Monday, April 16, 2018

Thor: Ragna-broke

I thought I was going to blog every day in Indonesia. Fortunately, that hasn't been the case. You don't really want to blog every day on your vacation, do you?

There's been some stuff to blog about, though.

I could have told you about watching Star Wars: The Last Jedi for a second time on the plane, and liking it much better this time. That probably deserves more consideration at some point.

I could have told you about deciding not to go see a movie while I'm here. I could have told you about checking the local listings and seeing that A Quiet Place and Rampage both seemed to be some of the only movies playing in the two accessible locations, and deciding that A Quiet Place would be dub-proof, if it were dubbed rather than subtitled, because almost the whole movie is silent (or so I'm told), though it probably wouldn't have been as most people speak English here anyway (tourism). I could have then told you about learning that the theater was not actually very accessible, requiring either a 30-minute drive or a 90-minute walk, and being easily dissuaded out of doing it by my wife, which I agreed was the best course of action.

I could have told you about my movie-per-day pace nonetheless, and the movies I watched for the first time (Game Over, Man!, Murder on the Orient Express, I, Tonya and Colonia) or the movies I revisited (Grimsby and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets).

Instead I'll tell you about the movie we have not watched, despite considerable efforts to do so.

But first I need to give you some background.

I've been up to some shenanigans with my iTunes. It isn't something I've wanted to do. I've been happy being a loyal customer of the American iTunes store with the American account I've had for years. It gets new releases faster, much faster, and the rentals are generally less expensive (though the exchange rate is not 1-to-1).

But in the past six months I've received not one, but two iTunes gift cards, purchased in Australia and valid only in the Australian iTunes store. When I first got one of these years ago, sent by Australian relatives when I did not yet live in Australian, Apple had a different policy toward them. With some effort, I was able to convert them to be valid in American iTunes. Well, no more. They've decided to become isolationist. No more international cooperation between various branches of the same company.

So I reluctantly, with great angst and concern, connected to the iTunes store with an email address my wife uses in the Australian store. I was worried that I'd flag myself with Apple as someone who was trying to circumvent their rules, and it might do anything from disabling one of my accounts to deleting my whole iTunes library, music and all. But I had $80 to spend at the Australian iTunes store, and dammit, I wanted to spend it.

At first there were no issues. I could go back and forth between the two stores just fine. All I had to do was log in with a different email address. It would tell me that this account was only valid in a particular country's iTunes store, and it would just switch me to that store. No deleting of iTunes libraries to be seen. I purchased songs and rented movies with no apparent consequences. All seemed right.

But as I was loading up on rentals for this trip, something broke.

I'd rented Mom and Dad (which I actually ended up watching before the trip), I, Tonya and Murder on the Orient Express from the American store, because none of them was yet available for rent in Australia. Thor: Ragnarok was available, so I decided to deplete some of my gift card balance rather than shelling out more U.S. dollars on it. That's when the trouble began.

It processed the rental fine, reducing my balance by the $5.99 rental fee, but then it told me that this computer was already registered to a different iTunes account, and that if I wanted to switch authorizations, I could not switch back for 90 days. This froze me dead in my tracks.

Suddenly the movies I'd rented seemed vulnerable to deletion, and who knew what else. I also had a 99 cent rental of The Florida Project from the U.S. store, not particularly for the trip, but just because the movie was in my top ten of last year, I wanted to see it again, and it's only 99 cents for one week, so I had to act.

The poster for Thor never filled in on my rented movies on iTunes, leaving just a blank square with the title underneath, but I decided I'd deal with that later. We'd go on the trip, watch the other movies first, and then I would commit myself to 90 days exclusively in the Australian store. During which I would eat up all my remaining balance and not worry about that account again. If they needed to delete the movies I'd rented from the U.S., that wouldn't matter because we'd have already watched them.

But then funny things started to happen.

I watched Mom and Dad fine, but noticed some curious behavior with it. When I paused and tried to play again, it crashed iTunes. In fact, I had to restart my whole computer on that one, which is no short commitment as my computer seems to labor on startup, running through a variety of startup tasks. I could probably disable them -- I'm an IT professional, after all -- but with my own devices, sometimes I act more like a user than an IT guy.

I finished that movie without any more pauses, but then noticed another funny thing. The clock never started ticking. It told me that I'd have 48 hours to watch it once I started watching it, but when I finished, I noticed that it still said I had 27 days remaining to watch it, or whatever the actual day count was at the time.

This wasn't bothersome, of course, as it was only a benefit to me. I liked the movie enough that I might actually watch it again before the month was up, if I had such an easy opportunity to do so. We might even watch it on the trip. It did mean that I might have to actively delete it if I were running out of space -- I'm operating within a few gigs of my total allotment at any given time -- but that was a minor issue.

But it did concern me as an indication of something being wrong. And that continued in Indonesia.

Pauses during Orient Express and Tonya both also required restarting iTunes, though not restarting the computer at least. And when it was time to finally watch Thor, which was to have happened on Saturday night, and which was by far the movie my wife was most interested in, it wasn't possible to do so.

iTunes showed it was downloading Thor, but it said only that it was downloading it, not an estimated time remaining or a total bytes downloaded.

Well, downloading isn't the only option for viewing content on iTunes these days. You can also stream it. And when I was logged into the Australian account, it did show a poster for Thor. Concerning, however, was that it also showed the blank poster. So there were two Thors appearing in my rented movies, both at various stages of availability.

And neither of them actually available. When I clicked the play button on one to stream it, it showed only a black screen, one that never progressed forward. I could see the total time bar at the bottom, with 0:00 to 2:10 on either side, but it wouldn't move from 0:00 to 0:01 and onward. No errors, just not moving.

When I clicked the other one, without a poster, it showed only a time bar at the top of iTunes, like it was one very long song. Which also would not start.

I fidgeted with it for an hour, switching stores and trying whatever I could think of. If I at least got that message advising to switch stores for 90 days, that would be something. But that would not come. I thought about downloading it again from the American store, which would give me three Thors, and also about contacting customer support. But I decided either approach would draw undue attention to my situation, which might only make it worse.

So I watched Colonia that night and my wife watched a couple episodes of Jessica Jones.

It's too bad because Thor would have made the perfect "vacation movie." We tried to scratch that itch with Valerian, and it was partially scratched, as my wife commented that it made for a good "vacation movie." At the end, though, she also commented that she'd "liked parts of it," which is a fair assessment of Valerian.

Who knows what I have to look forward to in terms of future iTunes shenanigans. My next attempt to purchase something will give me some indication.

I don't think Apple wants to freeze me out as a customer. If I do need to contact customer support, I'll just plead ignorance and they'll help me right the ship. Their customer support has always been great in the past.

I just wish they'd drop all these restrictions on what can be used where, and by whom. The thing all the stores have in common is that they are getting my hard-earned dollar, or at least the hard-earned dollar of one of my relatives. That should be all that matters to them.

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