Downgrading my Cable TV package, again

"Last week I called Comcast and requested that they downgrade my cable television service from the Digital Classic package to broadcast channels only. This is a rather fun conversation to have with the Comcast folks. Their procedure seems to require that they escalate the call at least twice to give a couple of supervisors a chance to talk the caller out of this decision. Despite their efforts, I prevailed and the service has been downgraded. This downgrade will save us about $50/mo."  William Grady, October 2008

When I wrote that in October 2008, I thought that I was downgrading my cable forever.  

 

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Netflix Profiles

My wife and I have been Netflix customers for about a half dozen years. We have used the four movie at a time plan. With Profiles, this gives us two movies each and our own separate queues. This works well because our DVD tastes differ. Sometimes one of us will be working through many disks to catch up on a TV series, while the other just wants to watch a movie. Profiles have allowed for this.
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The Joys of Upgrading

I have been teetering at the brink of upgrading my home computer for a while now. This has mostly been due to the amount of noise that my current system generates (loud fans), but that wasn't quite enough to make me do it.

It is the streaming video problems that have finally sent me to upgrade-land. Both Netflix and Joost hang on my current machine. As both of these apps seem pretty popular, I have come to the conclusion that my issues with them are more likely caused by the hardware that I am using.

The machine that I have been using for a couple of years is an AMD Athlon 2200+ (1.8 GHz), with 1 GB Ram, a GeForce FX 5200 w/128 MB Ram, and a 100 GB IDE Hard Drive.

I thought that this would be fast enough to run streaming video. Turns out that I was wrong.

With this in mind, I am doing an immediate "eBay upgrade" of used parts from various sellers. This "new to me" machine will be a AMD Athlon 64 3500+ (2.2 GHz), 1 GB Ram, a ATI Radeon 9600 w/128 MB Ram, and a 200 GB SATA Hard Drive. Total cost here is about $200. This machine should provide a noticeable difference in video quality, but it will still be loud and out-of-date.

Once the "eBay upgrade" is done, I need to begin exploring a proper upgrade to a quiet machine with passive cooling, at least dual core CPU, and a PCI Express video card.

Netflix & Connection Speed

I am pleased with the fact that Netflix is slowly adding movies to their Watch Now collection. Initially it seemed like the only real choices were between a few aging BBC favorites and The Philadelphia Experiment 2. It is starting to become a place where I might actually be able to use the 24 hours of on-demand time that they have allotted me.

When trying to watch some of this newer content, I have run into an interesting issue. When I try to play a popular movie like The Core, it plays without issue. It takes less that a minute and then just loads right up. When trying to watch a less popular title, in this case The Girl from Monday, I get an error message from Netflix that prompts, "Your Internet Connection is too slow for immediate playback."

This message makes me wonder if Netflix is just missing an error message for, "Sorry this movie is not available right now" or are they actually expecting the average internet user to be browsing in with a download speed of greater than 6 Mb/s. If so, it would be nice if they could tell me just what speed they are looking for. I would really like to know.

Maybe I am overestimating what my cable modem is capable of. I know that there are others with faster connections. Personall I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of Verizon's Fios service so that I can double my current browsing speed. But in the meantime, if my present download speed is good enough to plays just about everything else on the site, why should I be getting this prompt at all?