DVD revival

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Iowa doesn’t have “high speed” internet in the commonly accepted sense. A single South Korean Millenial’s mere presence would bring the entire state network down. But it does have good-enough-speed internet to abandon cable TV.

So some years ago we became early adopters and fans of the Apple TV. The Apple TV is a very small device that plugs into your television via a single HDMI cable. It connects to your network wirelessly or wired if you prefer. During the setup you associate it with your iTunes account.

It’s operated by a remote with easy menus on the screen. No computer required. Once set up you can browse the Apple media store and buy TV shows in standard or high definition (about $2 and $3 respectively) and do the same with movies – you can also rent movies which was generally our preference. No contracts, no monthly fees. Just buy what you want, when you want.

In contrast our cable bill topped $100 a month and spewed nothing but garbage. Everything we really wanted always seemed to be pay-per-view anyway. We don’t watch live sports and television news I only watch in airport lounges.

One of the other wonders of the Apple TV is not needing to store anything. You buy a show, it streams to your TV, that’s it. Want to watch it again? It streams again. Since all your Apple devices are linked to your iTunes account, you can buy a show on one device and watch it on any of the others. For example, you could buy a season of “Rome” on your Apple TV then take it with you on your iPad. Easy. Oh, it works with music too.

So the first accessory we installed in our Airstream was an Apple TV.

We never use it.

We live in a bandwidth constrained environment. Wi-Fi does not exist at campgrounds. Allegations are occasionally made that wi-fi is available but these are inevitably affirmations not fact – rather like my weight loss.

Our internet connection is all through a 4G Verizon Jetpack. It works surprisingly well. It also acts as a little router and switch for up to five connected devices. So we don’t need any other network gear in our trailer. Within its service area it would be more than capable of serving up media. The problem is it’s metered. 10GB/month with astonishing overage fees. Streaming a single HD movie could consume half of that. Several other cloudy things have been killed off as a result, including Dropbox and Evernote.

What to do? While wi-fi does not exist in the wild, Wal-Mart does. Everywhere. In Wal-Mart you can procure things never seen by a South Korean Millenial – small shiny discs. These are sometimes called Blu-Rays or DVDs. They are like magic crystals. They don’t require any connectivity to use. You put them in a device usually referred to as a “player.”

A single Blu-Ray disc containing an uncompressed high definition (1080p) movie consumes about 50GB of storage. Let’s say a round-trip to Wal-Mart is an hour. That translates into the equivalent of 110 Mbps of bandwidth! Now you’re approaching South Korean dial-up speeds. Buy two or three while you’re at it and you’re talking bandwidth that well exceeds what your router could push.

Another benefit is that often you will receive an iTunes code along with the disc. Enter this code into iTunes and now you have the best of both worlds – a version in the cloud you can watch on any device and a local cache (Blu-Ray) in your Airstream for when you’re in the forest.

But Blu-Rays are bulky? No they aren’t. They’re 1.2mm thick, which is 83% thinner than an iPhone 6. What are bulky are the cases they come in. Dump those and put them in a little paper pocket. You buy these by the hundred from Wal-Mart. Then you can have lots of them in a very small space. They even sell boxes for this purpose. I never knew. The main buyers of these are apparently country-music fans who still buy lots of CDs. In fact a Blu-Ray actually provides more storage per cubic inch than a hard drive. So amazing is this technology that even Facebook is stockpiling this more than decade-old format.

One last thing – the $5 bin at Wal-Mart.

Works off the grid. Provides an iTunes copy. Retro. Cheap. To the Blu-Ray.

– Anthony, Pomona State Park, Kansas

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