More bad Breaking Bad distribution foul-ups

Update: I’ve found the workaround.

A while back I mentioned how flawed the Blu-Ray edition of the Breaking Bad: Complete Series was in how it used cardboard cases that scratch the Blu-Ray discs, providing a horrible experience to people who have paid a lot of money for it.

Well, I thought I had a way around all that when I spotted Breaking Bad Deluxe series 1-6 (series 5 is split into 2 in order to bring in more profit) on iTunes.  It contains all the same features of the Blu-Ray, but none of the potential scratchiness of terrible packaging – plus the ability to play across all Apple devices.  So it includes lots of audio commentaries, extra features, documentaries and so on.

ALAS!

The audio commentaries, which are presented as separate titles, do not play on the Apple TV.  You only get the original episode audio for some reason.  I examined the info while playing the commentary episodes – there’s just one audio stream.  There’s no ability to switch to any other audio stream/track.  So where is the Apple TV getting the audio from if the commentary episodes are self-contained?  Or are the commentary episodes just containers pointing to a separate audio file that the Apple TV can’t parse?

The audio commentaries play absolutely fine under MacBook Pro iTunes, the iPad and the iPhone 7 Plus.  No problems at all.  But the one method I want to play it on – the Apple TV (and the latest 4th generation at that) – doesn’t work.

Fan-bloody-tastic.

As an experiment, I tried to stream an audio commentary episode from the MacBook Pro to Apple TV – nope – the original episode audio played.

Sigh.

I’ve dropped Apple quite a few reports about this, and I’m waiting for them to get back to me.   All I will says is: God help Apple if they tell me that I need to take this up with the content provider.  There will blood – probably mine as I bash my forehead repeatedly against the desk.

And film/TV studios wonder why people turn to piracy…

Google Play Music would be the best streaming service if only..

.. it had support for offline support for albums being borrowed on subscription.  Practically every other service has this.  Even more oddly, the mobile app does have offline support.  So why not on the desktop?  And speaking of desktop, there really isn’t a desktop version – you run it within a web browser.  I use Google Chrome – I’m a big Google user – but even I recognise that there are certain limitations with listening to music via a web browser.  I’d much prefer a properly written desktop app for Windows, Mac and Linux.  On the other hand,  even with Google Play Music operating in a web browser, the experience is 100 times better than Apple Music and iTunes!

Speaking of desktop, there really isn’t a desktop version – you run it within a web browser.  I use Google Chrome – I’m a big Google user – but even I recognise that there are certain limitations with listening to music via a web browser.  I’d much prefer a properly written desktop app for Windows, Mac and Linux.  On the other hand,  even with Google Play Music operating in a web browser, the experience is 100 times better than Apple Music and iTunes!

The real beauty of Google Play Music is that one can upload up to 50,000 DRM free tracks and access it in a browser or a mobile app along with the subscription music.  It forms a very powerful and well-integrated system.

So, Google, offline support for the “desktop” and/or a proper desktop app – and I’ll happy keep subscribing.  Which I will.  Until Amazon’s own music subscription comes along when I’ll be checking that out.

As for Apple Music – much trumpeting from Cupertino yesterday about a forthcoming redesigned service, but no mention of fixing server errors, iTunes Match muck-ups and all that malarky.  No apologies, nothing – and we know it’s affected a great deal of people.  Especially those who are heavily into their music collections – the very people Apple are trying to target.

My biggest complaint with Apple services that outside of the US, it’s pretty much a load of old rubbish.  I’m really still not happy with the speed of development of high-resolution apps for the iPad Pros.  I’m not happy with the tvOS uptake of video app for Apple TV (still no All 4, no support for BBC Store in the iPlayer app, no ITV hub, and unlikely that tvOS will get an Amazon Prime video app).   Apple may be providing the platform, but damn it if developers are taking the bait.   As for watchOS 3 – the speed differential should have been there at the launch of the Apple Watch on day one.  As for the other stuff – many features already present in other platforms or third party apps.  And they’re mainly niceties, not must-haves.

A last bite of the Apple pie..

Well.  I’ve decided.

Given that innovations in laptop, tablet and smartphone technology aren’t going to get much better over the next three years, I figure that Apple are pretty much done and dusted for a while.  They used to be a company you could trust – with a secure and tight ecosystem between hardware and software that put the customer first.  It was stable.  It was well developed.  It was decent.

But over the past 6-8 years, things have taken a turn for the worse.  We’ve now got multiple generations of iPads, iPhones, MacBooks, MacBook Pros, iMacs and everything in between.  Keeping these machines up to date with the latest OS is almost – but not quite – up to Windows standards.  Each generation and model use different components and that means that multiple drivers have to be included.  My almost 4 year old MacBook Air at work has been experiencing some random weird driver related issues over the past few releases of OS X (but with .5 release of El Capitain, things look to have settled down).

We now have four distinct operation systems: OS X, iOS, tvOS, and watchOS.  Maintaining each and every one of them must be a pain.  And for developers of these platforms, doubly-so.  My fourth generation Apple TV hasn’t been used very much because it seems that outside the US, little work has been made by UK TV broadcasters to put their on-demand services on there.  There is no All 4.  There is no ITV Hub.  And we can pretty much say bye bye to Amazon Prime given Jeff Bezos’ recent comments.

