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Movielink.com: Nice But Not Ready For Prime Time 185

Ismenio writes with the following review of the online film distribution system Movielink.com. Here's his Quick summary: "Pros: convenient, prices are OK, selection includes some "new" releases, no late fees. Cons: no widescreen format, technical issues in download, only 24-hour-watch period, no search function, for US only." Read on for the rest of his review.

We had just a couple of references here on Movielink.com and some comments but no reviews. Well, I have tried it and here are my thoughts on it.

For those not familiar with that, they call themselves an "IP based movie rental service". You basically rent movies by downloading them to your PC (as of now, only WindowsMedia or RealPlayer formats) for watching at a convenient time.

The media files have about 512Mb which in my case (AT&T cable modem) takes about 50min to download. You register using your credit card and they don't ask for too much information there.

The price varies with an average of $3 and the selection is OK, not great. You can see some titles that have been just released for PPV channels. There's no search function, so you have to browse using their categories (action, comedy, blah, blah). In some cases you can see a small trailer for the movie.

They have their own download manager that looks a little bit like those p2p programs. You can see the progress of the download and can launch the player at the end. You have a period of 30 days to watch the movie BUT, only 24 hours to watch it once you hit "play". Of course you can pause or watch it again but only within the 24-hour period after the first play. I think they should give you at least 5 days for that.

The quality is OK, not great but quite alright to watch something for fun. I think it's something around SVCD. My greatest complain is that they only have full screen versions of the movies. No widescreen.

Once you download the movie you have to be connected to start playing it. That's because you have to "authenticate" yourself. So, another bummer. You can't download something to watch on a flight for example. Well, I guess you may be able to start playing at home and then stop it and start again on the plane, but I didn't try that. That would be one advantage over a DVD since you wouldn't be using the DVD-drive thus saving some battery time.

I had problems playing the first movie and had to call support. They gave me a code to rent the movie again but after 3 tries they though there was something wrong with the movie! Bingo, other customer had the same complain. Then I decided to try another movie and had to call support again, which by the way was quite knowledgeable and attentive. I could not download the movie. Here's where I decided I would not use the service again: they recommend that I disabled my firewall (ZoneAlarm) to download it! Even after I did that, it didn't work. The problem seemed to be that I was on my home network on a LinkSys router. They asked me to bypass the router, hook the computer to the cable modem directly and it worked! Here's my complain: I never had to do that for anything, from my company's VPN to my other download services. So if I have to tweak my network/router just to use their service, they've lost a customer. Well, maybe that was just me!

I really liked the idea of being able to download a movie and watch it on my PC, without having to wait for it to come in the mail (NetFlix) or drive to my local video store twice (to pick up and to drop off). I watch the DVDs on my computer anyway, so it doesn't bother me that I don't use a big screen.

But they need to at least work on that download issue and enhance their website (at least include a search button) before I could use their services on a regular basis.

Hope this is helpful to you folks!


Slashdot welcomes reader features and reviews -- thanks to Ismenio for this one.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Movielink.com: Nice But Not Ready For Prime Time

Comments Filter:
  • by unterderbrucke ( 628741 ) <unterderbrucke@yahoo.com> on Friday November 29, 2002 @02:31PM (#4780877)
    "I really liked the idea of being able to download a movie and watch it on my PC, without having to wait for it to come in the mail (NetFlix) or drive to my local video store twice (to pick up and to drop off)"

    *cough* kazaa *cough*
  • Not ready until... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by swordboy ( 472941 ) on Friday November 29, 2002 @02:32PM (#4780884) Journal
    This won't be ready for prime time until someone builds a set top box DVD player that will plug into a router and do this automatically (with minimal configuration). The AOL of movies, if you will...

    A good application for MiniITX and LinuxBIOS? [mini-itx.com]
  • by SweetAndSourJesus ( 555410 ) <JesusAndTheRobot.yahoo@com> on Friday November 29, 2002 @02:33PM (#4780887)
    Doesn't do me much good if I can't use it, eh?
  • linux realplayer (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    does it work with the linux real player?
    • I would assume since the reviewer said it uses what resembles a p2p style app to download the file... "no"
      Unless maybe you can DL it with the windows client and then play it through linux, but from what he wrote, that seems unlikely as well...
  • Trust Us! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Steve B ( 42864 ) on Friday November 29, 2002 @02:35PM (#4780895)
    Here's where I decided I would not use the service again: they recommend that I disabled my firewall (ZoneAlarm) to download it! Even after I did that, it didn't work. The problem seemed to be that I was on my home network on a LinkSys router. They asked me to bypass the router, hook the computer to the cable modem directly and it worked!

    Sounds like they need to upgrade their spyware.

    • You can do er, "interesting things" with gnutella, mozilla, and bastille-linux. Especially if you know people with broadband and *no* firewall...

      (hint: start checking /tmp more often)
  • by flowerp ( 512865 ) on Friday November 29, 2002 @02:35PM (#4780897)

    Bottomline is:

    320 x 240 video resolution in Real Video 8, 700 kbit/s constant bitrate, thereof 64 kbit/s for audio - JUST DOESN'T CUT IT.

    A DivX of the same movie had something like 584x304 in resolution and was only 25% larger in size.

    Nevertheless their download manager worked flawlessly for me and I got download speeds of 250 kbytes/sec. The movie had arrived after 35 minutes.

    Video quality was fair, even though the low resolution killed some details.

    Bottomline is: Whoever they hired for video encoding just doesn't make the job right.
    • DIVX I made this morning:

      Duration: 1:49:43
      Audio Bit Rate: 190k
      Video Size: 720x480
      File Size: 1 gig (1,079,824,384 bytes)

      • by flowerp ( 512865 )

        Let me guess. You added the original AC3 soundtrack
        to the DivX?

