Sunday, March 30, 2014

iTunes Home Media Sharing

As a human, I own several sets of DVDs for my favorite TV shows, and I'm always looking for how I can watch them without having to deal with physical matter. I will never buy another DVD player, and the one I have was only passed down to me like a family heirloom—but the kind that will be pitched into the dumpster once it breaks (or thoughtfully recycled, yeah yeah, whatever). I long ago digitized my DVD collection, but I wanted to move past the era of having to hook my laptop up to a TV and control it with a wireless keyboard.

Having an iPad, I tried out iTunes home media sharing, which was awesome at first. Simply add all your movies to iTunes, which takes a couple of clicks, and maybe iTunes will try to copy them all behind the scenes to a more suitable directory, but myeh. Then enable home sharing in there and on your iPad. Next go find that Videos app you've never used, and hopefully it will now sport a new 'Shared' tab at the top. And, after a few reboots, retries, and excruciating password changes, it does!

Then the troubles begin in earnest. Click on your library and wait the minute or two while your thousand-odd items load:
<ipanema>Do do doo do dooo do do doo,
I'm waiting to load my home library,
And as it freezes, each time it freezes,
Go "Aggghhhghghghgh ..."</
ipanema>
Then scroll down the infinite, unsearchable icon wall of death to find the series you want to watch. Ordering is strictly alphabetical, so if all you have in your library is one episode of Friends and, say, a million episodes of Doctor Who, then I hope you like scrolling. Bear in mind that the tiny movie title snippets are really hard to read during this step.
Search? No. ... List view? No. ...
At least a link to the start of each letter? No.
So you finally get around the video you want to watch—but move fast! The Videos app is slowly replacing every gray thumbnail with a frame from the start of the movies. Seems like this should be helpful, but the frames are often corrupted, and the movie title disappears once the frame is loaded—because the identity of every video should be obvious after that, right? Not so much:
You can tell all 200+ Friends episodes apart judging
from just a single skewed frame of each, right?
At least once you start watching the video everything goes mostly okay. ... Unless the connection goes stale, or your computer goes to sleep, or a butterfly lands on your router, or something. Since then the stream will freeze, and you'll try reopening the video a bunch of times, only to find that the only remedy is to force-restart the Videos app and start the whole process over from the loading screen.

And one more thing. When you're watching some show sequentially, it would be great if Videos would show you your recent watch history, so you could always pick up right where you left off, huh? … Yeah, that'd be awesome. Tell Apple that for me if you ever get the chance.

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