Breaking Breaking Bad Bad Blu-Ray – Sony’s cheap and flimsy Breaking Bad: Complete Series

Update (26th Feb 2017): If you thought it was any easier on iTunes (which offers a Deluxe edition of Breaking Bad with audio commentaries and lots of extras), it doesn’t.  It really doesn’t.  FFS, why is this so difficult?!

Update: Sent back the box set to my retailer, who has lost it (yay, loads of form filling now). This  entire incident would not have happened if Sony wasn’t so damn cheap with their packaging and offered to replace directly.


[The title’s deliberate, BTW – I’m just trying to be clever]

I love Breaking Bad.  Five intensive seasons of drama involving a high school chemistry teacher turned into a drugs kingpin.  What’s not to love?

So I bought the Complete Series box set – not only to say thanks to the creators and to Sony for bringing the show to fruition, but also for the audio commentaries and extras.

Alas!

Sony (who produce the show and are responsible for manufacturing and distributing the Blu-Ray boxsets) are utter and total cheapskates.

Unlike the individual series collections, they’ve chosen to cram all five seasons into a series of cardboard sleeves

that guarantees scratches to the physical media

Whereas most box sets utilise Amray cases, or cases that minimise physical content of media and the case – the Breaking Bad Complete Series box sets features discs held firmly within the cardboard sleeves that make it very difficult to remove the discs without scraping the discs against the cardboard.

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I first discovered the problem during season three.  One episode started to produce substantial artefacts on my Xbox One:

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So I decided to email Sony directly.  If there was a bad disc, I’d like to have it replaced rather than send in the entire box set.  Sony came back to me to check that (a) I’d updated the firmware[1] and (b) that it played on another player[2].

In any event, Sony told me that they could do nothing.  While they were responsible for manufacturing the discs, I had to go back to the retailer (who, thankfully, are willing to take it back after three months – hey, I don’t have the time to go through a large number of discs within a few weeks to check all discs are okay).

It turns out that the playback problems are due to scratches on the disc.  I’ve cleaned the discs the best I could with a soft cloth, but these are physical faults which I suspect were brought on by the scratchy cardboard inlays holding each disc.

So Breaking Bad is going back to the retailer.  I will not be seeking a replacement.  I may consider buying the individual series which look to utilise Amray (the most common Blu-Ray case) or something significantly better than the Complete Series offers.

I’m exceptionally hacked off with Sony (pun intended – but let’s make it clear that I do not condone what happened back in November) – not only did they provide terrible packaging for a premium product, but when it’s their fault, they refuse to do anything.

This, ladies and gents, is how you package a complete TV series.  Universal deserve praise for doing this – and it doesn’t take that much room on one’s shelf:

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[1] The Blu-Ray format is notoriously picky about encryption keys and other format-related oddities.  You’ll find discs will play on some systems, but not others.  Only through constant firmware and application updates from manufacturers does this tend to be resolved – and this can often mean a bit of a wait.  Sony and the Blu-Ray consortium deserve a massive punch to the face for this – one should buy a disc and expect it to play without having a degree in IT just to be able to watch a TV or film.

[2]Who the hell has access to TWO Blu-Ray players?  Urm, well, me actually – but that’s not the point.

Kingsman: The Secret Service Review

Update: According to Mark Millar via Twitter and his forums,  Kingsman: The Secret Service:


I’ve been waiting to see this film for a while.  I confess I had not heard of the original Mark Millar & Dave Gibbons comic book beforehand.

It was only until we saw the film crew turn up at Dunsfold Aerodrome sometime in September 2013 and start practising a very impressive reverse car chase that I found out all about it.  And was very excited when I heard that Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn were behind the film.

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I had interviewed Jane a while back when she and Matthew were working on the adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust.  Even then, I could see that the working relationship between Goldman and Vaughn was a particularly special one.  Since Stardust they’ve gone on to make Kick-Ass, The Debt (albeit screenplay only), X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past (story only).

Jane has also written Britain’s highest grossing horror film to date, the film adaptation of Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black.   In each case, each and every film Goldman and Vaughn have worked on have been very profitable and very well received.

The trailers for Kingsman were exceptionally attractive.  Indeed, they featured the sequence that I witnessed being practiced prior to being shot (later in the evening, with the sideway made up to look like a London street with lights, buses and everything).

Last Thursday I took the day off work and went to see the finished film at the local Odeon.

Let me start off by saying that I thoroughly dislike the modern James Bond.  Over the past decade it’s been far too moody and, well, samey.  Each film roughly follows the previous one and the villains just aren’t as interesting as they used to be.  We should hardly be celebrating a new Bond unless they take a radically different approach to it (like bringing in Idris Elba for starters – no offense to Daniel Craig).

So hooray to Kingsman: The Secret Service.  A film that’s not afraid to take a different look at the spy genre and have honest-to-God FUN with it.  It is a fun film.  It is a hugely entertaining film.  You’ll be hard pushed to enjoy a film that’s enjoying itself at the same time.  You can see that everybody involved had fun making this film.

It’s not a perfect film by any means – some of the visual effects don’t quite stand up to my high standards (for example, I disliked the lighting on some of the green screen stuff which made something artificial even more artificial), and some of the frame rate retimings did something to my eyes which gave me a bit of a headache at times, but perhaps it’s just the way the cinema presented the movie – I don’t know. These are mere quibbles, however.

Something that did bother me more than the technical issues was the frequent references to News Corp. owned properties (Sky News, The Sun, 20th Century Fox).   The Sun, in particular, was a bad move given recent events.

Tch! Tch! Tch! (wags finger)

While Samuel L. Jackson has played villains before, here he’s positively having a ball.   Colin Firth as the mentor to Eggsy, the council estate lad whose father was a Kingsman killed on duty, is surprisingly a bloody good action hero.   Who knew?

There has been much criticism early on – even before the movie was released – that the people had trouble relating to a “chav” as a protagonist.  These people really need to see the film, since the whole idea is being able to change.  As a result, there’s a lovely references to My Fair Lady in there too.  It’s that kind of film.  Besides which, Eggsy even before joining Kingsman isn’t really such a bad guy.

A good chunk of the film is taken up by training sequences, including the cutest pug dog in the universe.   But the main plot is ambitiously crazy – and all the better for it.

But the fight sequences (retiming aside) – bloody hell!  They are exceptional.  Well choreographed, expertly executed (pun intended) – these are some of the best fights I’ve seen committed to film in a very long time.  The camera gets right in there with the action.

The Kingsman: The Secret Service is hilariously far-fetched, fun, explosive, and is pretty much everything I had hoped it to be.  And I want more.

Bond can bugger off.

Securing cPanel/WHM services with a wildcard SSL certificate

All this is moot.

From version 56 of cPanel/WHM onwards, cPanel will generate a Comodo-backed SSL certificate for your server’s hostname.  It won’t protect proxied service URLs such as webmail.*, cpanel.*, whm.*, etc. but it will allow you to access cPanel/WHM via a fully certified certificate.

From version 58 of cPanel/WHM onwards, every domain on your cPanel/WHM server is able to receive a free Comodo-backed SSL certificate – valid for 90 days, but is automatically regenerated by the system.  It’s an alternative to Let’s Encrypt, support for which will be eventually be made available via an external plugin.