        Is it REALLY necessary to go beyond the size of
        an 800 Meg CD-R ?
        • No it is a 192k MP3 soundtrack. Why limit yourself to CDR media? I store some of my DVD movies on big disks that any computer in the house can see. These are ripped for high quality, not trading.
          • by CKW ( 409971 )
            .
            AHMEN Brother!

            Who wants to download an 800 MB movie whose quality sucks a** just because someone wanted to save 1-200 MB to squeeze it onto a CDR.

            Ok, some of you do. I don't.
            .
          • by Per Wigren ( 5315 )
            These are ripped for high quality, not trading.

            Then why don't you use Vorbis -q3 audio instead? About 128 kbps and comparable quality to 192k MP3.. For a movie I think q3 might even go down to an average of less than 100kbps while keeping the same quality because many parts are almost silent and very easy to encode compared to music.. MP3 is outdated and sucks... You can also gain quite a few bits by using OGM instead of the bit-eating AVI and get faster and more accurate seeking at the same time..
    • At 700kbit at that resolution... I am not very familiar with RealVideo, but if the quality is comparable to other MPEG-4 implementations, that should be a crystal-clear stream ;-)

      Certainly 700kbit is sufficient for DVD resolution, with reasonable artifacts.

      You're right. Whoever made those encoding decisions, (codec, resolution, audio bitrate) was stupid.
    • "320 x 240 video resolution in Real Video 8, 700 kbit/s constant bitrate, thereof 64 kbit/s for audio - JUST DOESN'T CUT IT."

      What? Does that mean you can't stand watching VHS movies then?

      Sheesh. 320 by 240 is quite watchable, despite popular belief.
  • Reminded me of an earlier story concerning Netfilx bandwith.

    http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=02/09/23/1719 23 4&mode=thread&tid=95

    I'd pay $3-4 for new releases via web, but not PPV fodder.
  • by Freston Youseff ( 628628 ) on Friday November 29, 2002 @02:39PM (#4780910) Homepage Journal
    I remember seeing an advertisement for movietickets.com [movietickets.com] when I saw the new Bond film and several times previous to that in the past year. It seems to have completely flopped here; my local theatre isn't even set up to accept the online tickets and lacks the barcode scanners which are necessary to admit a customer. I actually saw a family get turned away after having purchased tickets to a 'participating' theatre. Is this another dot-bomb, or does anyone have positive stories about this service to report?
    • Yeah, my wife and I used the service last year for the premiere of FOTR. The theatre we were at didn't have the barcode readers either, but the site was upfront about that, and we just had to bring the receipt to the human-based ticket counter along with the credit card used to purchase the tickets.

      Worked great, though I loathe the (at the time) 1.00/ticket "convenience fee." Haven't used it since because of that.

      -Robyn
      • Worked great, though I loathe the (at the time) 1.00/ticket "convenience fee." Haven't used it since because of that.


        They made you pay more for it?!? That pretty much kills it in my books. I use my toner/ink, my paper, and save them money (less employees), and they CHARGE me for it?

        As we say in Canada, "Fuck that noise!"
    • A similar service, Fandango, works just great and seems pretty healthy (almost all of the theatres around here use it). I have to admit that it's just extra effort 95% of the time - you're going to the theatre anyway, so why is it preferable to spend 2 minutes buying tickets at home as opposed to 2 minutes buying tickets at the theatre?
    • We've used it many times with no problems. The theater we go to is a really nice state-of-the art theater (it was one of the few with the digital version of Episode II), yet they don't have the bar code reader. We just hand the printout to the guy taking tickets and he lets us in. Maybe they do have the reader stashed in the back somewhere and they scan the tickets in all at once. I dunno.

      I don't like the $1.00 fee, but it's useful when you want to see a new movie that is selling out.
    • I tried MovieTickets.com once for the first Harry Potter...

      Paid for the tickets, took them to the theatre. At the theatre, they told me that I hadn't actually paid for the movie on MovieTickets.com (and I was foolish enough to believe them - maybe they only processed the service charge?).

      Anyway, ended up paying twice. Later, I checked my credit card online; I'd paid twice. I went back to the theatre, said I'd been charged twice. They said, "We need to see your credit card statement." So I waited till the end of the month, and then took it back in. "Sorry, we also need to see the MovieTickets.com receipt you printed." So I went back a third time, theatre was closed that afternoon. A fourth time, no manager.

      Finally decided that in addition to the $20 that the theatre "stole", I'd wasted half a dozen hours trying to get it back.

      Won't use MovieTickets.com, even though it wasn't really their fault. I get back at the theatres by bringing my own food now.
    • I haven't used that one, but I did use MovieFone.com last year. Paid online, and when I got to the ticket window, I just showed them my credit card, and I was handed the tickets. Only extra cost, since I didn't officially join the site, was 50 cents per ticket. Not bad for an opening night showing of Fellowship of the Ring.

      • My biggest gripe is even though you've bought the tickets online, you still have to wait in the line with every other schmuck.

        I WANT RESERVED SEATS! I do not want to have to pay $12 for a ticket to a popular movie only to find that I need to get to the theatre 90 minutes or more before showtime if I want a 1/2 decent seat.

        I want to be able to get to the theatre 20-30 minutes before the show starts and get the prime seats that I paid for/reserved.
        • They dont want to do this or else everyone will hafta get their tickets online. If all the good seats are reserved a lot of people wont be happy when they get there. Also it is a hassle to have to reserve seats for people. More work from the employees to keep people out of the seats.
    • I use Fandango [fandango.com] every now and then, without a hitch. It is actually convenient to be able to buy the tickets and not have to worry about waiting in line at the theatre - just go to the counter, that has almost not line - and get mine. Considering the price for movies now, the $1 per ticket is not that much compared to how much time I can save.
    • They seem to have loads of money to push those ads, but the basic premise behind it, like many ".COM ideas" just seems absurd: If you pay by a credit card, you have to go through a line and let them verify your credit card: How has that saved any time? If you haven't paid by credit card...well what other way is there to pay online?

