Silent Archimedes

Posts Tagged ‘Netflix’

Netflix Watch Instantly Silverlight workaround for Windows XP

Posted by silentarchimedes on March 29, 2009

Netflix Watch Instantly Silverlight 2.0 workaround for Windows XP

I might have a pseudo-workaround for this problem… At least it worked for me.

Like many people, I have been having choppy streaming video using Silverlight on Netflix’s Watch Instantly on my Windows XP computer. The problem appears to be that Silverlight does not buffer ahead enough. The next problem is that Silverlight dynamically determines the play speed (500, 1000, 1500 Kbs) and the accompanying buffer rate (500, 1000, 1500 Kbs) so the user has very little control over it. This is the sequence I noticed every time:

1. Start Netflix player

2. Video is smooth for the first 10 sec or so.

3. Video begins to become choppy (frame dropping) and unwatchable.

And it never recovers.

DIAGNOSTICS

So SIlverlight comes with a hidden diagnostic menu. On my XP, press Shift-Alt at the same time and click on the video with the left mouse button. A Diagnostic menu shows up under the mouse pointer (Figure 1).

Press Shift-Alt and click on video

Figure 1: Press Shift-Alt and click on video

Click on the A/V menu item. What I noticed was this:

1. Start Netflix player.

2. Press Shift-Alt and click on the video with mouse (Figure 1).

3. Bring up A/V menu item. I noticed the Playing video bitrate was 500, and the Buffering video bitrate was 1500 (Figure 2). Sounds good right? Well…

Figure 2: Initial play/buffer rates when player starts

Figure 2: Initial play rate is 500 and buffer rate is 1500 when player starts

3. After about 10 sec, the play rate started to dynamically increase from 500 to 1000 to 1500. I noticed that the instant the play rate went up to 1000 and then 1500, the video became choppy. I also noticed the buffering bitrate dropped to 1000. Now the play rate was faster than the buffer bitrate! At the bottom of the A/V Stats, the Dropped Frames (/sec) had also increased to 15-20+ (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Video becomes choppy. Play rate:1500, buffer rate:1000

Figure 3: Video becomes choppy. Play rate:1500, buffer rate:1000

SOLUTION

So the key here is how to decrease the play rate or increase the buffer rate. This worked for me:

1. Press Shift-Alt and click on the video with mouse.

2. Click on Stream Manager and check the Manual Selection box. Then check the 500 bitrate box (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Open up the Stream Manager Menu

Figure 4: Open up the Stream Manager Menu

3. Now bring up the A/V menu item again. You will notice that the playrate is still 1500, but the buffering rate is now 500.

4. The video will remain choppy until Silverlight recognizes this major discrepancy. For me, the playing bitrate eventually dropped to 500 to coincide with the buffer rate. This could take a few minutes. What worked really well for me was moving the playbar back to the beginning. When they are both even at 500, the video was no longer choppy and was watchable for the rest of the video. When it works, the Dropped Frames (/sec) never goes above 2.

Figure 5: Smooth video. Rates both at 500.

Figure 5: Smooth video. Rates both at 500.

If this didn’t work, look at the important notes below:

Important note 1: I noticed that clicking on the Manual Selection box and 500  doesn’t always update the rates right away. The A/V Stats still showed play rate at 1500 and buffer rate at 500. I would go to the Stream Manager, and although the Manual box is still checked, the bitrate had reverted back to 1500. Try moving the play bar around… maybe to the beginning of the video. For me, this would instantly switch both rates to 500.

Important note 2: If it still doesn’t work, try clicking again on the 500 box. Get out of the menu. Check the A/V Stats, and the play rate should eventually drop to 1000. When it happens go back to the Stream Manager, and the 500 bitrate box should now be checked and set. When it works, the Current at the top should say 500, and the play rate and buffer rate in A/V Stats should both say 500.

If the playrate is not automatically dropping to 500 after a while, try moving the play bar to the beginning of the video. Or restart your browser and try again.

Important note 3: If both rates say 500, but the video remains choppy and then the play rate goes back up to 1000, it is because the video is so far behind, it it is having a hard time catching up. So what I do is either move the play bar ahead or to the beginning.  I usually do that anyways,so I can watch the video from the beginning!

Important note 4: You will have to redo the whole syncing process if you watch another video, so it’s a crude workaround. Also, sometimes I noticed if I watched another video in a sequence (like a sitcom) by clicking on the arrows at the bottom; although both rates were at 500, the dropped frames/sec was still somewhat high (~10). One work around for this is to close and open your browser again. When it works, the Dropped Frames (/sec) should never go above 2 or 3.

This method seems to work for me every time and playing at the 500 bitrate was very watchable. It gets faster too once you get the process down.

The computer I tried this on is a pretty old computer:

Dell Precision Workstation 420 MT, 512RAM, Pentium IIIE, 1000Mhz
Microsoft Windows XP Professional with SP3
Matrox Graphics Millennium G400 MAX AGP
Dell 17″ monitor at 1280×1024

My Internet connection is Fast Ethernet. And it worked with both IE6 and Firefox 3.0.8. It did seem that this method was more reliable for IE than Firefox though.

