Monday, September 19, 2011

Netflix Continues to Fail (?)

This morning I opened my e-mail to find this note from CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings:

Dear Jonas,
I messed up. I owe you an explanation.

It is clear from the feedback over the past two months that many members felt we lacked respect and humility in the way we announced the separation of DVD and streaming and the price changes. That was certainly not our intent, and I offer my sincere apology. Let me explain what we are doing.

For the past five years, my greatest fear at Netflix has been that we wouldn't make the leap from success in DVDs to success in streaming. Most companies that are great at something – like AOL dialup or Borders bookstores – do not become great at new things people want (streaming for us). So we moved quickly into streaming, but I should have personally given you a full explanation of why we are splitting the services and thereby increasing prices. It wouldn’t have changed the price increase, but it would have been the right thing to do.

So here is what we are doing and why.

Many members love our DVD service, as I do, because nearly every movie ever made is published on DVD. DVD is a great option for those who want the huge and comprehensive selection of movies.

I also love our streaming service because it is integrated into my TV, and I can watch anytime I want. The benefits of our streaming service are really quite different from the benefits of DVD by mail. We need to focus on rapid improvement as streaming technology and the market evolves, without maintaining compatibility with our DVD by mail service.

So we realized that streaming and DVD by mail are really becoming two different businesses, with very different cost structures, that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently.

It’s hard to write this after over 10 years of mailing DVDs with pride, but we think it is necessary: In a few weeks, we will rename our DVD by mail service to “Qwikster”. We chose the name Qwikster because it refers to quick delivery. We will keep the name “Netflix” for streaming.

Qwikster will be the same website and DVD service that everyone is used to. It is just a new name, and DVD members will go to to access their DVD queues and choose movies. One improvement we will make at launch is to add a video games upgrade option, similar to our upgrade option for Blu-ray, for those who want to rent Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 games. Members have been asking for video games for many years, but now that DVD by mail has its own team, we are finally getting it done. Other improvements will follow. A negative of the renaming and separation is that the and websites will not be integrated.

There are no pricing changes (we’re done with that!). If you subscribe to both services you will have two entries on your credit card statement, one for Qwikster and one for Netflix. The total will be the same as your current charges. We will let you know in a few weeks when the website is up and ready.

For me the Netflix red envelope has always been a source of joy. The new envelope is still that lovely red, but now it will have a Qwikster logo. I know that logo will grow on me over time, but still, it is hard. I imagine it will be similar for many of you.

I want to acknowledge and thank you for sticking with us, and to apologize again to those members, both current and former, who felt we treated them thoughtlessly.

Both the Qwikster and Netflix teams will work hard to regain your trust. We know it will not be overnight. Actions speak louder than words. But words help people to understand actions.
Respectfully yours,

-Reed Hastings, Co-Founder and CEO, Netflix

p.s. I have a slightly longer explanation along with a video posted on our blog, where you can also post comments.

If you follow the link to the post on the Netflix blog, you’ll see a LOT of people explaining why two separate accounts (Netflix for streaming and now “Qwikster” for DVD’s) for what used to be one service is a horrible idea, and how they’ll be switching to Blockbuster for their mailed DVD needs.

Did Netflix not see this coming?  Why in the WORLD would they give their customers such a huge opportunity/reason to switch to a service that definitely has a benefit over their service (you can physically return/swap a DVD at a local store immediately, vs. having to wait for the US Post to do everything with the new “Qwikster”).

Also, I assume they had to go with the annoying spelling (Qwik with a “w”) so the Nestle bunny wouldn’t sue?

Netflix obviously had to do some restructuring because they weren’t going to survive on the price structure they had going, but this seems like some extremely poor planning.  Did they do any market research before going this route?