      Even if you just paid by kiosks the only advantage is if, ironically, the method of payment is a brutal failure. If it isn't a failure then you'll have the same lines just transposed over to bar code scanner while some granny with a dot matrix printer tries incessantly to get it to read her smudge print (well I suppose that would be more the realm of inkjets).

      Definitely silly idea in my opinion. I have no doubt that they're gushing money out on those ads, and getting very little response.
  • by GeckoFood ( 585211 ) <geckofood@nospAm.gmail.com> on Friday November 29, 2002 @02:40PM (#4780917) Journal

    Once you download the movie you have to be connected to start playing it. That's because you have to "authenticate" yourself.

    So, when the service goes away and there's no one out there to do the authenication, then what? And, if the file you downloaded and paid for is corrupt, do you get your money back or are you told, "Oh, gee, that's a bummer, sorry"? Do you pay once for unlimited views, or is this a one time view per download? If you only get to watch it once per pay, do they let you just pay again or force you to download all over again?

    • The answer to all of your questions is: Don't pay. Dispute the charge with your creditor/bank.

      What I want to know is, so what? If you use the service, chances are pretty damn good you have cable/dsl/t1, and have an always-on connection in the first place.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      First off, the movies only stay good for a month. I don't think your first question is valid.
      Plus he made it clear that the file didn't work several times, and the customer service was excellent. Your second question is already answered.
    • Ever notice how "authentication" is never a problem with cash? Naahhh, it couldn't be....
  • Some more info... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Cap'n Canuck ( 622106 ) on Friday November 29, 2002 @02:40PM (#4780919)
    Here is an earlier Slashdot article [com.com]. It mentions that the current database (as of Nov 10) has 200 titles
  • Router Problems (Score:4, Insightful)

    by paranoos ( 612285 ) on Friday November 29, 2002 @02:43PM (#4780929)
    It is a real shame that many software companies have NO clue as to what ports their software uses. I happen to also have a Linksys router at home, and a couple of years ago I ran into huge problems trying to play online games (like Soldier of Fortune, or UT) because the game publishers simply couldn't tell me what ports I need to forward to my PC on the LAN.

    Sure, it's a pain that you have to tweak things for software to work, but you really need to know what you're getting into with things like routers and firewalls -- with security comes the loss of features.

    Instead of connecting the modem directly to your PC, you can set your router to have your PC as a DMZ (De-Militarized Zone) host. Basically, this forwards all ports to your computer. Once you have a connection, you can take a look at what ports are being used, and forward just those. The problem is that some software, such as ICQ, use random ports for connecting.

  • Well first off this dosent seem to be streaming but DL and play even through each format allows it. Why it's not multipass DivX is just screaming for low quality. I have seen this done right and so far these guys dont even come close, there encoding is subpar. They have a pretty narrow viewing window and they have to be chatty with there servers to do anything so no disconnected play. It has problems with basic firewalling (porbably due to useing funky encrypted tunnels) And lets face it for this to work sombody needs to make PS2 and Xbox software to deal with it.
    • I may be getting out on a limb here, but the thing about being "chatty" with their servers.... and the fact that I refuse to be "online" without firewalling... is their target market really that dumb or lazy?

      Why does this sound so much like the typical windows usage, trying to hit 90% of the market?

      Ooops, can't say the "W" word, I'll just say "transparent crystalline structure for viewing"

      Meanwhile I *might* continue to purchase VHS videos if/when Hollywood puts out something that I feel is worth it.
  • by dagg ( 153577 ) on Friday November 29, 2002 @02:43PM (#4780931) Journal
    List of required things to make investors want to sink their money into it:
    • Bad quality... check.
    • Inconvenient... check.
    • User gets no choices... check.
    • No DVD interactivity... check.
    • Worse than PPV... check.
    • Kazaa is easier to use... check.
    • Will get tons of press... check.
    --
      • No chance in hell of turning a profit in the forseeable future.


      If it's a viable business, VCs won't find it "risky" enough, therefore no "potential". This is just how they work, and it's why there's an awful lot of office space available on Sand Hill Rd right now. :)

      I refuse to believe we're in a recession as long as there's still money around to throw at this kind of thing.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    There is no such thing as a protected file format or a movie that can only play once. If you can play it, you can use a screen capture program to capture the video. If it has sound, you can capture it from the sound card. As long as you can play it, there will be a way to rip it or save it. Yet they keep insisting upon having new "protected" file formats or movies that only play once. This will never work. They much concede the fact that if they let you borrow a movie for your home use, there will be a way to record it forever. Only then, once they admit that, and perhaps start to trust the customer, can they have an economic model for such a service.
    • > There is no such thing as a protected file format
      > or a movie that can only play once. If you can
      > play it, you can use a screen capture program to
      > capture the video.

      Not entirely true for high resolution. Your AGP port simply won't allow to capture the video in realtime.

      An AGP benchmarking utility for read performance is available somewhere on the site www.seriousmagic.com

      The easiest way to capture the video would be to route the video-out of your graphics board into a capture card. That's an analog solution, but it works.

