Loading the Stuff...

Digital HD Movies and Your Options

Digital HD banner with several digital movie service icons above it

I’ve been thinking a lot about digital movies recently, and what are truly the best options and ways to manage it all. Unlike buying digital music nowadays, digital movies are still controlled by digital rights management (DRM). While the iron-fisted approach to music DRM ultimately was its undoing, movie DRM seems to be much more liberal. However, it’s still very confusing. Doing research on this subject, I concluded that it would take a long boring article to fully explain the concepts. But I won’t. This is the quick introductory version with a concise bottom line to get you started.

Should You?

Should you abandon your physical media collection for digital copies? Lifehacker offers a great article on the subject. Read it and decide for yourself.

Sources

When I say “sources”, it’s a loosely defined term. The key concept is that these sources manage the digital rights over the movie titles. Sources include Apple’s iTunes, Amazon Video, Disney Movies Anywhere, and UltraViolet. Most of these sources also sell movies, but UltraViolet does not. UltraViolet exclusively manages DRM among several services.

Services

Services sell movies and allow you to stream and download them. You can buy digital movies from many sources like iTunes, Amazon Video, Disney Movies Anywhere, Flixster, FandangoNOW, Vudu, and several others. You can also redeem digital HD codes included with Blu-ray and DVD media which usually direct you to a single redemption source’s web site.

Sharing

Some sources allow sharing your digital collection. I was only able to find that Vudu offers the ability to share, but there might be others.

Playback

Services allow you to view your collection on a wide variety of devices like your desktop computer, laptop, tablet, and mobile phone. You can download the movies to the mobile devices for offline playback which is terrific for long plane flights or staying within mobile data caps.

Depending on your desktop computer, your streaming video quality might be limited. Without an HDCP connection to your monitor, you will not be allowed to stream high definition (HD) versions of the movie. You’ll be limited to standard definition (SD). Also, downloading to your desktop and laptop will likely require DRM software from the service.

Best Intersection of Services

Here’s where you’ll need to understand how services can and cannot work together. Amazon and Apple are pretty much isolated from what I can tell. If you buy a title from those sources, you can only watch them from those respective sources. Surprisingly, Disney plays well with several other services, including iTunes. But iTunes titles won’t show up in Disney Movies Anywhere. UltraViolet-managed titles work among affiliated services which exclude iTunes and Amazon.

Confused yet?

So here’s my bottom-line recommendation: Vudu.

Vudu works with Disney and UltraViolet. Vudu also shows both of those collections in its web site and mobile apps. Playback on your TV will require the Vudu app. That app can be found in Roku streaming devices as well as built into some smart TVs. The Vudu app is not included with Apple TV. At least not yet. You might have some success with iOS AirPlay, but AirPlay is not built into the Vudu iOS app’s video player.

Unfortunately trade-offs are unavoidable. But you can get a nice Roku streaming stick for $50. Sometimes less if you keep an eye out for deals.

I hope this helps get you started with digital movies in the smoothest possible way.

Post Script

I forgot to include Google Play in this article. Google’s service also seems to be isolated like Apple and Amazon.

Please comment if you have any information or experience to add.

Does Apple Music Still Mess With Your Song Collection?

Apple Music Plus Your Song Colleciion Equals Confusion

After almost a year, can Apple Music be trusted to work with your existing music collection? The heated debate continues. But my take on it is: NO! Apple Music should not be allowed to touch your music collection.

However, if you haven’t meticulously curated your collection, then perhaps you won’t care when Apple Music randomly changes your album art or mixes up your studio and live tracks among other odd behaviors.

Apple Music manages (or man-handles) your music when you turn on “iCloud Music Library” on the General tab of iTunes Preferences.

iTunes Preferences

In my own experience, having iCloud Music Library on changed album art for a significant number of my songs. It also mixed up some tracks in completely illogical ways. I would find one of my songs, tap it, and something else would play. Some of my more obscure tracks never appeared in Apple Music at all, but I could find them on my hard drive.

Thankfully, just turning off iCloud Music Library restored my collection without having to retrieve everything from a file backup. But I have had friends who were not so lucky.

While I loved having my playlists synchronized on my computer and my phone, I had to turn off iCloud Music Library. I could not find a way to only sync playlists. And if I could, I would.

Otherwise, I love Apple Music! I pay for it, because the music discovery is terrific. The handpicked playlists are fun to explore, and the radio serves up terrific tunes. And just about all the tracks I want are just a search away. And using Siri to cue up music is just wonderfully convenient.

There’s always hope that iOS 10 and MacOS 10.12 will resolve the iCloud Music Library problems, but I’m not holding my breath…

Sources:

Fix iTunes When It Doesn’t Recognize Your iOS Devices

iTunes

[UPDATE: This article was first published Feb 1, 2014. I republished it for today, July 2, 2015, because it has proven very helpful to me lately. I am testing Windows 10. During the last few builds, my iPhone has not been recognized by Windows or iTunes. Going through this quick driver re-installation has saved me a lot of time compared to uninstalling/re-installing Apple’s iTunes and related software. Perhaps it will help others, too.]

If iTunes on Windows will not see your iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch), you may be thinking that uninstalling and reinstalling iTunes will fix the problem. Well, it probably won’t. You might think that uninstalling and reinstalling all Apple applications could do the trick. Well, this will probably work, but will take a lot of time.

Here’s your quick(er) fix.

  1. Open Device Manager.
    • In Windows 8, go to the Desktop and right-click in the very lower left of the screen. Click Device Manager
    • In Windows 7, click the Start orb and type “Device Manager” and press the Enter key.
  2. In Device Manager, find Portable Devices.
  3. Click the + or the arrow beside Portable Devices to view those devices.
  4. Right-click the first Apple device and click Update Driver Software…
  5. In the dialog box, choose to browse to a location on your computer.
  6. Browse to this folder path (or type it in directly if you wish): C:\Program Files\Common Files\Apple\Mobile Device Support\Drivers
  7. Click Next.
  8. It should confirm that you’ve just installed the latest driver.
  9. Repeat the Steps 4 through 7 for each of your remaining iOS devices.

If it says you have the latest driver already, then you’ll probably need to uninstall and reinstall all Apple software of your computer. Uninstall these in this order.

  1. iTunes
  2. Apple Software Update
  3. Apple Mobile Device Support [This one might refuse to uninstall. If so continue with the remaining apps.]
  4. Bonjour
  5. Apple Application Support

Now, reinstall iTunes. Good luck!