Feb 20, 2008

An Open Letter to Netflix: Instant Viewing Hard Limit of 4 Computers

I recently emailed this letter to publicrelations@netflix.com about the negative experience I have had with their 4 computer limit on "Instant Viewing"

"To Whom it may concern,

I recently have run into your 4 device limit on computers (or installations on the same computer). I had no idea that this was a limitation. I have called and discussed this with your customer support and they have told me about this limitation put on Netflix from the content providers. The customer representative has assured me that "anywhere Netflix could, they wrote this information". This of course refers to the Terms of Service and other fine print areas scattered throughout. This is not a good solution! I am a computer savvy user and I have never heard about or read about this fixed limitation of your service. Why not let the user know about this limitation on the Browse Instant page letting them know to be careful about which computers to activate? Maybe a count of the numbers that are active and some kind of name given at activation that would identify them. Being completely above the board in this area would make it seem like Netflix was on our side looking out for the user. I would not have felt the animosity towards Netflix after blowing away multiple activations on computers that I have reformatted not being aware of this.

Other Suggestions
1. Netflix would be much better off would propose that you first try to work a solution involving an ability to reset these activations through a call to customer service. This would be similar to the way that Apple's Itunes has 5 computers that are active at a time but can be reset in case of a hardware failure etc. The user would then have to reactivate all computers at that point and then choose the 4 he or she wanted to be active.

2. Another way that may help users like me is to offer the ability to deactivate a computer before it is reformatted or sold so that one would not loose an activation. This would probably not be against copyright holders wishes. One could even limit the 4 activations down to one with this ability offering tighter control of the copyright holders content. Just be sure to offer a reset in case of a hardware failure in this case to ward off more angry callers.

Thanks for your attention, "

So if you ask really nicely they will offer a one time 5th and final activation on your account. This would not be repeated in following years. The count does reset Mid-January of each new year no matter when an account was started. The customer support representative mentioned a couple of other tips. Ghosting the Windows drive and restoring does allow one to effectively transfer the activation onto new hardware. He also mentioned that if one got another membership that that would give them 4 more activations. This might be a temporary fix if you are out of luck. You could buy the 8.99 one at a time for this. He mentioned that if one tried to activate a bunch of computers through 2 week trials etc. that the fraud team would investigate this behavior.

Please let me know in the comments of any of your experiences and tell your friends about this!


Netflix response

Thank you for your suggestions and we've passed them on to the product


Feb 12, 2008

VMWare Mythtv Frontend

I just built a really fast machine with a Core 2 Quad Intel processor. I saved a wishlist from Newegg of the specifics of the machine JarkHD Machine Wish List. I keep one windows machine to play pc games and this was my new machine for gaming. I have been annoyed that I could not watch Mythtv from my Windows box. I have tried the alternatives to watching Mythtv on Windows and none of them work well at all. I thought finally I will be able to make a frontend for Mythtv on a virtual machine with this new beast. I have tried this in the past and always blamed the machine for the 1 frame per second performance. I used the free VMWare server 1.0.4 and made a Ubuntu 7.10 virtual machine. When I installed and configured Mythtv-Frontend I tried an HD show I had recorded. Once again the frame rate was terrible so I tried a SD show with the same results. (It was a little better) I noticed that the CPU usage was close to 75% which I have never witnessed with this machine. I have tried this same setup with the VMware tools installed and have had no luck. The conclusion I have come to is the video driver can not keep up with the frame rate needed to watch Mythtv. This same problem is true of the PS3 which lacks a driver for the video card. Maybe VMWare will accelerate the graphics more and this will work in the future.

Feb 8, 2008

Mythtv: Upgrading Ubuntu 7.04 to 7.10 with the Update Manager

I wanted to write a quick note about my upgrade experience to Ubuntu 7.10. Flawless! I saved any of the config files that I had changed for some reason unless they were frivolous. This was the first time I have used the automatic upgrade for a major version change. I have it in my head that when you change OS's, and sometimes when it has just been a long time, that it is better to format the drive and start fresh. Of course this assumption was because of Windows and the ugly registry. The only thing I had to fix was to re-install ffmpeg that I had built with divx and xvid functionality. Basically I went to the source folder and I did a make install again. This cleared it right up.