  • DivX? (Score:2, Informative)

    by neildiamond ( 610251 )
    Wow. That's amamzing. Accoring to this story at beconnected.org [beconnected.org] Divx files can be watermarked and rendered obsolete after a set period of time. I wonder why people aren't using that feature? It would seem to make sense. One other thing these companies need to do is to tell people with popular laptops how to connect them to their TV sets. Just about every laptop on the market today has video out, but nobody uses it. I even use wi-fi to deliver movies from my desktop to my laptop/TV all the time. It isn't that hard, but I know Joe Sixpack hasn't thought of it.
    • Well, Divx and Divx ;-) are two different things...
    • You are thinking of the wrong Divx. before the Divx codec was out, there was a type of DVD called Divx that had a limited number of plays. This Divx didn't last long and was completely overshadowed by the codec of the same name. I understand your confusion, with both having the same unique name, but the Divx codec is a compressions scheme that makes DVD quality video small enough to download over a broadband connection.
  • by isolenz ( 466129 ) on Friday November 29, 2002 @02:44PM (#4780939)
    I live in Calgary Canada.
    And at the beginning of last month (Octobre) they opened a new service called shawondemand (www.shawondemand.net) where you can order a movie by the internet and as long as you have internet and digital cable through them (I know... *cough* monopoly). You can order a movie online, and watch it through your calbe box hooked up to your TV INSTANTLY. It has play, pause, rew. ff. and all the basic features, you also get it for 24 hours to play as many times as you want.
    The only quams (sp?) that I have about the service is the lack of new titles they have (sure they got LOTR, Blade II, 40 days/nights/ and bunch other titles, But you watch a movie a month, and that's all on there list thats appealing. oh, also all the adult you can imagine, that rivals there normal movies), and the lack of widescrean. But all in all, it's a cool service here, also you can watch music videos, trailers and stuff for there videos for free.
    It'll be nice to see how there new revisions are the service go.

    CowboyNeal ROCKS!
    -isolenz
    • >>

      That's where all the money is made. For a regular movie, revenue is $4 or so, and it takes two hours, so about $2/hr. For an adult movie, revenue is $6 or more, and average watching time is _about 15 minutes_. => $24 per hour, or 12X what they make off Hollywood pictures. In addition, the cable operator pays a smaller share of that $6 to the content provider than they do of the $4 to Hollywood. Once again, pr0n leads the way.
    • I live in Calgary Canada. And at the beginning of last month (Octobre) they opened a new service called shawondemand

      Well shit. I'm moving back to Calgary next month. I'll have to check that out. How's the quality?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I rented "I Married an Ax Murderer" from the site and it worked great, and the first time out. It was late at night, it was cold and snowing outside and I did NOT feel like driving to Blockbuster. Plus I'm horrible at returning movies and usually have late fees on my account. So for those reasons, I like it. The quality was marginal, but the convenience is great. I got my much needed chuckle out of watching Mike Myers do his scottish father's "look at his head...it's a big as Sputnik" bit.

    So MovieLink may not be for all, but it serves my occasional purpose.
  • I'm glad that the movie industry and distributers are finally embracing the Internet as a distribution medium, instead of fighting it. This sounds a lot better than having to drive all the way to the video store and back, as long as you have broadband. And no late fees! Sounds pretty reasonable to me, and I can watch the movies with a clear conscience.
    • "I'm glad that the movie industry and distributers are finally embracing the Internet as a distribution medium, instead of fighting it."

      Embracing it? Maybe I'm just paranoid, but I don't see them as 'embracing' it. I think what they're doing is a half-assed attempt to make a business, then when it fails blame 'piracy' for it. I mean seriously: If they were really embracing it, they'd make a more serious effort to provide what we really want. Instead, they're still locking it up as if we're all thieves.

      I don't mean to be a wet blanket, but if the interent were truely embraced as a media delivery channel, then none of us would be interested in owning a DVD player anymore. The internet is an awesome medium to tell a story on. To be honest, I'm stunned that none of the big name moviemakers have jumped on board and blown us away.
  • by ferreth ( 182847 ) on Friday November 29, 2002 @02:46PM (#4780943) Homepage Journal
    In ten years, this is pretty much the way people will be 'renting' movies, either through a computer or a set-top box that acts like a computer.

    Movielink.com doesn't have it quite right yet. Neither does shaw.ca (cable provider) which is starting to do the same thing over your digital-cable box. They have problems with limited selection and play time. Can't say anything about the technical side, as there hasn't been anything I've wanted to see to bother trying. Price is not an issue, they are trying to get people to try it by charging only C$2.00, a real deal when rentals are in the C$5.00 range.

    What is needed is selection comparible to a video store, with a reasonable view time (at least 48 hours for new releases, and 7 days for old stuff to mimic the video stores). Quality has to at least equal VHS. As long as the price is competitive, going to the video store is going to become a thing of the past for all but the completely unconnected.
    • What could make this sort of thing work would be unbelievable selection. Imagine being able to rent any movie ever made in perfect digital format. (Unlike, say, trying to rent some old movie, getting it home and having scratches on the DVD or chewed up VHS tape in the middle of it).

      Once they get to that stage, bye-bye Blockbuster (unless they're the provider, of course :)
    • What is needed is selection comparible to a video store, with a reasonable view time (at least 48 hours for new releases, and 7 days for old stuff to mimic the video stores). Quality has to at least equal VHS. As long as the price is competitive, going to the video store is going to become a thing of the past for all but the completely unconnected.

      This is just stupid. It's like building a car that uses reins and has a horse head in the front for steering.

      In ten years I'm going to have enough storage on my laptop to keep all movies released since 1929. Why would I want to stream stuff and waste bandwidth, or get digital copies that disappear after few days.

      A better business model is needed for selling digital works - I'm willing to pay, butI don't want to be subjected to insane control restrictions.

      For all I know, not implementing these DRM things will save more money (think, no MS license fees), than would be "lost" to copyright violations.

  • That is what I get when I go to Movielink.com.

    Cons: Only supports Microsoft users

    You will need to adjust the following:
    You Need Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP

    The site movielink.com is running Apache/1.3.20 (Unix) secured_by_Covalent/1.5.4 on Linux.
    (noted from netcraft.net)

    What a bunch of hypocrites they run linux but we cant
    • Hmm.. I popped open Moz/Phoenix with my XUL-enhanced browser, selected I.E-Win98 as my UA, and went to movielink. silly javascript...

      Of course, it just stops while 'checking the selection', presumably because moz/phoenix doesn't support ActiveX and VisualBasic.. :-)
      (i mean, who really uses <script language='VBScript'> anyway? sheesh!)
    • So you'd rather they buy W2K Advanced Server and give MS even more money? At least they're part way there!