I’ve not found watchOS to be particularly brilliant if I’m honest.  Apps never operate standalone, and opening any app takes an age.  With my recent visit back home to North West London, it took two or three attempts to check in and out of TfL’s contactless barriers.  Almost all the time, “Seek Assistance” popped up.   I had to wait for somebody else to go through to try again – when I was then let through.  So Apple Pay is becoming a pain.

iPad Pro development is slow – all the recent comments I’ve made about the lack of higher resolution support still stands.  We then have the firmware bricking issue with the small iPad Pro.  There’s still no fix other than to have the hardware physically replaced.

Apple Music went TITSUP (Total Inability To Support Usual Performance) yesterday (so I hear – at least for some people), with playlists vanishing and even the ability to download purchased music.

I try to show a work colleague some photos from my iCloud Photo Library, and Photos on OS X went mental – showing other pictures instead.

Apple have lost the plot.  And I’ve figured that as Apple can’t be as bad as Android or Windows, I’m replacing my gadgets accordingly.  I’m still keeping the iPads – they still have their uses while they work – but everything else is being replaced.  I’m not going to have a smart watch anymore.  The smartest it’ll be is having the time adjusted automatically via radio signal.  My laptop will be Windows.  My phone will be Android.  I will accept these will be a pain in the arse on the odd occasion, but I’m willing to accept that given their development cycle.

Besides, I think I’ve become far too Apple-fied over the years.  I struggle to answer Windows related questions at work from time to time because I have never used it on a daily basis.  So I think I need to change that.  Plus it’ll help me fix family PC problems too.  And I miss the olden days of getting stuck under the hood – something you can’t do with Apple products now because they’re all pretty much solded to the motherboard.

I’ll post my experiences of switching as and when they happen.  But the first step is the Android migration which should take place over the weekend.  I’ve gone for a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge – one of the highest rating Android phones on the market.  The downside to it, however, is that Samsung is not known for rolling out timely security or major OS updates.  That’s one downside to Android – but Google are preparing to kick Android partners’ bottoms to try and rectify this.  We’ll see how well that goes….

Sky Trek: The Next Generation, with special guest star Q..

As my regular readers know, I am a streaming TV and movie junkie.  How far we have come from 3 channels to 4, then 20 years later, 300+.

Yes, I was there at the dawn of the fourth age of British television when Channel 4 came online.  As a little kid, (I’d have been 6 at the time) I would eagerly watch the test C4 transmissions until the channel launched good and proper.  And when I was a little baby, my parents took a photo of me with my face right up against the old 70’s CRT TV.

I have been, and always will be, a TV addict in some form or another.

So you can imagine my happiness when Sky launched their new service, ‘Sky Q’.  Memories of Spike Milligan playing this theme spring to mind:

But that aside, Sky Q is a new premium service that’s intended to allow multiple TVs and tablets to stream everything available from Sky (and let’s face it – Sky is pretty much EVERYTHING relating to TV these days), eventually give us 4K content (and let’s hope for no fee hike for it, otherwise untuned pianos will be aimed at Sky HQ), and provide for an overall better TV service than we have with the increasingly antiquated Sky+HD boxes.  The Sky Q Silver box can store up to 350 hours of HD TV and record FOUR channels at once (whilst watching a recording).

The other thing Sky has changed is that they will be lending you the equipment (rather than letting you flat out keep it).  Which will hopefully mean they’re replace or fix it should it fall over.

Oh, and it supports apps too.  So one hopes that you could have Netflix, Amazon Prime, MUBI, and other service providers on board for a truly centralised, no faffing around, streaming experience.  Unlikely given that we still don’t have an All 4 app for LG TVs or Apple’s tvOS.  Ditto for ITV. The streaming service industry is still too darn fragmented for my liking.

I’ll be able to hook Sky Q up my bedroom TV via the Sky Q mini box to the service at no additional cost, which is nice.  And the hardware is small and can be kept out the way.

Anyway, all this fun and laughter requires that I take out Sky Broadband.  But I have Virgin Media.  But I don’t have a landline.  And Sky Broadband is free for 12 months.  Which is when my Virgin Media contract runs out.  I’d consider going the whole hog and opt for Sky Broadband Fibre Pro Plus Distinction MegaSpeed (or whatever they’re calling their 76Mbs service these days) – but it’s not yet available in my area.  They have 12 months to get it in my area.

Not that I dislike Virgin’s broadband service.  It’s nippy (200Mbs download, 11Mbs upload).  The SuperHub AC router supplied works with Apple kit without crashing every 5 minutes like it used to (or with BT, every 2 minutes).  Super long lease times on the IPs (so if the broadband connection is every interrupted, I’m very likely to get the same IP – which is great if, like me, you have firewalls that don’t work with dynamic IP services).  I’ve not gone for a landline with Virgin Media is that the cheeky so-and-sos want 50 quid to activate the line.  Sky do not charge this.

So for a year, I’ll have landline and I’ll have broadband for the Q service.  It also essentially gives me a backup broadband connection if the Virgin Media connection goes down.   In a year’s time, I’ll evaluate what’s what and will either ditch Sky Broadband and stick with Virgin, or ditch Virgin and stick with Sky Broadband (hopefully upgrading to their superdupermegawotsit).

I intend to give Sky Q Silver the thrashing of its life over the next few months (once everything is installed – it does require an engineer visit) – and you can be sure that I’ll review as and when.