My first Blu-ray player--but not, I swear, my last--is a Pioneer Elite BDP-HD1. It's a first-generation model and therefore showing its age. Lately it has been having trouble loading new movie titles. I wondered if it were simply obsolete and muttered aggrievedly about planned obsolescence and standards that are really not standardized. Old CD players still play new CDs--why shouldn't an old Blu-ray player play new BDs? While I was screening movies for an audio review, the player surprised me by flashing a bright red onscreen message demanding a firmware update
. This was the first time I'd seen such a message. The last time
I did this, for 2007's Version 3.40.1, the process required me to download a zip file, copy it to DVD-R, and put the disc in the player. But for the up-to-the-minute Version 3.88, the process required only the player's ethernet connection, a download direct into the player, and a little remote button pressing. Ten minutes later I was done, and the Pioneer played the disc it had previously rejected, plunging me into the world of Mark Wahlberg action movies. It still downconverted DTS-HD Master Audio to DTS Core, but at least I wouldn't have to exchange unplayable discs at the local Blockbuster. I mention this for the benefit of Blu-ray early adopters who may be having trouble loading discs--the latest firmware upgrade may help.