Let me know if this method worked for you or if it didn’t. If you also have other experiences regarding this method or suggestions, please post a comment so others can learn from it.

Good luck!

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Movie Review: 27 Dresses

Posted by silentarchimedes on December 23, 2008

Cast: Katherine Heigl, James Marsden
Director: Anne Fletcher

27 Dresses with Katherine Heigl

27 Dresses with Katherine Heigl

One of the worst mainstream romantic comedies I have ever seen. And I’m not ripping on it because I’m a guy or anything. I actually enjoy rocoms a lot. When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, Pretty Woman, Devil Wears Prada and While You Were Sleeping are all very enjoyable movies. However, most of the main romantic leads from the late 1980s and 1990s have retired their hearts and given way to a new generation of actresses vying for the coveted “Awwwww” award. Actresses such as Katherine Heigl, Kate Hudson, Anne Hathaway, and Drew Barrymore to name a few.

Well, 27 Dresses (2007) was the latest attempt that I saw. It is directed by Anne Fletcher, whose only other movie directed is Step Up. That’s already a bad sign. Now before I begin, the movie has a 3.7 rating in Netflix, but only a 2.7 for raters like me (IMDB: 6.2, RT:41%). I must say, Netflix is good. I hated this movie. The chemistry was horrible. The dialogue was pathetic. Heigl, with the exception of a few “awww” moments, doesn’t feel like a good romantic lead. The main male lead was weak and almost bordered on creepy, versus the rocoms in which male leads play a more prominent and endearing role (especially the first three I mentioned above). The ending was lame and unrealistic. Let’s move on, shall we…?

Warning: Lots of spoilers in review!

CHEMISTRY

The romantic chemistry between Jane (Katherine Heigl) and Kevin (James Marsden) was non-existent. for almost the entire movie. Jane was in complete disgust with Kevin. And I don’t mean just dislike or lack of any passion, but a complete hatred of everything that he stood for, especially against weddings and his stalkish actions. She must have angrily told him to get away from her at least five times in the movie. He even betrayed her trust when she was finally warming to him when his article about her appeared in the papers. The article lambasted her as a career bridesmaid with no hopes of marriage and rips on the weddings she has attended. I don’t care how she eventually realized he was right or that she had followed his column for years, but you don’t just forgive someone after being so blah and even angry at him for so long. And you don’t just fall in love with someone because of that and because you fight all the time (which is the reason she gave him when she pronounces she loves him). It’s stupid.

JANE (Katherine Heigl)

So it’s obvious from the title that the 27 dresses was the gimmick in this movie. That’s fine, except that there was nothing else in addition to it. They at least tried giving the Jane character some depth by developing the crush she had on her boss or her relationship with her sister but that was about it. Heigl seemed like an awkward big woman who had a hard time deciding whether she wanted the audience to take pity on her or to fall for her rare moments of cuteness or appreciate her emotional outbursts and sarcasm.  Her multiple anger sessions at Kevin seemed too over the top, “Can you please find somebody else to be creepy with?”, “You write the most beautiful things. Do you actually believe in love and marriage and just pretend to be a cynic or are you actually a cynic who knows how to spin romantic crap for girls like me?“, and yet she has drunken sessions with him. Heigl doesn’t have the romantic comedy aura that a Meg Ryan and Julia Roberts has. She’s too sarcastic, not cute, not sexy and not playful. Which leads to a bad romantic lead.

KEVIN (James Marsden)

He is such a loser. When a girl is so obviously disgusted at you, at some point, you have some pride and move on. The only reason he didn’t is because he wanted to write an article about her, and he took pity on the fact that she was a bridesmaid for 27 weddings and couldn’t land a freaking man. And what kind of guy writes a column on weddings? There was not one moment in the movie where you felt any sense of manliness and strength in him. The dialogue was pathetic. Lines like “You’d rather focus on other people’s Kodak moments than make memories of your own!“, “Love is patient, love is kind, love is slowly going out of your mind” or “I cried like a baby at the Keller wedding.” are so numbingly stupid. Add everything together, and the fact that Marsden looks so much smaller than Heigl, and the Kevin character becomes one of the weakest male romantic leads ever.

GEORGE (Edward Burns)

Speak up! What’s with the soft voice and sensitivity? And what was up with that kiss to Jane at the end? You’re telling me you couldn’t tell for all those years that your assistant liked you? And that kiss you planted was plain horrible. That’s why she didn’t feel anything. Jeesh. And who kisses his fiance’s sister the day after the sister spoiled  your engagement party. Absurd.

TESS (Malin Ackerman)

Shut up. You are a liar. You are a fraud. No matter what you lied. No chemistry between her and Jane either. Ackerman will be in Fletcher’s next rocom, The Proposal, which is due in 2009 and stars Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds.

TRENT (Maulik Pancholy)

Huh, a token Indian sidekick at a magazine workplace? Sorry, it didn’t work. Reaked of attempts to remind the audience of Harold and Kumar.

Overall, I give 27 Dresses 3 out of 10 stars

3 stars

Rating: 3 stars

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