geolocation woes

Recently I joined the ranks of Netflix subscribers. We’ve been especially enjoying the “watch instantly” feature, where instead of waiting for a DVD in the mail, you get to watch as much as you want as streaming video from their website.

Yesterday, coincidentally the same day that Netflix charged my credit card because the free trial period had ended, the instant section of the website became suddenly and completely closed to me. Here’s what it claimed:

Our systems indicate that the computer you are using is not located within the 50 United States or District of Columbia. Due to studio licensing reasons, movies are available to watch instantly only on computers in those locations.

As recently as yesterday, this worked perfectly. Before contacting anyone about the problem, I did a number of troubleshooting steps. I went to what is my ip to make sure that I didn’t have some malware on my machine that was directing my traffic through Nigeria. It showed the right address. I verified the whois data for my IP address. That checked out – Xmission in Salt Lake City, UT. I tried it in Firefox rather than IE7, just for giggles. Although you can’t actually watch video in Firefox, it will still bring up the list of movies available. That didn’t work. I then tried it using a text-mode browser under Linux (elinks for the curious) on one of my servers, which has a different public IP address than the firewall that protects my Windows machines. That also failed. I rebooted, logged off the website and back on, all with no effect.

My first contact was Netflix. The guy I got didn’t seem to be firing on all cylinders, especially when he told me that it would take 3-4 weeks to fix the problem. After that, I hopped onto an IRC channel where all the tech guys from my ISP hang out, and ranted about the problem to them. While I was there, one of them said that he was on the phone with someone having the same problem. We checked known geolocation databases and they all give the right country for my IP address. I also discovered that I was blocked from watching video clips on the SciFi channel website. The message there was more cryptic, but sounded like it thought I was outside the US.

I called Netflix back and got someone with more of a clue. He told me that it looked like the company they use for geolocation screwed something up, and confirmed the bad news – it normally takes 2-4 weeks for requested changes to be reflected in their system. He could verify that I had watched everything from the same IP address for the last two weeks.

I was finally able to watch something by making a VPN connection to my office, but the encapsulation adds overhead that drops my available bandwidth significantly, so it’s not a real solution. As of this morning, the problem with my own IP address has not been fixed. I’m going to write a nastygram to Netflix later today about the problem, and if it really does take two or more weeks to fix the problem, I’m definitely going to ask for a credit on my account. I think I might also submit my story to slashdot. I don’t dare give them my blog address, though. I don’t think my Internet connection or my server could take the load.

movie commentary – John Q

Tonight Kathy and I watched John Q, one of the movies we received from Blockbuster online. The lead role is portrayed by Denzel Washington. There are also a number of other big names in major roles – Robert Duvall, James Woods, Anne Heche, and Ray Liotta.

The first scene of the movie reminded me of an ill-fated attempt at vacation with friends that I made in the mid ’90s. Thankfully we all lived, except for the car. Aside from some aches and pains, we were uninjured, and nobody needed to check us for donor cards. The woman in the film, credited only as “Beautiful Woman,” was not so lucky.

I saw some similarity between this movie and The Negotiator. Most of the devilish details are different, but the core is the same. Back a man into a corner and leave him no options, and presto, you have a hostage situation.

Even though I could tell where the movie was going most of the time, I enjoyed watching the story unfold. I think this is why I love movies in general. I would make a horrible movie critic, which is mostly why this is a commentary, not a review. I would give almost every movie a thumbs up. For me, it is difficult to rip a movie apart and find some reason for not liking it.

Though I did enjoy this movie, I think The Negotiator was better. The plot twists in that movie were much less predictable, and I’m a big fan of its two main stars. It comes with an R rating because there are a lot of expletives and bullets flying around. This is a problem for many, especially in Utah.

cinema exam

This is an idea stolen from a LiveJournal post made by a friend of mine. Here are the rules for this meme as stated in her post:

  1. Pick 20 films you love/thoroughly enjoyed.
  2. Find screen captures (stills) for each film. If you can’t find a still, pick a new movie.
  3. Post the pictures with the rules; let your readers guess from what movie each still is.

I will turn off comment moderation after a couple of days and approve any guesses that accumulate. Please place all guesses on my blog directly. Some of you read my site via a LiveJournal RSS feed – don’t put comments on that, or I will never see them.

I did my captures from my own DVD collection trying my best to pick a scene from each movie that will be nearly obvious to a true fan, but gibberish to anyone else. If you find this quiz to be really easy, then you are either Rain Man or your movie tastes run similar to mine.

On with the show!

man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything

Every day I am in a chatroom organized by my friend Marv. It is an informal environment where a bunch of Marv’s friends get together and discuss technical problems and life in general.

I met Marv at Convergys, where I spent five years of my life, escaping in August 2004. Marv is one of the more interesting people on the planet, and well-loved by the many many people who call him a friend. Marv also escaped the Borg and now works for Cisco in North Carolina.

On May 19th, Marv was back in SLC … his presence also dragging Gwen from Austin, Texas. We were all hanging out in a corner of the Jordan Commons movie theater, waiting for seats in the 12:10 PM (that’s noon, not midnight) showing of Episode III. Julie, Wyatt, and Janet reserved the front spot in line three hours before show time.

When Kathy and I showed up with Gwen (who spent the weekend at our house), there was only one other person in line, holding the number two spot for his family. I brought my Scrabble board and found that Wyatt had also brought his. I slaughtered Kathy and Gwen, due mostly to “reduced” which pulled in 94 points. They really didn’t play badly – if it weren’t for that 50 point bonus, I probably would have lost the game.

Over the next couple of hours, Marv and Ben (another of Marv’s friends, not my son) showed up as well. Shortly before we were seated, Brad (another friend from Convergys) arrived, as did Marv’s friend Mikey and his girlfriend. The three of them were not able to get in line with us, because the theater management had already insisted that we stand up and pack the line.

We got GREAT seats … a natural by-product of being first in line. The three seats we reserved for our stragglers resulted in inquiries of “are these seats taken” from almost everyone who came in, but we did not have any problems with the management about them, which was a little surprising.

This is the first time I have participated in a line party. I enjoyed it a lot and would like to go to more of them.

As for the movie itself …

national treasure

Last night I had a rare treat — a date with my wife, sans offspring. We went to see the new movie National Treasure. I really enjoyed it.

Just so everyone is forewarned, the fact that I enjoyed a movie should not be taken as a sign that it’s a good movie. There are very few films that I have ever hated, and I have intentionally purchased movies on DVD that cause “normal” people to cringe and question my sanity. Thankfully, I know plenty of people who are not normal!

The movie has both Kathy (my wife) and me wishing we knew more of American history.

In some ways, this movie is a lot like Sneakers. The plot is so fantastic that it could be absurd, but the story works because it’s put together very well. I believe that Nicholas Cage is also part of its success — nobody else could have pulled off this role. There is always something peculiar about the characters he plays, and he’s good at peculiar.

And that wraps up my post. I was all set to go into detail about what I thought at certain points in the movie, but I’m suddenly drawing a blank.