the Downside and E-Commerce II, the Upside
An update - and an
by Jim Bray
Forget what youve heard about DVDs being the greatest.
Ive said it myself (ad nauseam, some undoubtedly say), and its
true that DVDs generally offer the finest audio and video quality
you could want. Its also true that once youre a DVD-phile
you cant take VHS cassettes seriously, except as windshield scrapers.
Unfortunately, this doesnt mean that every time you play a DVD
youll reach video Nirvana; the old axiom garbage in, garbage
out holds as true for the digital disc as it does for everything
I bought a DVD from a bargain bin recently, which should have been the
first warning that there was something rotten in Denmark, but it seemed
like too good a deal to pass up.
The DVD, from Mandasy Entertainment, was of Fritz Langs Metropolis,
the 1926 German science fiction classic that inspired just about every
sci-fi flick since. I felt confident about it because several years ago
I bought a VHS copy of Metropolis, also from a bargain bin,
and was relatively happy with its quality. The only thing wrong with that
version was that it was silent.
I know, Metropolis is supposed to be a silent
movie but it usually has some musical accompaniment. This movie
was completely silent, except for tape hiss.
This DVD promised a musical score, plus chapter stops and vintage advertising.
So what could I lose?
Well, theres no lesson to be learned the second time youre
kicked by a mule.
Instead of being high resolution, the DVD looked as if it had been captured
by a cheap camcorder that was aimed at a white bed sheet onto which an
old print of the film had been projected. It was grainy, out of focus,
and it bled off the edges of the screen, which meant parts of the title
cards and of the picture itself were missing.
It was unwatchable.
The musical score didnt work either, though this is probably more
a matter of individual taste than anything. It sounded as if it were chosen
because it was the first public domain recording at hand; rather than
enhancing the film, it distracted.
Thank goodness the store took the disc back and I wont be
visiting that particular bargain bin again.
On another topic, regular readers of TechnoFILE (those who get the proper
daily dosage of bran) may remember a while back I recounted a tale of
I had gone online to purchase The Whos newest live
album and found the experience anything but rewarding.
Opting for instant gratification, I downloaded the tracks and ended up
with a bunch of files I couldnt use anywhere except on my computer.
In the interest of fairness, I should give an update. Musicmaker.coms
people eventually responded to my e-mails and informed me theyd
changed their encryption so I could now convert the files to the wave
format CD players use.
The process was simple, but I couldnt get it to work no matter
how many times I cussed. The problem may have been at my end, what with
my PCs penchant for being temperamental.
So I threw myself on Musicmaker.coms mercy and asked them to credit
my download toward the purchase of the CD versions they custom burn and
then mail to you. They agreed, and they even warned me that burned CDs
wont play on some DVD players (which is true, though they play fine
in mine). I then surfed back to their Web site and re-ordered the compact
They finally arrived in the mail, though the delay (which had prompted
me to download the album in the first place) proved that, true to Tom
Pettys song, the waiting was the hardest part.
Im pleased to report, however, that the discs work fine and sound
Buying the mail order version also provided an unexpected bonus: professional
packaging and full liner notes!
I ended up being quite impressed with Musicmaker.coms customer
relations; I dont think they knew about my earlier rant against
them, either, so I can only assume that everyone gets the same treatment.
I even received my credit card credit with efficient dispatch
So there's hope for e-commerce yet!
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think