May 24, 2023

Snippet: Netflix Begins Its Password Sharing Crackdown in the US and Global Markets ☇

Sarah Perez for TechCrunch:

Netflix’s crackdown on password sharing is now beginning to roll out to U.S. subscribers and other global markets, after a delayed launch. The streamer had originally planned to introduce “paid sharing” to U.S. subscribers in the first quarter of this year but pushed the start date back to the summer, after seeing cancellations in markets where it had already launched the changes. Under the new rules, U.S. subscribers will have to either kick people off their Netflix account or pay $7.99/month for an additional membership for those outside their main household. […]

For those sharing someone else’s Netflix account, they can make the transition to an account of their own through a “Transfer Profile” option that will help them to relocate their existing account information, including their viewing history and watchlist.

The feature has been met with much consumer backlash, but Netflix assured investors that despite some early cancellations, it believes the password crackdown will be beneficial to its long-term growth as a business and to its financial health.

I don’t begrudge Netflix enforcing this, but I think there’s two bigger problems that Netflix isn’t addressing:

  1. In order to get 4K, you have to have the top-tier plan, which also allows 4 simultaneous streams. If someone lives by themself or with one other person, why not allow sharing the extra screen(s)?
  2. There’s a serious trust problem with Netflix as so many shows have been canceled abruptly, despite having good buzz and a decent following.

Out of the two of these, the first lends itself to two friends splitting an account if they care about video quality. Why have the number of screens tied to video quality anyway? For the second, I’ve found myself less likely to try a new series on Netflix. After a few long-running series wrap up, it’s going to make it harder to justify keeping Netflix. I suspect others feel the same and I’m guessing that there will be fewer add-on memberships or migrations than Netflix is assuming.

Snippet: Max is Worse Than HBO Max ☇

John Gruber:

I told you these Warner “Bros” Discovery executives are morons. On all the good platforms, you have to install an altogether new app. Why not just update the existing HBO Max app with (yet another) a new name and icon? Because they’re morons. (Even better: when I launch the old HBO Max app on my Apple TV, it doesn’t tell me anything about the new app — it just shows an error screen saying “Something went wrong.”)

This much moronity I expected. But it gets worse. As Judge documents, with the new app they’ve once again dropped tvOS’s excellent native video player for a custom video player that utterly sucks: “up next” support in the TV app is now broken or missing, HDR and frame-rate match are gone, the new video player doesn’t support the Siri remote’s jog support, no picture-in-picture, and no support for the wonderful “What did they just say?” feature (speak that to your Siri remote and the video jumps back 10 seconds or so and temporarily enables subtitles).

I get the WarnerMedia merger with Discovery made some sense—complementary content to build a massive library (although much different audiences) and well-known brands, plus it allowed AT&T to mostly get out of its failed media experiment. On the other hand, my knee-jerk reaction was the same as Gruber’s—they could’ve simply changed the app icon and things would’ve been fine. Instead, there’s a new app that is much worse and the whole migration process just seems really stupid. It’s also broken branded remotes.

It still irks me that they strayed away from the HBO brand because they were afraid that it would turn off new subscribers. Then again, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav came from the world of stupid reality shows and basically pushing networks like Discovery, TLC, Food Network, and others away from their original format in favor of disposable nonsense. That doesn’t seem to mesh well with a brand that invented prestige television.

May 21, 2023

Snippet: Apple Tysons Corner: A New Chapter ☇

Michael Steeber:

This is the first time a physical Genius Bar has been installed in a new Apple Store since 2015, when Apple last redesigned the store experience. Even the atomic Genius Bar logo is back with an updated design. […]

The back left corner is home to Today at Apple, where Creative Pros will gather customers around a new lowered table and a small Forum Display. Apple says lower tables are better suited for longer interactions.

Unlike recent stores that include a dedicated Apple Pickup area in the back center, pickup at Tysons Corner is located on the right side next to the Genius Bar. The low counter is built into the alcove, and a credenza at the back is filled with customer orders ready to pick up.

While I really liked a lot of aspects of the prior-generation of Apple Stores (such as the new one in Indianapolis when I was living there), there were some things that felt very disorganized even for someone who understands the process. Pickup and the Genius Bar need dedicated locations instead of “here, stand by this random table over there.” It’s also really nice to see Apple’s continued push to keep everything accessible and comfortable.

May 17, 2023

Snippet: Verizon’s New Plans Make Sense to Nobody Except Verizon ☇

Allison Johnson for The Verge:

Hey, did you hear? Verizon has incredibly, out of the goodness of its heart, revealed new phone plans that don’t include “bloated” service bundles. How thoughtful! There’s just one catch: they’re kinda less expensive, except not really, because things that used to be included are now an extra $10 per month each. Wait, that… kind of sucks? Who exactly comes out ahead with these new plans?

You guessed it! It’s Verizon.

On the surface, the new plans sound simpler than the current Get More, Play More, etc. There are two options — an expensive one and a bit less expensive one — and you add the extra services you want, like the Disney / Hulu bundle or Apple Music Family a la carte. That’s nice in theory, but if you’re switching from one of the current unlimited plans, it’s very likely you’ll need to pay more if you want the same things you used to get included in your monthly rate.

It seems that with the advent of the smartphone, the average single-line postpaid plan went from about $40/month to $80/month. While I understand adding data changed the whole dynamic, it feels like the last decade has had a lot of “innovation” with plans, but mostly that they just keep getting consistently worse. Verizon was especially bad with multiple unlimited plans with dumb names. T-Mobile’s “un-carrier” run countered that a bit, but they’ve been inching back to being like everyone else. I was never a fan of bundled add-ons or that advertised pricing is for each line on four-line accounts (“only $30/month”), but it’s the nature of the industry. Single and even two-line accounts are better off with prepaid, as long as you don’t need to finance devices.

Unfortunately, these new plans for Verizon just aren’t very good and I’m not sure they will help turn around the losses.

May 16, 2023

Snippet: Drobo, Having Stopped Sales and Support, Reportedly Files Chapter 7 Bankruptcy ☇

Kevin Purdy for Ars Technica (via Stephen Hackett):

You don’t hear nearly as much about Drobo boxes as you used to, especially on sites like Ars Technica. We now have some news, but it isn’t good.

StorCentric, the holding company for the Drobo and Retrospect brands, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late June 2022. Now, AppleInsider reports that, based on an email sent by StorCentric, the bankruptcy shifted from reorganization-minded Chapter 11 to liquidation-focused Chapter 7 in late April.

The writing for Drobo was on the wall, or at least on its website. Text at the top of the homepage notes that, as of January 27, 2023, Drobo products and support for them are no longer available. “Drobo support has transitioned to a self-service model,” the site reads. “We thank you for being a Drobo customer and entrusting us with your data.”

While I never owned a Drobo, I used some in past jobs and owned the related File Transporter for a few years before ultimately moving to a Synology DS216+II. Unlike most NASes out there, some Drobo models were USB, Firewire, eSATA, or Thunderbolt-based allowing you to have a lot of direct storage. It’s a bit of a sad thing that everyone kind of forgot about their products.