      And for a new service it's probably just not cost effective to build a client for 5% of your potential client base when 95% of your potential customers already have the software necessary.

      I don't think hypocrite really applies here - they aren't saying "go forth and use Linux" while they use MS. Plus they expect your client to Windows and I'm sure their clients and most workstations are Windows - I doubt if they've gone and built themselves Linux clients just for their use. Linux is their *server* here.
    • That is what I get when I go to Movielink.com.
      Only supports Microsoft users
      You will need to adjust the following: You Need Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP

      If it makes you feel any better, this is what I get:

      Thank you for your interest in Movielink. We want you to take part in the powerful Internet movie rental experience that Movielink delivers, but it is presently unavailable to users outside of the United States.
  • Too much too early (Score:4, Insightful)

    by joel8x ( 324102 ) on Friday November 29, 2002 @02:51PM (#4780969) Homepage
    Unfortunately this is going to fail and paint a bad mark on the future of this idea. I would much rather go to one of the 3 video stores in walking distance of my house and rent the DVD to watch on my 5.1 surround sound system then pay $1 less to wait an hour to download a poor quality version to watch on my computer. This would be cool in a rural backwoods area, but then you most likely will have only a few (if any)expensive broadband options, making it likely that you wont have high speed access anyway. In 2 or 3 years this will probably pan out, but now it's just premature.
  • by Quaoar ( 614366 ) on Friday November 29, 2002 @02:53PM (#4780977)
    ...and the copy-protection that the client uses is a joke.

    The client purges files 24 hours after they are first viewed or after 30 days of sitting on the hard drive. The process that actually performs the deletion is designed to look like a Microsoft application in the task manager, which I thought was pretty sneaky. However, it's very easy to bypass the deletion by simply killing the process, copying the file, or playing around with the system clock. The client tries to hide the files by giving them random names, making them invisible, etc etc, but as you can imagine, it's not too hard to find a 500 mb file sitting on your hard drive.

    Movielink is putting all their money on the DRM that is enabled with each movie file, which supposedly is smart enough to know when the system clock has been messed with. We didn't have any movie files with DRM enabled, so I can't say how well that works. Hopefully for Movielink it performs better than the client itself. Has anyone here who has played with this service also fooled around with the DRM? How fool-proof is it?
    • Well the license I received for my Real Video clip was indeed valid for 24 hours only.

      So even if you bypassed their auto-deletion mechanism, you can still watch the clip only within 24 hours.

      So I'd say it is a reasonably secure solution. However one profound DRM hack can make the system obsolete pretty quickly -- that is until Microsoft or real counter with a mandatory client upgrade several weeks later.
      • Well the license I received for my Real Video clip was indeed valid for 24 hours only. So even if you bypassed their auto-deletion mechanism, you can still watch the clip only within 24 hours.

        You forgot to add ".. on the player that respects license restrictions". No matter how they protect the movie (encrypt it with a key that must be fetched from the movielink server or whatever) it will be unprotected right before it goes into the codec or at some point inside the codec if the codec implements DRM. Anyhow, it will be possible to capture raw data and save it for 'the future use'. Requires varying degree of effort, but it is always doable.

        It is all snake oil. If they are not being able to control the data on your machine, they will never be able to control it at all. Period.

        That's the main driving factor for shoveling trustworthy computing down the customers throat. Either swallow it, relinquish control over your own hardware and rent movies online OR don't rent movies... Hmmm .. what do I choose ? what do I choose ?

  • Thank you for your interest in Movielink. We want you to take part in the powerful Internet movie rental experience that Movielink delivers, but it is presently unavailable to users outside of the United States.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 29, 2002 @02:59PM (#4781006)
    Yeah, yeah, whine, whine. We know the real result of this "review": he couldn't pirate his favorite movies and give copies to his friends. Well, sorry Bluebeard, you'll have to pay for your movies now.

    Check it out. This "reviewer" has 1) a computer, and 2) a broadband connection. As far as I'm concerned, he's a copyright-infringing pirate. I could imagine having one or the other, but BOTH? Put a parrot on his shoulder and you're done.

    And he uses something called a "VPN" .. why would an individual need such an industrial-strength technology? Remember, VPNs were used by al-Queda to transmit instructions for terrorism. They are also used for so much piracy, VPN should stand for "Virtual Piracy Network".

    Almost as bad as those stinkin' Mac users. They think all you have to do to copy a file is drag & drop. More like Drag & Steal.

    If he wants to enjoy digital movies, he should go to a movie theatre.
  • For someone living in the middle of nowhere, dialup is still about my only choice (no - DirectPC satellite access is not my idea of broadband), netflix, or the local video store is better for me. I'll pass on spending days downloading a movie thats crappy quality compared to a DVD... Also, what about the people who have caps on the downloads per month? That could make it cheaper to just rent the movie than to download it.
  • From this review (and others that have been floating around), IP rental just won't work in it's present state. My guess is there are those who will try it for its novelty value (such as the reviewer, and for that matter, my self), but they need to improve/change several things before it will ever take off.

    1. Quality, quality, quality. DIVX is good, but by no means near DVD (or even a good quality VHS). From what I understand, this uses a lower quality compression then DIVX.

    2. Co-branding with service providers. As it stands, the movies are delivered to from a remote IP address and the actual transfer of data runs over your pre-existing ISP. With more and more ISPs trying to cap large data transfers, this spells doom for both the consumers and the movie service. On the other hand, there is tremendous untapped bandwidth between the local office of the provider and the end user, espically for cable. Place a good server with a terribyte hdd filled with movies at a C.O., and you end up getting the information to the end user faster (or with better quality) without the added expense of having to run outside to the Internet.

    3. Usability. They would have to either a: make it very, very easy to use whatever propritary viewing/authentication scheme, or b: allow the user more flexibility in choosing a media player and authentication system. Somewhere along the line they need to develop a system where you can download the movie and play it whenever the user wanted without having to jump through excessive hoops.

