Sunday, April 12, 2015

breaking the code

I do not like television.

Just over twenty years ago, I canceled my cable subscription in Salem, and I have not looked back since. 

It is a rather liberating feeling.  One of the first things I do when I check into a Mexican hotel is to return the television remote control that is almost always proffered with my room key.

Admittedly, with a rather smug look when I inform the desk clerk: "No es necesario."

Don't get me wrong.  I do own a television set.  Or, as I prefer to call it, a movie monitor.  In this case, function truly does follow form.

When I moved to Mexico, I brought a portion of my DVD collection with me.  Just over 400 discs.  Because I like watching movies. 

At my rental for the past five years, I did not get to watch many movies.  Living in a duplex creates informal sound level restrictions.  (I like my movies to have volume.)  Plus my computer monitor was not the best format for watching movies -- solo or in company.

Last year, during one of my brother's visits, we tried to rig up a better system.  It just did not work out.  But I ended up with a new Blu-ray player to put to service when I finally bought a -- movie monitor.

When I bought the DVD player, I asked the salesman if it was a universal player.  The powers that fight DVD piracy have divided the world into various regions.  For regular DVDs, The States are in one region (region one) and Mexico is in region 4.

I recently lent a DVD to Ed the Artist.  When he tried to play it, his DVD player warned him that the DVD region was not compatible with his player.  The DVD was from The States; he bought the player here.

The salesman assured me that the player I had in my cart would play all regions.  But I didn't get to test that theory for a full year when I finally assembled my mini-cinema.

During my last trip north, I purchased a dozen Woody Allen films.  What would be a better inauguration of my new system than a one-man Woody Allen Festival?

I slipped in the first disc.  There was a bit of whirring and churning.  Then up popped a notice: "Cannot play this disc.  Discs bought overseas may not be compatible with your machine."

I thought that was odd because I had just watched Lawrence of Arabia with no problem.  And I had bought it up north.

In went the next selection.  Same warning.

Another.  Same thing.

Thinking I might have been misled in the store, I checked the plate on the back of the player.  Indeed, I had been.  It was clearly marked region 4.

I started thinking about alternative ways to buy an American-programmed player when an idea struck me.  If telephones have lockout codes that can be cracked with a bit of internet research, I bet I could find a trick to break the DVD region restriction.

With about fifteen minutes of internet research (and after following a few interesting rabbit trails that had nothing to do with my question, but which help make researching on the internet a fascinating diversion), I found what I needed.  By merely pushing several buttons on my DVD remote control, I re-programmed it to play DVDs from all regions.

So, in a sense (about the same sense that Obi-Wan Kenobi claimed in making excuses for his Big Lie), the salesman told me the truth.  "From a certain point of view."

The good news is that I am now in a good position to start movie night at my house -- just as soon as I can purchase some furniture that will allow my guests to remain seated for more than ten minutes.

I almost feel like one of those clever chaps that broke the German communication codes in World War One -- and then manipulated the United States into entering a war where its national interests were never at stake.

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