I have a Sony Blu-Ray player with Internet, and it’s loaded with apps for all kinds of online services like Amazon Video, Pandora Radio, Hulu, Slacker Radio, Netflix, TED Talks, a weather channel, and lots more. Just like dish or cable TV most of them are crap, but unlike dish or cable you can pick and choose which ones you want. It was cheap at Costco, and I had the idea I might want to play actual Blu-Ray disks someday. So far I have not, and as a format it’s bogged down with all kinds of crappy customer-hostile junk that is supposed to prevent heinous felonies like making backup copies, or getting around region encoding. It’s convenient for using some of the online movie and music services that I like. It runs on Busybox and other embedded Linux software, though if you wanted to hack it like a good Linux nerd I have no idea how you would even get into it. I expect that Sony and the various services track my usage and activities.
Like so many commercial computing devices developed by multi-billion dollar empires, it may as well have been coded by monkeys. Want an onscreen keyboard? Good luck with that– there are at least two different ones. One is a numerical keypad like a telephone keypad, and the other is a normal keyboard. You don’t get to choose which one, as it seems to depend on the app you’re using. Many of the apps that require some kind of form entry or search do not reliably call up an onscreen keyboard, so the easiest way to use these is to plug a computer keyboard into the front USB port. At least it has that.
Using any of the online services requires a trip through Sony’s authentication servers. A common problem is having Internet access, which is confirmed in the Settings menu, and you can get online with the (primitive and stupid) Web browser, but you can’t access anything else. Any inability to connect with the auth servers is signaled by a random array of unhelpful error messages. When you visit Sony’s customer forums or do a Web search to find the solution, you’ll find hundreds of similar complaints and few solutions.
My Sony box is on my LAN along with the rest of my houseful of computers, and it gets its network configuration via DHCP. Quite by accident I found out that giving it a static IP address that was different from its previous address cured the auth server problem. Yep, a dumb solution for a stupid problem.
Why, you are wondering, do I use this thing when it is so vexing? Because, for the few music and movie services that I use, it’s dead-simple. I also have a cherished and wonderful ZaReason Media Box running Xubuntu and XBMC controlled with a compact wireless keyboard. When the Sony dies I probably won’t replace it.