    4. Value. At present $3 for a movie for 24 hours, even they could increase the playback quality signifigantly, can't compete with the added features of a DVD or the typical 3-5 day rental period.

    5. Selection. If the average consumer were to turn to the Internet to rent movies, they would have to be able to compete by providing a selection of movies that would rival the catalog of a mail order rental service or even a well stocked Blockbuster. (15,000 - 30,000 titles would be a good start).

    If somehow they could address all of these issues, I could certinatly see more interest in it, but as it stands now, I doubt we will see anyone getting rich renting movies online, or seeing your local video shop going out of business any time soon.

    • 5. Selection. If the average consumer were to turn to the Internet to rent movies, they would have to be able to compete by providing a selection of movies that would rival the catalog of a mail order rental service or even a well stocked Blockbuster. (15,000 - 30,000 titles would be a good start).

      Uh, that's a little excessive, and 30k films probably exceeds the film catalog of all the studios combined. Even Netflix [netflix.com], that wonderful resource of current and classic films that DVD rippers worldwide love so dearly only has 12,000 titles.

      I'd like to see more selection as well, but asking for every film ever made two weeks after the service launches is a bit much,
  • What i thought (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Datasage ( 214357 ) <Datasage@theworldisgrey. c o m> on Friday November 29, 2002 @03:10PM (#4781042) Homepage Journal
    I tried it... but they need some improvments before i will try it again.

    Prices: Compared to DVD rental at blockbuster... movielink is sometimes more expensive. You dont even get close to DVD quality. There is a convenice factor in the price and i expect that.

    Quailty: Movie link is really poor. i dont like movies that are 320x240 standard. I did email them about this. they told me that in the near future they will make available widescreen movies. Hopefully at a res higher than 320x240.

    Serivice: This is probably where they score the highest. I had no trouble paying for and downloading the movie i wanted to watch. I had mistyped my email address when i signed up and customer service made it really easy for me to fix that.

    So in the end. I really think that movielink has potential. If they get less afraid that someone will copy thier movies.
  • Their encoder really should visit www.doom9.org or www.divx-digest.com. And see how professionals do it!
  • by EchoMirage ( 29419 ) on Friday November 29, 2002 @03:17PM (#4781070)
    I think we're being a bit critical of this attempt, considering it is the movie studio's first well-organized expedition into the realm of content-over-the-Internet.

    The problems that have been mentioned are encoding quality, audio quality, picture size, proprietary up the wazoo, and limited viewing time. But for their first attempt at this, we really shouldn't have expected anything more, so I actually give this first shaky effort two thumbs up for the try. A few things that we can reasonably layout for future attempts:
    • Limited viewing time: This isn't really bad at all. Maybe the 24-hour window is (why not 48 or 72 hours?) but remember that you only get a few days at Blockbuster/Hollywood Video too. This is a standard rental model. They're not going to let you keep the movie indefinetely for $3, folks.
    • Proprietary format: Whether or not you disagree with proprietary formats and copyright in practice is one thing, but pragmatically speaking, I don't ever expect the studios to release movies in an unencrypted format, especially not with the cheap price of CD-Rs and DVD-Rs now. This is here to stay. That's not to say, however, that a Linux and Mac player couldn't be built, or that the player source code (minus the decryption codecs) couldn't be made open...
    • Quality: The Slashdot crowd has access to lots and lots and lots of bandwidth, unlike most of the rest of the world. As such, the ~200K streaming rate they're talking about is all most people can sustain right now.
    In summary, I think this is a great first-try for the movie studios. There's much room to improve, but we ought to at least congratulate them on starting to embrace the Internet as a viable means for content distribution, and not simply a ship full of pirates.
    • Re: Quality comments (Score:2, Informative)

      by Unit3 ( 10444 )
      "The Slashdot crowd has access to lots and lots and lots of bandwidth, unlike most of the rest of the world. As such, the ~200K streaming rate they're talking about is all most people can sustain right now."

      Yes, but this doesn't have to mean bad quality. Take a look at the VP3 codec [vp3.com] (that's being wrapped into OGG as we speak) at 200k/sec, and you'll see you can get really close to NTSC quality with 200k/sec. And that's full screen, widescreen will look even better because there's less vertical picture information to compress.
    • Just a "thank you" for the most realistic post on this topic so far, IMHO. The only bone I could possibly pick is the fact that this slashdot user still does ok with dialup. (financial reasons)
  • Pissing ISPs off (Score:5, Insightful)

    by whereiswaldo ( 459052 ) on Friday November 29, 2002 @03:21PM (#4781083) Journal

    Boy, this should really piss off American ISPs who complain about a small percentage of users using up most of the bandwidth.

    I maintain that businesses such as Movielink won't be able to really take off until they have the blessing of the major ISPs. ISPs need to either say "use all you want" or "you're being capped: be frugal".

  • Any company that only offers their services on the Windows platform or through technology that must be utilized on the Windows platform (like a web site that only works with IE, or Windows only download clients needed, or Windows Media player format only, etc) is useless to me. Immediately, it is appearent that they lack the vision and skill of a truly talented and innovative company. They do not deserve my money, let alone a second of my time. They should be IN SOVIET RUSSIA.
  • by weave ( 48069 ) on Friday November 29, 2002 @03:41PM (#4781140) Journal
    • Cable companies own most of the fat pipes that will make this work and have a competing product, ppv on demand
    • Cable companies hate bandwidth hogs and want to cap usage. Rent 5 movies and half your bandwidth may be gone for the month.
    • My cable company's new on demand service is way cooler. I scroll through list of movies, click remote, it starts instantly, I can pause, rewind, restart and watch it as many times as I want, for 24 hours. Plus it doesn't use my soon-to-be-precious IP bandwidth or consume my hard disk space.
    • Most people's TV and computer's are in separate rooms. The TV room is meant for watching movies, the computer room is meant for watching porn in a dark room with the door locked and shades drawn.
  • Bandwidth ? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by peterprior ( 319967 )
    I dunno, but with all the ISPs whining about how much traffic things like Kazaa use, I wonder if they would be too pleased at this kind of thing catching on? With each movie being 500mb + thats going to be an awful lot of data whizzing around...
  • by Kizzle ( 555439 ) on Friday November 29, 2002 @05:02PM (#4781411)
    I wrote this on my site [goldtwo.net] a few days ago. I'll post it here just for the hell of it.