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Create Wake On LAN Button to Remotely Wake Computer

I’ve got my MEDIA tower set to sleep when it’s not in use.  To avoid having to physically go wake up the computer by hitting a button or moving the mouse, imagesI’ve set the machine to Wake on LAN, which means I can wake the computer remotely by sending a command from another machine.  The machine being waked up (the MEDIA tower) needs to be physically attached to an ethernet cable (LAN connection) for this to happen.  You can, however, send the wake up commands wirelessly.

I used basically two sources to find this information.  For configuring my WOL set up, I used this link.  Note that all the firewall information is only necessary in order to use the testing programs to make sure you’re set up right.  You shouldn’t need to set firewall exceptions to simply send the wake command.

To create my WOL desktop shortcut, I used this link (this link also contains all the information from the previous link).

Basically, you need to set your BIOS on the target machine (the one you’re waking up) to allow Wake on LAN (settings will depend on your specific MOBO).  Then you need to download a tiny little program called MC-WOL from  This little executable is what allows you to send a “magic packet” to wake the remote computer.

Find the MAC address of the machine you want to wake up (type getmac in a command line), and use it with the MC-WOL executable (type MC-WOL.exe and then the mac address from a command line).

[a command line means from a DOS window: type “cmd” from the Windows icon at the bottom left corner of your screen and a DOS window will pop up]

To create a shortcut for WOL, use the command you used to Wake your PC and copy it into notepad.

Example:     C:\mc-wol.exe 01:2C:21:E3:D8:5F

Save the text document and then change the .txt extension for that file to .bat.  You can now double click this file to run the Wake On LAN request for the target computer.

p.s. I first set up this button because I didn’t think I could cut/paste into a command line window, but then remembered if you right-click on the window border and select Edit>Paste from the drop-down you can paste into the command line (so you don’t have to manually type the MAC address).

Working with Networked iTunes Libraries and Music

My music library has reached a size that’s not feasible to keep on my laptop, so I’m now accessing my iTunes library from a central MEDIA tower.  I have an Airport hooked up to my main house stereo, so I can select that unit from the speaker selection in iTunes no matter which computer I’m using.  We’re also sharing all the iTunes libraries in the house (my laptop, the media tower, my wife’s computer, etc.).

I use the shared (MEDIA tower) library when I’m home.  This means when I travel, I need to use a different library (one that accesses only the songs that are physically stored on my laptop).

You can alter the iTunes library you open by holding down the shift key when opening iTunes (you must keep holding down the shift key while clicking the iTunes.exe icon and keep the shift key held down until you see the select iTunes library dialogue).


Here’s one of the more important things I’ve found when using this setup:

When adding files/folders to your main (MEDIA tower) iTunes library, make SURE you add the songs by their NETWORK path (not the media computer’s hard drive path).  This way, when you open the iTunes library from another computer, it will start looking for the files via the correct computer name, not the computer from which you opened iTunes (localhost and hard drive path).  This just makes things a little easier when opening files from various (multiple) computers.

If you’ve got \\MEDIA\ set in your iTunes Media folder location under iTunes’ preferences, this should happen automatically.  But I’ve found that sometimes iTunes will still use the hard (localhost) hard drive file path.

For instance, if I’ve got three computers named MEDIA, DEATHSTAR, and CARL, and my main file repository is on MEDIA (this is where the main iTunes library that I open from other computers exists), when I add a folder or file to the MEDIA library, I need to be sure the file or folder is being added from the network not he hard drive path.  If the file path is using the hard drive path on the computer, change the file path to \\MEDIA\ instead of E:\Music\ (for instance).  This way, when I open the library on DEATHSTAR or CARL, iTunes won’t try to look for the files from localhost\\E:\ and will instead start from the network path \\MEDIA\.

A few people have asked why I would want to open the actual library file instead of just playing from the shared library.  The reason is because I want to make any changes I make to the songs, ratings, playlists, etc. show up in the main iTunes library file (so the changes are reflected on all computers).

The only major downside I’ve found so far with this method is that it can take iTunes a LONG time to “checking iTunes library” when opening the networked iTunes library.