the audio output is set to Stereo. This is not a problem for iTunes movies which set the correct audio channel through the use of a special menu which comes with the movie.

But even after all that, you’re still not guaranteed that the movies or TV shows that you’ve bought through iTunes are yours to keep forever. There is always the chance that a studio or broadcaster could remove their content from the store, and thus your library. A similar situation to Amzon’s Kindle books (which has happened, BTW). And this situation can apply to any digital movie or TV show retailer. There is nothing in the terms and conditions to stop a company from removing content from your virtual library. And nothing to say that you wouldn’t be compensated, either.

So if digital media is on the rise, it seems that it’s because we like the convenience. For me, this is true. I DO like the convenience it offers – especially iTunes. I can stream to my TV, iPad and iPhone without faffing around too much. I have over 348 movies on iTunes along with a few TV shows that I’d like to watch from the iPad or iPhone if I’m travelling. So I am heavily invested in it. But I’m equally invested in physical media too. I have an UltraHD 4K player from Sony which I think is marvellous. I have an extensive collection of Blu-Ray, UltraHD 4K Blu-Ray and DVDs. Some of which cannot be purchased digitally (Studio Ghibli is one such company which has never released its content on iTunes, for example). I did have an Oppo 203 UltraHD Blu-Ray player which was discontinued as they were moving away from the audio-visual industry. It was the leading 4K Blu-Ray player of it’s time, winning many awards.

But it’s disheartening that TV studios – and maybe even some film studios – don’t seem to care about what the consumer wants. I understand that mastering and duplication of physical media is expensive. But the consumer deserves a choice. A choice I didn’t have when HBO’s Silicon Valley stopped being made available via Amazon on Blu-Ray. DVD only. I had collected seasons 1 and 2 on Blu-Ray, and now future seasons weren’t going to be available in the definition that I want? Outrageous.

What I don’t understand is that it is easier to rip the likes of DVDs than Blu-Rays – they don’t take up much space. So why hasn’t efforts been made to phase out DVDs and replace them with Blu-Rays? Much effort has gone to publicise Blu-Ray as a superior quality format. It’s backwards compatible with DVD, so people’s collections will continue to work. Is it case that people don’t really care about resolution or quality? Why bother with 4K at all in that case? Should we just laugh at 8K and future resolution updates?

Are we in the battle of VHS versus betamax again? It sure as hell feels like it at times. In any event, I express my bitter disappointment at the likes of 18th Century Dodo (Fox), Channel 4 and HBO for their decision to release content on DVD only. I doubt they will be the last to do so, but one can hope the industry gives itself a bit of a kick up the arse to show commitment to all formats. I despise piracy, but I know that piracy isn’t going to stop regardless of whatever efforts are made. But if the TV and film studios don’t do something, the pirates are not only going to give people what they want, in the format that they want, but they’ll probably do a better job at presentation too.

Disney continues to throw money at their live-action adaptations of all their classic animated films, and Aladdin is the latest. Unfortunately, judging from this special preview, they might have mucked things up a little.

Now, it’s important to note just how terrible trailers and “special previews” can be. It’s really difficult to gauge how good a film is going to be unless you actually go and see it. Having worked in VFX where it was often all hands to the pumps during trailer time to get work completed so it can be used, I can wholeheartedly sympathise with those working on this film. But alas, Will Smith’s genie just feels .. dead. And blue. Like a dead smurf.

As an example of deceptive trailers, back in 2014, the live action version of Paddington suffered horribly when he first made an appearance on the internet. He looked terrible. He looked.. creepy. Memes were generated in abundance. But people (including myself) absolutely loved the film. I’d even go and say that it’s some of Framestore’s finest work. The second film too is wonderful. I’d never thought I’d say that, but it’s true. Go see Paddington and Paddington 2 (available on Prime Video).

Blue people in film & TV #10323 РTobias Funké, Arrested Development

For those of us that remember, ILM did a marvellous job with The Mask, taking Jim Carrey’s character and bending and twisting him into all sorts of madcap characters. Then “Son of the Mask” came along, and it is, without doubt, the worst visual effects I have ever seen in a movie. One can only hope that with Aladdin, ILM have erred on the side of Jim Carrey rather than the sequel.

Blue people in film & TV #23213 – Papa Smurf

The rest of the VFX in the Aladdin special preview feels “meh”, like it could have been done by any vendor. Jafarr seems strangely far less malevolent than he was in the original animated film too. Nothing to me in this special preview or the trailer before that makes me think they have done anything special with this other than to plonk live action people amongst animation of a different type. Seems a massive waste of money to me.