    Last night I felt like watching a pay-per-view movie. So I switched on the tv and there was nothing but crap on. Then I thought of what movie I should download from kazaa but that wouldn't be done for a couple days at least. So then I figured I would give Movielink a try. Its a service that lets you download new movies for $4 a pop and old ones for $2.
    So I download and pay for We Were Soldiers. The download app informs me that I have 30 days to start watching it, and then 24 hours to watch it once I start it. That's a decent amount of time for a pay per view price. So every thing is smooth up till I start watching it. The video and audio quality is worse than most downloads from kazaa. The sound is sometimes tinny and is very quite when its just talking, extremely loud during action scenes. The video quality also blows. Its very blurry if your sitting close to your monitor, it looks ok from 6 feet but not perfect..

    Bottom line is that its not worth $4 for shitty movies that you have to sit in your computer chair for 2 hours to watch.
  • More Downsides... (Score:2, Informative)

    by E-Rock-23 ( 470500 )
    Apart from the downsides mentioned in the review, there are a few that have been pointed out here on /. before. Time to rehash the list, and add some asides.

    First of all, not everyone has broadband. There are still alot of users (me included) that are stuck on dial-up due to lack of speed by Comm companies to get the ball rolling. I was once told that DSL would be available within three months by Verizon. One year later, I'm still waiting for DSL. And while Adelphia has done a better job with their PowerLink cable service, it still hasn't reached my town (but is available five miles away: anyone know where we can get some cheap WiFi repeaters?) yet.

    The second big deterrant is the fact that this service is limited to Windoze. Can you say DRM is a bad thing? I can. The fact that this service isn't available to *nix, MacOSX (not sure about 9.x and below) or BSD users. Screw that. It's about freedom of choice.

    Then there are the network troubles mentioned in the article. Even with broadband, we're expected to compromise our network security and configuration just to download a movie? BS. For the 50 minutes (give or take) that we would have to sit there waiting for the movie to come down, our networks could be compromised. I'm sure alot of us aren't willing to sacrifice the security and structure we spent money and time to build up.

    The watch limit is horrible. Just 24 hours? I'd rather drive to my local movie shack and rent a VHS copy which I can keep for a few days. The reccomendation of 5 days in the review would be much better, and worth the pains taken to download it.

    Having to connect to authenticate is a bit of a pain, especially for mobile users. After all, you're not going to go WarDriving or pay for special access to a WiFi network just to watch a movie. That adds to the cost, something we economically-minded users don't like. Even open WiFi networks aren't that sound of a notion, because they're not quite available everywhere. While it may be a necessary evil to prevent piracy, it's also a pain in the arse...

    I don't think I'll be renting movies from this service anytime soon, if ever. I'd much rather wait for a DVD release and shell out $20 to own it for the rest of my life. Wany my opinion? Screw this...
  • Picky picky picky (Score:5, Insightful)

    by droopus ( 33472 ) on Friday November 29, 2002 @05:39PM (#4781541)
    Yes Movielink has issues, (some major) to work out. But as geeks, /. people are far more technically savvy, have bigger pipes and can tell the difference between a 750kbps SBR encode and a true VBR encode. I would take a wild guess and say that of the moviegoing public, people with that level of technical sophistication are less than 5% of the public.

    We're all the equivalent of Mac users, and when people snap back "Macs are only 5% of the userbase, who the hell cares about them?" you might think of /. users geting the same treatment from Hollywood and the media business. Hollywood wants MASS marketing of films over IP, and Movielink is the very first tentative step in that strategy. It's a test essentially. And personally, I think they did a HELL of a job.

    Think for a moment how hard it is to build a service like Movielink. Many posters have discussed the technical aspects. Divx or MS/Real? Well, most PCs can play the latter, only geeks play the former at the moment. Jeez, Divx wasn't even legal till they got rid of 3.x code.

    What about bitrate? The developers had to balance quality vs download time. Yeah, I have a huge pipe, so gimme a 1.5gb DVDIVX or SVCD, I have no problem waiting. My Movielink download took 15 minutes. But many don't have the bandwidth many /.'ers take for granted: "broadband" is a relative thing. So the Movielink encoders did the best they could under the constraints they had. I'm sure that if they had encoded into Divx WS VBR, there would be just as many whining "but the movies are too big and take too long to download, this sucks!"

    I won't even get into the DRM swamp. Yeah, all DRM can be hacked, no shit. But the question is, how do you make a relatively painless, somewhat protected experience that won't encourage mass copying and trading by people who can't hack a video driver or run screen capure video software to a gigantic drive?

    Then add another few dozen issues: delivery architecture, bandwidth costs...how about windowing? Know what that is?

    Movies are released in 'windows:' the first being Theatrical. Forget about seeing VOD in the Theatrical window anytime soon. Too many political issues to deal with, and besides, no one wants to fuck with box office revenue.

    Lots of other windows, Airline, PPV, Home Video (Movielink's window), HBO (when no other entity other than HBO can show the film), Broadcast.

    So, if you were planning Movielink, how do you offer content that is in a window that appeals to most people, but doesn't piss off your business partners ? (HBO, MSO's, Wal-Mart, etc...) Not so simple.

    And remember, Movielink is not a single entity, but a joint venture of five Hollywood studios. Do you have any concept of what it must be like to get five studios to agree on anything? Remember, every movie encode has to be approved by the studio, plus the director, producer and talent. A fucking nightmare scenario. Add that to five sets of movie execs, each who want to put their own stamp on the business, and increase their own revenue.

