As I blogged about 2 weeks ago here, I recently purchased the Blockbuster OnDemand set-top box and movie download service to use in our Tahoe house where we have no television service, but where we do have broadband, so it's a perfect environment for the service, if the box would actually work.
The service set-up on the new TV went better this time than in San Francisco, with the 2Wire-manufactured MediaFind box easily finding our WiFi service and correctly connecting to it. Although the user interface is slow, it worked well enough to find a couple of movies (Young Avengers and Zohan) and then rent/download them, and you can apparently keep a few on the box, but nowhere does it make that obvious. 25 rentals come free as part of the $100 device purchase price, but normally, the cost is $4 a movie, with a few cheaper ones. Apparently, like many video rental services, you have 30 days to watch the movies before they expire, and you must finish them within 24 hours of starting them, but that's not mentioned anywhere.
The children watched the Young Avengers movie and apparently enjoyed it, althought I thought it was a little fuzzy on our cheap TV vs the HD set we have in SF. So today I discovered that I could switch the resolution on the screen back to a Standard Resolution (480) from the High Def setting i had, and the screen immediately became much clearer.
Unfortunately, this was the first step in the death spiral for our short-lived box. Some random error started showing up (something like "Can't Text Connect"), and there was no way to get rid of it without restarting the box. Upon restart, and many more follow on attempts, the box now takes 2+ minutes to start up, momentarily reboots, and then freezes on the big ass Blockbuster logo, which, if left long enough, will presumably "burn" an image into the TV set.
Understandably, I'm pretty irritated, having spent 30+ minutes trying every possible way to reboot or restart the box, and then spending another 30 minutes on the Blockbuster OnDemand web site, which is one of the most unhelpful sites that I can remember seeing. If one attempts to download the MediaPoint manual to see if there is any help there, you're greated with a Big ERROR 500 - Internal Server Error, which is not useful. Other than a few completely useless FAQ questions and the ability to email Customer Service, there is nothing there to help a user, unlike any normal site which has a much more robust community area.
So the Blockbuster OnDemand box is going to be sent to the junk heap in the sky, where my guess is a bunch of its siblings are heading. Ignoring the waste of carbon, it's a really lousy idea to put out a beta hardware product into the marketplace, especially if you're charging for it, and if you've had a consistently terrible reputation for digital incompetence. Stay awy from the Blockbuster box, at least until they actually make it work, let alone actually offer more than 10 movies that anyone would actually wish to rent.