The only two live-action Disney remakes that I have been impressed with so far have been:

In the end, however, does it make any difference? This is just a family film aimed at younger kids. And younger kids will watch anything. In fact, Disney could have saved substantial amounts of money and have had the entire film shot with glove puppets, or brightly covered twigs. The kids don’t care. As long as it’s bright, moves around a lot and makes noise, they’re entertained. They’re the ones not going to write up reviews of the film.

I gave up on WordPress.com because I felt I wasn’t getting value for money. Unless I forked out more money than I’m paying now – and annually upfront no less – there was no Google Analytics access and I disliked having to give up the ‘www’ subdomain. Then there are other technical matters which just couldn’t cut the mustard. So I’ve gone back to using CloudFlare, a CDN (content delivery network) and WAF (web application firewall), which sits in front of my VPS (virtual private server) to protect the server and WordPress application. As an added bonus, I was able to enable DNSSEC too.

However, one of the problems I have had with CloudFlare in the past is making it play nicely with WordPress.com’s Jetpack plugin. This provides additional features which are nice to have, but more importantly, allows me to use the WordPress iOS app to create and edit posts on the fly. Very handy if I have my iPad Pro with me and have the urge to write a blog post.

One of my favourite (relatively) new features of CloudFlare is the Firewall. This allows anybody to create a series of rules which grants or denies access to the underlying application. This is a big step up from the simple whitelisting/blacklisting feature which was very limiting and as a simple $20/month Pro subscriber didn’t allow me to block entire countries (a few of which are almost always entirely responsible for attacks and dodgy bots).

To get the Jetpack plugin to work properly, I had to create a brand new rule to allow a series of IPs from Automattic (who make WordPress) to access the blog.

CloudFlare’s new firewall editor is a big step up from simple whitelisting/blacklisting

The rules page is very simple:

We allow access only from WordPress.com IPs & to two URLs

The /?rest_route= URI was a result of examining the output of the firewall logs. I’ve not seen any other calls from WordPress.com using that URI as yet (but then again, I haven’t used it in anger fully as yet), so it might not be necessary. But certainly WordPress.com will use xmlrpc.php.

It works!

Prior to this, whenever I tried to associate Jetpack with WordPress.com, it would fail authentication, refresh the page, seemingly authenticate and that would be it. Nothing else would work. By applying the above firewall rule has made everything work as it should.

Last week I spent the week staying with dad in North East London, commuting to work via the Central and District Lines to Wimbledon instead of enduring the torturous South Western Railway journey from Woking to Wimbledon via Surbiton.

It’s amazing that despite it being the 21st century with all this wonderful technology, we still have to suffer a horrible (and expensive) daily commute.

The experience wasn’t bad, though it does take a while to get to Wimbledon when changing at Mile End. I like the District Line trains because you can walk all the way through them, and they’re big beasts. Even when you’re packed in, it’s not entirely awful. The Central Line, on the other hand, is a nightmare when packed. And it was often packed. I remember heading back to my dad’s place where we were about to pull into Leytonstone but had stopped just outside the station. I didn’t know this, and neither did the people that wanted to get off. The carriage was jampacked, and as soon as we started off again to pull into the station, the force sent me flying into a woman. I hadn’t been holding on to anything because I thought we had stopped and the doors were about to open.

Wimbledon is the black hole of the London/suburbs train network.

I will never understand why Tube trains have to be so full, with people happily (or rather, unhappily) invading other people’s personal space so easily. Given how frequent trains run, it really shouldn’t be a problem to wait a couple more minutes or so for the next one. Or the one after that. If a train were to be involved in a major accident, with a train packed to the brim with passengers is going to potentially see a significant loss of life. It’s amazing that despite it being the 21st century with all this wonderful technology, we still have to suffer a horrible (and expensive) daily commute.

Despite all the crowding of the Tube network during rush hour, there were relatively few problems with the network itself. It was around 8 quid less than I’d be paying to commute from my home to Wimbledon each day, including the buses to and from the Underground station. I did manage to find seating for the majority of the time on the District Line, even if it meant having to wait until Embankment or Earl’s Court. I occasionally got an end carriage seat on the Central Line, but not always.

Over the past year and half in my current job, I’ve found Wimbledon to be the black hole of the London/suburbs train network. So many trains run late to or from Wimbledon, plus there are only a handful of direct routes to Wimbledon from Woking that are convenient for working hours. This is in stark contrast to Guildford which ran regularly, and had very few problems. And before that I cycled or took the bus. Or bussed/walked.