    Now, build a technology that all five sets of movie execs approve, that all five sets of movie execs agree will generate revenue, that all five are willing to commit their most precious resource: their intellectual property.

    Now, make it so that the geeks on /. think it's perfect, awesome in encoding quality, UI and experience. Not so easy huh?

    Anyone remember what AOL looked like as they changed from Quantum Link (C64/128 only) to a mass market business? It sucked. Remember the first weeks of Amazon and all those 404s? Every business has growing pains and Movielink will have more than most.

    Give it a chance.
  • by sk3tch ( 165010 ) on Friday November 29, 2002 @05:44PM (#4781563) Homepage
    When this was first posted to Slashdot I went and "rented" Harry Potter. I'll save you all the review of the quality of the video, and get to what most of us care about: how easy is it to circumvent the DRM technology they're using?

    In summary: not very. As someone mentioned previously, the file (along with the DRM license keys) sits in a folder (the default location is C:\Program Files\Movielink\MovielinkManager\data\content). But be careful! It has a warning in this folder - "_Please_Do_NOT_Delete_Or_Change_Any_Files_From_Th is_Folder.txt", and this folder is secret...using top-secret "Hidden Folder Attributes" technology it cannot be viewed by your average Joe...but, me, being a 1337 haxx0r was able to click on the folder properties and change the folder to a viewable one...phew! I've made it through their first protection scheme.

    Once I found the file I copied it to one of my other drives, RAR'd it, and then burned it to a CD-R so I could "play" with it after it expired.

    Flash forward...24 hours are up...the file in C:\Program Files\Movielink\MovielinkManager\data\content is deleted automagically by their client app. I attempt to play the file - no love. Of course, since they use DRM which requires a "phone home" to play it, it doesn't work. I tried setting the clock back - no love. All is lost? Well..maybe...I did some googling and all I could come up with was an app that removed DRM from WMA (A for Audio, not V for Video) files that use DRM version 2 (it was written by "Beale Screamer" back in Oct. 2001)...I queued up the app (FreeMe.exe) and unfortunately I didn't have any luck...the new keys are longer and Microsoft has since fixed the "bug" that FreeMe.exe exploited at that time.

    In the end...I was thwarted...I could only watch my movie for the 24 hours I paid for ($5 to boot, arrrr!)...I guess it is back to NetFlix / DivX ;-) / DVD-R for me. ;-)
  • Play the preview. And the end, when the video part is over, you'll hear the techs who are recording it. Evidently, they didn't do a direct audio transfer. They actually recorded the sound with a microphone.
  • Movie buff... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by singularity ( 2031 ) <nowalmart@gmail . c om> on Friday November 29, 2002 @06:29PM (#4781706) Homepage Journal
    I consider myself a rather devoted movie fan. I go to the theaters about once a week, and I currently own about 120 movies on VHS, about 30 on Laserdisc, and about 50 movies on DVD. I have a full list online. [vampy-alumni.org]

    I would never go for a deal like this, even if it supported MacOS X.

    I have gotten to the point where I only rent a movie a few times *a year*. Owning is far easier. Blockbuster is slowly catching on to the idea that the used DVD market is going to be huge, similar to the new VHS market (and the VHS rental industry as it used to be). New DVD sales are also going to be large. Walk into any Bolockbuster and notice the growth in their used and new DVD for sale sections.

    I buy most of my movies on DVD for about $8-$10, and most of my movies on VHS for $3-$6. Compare these prices against a one-time watch fee of $3, with quality that probably approaches VHS on my nice television.

    My thoughts - I would rather buy a movie for 2x-3x what it coest to rent provided I have a decent notion that the movie is watching more than once. If that is the case, the cost to buy competes directly with renting it ($8 to buy a DVD, or rent twice for $4 each time).

    (As far as watching movies in the theater goes - I justify that since the theater has things to offer than I cannot get at home - a huge screen and an atmosphere of being at the theater)
  • by Ogerman ( 136333 ) on Friday November 29, 2002 @07:25PM (#4781832)
    Very simple: Hit the reset button. No, not that stubby plastic thing on the front of your case. I mean reset copyright law back to what it was when the US founding fathers wrote it right the first time. Let works enter the public domain after 14 years. That would mean every movie released since 1988 would be free to distribute. That'd be a lot of good movies legally on Kazaa or what have you. And then Hollywood would have to "compete" against the public domain and actually write *gasp* original screenplays. This would drive down ticket and video prices to the point where people would no longer bootleg to beat the system--also knowing that they were helping to increase the public domain!

    Of course this will never happen, because Hollywood is sickeningly corrupt and gluteonously wealthy enough to pay for laws that make them richer. So there's only one option left: boycott.

    Vote with your dollars.
  • I use the service at Cinemanow.com and I have no problems using it with my Linksys router. They offer PPV and a monthly subscription service too. With the subscription service you have access to literally hundreds of films (even adult titles). You can watch them as much as you want whenever you want. I've got subscription service films I downloaded months ago. I still have not watched them, because of all the other films available, but they still work and I could watch them now with no problem. Once I stop subscribing the films will not work though.
  • Not true! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Erpo ( 237853 ) on Friday November 29, 2002 @11:10PM (#4782397)
    You have a period of 30 days to watch the movie BUT, only 24 hours to watch it once you hit "play".

    HELLO? The downloader/player program is software running on open hardware. All copy protection schemes for information are inherently crackable, but these kinds should be easy for a competent software engineer with access to good debugging tools. I can't wait for these to start appearing on the net, in ogg multimedia containers no less.
  • Netflix Killer? (Score:2, Informative)

    by JohnKDavis ( 19190 )
    I think not. I have the NetFlix 4 out program for $24.95 per month. I turnover about 4 movies a week. Using the Movielink service at a similar pace I would pay for 16 to 20 rentals a month at a cost of $48 to $60 per month.

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